Location / Name:
Berne WA, Chelan County, East Portal
Hot Springs/Leavenworth WA, King County, West Portal
The tunnel crosses the Cascade Range near Stevens Pass
GPS Coordinates: 47.769861, -120.999413 East Portal
GPS Coordinates: 47.715344, -121.145315 West Portal
Phone A/C: 206
Access by train/transit:
The Cascade Tunnel (both of them) was built by the Northern Pacific Rwy, and
is now operated by BNSF.
The Cascade Tunnel refers to two railroad tunnels (original and its replacement) in the northwest
United States, east of the Seattle metropolitan area in the Cascade Range of Washington, at
Stevens Pass. It is approximately 65 miles (105 km) east of Everett, with both portals
adjacent to U.S. Route 2. Both single-track tunnels were constructed by the Great Northern
The first Cascade Tunnel was 2.63 miles (4.23 km) in length and opened in 1900 to avoid problems
caused by heavy winter snowfalls on the original line that had eight zig zags (switchbacks).
The current tunnel is 7.8 miles (12.6 km) in length and entered service in early 1929,
approximately 1.5 miles (2.4 km) south of and 500 feet (150 m) lower in elevation than the
original. The present east portal is nearly four miles (6.5 km) east of the original's and
is at 2,881 feet (878 m) above sea level, 1,180 feet (360 m) below the pass. The tunnel
connects Berne in Chelan County on its east with Scenic Hot Springs in King County on its
west and is the longest railroad tunnel in the United States.
The current Cascade Tunnel is in full operation and receives regular maintenance from BNSF
Railway. The new alignment is a straight-line tunnel running between Berne and Scenic Hot
Springs. It is currently part of the BNSF Scenic Subdivision between Seattle and Wenatchee,
and Amtrak's Empire Builder runs through it. Because of safety and ventilation issues, this
tunnel is a limiting factor on how many trains the railroad can operate over this route from
Seattle to Spokane. The current limit is 28 trains per day. Speed through the tunnel is
30 mph for passenger trains, 25 mph (40 km/h) for freight.
The gradient in this tunnel is 1.565% (1:64), with the rise from west to east. The gradient
is 2.2% on the west side from the town of Skykomish.
Ventilation operations (also from Wikipedia): Because of the length of the tunnel, an unusual system is used to
ensure that the air inside remains breathable and reduce problems with excess fumes. For
example, as a train enters the west portal of the tunnel, doors close on the east portal
and huge fans blow in cool air through a second portal to help the diesel engines. As
long as the train is within the tunnel, the fans work with reduced power to avoid
After the train has left the tunnel, the red-and-white-checked door closes and the
fans operate for 20 to 30 minutes with maximum power to clear the tunnel of exhaust
before the next train passes through. In the opposite direction, the door opens when
the train is within 0.6 miles (1 km). The fans are powered by two 800-horsepower
electric motors, clearing the air through the seven miles (11 km) of tunnel within
20 minutes. Present-day train crews carry portable respirators for use in the event
of a fan failure or a train stalling inside the tunnel. In addition, there are
emergency/safety stations spaced 1,500–2,500 feet (460–760 m) apart, depending
on the location within the tunnel, that provide additional air tanks and equipment
to be used in the event of a ventilation/other failure.
The tunnel door is protected by an absolute signal near the east portal.
On the west side, another signal with dual flashing lunar aspects indicates to
eastbound trains that the tunnel fans are operating.
I know I'm not supposed to make personal comments, but if you read down the
list of comments about Steve's video, I can't believe someone from Europe
made a wisecrack about how short the tunnel is compared to the newly opened
35 mile tunnel thru the Alps, and how it was done by a TBM. Is this
guy really that stupid to NOT know that TBM's didn't exist in 1928-1929, and
this was all dug pretty much by hand, with little aid from machines?
The tunnel itself is a single track tunnel. On either side of the
tunnel, the mainline is double tracked, with a siding at the east end.
Both of the interlockings are fully signaled. There is also a signal
right at the east portal entrance, probably due to the tunnel door.
Courtesy of the University of Texas Library, click here for their index page.
This copy of the Skykomish quadrangle was published in 1902, two years after
the first Cascade Tunnel was opened.
The map enlargement shows the switchbacks, since (I guess) the tracks were
still in place, but not in service.
I love trains, and I love signals. I am not an expert. My webpages reflect what I find on the topic of the page. This is something I have fun with while
trying to help others.
Please Note: Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.
For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my
indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented
I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.
If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct. Once in a while,
an error may creep in :-)
My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning. Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or
disoriented. Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost! I belong to AAA, which allows you to get
local maps for free when you visit the local branches. ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the
railroads on them. If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job
of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads. Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.
Aerial shots were taken from either Google or Bing Maps as noted. Screen captures are made
with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it!
By the way, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous
and/or other stuff.
Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit
is always given! Please be NICE!!! Contact info is here
Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.