Sunday, October 30, 2016

US Construction Railroad Map

This map, drawn by the Bureau of Reclamation, was part of a set of specifications produced handed out to prospective bidders of the building of Grand Coulee Dam and all the support facilities. It provided those who were not familiar with the location of the dam the exact place it was to be built. The book provides exact measurements for every aspect of building the dam, including where the railroad was to be built.

Hopefully the map renders very large without having to click on it.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Dam Railroad Construction Photo

Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Reclamation.

Building of the Construction Railroad between Coulee City and Grand Coulee happened during the Great Depression, so labor was quite cheap and in abundance. Also, the line itself didn’t have a lot of heavy construction to complete the grade, so a few machines, some animals, and human labor were all that were needed to easily build the line. Note that the railroad ties are not treated with creosote, a normal railroad practice. This would increase the cost of construction, but prolong the life of the ties in the dry environment of the Grand Coulee area. The railroad wasn’t expected to last much beyond the construction of the dam. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Grand Coulee Dam Car Skip

Photograph by the Bureau of Reclamation.

This unique photo shows the car-slip in operation during construction of Grand Coulee Dam in 1935. Built on the left abutment of the dam, this incline lowered or raised cars between the Construction railroad, at an elevation of 1310 feet, and the trestle deck, at an elevation of 1180 feet. It allowed critical loads of cement to be quickly placed near the mixing facility.

Photo below courtesy of the Hu Blonk Papers, EWU Archives, Image Number 5-36-11-A3:

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Royal City Branch Construction Photos

Courtesy Moses Lake Museum & Art Center

The firm of Dravo-Degerstrom of Spokane was the contractor in charge of building the 6 mile branch to Royal City. The work was carried out under the supervision of the railroad’s division engineer, T. M. Pajari. Here is a mechanical tamper, used to help settle the ballast between the ties. This is located along the gentle climb out of the Crab Creek area, but before the heavy grades and horseshoe curve across Red Rock Coulee. Most of the grading for the track was completed in 1966 and the whole project was to cost around $1 million.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Royal City Branch Construction Photo

Courtesy Moses Lake Museum & Art Center.

The first part of the branch curved hard from the mainline, closest to the bottom of the photo, and headed north and down towards the bottom lands along Crab Creek. Royal City is up on the far bench of land, so the tracks had to climb a steady 2.2% grade at one point, with a horseshoe curve as well. This branch was purchased by Burlington Northern in 1980, and now after many years of no activity and purchase by the State of Washington, trains could once again be running to Royal City.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

1970s Royal City Train

Photograph by Wade Stevenson; courtesy of the Othello Community Museum.

A typical mid-1970s local train from Royal City is seen rounding the curve to meet up with the mainline at Royal City Junction.  After entering the mainline, the train will make the short trip back to Othello, where the cars will quickly be inserted into a through freight.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Crew Of First Royal City Train

Photograph by Wade Stevenson; courtesy of the Othello Community Museum.

This is the crew of the first official train to operate on the Royal City Spur. From left to right are unknown, Dick Donley, Dick Nelson, Ernie Knott, and Bob Camp, dressed for his job of union representative. Mr. Camp’s presence was to be the arbitrator between enforcing the union rules and the company, who tried to disallow extra time that trainmen claimed for, among other things, unusual things that happened during a trip, such as being the first train on the line.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Bad Washout Ties Up Railroad Traffic

From the "Spokesman Review."

March 16, 1938

From the "Spokane Chronicle."

March 12, 1938

Thursday, October 13, 2016

1979 Packard

Photograph by J. Foust; courtesy of the Othello Community Museum.

The train to Marcellus has stopped at Packard to perform some switching in May 1979. Packard had once been a small but bustling town, but two grain elevator fires, the first in 1921 and the second in 1946, really slowed down the vitality of the town.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Great Northern Bridge Completely Burned Up

I've edited this posting to use a more local paper, which ran a longer story. A few of you have pointed out that the description of the trestle better fits the one in Lynch Coulee, between Trinidad and Crater.

From the "Spokane Chronicle"

July 3, 1893

"Watson Creek" is actually Wilson Creek.

From "The Morning Call."

July 4, 1893

Sunday, October 9, 2016

GN Wenatchee Wreck

Photos came from the collection of Otto Melton, courtesy of Dora Shirk, his granddaughter. Otto worked in the Wenatchee roundhouse for years.

March 7, 1943

Thanks to Darrin Nelson for helping pin down the date of this wreck. See his fine blog, covering the Mansfield Branch, at

Newspaper article courtesy of the "Spokesman Review."

March 9, 1943