Sky Bressette, 1, looks out the window of a passenger car along with his father, Ed, on the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad - Date/Photographer unknown.
21 September 2000
Seeing Mt. Rainier's Foothills
from a Vintage Train
Elbe Washington USA - Whistle at Mount Rainier. Blow off steam at Mineral Lake. Chug across spectacular bridges and through lush forests. Clickety-clack beside magnificent meadows.
More than 35,000 people a year journey to Elbe, 70 miles south of Seattle, to ride the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad.
The 90-minute train trip harkens back to the Golden Age of Steam as passengers ride in authentic tourist and open cars pulled by an early-1900s steam locomotive to catch beautiful views of Mount Rainier's snowy cap 14,410 feet high and the surrounding areas.
"People like the steam locomotive, not the diesel. It's the key to the trip", says Jack Anderson, who runs the rail line. "They're iron horses that are truly alive. Unlike the diesel, you can see the machinery on the steam locomotive. The sounds and the smells, they're all authentic."
"It's nice to see something from the past that you don't see every day anymore", says Mike Kraynak, 55, of Orlando, Florida, who was taking the ride on the advice of friends.
The 14-mile round-trip makes the journey to Mineral Lake in 40 minutes. There, passengers can disembark and walk around the wooded setting, roughly 15 miles away from Mount Rainier National Park. Visitors also can stop at the lake for a picnic or fishing and take a later train back. During the 40-minute return trip passengers are free to walk around the train, and snack service is provided on the weekends.
"It's nice to be outdoors and see the greenery, the mountains, and the water in the state, all at the same time", says Kraynak's wife, Noralee, 53.
The railroad is operated under a contract with the Western Forest Industries Museum, a non-profit organization that preserves and displays working equipment used in the forest industry from the steam logging era.
The era peaked in the 1930s and Milwaukee Railroad abandoned its track west of Montana in 1980. Weyerhaeuser bought the line and the adjacent one between Tacoma and Chehalis to haul logs and then in 1992 donated 50 of the 130 miles of track to the City of Tacoma which operates it under the name Tacoma Rail.
Anderson, 47, of Elbe, turned part of that track into an old fashioned excursion train in 1985. He utilizes Tacoma Rail's tracks and five operable steam locomotives that travel between 15 and 20 mph.