Trout without the Toonerville Trolley

By John Owen | Mar 20, 2014

I wouldn't exactly describe myself as a choo-choo fanatic, but I have enjoyed train trips across this country, Canada,  Mexico, France, Italy, Germany and aboard troop trains in this country and Japan.

My favorite travel book is Paul Thereoux's "Great Railway Bazzar."

I worked for Great Northern one summer.  I lived in Montana communities criss-crossed by tracks where a highlight of the day was the sight and noise of the Empire Builder whistling past on its east-west trajectory.

Some people think the Empire Builder also passes through Edmonds.  Wrong, that can't be the juggernaut named after railway czar James J. Hill. What we have here is a Toonerville Trolley.

Granted, the Empire Builder schedule shows a stop near Main and Railroad Avenue.  The train stops here, except when it doesn't.  And it doesn't if rain falls on Mukilteo.  That happens quite often, and when it does, mudslides are apt to follow.

And if there is a clod of dirt on the track north of Edmonds, the Empire Builder skids to a stop.  Passengers headed for Portland and those commuting to downtown Seattle are detrained and instructed to ride southbound buses to Lord-knows-where.

So rain stops the Empire Builder in its tracks.  And freight trains pulling oil tanks and coal cars clog the tracks.

Granted, flooding is fairly common along the route of the Empire Builder.  I lived in North Dakota for three years and note that Devils Lake has always been a problem for rail traffic, especially when the lake was full and the winds were blowing water across the tracks.

So many trains were halted or delayed that an agreement was reached to raise the elevation of the tracks at a cost of $100 million.  The money was raised by the combined contributions of Amtrak, Burlington Northern-Santa Fe and the state and federal governments.

How much would it cost to raise the tracks and/or stabilize the land area that produces re-occurring mudslides around Mukilteo?  I haven't heard that anybody has suggested such a solution to our problem.

So we can wave cheerfully when the Empire Builder or the Toonerville Trolley passes by.  If the track is clear from Everett to Oakland, I can imagine all the passengers sitting down for dinner.  One of my favorite railroad meals featured:

North Coast Trout

Plunk each large trout on a piece of aluminum foil, pulling the edges up to form a rim.

Spread some olive oil or butter inside each fish.

Sprinkle the inside of the trout with garlic salt.

Slop some white wine inside and on top of each fish.

Then wrap each trout in foil, leaving a small pocket of air.  Crimp the foil all around to seal fish.

Put the wrapped fish on a rimmed oven pan.  Cook in a 400-degree oven for 25 minutes.

Place an unwrapped trout on each plate.  Your guests (or passengers) will merely have to peel back the foil and the top layer of fish skin with their knives.

Squeeze lemon over the top layer of fish, eat the exposed white meat,  remove the skeleton and then finish off the trout.

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