old stevens pass route and original Cascade Tunnel

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New Member
Good Morning,

After reading the Trains Magazine article titled:

Cascade Tunnel: An engineering mistake
subtitled; A railroad bottleneck that did not have to be.

As a retired hard rock miner I have to agree with T. Michael Powers.
The Old Cascade tunnel is easily reopened after it is repaired
using standard mining equipment used for tunneling and roof bolting
and shotcreting.

The old Cascade tunnel will require the work to be reopened
to currrent civil engineering standards.

This is tunnel bore work that can be accomplished quickly
with current tunnel construction methods and stabilising methods
used for slopes.

The roof fall that occured sealing the bore will have to be excavated
after the tunnel has been shot down and mechanically scaled to the
point where the roof fall(caving of the tunnel back) has occured from
the open side of the tunnel to repair the tunnel bore from the entrance
of the bore which is the normal standard with old tunnels.

After the first 15 fifteen feet has been scaled down from the tunnel entrance
a diesel electric powered roof bolting machine will enter the edge of the bore
and begin drilling the roof bolt holes to install the resin roof bolts.

If it is determined that the roof damage is severe the roof drilled by the roof bolter
may be used to shoot down all the bad roof which will break to the point where
there is solid rock above the tunnel bore.

After this is accomplished the tunnel entrance portal should or would be enlarged
increasing the height of the concrete work at the tunnel breach.

The waste rock removed from the caving of the back/cave in can be left in place
and allow the faster installation of the Pantograph system as well saving time and labor.

After the pantograph os installed the waste rock can be removed and carted away for disposal.

This will allow the fast installation of a pantograph to electrify the tunnel and
eliminate the need for large fans to purge the old tunnel bore each time the tunnel
is entered with a consist.

After the waste rock is removed the tunnels new floor elevation can be mined out
using a road miner quickly as the road miner will grind out either a small layer of floor
rock at one time or remove the entire thickness of floor rock desired to allow double stack
trains to use the Old Cascade Tunnel.

In many cases a roof bolter/face drill will have a man basket mounted on
the drill to allow a miner to hand scale any areas missed by the mechanical
scaling machine.

Depending on how badly the roof rock is cracked or may be cracked mechanical
grouting may be employed to seal the cracked rock and seal any voids that will
permit the rock to allow water ingress into the tunnel bore.

Drainage channels/holes will be installed if the amount of water encountered will
be to large for the use of successfull mechanical grouting alone to seal off the water
in the surrounding granite rock.The Pioneer tunnel in the new Cascade Tunnel is a
good example of this as the tunnel aids in drainage for the existing rail tunnel.

Related to this-

After the tunnel repair reachs the point where the tunnel crown has caved in the
rock will be excavated by conventional front end loader or low profile load haul dump
and removed from the tunnel and placed in a spoil storage dump away fromm the tunnel
bore. By this time track could be layed down and ballasted to the point where the tunnel
portal is located and the waste rock removed using side dumpers filled by a crawler
excavator on site.

All the rock will be removed and held in a waste dump until the beginning stages of the
examination of the tunnel bore at this point when it wil be determined whether the waste rock
from the falling of the back can be used successfully to repair the roof elevation by returning
the rock to the tunnel bore and creating a ramp to the first fifteen feet damaged in the roof fall.

The returning of the waste rock creates a ramp to the new roof horizon and allows a faster
repair to occur eliminating scafffolding and using jackleg drills to drill roof bolt holes in the
reclaimed area as it is advanced. This also allows the engineering staff on site to install
extensometers, survey reflectors, and covergence pins in the new roof elevation as the
reclaiming of the tunnel continues. The convergence pins will allow the roof mechanics to
monitor the new roof horizons convergence as the repair continues along the entire bore by
using pole mounted strain gauges which are used to measure the amount of closure/subsidence
occuring from the tunnel portal to the very edge of the reclaimed area being reopened and repaired.

Twin drainage channels will be mined out along the tunnel edges using a road header
to create the drainage slope and channel profile required after the road miner
lowers the tunnel floor elevation prior to the installation of the track panels and
the added ventilation fans and ducting if electric locomotives are not used to carry
the tonnage through the tunnel.

The implementation and reinstallation of an electric pantograph into the tunnel crown
will be easy to accomplish as the bore will be taller in height due to the roof rock repair
and required reinforcement with mesh and resin bolts.

relating to rectangular tunnel design:

A tall narrow tunnel bore like the old Cascade tunnel will shed the
loading of the overburden above the tunnel to the walls of the tunnel
and the convergence rate which is the rate the tunnel settles will be
much smaller as the weight of the roof rock is pressing down on the
tall side walls and is being controlled by the use of the resin bolts and
any grouting required to remove any chance of water ingress/entrance
into the tunnels roof line.

The Old Cascade tunnel can be relined and repaired in rectangular form using
movable formworks mounted on crawler treads which is the normal
way tunnels are lined conventionally.The tunnels crown profile can be maintained
in this manner if desired or left as a flat elevation with proper roof reinforcement
subject to the roof rocks condition after roof cores are drilled to determine the
condition of the rock above the tunnel. This can also be accomplished at a higher
elevation above the tunnel using small tracked crawlers with core drilling equipment
quickly prior to a section of roof being repaired to determine the proper repairs and
whether grouting and drilling for the horizontal reinforcing in the tunnel crown
using grouted wire rope or roof bolts installed horizonatally should be employed.

Mr. Stevens was correct in designing the old Cascade Tunnel walls as a huge
pair of chain pillars-being two long rectangles of rock supporting the
tunnel crown at that point in the mountain which absorbed
and shed the weight of the rock mass above the tunnel to the
deflecting the weight to the tunnels walls.

If the tunnel was constructed conventionally with a flat roof ceiling roof bolts
could have been used to anchor the roof rock bypassing the need for a crowned roof.
I am unaware as to whether the concrete placed in the tunnel crown and walls contains
any reinforcing rebar rods or mesh.

I do not believe that roof bolts were used or invented at
this time as mine tunnels were typically supported using stacked hard wood cribbing to
absorb the roof loads and also support the area around the cribbing.

(A flat roof repair allows for easier inspection of the roof conditions using convex
roof bolt plates that crush the bowl of the roof bolt plate showing the roof is failing
when the tunnel is inspected)

The roof condition will have be determined using roof drilling to determine the locations of the
cracks in the granite above and along the crown of the tunnel down to the tunnel walls which
,were designed as a pair of chain pillars to absorb and shed the tunnel roof loading/weight.

The damage to the bore may have occured from water and the subsidence of the
tunnel crown apparently from lack of reinforcement and water drainage
behind the concrete lining.

The Tunnel will have to scaled with scaling machine to bring down
all the loose concrete and rock overburden that will fall with the act
of mechanical scaling of the rock and concrete roof.

The air in the tunnel will require monitoring for methane, carbon monoxide,
and nitrogen dioxide as the blasting work and tunnel repair progesses and
ventilation tubing will be extended and retracted using a wire rope trolley
anchored to the repaired tunnel celing as the tunnel shots occur.

During the initial repair phase advancing to the portion of the tunnel
where the caving of the back has occured all the bad roof and and
side walls will have to be shot down, the area rescaled with the
diesel powered scaling machine roof bolts installed, and the
hurricane fence mesh installed as the repair advances within the
tunnel bore.

The tunnel may be shot creted after determining if any water ingress exists and
can be stopped using cement grout and the new drainage channels in the
tunnels new lower elevation.

Relating to the installation and use of a pantograph in the tunnel the feeder
cable/ could be installed in slot in the roof line which would be created using an
undercutter to permit the use of a messenger cable to carry the load of the pantograph
wire and bring the wire as close to the roof line as conditions permit it to occur.

This machine is related to and was how the ballast undercutter was invented as the same
type of undercutter bar is used to do both jobs using carbide bits to create the trench in the
roof of the tunnel.

The creation of the power line slot for the pantograph in the roof would have to be done prior
to adding the hurricane fence wire mesh to the tunnels new roof elevation and prior to any grouting
or shotcreting.reusing the available electric power that is nearby is an excellent way to use the water
source that was used previously reducing the need to depend on coal fired electric generation.

The actual feeder cable would be in the slot protected from any damage from occuring to it and
the pantograph line would be anchored to the roof line and insulated by the isolated buss
bars or unsheathed cable if used. Many electrified lines exist in the Alps, Sweden and Norway
in heavy snow countrythat use both tunnels and snow sheds.

This tunnel repair can be accomplished successfully with the improved methods used in tunneling
today in a very short timespan.
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martin burwash

New Member
And what about the old line up Avalanche Alley? Any ideas other than what the GN had to do....cover the entire route with snow sheds....

Martin Burwash


New Member
stevens pass and old cascade tunnel

Hello Mr. Burwash,

From my perspective and experience in
mining and tunneling in hard rock room
and pillar operations the possibility of
moving the line to the north facing slope can
be accomplished using a road miner at
the higher elevation to create a wider road bed.

The basic determination about the snow pack would have
to be studied over a period of several winters prior to some
decision being made yay or nay as far as snow depths/avalanche
activity on the north slope etc., but with the proposed elevation being
500 or more feet higher than the old route the snow pack would be less-
depending strictly on seasonal area totals and any strain guage measurements
of the snow pack on the north slope.

The decision about snow sheds can not be taken lightly but the use of a road miner
to open up the route would permit the installation of drainage pipes to carry away
excess water from snow melt and any possible water ingress into the snow shed
floor.a water barrier would be sprayed on the roof and exterior walls of the snow shed prior
to thier being back filled with drainage stone where needed.

Using slip formed concrete and or using concrete panels and mobile form works
just as tunnels are lined but using an inner and outer set of moveable forms the work
would proceed very fast as the concrete would be pumped into the forms and after
the concrete was sufficiently hardened the form works would be moved.

About the snow:
The SB1600 Beilhack snow clearer offered by the AEB
Schmidt Group can remove 22,000 tons of snow
fall per hour or more using a twin snow propeller

The SB1600 like the other units is self propelled with two two-wheel
mechanically driven trucks powering all four wheel sets.
The SB1600 has three water cooled diesel engines and the twin snow
propeller heads are designed to be shifted to the side of the snow
clearer to width of 4,750 millimeters in width in clearing two passes
with the snow gathering gate doors fully extended in width.

The SB1600 has 4 ice and snow breakers in front of the
two snow casting heads, 2 mounted on the snow scraping doors and
two directly in front of the snow propellers.

The snow casting heads are also able to raise using hydraulic power
to take a higher cut of snow pack in heavy snows if needed.

The unit has two smaller propellers located at the bottom left and right
corners of the snow proellers to prevent snow build up from the center
portions not covered by the large twin propellers.

The SB1600 snow clearer has an integral flange clearer as well.
The SB1600 like the other models uses 8 sanding boxes on the
four driven axles as well.

The SB1600 also is designed to turn within its own length
using a turntable separated from the drive systems twin trucks
and the snow clearers reverse direction without using a Y switch
or turntable.

Something to think about anyway.
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But, the problem with the old alignment and tunnel wasn't snowfall per se; it was steep grades, heavy curvature, extensive and expensive to maintain snow sheds, and frequent avalanches that can and have devoured entire trains. Reopening this ancient line is an interesting mind game, but neither practical nor cost effective.
BNSF already has a pressure relief up and operating, some thirty miles south, called Stampede... With the kind of money you're talking about, the Stampede tunnel can be fully crowned, the Yakima and Stampede subs fully CTC, and have some left over to extend sidings on both the Stampede and Stevens lines.

martin burwash

New Member
Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it....when it comes to Stevens Pass the GN/BN/BNSF are smart enough not to repeat it. I also read the TRAINS article, and although the author made an interesting case, he ingored a fair amount of reality. For one, his new proposed line that gave the railroad the elevation to get to Wellington used Tunnel Creek valley, (the same avalanche chute that killed skiers this winter and had US 2 closed for nearly a week a few years back) It was then located right below current US 2, where they routinely close the road for avalanche control...sending the snow down the mountain to where the new railroad would be. Same with the snow from daily plowing of the highway, it is sent over the bank, down toward the new alignment.

Those of us who live here know a very simple fact. In the north Cascades, the heavy snow level begins around 2500' above sea level. The west portal of the new tunnel is at 2400'. They knew exactly what they were doing when they located that tunnel.

Remember, the deaths of 96 in Wellngton and miles of snow sheds was the driving force behind locating the 8-mile tunnel below the heavy snow line.

Martin Burwash


New Member
Original Cascade tunnel route

But, the problem with the old alignment and tunnel wasn't snowfall per se; it was steep grades,
heavy curvature, extensive and expensive to maintain snow sheds, and frequent avalanches
that can and have devoured entire trains. Reopening this ancient line is an interesting
mind game, but neither practical nor cost effective.
BNSF already has a pressure relief up and operating, some thirty miles south, called Stampede...
With the kind of money you're talking about, the Stampede tunnel can be fully crowned, the Yakima
and Stampede subs fully CTC, and have some left over to extend sidings on both the Stampede and Stevens lines.

It would be hard to justify from the possibility of more work required to upgrade the stampede tunnel and cost over runs.

the entire tunnel would have to be back filled to allow the work to proceed as using scaffolding and jack legs to drill and
shoot the crown, then roof bolt and shot crete the tunnel would become prohibitive.


This is where the use of a road miner for the old route becomes critical and a blessing in the construction and repair
of the the old route or the new north routing if pursued. The use of a road miner can reduce the steep grades to a
very low grade percentage and also increase the sweep radius of the curves with the same low grade percentage.

The implementation and use of an alpine miner would allow the route to be cut making a wide bench cut following it
with the road miner to smooth the cut as the units advance. The existing soil above the new route would have to be
stabilised with gabions, tie backs and or sheet piling as the work advances.

The higher the route becomes the greater the opportunity becomes to remove less overburden with less work as their
is less overburden to removeto create the new routing or repair the old route and reduce the gradients and increase
the radius of the curves reducing strain on any size consist.

Looking at the new Cascade tunnel the work needed to repair and electrify it would require;

1. removal of the entire 8 miles of track entering and exiting the tunnel

If track panels were employed when the track was layed in the tunnel the tunnels track could be
removed using single flat cars, lifting cradles, and a small diesel powered crane that would work
its way out from the center to the tunnel portal on each side.

2. using a road miner for the 8 miles inside and out to lower the floor elevation 1 meter or more
which would amount to cutting out at least an 8 foot width of granite 8 miles long which would
be 103 pounds per cubic foot creating at least 6,600 tons of granite fines per mile, creating 52,000
tons of granite fines or more which would have to be loaded into a mine ore hauler that would have
to be backed all the way into the tunnel and driven out to carry out the granite fines AND the old
ballast if any for disposal. Once the floor has been lowered one meter or more the tunnel could be
electrified again with a high voltage cantenary.

The portal entrances could be left alone as the floors elevation has been lowered by one meter or
more while maintaining the grades within the tunnel.

The old ballast and milling cuttings from the tunnel could be reclaimed by washing and screening the
fines and ballast coming out of the tunnel and then deciding if the millings can be reused for ballast
or discarded for back fill or waste rock to be disposed of.prior to the laying down of the new roadbed
after the tunnels floor elevation has been lowered.

If a single boom alpine miner was used the cutting would be more aggressive creating dips in the floor
for every foot of advance as the cutter heads are round like pine cones allowing the carbide bits to dig
aggreessively into the granite floor. The problem is that more granite than necessary would be removed
and the lower elevation would have to be back filled slightly to level the tunnel floor prir to ballasting and
relaliging the track within the tunnel.This of course would affect the relaying of the track within the tunnel
possibility affecting its stability and geometry. whre a road miner would leave a grooved pavement having
broken through any damaged granite that exists under the road bed from 91 years of trafffic within the tunnel.

Ideally 2 foot guage mine track panels could be brought in as the tunnel repair continues and using battery
powered locomotives and small mine dumpers which would be loaded using a skid loader following behind the road miner.

As the milling of the floor continues the 2 foot track can bepushed over from one side to the other as the floor
elevation is lowered by the road miner allowing the loading of the muck cars to continue with no restrictions.

The work would go quickly as the road miner would advance at one mile per hour/88 feet per minute or less depending
on the Rockwell/Mohs hardness of the granite in the tunnel floor

The road miner would not suffer from any impairments from automoblie traffic as the fines would simply be dumped behind
the road miner and left to be reclaimed by the skid loader and loaded into the mine dumpers on one side of the tunnel.

The use of a small width road miner would speed the rehabilitation of the tunnel floor as lowering of the elevation could
be done in steps as there are no impedements from attempting the work and where a very large road milling machine would
be limited in its manueverability in cutting near the tunnel walls.

The fans could be left on at all times to ventilate the bore while the work continues around the clock until completion.

The repair and improvement of the old stevens pass route can be done with old tunnel or without it with the improvements
in civil engineering works and railway snow clearers.

Its not a mind game in any sence as very steep grades in the Alps such
The RHB railway which is electrified operate with a 7 percent grade which is
the steepest railroad grade in the Alps using the smallest Beilhack motorised
snow clearer which is the SB900 if I remember correctly.

It can be done and in the process allow BNSF to have three routes for rail traffic to the west coast.

food for thought anyway.
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Stevens Pass and Trains Magazine

Which issue was this article in? I don't subscribe anymore, so have to rely on handouts from friends.

And, yes, Stampede Tunnel could be enlarged to accommodate double-stacks, and re-electrification of Stevens could be an easier solution. Electrics could be used just between Scenic and Merritt. Don't think there's enough room at Berne to put much more in there, like engine pockets. Plenty of room at Scenic for a servicing facility.


New Member
Stevens Pass route and the Old cascade tunnel

Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it....when it comes to Stevens Pass the GN/BN/BNSF are smart enough not to repeat it. I also read the TRAINS article, and although the author made an interesting case, he ingored a fair amount of reality. For one, his new proposed line that gave the railroad the elevation to get to Wellington used Tunnel Creek valley, (the same avalanche chute that killed skiers this winter and had US 2 closed for nearly a week a few years back) It was then located right below current US 2, where they routinely close the road for avalanche control...sending the snow down the mountain to where the new railroad would be. Same with the snow from daily plowing of the highway, it is sent over the bank, down toward the new alignment.

Those of us who live here know a very simple fact. In the north Cascades, the heavy snow level begins around 2500' above sea level. The west portal of the new tunnel is at 2400'. They knew exactly what they were doing when they located that tunnel.

Remember, the deaths of 96 in Wellngton and miles of snow sheds was the driving force behind locating the 8-mile tunnel below the heavy snow line.

Martin Burwash

Was route two built becase of the desire to build the ski resort or did the ski resort
come long after the building of route two?

I am not disagreeing with the chain of events that precluded the GN board and the
desire of Ralph Budd to build the new tunnel Mr. Burwash.

The cost overuns/cost plus business method contract signed in building the new
Cascade tunnel would not have been tolerated by GN stock holders today if GN
still existed in any case.

If I remember correctly the original Cascade Tunnel as designed by Mr. Stevens
was built becuase of the previous avalanches on the original first rail line route
which had switch backs up over and down the mountain on both sides.

No one and especially me is disagreeing with you or the climate and the u
sual Cascade Concrete Mr. Burwash.

We also have heavy wet snows many yers in a row here in New York as well.

The advantage of the Beihack units is that they are high traction units with
four driven axles and do not require a prime mover. These units are also able
to be equiped with a rack rail drive system as well.

The improvements in civil engineering design, contruction practices and materials
in the last 115 years are the things that can allow this improvement to occur.

The snow routes in Europe are a prime example where steep grades and snow
are overcome every day during the snow season with wide flat road beds to
permit snow slabs to slow to an eventual stop.

Here in New York State the two self propelled Beihack snow clearers used
were purchased by CONRAIL and sold to CSX after the CONRAIL disolution
and used in the Buffalo area and along the East coast CSX trackage and
along the CSX route to the Canadian border

The Lockhaven Subdivision Route here is prone to avalanches and the
one of the Beihack snow clearers are used there to remove avalanches
which bury the route when this occurs.

Most all the electrified routes in Sweden and Norway in the snow shed
routes are high speed track commuter lines which also carry double
stack trains as well with.

The old route deserves a thorough rexamination as the improvements
in civil engineering and the examples in Europe of the same construction
would justify a rexamination of the old route to alleviate the congestion
as the act of widening of the new Cascade Tunnel for double track or
daylighting it for that matter would be a much more expensive proposition.

I am not trying to start an argument with anyone here on the board but
with the advances in snow clearing and improvements in Civil Engeneering Design,
Construction Materials, and methodology and economies of scale would justify a
second look cost data stream as the traffic is going to increase with coal exports
from the Powder River Basin.

Jon Bentz

New Member
I would be much easier and cheaper to simply add a second bore to the existing 8 mile tunnel. There is already an access shaft ( the original contractor's tunnel used for construction ) for nearly half the length starting at the west portal. Drilling the remaining 4 miles would require more effort. Keeping the entire line below 2400' ( as per Martin's point ) seems to make more sense than building an entirely new line up to the old tunnel. The original route up to Wellington had the same 2.2% ruling gradient as the line up from Skykomish. It really wasn't the grade that was the reason for the new lower tunnel, it was the awful snow battle every season and finally the Wellington disaster.

martin burwash

New Member
"Route two" was to replace the old switchbacks as mentioned, (which were always viewed as "temporary") and was always a part of the original plan for the GN over Stevens. When Haskell found the pass and he and Stevens surveyed the route, a two mile summit tunnel was part of the alignment. Hill was in too big a hurry to get to tidewater and needing to start generating revenue, so the backs were put into use until such time the original summit tunnel could be built. Route three, (the current alignment) was in direct response to the 1910 Wellington Avalanche that swept 2 GN trains down the canyon, killing 96 people. At that point, because of the heavy snowfall above Scenic, just about the entire line from Scenic to Wellington was placed under snowsheds. With a life span of about 25 years, the GN knew something perminent had to be done with the route. The current 8-mile tunnel was/is that solution. The line was electrified from Sky to Wenatchee originally, but was scrapped in favor of the diesel-electrics. That in hind sight was probably the key mistake as the tunnel was never designed with venting in mind...the fans/door were very much a retro-fit. There were 7 or 8, (without looking at my notes, I don't remember exactly) different routes surveyed for the existing tunnel, with the current locale chosen as the best for various reasons. I would suggest taking the Iron Goat trail up to Windy Point and looking down on the current west portal of the Cascade Tunnel. It gives you a perspective you might be lacking....just how much elevation was eliminated by that route. Taking tonnage up a hill and back down is costly business...

Then there's the politics....Stevens Pass Scenic By-way, North Cascades Wilderness area...the most modern civil engineering in the world would not be able to blast through the mountain of state and federal paper work and years of litigation blocking any new, serious railroad building up there. Again, I think the BNSF legal team is smart enough to know it's a battle that would cost millions to win before a single hour of construction could commence.

Good grief, they can't even get past the paper work, voter initiatives, etc blocking building a coal export port here in Washington.

Again, just pointing out reality.....

Martin Burwash

I forgot to add, a second tunnel was closely studied in the early 90's. As Jon suggested, it would have followed the old cosntruction tunnel to a degree. However, it was to be built on a slightly lesser grade, (1% as opposed to the 1.58% of the current tunnel) and would have come out about midway down the current Berne siding. The idea was the new bore for eastbound ascending, the old bore for westbound descending. The biggest con to the project? Enviornmental Impact Statement and legal costs.....true story.


New Member
The gist of the Trains article was that it would have been less costly to relocate the western approach to the old Cascade tunnel to the south, supposedly less avalanch prone, face of the valley, rather than build the "new" tunnel. The Trains map showed the line high up on the hill descending a 2.2% grade to a point west of Skykomish. A more likely, and less costly option, would have been to double back above Deception Falls and join the existing line at Scenic. In any case, now that the "new" tunnel is built, there is no way re-opening the old tunnel makes sense. Directional trafiic westbound on Stevens and the SP&S and Eastbound on Stampede is a much more likely scenario to handle increased traffic to/from Puget Sound. It is unfortunate that the NP was too broke/stingy to build a 3.5 to 4 mile tunnel running approximately from Sunday Creek (lower Borup loop) to the MILW grade near Wittier. This would have yielded an 0.8% westbound grade and a 1.2 to 2.2% eastbound grade, depending on how much extra distance was added on the descent to Lester.


New Member
Original Cascade tunnel and mountain route

Hello Mr. Bentz and Mr. Burwash,

I am not disagreeing with either of you in any way.

If the enlarging of the Pioneer tunnel was an option
it would require much more mining and much more
tunnel convergence monitoring in the new Cascade
Tunnel as it will increase the tunnel convergence
rates in both the Pioner tunnel and the New
Cascade tunnel.

The other issue is the water escaping the new
Cascade tunnel into the pioneer tunnel.
Blasting in a trim shooting pattern to open the
bore of the Pioneer Tunnel or the use of a road
header for the work could and would open fissures
in the rock that are channeling the water into the
new Cascade tunnel and then into the Pioneer
tunnel increasing water ingress into the
New Cascade Tunnel and then to the Pioneer tunnel.

Water ingress in coal mining here in the east is a deadly
occurance and happens too often with the younger geology that
exists in the eastern coal fields.

Further the old vertical shaft entering the workings
could fail further and admit even more water
due to the rock fissures being cracked by the use
of explosives or excessive convergence rates
affecting the Pioneer tunnel roof horizon.

The New Cascade tunnel could also be affected
to the point where rail traffic would be suspended
due to the potential for roof failure from blasting
or convergence from settling in the Pioneer tunnel
sheddiing load into the New Cascade tunnel

The potential for blasting damage in the New Cascade tunnel
would be inevitable as the rock will transmit the blast vibration in all directions.

The covergence rate could and would affect the roof and the tunnel walls being
chain pillars in thier design especially and they may crack and create slabs of the tunnel
wall that would break away and fall into the track.

About grades;
On the west shore of Cayuga Lake the old Lehigh Valley Railroad line which was
abandoned in 1953 rises nine hundred plus feet or so feet above the lakes head
waters and travels on to Trumansburg and then to Ovid and Interlaken and then
the old Seneca Army Depot then to Geneva then west to Buffalo, New York or
east to Albany, New York on the route which parallels the Erie Canal.

I do not know what the percent grade is, but the line was used by by steam trains
and diesels in revenue service hauling coal to the tuberculosus hospital just out side
Ithaca and coal also to Bowers Fuel Company in Trumansburg and it also was used for
grain and coal delivery to Interlaken as well as Ovid, New York.

Prior to the building of the Erie Canal and according local history the all
coal being mined in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania was funneled through the rail yards
in Ithaca via the inclined plane railway from Owego down south hill with horses and cables
and then moved to the rail lines on both the east and west shore of Cayuga lake and then
delivered to points north.

The Eastern Shore route is a water level route servicing the existing salt mine and the
power plant which are the only revenue customers left on the original route.

The eastern shore rail line was also an electrified trolley line in passenger service in the
immediate Ithaca area as well as the second rieght revenue frieght route as there was the
Remington Salt Works just outside the city limits and the old International Salt brine
evaporating plant in lLudlowville, New York on the eastern shore which used a lot of coal
and shipped a lot of evaporated salt products as well as a feed mill in Cayuga, New York
which operated untill 1949 and went into bankruptcy.

We also have a electric generating plant that was built between 1945-49 between Ithaca
and the old feed mill at Cayuga, New York. The track was ripped up from the Geneva side
to the power plant boundaries in 1949 when the feed mill went bankrupt leaving a portion
of the the old main for twenty five cars as track one of the four empty car tracks immediately
after the rotary dumper shed.
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martin burwash

New Member
To put this discussion in a proper historical context, I'd suggest reading Paper No. 1809 found in Vol. 96, 1932 journal of the American Society of Civil Engineers. It is a three part detailed symposium concerning the construction of the 8-mile tunnel. It gives some insights as to the "why's."

Martin Burwash


New Member
original Stevens Ppass Route and The Original Cascade Tunnel

Mr. Powers makes a very compelling point regarding the old route and the old tunnel and their
potential for reopening the old route as the tunnel was completed with a huge cost overrun
prior to its opening which would not be tolerated if it was attempted today.

If the floor of the New Cascade tunnel was milled to a depth of one meter or more the tunnel
could be electrified again and also permit stack trains to transit the New Cascade Tunnel with
no difficulty as the caternary would pass below the tunnel portals without difficulty as the
consists would be three plus feet lower than the east and west portal entrances of the
New Cascade Tunnel.

The required flushing time for exhaust gasses in the New Cascade Tunnel reduces the ability of
the tunnel to permit transit of loaded and empty trains.

As I mentioned the tunnel could be repaired to permit three phase conductor electrification
easily also allow it to increase dynamic braking ability and create electricity and return it to
the caternary but like anything else it takes time.

Mr. Burwash also has legitimate points regarding this issue.

But to clarify, the death of the those skiers that were killed this year, they were sking in an area
that is back country and MARKED AS OFF LIMITS to skiers due to the avalanche danger.

The current limits on capacity within the BNSF operating system in the Northwest would justify a
second look as the snow removal and civil engineering improvements that are currently in use and
are also in use in europe with regard to snow removal in Europe in its higher mountain railways can
be successfully applied here as well.

The ventilation in the new cascade tunnel can be improved using a raise bored vertical shaft from
the existing tunnel crown to the surface which would be the fastest way to install a pressure gradient
inducing ventilation system A vacuum is created suctioning the exhaust fumes out of the tunnel from
the tunnels mid point.

The Shaft collar would be covered with a building that would house the exhaust fan fan controls and
high voltage disconnects and the ducting to permit the exhausting of the diesel exhaust created by
the locomotives entering the New Cascade Tunnel.

This would require the use of precast concrete tunnel segments in a vertical bore which would require
the bottom of the shaft to be lined with a concrete foundation to support the weight of the tunnel
segments which would be installed ftom the bottom to the top of the new raise bored shaft using a
crane to lower the individual segments to the bottom of the bore and then upward to the shaft colllar
at the surface.

About the raise bored shaft:

As each segment ring is installed scaffolding would be raised and aluminum staging installed to permit the
assembling of the segment rings and then the grout to be pumped behind the precast segments.

The scaffold segments could be lowered from the surface collar using an Alimak Raise Climber and then
erected as each precast ring is installed in the raise bored shaft

Each precast shaft/tunnel ring segment would have a precast keystone segment to lock the segments
together in each ring and from the bottom to the top at the shaft collar.

Each precast tunnel segment that creates the ring which is laid on top of each previous ring has
sealing gaskets to prevent water from passing through the segments edges.

The voids behind the precast segments would be filled with a concrete grout to prevent water ingress
in the raise bored shaft after the shaft is lined with the precast segements from the bottom of the new
raise bored shaft to the shaft collar.

This would permit the new small diameter bored shaft can be quickly implemented as an exhaust shaft
and a fresh air ventilation shaft in an emergency with a fan that could have its direction reversed.

The act of moving air in a pressure mode or vacuum is referred to as a pressure gradient.

The path of the exhaust air corridor would have to be decide long before the raise is bored as any tunnel
to the Pioneer tunnel would have to be roof bolted and shot creted to maintain its integrity.

The escape adits would have to be properly sealed with access doors and fire resistant walls to permit
efficient ventilation to occur.
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Ed Sand

General Idiot
Interesting discussion, but here's a question to consider:

If you were double track the existing Cascade Tunnel, how much would this increase capacity of the overall route from Monroe to Wenatchee? In other words, how many more trains a day would BNSF be able to run?


New Member
New Cascade tunnel

I am unsure of the capacity as far as train numbers would be but ventilation would be a concern as the
ventilation required would be much higher due to the engine consists in the tunnel as well as the number of
helpers on each train as the amount fresh air in the tunnel must equal or excede the total amount required
for the engines operating speed at high idle with regard to MSHA ventilation requirements for mining machinery
plus the number of persons working in the area which from what I remember was 250 cubic feet of fresh air per
minute per per person.

The tunnel flushing with fresh air does two things it dilutes the exhaust gasses simply by increasing the fresh air volume through
the length of the tunnels 7.9 mile length until the exhaust air is again clean. this permits the tunnel to have
a volume of fresh air equal to the tunnels volume in cubic feet with a minimum of 21 percent oxygen for breathing air.

The engines are consuming more air at atmosperic pressure minus the percentage lost due to back pressure from a
consist displacing its volume in cubic foot against the sidewalls of the tunnel along the consists length which is also pushing
combustion air out of the tunnel with the trains displacement volume entering the along the tunnel.

The new cascade tunnels elevation above sea level, The cubic inch displacement of each engine, the combustion air
required for each engine to operate properly in the act of combustion at high idle, the condition of the air filters,
the revenue loads weight, The consist weight empty, The fuel weight loads in the locomtives,and the grades inside
the New Cascade Tunnel affecting the performance of each engine and any helper engines.

It may be of more help if the fans were controlled using a variable frequency drive control system where the fans could
and would operate at a lower cubic foot per minute while the consist is in the bore to provide fresh air in the tunnel equal to the
combustion air required for each engine in each consist.

The fans would stil be capable of flushing the tunnel when the consist has cleared as well reducing the time needed for a bore flush
to clear the tunnel of combustion gasses and that would cost more money to up grade the electronic controls from the system that is now used.

This is the problem which was partially addressed with the air flushing system for the tunnel bore along its entire length
which clears the tunnel of fumes and also limits the number of transits per day which in turns is affected by the length of each
consist and the power needed for the grades including any helpers is used.

The New Cascade Tunnel bores actual cubic footage is the issue as only so much air occupies the tunnel bores total volume
and this affect the flushing time.

The exhaust has nowhere to go except out the of the portal and this is the bottleneck which has become more problematic
with larger diesel engines and longer consists and the grade within the tunnel requiring more engine horsepower.

The winter operation of the fans is more effective as the cold air entering the tunnel is more dense as it is colder in temperature.

The tunnel bores actual rock temperature affects it some hat, but the physics involved with the six laws of gasses are what is involved
in any tunnel ventilation question.

You are dealing with gasses that have weight that are affected by atmosperic pressures at the tunnel bores portals and the weight of
the air entering the tunnel which is affected by the seasonal temperatures and it becomes harder to ventilate the tunnel
in summer because the summer air weighs less per cubic meter because it is less dense.

The other issue is the fans as they are not positive in displacement because of the air leaks and the inefficiency of the fans themselves.
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martin burwash

New Member
Curious, have you been at the Cascade Tunnel and observed a cycle or two? I'm assuming you know of the operational procedures including the door, the variable speeds of the two fans, etc. I ask, because your latest post makes me wonder.

On whether or not the location of the current tunnel was a "mistake," both you and the author of the article are forgetting what was probably at the time the most important factor...sadly nothing to do with engineering...sorry.

Prior to the opening of the new tunnel, the Great Northern route over the pass was not a route that instilled shipper confidence. It was a route that was plagued with time losing closures, routinely destroyed cargo and killed passengers. Not an over statement...check your history. The Great Northern was very specific when they set out to improve the route; Stevens was to survey a tunnel that would keep the railroad out of the avalanche zone...period. Again, stop juxtaposing your late 20th-early 21st technology onto the minds of men in 1925. Do your route analysis based on what they had to work with and what they knew at the time.

1912, slides in the Tumwater Canyon killed section workers and had the line closed for over a week.

1916, slides took out a trestle near Ciorea and hit Train 25 broadside killing passengers.

The list goes on.... In fact, there are very few winters prior to the completion of the new tunnel the line was not closed due to slides or washouts. (Another factor you people consistantly ignore...water.)

Stevens did as the board directed, and in my opinion, studying the history from 1893 to 1925, given what the board at that time knew to be true about the pass, Stevens and the Board were dead on the money with the lcoation of that tunnel and the line up the Chumstick. They gave the passenger and freight agents a line they could sell to customers.

Sorry civil engineers, it was all about shipper confidence and making money.

Martin Burwash


New Member
old and new cascade tunnel

Hello Mr. Burwash,

Please understand I was not ignoring the
issue of past land slides and track washouts
due to water erosion from clearcutting the mountain sides
and also to become a prime reason for the snow avalanches.

The clearcutting that occured to generate
the immediate revenue to pay for the line
was the major reason for the many incidents
that occured up an down the moiuntain as well as the
fires above Wellington prior to the avalanache in
1910 that killed ninety six passengers and railroad employees
of the Great Northern Railway.

We can always assume that If Mr. Oneil had made the
decision that week to connect and move the two trapped trains
into the Old Cascade tunnel and the rotary plow
that was damaged/dead, and simply let the locomotives
die of fuel starvation and let them go dead in the tunnel
and remove the passengers and their belongings and
require everyone to stay at Bailets we may not have
had anymore to read about than an avalance on that
day crossing all the tracks at Wellington so powerful
that it traveled all the way into Tye Creek.

We can only speculate that if only he had done this he would
not have had these deaths on his shoulders until his death
in 1957?-I do not remember the exact date year of his death.

We can only speculate that if the Great Northern Railway folks had
spent time in Europe examining how the rail ways were constructed
using switch backs, wide rights of way and snow sheds they would
have not made the same mistakes which caused so much damage
and death. All or most all of these high altitude rail lines were built
before the crossing of the Cascades and are still in operation in
post war Europe.

The three winter storms that battered the Stevens Pass prior to the
avalanche and the avalanche the week later after the pass was opened
only added more problems on top of the problems with not having enough
coal to power the rotaries and locmotives that week as well as the shovelers
that walked off the job that which added to the issues involved.

The avalanches and landslides were a direct result
of the revenue logging that occured along the line
when the line was opened and, which also cost the
lives of section crews and passengers and also
destroyed revenue payloads as a result
of the stripping of the immediate area above and
below the switch backs for the timber to build
the snow sheds and also sell the logs on the
Pacific Coast.

I am not in disagreement with you or anyone else as
I am a person who is simply interested in American History.

Growing up in a family business prior to my 22 year involvment
in mining has provided me with a great deal of experience in
business as well.

No matter the business size it must create revenue to prosper,
pay salaries, stock dividends, pay for materials and fuels,
purchase assets for the creation of potential revenues, and
also have a cash reserve for contingencies and a fund for
self insurance.

The fact that I grew up in a railroad town has also spurred
my interest in past railroad history and the aftermath of
the decisions made relating to this history.

The biggest mistake this country ever made was the loss
of local, regional and transcontinental passenger service
and the beginning of air travel in the United States and
the creation of the money sucking interstate highway
system which is fed at the trough by fuel taxation and
exise taxes when we already had a road network!

The trouble with any economy let alone an economy in
a free market system is the cyclical nature of the
economy as related to national and world events
affecting these economies.

If you have the opportunity I strongly suggest that you
read the book Internal Combustion; it fully illustrates the
destruction of the local trolley service and the beginning
of the end of the passenger rail system and the beginning
history of the automobile in this country which will
eventually destroy our way of life in my opinion with
our dependence on gasoline. The book is available in
paper back now and believ me it is an eye opener
Mr. Burwash.

I alos found the book Big Coal written by a local author
to be an exiting eye opening book about the
Powder River Basin and the BNSF and UP as well.
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martin burwash

New Member
Well, it seems your hind sight is as it always is for us, 20-20. I pretty much disagree on every point you make concerning the factors leading to the Wellington slide, but that's actually a side issue. Again, given what the Board knew in 1925, given the history of the line from 1893-1925, I still say they made the right choice. As for making current updates to the tunnel, again, have you actually witnessed its operation, the door, the variable speed of the fans, the venting louvers behind the door structure..etc? How would you change the current useage of the fans' variable speed capabilities or the use of the door, for instance?

You have the knowlegde, what is the average length and tonnage of trains operating over switchbacks in Europe and these steep grades you talk about? How do they compare to the unit coal and grain trains operated here? I'm assuming they are of equal tonnage and length, correct?

Martin Burwash

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