SKYKOMISH, Wash. -- A group of volunteers spent their months full of live long days building, and now the new Great Northern & Cascade Railroad is rolling down the tracks in hopes of picking up tourists along the way.
The one-eighth scale railroad runs on a half-mile-long loop around the old railroad yard in Skykomish. Riders straddle mini cars while a surprisingly powerful electric engine pulls them past the restored Skykomish Rail Station and through tunnels and other features meant to represent the original route over Stevens Pass.
City Council member Kevin Weiderstrom and his band of volunteers spent free time building the rail bed and laying track for the project. Local companies donated landscaping materials and other features and now the train is ready to pull out of the station for its first free rides for the public.
Skykomish is still an active stop on the rail line, but the town has shrunk from a population of 2,500 during its hey day to a couple hundred today.
Burlington Northern Santa Fe has spent millions to clean up soil contaminated by years of underground fuel storage and city leaders felt now was the right time to launch a new tourist railroad.
The free rides begin Saturday, May 4, and will continue on the weekends through the summer.