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.



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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

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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.

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