Thursday, June 24, 2010

Remember Wenatchee Southern?

From the "Ellensburg Daily Record."

March 2, 1961

John A. Gellatly, former lieutenant governor of the state and once a candidate for governor is writing a series of articles in his hometown newspaper, the "Wenatchee World," regarding the important news of another era. Recently he had an article on the "Wenatchee Southern Railroad" that a group of Wenatchee apple growers promoted back in 1922.

There was not sufficient fruit storage facilities in Wenatchee at the time and the Great Northern railroad, following the first world war could not finance or build sufficient refrigerator cars to handle the apple crop of North Central Washington.

So the apple men raised large sums of money to finance the proposed Wenatchee Southern down the west bank of the Columbia river from Wenatchee to Beverly where it was proposed to have a connection with the Milwaukee road and later to continue it south to Kennewick for a connection with the Northern Pacific and Union Pacific.

Many tracts of land were purchased for the right of way, engineering parties studied possible routes through Kittitas County and then the group applied for a hearing before the Interstate Commerce Commission. Ellensburg had visions of a direct rail connection between Wenatchee and Ellensburg, via Beverly. It was big news in those days, but the whole picture disappeared in a cloud of smoke when the Interstate Commerce Commission following a hearing at Tacoma in September 1922, decided there was not sufficient justification for the railroad, and that the need could best be solved by acquiring more refrigerator cars and the construction of cold storage warehouses in Chelan County.

Long before the visioned Wenatchee Southern, Ellensburg and Wenatchee had sought transportation facilities between the two places. This was even before the Great Northern was built in 1893. There was a stage and trucking line, horse and mule drawn of course, over Colockum Pass for many years, giving Wenatchee the only direct transportation service with the outside world.

Also in the early days there was a joint stage line-steamer service between Wenatchee and Ellensburg. The stages and wagons went out over the trails from here to the Columbia river and then loaded their produce onto a regularly scheduled steamer service, that went up the Columbia to Wenatchee and the Okanogan. The flagship of that fleet was "The City of Ellensburg."

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