Saturday, January 30, 2010

1912 Downs

From the "1912 Standard Atlas of Lincoln County."

For a current peek of Downs, here is a Google maps link.

Handling Bulk Cement

From " The Reclamation Era."
June 1936

Cement for the present contract, which included 4 1/2 million cubic yards of concrete, is obtained from five cement mills located within the State of Washington, is brought in in bulk, and stored in eight 5,000-barrel steel silos along the tracks of the US Construction Railroad which connects with the Northern Pacific Railway line at Odair, near Coulee City. In addition to the eight storage silos are two 5,000-barrel silos for storing the blended product from the several mills. Unloading from box cars is accomplished by four Fuller-Kinyon pumps. Transportation to the mixing plants is through an 11-inch steel pipe supplied by Fluxo cement pumps with a capacity of 1,000 barrels per hour. The pipe line running to the west side mixing plant is 2,000 feet in length while the line to the east side is 6,000 feet long. Approximately 6,000 barrels of bulk cement is unloaded  daily under the present operation of the one mixing plant.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1912 Morocco

From the "1912 Standard Atlas of Lincoln County."

Morocco long ago became Mohler.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Rails Reach Out

From "The Reclamation Era."

September 1935

Governor Clarence D. Martin, of the State of Washington, held the throttle, July 29, when the age-long silence of the Grand Coulee of the Columbia was broken for the first time by the whistle of a locomotive and the first train on the new Government railroad traveled down the desert wastes of the great Canyon.

The occasion was the formal opening of the line which will transport most of the material to be used in building the Grand Coulee Dam. It was necessary to build the railroad, for the site of the big Federal project, 92 miles west of Spokane, Wash., was some 30 miles from the rails and it would be impossible by any other means, to move much of the heavy materials necessary for the dam construction down into the deep gorge of the Columbia. Even in the West, this descent, where is seems as if the world suddenly drops away, is breath-taking.

Representatives from many parts of the Northwest rode in the train behind Governor Martin and were guests of the M.W.A.K. contractors for the Grand Coulee Dam, at dinner at Mason City, the world's first all-electric town.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Light Story From the Post-War Era

From “Reclamation Era.”

December 1948

Six of One . . .

About 40 years ago a homesteader on the present Columbia Basin project of Central Washington, where rainfall averages 6 inches per year, was sitting on the shady side of his homestead shack one hot June afternoon when an old car stopped in front of his desert home. The driver needed water for the radiator and inquired if the homesteader could furnish the necessary aqua pura. The forlorn dry farmer led the tourist to a barrel, took off the lid and said, "Help yourself."

"Where do you get this water?" the tourist inquired.

"From the railroad siding 5 miles away," replied the settler.

"Why don't you dig a well?" asked the tourist.

"Oh, it's the same distance and harder work," explained the farmer.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Coulee City Spur For Sale

From the "Grant County Journal." Ephrata, WA

April 4, 1996

Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. said it will sell 227 miles of track in Eastern Washington and northern Idaho for potential short line operators.

The properties being sold include the 108 mile Coulee City branch from Cheney to Coulee City, a 47-mile line from Palouse to Bovill, Idaho, and a 122-mile branch from Marshall to Arrow, Idaho.

The segments being sold include a Moscow-to-Arrow, Idaho, branch that was abandoned in 1984 and a line from Harvard, Idaho to Bovill, Idaho, that is currently restricted.

The company is soliciting bids for the lines, track, right-of-way and other structures, but will retain mineral, water and other rights, spokesman Doug Babb said Monday from company headquarters at Fort Worth, Texas.

"The local focus of a short line allows it to remain in very close contact with shippers, which often translates into service better tailored to customers' specific needs," Babb said.

Also, reduced costs of short lines can lead to reduced costs for shippers and improved chances for survival of marginal lines, he said.

The railroad hopes to find buyers who will keep the short lines alive for the region's shippers, Babb said.

There will also be reciprocal switching agreements between the short haul lines and Burlington Northern, he said.

The company hopes to complete the sales by July, 31, Babb said.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Burlington Northern's CW Branch

From "Northwest Railfan."

October 1991

Eastern Washington's CW Branch (Cheney-Coulee City 108 miles) is seeing more frequent operation recently due to the seasonal grain rush. BN's CW Local is an up-one-day-back-the-next job usually powered by 4-6 GPs/B30-7ABs. The branch is currently full of slow orders with new ties and surfacing required in many areas to get track speed up to 15-20 MPH. BN recently re-aligned and moved a switch at Reardon, WA following a late August derailment.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Locomotives for WCRC

From "Northwest Railfan."

August 1991

Washington Central is now using ex-Chicago & Northwestern GP7 #4492 for their warden-Wheeler job (Moses Lake Air Base and Schrag as needed) during the day. The same unit is providing the power for the Warden to Connell turn to interchange with the BN in the late evening. the unit is still in CNW paint, lettered for WCRC. The unit was built in June 1952 as CNW #1577 and was rebuilt by CNW in Ocotber 1978.

WCRC's Warden-Othello job is now making a daytime Bruce turn before going to Othello and Royal City. Switching at Bruce was previously done by the Warden-Connell job at night. SW1200 #211 has been providing the power lately.

Photo of said locomotive as the CNW 4492.
Photo of said locomotive after its WCRC career was over.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Toppenish, Simcoe,& Western Expands

From "Northwest Railfan."

September 1994

The Toppenish, Sincoe, & Western, operated by the Yakima Valley Rail and Steam Museum, is now under contract to provide rail service between Othello and Royal City. the approximately 24 miles of mostly ex-Milwaukee Line is owned by the Port of Royal Slope and was operated by Washington Central up until a few years ago. TSWR has leased and EMD switcher from Titan Rail Service of Pasco for the service.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Moses Lake Sugar Beet Harvest

From "Northwest Railfan," October 1995

As I reported to this fine magazine back then:

"WCRC has assembled at least 100 sugar beet hoppers at Moses Lake, WA, in preparation to haul the sugar beet crop. Some cars are lettered for Holly Sugar and the Colorado & Wyoming Railway."

The credit line really butchered my name, calling me "Dan Sawyer!"

Photos of my trip to the beet loading operation have disappeared.

PDF link to Moses Lake sugar beet operations.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Railroads of Grant County 1999-2009

The final decade of railroad history in Grant County’s first 100 years saw some significant changes. The various shortlines were content to maintain their small holdings of branches, while those railroads that had given up those branchlines were still chasing further growth.

In 1999, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF), which operated Grant County’s only cross-country rail line, and the Canadian National Railway announced their intention to merge and form a new corporation entitled the North American Railways, to be headquartered in Montreal, Canada. The United States' Surface Transportation Board (STB), successor to the old Interstate Commerce Commission, placed a 15-month moratorium on all rail mergers, which thus ended this atttempt. This moratorium was partially based on the effects of this merger on the other major rail lines in North America. No one really wanted to go through the headache of combining large systems, in light of the mess created by the breakup of the Northeastern US-based Conrail by competitors Norfolk Southern and CSX earlier in the year.

The Palouse River & Coulee City (PCC), owned by Watco, a holding company of many shortlines across the country, operated the Central Washington (CW) branch from Cheney to Coulee City and another line running from Marshall to Pullman; Watco was making noises about the lack of financial success in running these lines. Finally, in November 2004, Washington State agreed to buy the line from Marshall to Pullman for $6.5 million dollars, but chose not to purchase the 108-mile CW branch.

Preparations to purchase the branch were finalized in early September 2005, but on September 13, Watco withdrew its offer to sell the CW line to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). Watco said it wanted to abandon the line and sell the rails, ties and other materials for scrap value because it could not meet its service commitments in a profitable way. WSDOT had planned to forgive the balance ($442,468) of an existing rehabilitation loan to Watco as partial payment for purchasing the branch, and the state legislature had allocated $1.2 million for the line. Instead, Watco closed the line down with an embargo in November 2005.

BNSF jumped into the fray by issuing a written offer to Watco on the following March 2. It offered to provide haulage on the CW branch for a period of up to five years. BNSF said the offer would remain on the table for 45 days while the two companies worked out a formal agreement. The offer called for haulage trains of no more than 78 car units originating on the PCC between Cheney and Coulee City, with rates of $110 per loaded car. BNSF would provide transportation up to a maximum of 2,025 loaded cars per year; any more than that would be moved at BNSF’s discretion.

In the letter to Watco, BNSF also offered to work with PCC and its customers to develop a shuttle facility at Coulee City. “We believe such a facility may reduce total transportation and handling costs and best serve the shippers and producers in the Coulee City-Almira area for the long term,” the letter said.

The embargo came as a surprise to a shipper on the line, who ordered cars to load, only to find they could not be delivered. The state of Washington got involved and filed a complaint with the STB June 26, 2006, regarding the legality of the embargo. Typically, an embargo is used when a line is rendered unusable due to severe circumstances, such as flooding, not as Watco had done due to lack of profitability, deferred maintenance, and competition. Within three days of the STB ruling on the State’s complaint, Watco cancelled the embargo on July 14, but there was an added catch. Watco added a $472 surcharge per car in addition to its regular shipping rate.

On February 8, 2007, Governor Gregoire and Watco signed a binding memorandum for the State to purchase the entire CW branch. It included provisions for reimbursing Watco some of its operating costs in return for its agreement to operate the CW from June 1, 2006, through May 31, 2007, without substantial shipper surcharges. The State officially purchased the branch on May 11; PCC ended operations on May 31.

WSDOT chose US Rail Partners to operate the CW Branch, who formed the Eastern Washington Gateway (EWG) as the company to actually run the trains. The EWG started operations on June 1, 2007.

In the midst of the fray, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe took steps to move away from its heritage. On January 24, 2005, it chose to formally call itself “BNSF Railway,” using unreferenced letters rather than the initials which represented the full names of its predecessor companies.

Growth on branch line railroads in Grant County is still tied to agriculture, just as it was back in 1909. As long as farmers can make money growing crops, the shortlines will prosper. Mainline railroads still take those loads from shortlines and send them to all points, but their main traffic is now international trade and coal. They are not dependent on those farmers.

One hundred years ago, the towns of what became Grant County already had established rail service, and the people of that time relied on it. Today, towns do not count on rail service, and some see it as a nuisance. It is unlikely that something like Grand Coulee Dam, with a dedicated new railroad to support the construction, could be built today.

As the county moves into its eleventh decade, railroad history will continue to be made. The Port of Moses Lake continues with its project to rehabilitate the former Milwaukee Road branch to the airport, with plans to abandon the tracks through the downtown area, and to potentially rebuild part of the former Northern Pacific/Burlington Northern branch from Wheeler to serve the airport. Another situation to watch is the purchase of BNSF by investor Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway. This move will make BNSF a private company again, which hearkens back to the days of James J. Hill, builder of the Great Northern Railway across the Northern Tier states. A final thing to look for would be the resurrection of the Milwaukee Road across Eastern Washington. Rumors have abounded. Legislation has kept the line available to any railroad who might want to rebuild.

Will it happen? Only the next century will tell.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Moses Lake Sugar Beets

From "Northwest Railfan," October 1994

Starting in late October, Washington Central (WCRC) will begin handling about 20 loads of sugar beets per day for Holly Sugar from the Moses Lake area. These loads will be interchanged to the BN at Connell, Wa and then moved in regular trains from Pasco to Klamath Falls, OR. The beets will be interchanged to SP at Klamath Falls. Every third day when train size reaches 60 cars, Klamath Falls will originate a unit sugar beet train bound for Holly Sugar at Tracy, CA symbolled KFTRU for loads and TRKFU for empties. This operation is expected to last for 300 cars or so (approximately two weeks).

Upon completion of the Tracy beet moves, 20 sugar beet loads a day from Moses Lake will be moved via WCRC and BN to SP Klamath Falls and eventually to Hamilton City, CA. These loads will join up with 30 car blocks coming from south of Lkamath Falls for SP to move as 50 car unit trains from Klamath Falls to Tehama, CA. The loads will be interchanged to California Northern at Tehama for movement to the Holly Sugar plant at Hamilton City, CA. The SP unit trains will be symolled KFHAU (loads) and HAKFU (empties). The Moses Lake-Hamilton City move is expected to last the entire month of November into the first part of December.

Sugar beets should begin moving from the Moses Lake area to the Nampa, ID sugar refinery around Oct. 26. This move will e via UP's line through the Blue Mountains.

Posted with permission from Dean Ferris.

Monday, January 4, 2010

1912 Palisades

From "The 1912 Standard Atlas of Douglas County."

For a current peek, check out Google maps.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

1912 Gravelle

From "The 1912 Standard Atlas of Lincoln County."

Please note that though the map says "Northern Pacific," this section of line was actually built by the Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern.