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.