Images: Freight trains provide unique element at U.S. Open

 
Associated Press
Updated 6/19/2015 2:52 PM

UNIVERSITY PLACE, Wash. -- The number is around 60, give or take, with a rumble that is part of the soundtrack to an already unique U.S. Open.

About half the time, it comes from the north behind the 15th green and near the 16th tee where the one tree at Chambers Bay stands guard. The other half, from the south near the 18th tee. And in between, it's unavoidable for those playing either the 16th or 17th holes.

Of all the variables that go into conducting a U.S. Open, this is one the USGA could not control. Along the shores of Puget Sound between the edge of the Chambers Bay property and the blue water, stands a rail corridor vital to moving freight and passengers north and south through the Pacific Northwest.

That rumble of clacking rails was just as much the sound during Thursday's first round as the roars from the crowds for made putts or the moans of a shot lost in the wispy long fescue rough.

The operators of the train lines, BNSF, and the USGA had discussions on whether schedules should be altered for the four days of the tournament. The final decision: Nope, continue with the scheduled service.

"The discussions were that your railroad is an important element of the Northwest and they didn't have an issue," BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said.

On a golf course already unique for its design, development and golf features, the trains are one more quirky element.

The tracks are owned by BNSF and provide the movement of freight, along with passengers as part of Amtrak service in the Pacific Northwest. The line runs from Vancouver, British Columbia all the way to Eugene, Oregon. All told, roughly 60 trains pass the course on a daily bases with half going by between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. and the other half working the overnight shift.

The line between Seattle and Portland, Oregon, specifically is the busiest rail corridor in the Pacific Northwest.

At times Thursday, those passengers got an up-close look at the U.S. Open without paying for a ticket. Playing No. 17, a par 3, Jamie Donaldson hit his first putt too hard and watched it roll into a bunker. After blasting out to 6 feet, he faced an important putt to save bogey.

As he looked over a tricky putt, a southbound Amtrak train slowed to a crawl, brakes squealing. Inside, passengers pushed their faces against the glass to get a look at the course. Donaldson could have waited another 30 seconds for the train to pass entirely, but went ahead and dropped the putt.

Of course, Donaldson couldn't escape the trains completely. Moments later, he had to step away from his tee shot on No. 18 as a northbound Amtrak zoomed by.

The only element missing is the signature whistles. When the public is playing Chambers Bay, engineers regularly lay on the horn. BNSF instructed their engineers for this week to keep the whistles silent unless it's an emergency.

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, prepares to hit from the 16th fairway as a fright train rolls past during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, prepares to hit from the 16th fairway as a fright train rolls past during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Rickie Fowler lines up his putt on the 17th hole as a train goes by during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Rickie Fowler lines up his putt on the 17th hole as a train goes by during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Phil Mickelson lines up his putt on the 17th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Phil Mickelson lines up his putt on the 17th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Phil Mickelson putts on the 17th hole as a train rolls by during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Phil Mickelson putts on the 17th hole as a train rolls by during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods, right, and Rickie Fowler shake hands after the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods, right, and Rickie Fowler shake hands after the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods reacts to his tee shot on the eighth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods reacts to his tee shot on the eighth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods walks off the 10th green during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods walks off the 10th green during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Rickie Fowler hits out of the bunker on the ninth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Rickie Fowler hits out of the bunker on the ninth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Rickie Fowler walks to the second tee during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Rickie Fowler walks to the second tee during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods hits out of the tall fescue grass on the 10th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods hits out of the tall fescue grass on the 10th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods hits to the 15th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods hits to the 15th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Ben Martin walks to the fifth tee during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Ben Martin walks to the fifth tee during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Adam Scott, of Australia, left, and Dustin Johnson walk to the ninth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Adam Scott, of Australia, left, and Dustin Johnson walk to the ninth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods walks in the tall fescue grass on his way to the 15th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods walks in the tall fescue grass on his way to the 15th hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Brian Campbell, amateur, hits from rough on the seventh hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Brian Campbell, amateur, hits from rough on the seventh hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Henrik Stenson, of Sweden, right, chats with his caddie Gareth Lord on the 18th tee during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Henrik Stenson, of Sweden, right, chats with his caddie Gareth Lord on the 18th tee during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Colin Montgomerie, of Scotland, hits out of the bunker on the seventh hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Colin Montgomerie, of Scotland, hits out of the bunker on the seventh hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Jordan Spieth watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Jordan Spieth watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods hits out of the bunker on the 14th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods hits out of the bunker on the 14th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Louis Oosthuizen, of South Africa, reacts to his putt on the 15th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Louis Oosthuizen, of South Africa, reacts to his putt on the 15th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Rickie Fowler hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Rickie Fowler hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 16th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 17th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods watches his tee shot on the 17th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods , left, and Rickie Fowler walk off the 13th tee during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods , left, and Rickie Fowler walk off the 13th tee during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Jason Day, of Australia, watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Jason Day, of Australia, watches his tee shot on the 14th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods waits to hit on the 12 fairway during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods waits to hit on the 12 fairway during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Geoff Ogilvy, of Australia, watches his tee shot on the 15th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Geoff Ogilvy, of Australia, watches his tee shot on the 15th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Lee Westwood, of England, hits out of the bunker as Billy Horschel watches on the third hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Lee Westwood, of England, hits out of the bunker as Billy Horschel watches on the third hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Billy Horschel hits out of the tall fescue grass on the third hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Billy Horschel hits out of the tall fescue grass on the third hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Jordan Spieth watches his tee shot on the 10th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Jordan Spieth watches his tee shot on the 10th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Fans watch from the grandstand on the 10th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Fans watch from the grandstand on the 10th hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Ryo Ishikawa, of Japan, puts on a jacket on the second hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Ryo Ishikawa, of Japan, puts on a jacket on the second hole during the second round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Friday, June 19, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Dustin Johnson hits a chip on the ninth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Dustin Johnson hits a chip on the ninth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan, hits out of the bunker on the ninth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Hideki Matsuyama, of Japan, hits out of the bunker on the ninth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods reacts to a poor putt on the sixth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods reacts to a poor putt on the sixth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods watches his shot from the fairway on the sixth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
Tiger Woods watches his shot from the fairway on the sixth hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament at Chambers Bay on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in University Place, Wash.
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