Trinidad Loop was the Great Northern's answer to the sudden drop in elevation between Quincy and the Columbia River 700 feet below. The Columbia is the lowest point between Spokane and the summit of the Cascades. To reduce the severity of the grade, GN's engineers routed the railroad away from the river and up Lynch Coulee until it looped around on itself. From here, a 1% descent to the Columbia continues to the crossing at Rock Island, where a slight ascending grade works its way along the river bank to Wenatchee.

 

Today, the Trinidad Loop is operated by the BNSF Railway as part of its Columbia River Subdivision. The Scenic Sub takes over at Wenatchee and contains the Cascade crossing with an 8-mile summit tunnel before beginning its descent into Seattle.

Traffic traversing the Loop is primarily intermodal and priority trains, but the "Spud Local" from Wenatchee to Quincy makes a regular appearance.

Westbound auto racks about to clear the last of the cuts before swinging around the loop.

09:35, April 20, 2007

Same westbound has rounded the loop and descends the far leg while the remainder of its train still passes through the cut immediately below.

Westbound negotiates a short S-curve before disappearing from view.

As soon as the westbound auto rack train has cleared the east end of the Trinidad siding, the eastbound Spud Local enters the main and begins its ascent around the loop.

09:45, April 20, 2007

The loop itself is on a fill crossing Lynch Coulee. A short concrete-lined tunnel allows road traffic to pass under the tracks. Telegraph poles strung with multiple lines give an old-time railroad feel to the area, as well as a handy perch for redwing blackbirds and hawks.

Westbound stack train heads down the straightaway through a series of cuts after emerging from tunnel 11.1.

10:10, April 20, 2007

Westbound swings out over the coulee floor.

Westbound stacks continue downgrade toward Trinidad and Wenatchee. These shots are all framegrabs from digital video and were taken from essentially the same vantage point. The trains came so close together that there wasn't time to move to a new location!

Morning light favors traffic on the Trinidad leg of the loop, while afternoon light favors the Quincy leg. The trick is to get the trains to run eastbound in the AM and west in the PM.

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Copyright 2007 David J. Cooley

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