The morning began in Vancouver, BC when I left the hostel and checked out probably much earlier than I needed too at about 5:30am, SkyTrain due to the holiday hadn’t started running yet, and had an easy ride via two trolleybuses, one articulated to Pacific Central Station. I got to the station at 6:00am, the first stop was a podium where an Amtrak conductor gave me my seat assignment via a sticker on top of my customs form. I didn’t even have to argue to get my ideal seat, window, forward facing on the right waterside of the train. Then I proceeded to wait next to a friendly guard who directs you to one of three immigration desks, shared by both US and Canadian customs depending upon if the train is arriving or departing. I had to wait just for one person in front of me to finish. Next you proceed to put your luggage through an airline-style scanner with just a security guard manning, no need though to put my computer through separately. After that you leave the small customs area train side and enter a fenced off passageway and are off to the narrow fenced in platform, passing the baggage car with VIA attendants. I decide to check my backpack down the Edmonds (where I was getting off for photos) so I have an easier time getting off the train. I then boarded my assign car and only one other passenger joined me.
6:33am – announcement for two parties on the train to come find one of the conductors.
6:42 – I hear a faint beeping as the doors close and we prepare to leave. The conductor welcomes us aboard with Happy Thanksgiving for the Canadians on board and Columbus Day for US Citizens. He tells us to have our tickets out for collection and to keep our passports and customs forms handy since we have cleared immigration but not customs which will occur the boarder itself.
6:49 – we finally slowly start to leave the caged platform 10 minutes late, passing greyhound buses (none in their new paint scheme) and the VIA maintenance shop, as it is raining a bit. I also see some West Coast Express cars. Their there because VIA is the maintenance provider, although the service is operated by Canadian Pacific.
6:55 – stop in view of the VCC – Clark SkyTrain station, no trains moving yet, some stored overnight in the station.
7:00 – we start moving again very slowly before regaining speed, as we go through grade crossings on the same line I arrived on the Rocky Mountaineer. The conductor collects my ticket seeing some twilight, passing Costcos and Auto Dealers. I go up to the café car and decide to try the Cascades Breakfast sandwich, which tasted mainly of slightly spicy sausage on a bagel that was soggy from the microwave, Air Canada’s was better. They play the Amtrak Cascades safety video which we can hear but not see. Soon the video itself starts and is shown without audio.
7:17 – pass the BNSF New Westminster Station house still with its concrete platform. Then we follow the Fraser River before curving and going over the same swing bridge that I went over on the Rocky Mountaineer, in view of the Skybridge for SkyTrain, and curve south by more lumber yards and industry picking up speed and following a river. Finally I enter trackage that is new for me.
7:39-catch our first glimpses of a bay and go through farmland with houses set back, this opens in a wide expanse of what looks like a nature preserve and a bay that we start running, very slowly along. There is also marshland around us as I see some ducks and we go over a few bridges and head more inland, passing trees and houses.
7:52 we follow the Bay again with its rocky coast as were ten minutes to the boarder. I see cliffs rising up from the other side of the train. The conductor comes on the PA “telling us sit in your assigned seats and that no one is to get up during the inspection. It should only take 15 minutes.”
7:57 – Houses begin as we pass the town of White Rock, BC, we are between it and the bay. There is a walking path between the town and the train, with grass down to the Rocky shore, grade crossings exist to provide access to the train. I even see someone photographing the train.
8:02 – We leave White Rock behind and go over an inlet.
8:04 – We pass the Peace Arch and the conductor welcomes us to the United States. The overhead screens tell us to stay in our seats as well. We come to a stop directly across from the very crowded car vehicle crossing at the northern end of I-5 with just 3 lanes open. I chuckle to myself about the fact that I was at the southern of this highway in San Yisidro on a train in March.
8:12 – the custom officials come through and we start moving, crossing the boarder plaza, before stopping. The sun slowly rising. At 8:21 we are allowed to move about the train as customs have released us and we pass a huge marina, before approaching the bay again, and then moving inland through houses.
8:41 – We go through Bellingham seeing all the houses of the city before going through a freight yard and along a road with no fence and quite a few grade crossings, and passing abandoned industry, before it is back to following Bellingham Bay. At 8:46 announcement for Bellingham as we go back along the Bay and passing Boulevard Park and a large dock.
8:49 – arrive in Bellingham, four minutes late, with a large crowd of passengers waiting to get on.
8:54 – my car gets noticeably more crowded and we leave Bellingham along its port, and follow Bellingham Bay again
8:58 – we enter a series of brief tunnels before reemerging along the Bay, and there a few more as well with some trees blocking the view. We go through the small community of Wildcat Cove as we keep following the Bay, passing tons of birds.
9:07 – another tunnel beneath an inlet and we go through the tiny town of Samish before reamerging along the southern end of this bay rename Samish Bay.
9:09 – we enter an area of houses and fields leaving this section of Bay for good with the inlet that Edison is located on, going at a fast speed, through agricultural fields but with plenty of houses scattered along the way.
9:17 – we enter industry, seeing I-5 again briefly and passing the operations center for Sakget Transit, then its houses and the town center of Burlington, and pass a train of intermodal cars on the siding for us.
9:20 – Go across the bridge over the Skagit Riverand enter Mount Vernon itself with the announcement for the stop.
9:22 – Pull into Mount Vernon with a bright large station building. All aboard is at 9:24 and we run by more houses before passing the northbound train at 9:27 up to Vancouver, and then its back to farmer’s fields.
9:34 – still in fields pass the Railroad Crossing for North Stanwood, an announcement for Stanwood.
9:37 – arrive the simple concrete modern platform at Stanwood it is a quick stop with just a few people getting on and off the train, we continue south through more fields and woods, crossing a few rivers along the way.
9:49 – go beneath I-5 again and pass a Ford Dealership and more industry, the line becoming less rural, and pass more houses, entering Everett.
9:54 – Go through Maryville with freight cars on both sides of the tracks, then we go beneath I-5 again, going over a bridge and enter some marshland, before more of it.
9:58 – We pass another huge lumberyard (so familiar), and go over another river passing Delta Junction. I look up and notice the not very good locater GPS giving us 594 minutes to our arrival in Portland. The train passes a larger train yard, and continues to follow the same river.
10:04 – announcement for our arrival in Everett, Washington as we go beneath highways passing an old BNSF caboose.
10:07 I see the station platform as we start to enter and pass it to arrive in Everett. We depart at 10:10 and run through a tunnel before emerging at a port and passing another station (perhaps the pervious stop) for Everett, complete with a sign), and reemerge following Pudget Sound.
10:18 pass Milikto on a track opposite the single pfenced off platform, I pack up as we keep following Puget sound passing an old abandoned ship reck.
10:29 announcement for the station and to the dismay of another passenger also getting off we see the ferry to Kingston leaving the port just beyond the station.
I got off and quickly made my way to front of the platform for some photos of both the train stopped and it leaving before walking back down to reclaim my bag (it was the only one off loaded) from very friendly attendant. I did my full photo essay of the 1950s station and surrounding area missing my local bus to connect with a regular bus down to Seattle which luckily runs every half hour. While I was waiting for the bus a freight train came through the station complete with two partially assembled airframes of some sort of boeing aircraft fresh from the factory. The stop was well worth it (and the fact it saved me a good $8 on the Amtrak fare).
I took Local Community Transit Bus Route 131 to Aurora Transit Village, arriving right on time. A short 30 foot bus that wended it’s way to the terminus. From there I had written down to take a Sound Transit freeway express route which was totally wrong but a King County Transit Articulated Bus Route 358 that said Downtown on it did the trick. It was local relatively slow ride but better than waiting in the rain for something else. My ORCA card that I paid $5 for already saving me $1.75 (there no more interregional paper transfers). On the bus I’m amazed at how many people are still paying with cash, getting paper transfers.
It was a relatively slow ride down a subrian strip mall type boulevard, the express portion only taking effect halfway through the ride, when that happened the going got faster. Too fast, at the intermediate time point stop in the express section we had to wait 2 minutes before leaving on schedule. I finally got into Seattle at 12:30 and went to check into the Green Tortoise Hostel where I’m staying. I then explored Pike Place Market having lunch there.
My next two transit activities for the day consisted fist of riding one-way and then photographing the Seattle Center Monorail. It is a prototype line that was built for the worlds fair in 1962. I rode it one-way (for $2) up to the Seattle Center before walking the line back down getting lucky when I the red car (they normally run just one train) came zooming by being tested since it was undergoing maintenance. Yes the monorail is relatively short and basically just a tourist attraction but I still consider it necessary to include on SubwayNut.
The next service I wanted to ride and photograph is Seattle’s one currently operating modern streetcar line, the South Lake Union Streetcar, I walked out to the opposite end from downtown of the route and hopped on a train back, originally this was going to become the beginning of a two hour fare. The streetcars have no place to validate an ORCA card and locals on board told me to not worry about the fare. I decided that in this instance I could play ignorant tourist, I didn’t even have the cash to buy a regular ticket. I took it back to Westgate and transferred to the Link Light Rail that I took to International District where I walked over to King Street station to take the Northern Sounder branch up to Mukilteo Station.
The Sounder train left at 4:33 (one minute late) with just 3 not very crowded cars. We left and entered the tunnel beneath downtown Seattle before emerging along the still closed waterfront streetcar line, passing the port of Seattle as it starts raining again the train reflecting in glass windows along the line and a freight train blocking our waterfront view as we get the emergency instructions and evacuation recording. We pass, I assume the same train I photographed going through Edmonds earlier today, seeing to green airframes in the large BNSF yard and then a suspicious activity announcement.
4:44 – we rise up to cross Salmon Bay and then Ballyard before boats in a large marina.
4:48 – the trees end and were going back going along Pudget sound with just a few rocks between us and it. The glass is too wet to attempt pictures of the fantastic clouds. All I can think about is my first cross-country trip over 5 years ago that began in Seattle and I remember sitting on the Empire Builder going up the coast.
4:58 – approaching Edmonds as the ferry starts coming in. 4:59 we stop. 5:01 we leave the ferry has not arrived yet and we go back to following Pudget Sound the islands off in the beyond.
5:08 – we run through a patch where there is water on both sides and pass the abandoned ship I remember seeing before.
The train arrived uneventfully on time at 5:15 I photographed it and the locomotive pushing it out of the station before rushing south to the beach south of town and not quite getting there in time to photograph the Empire Builder’s Seattle section going by.
I got back to downtown Seattle by taking the next Sounder train north to its terminus in Edmonds, getting a photo essay there and hopping aboard the Sound Transit 510 express bus back down to Seattle. There was something magical screaming down I-5 in the HOV Lane, passing an accident that regular cars had all gotten stuck behind all on board an articulated low floor bus, not the type of buses I generally ride along expressways.