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.

No comments: