By Railfan & Railroad Staff
SKYKOMISH, Wash. — Two major wildfires, one of the dozens currently burning across the Pacific Northwest, disrupted rail traffic along BNSF Railway and Union Pacific main lines and Washington and Oregon this weekend.
Near Skykomish, Washington, along BNSF’s Scenic Subdivision (former Great Northern) the 7,660-acre Bolt Creek Fire forced evacuations on Saturday and Sunday and briefly halted rail traffic in the area. It even forced a roundabout detour for Amtrak’s Empire Builder. The eastbound 8 due to depart Seattle on Saturday afternoon instead went south to Portland where it met up with train 28 (the Portland section) to be combined there rather than Spokane. Meanwhile, westbound 7/27 went in its entirety to Portland instead of splitting at Spokane early Sunday morning. That resulted in a longer-than-normal Empire Builder heading through the Columbia River Gorge on its way to the Rose City. On Monday morning, it appeared that operations had resumed some semblance of normal, although the fire was still burning.
Further south, in Oregon, Union Pacific halted operations on its former Southern Pacific main line near Oakridge, due to the 86,000-acre Cedar Creek Fire. On Sunday, trains were halted between 11 a.m. and 10 p.m., so that firefighters could set backburns. This briefly impacted Amtrak’s Coast Starlight as well, which was held in Portland for a few hours.