STANWOOD — Members of the Twin City High School Class of 1959 remember well their first school field trip.
“We rode the train to Mount Vernon,” said state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, D-Camano Island. “Many of us were together all 12 years of school, so that memory is significant for us as a class.”
Great Northern Railroad passenger train service to Stanwood was discontinued in 1971, but on Saturday passenger service returns with the opening of a new Amtrak station.
Haugen, chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee, plans to celebrate the opening of Stanwood Station, a $5 million project funded by the state Department of Transportation.
With her grandchildren along, Haugen and other people from Stanwood and Camano Island plan to ride the Amtrak Cascades train from Everett in the morning to the ribbon cutting at the platform in Stanwood.
There they will be met by Dale Reinecke and about a dozen other members of the Class of 1959, who then plan to board the train for a day trip to Vancouver, B.C.
“We thought it would be cool to catch the first northbound train,” Reinecke said. “When we were kids, we also had a class trip and rode the train over to Leavenworth. We loved it.”
Reinecke’s wife, Marlene, was a member of the Class of 1961, after Twin City became Stanwood High School. Unlike her husband and his classmates, Marlene Reinecke never got to ride the train out of Stanwood.
“I would walk home from school everyday and wait for the train to go by so I could cross the tracks. As a kid, I always wanted to take a train running out of Stanwood,” Marlene Reinecke said. “Now I will get to fulfill that dream with our trip to Vancouver on Saturday. We’re going to have lunch in Chinatown and then ride the train back.”
Haugen praised the community group Design Stanwood for promoting the idea for an Amtrak station and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway for cooperating with the state to establish rail passenger service in Stanwood.
“I can hardly wait to step off the train in Stanwood on Saturday morning. This is historical. Intercity rail will be the transportation of the future for rural Washington,” Haugen said. “We have good bus service and good roads. But it’s a long way to the airport. Now Amtrak and light rail out of Seattle can provide people in our community another way to get to SeaTac.”
Haugen’s grandson plans to ride the train from college to Stanwood for the holidays, she said.
“The next generation would much rather work on their laptops and visit with friends than drive on the freeway,” Haugen said. “People from Everett can visit, enjoy the shops and restaurants of Stanwood and then take a bus out to the state parks on Camano Island.”
The new rail passenger platform will allow Amtrak Cascades trains to make two morning and two evening stops daily in Stanwood. The 600-foot-long platform, built by Interwest Construction of Burlington, includes ramps, railings, shelters, seating, lighting and landscaping.
“It’s been a lot of work and it’s been a long time coming,” Haugen said.
The eagerly anticipated train passenger platform project got the OK from the Legislature in 2006. The completion date was moved back several times, mostly because of problems with the station design, negotiations over the use of the railroad tracks and the discovery that the construction site was contaminated by lead.
City officials hope the Amtrak service will encourage economic development and more business in the area of the station.
Amtrak Cascades trains run between Eugene, Ore., Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., including scheduled stops in Edmonds, Everett, Mount Vernon and Bellingham.
Stanwood Station is unstaffed, but passengers can buy their tickets online or over the phone and then board the train with reservation information in hand.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
The opening of the Stanwood Station is set to be celebrated with the arrival of the first Amtrak Cascades passenger train about 9 a.m. Saturday at 271st Street NW in downtown Stanwood. Festivities begin at 8:45 a.m. Amtrak reservation and ticket information is available at www.amtrakcascades.com, www.Amtrak.com or by calling 800-USA-RAIL.