Spokane, Wash.

Spokane photo
Eastbound BNSF freights from Seattle descend into Spokane on the Indian Canyon Bridge, part of a 1970s relocation of the ex-Great Northern main line.
Bruce Kelly
Spokane is one of three Washington state locales profiled in Kalmbach's Guide to North American Hot Spots by TRAINS Senior Editor J. David Ingles.

Spokane is the busy crossroads of BNSF's former Great Northern; Northern Pacific; and Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway routes; with Union Pacific's line from Oregon to Canada. It's also the connecting point for the Spokane and Portland sections of Amtrak's Empire Builder.

On BNSF: freight, intermodal, grain, and coal trains, including Montana Rail Link trains on trackage rights, plus Amtrak's Empire Builder. MRL operates via BNSF between Spokane's Yardley Yard and Missoula, Montana.

On Union Pacific: Freight, potash, grain, and coal trains. UP operates via BNSF between Napa St. Junction (2 miles east of the Amtrak station) and UP Junction (10 miles southwest of Spokane).
Spokane hot spots
  • Latah Creek Bridge: near the junction of I-90 and U.S. 195

  • Amtrak station: West 221 First Ave.; off I-90, a quarter-mile west on Division St., then west one block on Sprague Ave.

  • BNSF and UP yards: North off I-90 on Havana St.

Click here for directions to Spokane's Latah Creek Bridge.
Spokane map
Typical motive power
On BNSF, "pumpkins," ex-BN green (including SD9s at Yardley), and MRL blue. On UP, EMDs and GEs plus run-through Canadian Pacific units. BNSF grain and UP potash trains often use Distributed Power helpers.

Peak operating hours
Early morning and late afternoon, heaviest Friday through Sunday.

Approximate daily train frequency
BNSF runs 50 or more freights plus trains from Montana Rail Link, and four sections of Amtrak's Empire Builder. UP runs 8 or more freights.

Radio frequencies
On BNSF: 161.250 (AAR 76), 161.100 (66), 161.160 (70)
On UP: 160.740 (42)

Nearby points of interest
Southwest of the city, BNSF and UP climb Marshall Canyon where BNSF interchanges with short line Palouse River & Coulee City (at Marshall and Cheney). Segments of the SP&S and UP in the canyon have been converted to bike trails.

East of the city, take Sullivan Rd. three-quarters of a mile north from I-90 to reach UP's Trentwood Yard and the CXT concrete tie plant.

All trains use an elevated corridor through downtown Spokane, so the best viewing is west and east of downtown from city streets. Plentiful gas, food, and lodging are available. Gatto's pizzeria in nearby Cheney offers a good view of BNSF, UP, and PR&CC.

Safety considerations
Use Havana St. and Francher Rd. to view UP's Spokane Yard and BNSF's Yardley Yard and Parkwater Shops. Be cautious of transients hanging out near the yards.

Contributor: Bruce Kelly

The railroad main lines of eastern Washington State converge on Spokane, the region's No. 1 hot spot. In the May 2002 issue, TRAINS Magazine looked at the railroads of eastern Washington in a 14-page photo essay.
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