Copyright 2011 by James E. Lancaster
Photos by the author

Notice: All photos are the property of the web page owner and may not be used for any purpose without permission. 

Evening Train Time at Seattle's King Street Station
December 1970

My wife and I lived in Seattle through the mid-1960s but moved to Southern California in March 1968. We returned to visit family for Christmas in 1970 and I took the opportunity to photograph the railroad scene in Seattle. I knew Amtrak was on the horizon so I concentrated on the Burlington Northern passenger trains that were still operating. I spent two evenings at King Street Station during the week before Christmas attempting to photograph both the Western Star and the Mainstreeter, but primarily the former.

Photos - Night photography was not my forte but I tried never-the-less. The photos were shot as time exposures with Ektachrome film using a tripod. They were somewhat overexposed but Photoshop has helped make them a little better. The best of what I shot are shown below. The photos in Figures 1-6 were shot on the first evening at King  Street Station at about 6:00 PM. Figures 7-14 are from the second evening and the photos were taken about 9:00 PM.

Figure 1. A BN F-unit and a Big Sky Blue SDP40 wait at the north end of the station. Iím not sure what train the F-unit came in on Ė probably a pool train from Portland.

Figure 2. This photo was way overexposed but I've included it to give a little idea of the headend of the Western Star's consist during this last Christmas holiday before Amtrak: GN Big Sky Blue (BSB) storage mail, GN Empire Builder (EB) Baggage-RPO, Milwaukee Road storage mail and GN EB baggage. These were followed by the coaches and sleepers.

Figure 3. This photo provides a close look at RPO #42, still in Empire Builder colors 3 1/2 years after the introduction of the BSB paint scheme. It's still early in the evening and the loading of mail has not yet begun. These lightweight Baggage-RPOs, delivered between October 1950 and March 1951 and originally assigned to the Empire Builder, replaced the earlier heavy-
weight 60-foot RPOs on the Western Star after the Post Office discontinued the sorting of mail on the EB in October 1967.

Figure 4. Another view of RPO #42 and parts of the ex-GN BSB mail storage car ahead of it and the Milwaukee Road mail storage car behind it.  (For a photo of  another Milwaukee Road mail storage car the came into and went out of Seattle on the Western Star in 1967, click here.)

Figure 5. The BN Mainstreeterís consist of coaches, buffet and an ex-GN sleeper have been spotted on Track 3 for a 7:15 PM departure. The October 1970 public timetable listed a Slumbercoach for this train so the GN sleeper must be a substitute. The car just ahead of the sleeper was listed in the timetable as an Economy Buffet Car.

Figure 6. The consist from a very late arriving North Coast Limited has been spotted on Track 2. The NCL was due in at 8:45 AM but on this day didnít arrive until late afternoon. It will soon go to the coach yard for servicing.


Figure 7. It's another evening and mail is loaded into baggage cars at the head end of the Western Star.

Figure 8. Baggage carts are stacked with mail to be loaded on the train.

Figure 9. This view shows the two baggage cars being loaded with mail plus an ex-MKT stainless steel coach #527 lettered for the former Northern Pacific. NP #527 was built by Pullman-Standard in 1954 and purchased by the Northern Pacific in 1965.

Figure 10. Passengers were still waiting inside the station, but station workers were already loading baggage aboard a rainbow-colored Western Star that was scheduled for a 10:00 PM departure. Note the two coach seats inside the open baggage car door at the left.

Figure 11. Baggage carts moving across the tracks blurred this photo.

Figure 12. When I posted these photos on Trainorders.com in 2009, Kurt Armbruster wrote "... a nice, evocative scene -- baggage carts, parcels being loaded into the baggage car, a few ghostly blurs of boarding passengers...Even then, the 'Star was hard at it, one of the few remaining passenger trains to haul mail after the October 1967 mail contract massacre, and quite a few Seattle-Spokane riders as well."

Figure 13. After taking the previous photos down at track level, I walked up to the Fourth Avenue viaduct for some final photos. Here an SDP40 and three F-units wait at for the Western Starís 10:00 PM departure. The track curving into the tunnel at the right went to the Post Office Terminal Annex when that facility was next to the station. It moved to a new location next to South Lander Street in the 1950s.

Figure 14. Close-up view of the Western Starís motive power.

For more railroad photos, click here. 

Last Update: 11/29/11