Welcome to Photo Line! Through the end of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, Burlington Northern was well known for maintaining it fleet of freight-hauling F-units on the main lines and branch lines of Washington state. Join photographer Blair Kooistra as we take a fond look back at these classic cab units in action.
Getting orders at King Street Station, 1975
On a high school trip from Salt Lake City to Seattle, I snuck over to King Street Station to watch trains. Here's BN #139 getting orders at "UD" South Portal with a crusty "Big Sky Blue" ex-Great Northern F7 644 on the point. Can anyone identify the operator?
The North Bend Turn near Renton, Washington
It's a beautiful spring afternoon in the Puget Sound as the westbound North Bend turn glides down Maple Valley a few miles east of Renton, Washington, on March 17, 1981. In its last year of service before retirement, F7A 720 leads two GP9's on a train of finished lumber from the mill at Snoqualmie.
Through the wheatfields of Hartline, Washington
Burlington Northern's eastbound CW Local approaching Hartline, Washington in the fall of 1980... Can it really be that thirty years have passed since this photo was taken?
On borrowed time up on the North Coast
A pair of former Burlington Northern F7's, 704 and 610 switch their train at Port Townsend, Washington on February 21, 1980, working for start-up shortline Seattle & North Coast. This was an isolated 70-mile line from Port Angeles to Port Townsend, connected to the rest of the North American rail network via a car barge from Seattle, part of the Milwaukee Road until its abandonment in 1980. SNCT itself finally shut down in 1994.
Going to work
Engineer Bud Sievers readies his "office," F9A 842, before putting train 143 together for the evening return to Auburn at Sumas, WA in June 1980. Thanks to Bud and the other rails who didn't hesitate to invite me on board back in the days before paranoia gripped the railroads.
Hostler at Auburn, Washington
Don't forget about the railroaders who kept those old locomotives running! Wish I'd gotten his name: BN hostler poses at Auburn next to decrepit F3A 706, rust patches and all.
Freshly shopped in Cascade Green
Now, THAT is Cascade Green! Probably the last F-unit painted by Burlington Northern. F7A 724 basking in the sun in liquid green paint at Auburn, Washington in April, 1980. It'd been damaged in a derailment at Sumas earlier that year and amazingly was rebuilt and repainted for what turned out to be less than a year of service before retirement.
Flying down the double track at Kent, Washington
Full flight: Screaming south on the double track at Kent, WA, BN's oldest F-unit, January 1947-built F3A 702, takes train #139 over the Green River. Rivet counters will note the unique headlight on the nose door--this NP veteran received it from a retired FT, Northern Pacific's first road diesel-electric.
Always full of surprises at Auburn, Washington
Never know what you'd find at Auburn: same day as the liquid green 724 photo, here's Southern Pacific's four GP40X's passing through coming back from a test on BN, joined by ex-CB&Q GP30 2224 and ex-NP F7A 752. Four-motor EMD's from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
On borrowed time along Puget Sound
Seattle is much-maligned for its cloudy and rainy weather, but when the sun is out in the summer, there's few nicer places to hang out. On July 1, 1981, BN's Everett Turn heads back south along Puget Sound near Mukilteo behind a pair of old Great Northern passenger locomotives, F7 706 and F3 706. Within a few weeks, both would be stored pending retirement.
An etherial sea of Cascade Green
Seemingly bathed in a sea of Cascade Green, thick fog at Auburn Shops sets the mood as an F-unit set is groomed for a local transfer run and SD40-2's off a mountain run for Yakima idle the night away on December 16, 1980.