5. North Bend & snoqualmie
And The Northwest Railway Museum
The grade runs under I-90 and through North Bend. It has a right-of-way through a golf course east of Snoqualmie, but if you continue further on past Meadowbrook Slu you soon come to a trestle over the river that now ends in flights of stairs.
To follow the grade along the Snoqualmie River another 20-odd miles north to Duvall, it's better to exit the golf course, make your way west to the highway, and follow it north through Snoqualmie. When you see the pedestrian overpass at Snoqualmie Falls, look to your right, up Tokul Road. It crosses over the grade in less than a mile. To get on the grade, cross it and make a right - this road eventually leads into private property, but if you're quick and mind your own business it gives easy access to the grade for a loaded bike. From there the grade is continuous and lovely all the way to Duvall.
The grade used to continue all the way to Everett, on Puget Sound, but currently dead ends not far past a highway bridge over the river in Duvall. It's nice enough for a leisurely out-n-back ride, with good camping and easy access to supply points along the way.
The mileage - 4 miles from North Bend to Tokul Road - 21.5 miles from Tokul Road to Duvall.
Click here for a much larger map of the route to Duvall.
But if you have the time there's plenty to see in North Bend, Snoqualmie, and Snoqualmie Falls.
Along with interesting stores, shops, the Single Track bike shop, and restaurants, North Bend has a well-kept depot with a visitor's center. The depot's actually in use - trains run to it from the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie.
Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway station at Snoqualmie, circa 1887.
The museum's impressive, and I've seen many. I guess they draw on resources from the whole Puget Sound region - not just money, but skilled volunteers from the region's big employers like Boeing.
When the train's running it heads to North Bend - then returns past the museum to stop above the Falls - then back to the museum. It's a cool ride, twice over a 5.5-mile section of track, and not at all expensive, even for a thrifty soul like me.
They'll put a variety of cars on the train behind a handsome little diesel locomotive. I picked what looked like the oldest - a 70-ton, 78-foot wood passenger car from Barney & Smith in Dayton, Ohio that entered service in 1912 on the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway through the Columbia River Gorge. It lasted 35 years in passenger service until it was converted to track maintenance support as a mobile bunkhouse in 1947. It was sold for scrap in 1973, but fortunately was rescued. It's back on the rails, and in the process of restoration to its former high standards, which included Mexican mahogany panelling, and stained-glass clerestory windows, now covered with tin.
It rode like a Toonerville trolley but it stayed together. If you have the bandwidth, here's a 1:39 Flash video of a ride with the railroad graveyard blues.
(Santa Fe 3751 can be seen at the San Bernardino Railroad Historical Society)
The old railway depot also has an excellent gift shop/bookstore - great stuff for the railroad buff.
There's a park and restaurant overlooking the 268-foot high Falls. I've been to this area several times and always get a kick out of it. I hope to see it again!
Next, how to get out of town with minimum motor traffic.