By Doug Welch
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.