The Great Northern Railway went from St. Paul, MN to Seattle, WA, over 1,700 miles. It was built by James J. Hill, and was the only privately funded, and successfully built, transcontinental railway in U.S. history. No government aid or federal land grants were used to acquire the right-of-ways. The line started in St. Paul, crossed the Mississippi River on what is now called the Stone Arch Bridge, and headed north and west towards the Pacific at Everett, WA, then turned south towards Seattle. US Highway 2 follows much of the route, including the portion we explored while in the area in September.
The company's logo was Rocky, a mountain goat - the Iron Goat. Here he is in Skykomish, WA, looking down towards the old rail station (which by the way is not in its original location anymore - that's more or less where Rocky is standing now).
One of the more amazing feats of engineering is how the railroad made its way over the steep Cascade Mountains of northern Washington. Originally there were lots of switchbacks, with snowsheds in places to protect the line. Later, tunnels were added to shorten the route and make it safer from avalanches. In the past few years a group of volunteers have cleaned up sections of the old right-of-way and converted about 8 miles into hiking trails. Along the way you can see old tunnels, bridges and snowsheds, and learn about the history of the line - including visiting the site where the town of Wellington stood, known for the deadliest avalanche in the history of the United States. The hiking trail is known as the Iron Goat Trail, and runs westward from the site of the former town of Wellington down grade on the western slope of the Cascade Mountains.
They've done a very nice job with this trail. All along the route there are are signs and markers to tell about the history. Mile markers along the line showed the distance back to St. Paul, MN.
This was the site of an early wooden snowshed. Later snowsheds were made of reinforced concrete. Here only the support wall was concrete.
We came across some old tunnels, no longer safe to enter. The hiking trail is carved in a bypass around them.
Extreme hazard . . . Indeed.
Another stretch of the trail follows a long double-row concrete snowshed near the site of the former town of Wellington.
Further west on the rail line, along a section that is still in use today, is the town of Index, one of many that sprang up along the route of the Great Northern Railway.
Click here to see more images from the Iron Goat Trail along the route of the Great Northern Railway, on the west side of the Cascade Mountains of northern Washington - taken during our visit to the area in September of 2012.
Photography . . . Travel . . .
- Frank B. Baiamonte
- San Diego, California, United States
- About me . . . When I'm not working I like to be out exploring and photographing. I do this blog just for fun, and to be able to share these images with friends. I hope you enjoy viewing these images as much as I enjoyed creating them.
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Header image: Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Cibola, Arizona. End image: Downtown San Diego, California skyline from Coronado Island. Profile picture: Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, by Heather Baiamonte.