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Trip Report

OTOL Pacific Northwest RailFest 2010 LITE

July 18-23, 2010

Photos by Lynn Hammond, Eric Minton, Jishnu Mukerji, and John Corbett.

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Chapter 4.13: TriMet WES, Wilsonville to Beaverton Transit Center

This time we sat in our train's powered car, which was now leading back to Beaverton. We found it to be slightly noisier than the unpowered cab car we rode on the previous trip.

We departed Wilsonville on time at 5:28 PM, but we came to an unexpected stop a short way up the track waiting for some deer to cross. Not long after we got going again, we passed the next WES, the same single car that we had passed previously in Tigard. The deer crossing ended up being the only unexpected event of our trip. We passed the other car at the Tigard Transit Center. At 5:55 PM, we pulled into the Beaverton Transit Center right on time.

A Red Line train was at the station's eastbound MAX platform at the time, but we opted to take it easy and wait for the next trip downtown.

Chapter 4.14: TriMet MAX Blue Line, Beaverton Transit Center to Pioneer Square South

The next trip turned out to be a Blue Line train. We boarded it at 6:01 PM and rode it back downtown, thus ending our official day on the rails. Eight of the ten got off at the Pioneer Square South stop downtown, while Rick and I remained on board to continue east towards our airport area hotels and find dinner elsewhere.

Chapter 4.15: End of Monday's activities

Those who got off downtown first went back to their hotels to freshen up, and then they convened once more for dinner at the Portland City Grill. This restaurant, with its spectacular views, is located on the 30th floor of the US Bancorp Building. Service for them was slow, and they found it to be very expensive.

While most of the group spent their night and fortunes at Portland City Grill, Rick and I went to the food court at Lloyd Center Mall and had a quicker and cheaper dinner. Some of the time we saved by eating fast food was lost by having to wait a long time at the Lloyd Center stop for a MAX Red Line train. Several Blue Line trains passed. We saw what might have been a Red Line train go out of service just before the Lloyd Center station and turn into the former Vintage Trolley track next to the Doubletree Hotel. We finally jumped on a Blue Line train just to get away from the city, opting to wait instead at Gateway Transit Center where the lines split. We didn't have to wait long as a Red Line train came within a few minutes. Even with the long trip back to our hotels, we were still in our rooms before the bulk of the gang even began eating their dinner.

With our business in Portland complete, we went to bed knowing we would be meeting at Union Station the next day in advance of our 12:15 PM train to Seattle.

Chapter 5: Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tuesday was our day to travel from our first city to the second. Once in Seattle, our evening activity was to ride most of its fairly new light rail line.

Chapter 5.1: Amtrak train #506, Cascades, Portland, OR to Seattle, WA

Cascades Train #506, Mt. Baker consist:
466 F-59 locomotive 7902 Talgo Power 7451 Talgo Business Class 7551 Talgo Accessible Business Class 7801 Talgo Dining 7301 Talgo Bistro 7501 Talgo Accessible Coach 7521 Talgo Accessible Coach 7408 Talgo Coach 7407 Talgo Coach 7406 Talgo Coach 7405 Talgo Coach 7104 Talgo Baggage 90340 Non Powered Control Unit
For this, the first of three Cascades trips for many of us, our participants began arriving at Portland Union Station around 11:00 AM. We were aware we had to check-in in advance to get seat assignments. While we could, we tried to get seats close to one another while those who preferred window seating specifically asked for it. Eleven people made up the group leaving Portland: Evan, Eric, Steve, Lynn, Mike, Grace, Alan, John, Piotr, Rick, and me.

This was the very first time some of us had seen the Talgo trains up close, and we were impressed by their sleek looks outside and the roominess inside the train.

Preparing to board Cascades at Portland Union Station. We departed from Portland on time at 12:15 PM; however that was the last time this train was on schedule. We were moving a little slower than optimum speed, so that our departure from the next stop, Vancouver, WA, was at 12:34 PM, four minutes late. Around 12:50 PM, just north of the town of Ridgefield, we stopped for a few minutes for a meet with the southbound Coast Starlight. At our next stop, Kelso-Longview, we were now about ten minutes down.

We board Cascades train in Portland heading for Seattle. By 2:07 PM when we got to Centralia, we had lost another 15 minutes, and were 25 minutes down. We were joined here by Mark, who had taken the Coast Starlight from Seattle down to Centralia in order to return with us on this train.

Non-powered cab control car on Cascades TALGO consist. Olympia-Lacey was next, coming at 2:31 PM. By the time we reached Tacoma, we were about half an hour late. We left the last intermediate stop, Tukwila, at 3:45 PM, putting us 34 minutes down. That was the time we should have already been in Seattle. The twelve of us arrived into Seattle's King Street Station at 4:09 PM, still late but only by 24 minutes.

We were met in Seattle by Patrick Galligan and Alice, who had come up from California a few days earlier on the Coast Starlight. They would join us for Tuesday evening's Central LINK trip and our activities all day Wednesday.

Some of the group had Amtrak store their luggage so they would not have to drag it on the light rail to the airport and back. They would check-in at their hotels following this trip. John left us to go check-in at his hotel right away, so that he could later attend a Mariners game at Safeco Field.

Chapter 5.2: Sound Transit Central LINK, International District/Chinatown to Sea-Tac International Airport

There were therefore 13 of us who would be continuing together from this point. Mark showed us how to get to the pedestrian bridge over the tracks, and then to the International District/Chinatown station. On the way we stopped briefly to look at nearby Union Station, an old but restored rail station that hasn't been used for that purpose in almost 40 years. Union Station does function nowadays as the headquarters for Sound Transit.

The region's stored value fare instrument is called ORCA, which stands for "One Regional Card for All". While it does not offer Day Pass privileges, it is very convenient to have it on one's person to avoid having to pay individual fares as we went along. It had been offered for free online the during an introductory phase that ended during the preceeding winter, so many of us sent for it then. We added value to our ORCA cards within a closer timeframe of our trip, so it would not expire. Like the TAP system we encountered in Los Angeles the previous summer, one must tap the card before and after each ride is taken.

At the International District station, Mark patiently showed each of us how to use our ORCA cards and reload them. Soon we were ready to descend into the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel (DSTT) for the first time to board the Central LINK.

Vaulted ceiling of Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel is reminiscent of Washington, DC Metro stations. Down in the DSTT, each station contains two side platforms, at which the various bus routes and Central LINK have their distinct boarding locations. The light rail stop is usually at the midway point on the platform. However, at no time do trains and buses share a station simultaneously. Light rail must wait until all buses have cleared the station, and likewise buses must wait until the train has departed before entering the station.

Because of the delayed Cascades train, and our making sure everyone had the required fare media, we were about an hour behind our intended schedule. We left the International District/Chinatown station at 5:17 PM. As soon as we left the tunnel, our light rail tracks split from the busway and ran next to it for a while. After going through the SoDo neighborhood and curving east, we saw the line's Operation & Maintenance Facility. We then entered the Beacon Hill tunnel, a pair of 4300-foot long tubes that carries light rail tracks through the hill by the same name.

After the tunnel, the line turns south once more. It runs in the median of Martin Luther King, Jr. Way making several stops in the Rainier Valley. In Tukwila, on an elevated structure we turned west, within sight of the Westfield Southcenter mall diagonally across a freeway interchange (noting there is no station stop here), and headed for the one station in that town. Finally, the line again heads south and runs onto the property of SeaTac International Airport. We got there at 5:44 PM.

At the airport, the group would lose one person, me. My hotel for the night was in this area, so I felt it was unnecessary to head back downtown and then back again, paying fares for multiple trips.

Chapter 5.3: Sound Transit Central LINK, Sea-Tac International Airport to International District/Chinatown

A Central LINK vehicle at one of the outdoor stations. The rest of the group had to leave the train and tap their ORCA cards out and then in again for their return trip. After doing so, they were able to board the same equipment, which left the airport station at 5:57, and got them back to International District/Chinatown at 6:25 PM. Those who had checked their luggage with Amtrak went back into King Street Station to reclaim it.

Chapter 5.4: End of Tuesday's activities

My day on the rails was done, but certainly not my exercise. The walk from the light rail station to the hotel shuttles and the rest of the airport is fairly long. Once I got to the correct level of one of the parking garages where the hotel shuttles stop, I had to wait a while for the right one. After I checked in, I had dinner across the street at a Jack In The Box.

Dinner at Ivar‘s Acres of Clams. The other 12 people, upon arriving back into downtown Seattle, first went and checked into their respective hotels, and then all but one met for a late dinner at Ivar's Acres of Clams, located on the waterfront. There a group of 11 had what was their second late night expensive meal in as many nights.

A very long day was finally over. We knew we had another big day ahead of us in this great city, so everyone called it a night.

Continued in next section

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