Saturday, May 31, 2008

US Construction Railroad Birth Timeline


Route of Railway to Grand Coulee Is Direct and of Ideal Grade


Report Reclamation Bureau to Handle $1,000,000 for This Winter’s Work

Sept. 21, 1933

J.T. Derrig, assistant to the chief engineer of the Northern Pacific railway, will leave today for St. Paul, after having completed his report on a survey of a proposed Northern Pacific branch from Coulee City to the Grand Coulee dam site on the Columbia River.

Follow Direct Line

He said the surveyed line is direct and ideal as to grade. It goes from Coulee almost as the crow flies to Grand coulee and follows the coulee to the banks of the Columbia.

The survey is complete, he said, except for minor adjustments.

The new branch will connect with two Northern Pacific branches at Coulee, one from Spokane, the other from Connell.

Mr. Derrig said, “While I realize there are some problems to be surmounted before major work starts on the dam, the Northern Pacific is making an effort to have its survey in shape to meet government requirements.



Interstate Commerce Sanctions Coulee Project-Must Agree on Tonnage


Expect Methods Used on Boulder Project to Be Followed

Feb. 20, 1934

The interstate commerce commission yesterday authorized the Northern Pacific railway to construct a line to the site of the Grand Coulee dam from its branch near Coulee City. the road is now in a position to start building the line as soon as an agreement can be reached with the United States reclamation bureau on the share of freight incidental to the construction of the dam that will be sent over the rails.

Bureau Ready to O.K. Contract

“I think the bureau is ready to enter into a contract with the railroad for the heavy freight to the dam,” said James O’Sullivan, secretary of the Columbia Basin commission yesterday.
“Such a contract was made with the railroads before work on the Boulder dam was begun, and undoubtedly the same will be done here.”

Charles Donnelly, president of the Northern Pacific, after inspecting the route to be followed by the railroad last November told the Spokesman-Review that the line would be built if his company could be assured the bulk of the business incidental to the construction of the dam.

This can be controlled by the reclamation bureau because the materials to go into the permanent structure of the dam will be purchased by the government. The contractors will be required to furnish their own equipment and everything that will be taken away after the dam is completed. The government will probably purchase the form lumber.

Rate Reduction Is Factor

“A point being considered by the railroads is the enforcing of the government’s right to a 50 per cent reduction in the freight rate over the Northern Pacific line,” said Mr. O’Sullivan.
“When the original land grants were made to the railroad, the government stipulated that all its shipment should be carried at a reduction of 50 per cent in the freight rate. This will mean a reduction in the revenue on the Grand Coulee line from $6,000,000 to $4,500,00, the Northern Pacific estimates. The cost of building the line will be approximately $750,000.


Refuse NP Monopoly on Coulee Dam Freight

Feb. 21, 1934

An estimated net income of $4,160,000 to the Northern Pacific railroad over a four-year period was predicted today in the interstate commerce order granting the railroad permission to build a branch from Coulee City, Wash., to the site of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia river.

The estimate was based on the supposition that the railroad would handle all of the freight for the dam, although the commission refused to order a monopoly in giving its permission.

The commission’s order said it would cost $759,000 to build the 28 1/2 miles of line, which must be started by May 1 and be completed not later than November 1, this year.

Senator Clarence C. Dill said the commission refused to recognize conditions the railroad had interposed in its application that it wouldn’t be required to build the line unless assured the dam was to be built; that it wouldn’t be required to build unless it was given all of the hauling of dam supplies and that it be permitted to abandon the line after the dam is completed.

The senator said the first condition was disregarded because the commission ruled there was no question but that the dam was in early stages of construction, excavations being made at the site.

The second condition, he said, was not granted, the commission taking the stand that it was up to the railroad to obtain the business as best it could, and the third was not acted upon because the commission ruled and application to abandon should be made after the dam is completed.

Dill said the commission was acquainted with the plans for ultimate building of the Grand Coulee to a height of approximately 375 feet and that its action was influenced by the possibility of need for the railroad within the comparatively near future for that purpose.



no date

Last-minute discovery that the 12 bids for the Coulee City-damsite railroad had been prepared on erroneous estimates necessitated postponement of the openings, scheduled for Thursday morning, until 3 o’clock in the afternoon in the Civic building auditorium.

Findings by the Northern Pacific railway engineering staff shoed that the rock tonnage estimates along the 30-mile right-of-way were far too high.

Frank A. Banks, construction engineer, in deferring the meeting until the afternoon, announced that the bids would be compared on a rescaled basis.

Outside Firms are Competing

The 12 construction firms competing for the award are: Guthrie & McDougal, Portland; Winston Bros. Co., Seattle; Sharpe & Fellows, Los Angeles; Foley & Lawler, Butte; Morris & Kundson, Spokane; Caluccio & Co., Seattle; Clifton & Applegate, Spokane; Myers & Goulter, Seattle; David H. Ryan & Co., Almira; L Romano Engineering Co., Seattle; Crick & Kuney, Spokane, and P. C. Crooks & Co., Portland.


Ryan Is Ready to Start Rail Project

no date

The David H. Ryan company buildings at the Grand Coulee dam site are being moved to the city of Coulee, preparatory to starting work on the railroad, according to James O’Sullivan, secretary of the Columbia Basin commission.

Ryan, who was awarded the railroad contract, is expected to start operations Monday. Wooden ties arrived this week.



Dill Feels Railroad Would Save $3,000,000 in Hauling Costs

March 8, 1934

Possibility of saving between $1,000,000 and $3,000,000 by construction and use of a branch railroad line by the government from Coulee City, Wash., to the Grand Coulee dam site on the Columbia river was seen here today by Senator Dill.

The senator said that although he had no definite figures on the possible savings, the line would be used to carry all government freight, including cement, steel, machinery and other supplies at cost, permitting a “tremendous saving on those items alone.”

“No order has been prepared or issued for government construction of the 28-mile line,” Dill said, “but Commissioner Mead of the reclamation bureau has conferred with Assistant Secretary Walters of the interior department on the matter.”

“There was some discussion of the contractor for the dam building the line, but it appears now that it will be a government project,” he added. It was feared the contractor might be delayed in obtaining financing of the road.

The line will be of no use for the transportation of gravel and sand, the senator said, as that material probably will be obtained about five mile up the river from the dam site.

Dill predicted a definite decision on the railroad problem would be made within a short time.



March 22, 1934

The ballast crew on the new railroad from Coulee City to the dam probably will have its work finished in a few days. The crew is now working beyond the town of Osborn, some 25 miles north of Coulee.



March 27, 1934

The last mile of steel of the U.S. Construction railway, from Coulee City to the dam site, is being given finishing touches this week by Contractor David H. Ryan. If the present progress continues, the route may be completed by the end of the week.

The entire railroad to the Osborne canyon, and the first unit of the MWAK connecting link, may be finished by the latter part of June. Tracks remain to be laid from the old Crick & Kuney operations to the Osborne canyon, and from there through the tunnel, now being bored, and across the river and along the east shore.

Heavy concrete equipment, east shore sheet piling and cement will be shipped in over the completed line.

It is expected that the MWAK railroad bridge, which will serve as a highway crossing, will be opened to traffic by the middle of next week.



April 19, 1934

Borrowing an army phrase, Odair, four miles east of Coulee City, will become the railhead of the Grand Coulee project. At Odair, the new 30-mile railroad through the coulee to the dam site will connect with the Washington Central. Thousands of tons of materials and machinery will be handled through this junction. The whistle of locomotives will be heard in the Grand coulee for the first time in history.



Dec. 20, 1934

There will be no passenger trains running from Coulee City or Odair to the dam site, Colonel M. J. Whitson, vice president of the MWAK, said yesterday.

Reports to the contrary, that workmen and others would be transported back and forth via railway, have been hear here for the past few weeks.

As the railroad, technically known as the United States Construction railway, is under supervision of the United States government, with the MWAK only operating the trains over it for the hauling of supplies, there is no possibility of the company going into the transportation business, Colonel Whitson said.



April 22, 1935

The relocation of the railroad in the well-known slide area will be completed by David H. Ryan in about three weeks, progress indicated yesterday. The big job of removing some 375,000 cubic yards of earth and lasting loose some 11,000 cubic yards of rock is progressing rapidly.

The United States construction railway line from Coulee city to the dam site, about 30 miles long, will be completed this week as far as the Ryan office.

Lay Steel to Dam

Ryan will start work soon laying steel from the ed of the line near his office to a pint where the railway and highway grade is being widened by the MWAK, just a few yards upstream from the axis of the dam. He will also lay steel at the other end from the point where the MWAK is drilling a tunnel through the granite to and past the slide area.

As soon as this work is completed, the small link remaining will be built to connect both ends of the line. Work in the tunnel should be completed in a month’s time, and as soon as this is finished, steel will be laid to the bridge and across on the east shore.

It is expected that the first locomotive will steam along the line within two month’s time.


Rail Tunnel at Dam Is Almost Complete

May 13, 1935

With about 30 feet to go, the railway tunnel, back of Administration city, is almost complete. Work on the tunnel began last fall. The last part has been drilled through but must be enlarged.



July 27, 1935

With Governor Clarence D. Martin at the throttle, a special train will roar over the rails to Coulee City Monday, the event marking the grand opening of the new railroad line between those two cities. The celebration will be a gala affair, with Governor Martin, attired in trainmen’s overalls, officiating at the christening of the new line.

Disposition of the Coulee City Depot

From the "News & Standard," Coulee City, WA

Oct. 14, 1979

There were 199 members and guests who signed the guest book at the Senior Center Open House Sunday, Oct 14, 1979. The building was built in 1890 and was used by the Burlington Northern Railway as a depot and freight station until 1976. The Coulee City Federated Women’s Club became aware of plans to dismantle the building and asked the railroad for permission to use it as a Senior or Community Center. It was given to the Women’s Club, who in turn gave it to the Coulee City Senior citizens provided it be moved to another site. Former resident Tom Price graciously donated land so the depot could be permanently positioned. A total of $2,500 was donated by the Coulee City Women’s Club for the move and renovation. Many others helped in various ways.

1954 Last Passenger Train to Coulee City

From the "News & Standard." Coulee City, WA

March 5, 1954

Northern Pacific train No. 315 made its last run into Coulee City Saturday with about 30 passengers aboard. The train had been carrying mail, passengers and express from Spokane for 65 years. The mail service is now being handled by Northern Pacific truck and arrives in Coulee City about noon. The return trip will be about 4 p.m. The same truck will pick up cream shipments at the depot and express destined to points within the state. No arrangements have as yet been make for interstate express shipments. The truck driver will carry an open pouch so there will be direct mail service between the towns on the run.

High Cost, Low Value. Thats your Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern!

From “The New York Times”

Feb. 19, 1893

Part of the report of the Special Investigating Committee appointed by the stockholders of the Northern Pacific Railroad as to the condition of the NP.

Regarding the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad:

“The acquisition of this property for the price paid and under the conditions existing at the time seems to have been an act of stupendous and incredible folly. It was as evident in 1890 as now that the Eastern Division of fifty miles must be useless to the Northern Pacific, as it practically paralleled one of its own lines, duplicated terminal facilities at Spokane which it did not need, which were inferior to those it already possessed, and which it now rents to a rival road at an unremunerative rate. If it was supposed that strategical advantages would be gained, that supposition has proved to be contrary to fact, as the Great Northern has carried out its plans of reaching Spokane and Seattle undeterred by this action of the Northern Pacific. The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern was started a half dozen years ago as an adjunct to a land speculation. The construction company which was building it became embarrassed and went into the control of a syndicate of wealthy money lenders, who took the bonds of the road at 80 per cent, with a bonus of 50 per cent of stock which cost them nothing. Operated by itself, there was no chance, as the result shows, that the road could earn the interest on its bonds for years to come, and its stock was intrinsically worthless. Nevertheless, the Northern Pacific Company paid $45 a share for this stock, and guaranteed the interest of the bonds and their payments at par. The only part of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern which promises to have and productive vaine for some time to come is that running north from Seattle to Sumas City, 125 miles, which the committee is advised could have been built for but little more than the stock had cost the company up to the present time. The line to Salal Prairie, thirty-eight miles, had very heavy grades, is most expensive to maintain, involves large operating expenses, and thus far has but little business. In brief, the Northern Pacific assumed directly and indirectly a burden of about $7,500,000, when it could have acquired substantially the same advantages by spending less than $2,500,000. With such financiering it is not strange that its own preferred stock sells for the same price that it pays for a bankrupt concern.”

Sunday, May 25, 2008

1889 Proposed Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern line through the Big Bend

This map appeared in the 1889 book, "A Report on Washington Territory," by W. H. Ruffner and published by the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern. As part of the book, a large map showing the proposed line across the state of Washington was included.

As this part of the map shows, the line was to go through Waterville and past the head of Moses Coulee over towards the Grand Coulee to cross between the upper and lower Grand Coulee where the map is marked "Fresh Water Lakes." This spot became Coulee City a year later.

Other points of interest are Steamboat Rock, the towns of Douglas, Grand Coulee, Hazeltine, and on the far left the words "Island Rapids" which on another panel has the word "Rock" before Island Rapids.

This other panels of the map show the line continuing west through Wenatchee to a point over Cadys Pass (north of Stevens Pass) to a point near Everett, connecting with the Lake Shore line to Canada.

As proof for the line to Wenatchee, here is the next panel:

And the connection to Everett:

From the first panel shown, the proposed line east to Davenport:

And finally, the panel showing the as built line to Spokane:

Another more general map had this view:

The Return of the Train to Mansfield

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Coulee City in on a National Ad Campaign

While looking through some old newspapers, I came across this ad. It was probably place by the NP agent at Coulee City, after his local information was affixed to it.

This ad ran October 19, 1950:

This ad ran June 10, 1947:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Goodbye US Construction Railroad

From "The Star," Grand Coulee, WA

August 10, 1950

Bureau Asks Bids On R.R. Removal

Bids will be opened August 31 at 11 a.m. for the removal of 30.7 miles of track belonging to the government railroad between Odair and Grand Coulee Dam.

The “sagebrush special” or “gopher chaser,” as it was sometimes called, connected with the Washington Central branch of the Northern Pacific Railroad at Odair, near Coulee City. Its construction was essential in delivering millions of tons of material used in the construction of Grand Coulee Dam.

The railroad hauled more than twelve million barrels of cement, approximately 46,500 carloads for the construction of the dam; 77 million pounds of reinforcing steel, and ten million pounds of steel for the 18 foot penstocks, with feed the giant generators of the dam.

At the peak of construction in the late thirties, two trainloads a day ran the 30-mile route. The biggest train was 67 cars. None of the original rolling stock is still on the line.

The railroad was run from July 19, 1935, until November 16, 1942, by contractors building the Grand Coulee Dam, first MWAK and later CBI. Since then, the government has been running the road.

Although no original rolling stock is left, at least two crewmen who have been here from the first still are employed. Floyd Craig, conductor, has worked here since the first spike was driven. Haskell Finch, engineer, has been here from the start of hauling.

Fred A. Warren, superintendent for the government since 1944, announce plans for his retirement upon completion of the removal. Warren has been with the road since the government took over from the contractors. He was in charge of maintenance of right-of-way from 1942-1944. He succeeded Albert S. “Tiny” Hunter, a long-time veteran, as superintendent when Hunter entered the armed forces.

Another veteran engineer, L.B. Denny, who was here from the beginning, passed away in recent years. Denny got his start on the government’s Alaska railroad.

There has been only one serious mishap in fifteen hears, and that was not from a train running into a car, but from a truck load of lumber running into a train at the Basin City crossing. No one was injured, but two railroad cars were burned.

Don Adkins, Inc., of Ellensburg is now building a trans-shipment building at Odair to transfer freight from rail to truck at that point, to handle future freight needs at the dam. A 100-ton low bed trailer is on order and is expected to arrive this month. It will haul freight along the relocate highway through the coulee.

That Big White Building at Odair

From "The Star," Grand Coulee, WA

June 29, 1950

A necessary preliminary to the removal of the 30 mile construction railroad which delivered most of the materials for Grand Coulee Dam was accomplished when the Bureau of Reclamation opened bids for a trans-shipment building at Odair.

The building will be used to transfer equipment still needed for construction at the dam from rail to motor truck facilities once the railroad is removed.

The contract calls for a building, a 75-ton bridge type crane, roadway paving and work on rail facilities at the site of the building. The contract calls for completion of the work within 90 calendar days after receipt of the notice to proceed.

Bids will be called later for the railroad itself.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Great Northern in Coulee City??

How does a Great Northern train become wrecked in Coulee City, which is clearly Northern Pacific country?
Back in 1910 (not 1909), right after the opening of the line between Coulee City and Adrian, flooding on the Great Northern at Wilson Creek caused the GN to reroute the Oriental Limited over this NP branch out of Spokane, to be lined back to the GN at Adrian. Someone lined a switch at near Coulee City wrong and the GN train went off the end of track on the west side of town, instead of going south to Adrian. They had time to slow down some, but the engine did fall down the end of track.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

1952 Bassett Jct Wreck

Report No. 3497
Date: December 27, 1952
Railroad: Northern Pacific
Location: Bassett Junction, Wash.
Kind of accident: Derailment
Train involved: Freight
Train number: Extra 1567 West
Engine number: 1567
Consist: 26 cars, caboose
Estimated speed: 20 m. p. h.
Operation: Timetable and train orders
Track: Single; tangent; 0.40 percent descending grade westward
Weather: Clear
Time: 4:05 a.m.
Casualties: 3 killed
Cause: Defective switch
February 4, 1953
Accident at Bassett Junction, Wash., on December 27, 1952, caused by a defective switch.
PATTERSON, Commissioner:
On December 27, 1952, there was a derailment of a freight train on the Northern Pacific Railway at Baste Junction, Wash, which resulted in the death of three employees. This accident was investigated in conjunction with a representative of the Department of Labor and Industries of the State of Washington.
Report No. 3497 Northern Pacific Railway Bassett Junction, Wash. December 27, 1952
Location of Accident and Method of Operation
This accident occurred on that part of the Idaho Division extending between Cheney and Connell, Wash., 186.2 miles, a single-track, line, over which trains are operated by timetable and train orders. There is no block system in use. St Bassett Junction, 154.8 miles west of Cheney, a main track diverges to the south from the Cheney-Connell line and extends eastward from Bassett Junction to Schrag, 12.3 miles. The Junction switch is trailing-point for west-bound movements. A wye at Bassett Junction is formed by the two main tracks and an auxiliary track 870 feet in length, which extends between a switch in the Cheney-Connell line 1,307 feet east of the Junction switch and a switch in the Schrag-Bassett Junction line 1,199 feet east of the junction switch. The accident occurred on the main track of the Cheney-Connell line at the east switch of the wye. From the east there is a tangent 2,638 feet to the point of accident and 4,955 feet westward. The grade is 0.40 percent descending westward at the point of accident.

The east switch of the wye is located 42 feet east of the west end of a pile trestle 254 feet long. Walkways 3 feet in width extend along oath side of the trestle. The switch stand is located on a platform, which extends beyond the outer edge of the walkway. Wooden railings 3 feet in height are provided at the outer edges of the walkways and the platform. Immediately west of the trestle the tracks are laid on a fill approximately 30 feet in height.
In the vicinity or the point of accident the track structure of the main track consists of 72-pound rail, 30 feet in length, laid in 1910 on an average of 17 ties to the rail length. It is about 40 percent tieplated and is provided with 4-hole 100-percent joint bars. It is ballasted with sand and cinders to a depth of 3 to 4 inches below the bottoms of the ties. The turnout at the east switch of the wye is constructed of 72-pound switch rails 15 feet in length, 72-pound rails, and a No. 9 rigid clam-type frog. It is laid on 34 untreated bridge ties and 24 treated switch ties. The turnout is fully tieplated. The main track is single-spiked, and the east leg of the wye is double-spiked. The switch stand is of the hand-throw intermediate-stand type and is located 9 feet 4-1/4 inches north of the center-line of the main track. The operating lever is of the horizontal-throw type. When the switch is lined for entry to the east leg of the wye a circular red target 18 inches in diameter is displayed at right angles to the main track. The center of the target is 5 feet 1-7/8 inches above the level of tie tops of the ties. When the switch is lined for movement on the main track the target is parallel to the track. The switch rails are arranged for a throw of 4-3/4 inches. No switch lamp is provided.
This carrier's operating rules read in part as follows:
104. Conductors are responsible for the position of switches used by them and their trainmen, except where switchtenders are stationed. Switches must be properly lined after having been used.
* * *
When practicable, the engineer must see that the switches near the engine are properly lined.
* * *
104 (A). Unless otherwise provided, the normal position of a main track switch is for main track and must be lined and locked in that position, except when changed for immediate movement through it. * * *
A main track switch must not be left open unless a member of the crow remains near enough to be able to line it upon the approach of a train or engine.
* * *
The maximum authorized speed for freight trains in the vicinity of the point of accident is 20 miles per hour.
Description of Accident
Extra 1567 West, a west-hound freight train, consisted of engine 1567, 26 loaded cars and a caboose. This train departed from Wheeler, 7.8 miles east of Bassett Junction, at 3:40 a.m., according to the conductor's delay report, and while it was moving at an estimated speed of 20 miles per hour the engine and tender, the first seven cars, and the front truck of the eighth car were derailed at the east switch of the wye at Bassett Junction.
The engine stopped on its left side, midway between the main track and the east leg of the wye, with the front end 265 feet west of the switch and about 15 feet below the level of the tracks. The tender remained coupled to the engine. It stopped on its left side, at an angle of about 90 degrees to the engine, with the roar end toward the east leg of the wye. The cab of the engine was demolished, and both the engine and the tender were considerably damaged. The derailed cars stopped in various positions on or near the track. The first car was badly damaged, and the second to the seventh cars, inclusive, were somewhat damaged.
The engineer, the fireman, and the front brakeman were killed.
The weather was clear at the time of the accident, which occurred at 4:05 a.m.
Engine 1567 is of the 2-8-2 type. The total weight in working order is 269,700 pounds, distributed as follows: engine-truck wheels, 24,300 pounds; driving wheels 208,900 pounds; and trailing-truck wheels, 36,500 pounds. The specified diameters of the engine-truck wheels, the driving wheels, and the trailing-truck wheels are, respectively, 33-1/2 inches, 63 inches, and 45 inches. The driving wheelbase is 16 feet 6 inches long, and the total wheelbase is 34 feet 9 inches long. The distance between the centers of the engine-truck wheels and the No. 1 driving wheels is 9 feet 1 inch. The tender is rectangular in shape and is equipped with two four-wheel trucks. Its capacity is 9,500 gallons of water and 19 tons of coal. The total weight when fully loaded is 194,700 pounds. The tender, is equipped with a headlight at the rear. The lens is 17-5/8 inches in diameter. The headlight is provided with a 250-watt bulb.
As Extra 1567 West was approaching the point where the accident occurred the speed was about 20 miles per hour. The enginemen and the front brakeman were on the engine. The conductor, the swing brakeman, and the flagman were in the caboose. The headlight was lighted. The surviving members of the train crew said that the brakes of the train were tested at Wheeler and that they apparently functioned properly when used after the train departed from Wheeler. These employees said that as the train approached Bassett Junction the brakes were not applied until they became applied in emergency either immediately before the derailment occurred or as a result of the derailment.
After the derailment occurred it was found that the east switch of the wye at Bassett Junction was lined for entry to the east leg of the wye. The operating lever was properly latched to secure the switch in this position. The padlock was hooked through the keeper, but it was not locked. The condition of the switch indicated that an east-bound train moving on the main track had trailed through the switch while the switch was lined for entry to the east leg of the wye. Then the switch was first examined the rear truck of the eighth car was standing on the switch rails and the switch points were lined for entry to the east leg of the wye. After the car was removed there was a 1/2-inch gap between the stock rail of the main track and the switch point, The opposite switch rail was bent inward at a point 8 feet west of the switch point. The spindle of the switch stand was twisted. The spikes which secure the base of the switch stand to the ties had been loosened and were partially withdrawn, and the switch stand leaned toward the main track. Apparently after the east-bound train trailed through the switch, the switch point did not fit closely against the stock rail of the main track and the flange of a wheel of the engine of Extra 1567 West passed between the switch point and the rail. Marks on the tack fastenings indicated that one wheel drooped between the stock rail of the east leg of the wye and the switch rail at a point 13 feet west of the switch point and the companion wheel dropped inside the stock rail of the main track at a point 8 feet 4 inches farther west. The derailed wheels moved in line with the rails of the east leg of the wye until they reached the frog. They were then forced toward the right, and the general derailment occurred 18 feet west of the frog.
When the accident occurred the crew of Extra 1567 West was returning to Pasco, 35.4 miles west of Connell, after having made an east-bound trip from Pasco to Wheeler. On the eastbound trip their train, which was operated as Extra 1567 East, arrived at Bassett Junction about 11:10 p.m., December 26. At that time the train consisted of one car for Schrag, the engine, seven cars for Schrag, five cars for Wheeler, and the caboose, in the order named. The conductor had instructed the other members of the crew to turn the engine and the car ahead of the engine on the wye at Bassett Junction, take the cars for Schrag to their destination, and then return to Bassett Junction with the engine. After the train stopped at Bassett Junction the swing brakeman detached the engine from the cars behind it. The engine, pushing one car; proceeded to the east switch of the wye. The swing brakeman rode on the footboard at the rear of the tender. He thought that the front brakeman rode in the cab of the engine. When the rear of the tender passed the switch, the front brakeman was standing at the switch stand. He lined the switch for movement on the east leg of the wye, and when the movement was started he remained at the switch until after the rear of the tender passed him. The swing brakeman assumed that the front brakeman intended to restore the switch to normal position. When the engine reached the south switch the swing brakeman alighted and lined the switch for movement to the main track of the Schrag-Bassett Junction line. Before this movement was made he observed the front brakeman walking toward him along the fireman's side of the engine. He said that the movement from the east switch to the south switch was made at a speed which would have permitted the front brakeman to line the east switch to normal position and then board the car being pulled by the engine. It did not occur to him to ask the front brakeman if he had restored the switch to normal position. The engine and car returned to the rear portion of the train via the east leg of the wye. The cars for Schrag were detached from the rear portion of the train, and the engine, in backward motion and pulling the eight cars, proceeded to Schrag. The front brakeman, the swing brakeman, and the flagman accompanied the engine. When the engine returned from Schrag it proceeded directly to the main track of the Cheney-Connell line via the west leg of the wye. It was coupled to the rear portion of the train. The train, with the engine in backward motion, then departed for Wheeler. The swing brakeman said that the headlight on the tender of the engine was lighted before the train departed from Basset Junction. On the movement from Bassett Junction to Wheeler the enginemen and the front brakeman were on the engine and the other members of the crew were in the caboose. The employees in the caboose did not notice the position of the east switch of the wye. Extra 1567 East was the last train to pass over the switch prior to the time of the accident. It appears that the switch was not restored to normal position after the engine and car were turned on the wye, and that when Extra 1567 East departed from Bassett Junction the employees on the engine failed to observe that the switch was not properly lined.
None of the surviving employees observed, the position of the switch involved after the front brakeman lined it for entry to the east leg of the wye. This brakeman entered the service of the carrier as a student brakeman on August 4, 1952. The swing brakeman said he was aware that the front brakeman had had limited experience. However, the front brakeman die not question him concerning his duties in connection with the switching which was to be performed at Bassett Junction, and he assumed that the front brakeman understood the movements which were to be made. For this reason he did not consider it necessary to instruct the front brakeman as to the switches which he was to line or the positions in which the switches ware to be left. When the front brakeman remained at the switch after the movement to the east leg of the wye was started, the swing brakeman assumed that he understood that the switch was to be restored to normal position after the engine and car passed over it and that he was remaining at the switch for that purpose. On the day of the accident the engineer was making his seventh trip as an engineer, and his first trip over the line between Council and Wheeler as an engineer. He had previously worked in this territory as a fireman, but since September 4, 1948, he had made only one trip in each direction over the line on which the accident occurred.
It is found that this accident was caused by a defective switch.
Dated at Washington, D. C., this fourth day of February, 1953.
By the Commission, Commissioner Patterson.
Acting Secretary.
1. Under authority of section 17 (2) of the Interstate Commerce Act the above-entitled proceeding vas referred by the Commission to Commissioner Patterson for consideration arid disposition.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Fate of the Coulee City Roundhouse

From the "Coulee City News," Coulee City, WA,

Friday 8-1-1947

Fire Destroys Bitco Plant Here Tuesday

A spectacular fire Tuesday night (July 29) virtually destroyed the plant and equipment of Bitco, Inc. No immediate estimate of the amount of damage was available. Cause of the fire was unknown.

The fire was discovered about 9:30 pm Tuesday by three men on the night shift at Bitco.

Clyde Welker, local manager for Bitco, said he attempted to turn in the alarm by telephone but got only a busy signal when dialing the fire department number. The alarm was finally turned in by a passerby who drove downtown to turn in the alarm.

The plant, housed in the old Northern Pacific roundhouse building, was blazing from end to end by the time the fire fighting equipment arrived.

There was an additional delay in getting water on the flames because of lack of sufficient hose to reach the fire hydrant on Main street, three blocks away.

The Welder residence, only a few feet from the plant, was not damaged. Electrical service throughout the town was interrupted for a few minutes during the fire.

Bitco, with head offices in Wallace, Ida., was engaged in tool sharpening operations, and handled tool sharpening for the Bureau of Reclamation and all major contractors on the Columbia Basin Project except Connelly and Winston-Utah companies. Thirteen people were employed by Bitco here.

Welker said Wednesday that the loss was at least partially covered by insurance. He said decision on reestablishment of the plant here would by made by Bitco officials later.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Ice Cave in Moses Coulee


New York Times article on Oct. 9, 1892.

Some interesting natural curiosities are found in the construction of the Great Northern Railroad through the Big Bend of the Columbia River in Eastern Washington. The region is a plateau of basaltic rock, in which the river has worn three channels. The river now flows in the most westerly of these. The others have dried up, except for some salt lakes in the Grand Coulee.

These coulees have perpendicular walls of rock 1,000 to 1,500 feet high. There is an opening about the middle of the Grand Coulee where the walls are broken, so that a road cuts through, and here is Coulee City. The Big Bend country is excessively dry except in the spring when the melting snow moistens its surface. Thus this great bed of lava has remained unexplored until this army of laborers began to dig and blast and spy out secrets which the Indians have held for generations.

One day in midsummer R. W. Helm , who was working in Salmon Coulee, a branch of Moses Coulee, was astonished by the approach of an Indian with a considerable quantity of ice rolled up in a blanket which he offered for sale. He bought it and then followed the Indian’s trail back into the coulee. A search disclosed a cold stream trickling through the shellrock, and further up the ice beds were found. They were formed among the masses of shellrock by the melting of snow in winter, the water running down among the rock and freezing at night. Ice remains there perpetually and in large quantities. the most singular feature is that the spot is only 500 feet above the sea, and the sun beats with intense heat upon the rocks above the ice, which is also exposed to warm draughts of air through the crevices, yet it never melts.

The photo shows the family searching the rocks, which is all that remains of the ice cave. There was plenty of ice between the rocks, and it was about 70 degrees that day.