The Woodinville Sub
In 1970, at the BN merger, there were a couple of former Northern Pacific branch lines that roamed around East King County. The 7th Subdivision went from the Black River Interlocking to Renton, to Woodinville and on up to Sumas. There was the 8th Subdivision from the north end of Stacy Street Yard in Seattle, went along the west side of Lake Washington to Woodinville, then up to North Bend. Then there was the 13th Subdivision from Argo to Renton, to Maple Valley and on up to Black Diamond.
As the years rolled-on and customers faded away, these branch line began to shrink and disappear. From the late 1970s thru the 1980s the subdivision numbers changed several times before all of them ended up as the 18th Subdivision in 1991. Every year Burlington Northern was abandoning rail lines left and right and keeping up with the number changes was challenging, so in January 1993, Burlington Northern changed their subdivision from numbers to names. The 18th Subdivision became the Woodinville Subdivision and the old 8th Subdivision became the Issaquah Spur.
When Burlington Northern was created in March 1970, the branch line had six trains—two main-line freights, and four locals. Northern Pacific train #675 (a northbound train that was timetable westward) became Burlington Northern #144. Northern Pacific train #676 (a southbound train that was timetable eastward) became Burlington Northern #143. Burlington Northern ran trains #143 and #144 to and from Sumas the same way the NP did for the first few weeks after the merger. The first thing to change after Merger Day was their timetable direction. Train #144 still went north, but was now an eastbound train, and train #143 came back south as a westbound train.
Just a few weeks after the merger, Burlington Northern changed the route of trains 144/143 taking them off the 7th Subdivision, aka the Lake Washington Belt Line, and onto the former Great Northern line. At Black River train #144 continued north on the 3RD Subdivision to Seattle, then north on the ex-GN mainline to Interbay-Everett-Kruse Jct. then back to the old NP line at Edgecomb, then up to Sumas. From 1974-1975ish, until March 1980, two Milwaukee Road frights operated over the 7th Sub as well.
Besides having two mainline freights for a short time, the Belt Line had four locals running around the 7th and 8th Subdivisions. Back in the early 1970s the eastside was sparsely populated, with lumber mills everywhere. The big city of Seattle seemed like a faraway place. Right at the time of the 1970 merger, Northern Pacific operated four locals:
Trains 1200/1201 was on duty at 1015-hours in Auburn Sunday thru Friday. Train 1200 started out in Auburn going up to Renton, Bellevue, then Woodinville, then south on the 8th Sub (which was NP’s 5th Sub) to Keith where it would turn around and head back to Auburn as train 1201. At Wilberton this train would switch cars at Gray-Stone Overlake, at Wilburton. In Bellevue there was Safeway, America Wholesale Grocers, Western Kraft, Mutual Materials, International Pipe & Ceramics, Inc. and Universal Wallboard. In Kirkland it would handle the customers at Seattle Door Co., Globe Feed Mill, Custom Paint Co., Haroldson Industries and Simpson Building Supply.
Trains 1202/1203 worked the 7th Subdivision between Auburn and Kirkland via Renton and Bellevue. After switching Kirkland, the train would return to Auburn as 1203.
Trains 1204/1205 were the closest thing to a mainline freight on the Belt Line. This train started in Everett and worked its way south to Auburn via Bromart to Woodinville and Black River.
Trains 1208/1209 worked the 8th Subdivision from North Bend to Woodinville, then to Keith and then return to North Bend, Monday thru Saturday. It had customers in Redmond, Issaquah, Preston, Snoqualmie and North Bend. Train was on-duty at 0730-hours in North Bend and connected with trains 1204/1205 in Woodinville. First, they would handle the logs at Tanner, then switch the huge Weyerhauser mill at Snoqualmie. There was the Public Utility District at Fall City, then St. Regis in Issaquah. In Redmond there was Western Partners Association and then De Youngs lumber at Woodinville, Colonial Supply, Puget Sound Floors and others at Mitchell, Palmer G. Lewis and Interpace Co. between Bothell and Naval Air and General Services Administration at Naval Air Junction.
Not long after the 1970 merger, BN needed to consolidate all of their train numbers from the merging railroads into a single system, this new train number system was called COMPASS. The Oregon Division started using COMPASS in 1971. By November 1973, most of the BN system had converted over. Denver Region was the last to converted in 1975.
For trains operating on branch lines, the first number was the Region; Seattle was Region 5. The second number was for the Division within the Region; the Pacific Division was 3. The third digit was for the type of train, 8 was for a turnaround local, which means it ended the day where it started. A number 6 was for a local that tied-up for the night, then headed back home the next day. The last two digits were assigned in order.
What happened to the four trains after the 1970 merger is a mystery, very little information is available; every lead follows to a dead-end. I have to assume that the fours locals operated as BN trains, but for how long is unknown, and what COMPASS number they used is unknown.
After the 1980-1981 recession had past and the Milwaukee Road was gone, the branch lines in East King County began to change. The 7th Subdivision was down to just two trains, the Kirkland Turn and the Matlby Turn. Information about these two locals is hard to come by. The exact date of when they started varies, and they’re assignments and train numbers changed constantly.
Northern Pacific had a policy of naming their locals for a town it did not go to. Burlington Northern kept that same tradition with its trains. The Kirkland Turn never went south of Woodinville to Kirkland, and the Maltby Turn never went north of Woodinville.
The Kirkland Turn
Train number 53818, departed Everett and covered the north end down to Woodinville and out to Issaquah. It would go to Kenmore only as needed, up until 1985 when BN abandoned the track between Kenmore and the west end of the wye in Woodinville.
Later, the Kirkland Turn was renumbered to train 53820, working the 7th Subdivision Monday, Wednesday, Friday to Woodinville and to Redmond and Issaquah as needed. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday the train went north to Darrington. For a short period of time the Kirkland Turn was train 53836.
In October 1991, BN abolished the Darrington Logger/Kirkland Turn. A new job called the Conway Turn (53818) went on duty at 0600-hours in Everett, Monday through Friday; it worked all customers north of Everett. A new Kirkland Turn, with train number 52820, return to the 7th Subdivision. The crew went on duty at 0700-hours in Everett, Monday through Friday; it worked Snohomish, Woodinville, Redmond and Issaquah. This new arrangement stayed the same throughout the 1990s. In 1992, the Kirkland turn only went to Redmond and to Issaquah 2-3 time per week.
Sometime in the early 2000’s the Kirkland Turn was abolished. There were no more customers north of Woodinville; all of the business at the Maltby Business Park was gone. The Maltby Turn went north to switch Specter Glass on the north side of Woodinville, right up until BNSF sold the line.
The Maltby Turn
Train number 53864, the Maltby Turn, handled the south end of the 7th Subdivision. In September 1991 the Maltby Turn, now train 53863, went on duty at 0630-hours, Sunday through Friday. The train now left Balmer Yard instead of Stacy Street Yard and made its way to Black River. After a brief stop in Renton the train would make its way north to Bellevue to switch the three or four spur tracks for Safeway. There were no more customers in Kirkland, and the train would only go to Woodinville as needed.
In May 1991, BN took a small train to the 7th Sub to do a photo shoot on the Wilberton trestle. The photos showcased the new “BN America” containers. BN 2187 and with 5 stack-cars loaded with containers posed on the trestle.
In July 1992, the Maltby Turn was now train 53862, and worked Monday thru Saturday, only going as far as Kirkland. The train would only go to Woodinville to hand-over a high-wide load for the Kirkland Turn. On Saturdays the Maltby only went to Scopa to switch the Boeing plant. It had to be in the clear for the dinner train.
In early 1992, the line was now the 18th Subdivision and in May 1992, the 18th Sub gain a third train; the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train. Some years later, in the early 2000’s, the Maltby was changed to work Sunday thru Friday. On Sundays the brunch train left earlier than the lunch train on Saturday so sometimes the Maltby would wait at the depot in Renton and follow the brunch train to Scopa.
By 2006, the end of the Woodinville Sub was in sight. With the Kirkland Turn gone the Maltby had to do it all, so instead of turning around at Bellevue, the train went all the way to Everett. For the first time a local went to the town it was named after. I’m not sure if it terminated in Everett, or if it continued down to Balmer Yard where it started.
There was also a North Bend Local, train 53858, that operated from Stacy Street Yard in Seattle and went to Renton and up to Snoqualmie and back via Cedar Falls. In the late ‘80s Crew 1 replaced the North Bend Local. Up until June 1990, Crew 1 made a trip from Tacoma to the Weyerhaeuser mill in Snoqualmie on Wednesdays and Fridays as needed. After June, Crew 1 was no longer bulletined out of Tacoma; instead, the job would be handled by extra crews. The final run to Snoqualmie was in the summer 1990.
There was also a train 53822 on the Woodinville Subdivision, that operated “as required”.
In August 2007, two new trains emerged, the Goldbar Turn, train 53824, and Renton Turn (train number unknown). The line was closed in Renton because of the Cedar River bridge project, so the Renton Turn made its way south to switch the Boeing plant in Renton, and the Goldbar Turn replaced the Maltby Turn to handle the customer in Woodinville.
As customers disappeared, BNSF was looking to get rid of the Woodinville Subdivision. The only customer left was the Boeing 737 plant in Renton. The contract with the dinner train was set to expire at the end of July 2007 and BNSF did not want to renew it.
In the spring of 2001, Boeing became production of the new 737NG in Renton. The Next Generation airplane had four models, a -600, -700, -800 and a -900. The new 737-900NG was so long, it would not fit through the tunnel in Everett or Seattle, nor would it fit through the truss bridge over the Cedar River in Renton, about 2 miles from the assembly plant. The only reason BNSF needed the Woodinville Sub, is because the only way to get the 737-900NG to Renton, was through Woodinville.
So from May 2001, to February 2008, BNSF transported the -900 through Woodinville. Once the new bridge was completed over the Cedar River, the line could be abandoned. I photographed the last train to carry a 737 fuselage on Februrar 24, 2008, the video is on my YouTube Channel
. The other video was taken in Janury 2008
, I was able to see 3 trains in one day; the video ends with the Renton Turn and Goldbar Turn in Woodinville.
The second problem was Interstate 405. The Woodinville Sub crossed over the southbound lanes of I-405 just south of Bellevue. The freeway was being widened from 3 lanes and an HOV lane, to 6 lanes and two HOV lanes. This meant the bridge over the freeway near Wilberton had to be taken out. BNSF was not going to pay for a new bridge.
The I-405 project could not start until after the Cedar River bridge project was complete otherwise there would be no way to deliver the 737-900 fuselage. The Cedar River bridge project could not begin until after the contract with the dinner train ended in July 2007. Once the new bridge opened in February 2008, the Woodinville Sub between Scopa and Woodinville was taken out of service. The Renton Turn was no longer needed.
The Woodinville Sub was down to one train, the Goldbar Turn. It made a trip to Woodinville on Monday, Wednesday, Friday for the next 22 months.
The last day for BNSF on the Woodinville Sub was December 31, 2009. In January 2010, the Ballard Terminal Railroad (BDTL) now owned and operated the line from Bromart to Woodinville. The BDTL named their new railroad the Eastside Freight Railroad. In July 2016, Spector Glass in Woodinville closed their doors, and all of the traffic at the Maltby Business Park went to trucks. Eastside Freight only lasted ten years, in mid-2020 all train activity on the Woodinville Sub ended—for good.