Friday, October 31, 2008

Waterville Railroad Streamliner?

By Doug Welch

no date

The five-mile farmer owned Waterville Railway, between Waterville and Douglas, Wash., in Douglas County, is not as long as most other railroads in the state and nation. But it IS just as wide.

And it has one distinction that very few railroads anywhere can claim-(1) it has never gone into bankruptcy, and (2) it has never borrowed money from Uncle Sam

A few of the directors got together the other night in Directory A.A. Murdock’s hardware store in Waterville, looked over the annual balance sheet and considered their assets. The assets were very close to nil, and so were the liabilities; and the road earned barely enough to keep its engineer and fireman in wages, and its single locomotive in repair.

But the Waterville Railway is still Waterville’s only rail connection with the outside world, and the town breathed a sigh of relief when the news got out that the old line is still holding its own.

Were it not for the kindly interest of a railway fan--M.W. Miller, Waterville transfer—the Waterville line might long ago have turned up its toes. Five years ago Miller took over the general management for the sheer fun of it, and today he finds himself competing in some instances with his own trucking operations. Greater love hath no railway fan than that.

In the interests of economy—and it was like cutting a piece out of his own heart—Miller laid up the railway’s one picturesque passenger coach, and reduced the operating schedule to tow round trips a week—Tuesday and Friday.

He also ripped up the tracks between the Waterville roundhouse and depot, so that Waterville now has a depot with no railway in front of it. Outbound wheat is loaded, and inbound foodstuffs and farm supplies unloaded unloaded at the roundhouse.

When the Great Northern Railway in 1909 built their branch line from Columbia River Junction (below Wenatchee) to Mansfield in the Big Bend county, they passed up Waterville because of difficult grades.

More than a hundred residents of Waterville then subscribed $80,000 to construct a connecting line. The Great Northern gave then rails and ties. The $80,000—most of which is still outstanding—was spent on a rebuilt locomotive and passenger coach.

Excepting perhaps logging railroads, the Waterville line has one of the steepest grades in the state. Old No. 949 has almost more than it can do in handling five loaded and five empty box cars from Douglas up to Waterville. But going the other way—brother, it travels like a streamliner.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Ephrata Train Bulletin Board

Found this hiding away in the local museum, in a place not normally seen by the public.

I can assume it was donated after the last GN/BN train left town, in May of 1971, as the new Amtrak service did not run via Ephrata anymore.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bacon Siphon Construction Railroad

There was a short-lived construction railroad in the Columbia Basin that few have ever heard of. It connected with no others. It ran for a short distance. Most of it was underground.

This railroad was used by the Bureau of Reclamation to construct what would be called the Bacon Siphon Tunnel.
The name "Bacon" comes from the NP station on the Adrian Cut-off of the same name.

The Bureau needed to get water from the Equalizing Reservoir at Coulee City through a coulee at the top of the lower Grand Coulee. So, they built this tunnel, that would carry water just like a siphon. It was built to railroad sizes, and the first tunnel was completed in the late 1940s.

A second tunnel was completed in the 1970s. Here is how the original tunnel looks today in the off season.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Coulee City in 1916

Here is the railroad part of an old photograph from 1916. You can see the 2 stall roundhouse peeking out from behind one of the buildings in the background.

Compare with this other early view of Coulee City.

Friday, October 17, 2008

1915 Liberty Bell At Ephrata

The Historylink Website has a piece on the visit of the Libery Bell to Seattle and surrounding area. Here is a snippet from that site:

On July 14, 1915, the Liberty Bell -- one of the United States’ foremost symbols of freedom and independence -- visits Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma en route to the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco. The bell traveled the country by train, greeting throngs of joyous well-wishers in towns along the way. The crowds in Washington state are no exception.

Beginning in the late 1800s, the Liberty Bell was often displayed at exhibitions throughout the country as a way to heal the rift caused by the Civil War. By the 1900s, concerns were raised over transporting around by train the already cracked bell. The 1915 tour, which began on July 4, would be the bell's last. It has remained in Philadelphia ever since it returned.

The trip west took it straight across the Midwest, then north to Idaho and into Washington. The Liberty Bell went to Everett, and from there to Seattle. Crowds in Everett were so immense that the trip to Seattle was delayed by almost an hour, so that everyone could get a glimpse.

It had to get to Seattle by going through Ephrata, so here it is at Ephrata on July 13, 1915.

Note that the bell is visible on the flatcar between the flags.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wilson Creek in 1900

This should be filed under a difference of decades as well, as the vantage point for this photo still exists, just that I have not gotten there yet!

Wilson Creek was an Intermediate Terminal on the Great Northern. In 1925, the GN moved it to Wenatchee, and built the yard and such there.

There is anecdotal evidence of the coaling dock burning down in 1919 or 1920.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Difference of Decades Soap Lake Depot

Here we have the Soap Lake depot. Not sure of the date, but lets say it was long ago.

The current view shows, nothing. The Soap Lake depot burned down in 1945, and was replaced with a shed. No known date for the shed's removal.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Central Washington Railroad Waybill

Came across this gem a few weeks ago. Nice to see some ancient paper still exists for this railroad

As for the "milled in transit" bit, it was explained something like this:
It is to be milled at another station on the line, so the shipper is given a break on the rate, as he is going to pay for the shipment of the final product from a point later on this line.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Difference of Decades Waterville Depot

After finding the old Waterville Railway depot in Waterville, I found a photo of it in service and present both to you.

I figure the first photo was taken no later than the 1930s, and the current one in 2008.

This depot was built to a standard Great Northern design, which the Waterville Railroad was closely associated with.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Another US Construction Railroad photo

The cars shown are Great Northern boxcars lettered for "Cement Service" for construction of Grand Coulee Dam.

Photo taken in 1949. This location is now under water.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

1947 Rare Photo Near Bacon

Found this 1947 photo of a Northern Pacific train 1 mile north of Bacon on the Adrian cut-off between Coulee City and Adrian.

Photos of trains on this stretch are mighty rare. This photo was taken because of the bridge, over the main canal, as part of the Columbia Basin Project.

This location still exists, except for the Northern Pacific, the fine looking steamer, and the tracks. The footings and the canal are still there.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Growers Association Has Plans To Save Money

Wenatchee World, 1985

The relationship between farmers and the railroads has been stormy for over a century, even though each side feels somewhat dependent on the other.

That relationship is still changing in North Central Washington, with branch lines being abandoned and growers pinning their hopes on new facilities and new grain shipping points.

Still, farmers are betting their future is in shipping their grain by rail. Their relationship with the railroads, stormy as it may be, will continue for many years to come.

The major change in rail shipping in North Central Washington came when the Burlington Northern finally shut down the Mansfield line, which ran from Mansfield down through the wheat country to the Columbia River Siding near Palisades. The last grain was shipped on that line in March.

Central Washington Grain Growers, the primary wheat cooperative in Douglas County, fought for years to keep that line open. Now that the line no longer is in use, most of the grain is being trucked from various locations in the county to Coulee City.

The cooperative has spent about $1.25 million upgrading its facilities at Coulee City, located on the Burlington Northern’s Central Washington Branch Line.

With state-of-the-art equipment, the Coulee City station can load the big hopper cars the railroad now uses to ship grain. The grain is loaded on “unit trains,” a string of more than 20 hopper cars that is loaded quickly for maximum efficiency.

So far, the system is working well, said Scotty Watson, manager of Central Washington Grain Growers. The cooperative has been able to truck grain to Coulee City that once was loaded directly from elevators into boxcars on the Mansfield Line.

“Its something we can do, and will be doing,” said Watson.

It costs about 8 cents per bushel more to ship grain to Coulee City. But with rail charges from there 4 cents per bushel less, growers now pay a total of just 4 cents per bushel more.

With truck shipments feasible, the question now is the future of the Central Washington Branch rail line. The line deadends at Coulee City, and the wheat on that line is sent almost to Spokane before it makes a U-turn and heads toward export depots on the coast.

Although there has been no indication that the railroad is planning to abandon the Central Washington Branch, the grain shippers are hoping to take steps to ensure its long-term future.

They have formed the Central Washington Branch Line Shippers Association. Members include Central Washington Grain Growers, Waterville; Graingrowers Warehouse, Wilbur; Almira Farmers Warehouse; United Grain Growers; Odessa Union; Davenport Union; and Reardon Grain Growers.

“All branch lines are subject to scrutiny by the Burlington Northern,” said John Anderson, manager of Graingrowers Warehouse. “We have no indication as of this date that they have any plan in the future (to abandon the line), but there is nothing to keep them from doing it in the future.”

The new association hopes to promote a plan to have the Central Washington Branch reconnected, with new lines from Coulee City running south to connect with the main line. That would form a loop, and shorten the distance the grain has to travel.

“It makes it a more profitable line for the Burlington Northern, if it could be done,” said Anderson.

The association hopes to obtain a grant to study the feasibility and cost of reconnecting the branch. They also hope to keep the old right of way, from Coulee City south, from being sold off and parceled out.

It has been estimated that reconnecting the line would cost about $22 million.

With or without the new project, Watson said he is confident the Central Washington Branch will be operating in the future.

“The line is much more permanent now that (sic) it was 12 months ago,” said Watson. “The railroad already has decided to make substantial improvements. I feel good about it now. They are doing more than I expected, so God bless them.”

Anderson agreed.

“They have done a pretty good amount of maintenance on this line in recent years, and service is pretty good. Those things lead you to believe it’s pretty safe. But what you always come back to is the fact that we are a branch line. On any branch line, you’d better be fearful that you are not going to keep your rail line in the long term,” he said.

In Douglas County, trucking wheat to Coulee City has proven feasible so far. The major drawback has been the deterioration of roads. Both the state Department of Transportation and county engineering departments are worried that increased truck traffic will bring increased road maintenance costs.

“We know it will have an impact. It has to have an impact,” said Duane Biggar, county public works director. “Our roads were not built to the standards that the state builds its highways.”

He said that in some spots the roads are already showing marked deterioration. Biggar noted, however, that Central Washington Grain Growers has been very cooperative in trying to limit truck traffic when roads are more vulnerable to damage, when roadbeds are soaked with water in the spring. The grain is shipped on state highways whenever possible.

Even so, the county’s financial position is such that it can’t keep up with road maintenance, with or without the truck traffic.

“We’re not satisfied, let alone the pubic” said Biggar.

He said there is no financial relief in sight. Biggar said that it may even get to the point where the county lets the roads go back to gravel and just forgets maintaining the pavement.

“Should we continue oiling when we cannot maintain what we have? Should we just go back to gravel? I’m not suggesting that, but that’s one thing that’s being considered,” said Biggar.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Northern Pacific Across Central Washington on the Milwaukee Road?

October 11, 1922

Letter from John M. Rapelje to Charles Donnelly, NP President, regarding the use by the Northern Pacific of the Milwaukee Road tracks.

Referring to our conversation some time ago in regard to the possibility of securing running rights over the St. Paul between Lind and Ellensburg:
This proposition has been suggested before but I believe the grade conditions on the St. Paul have made it appear to be a very doubtful proposition.
As far as distance is concerned, the St. Paul line is an attractive one, the distance from Ellensburg to Lind being 81.2 miles shorter by way of the St. Paul than by way of the Northern Pacific. The grades, however, are very heavy on some parts of this line.

Just east of Ellensburg there is a 1.6 percent grade eleven miles long. This grade starts four or five miles east of the Ellensburg station. Pushers would have to be kept at Ellensburg which, with the detouring that would be necessary in the connecting line between the Northern Pacific and the St. Paul at Ellensburg, would probably mean a pusher urn of eighteen to twenty miles between Ellensburg and the summit. There is another short pusher grade about two miles long thirty-five miles east of Lind which would also interfere to some extent with handling full tonnage. Westbound there is a 2.2 percent grade eighteen miles long from the Columbia River west. This means mountain operation and apparently a great deal of congestion should the Northern Pacific business be added to that of the St. Paul.

A yard would have to be established at Lind which would mean a very heavy capital expenditure, and inasmuch as the St. Paul is now operating electrically it would be necessary for the Northern Pacific to assume the expense of all the water station and fuel station operation. From Lind to Parkwater is approximately 85 miles. This part of the line would have to be operated on a one percent basis or else provide for two pushers, one from Lind to Tokio, the other from Sprague to Fishtrap.

When this is considered as an additional line, it does not look attractive. However, the matter is very complicated and it is quite possible that a little engineering investigation should be undertaken. If it were possible to use the St. Paul from Lind to the Columbia River crossing and to build a line from this point to Yakima on something like reasonable grades, it might be a very satisfactory arrangement. I doubt, however, if the topography of the county would permit the construction of such a line.

I also took this matter up with Mr. Brown last summer and asked him to look into it also, and I am attaching a copy of his letter of July 12, together with list of stations showing distance, ruling grades, location of water stations, coal docks, telegraph offices, sidings, etc. The whole thing does not look very attractive. If there is anything further you desire me to do on this, I shall be glad to be advised.

December 29, 1925
Donnelly to H.E. Byram, Receiver, St. Paul, Chicago, Ill.
I have your note enclosing newspaper clipping suggesting that the Northern Pacific is proposing to build what has come to be known as the Ellensburg Cut-Off.
This report is not correct. It is true that we put a party of surveyors in the field last summer for the purpose of running a line over to the Priest Rapids district in anticipation of the possible developments there, and this party is now completing its work. But we have no present expectation of building the cut-off, and would of course wish to consider the possible use of your railroad before building another. You may recall that I spoke to you once before as to the possible use of your line, and at that time you stated to me that you would not wish your line, where electrified, to be used for the movement of trains drawn by steam locomotives. Do you still entertain this view?

December 31, 1925
Byram to Donnelly
Replying to your letter of December 29th:
We should be glad to have you consider using our line jointly with us between Spokane and Seattle and while, of course, we would prefer to have you use the line electrically since we have the apparatus provided, we would not be unwilling to consider a proposition for your use of the line with steam locomotives and if you should arrive at a point where you wish to take this matter up more definitely we shall be glad to go into it further at any time.

June 12, 1951
John H. Poore to Robert S. Macfarlane
Referring to the question raised as to the reason for our not going ahead with the Ritzville-Ellensburg Cutoff when it was actively under consideration some 40 years ago:
The construction of this line was first considered more than fifty years ago, and it was under active consideration in 1909, 1910 and 1911. The first link in this line was what was known as the Ritzville Branch, which was a cutoff from our main line at Ritzville to Bassett Junction on the Connell Northern, which was under construction at that time. The Connell Northern was completed in November, 1910, and we constructed a portion of the Ritzville Branch from Bassett Junction easterly to Schrag between August, 1909, and July, 1910. It was decided to construct this branch to main line standard so that it could become a part of the Ritzville-Ellensburg Cutoff and when the line from Bassett Junction to Ellensburg was completed.
During the next couple of years consideration was given to various locations for the cutoff and the question of whether or not we should try and obtain trackage rights over the Milwaukee for all or part of the distance was under active consideration. By May, 1910, a definite location had been agreed upon and authority was given to start the acquisition of right-of-way.

By July, 1910, business conditions did not have a very satisfactory outlook, and work was stopped on the Ritzville-Ellensburg line, as well as a number of other branch lines which were then under construction. There was a fairly wide difference of opinion between Northern Pacific officers as to whether we should build our own line for the entire distance or use part of the Milwaukee line from the crossing of the Columbia River west to a port a short distance east of Ellensburg, but no conclusion was reached and our Operating officers were not greatly favorable to making a change from our existing main line because it would have necessitated the construction of additional freight terminals, and the net savings in dollars and cents for trains over the short line would have been relatively small, considering the fact that it would have required nearly $5,000,000 to construct the new line. This discussion ran into the year 1913 and then, of course, the First World War came along and it would have been out of the question to build a new line during that period. In 1920, the Transportation Act was passed, and wile the files do not indicate that any consideration was given at that time to the construction of the proposed cut-off, I assume it would have been probably not have been possible to secure authority to build a new line in that territory closely paralleling the Milwaukee tacks. Since that time no consideration has been given to building a new line. Although I believe at different times consideration has been given to approaching the Milwaukee for trackage rights. We have never done so, however, and so far as I know, we have never secured anything from the Milwaukee as to whether or not they would look favorably on such a proposition.

[Not true, see Donnelly’s letter, December 29, 1925. - JRM]

One of the serious drawbacks to building a new line was the fact that Yakima and adjacent towns would be left with branch line service, which would probably be displeasing to the people of Yakima after enjoying main line service from the time of construction of our line.

June 21, 1951
Poore to Macfarlane
Referring to your memorandum of June 14, in regard to business conditions in July, 1910.
I attach copy of a memorandum made by Mr. Howard Elliott on July 27, 1910, and a copy of a letter he wrote to Mr. James N. Hill, then New York vice-president, in regard to business conditions generally, which prompted the stoppage of work on the Ritzville - Ellensburg cutoff and a number of other branch lines.

The accounting records indicate that revenues for the full year 1910 were within a few thousand dollars of those for the year 1909, and the records indicate that there was a fairly substantial falling off of business in the latter part of 1910.
In the general remarks in the annual report to stockholders for the year ended June 30, 1911, the following is stated:
“The very marked business activity of 1909-1910 in the territory served by your company’s lines began to decline in the autumn of 1910 and the volume of transactions of all kinds was less than during the previous fiscal year
“The grain crop in North Dakota and Minnesota was serious damaged and the crop in Washington, Idaho and Oregon was less than usual.

“Freight earnings decreased $5,245,818.02, $2,000,000 of this decrease was due to the smaller amount of grain handled, and $1,600,000 to the fact that nearly 10,000 less cars of lumber and shingles were moved, and $700,000 was due to a decrease in the earnings from long haul freight moving from the Mississippi River and points east thereof to Butte, Spokane, Seattle, Tacoma and Portland, caused by less construction and expansion of general business facilities; and the same cause affected the earnings at other important towns and cities.
“Earnings from operation of passenger trains decreased $4,305,918.20.
“The absence during this fiscal year of events like the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition; the opening of the Flathead, Coeur d’Alene and Spokane Indian Reservations, coupled with a lessened business activity, all contributed to this large decrease in earnings.
“Earnings for the year ending June 30, 1909, for carrying persons and property on passenger trains were $20,117,706.98, compared with $19,966,754.49 for the past year.”

Cash on hand January 1, 1910, was $28,538,000, and on December 31, 1910, it was $4,514,000, the decrease of $24,000,000 being due principally to an expenditure of $14,575,000 for road and equipment and $15,000,000 for construction advances to subsidiary branch line companies.
There was no increase in funded debt during the year 1910, but the report to stockholders for the year June 30, 1911, states that treasure securities amounting to $3,400,000 were sold to provide funds for general construction purposes. The files would indicate also that political conditions existing at that time had something to do with shutting down on construction expenditures, and it is quite possible that the effect of the completion of the Milwaukee line to the Coast had something to do with the Northern Pacific falling off in business.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dam Tourist Train Tracks Removed

From “The Star,” Grand Coulee, WA

Dec. 29, 1949

Crews employed by Morrison-Knudsen, have begun removal of railroad tracks near the Vista House. This means the end of the famous little tourist train, forced to bow to the hand of progress in the $1,691,666 river channel improvement contract.

The job involves much excavation, huge amounts of rock quarrying and placement of thousands of tons of armor rock to form adequate future protection for the banks of the Columbia River immediately downstream from Grand Coulee Dam.