Winter weather hits BNSF hard in the Northwest

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BNSF Railway Berne, Wash., photo by Robert W. Scott
BNSF Railway train Q-CHCSSE (quality intermodal, Chicago, Ill., to South Seattle, Wash.) pulls up the 2.2% grade at Berne on BNSF’s Scenic Subdivision in Washington Jan. 5, 2020. The train is about to enter the Cascade Tunnel under Stevens Pass. The snow on this day was the beginning of a multiple-day weather event in the North Cascades that resulted in a closure of the rail line over the mountains due to heavy snow and fallen trees.
Robert W. Scott
SEATTLE — BNSF Railway’s main line over the Cascade Mountains of Washington state are scheduled to reopen sometime Tuesday after heavy winter snows wreaked havoc throughout the past several days. A series of strong cold fronts brought heavy snow and wind to the northern Cascades. The Scenic Subdivision between Seattle and Wenatchee, Wash., was taken out of service mid-afternoon yesterday due to snowslides and downed trees, according to a BNSF press release. Trains is awaiting comment from BNSF and Amtrak. 

More than 250 trees had fallen across the rail line with an additional 50 down since the last train had traversed the route. The town of Skykomish, Wash., lost commercial power a few days before the route was closed; adjacent U.S. Highway 2 was also closed. Pending further complications from wintry conditions, the railroad plans to reopen the line at noon today. BNSF has been rerouting traffic onto the Seattle and Stampede subdivisions. Several Z and Q trains were rerouted via the Columbia River Gorge and Seattle Sub. Additional snow is forecast in the region in the coming days. Learn more about the challenges posed by BNSF’s route through the Cascades in March Trains, which hits newsstands Feb. 11, 2020.

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