Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern Into Davenport

From "History of the Big Bend Country."


In July, 1889, work was commenced on the extension of the Central Washington from Davenport westward. To Contractor Kirkindall was awarded the contract to push the road through to a point on the western boundary of the county known as Almira. July 26th the Times published the following:

     "The meeting of the committee from this town (Davenport) and the officials of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway Company was held at Spokane Falls Monday, July 21st. The result of this conference was that Mr. Mohr offered to have is road built into Davenport in thirty days provided he received $15,000 and right of way. A representative meeting was held here Tuesday evening last (July 22d), when the foregoing proposition was presented, and unanimous conclusion arrived at that the money should be raised and the right of way given. A committee consisting of Messrs. Nicholls, Ratcliffe, Newman, McAvinney, Luce, May, Finney, Edwards, Simmons, Ramm, McMillan, O'Connor, Essig, Drumheller and Forrest was appointed to solicit subscriptions."

August 16th the Times added the following anent the same matter:

     "A very enthusiastic meeting of the citizens of Davenport was held at the offices of the Big Bend National Bank on Monday last (August 11th) to hear the result of Mr. David Wilson's conference with the Seattle Company's officials regarding the construction of the road to this point. Both business and property interests were well represented on the occasion and the unanimous opinion of the meeting was that trains would be running into town not later than October 1st, next.

     "Mr. Wilson stated that he had met Mr. Paul F. Mohr, vice president of the Seattle Company at Tacoma, and had submitted a proposition to him to the effect that the people here would give the company the right of way from present ed of track to Davenport; would grade the road-bed, built culverts, leave the track ready for the ties and donate the necessary depot grounds provided his company would furnish a competent constructing engineer, survey the road and supply all the rails, ties, fastenings, switch-stands, buildings and all other necessary materials and appliances to complete the road. This proposition was made by Mr. Wilson in lieu of that made by the Seattle Company a short time ago, in which the residents of this section were asked to subscribe $15,000 to the stock of the road, which is just about double the amount that will now be required to carry out the desired object. Mr. Wilson read a letter from Mr. Mohr stating that his company would accept the proposal made.

     "A committee was appointed to solicit subscriptions and a list was immediately made headed as follows: David Wilson, $1,000; May & Luce, $500; John H. Nicholls, $250."

October 11, 1889, the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern railway was completed into Davenport. But this had not been accomplished without a struggle. Of this battle between giants the Times said:

     "The road bed of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern is graded into town, and by Tuesday, October 8th, the iron was laid to the Northern Pacific crossing, only a short distance south of the school house and within the town limits, and the cars would today be running into the depot yards at the head of Morgan street were it not for an impediment that the new arrival ran into. It was nothing less than the opposition of the Northern Pacific people who are barring the crossing with a locomotive. From an employee of the road we learn that the Seattle officials picked up a frog at Medical lake that was the property of the Northern Pacific and had it on the ground here ready to put in Tuesday. When Superintendent Riordan, of the Central Washington, was notified of this fact he ran an engine down to the crossing with a force of men, loaded the frog on board and carried it off. He then had an engine stationed across the track and there it has remained up to the present time, night and day. Both parties are watching each other, the Seattle men to get across, and the Northern Pacific men to prevent it. Of course the crossing will eventually be made, but the hitch is putting the Seattle outfit to considerable expense, besides it is the source of great annoyance to the people of Davenport who are anxious to see the new road in operation. Wednesday the Seattle passenger train arrived at the crossing, and the iron could be laid to the end of the grade in a few hours if the impediment were out of the way. So far the proceedings have been conducted without any violence. Further work will be tied up until the strong arm of the law makes the Northern Pacific officials give way."

It is sufficient to say that this annoyance was of short duration, and when the Seattle Company had provided its own frog, it was put in without further objection on the part of the Central Washington people.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Brief Construction Record of the CW

From "History of the City of Spokane and Spokane County, Washington."


With the new year, 1887, the country was stirred by rumors of railroad extensions from the main line of the Northern Pacific. One of the first projects surveyed this year was the Sprague & Big Bend railroad, from Sprague to "Wild Goose Bill's ranch" at Wilbur, with a proposed branch line to serve the Mondovi, Fairview and Davenport sections. This enterprise failed to materialize, but it stirred the Northern Pacific to action, and that company sent engineers into Lincoln county and ran surveys for a branch line from Cheney west. A. M. Cannon, Paul Mohr and others were active, too, with their projected Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern project, to cross the state from Puget Sound to Spokane. Spokane citizens subscribed $175,000 to this ambitious undertaking, and in the spring of 1888 a contract was let for the construction of the first sixty miles west from Spokane. This road was actually built from Spokane to a point near Davenport, but the company subsequently lost its entity, its completed road was picked up by the Northern Pacific, and a few years later the steel was taken up and only an abandoned grade remained as a memorial to disappointed hopes.

Meanwhile the Northern Pacific went forward with vigorous construction of its Central Washington branch, and by February, 1889, had laid steel into Davenport. The line was extended this year to Almira, and in 1890 to Coulee City in the Grand coulee, and was graded eight miles beyond, in an ambitious effort to climb out of the coulee and continue on "to an eligible point on the Columbia, near the mouth of the Wenatchee river." Surveys were also made northwesterly towards the Okanogan country. After the lapse of nearly a quarter of a century the Central Washington still has its terminus at Coulee City.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Central Washington and Seattle Lake Shore & Eastern Start To Build

From “History of The Big Bend Country.”


The year 1887 was one punctuated with railroad projects. In December Northern Pacific surveyors invaded Lincoln county and ran lines for a contemplated railroad. They were under the direction of H.S. Hudson, chief civil engineer of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company, and Major J.I. Jamison.

April 27, 1888, word was received that the contract for grading the first sixty miles of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad from Spokane Falls westward into the Big Bend country, had been let to the firm of Burns & Chapman, the prominent contractors. The closing of this contract was the occasion of mutual congratulations among Davenport citizens. Spokane Falls had been asked to subscribe for $175,000 worth of stock. This had been done, the entire amount being raised within four days from the time of opening the stock books. One of the provisions of this subscription was that forty miles of the road should be equipped in time to transport the season's crop.

May 17, 1888, the following correspondence from Cheney, Spokane county, appeared in the Portland Oregonian:

     "The presence of Engineer Jamison, of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, in this place, and the fact that he has been quietly purchasing rights of way for the much talked of railroad from Cheney to Medical Lake and thence to the Big Bend country, has again excited the hopes of the people to a high pitch, although they have been unable to learn anything official about the future. That which apparently gives point to the action of Mr. Jamison in the eyes of the people here is that he should appear promptly after work had been actually begun on the Spokane end of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern railway, and the definite location of its line, a distance of forty miles in the direction of the Big Bend country. Appearances indicate that either a big game of bluff is being played by somebody, or there is going to be some lively work done by these rival roads, and that, too, in the near future, while, as has already stated, there are some circumstances which the people her think are full of suggestion."

About this time Paul F. Mohr, chief engineer of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad, said in an interview:

     "Work on the line is progressing fairly well. The contract has been let to Ryan & McDonald, of New York, and Smith & Burns, of Baltimore, to build the entire uncompleted portion of the line from Squak, forty-two miles east of Seattle, to Davenport, in Lincoln county, which is the terminus of the fifty mile portion now under construction westward from Spokane Falls. The distance is 240 miles, and this part of the road must be finished within two years. Chapman & Burns are building that portion of the line westward from Spokane Falls to Davenport, and will finish it about September 1st."

Mr. Mohr gave the following as the course of the road east of the Cascades:

     "It will pass at, or near, Ellensburg, but, possibly, not through it. From Snoqualmie Pass to Ellensburg, the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern will parallel the Northern Pacific. Thence it will run southeastwardly to near Priest Rapids, the head of navigation on the Columbia River, then northeasterly to Davenport; thence easterly to Spokane Falls."

Such was the condition of Lincoln county railway affairs in August, 1888. On the 27th instant Frank M. Gray, of Davenport, received the following wire from D.F. Percival, Cheney:

     "Grading forces commenced here on Big Bend road (Central Washington) this morning under Contractor Hunt. Large force of men at work; more will be put on. Work will be pushed as fast as possible to Davenport."

Within a few days after the reception of this cheerful message about four hundred graders were throwing dirt at different points between Cheney and Davenport, and on October 26th Mr. Percival again wired Mr. Gray from Cheney:

"Track layers on the Cheney & Davenport (Central Washington) road commenced this morning from here. Look out for the keers when the bell rings."

Tuesday, November 27th the first train on the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railroad made its appearance at Medical Lake, Spokane county. At that time Wheatdale was its terminal point toward which it was building at the rate of two miles a day. It was the plan of the projectors of this road to complete forty-five miles to Wheatdale, near Davenport, by December 1, 1888, and then cease work for the winter; going forward to the mouth of the Wenatchee river, on the Columbia, the following season. At the same period the plan of the projectors of the Central Washington road was to "construct a railroad from a point on the main line of the Northern Pacific, at or near the town of Cheney, in Spokane county, extending thence in a general northwesterly direction to a point at, or near the town of Davenport, in Lincoln county; thence in a general northwesterly direction to the west side of what is known as the middle crossing of the Grand Coulee, in Douglas county, in the Big Bend country, and then in a general westerly and south westerly direction to an eligible point on the Columbia, near the mouth of the Wenatchee river, in the county of Douglas, all in the Territory of Washington."

Thus it will be readily perceived that these two companies had thrown out surveys over practically the same routes. But the first train to arrive "at or near Davenport," was a construction train of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway Company. This was on December 3, 1888, and yet this terminus was then several miles south of town. From this point freight and passengers were conveyed to Davenport by teams. At this period travel was brisk and many hack and freight wagons were in active commission caring for the large volume of trade. At one time it was seriously considered by the company to build a rival town at the terminal point. Still Davenport possessed so many advantages in the way of location and eligibility that this idea was abandoned.

January 1, 1889, the Central Washington was graded into Davenport and track-laying was proceeding as fast as practicable. February 14th this road had come within the corporate limits of Davenport; the town now had its first direct rail communication with the outside world. Heretofore the work of track laying in the eastern portion of Lincoln county had been seriously hampered by snow and severe weather. Consequently the date of the arrival of the initial train was somewhat later than had been anticipated. Tuesday, February 12th, the working crew, the steam track-layer and the train accompanying with material had swung into sight around the bend, a mile or more to the east. All day Wednesday the crew worked steadily onward toward the depot grounds, arriving in town that evening, the finishing touches being given to the road on the day following. The scene of operations was visited Wednesday by crowds of people anxious to witness the automatic working of the patent track-layer. Each face was wreathed with a smile of satisfaction, and it was the universal opinion that this grand entree of a railroad was destined to insure a rapid growth of the town and increased prosperity. It was, in fact, a gratifying realization of one of those crowning events in the annals of a community that invariably meets hearty approval, and often enthusiastic commendation. Small wonder that upon this consummation of their hopes the citizens congratulated each other.

The construction of the Central Washington railway was conducted with no grand flourish of trumpets or noisy demonstration. The company had decided to build into the Big Bend, and proceeded to carry out the plan without ostentation. No subsidy was voted, nor was the progress of the line advertised abroad. It was a business proposition, pure and simple, and as such it was carried out to a successful conclusion. The steady progress of the road was only anxiously watched by that section of the country ready to reap the benefits of such a line. The construction was done under direct supervision of Engineer C.F. Reardan, and in every respect the work was first-class. Inclemency of the weather occasionally checked work for a day or two, but the means employed for laying track were the most perfect that the ingenuity of man had, so far, produced, and with it Mr. Reardan pushed forward to his objective point.

The Central Washington railroad began running regular trains to Davenport. The freight business of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern railway dwindled away to absolutely nothing, temporarily, and much of the passenger traffic was, also, lost. But the latter road effected a coup. It arranged to deliver freight into Davenport at the same rates charged by the Central Washington, and, for awhile, so successfully did it carry out this plan that the contractor plying between the terminus of the road and Davenport had more business than he could conveniently handle.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Sprague & Big Bend Railroad

From “History of The Big Bend Country.”


Rather too sanguine hopes were awakened in the minds of Davenport residents in January, 1887, by unfounded railroad enthusiasm. The moving spring of this unwarranted excitement was the survey of the “Sprague & Big Bend Railroad” from the town of Sprague to “Wild Goose Bill’s,” a distance of forty-tow miles. It was the claim of the engineer at that time that this road could be built for $7,000 a mile. It was, also, the recommendation of Major Sears that a branch road be built to tap the Mondovi, Fairview, and Davenport countries, leaving the main line at Minnie Falls Mills, on Crab creek. This line he estimated could be constructed for $4,000 per mile. But nothing eventuated from either of these schemes and gradually the well-advertised details of the enterprise faded from memory.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Milwaukee Road Right-of-Way Dispute

From "Northwest Railfan."

February 1994

Several landowners adjacent to the former Milwaukee Road mainline in Eastern Washington (now known as the John Wayne Trail), have won a court decision which gives them ownership of the right-of-way. The state had purchased the right-of-way from the Milwaukee Road trustees for use as a trail from Easton to the Idaho border. However, when the Milwaukee Road was built, easement deeds were acquired from the landowners for the operation of the railroad.

When the Milwaukee ceased using the property for a railroad, the easements ceased and the property reverted to the present landowners. The court ruling effects 20 miles of right-of-way in Adams and Whitman County, leaving several holes in the John Wayne trail.

The former Milwaukee Road concrete arch bridges at Rosalia, WA have had wood and wire mesh railings added to both sides of the spans. The bridges are part of the John Wayne Trail system.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Toppenish, Simcoe & Western

From "Northwest Railfan."

June 1995

The TSWR plans to re-activate freight service on the Royal Slope Division on July 5th. Details are being worked out to move ex-Army B-2070 to Othello and operate it on runs to Royal City, WA. Presently, the loco is busy with week day school charters between Harrah and White Swan.

Photo of the unit in passenger service.

Photo of the unit rotting away at Royal City, having not been used since arriving years ago.

Monday, February 15, 2010

CW Branch Operations

From "Northwest Railfan."

December 1992

BN's CW Local (Yardley-Coulee City, WA) has been running for the last several months as a regular assignment, replacing the as-needed schedule. The CW is on duty between 15:00 and 19:00 Tuesdays with 2-6 four-axle geeps at Yardley (Spokane). The train switches the flour mill at Cheney and then proceeds down the 14th Sub to Coulee City arriving there about 8-10 hours later. Wednesdays the CW is on duty on crew's rest (8 hours) at Coulee City, doing necessary work along the 14th Sub back to Cheney where the flour mill is switched. The CW will usually leave grain traffic on the CW main at Cheney and then run to Yardley.

Thursdays the CW makes a Cheney Turn then runs to Fairchild and out the Geiger Field spur that extends 4.7 miles from the main at Fairchild to switch a steel fabrication business, then back to Yardley to tie up. Friday and Saturday is a repeat of the Tuesday and Wednesday trip to Coulee City. The CW works to Cheney or Fairchild if needed on Sunday. Monday is the regular day off.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Winter Storms Bring Out Plows

From "Northwest Railfan."

January 1993

The winter storms that hit the Northwest over the holidays gave BN many weather related problems.

The Interbay rotary snowplow #972651 (ex-GN #X-1510 built 1927 by Brooks) was called out to plow massive snowdrifts on the CW Sub on January 11. This was the first time the Interbay rotary had been used since the mid-1970s. A spreader had plowed most of the CW Sub on January 8 but was unable to contend with huge snowdrifts in the Hartline/Coulee City area, prompting BN to bring out the rotary.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The "Spud Local" Fired Upon!

From "Flimsies Northwest."

January 1999

The "Spud Local" was switching at Quincy, WA on December 4, 1998, when it was fired upon by individuals in a passing car. A special agent was called, who in turn, notified the Quincy police. Later on, the same person or persons again fired upon the local.

Note: The Spud Local is the local BN (and BNSF) switcher that switches out cars on the line between Wenatchee and Ephrata.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tracks in Grand Coulee


Note you can see the Safeway store in both images, and in the second image, Safeway is now currently located approximately where the car near the center of the photo is.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Railroad Racing

From "Reclamation Era."

February 1971

If horse racing was the sport of kings, railroad racing was the sport of the money barons of Wall Street. Interest in that sport began when development of the steam engine reached a relatively practical state of perfection, and ended only when the United States became gridded with paralleling and crisscrossing railroad tracks.

During the interim, the "Jim Hills" and the "Harrimans" were cracking whips over the backs of rival construction gangs of coolie laborers, thrusting dual rapiers of steel into the ever-retreating West, over what was then called "The Great American Desert." The iron horse was closely following--if not pushing--the construction gang.

The sport was revived in the early 1930's, when the banner news story broke carrying announcement  by two of the major railroads of the Pacific Northwest of their intention to construct branch lines from the Grand Coulee Dam construction area to their respective nearest station.

Periodic bulletins were issued from rival camps announcing new plans which would assure that their branch  line would be completed first.

As the Grand Coulee Dam site was relatively isolated, a branch railroad was essential to the project's needs. Heavy machinery and equipment, and many of the materials required could be brought in only by rail.

The trucking industry was only then entering into serious competition with the railroads, and truck haul was limited by inadequate highways and lack of necessary equipment.

For example, the 11, 800,000 barrels of cement used in the project was procured from some five cement mills, which had no facilities for loading bulk cement into trucks. Also the cement mill's price on bulk cement was in most cases directly related to published railroad tariffs. 

In the story of the race between the tortoise and the hare, one of the participants--the hare--took a nap, allowing the turtle to crawl first across the finish line, but in this railroad race, both contestants took a nap, and neither ever reached the goal.

The race was continued in the newspapers until the needs of the Government for a branch railroad became acute. Then both the contesting railroads announce that neither of them would construct a branch line to the dam site.

A branch was constructed--as you may have guessed--by the United States, connecting with the Northern Pacific at its Odair station near Coulee City. Thus, the Government was committed for rail haul of project materials to the railroad site where its branch made connection.

The records and files of the railroad companies involved are, of course, not available for inspection, and we are left to conjecture and speculation as to how the two railroads became involved in this race, and why it was so abruptly ended.

Even in our speculations, we are not given to imputing anything but the best of motives for the actions of the executive officers of the two railroads.

Hence, we assume that the race was entered into in good faith. That there was not compromise nor collusion involved in the abrupt termination of the race, but rather, plans for such branch line construction were abandoned, because in the judgment of the railroads' executives, such an undertaking would not be in the best interests of the companies.

To arrive at that conclusion resort may have been had to railroad lore, which has it that Mr. Harriman of Union Pacific fame once remarked that he would authorize the construction of a branch line to a haystack, but not to a mine.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Reclamation Spurs Economic Opportunity

From "Reclamation Era."

August 1966

...Once construction is completed and water projects go into service they generate a steady stream of annual recurring benefits to a number of industries.

An example is the Columbia Basin Project in Washington where Reclamation completed an economic study in 1966 in cooperation with Washington State University. The irrigated project area and an adjacent dry-farm area were studied for their economic impact.

Shipments from the irrigated project area increased more than threefold from 1950 to 1962. The principal commodities presently being shipped out of the project consists of perishable and semi-perishable crops such as potatoes, both fresh and frozen, dry onions, and melons. Freight out of the adjacent comparison area consists almost entirely of grains that are consigned to coastal points for export.

Wholesale value of inbound shipments to the irrigated Columbia Basin Project are in 1962 totaled $86.4 million. Of this, $40.3 million came from the Far West, Rocky Mountain, Southwest, and Plains regions and $46.1 million came from the Great Lakes, Southeast, Mideast, New England States, and Canada. Outbound shipments totaled $63.7 million, of which $39.8 million went to the Western regions and $23.9 million to the Eastern regions.

Inbound shipment to the comparison dry land area totaled only $12.8 million in wholesale value, of which $6.9 million came from the West and $5.9 million came from the East. Outbound shipment from the comparison area totaled $21.5 million and were consigned entirely to the Far West and Rocky Mountain regions.

A comparison of the two areas indicates that the irrigated are has provided a substantial impetus to growth in the regional transportation industry. Inbound carloads, gross freight revenues and transportation employees per 10,000 acres of cropland in the project area exceeded those of the comparison dry land area by ratios in excess of 20 to 1. Outbound shipments favored the irrigated areas by a ratio of 8 to 1.

The larger ratio of inbound shipments is due to the fact that the expanding farm and business economy in the project area is drawing investment capital to it.

The Columbia Basin Project in Washington provides an excellent example of industrial expansion as the water project grew. Approximately 6 miles of branch line was completed 2 years ago from the connecting point on the main line to the fertile Royal Slope area of the project. This area has about 86,800 irrigable acres for which water service is now available to 76,900 acres.

Another example in the Columbia Basin is about 55 miles of railroad being built from Mesa, across the Wahluke Slope to Mattawa. Again, this line will greatly enhance the development of the project and the economic environment of the area.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

100 Trips Around the Earth

From  "The Reclamation Era."

March 1942

 Two and a half million miles of travel--the equivalent of 100 trips around the earth at the equator--probably makes W.H. Storey, of the General Electric Company, Grand Coulee Dam's "most traveled" visitor.

Storey is the car-tracer who acted as a "nurse-maid" for a recent 156-ton railroad shipment of the core and cols for the world's largest transformer from the factory to the Grand Coulee power plant.

Since 1917 this much-traveled visitor has been scurrying over all parts of the country to expedite the movement of company apparatus. He has visited every State in the Union and also Canada and Mexico. He has seen all but three or four principal cities of the United States.

The transportation of parts for Grand Coulee Dam's huge transformer proved somewhat more difficult than ordinary trips. In most cases, Storey just relaxes in a passenger train, disembarks at the railroad division point, confers with the superintendent or dispatcher, and makes certain the shipment is not delayed.

The core and coils for the transformer, however, were carried in a huge tank filled with nitrogen gas. The pressure of the gas prevents moist air from entering and dampening the windings. Once every 24 hours whether it be night or day, 40 below or 120 in the shade, Storey checks the gas content.

Rapid fluctuations in temperature will greatly alter the amount of gas retained in the container. Heat will cause it to expand and escape, and cold will cause it to contract. In the latter instance, more must be added to bring the supply back to normal.