Essex and the
Isaac Walton Inn Dec 3-6, 2008 - Part 2

      After not getting any sleep on the train the previous night I turned in around 9:00 PM and slept soundly in the Isaac Walton until 09:00 Friday morning not hearing a single train pass by! It was an overcast morning 12-5-08 when I walked out of the Inn and made my way to the pedestrian overpass as I wanted a closer look at those cabooses on the other side of the tracks which can also be reserved through the Inn as rooms for the night.

1) GN painted X97 is actually a former BN purchased caboose, the ex-10571 from what I understand. 2 and 3) The BN painted caboose X98 looks to be either ex-NP and ex-CB&Q as both those railroads had the metal plate across the ends where the red marker light is. Former GN and BN built cabooses did not have this. 4) And MRL painted X99 is probably an ex-BN purchased caboose.


5) The fourth caboose on the hill is CB&Q 14602. I am guessing this is an actual Burlington caboose and the former number.

      I then headed back towards the Isaac Walton Inn photographing the 3 sets of SD40-2 helper power waiting for a train to shove over Marias


6) The 2 unit sets were 6818/6820, 6816/6819, 6817/6821.

      It had been a very quiet morning so far. I hadn't seen a moving train since leaving the Inn. I got in the rental car and started eastward on highway 2. As I drove I heard a detector go off just east of my location. It turned out to be a westbound general merchandise freight led by BNSF 758/4307/7499.

7) At 11:01 AM BNSF 758 West is crossing Sheep Creek trestle at Java West. This is one of my favorite photos from the trip even though it lacks much color. The bridge is impressive as is the background.

8) I followed the westbound down to Essex for another photo at the west end of Essex before heading east again.


      After getting my photos of the BNSF 758 West I headed east again towards Marias Pass on Highway 2. I liked all the snowsheds up on the hillside but it did not look like there was really a way to get a clean photograph of them this time of year from the highway. I continued over the summit of Marias Pass and was amazed at how windy it was up here! I headed down the east side and before reaching East Glacier saw a westbound Z train climbing the grade. I quick u-turn and I was quickly ahead of it for these four photos.

09) BNSF 7763/8222/4518/159 on a westbound Z east of the summit of Marias Pass. 10) Just east of the summit about to crest the Continental Divide as the wind really kicks up the snow more than the train does. 11) Back shot at the same location. 12) Now headed downgrade at the crossovers at Marias, one of the more popular locations here on the Pass.


      I then drove down to East Glacier and got lunch and gas for the rental ($1.69 a gallon) and then headed back to the Summit to see what BNSF might run next. About 2:30 PM another westbound Z went over a detector east of my location so I headed west to Marias for another shot there. I followed this train down the hill towards Essex when I heard an eastbound approaching Java West so I thought I would check it out. It caught a glimpse of a pair of helper SD40-2's on the point of this eastbound and immediately forgot about that westbound Z. I wanted photos of this train! The eastound stopped at Java West to let the Z-train by and was soon on the move again past my location at Java East. By far the best looking train of the trip and here it was after 3:00 PM on the final day! I started back for Essex and changed my mind and turned the car around. I wanted one more photo of this train. I headed up to west Marias and waited. I was happy I could get this one last photo opportunity.

13) BNSF 4443/896/4014/7539 on the second westbound Z at Marias, MT. Photo was taken at 2:35 PM 14) BNSF 6818/6820/1081/626/4633 pulling hard at Java East. The first two units are manned helpers. 15) BNSF 6818 East is nearing the summit of Marias Pass. 16) A back shot of helper 6818. The two lead SD40-2's will soon cut off and head back down to Java West for another train already there awaiting help. It would be dark by the time they would leave so I was glad I could catch their first help.


      I then headed back to the Isaac Walton Inn and returned the rental car. My sister and I then had dinner in the restaurant (steak of course) and waited for the westbound Empire Builder to arrive to bring us back to Seattle. It was on time at 7:44 PM and I watched our power, Amtrak 95/145 slowly rolled past and came to a stop. As we boarded our sleeping cars (my sister Lauries was in the one behind mine) we were informed the diner had been kept open for us. Since the dinner was free for sleeping car passengers I was not to pass up a free meal so quickly got my sister and we headed up to the diner where I got my second steak dinner in 2 hours. I certainly did not go to bed hungry!

      Like the other night on the train I was unable to get a wink of sleep. So I sat up in the Sightseer Lounge for awhile before heading back to the sleeper. The next morning I kept track of our locations on the ex-NP between Sandpoint and Spokane. At least this made being awake more bearable since I am really more of an NP fan at heart. Last time I rode a passenger train between Sandpoint and Spokane was in 1974 on an Amtrak trip to Livingston, MT. Come to think of it that was late at night too.

      When we arrived at Spokane train #8 was already in the depot as we pulled by on the north side of the depot. A couple of freights went by before #8 left. A bit later we were on the move again after dropping off the Portland section. We left Wenatchee at 05:30 in darkness. The sky started to brighten after we came out of the Cascade Tunnel where we met the eastbound Z which had the 1033 leading. That was the unit I caught leading the westbound Z at Paola last Thursday. At Gold Bar we overtook a westbound Z and saw no other trains till after Everett. We were on time there but ended up getting nailed at Mukilteo for 20 minutes waiting for an eastbound Leavenworth Amtrak passenger special. Then it was a straight shot to Seattle arriving around 10:20 AM finishing up our trip.

      It was a really fun trip I will remember for a long time. I even enjoyed being with my sister! She may not be into trains as much as I am (OK, not really at all) but I could tell she enjoyed herself too, especially being around all that Great Northern historical memoribilia at the Isaac Walton Inn. She even brought home some GN paintings she purchased at the gift shop there!

      Now if only there was some similar type place as interesting along the ex-NP in Montana I could convince her we ought to go to next year.

      Hope you enjoyed this rather long report as much as I did writing it!


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