Tuesday, January 29, 2013

CW Line Changes In The BN Era

By Bruce Butler.
East of Davenport there exists a long stretch of tangent track on the CW (Central Washington) line, running about 3.6 miles approximately from MP 35.5 to MP 39.1. In the middle of this tangent the track swings slightly to the north between approximately MP 36.9 and MP 37.9 in what was obviously a siding at one time. This siding eventually replaced the mainline, which was then removed. The fact that this piece of track is laid with 112# rail would seem to indicate that this siding was a relatively recent (at least in railroad terms) piece of construction.

I have never been able to find anything about this siding in my various NP employee timetables. At the recent NPRHA convention in Spokane I purchased three BN Employee timetables and they provided some partial answers. In all 3 timetables, the CW branch is listed as the 8th subdivision of the Spokane division. In addition to the listed stations, there is a category shown variously as “Business Tracks” or “Connections, Industrial Tracks and other Tracks (etc)”.

Spokane Division TimeTable #1 dated 3/3/1970 was the first timetable issued by the newly merged BN following the 3/2/1970 merger. This timetable lists “Major”, located 2.9 miles west of Mondovi in the Business Track section, with a capacity of 128 cars. So obviously the NP constructed this siding before the merger. Also interesting is that Deep Creek is listed in the timetable with a 16 car siding. No mention is made of the station “Cement” at MP 103.6.

In BN Seattle Region TimeTable #3 dated 10/25/1970, “Major” has been changed to station status, listed at MP 36.6. Deep Creek has been changed to a “Business Track”. There is still no mention of the station at "Cement".

The last BN TimeTable I acquired is #27 dated 4/25/1982. It is for the Seattle-Portland Region and covers the Spokane, Pacific, and Portland Divisions. The CW is still listed as subdivision #8 and “Major” is still listed as a station, now at MP 37.4 with a siding length of 5,420 feet. Deep Creek is gone. “Cement” is listed in the “Commercial, Industrial (etc)” section as having a capacity of 48 cars and located 6.8 miles west of Hartline.

None of the three TimeTables mention “Webb” at MP 63.6. All three show the Eleanor branch but #27 lists the entire branch as an industrial spur. Marc Entze furnished me with a table from his PHD dissertation listing abandonment dates for rail segments in our area. It shows that the Eleanor line was abandoned 4/29/1983. It doesn’t list Odair-Adrian, but does show Adrian-Wheeler as abandoned on 5/24/1983. I suspect that Odair-Adrian might have been abandoned about 1978 but it had been unused since the 1950s. Adrian-Wheeler is listed in TimeTable #27 as the 16th subdivision of the Portland Division.

Other Factors:

Grand Coulee Dam is the largest concrete structure built in North America. Raising the water surface 350 feet above the old riverbed, the dam is 5,233 feet long, 550 feet high, and contains 11,975,500 cubic yards of concrete. The original dam was modified for the Third Powerplant by a 1,170-foot-long, 201-foot-high forebay dam along the right abutment approximately parallel to the river and at an angle of 64 degrees to the axis of Grand Coulee Dam. The third Powerplant was authorized in 1966. Most of the actual construction took place in the early 1970s with final completion in 1975.


The siding named “Major” was apparently built late in the NP era and was still there in 1982. I would speculate that it’s purpose was to provide a meeting place for trains hauling Grand Coulee third powerhouse construction materials. Interesting note that there is a 0.8 mileage difference for “Major” between TimeTable #3 (MP 36.6) and TimeTable #27 (MP 37.4) – did they move the station sign? “Cement” was BN constructed, sometime before 1982. While I couldn’t find specific mention of this, I believe that “Cement” was constructed as a transfer station for third powerhouse construction materials, mostly cement, during that construction period in the early 1970s. This would also be true for the large building on the spur about 1 mile north of Odair. It is interesting to note that this line segment is NOT listed in any of the three TimeTables. The grain elevators at “Cement” were constructed in the 1980s. We know that Coulee City facilities were expanded after the Mansfield line, 16th subdivision of the Spokane division, was abandoned on 5/14/1985. Possibly Cement handled some of the grain that formerly went into Coulee City.

Remaining questions:

1) When was the siding at "Major" actually removed?
2) When were the grain facilities at "Cement" actually constructed and what was their purpose.
3) When was the building on the spur north of Odair actually constructed. I understand that it's purpose was to unload large equipment (transformers, etc) for the third powerhouse.
4) When was the siding and station at "Webb" established. This was a chip loading facility for the lumber mill at Lincoln, down on the river.
5) When was the chip loader at "Webb" removed?
I am sure there are other questions that I haven’t thought of.


Burlington Northern Inc Spokane Division Time Table 1, dated Tuesday, March 3, 1970
Burlington Northern Inc Time Table 3, dates Sunday, October 25, 1970
Burlington Northern RR Co Seattle-Portland Region Time Table 27, dated Sunday, April 25, 1982
Marc Entze – “Abandoned Rail Lines in Eastern Washington and Oregon”, from his PHD dissertation
Dan Bolyard – email, and his blog at: http://sdp45.blogspot.com
Wikipedia information on Grand Coulee dam: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Coulee_Dam
U.S.Dept of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, dam details – Grand Coulee: http://www.usbr.gov/projects/Facility.jsp?fac_Name=Grand+Coulee+Dam

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