Locomotive 1070 leaves Blue Canyon and crosses Lake Whatcom on a unique curved trestle with a trainload of summer passengers. This was the Bellingham Branch of the Northern Pacific Railway before it was purchased by the Lake Whatcom Railway.
The train waits at Park, Washington, for the day's filming of the award winning motion picture, The Grey Fox, starring Richard Farnsworth and Jackie Burroughs. Many locals and Bellingham residents responded to casting calls as extras to appear in a major motion picture.
Conductor Ryan greets passengers on a Santa Train. The coach in which these passengers are riding not only carried the markers as the last coach on the last steam powered passenger train on the Northern Pacific Railway, but is also the only 88 seat 600 series Northern Pacific passenger coach to survive. It has been in operation continuously since it was built in 1912.
In 1988 1070 switches freight on the Burlington Northern main tracks in Acme. Prior to this day, the Burlington Northern did not allow steam locomotives on their own wheels on their tracks. This event changed the minds of railroad management about the steam locomotive policy system wide, and led to steam powered excursions at the Wenatchee Centennial Winter Games the following year.
A handcar used by track crews of long ago is taken for a spin by railroad patrons at the Blue Canyon picnic area. This type of transportation gave way to "speeders", the railroad name for gasoline powered motor cars, which in turn gave way to high rail trucks, which are trucks that have flanged wheels for rails and rubber tires for roads so they could operate on either.
The Lake Whatcom Railway operates the last remaining heavyweight coffee shop coach from the Northern Pacific Railway. In addition to soda pop, coffee and snacks, the car also offers unique memorabilia and souvenirs. This car was configured for use on the transcontinental Mainstreeter serving the Spokane-Seattle section of the route, and was also used on Casey Jones Excursion trains.
A historic photo of 1070 kicking cars in the yard at Aberdeen, Washington on August 12, 1955. Six months later 1070 would turn the last scheduled Northern Pacific passenger train to Hoquiam for its return trip to Seattle, beginning a series of events that initiated the Casey Jones Excursions and led to its own preservation, along with several passenger cars used on those excursions.
Youngsters learn the ins and outs of operating an early model diesel locomotive while mom and dad are busy snapping pictures.
The Lake Whatcom Railway has the largest fleet of diverse but representative steam era passenger cars of the Northern Pacific Railway anywhere.
The turntable from the roundhouse of the Chicago, Milwaukee St. Paul and Pacific Railroad in Bellingham is loaded on a railroad flatcar for shipment to the Lake Whatcom Railway. The sandhouse for the Milwaukee Road is just behind the turntable and the Georgia Pacific lumber mill is past the sandhouse over the hill. The turntable was purchased for eventually turning the Lake Whatcom Railway locomotives at the Bellingham end.
Conductor Louie Woodworth gives the highball signal to the engineer after shouting the familiar "All aboard" to inform the passengers of the impending departure. Not only are the physical features of the Northern Pacific Railway such as locomotives and passenger cars preserved, but also the particular mannerisms and unique human element of that railway. Make it a point to visit with the conductor and brakemen when you ride and learn the story of the Northern Pacific.
Northern Pacific 1070 worked for the Northern Pacific Railway for 51 years. The last steam locomotive retired from regular service by the Northern Pacific, 1070 was acquired when Frank was 18 and Bob was 15. 1070 proved itself a reliable workhorse by operating in every decade of the 20th century. The brothers and their crews operate a railroad that features a complete passenger train of cars that all saw service on the transcontinental Northern Pacific "Mainstreeter", and purchased a railroad branch line from the Burlington Northern between Wickersham in the Samish Valley and Blue Canyon aside Lake Whatcom. It has been highlighted in television shows internationally, and was engaged for a major award winning motion picture "The Grey Fox", a biography of the gentleman stage coach robber Bill Miner, who was released from prison after the stagecoach era had already ended. The locomotive and cars were generally acquired as they were retired from the Northern Pacific and maintained in operating condition just as they were when they ran on the Northern Pacific, with original furnishings and upholstery. Join the experience of riding trains as they were in the 1940s and 1950s, the last hurrah of this era of travel.
Enthusiastic historic preservationists come as individuals and families to memorialize the traditions of railroading as they were in the golden era, using historic materials and methods to maintain and operate this authentic experience of the American heritage for generations to come. Exercise, comradery and good fun are all a part of working on the railroad. The volunteers keep alive the skills of the forebears who kept the rails and trains in good condition operating day and night in all conditions, and experience the satisfaction of contributing to the culture of our society.
The Lake Whatcom Railway operates authentic Northern Pacific Railway heritage equipment on an early Northern Pacific branch line. This unusual authenticity lends the Lake Whatcom Railway its international reputation as a fine example of early American railroads.
Northern Pacific 's Farewell to Steam excursions ran December 7 and 8 of 1957. These were the last of the steam passenger trains on the Northern Pacific, but precursors to the concept of the Lake Whatcom Railway. Coaches 627 and 634 were both on this train, and were preserved to authentically recreate the experience of the Northern Pacific local passenger train of the 1940s and 1950s, along with other Northern Pacific passenger cars from the same era. These two coaches were built in 1910 and 1912, purchased by the Northern Pacific in 1941, and operated on the NP until 1968 when they were sold to the Lake Whatcom Railway
Wade Stevenson photograph courtesy of Milwaukee Road Historical Association
Northern Pacific 634 carries the markers for the Casey Jones Special Farewell to Steam trains. Due to the popularity of these runs, the trains were so long that the steam locomotive 1776 on the front used a diesel electric pusher behind the last coach to get the trains up the hill out of Tacoma. 634 is the only remaining 88 seat 600 series passenger car from the Northern Pacific left and is still in service on the Lake Whatcom Railway. It made its last transcontinental round trip leaving Seattle on Christmas Eve of 1964 on the Northern Pacific "Mainstreeter"and was used in excursion service upon its return to the west coast.
Wade Stevenson photograph courtesy of Milwaukee Road Historical Association
Three months after the Farewell to Steam passenger trips, 1070 pulled the last Northern Pacific steam powered train from Tacoma to McCleary. 1070 replaced Simpson's "Tollie the Shay" locomotive which was to be put on display at Shelton, and became the last steam locomotive retired from active service from Simpson Logging Company, the last logging railroad in the United States. In November 1958, a second hand Whitcomb diesel electric arrived from California to assume 1070's chores at McCleary.
Courtesy of McCleary Historical Society
A motion picture crew sets up to film the turn of the century train in its rustic setting. The authenticity of the train and the environment in which it operates are not easily duplicated for on location shooting anywhere. Here the film crew goes through its filming schedule so the "takes" can be organized to make efficient use of the available time inside the coaches and outside the train on a perfect day. Productions have ranged from "Kid's World" to PBS historical dramas to an award winning motion picture released in theaters internationally.
Courtesy of Ryan Handel
Heater Car 19 of the Great Northern Railway was painted in Great Northern big sky blue colors but not delivered until after the GN had merged into the Burlington Northern. It was the last heater car built for that railroad. After Amtrak took over the Burlington Northern's passenger train service, heater cars 17, 18, and 19 were retained for the Burlington Northern's business car fleet. Heater cars were used to supply steam heat to trains whose locomotives were not equipped with steam boilers or whose capacity was not sufficient to heat an entire train for the duration of the trip. This last heater car now resides at the Lake Whatcom Railway. While this car does not represent the Northern Pacific experience, its colors were adopted by Dick Reynolds for his own Great Western Tours railcars. Dick Reynolds was the inspiration and mentor for the Lake Whatcom Railway, which carries his legacy to this and future generations.