Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

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Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Tue Apr 13, 2010 4:33 pm

Hello All,
I'm going to be in the Seattle area the end of August to early September, and would like to know of excellent railfan spots where you don't need a car. I would like to get photographs of trains running along Puget Sound. Thanks.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby Vincent » Wed Apr 14, 2010 12:38 am

If you are up for some walking, the Sculpture Park in downtown Seattle is a good place to start for train viewing, then there is a trail that runs from the Sculpture Park through Myrtle Edwards Park to the Interbay Yards of BNSF where you can get very close to the trains. From Interbay you can bus or walk to the Ballard Locks where the BNSF mainline crosses the Ship Canal and interchanges with the Ballard Terminal RR. From the Locks you can catch a bus or walk to Golden Gardens, where there's more action. There's also the possibility of taking a bus to Carkeek Park and walking to the water where you will get some excellent views of the Olympic Mountains.

There are also some very good locations down in Tacoma in the Pt. Defiance area, but I would need to do some research on how to get there without a car. Titlow Beach is a good place to start for some scenic train watching in Tacoma.

I'll post more suggestions as I come across them. The transit providers in the Seattle area are Sound Transit, Metro Transit (for the Seattle area), Community Transit (for Snohomish County up to Everett) and Pierce Transit for the Tacoma area.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Sat Apr 17, 2010 2:40 pm

I was looking at some pictures on railpictures.net of the Salmon River Bridge. I was wondering which street or park I can stand to get excellent shots. I see that the shots were taken in the late afternoon, west of it.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby Vincent » Sun Apr 18, 2010 10:30 am

I don't know of any bridge in Seattle with that name, if you'd post a link to the picture I'll try and locate the spot for you. There is a fish ladder at the Chittenden Locks in Ballard that has a BNSF bascule bridge and views of the Olympic Mountains close by. There's also a small salmon migratory creek at Carkeek Park that might be what you're looking at.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Sun Apr 18, 2010 12:44 pm

I think Chittendon Locks is the one that I'm taking about.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby Vincent » Mon Apr 19, 2010 10:46 am

The Locks are easy to get to without a car, take Metro Transit route 17 from downtown Seattle (3rd Ave.). That bus usually runs every 30-35 minutes and--if you're interested in Seattle's railroad history--the bus route first follows the route of the current South Lake Union Trolley, then turns onto the former Seattle-Everett Interurban ROW and then shadows the GN's tracks to the Ballard/Chittenden Locks. Once at the Locks you can cross the water, see the salmon running, watch the sea lions chase the salmon and wait for trains. It's easy to tell if a train is coming--the bridge goes down. Around Labor Day you may be able to get Amtrak's 516 Talgo heading north to Vancouver at about sunset.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Sun May 02, 2010 4:40 pm

At Chittendon Locks, which side of river should I stand on if I want to get a morning picture? I noticed that there might be a tree on the same side of the locks that Downtown Seattle is, that may block my view, if I'm shooting toward the Olympic Mountains. Is that true. Thanks.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby Vincent » Tue May 04, 2010 11:00 pm

There's lots of space at the Locks, you will easily find a place to set up an unobstructed shot. If you take the 17 bus, you will have about a 5 minute walk to the Locks and you can be scouting your shots within 10 minutes of getting off the bus. In the morning you'll get good sunlight on the scenes. There are 4 southbound Sounder trains passing by between 630am and 800am (M-F), a Talgo heads north at about 745am, the Empire Builder usually passes by about 945am, there is a southbound Talgo at about 1030am plus the BNSF freights heading to/from Canada or Stevens Pass. In the evening you can get sunset shots, which might be spectacular if there are some clouds in the sky.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby Vincent » Wed May 19, 2010 12:07 am

I'm not much of a railroad photographer, but I went out this weekend with my CoolPix and scouted out a few potential photo locations around Seattle. Here's my quick report on what's available heading north from King Street Station.

At the north end of downtown there is the Seattle Art Museum Sculpture Park that has a bridge over the BNSF mainline. The Sculpture Park leads into Myrtle Edwards Park, which runs along the BNSF mainline next to Elliot Bay. The Port of Seattle grain terminal is located next to Myrtle Edwards Park and just past the grain terminal sits the Amgen Campus, which includes the very modern Amgen Helix Bridge, which serves as a pedestrian overpass back to Elliot Avenue. Along Elliot Avenue there are several viewpoints of the railroad tracks--some of which contain some very modern sculptural and architecture backdrops. From a location on Elliot Avenue, in the space of about 30 minutes, I watched a Boeing 737 fuselage train roll by, a Talgo trainset from Vancouver, a grain train and several Washington State Ferries passed in the background. The grain terminal operations are within view and if it had been a clear day (don't I wish), the backdrop would have been the Olympic Mountains.

Further north of the grain terminal area, at the north end of Myrtle Edwards Park, there is a pedestrian/bike path that runs next to the mainline up to BNSF's Interbay Yard. Interbay is a good hike from downtown Seattle, but there are buses running every 10 minutes back to downtown.

I scouted the Ballard Locks area for shots that would include an Olympic Mountain backdrop, and I have to say that there are many good shots available at the Locks, especially of the bascule bridge that crosses the Ship Canal, but it will be difficult to include the Olympics in the background.

Golden Gardens and Carkeek Park are well known location for shooting trains, sunsets and the mountains. Metro Route 46 runs directly to Golden Gardens, Route 28 goes to Carkeek, but you will need to hike about 1 mile to get to the shoreline.

Richmond Beach is another good location for shooting, ride Metro Route 348 (from the Northgate TC) to the end of the line.

Downtown Edmonds has a WA St Ferry terminal and north of the terminal there is a beach that is accessible to photographers. Getting to the Edmonds ferry terminal is easy via Sounder (weekday afternoons only), but getting back to downtown Seattle will require several bus rides.

A very good location that requires a car is Picnic Point in Snohomish County. The train tracks curve along the waterfront, there is a bridge from the park to the beach and if the tide is out, you can walk north from the park and see an old wooden ship that ran aground decades ago and has been sitting next to the shoreline (and railroad tracks) ever since.

The last location I scouted was the Mukilteo Ferry Terminal area. Community Transit Rt 113 from Lynnwood P & R serves Mukilteo. Similar to Edmonds, the Mukilteo ferry terminal area is near the railroad tracks and it features Olympic Mountain backdrops when the weather is clear.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Wed May 19, 2010 8:38 pm

thanks for the info, Vincent. I'm going to read your posts over and over.

How is the weather there in early Sept? I looked at the Sounder schedule for points north of SEA, and see that you can only go north from Seattle on Sounder in the afternoon. Taking a lot of buses to get to one location might be too much for me.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Mon Jun 14, 2010 7:10 pm

The majority of my railfanning will be in or very close to downtown Seattle. How good is the lighting around Labor Day around King Street Sta area and a little south in the morning? On Tuesday the 7th, I plan to depart SEA on the 7:30 Cascades, and hope to get some Sounder shots before my train departs. thanks.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby Vincent » Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:09 am

The Sounder maintenance yard is just south of KSS, you can get overhead shots from the roads that overpass the rail line or you can walk along the rail line and choose your locations. Also, many of the trains cross Holgate St at about 10 mph on their way back to the maintenance area after they have dropped their passengers at KSS.

Sunrise is about 630am in early September, so you'll have sunlight for some of the Sounder arrivals. They conveniently arrive on the platform next to the Cascades trains. One thing to know about photography in the Pacific Northwest--Seattle is further north of the equator than Montreal, so our sunlight has a strong blue tint to it. You may want to pack a yellow/orange filter to make the inevitable clouds pop out in the sky.

I think you'll find plenty of good locations for shooting trains near downtown Seattle. KSS and the area around Safeco Field have plenty of action. I don't think there are many good shots from the Olympic Sculpture Park, but you can see plenty of good locations from the Park, so it's another good location to start your adventure.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:01 am

Are there sets stored there during weekend days in the yard belong KSS?

I was on the mariner's website and see that there is a game Sunday Sept 5th, and Sounder runs trains to those.
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby Vincent » Tue Jun 15, 2010 10:58 pm

There are 2 sets that sit at KSS (or in the Holgate St. coach yard just south of KSS) during Mariner games. There also are usually about 2 sets that are in the coach yard over the weekend. All the trainsets are in the coach yard between 9 am and 3 pm on weekdays. There are 4 or 5 trainsets that overnight just north of Freighthouse Station in Tacoma on an elevated bridge and another 4 sets sit overnight in Everett. There are good express bus connections from downtown Seattle to Tacoma (ST 594) or Everett (ST 510).

Here's the Sound Transit schedule link: http://www.soundtransit.org/Documents/p ... RJun10.pdf
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Re: Good railfanning spots in and around Seattle.

Postby njt/mnrrbuff » Thu Jun 17, 2010 7:20 pm

Are there any good spots to photograph the light rail to Sea-Tac?
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