Rainier Great Western Railway & Navigation Company

The Route of the Thunderbird








Rainier Great Western Logo.


See NEW Layout Video Tour Below!!!



Our History:

Welcome to the .....

The Rainier Great Western (RGW) was established in June of 1980, specifically to take advantage of available trackage that was put up for sale by the trustees in the ill-fated Milwaukee Road bankruptcy. As a result of its successful bid for trackage rights, the RGW gained operational control of 24.5 miles of track starting at Burlington Northern Santa Fe (formerly BN, now BNSF) owned tracks at Black River Junction, 1.5 miles West of Renton, Washington. The track heads east from Renton, functionally paralleling the Cedar River to Maple Valley, where it splits from the now abandoned Milwaukee line that headed east to Ellensburg and proceeds south to Black Diamond and culminating in Franklin, Washington.

After turning a modest profit in its first few years, the RGW began negotiating with BNSF for trackage rights on its Woodinville Sub. These negotiations culminated in 1987, when the BN was forced by a ruling of the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to provide access to shortline railroads across the country, or risk stiff operating restrictions by the STB. As such, the RGW gained access to several major customers and its Maltby Turn is now one of its most respected and profitable runs.

On its own trackage, the RGW was able to successfully negotiate profitable trackage rights agreements with BNSF and Union Pacific (UP) to provide interchange for inbound and outbound traffic. In turn, BNSF and UP are provided trackage rights on the RGW which gives them access to their respective customer bases in the region and provides a faster traverse of the Cascade Mountains for journeys Eastward. While BNSF assigns a variety of motive power to the region, UP has seen fit to spot several of its Chicago & Northwestern (CNW) fleet in the area. These units were acquired when UP completed its purchase of the CNW in 1995.

The RGW has only a few units in its fleet.  The first unit ever acquired was ex-Milwaukee #988, a very unusual, but reliable Alco RSC-2. RGW has renumbered the Alco #444 and it has recently been given a coat of primer in anticipation of the new color scheme and logo that Management hopes to debut by next fall. Other units owned by the RGW include SD40-2, Number 421, ex-BN 7151, purchased in 1999. It is currently assigned to Progress Rail Services, a Caterpillar Company. The RGW contracts with Progress Rail to perform equipment upgrades, painting and repowering.

The major source of revenue for the RGW continues to be the coal mine in Black Diamond owned by Pacific Coast Coal Company; specifically the John Henry mine. The other major coal line is in Franklin; owned by Rainier Anthracite.  Additional sources of revenue include the Edwards & Bradford lumber mill in Maple Valley, Shell Oilís plant near Maltby and the Rabanco Transfer Station just east of Black River Junction.


Management Perspective:

We hope that you enjoy your stay on the Rainier Great Western. This is an ongoing process and we encourage any and all to contact the Management should any suggestions for improvement be noted. We hope that your ride along our tracks is smooth, enjoyable and enlightening. Thank you for your consideration.


Watch Video of the RGW at Spring Meet Tour August 18-19, 2012:

The RGW is a tribute to two great railroads, the Milwaukee and the Chicago & Northwestern, both gone, but not forgotten.

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     RGW Pike Registry Certificate    





Model Railroading Can Develop Great Skill and Character, Support the NMRA


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