Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wheeler Sugar Beet Ops

A short exchange of info about sugar beets out of the Wheeler area gleaned from an email group.

Wheeler Sugar beet jobs

Message 1 of 3 , Oct 13, 2012

I have a 1968 Idaho Division train brief off Dan Bolyard's website about the Wheeler Trunaround Local, train 1234-1235 between Pasco and Adrian. The brief includes statement "This train supplemented during beet and potato harvest with road switcher at Wheeler and Turnabound local Pasco to Connell."

Does anyone know anything about the seasonal road switcher at Wheeler? I suspect this job went to Adrian in season to deliver empty cars and get loads of beets from GN at Adrian. Can anyone confirm? Anyone know official or unofficial name of this assignment in the 1960's?

I intend to use info for a sentance or two in a book xxxxxxx and I are writing about the GN in the 1960's and his career. xxxx worked the GN beet local for at least one stand in the 1960's.

Thank you,

Oct 26, 2012

I arrived in Wheeler WA on September 25, 1963. Here is a link to a news paper account of the explosion.

I was filling a temporary position as Operator for the fall sugar beet harvest that was about to start. Before the day was over my job had been eliminated and reinstated by Mr. Westine, the train master. The reason it was reinstated was the U&I officials declared that they would open as usual. However, there would be no sugar storage facilities, and every ton of sugar produced would be loaded and shipped within about 24 hours.

There were at least two ramifications. One the sugar loading tracks needed to be switched at more frequent intervals, so a 16 hour seven day a week switcher job was created. The crew actually worked 15 hours and took "beans" at the end of their shift. It was an extremely popular job. The crews could fill their time cards for the month in just a few days and then take the rest of the month off. We saw mostly the top of the seniority list.

The beet car trains moved according to need and were a daily occurrence. That may well have been your Wheeler to Connell turn around local. I know at least on one occasion I rode the caboose to Connell and back. This became a source of embarrassment for me. This train set out empty beet cars at each siding. At one such stop I was in the cupola watching the activity on the ground. The brakes were releasing and I was listening for the slack. I heard it coming, ripping down the train and I ducked back inside. I wasn't quite fast enough and the window frame snicked my glasses and sent them spinning out of the window onto the ground. I quickly wrote down the number of the beet car adjacent to the location, and next morning I sent a note to the agent and asked him to search the ground nearby. The local that evening brought me an envelope with my glasses, no worse for the wear.

The switcher would make up the train in the afternoon and push the whole thing out the main line north of town. The local would arrive and pull through the storage track with loaded beet cars, empty sugar hoppers for the bulk sugar and fifty foot double door box cars for bagged sugar. Nothing but the best! I would take up a position at the wye to the plant lead in the afternoon as the switcher pushed the train. I could scribble car numbers for my train list as fast as the crew would push. In fact they were inclined to push at the dead slow so as to help me. The plant lead was the top of a long hill out of the plant. Then the main line continued on a slight down hill slope. One day I was on station scribbling furiously when the slack came ripping by and a knuckle whistled by my head. After that I stood a bit further away.

The average beet car train was over a hundred cars. I must have scribbled a million car numbers that winter.


Message 3 of 3 , Oct 28, 2012

To add a few additional details to xxxx’s excellent write-up about his experiences at Wheeler in 1963:

The only station I ever worked on the Connell - Wheeler line was Connell. One day I rode with the local all the way up the branch and back again. We had GP9 216 for power. We did go all the way to Adrian with some interchange for the GN. I don't remember what it was other than 1 or 2 cars. The NP crossed over the GN mainline on a long timber trestle. North of this trestle was the NP station of Adco. There was a spur of about 1/2 mile that dropped down to the GN station of Adrian which was the interchange point and had a small yard.

The NP line from Adrian (Adco) to Odair was seldom used from the late 1950s, but it survived into the BN era. I don't have an abandonment date, but the Adrian - Wheeler line was abandoned 5/24/1983. The concrete bases for the timber bents are still visible at Adrian. The Odair - Adrian line went through some rugged country and there was at least one large trestle.


Tuesday, January 30, 2018

BN Train At Harrington

Courtesy of Blair Kooistra.

September 16, 1979

Train #97, the hotshot on the double track, Harrington, WA

Friday, January 26, 2018

Milwaukee Road Line Car At Othello

From an old copy of the Milwest "Dispatch."

Found in the collection of the late Ross Sterling.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Othello Depot And Freighthouse

From an old copy of the Milwest "Dispatch."

Found in the collection of the late Ross Sterling.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

1935 Mason City View

Courtesy of the University of Idaho.

Note the two bridges over the river. The one on the right was built to railroad specs, but was never used by the railroad. One version of the story says the bridge wasn't built strong enough to handle the loads. Another story says the chances of rockslides just upgrade of the bridge was the cause for it not to be used by rail.
You can follow the grade up from the bridge along the base of the big hill behind the town and you will come to where the tunnel is. The building on the left at the base of the hill is still there today too, as the Coulee Dam city hall.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Highland AFEs

This is a summary to the "Applications For Expenditures" (AFE) files which were project files for all purchases, construction or removal of facilities or equipment from Great Northern property. These files sometimes contain correspondence, invoices, blueprints and other project information, and often contain insight into events or changes in a specific area at a point in time.

As a summary, it does give a look into the changes made over the years.

From the GN-NP Archives.

1899 Install private crossings
1899 Install passing track
1900 Unknown miscellaneous expensed
1901 Construct road undercrossing at Bridge No. 276
1901 Move section house with “Jap” house, tool house, and privy from Lyons
1902 Improve ROW
1903 Dig well
1903 Install ROW fence
1907 Construct public crossing
1910 Replace pile and pony truss Bridge No. 276 with concrete trestle
1912 Move derails
1913 Place steel in Bridge No. 274.2
1914 Extend passing track
1914 Install ROW fence
1915 Install ROW fence
1916 Relay rail Highland to Galena
1917 Construct public crossing
1919 Construct highway crossing
1920 Repair section house
1920 Something to do with cinders
1924 Install ROW fence
1924 Relay passing track with 85# rail
1926 Relay Highland with 130/100
1927 Relay with 110/130# rail Ft. Wright to Lyons
1929 Move section laborers house to Espanola
1929 Move section buildings to Hillyard
1929 Relay flange oiler
1933 Relay rail lubricators Highland to Everett
1937 Install ROW fence
1940 Renew decks and paint Bridge Nos. 276 and 286 at Canby
1940 Line main track Highland to Galena with 112# rail and 130# rail on curves
1941 Install ROW fence
1942 Retire flange lubricators
1948 Place Highland quarry tracks
1952 Place switch indicator at quarry spur
1956 Place rail anchors Highland to Fairchid
1956 Relay rail with 115# rail
1958 Relay siding (also Columbia River)
1964 Install slide fence
1965 Install slide fence
1966 Place car puller from Appleyard

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Old Railroad Car To Find New Life

On the weekend of October 7 and 8, a crew of the Chehalis Centralia Railroad made their way to Moses Lake to to a bit of rehab of the spur to Moses Lake Iron and Metal, where Monte Holm's old business car, the "Ruth M," had lived for the last 40 or so years. This work would allow the Columbia Basin Railway to retrieve the car in a few days.

From the "Columbia Basin Herald."

October 12, 2017

I alerted the newspaper that the move was happening, but I'll leave my very similar photos out of the first part of this piece. I did video it leaving town, at the link below.

As it left the Moses Lake area, I was out at Wheeler and caught it as the last car of a CBRW train headed towards Warden. Ultimately the car would be handed off to BNSF at Connell for forwarding to Chehalis. See the train at Wheeler here.

Alden Wolf caught the car in Chehalis on November 20, 2017, being moved into the car barn for restoration.

Saturday, January 13, 2018