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ABOVE: Of the six regular trains on Union Pacific’s Ayer Subdivision in eastern Washing- ton, four of them usually run at night. Union Pacific northbound freight train MHKSK (Hinkle, Ore. to Spokane, Wash.) negotiates the long cut at the entrance to Palouse Falls State Park when a break in the clouds revealed the western sky awash with stars on June 22, 2011.


The close relationship between the rails and the river is evident throughout the Columbia River Gorge. RIGHT: Clouds hang low as a BNSF westbound mixed freight pulls out of the siding at Cooks, Wash., to continue its trek down the gorge as dawn breaks on September 6, 2008. OPPOSITE TOP: BNSF westbound empty garbage train UROOEVE (Roosevelt to Everett, Wash.), skims the Rowland Lake causeway near Lyle, Wash., at twilight on July, 6, 2011. Across the Columbia River are the lights of Oregon’s Memaloose State Park and, beyond them, Mount Hood. OPPOSITE BE- LOW: A BNSF eastbound mixed freight train on the causeway at Washington’s Horsethief Lake State Park as dawn breaks on January 16, 2008.


nerve-wracking drive down the Colum- bia. It captivated me like no other. Sixteen and a half years later, I was


again driving down the Columbia, this time my own hands on the wheel, re- laxed under calm winds. I had visited the Northwest a few times in recent years, but this time was different. This time I was going there — with my wife — to live. Or at least try. A family friend had


offered a spare room; we had a little money in the bank and aspirations of


40 APRIL 2012 • RAILFAN.COM


graduate school in our heads. Of course I had no idea what I was doing, and the country was already on the brink of re- cession and sliding fast. But that snap- shot from long ago had left an impres- sion so deep I had to return. Somehow, we managed — for three


and a half years. We lived simply, in one-bedroom apartments and sharing a single car, but we were there. A flexible schedule meant I could explore and connect with our new home. My love of the night had grown first


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