Elbe to Morton

The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad operates on a former Milwaukee Road branch south from Tacoma to Morton, WA. Most tourist trains run from Elbe, WA, south to Mineral, WA, but a few continue south to Morton. From the yard at Elbe (MP 46.6), the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, comprising 20 mph standard gauge single track, all in Yard Limits, runs east along this former Milwaukee Road branch, crossing the highway to the north side and running alongside the highway to Park Junction (MP 49.0), whence the out-of-service National Branch runs 3.5 miles east into the National Park, to Ashford and National, then turns south across the highway and then cross the Nisqually River on a bridge that usually affords good view of Mount Rainier itself, and continues south through ranks of dense pine forest. There is a river just beyond a stretch of woods on the west side. Following a curve to the southwest, the line crosses a stream on a through girder bridge. A stream flows north alongside on the east side. North of Mineral, at the Mineral Shop Switch (MP 51.9) a track leaves in a south-southwesterly direction to head into the railroad’s shops at Shops, and the line continues to its usual terminus alongside the lake in the yard at Mineral (MP 52.8), on a spur west-southwest from the Morton line.

A road then runs alongside to the west of the latter, with a grade crossing on a side road. There are fully-logged areas on first the east side and then the west side, in 2005. The line turns south at Carlson, after which the climb over the watershed between the Nisqually and Cowlitz River valleys starts in earnest. The summit is at Divide (MP 57.0), where there is a 3,180 ft. siding. The line, still heading southward, crosses a rippling stream flowing south, which then follows along the west side of the tracks. There is some crossing back and forth across the stream, as the line passes through Cowlitz Junction and turns south-southwest. There is another logged area with a dirt road grade crossing. Passing through Nineteen Creek (MP 62.2), the line is now fairly high up a west-facing slope.

After another grade crossing, a stream passes underneath, flowing southwest. There are two driftwood sculptures alongside the line on the east side. At East Forks, with four miles to go to Morton, there is a road alongside to the east, then crossing to the west side at a grade crossing at Murray Road (MP 63.3), as the line turns southwest. A river passes underneath flowing rapidly west in Coal Canyon. A dirt road crosses at grade through a deciduous forest. A road comes alongside to the west, and then passes overhead on a skewed arch bridge, after which the road is up a slope on the east side with a pond on the west side. Entering Morton (MP 65.7), where there is a 3,480 ft. siding, there are boxcars at a lumber mill on the west side of the line. The east leg of the wye crosses the road at grade.