Sunday, September 21, 2008

Death of the Waterville Railroad

From “The Wenatchee Daily World,” Wenatchee, WA

March 26, 1954

When the Waterville Railroad died the other day with dramatic and prosaic suddenness, it meant the passing of a pioneer landmark of North Central Washington that while small, was an important phase in the economic development of the area.

The death announcement was brief and commonplace.

Just a blunt statement by the Interstate Commerce Commission announcing that the Waterville Railway Company was authorized to abandon its six miles of roadbed between Waterville and Douglas.

Reason for the demise was given just as brusquely—“No business.”

The road was once the shortest in the nation, yet at the time it was built it was a vital link in the transportation of North Central Washington, for it provided an outlet for millions of bushels of wheat from the Waterville area to the Great Northern branch line at Douglas.

Then slowly and gradually the road became a victim to progress and the Motor Age. As better roads were developed and better trucks made, the wheat began to trickle to shipping point by truck instead of railroad.

Finally in 1948, the little line received a blow that proved to be its death knell. Torrents of flood water swept through the wheat country and took with it the bridges and part of the track.

The wheat farmers are a resourceful and enterprising group, and no doubt they would have rallied and rebuilt the line if it had been necessary. But it was no longer a necessary link in the economic set up, so it was allowed to languish and finally die.

Built with private capital raised locally for the most part, the Waterville Railroad is a shining example of American initiative and community cooperation at its best. When the Great Northern could not, or would not build a spur into Waterville, the people of the area simply said in effect—“We will,” and they did.

That spirit of community resourcefulness in the true tradition of America. It is the same spirit that led the pioneers to rally together after a disaster, rebuild a neighbor’s home or barn or pull his wagon out of a mudhole.

No wonder the people of Waterville were proud of their little railroad, with its six miles of track, half dozen employees and limited equipment. Its little engine may not have made as much noise as its big brothers on the Great Northern line, but nevertheless it chugged along, it delivered the goods, and it tootled its whistle just as proudly as any of them.

The line was important far beyond its size, and it brusque death announcement will be received with sadness by many a local resident.

Another landmark of North Central Washington’s pioneer days has passed into history.

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