Saturday, March 2, 2019

Harrington Railroad News

Compiled by Marjorie Womach.

Courtesy of the "Odessa Record."

History is best told by those who lived it, and herein will be used excerpts from some of Harrington's residents. Pioneer life without the railroad was excruciatingly more difficult than for homesteaders who came after the train was running. The Harrington worldview changed radically when transportation was made available for supplies, for shipping grain and for shipping livestock. Families were able to maintain contact with their relatives; returning East was a viable option. With today's society, many do not see much train activity, although in a farming community, people are aware that grain is shipped by rail. For some, working for the railroad was a means of survival while trying to prove- up on their homestead. Many used the train to connect to the other little towns on the line.

A.G. Mitchum, one of Harrington's early pioneers, rode on the only stretch of railroad in the Territory of Washington from Walla Walla to Walula. The thirty- mile stretch took six hours when he used it in the fall of 1879 on his arrival here. Shortly thereafter, John W. Sprague, also in 1879, was the first in charge of the Northern Pacific Railroad shops then located in Sprague. Another of Harrington's early pioneers, Jack L. Burgess came to the Harrington Wheat Belt in 1880, homesteaded six miles south of Harrington, and worked part time for three years for the Northern Pacific Railroad to afford supplies. C. L. Fish, 1880, was with the first railroad construction crew through Sprague to Missoula, Montana. From 1881 through 1883, Mrs. Charlie Billings rode horseback twice a week to and from Sprague with mail bags, as Sprague was the railroad center for the early-day settlers. In 1882, with the corporation of Harrington, Furth and Robinson of Colusa, Calif., purchasing 1500 acres of prime farmland in Lincoln County and simultaneously the Northern Pacific railway was doing a survey to establish a good location for the railroad to be located.

Mrs. Horace L. Cutter believed that the railroad would come through the area later known as Harrington, and she bought a quarter section of land. She wasted no time in having her land surveyed with a townsite she named Harrington, in honor of W. P. Harrington of the land firm, but also from Colusa, Calif. The townsite plat did not get filed in the auditor's office until May 15, 1883, by which time, it was not looking favorable that Harrington would be the path chosen for the railroad. Much time passed with no interest in purchasing her town lots.

George Thompson worked as an employee of the railroad shops in Sprague prior to his death in 1889. He and some of his relatives are buried in the Hillcrest Cemetery. Mr. Alfred Sandygren, was an old-time railroad man. For more than a decade he was an engineer on the Northern Pacific and always assigned to the Idaho division. In 1892, he resolved to quit the road for farming, and having many friends at Harrington and vicinity, located here. "Mr. Sandygren has forsaken the iron horse for good and will spend the balance of his days in peaceful pastoral pursuits in the Harrington wheat belt." He spent most of the rest of his life within a short distance of the Great Northern Railroad, which ran through a portion of his 1,000 acres.

"When the Great Northern Railroad Company built a line to Harrington in 1892, it was a "boom town" for a short time, because hundreds of workers made it their headquarters. Mrs. Cutter sold part of her land to the Harrington Townsite Company, which sold lots to the newcomers. A new land firm was organized in 1892, named the California Land & Stock Company, combining the holdings of some non-residents and of the firm of Harrington, Furth & Robinson. The officers were Furth, Harrington and Robinson, and the manager, John F. Green of Harrington. In 1904 the firm controlled a total of 25 sections of land. The population of Harrington was 650. Sprague grew into a town in 1880, because the Northern Pacific Railway Company was to build a line and terminal into this site. The railroad was completed in 1881 and the roundhouse was completed in 1883. When the bill passed the legislature, November 24, 1883, creating the county of Lincoln with Davenport named as county seat, the people of Sprague contested the choice of towns. They maintained that there were only two houses in Davenport, whereas Sprague was a growing town with a railroad terminal. Harrington became a competitor for county seat honors also, and the Sprague newspaper described Harrington and Davenport as "the rudest, cheapest, most uninviting villages". None of the other present-day towns of the county had yet started." (George E. Knapp)

"A Wagon-Wheel story from the late George Wheeldon recounts: Arriving in Davenport in the fall of 1891, George Wheeldon came to Harrington in April, 1892, with a construction outfit for the Great Northern. He ran commissary for George Galloway at the Great Northern construction camp. Upon arriving from Davenport the 24th day of April, the crew with its four-team outfit camped the first night in front of L. T. (Bud) Luper's place. Later tents were pitched and the campsite located near where Paul Beck now lives.

The camp included 300 men. Mr. Wheeldon says half of that number was continually being fired and new ones hired. All nationalities were represented except Chinese and Japanese, but most of them were Irish. Brawls were common. Mr. Wheeldon recalls the intelligent work mules! When quitting time came the 'skinners' had to be speedy unhooking, or the animals dragged men and machinery down to camp.

Mr. Galloway's part of the construction included that from Bluestem to Harrington, also some distance in the yard, about opposite the Ludy place. C. H. Lufford, chief engineer of construction, lived on the island, where the city pump now stands. At that time this piece of ground was an island, with a grove of fine cottonwood trees, and the only spring in town was there. After two months at the commissary, Mr. Wheeldon decided the Gang was too tough for him, so he quit." (Citizen: 1953)
Abram Shaw, pioneer in this region, was employed in 1894 on the Great Northern Railroad. Later he became a farmer on land near Bluestem. His son, Everett, was born in 1896, and worked for the Great Northern Railroad as telegrapher, and tie cutter during the depression years. Rita Mahoney Carstens' father was a railroad conductor, who bought a farm 22 miles west of Spokane and moved his family of 12 onto it.

“A petition to the state legislature is being circulated requesting that, that body pass a law compelling the railroad companies to fence in their Rights of Way and put in suitable cattle-guards at each crossing. This is a subject in which every man, having stock, should be interested. While the loss of cattle and horses in this vicinity may not be large, those who have had experience know only too well how much might be saved by such a law. The petition has been left at the Harrington Post office, where signatures may be affixed." (Citizen: 11-18-1898)

"Recalls Early Days on G.N. Section Crew. 'Oh, I've been working on the Railroad, all the Live Long Day'. John Gordon, Harrington farmer, and 'Americanized-Scotsman' worked for the Great Northern railway when he first came west from Michigan. He was section foreman from 1898 for three years. His division included the tracks from the switch at west Harrington yards to the west end at Mohler. ‘Most of the railway officials and many foremen in those early days, were Irishmen and the crews (eight to 10 men) were Irish, Swedes and others, but no orientals. The Japanese laborers came into the field in 1899 or 1900. First railroad crews were 'floaters' (change of personnel often) but when the Japanese workmen came, the crews became more or less permanent. John Viets was the station agent when I came and incidentally, only recently I read of his death, at Newport.’ Two crews were employed at Harrington. The foreman of the second crew was married, so for a time Gordon and his crew boarded with that family. The present section houses were built when the railroad came in, and provided living quarters for the foremen and the crews. The section men had to find another boarding place when the boss' wife became ill. ‘We went to Mrs. Pickell's,’ says Gordon. ‘Many of the train crewmen boarded with her at that time. Mrs. Pickell was a good cook and put up wonderful meals.' Work shifts were 10 hours a day; Gordon drew $55 a month; the crewmen received $1.25 a day and paid about $16 a month for board. Gordon says early construction work was more or less crude. As a result maintenance work was physically and mentally strenuous. Gordon remembers the rhythmic labor of pumping the hand cars. Along his section of track lay the J. L. Ball farm (now operated by the Simpson Brothers). In 1899, Gordon filed on a homestead a couple of miles south from the Balls, and west across the tracks." (Citizen: 1953)

“ Application Made for Entrance at the Post office at Harrington as Second-Class Matter. Advertising Rates Made Known on Application. Jas. R Goodwin, Editor and Publisher. Train Time: West Bound 9 a.m.; East Bound 6:18 a.m. Friday, Jan 6, 1899. Editorial. The legislature convenes next Monday, is there any thing it can do for you? In a previous issue attention was called to the petition below printed, and in view of the fact that eight horses were killed at one time two and a half miles north of this place less than a month ago, we again call the attention of the people to the matter. The petition is at this office and any who have not signed it may avail themselves of the opportunity: Petition. To the Legislature of the State of Washington For 1898 and 1899. Greeting: Whereas there is no law in the State of Washington, compelling the owner or owners of a railroad in this state to fence the track or construct cattle guards at highway crossings, where the track enters or leaves enclosed lands; And Whereas the owners of such lands have no protection to their crops, orchards, trees etc., growing thereon, and have suffered and do suffer irreparable damages by reason of stock entering upon their lands from the railroad's right of way, and destroying the crops, orchards, and other property thereon, Now, Therefore, the undersigned voters of the State of Washington, respectfully petition your honorable body to enact a law, compelling the owner or owners of all railroads, operated in this state to fence such railroads or tracks and to construct cattle guards at all highway crossings where such track enters or leaves enclosed lands." (Citizen: 1-06-1899)

"A Lively Spin. John Tierney drove into town last Tuesday morning after lumber and while here his team took a little spin not planned in advance. While Mr. Tierney was loading lumber at A. R. Graham's lumber yard near the railroad the whistle of a locomotive started the team down the street at a speed which made the train stand still. As no one had hold of them they were free to go as they pleased except that Mr. Tierney's dog kept at their heads and finally succeeded in turning them down a side street. After 'chasing themselves around the block', only they went around two or three blocks, they ended by winding the wagon around a telephone pole. Both horses were immediately caught as one did not succeed in getting away from the wagon and save a badly crippled wagon, no particular damage was done." (Citizen: 5-10-1901)

"Nov. 12, 1909: Station Agent P. T. Metler informs us that the Great Northern will build a new depot in Harrington. He has seen the blueprints. The new depot is to be 30 x 52, which will provide for two waiting rooms. The old depot is to be removed to the rear and remodeled for a freight office. Electric lights will be installed, water will be piped into both waiting rooms. Leavenworth is to have a new depot along the same lines and Odessa will get one 20 x 90 feet. Nov. 19, 1909: Station Agent P. T. Metler expects to be housed in the new Great Northern depot by Christmas. Feb. 4, 1910: Monday, Judge C. W. Bethel fined freight conductor $5 for holding the crossing over five minutes. Feb. 11, 1910: General manager G. M. Gruber of St. Paul, General Supt. E. L. Brown of Spokane and L. W. Bowen, division superintendent of Spokane, made an inspection trip over the Spokane division of the Great Northern Tuesday, behind one of the new engines, claimed to be the world's largest. The monster locomotive has 14 drive wheels, seven on each side. It has a tender capacity for 18 tons of coal and 8,000 gallons of water. This engine is capable of hauling a train of 2,000 tons on any grade. The officers, Tuesday, inspected the yards and the new depot." (Citizen: 1953)

Trains Come. Trains Go. They were a source of income, a source of transportation, a threat to livestock, a threat to careless persons, and a means of escape for thieves. "On Oct. 29, 1910, the Great Northern depot agent recorded 29 trains passing through Harrington in 24 hours." (Lincoln County: A Lasting Legacy) "Stage Hit by Train. Cortez Brown, driver of the Harrington-Davenport auto stage, Edward Jones, a laborer, of Harrington, and Herbert Olson, a Davenport tailor, were dangerously injured and narrowly escaped death at Davenport, Wednesday, when a Northern Pacific freight car collided with the stage as it was crossing 9th street on its way to Harrington shortly after noon. Jones sustained a broken hip, a deep scalp wound and a fractured skull. Olson escaped with a fractured rib, a broken collar bone and other injuries. Brown was bruised about the body and lost several teeth. Warehouses obstructed the view of the approaching car. Opinions differ as to whether a flying switch was being made, but the freight car is said to have made the crossing at about 20 miles an hour, carrying the big stage before it for 120 feet before it stopped. The stage was wrecked. The occupants of the stage were picked up unconscious and rushed to the Grimes hospital, where Jones and Olson are confined. Brown was taken to his home in Harrington. Olson and Brown are married. Jones is unmarried." (Odessa Record: 6-20-1916) In 1923, Eric K. Moen was struck and killed by a 'dinkey', the No. 39 morning passenger train, just east of Downs. Members of the section crew state that the section foreman ordered the men off the track, and they all got off, including Moen. No one seemed to have seen him get struck, but they saw him fall and death was instantaneous. In 1927 Panco Jones, a laborer on the Great Northern section at Mohler, lost his footing on some scrap iron and fell in front of the moving speeder which passed over his chest.

 In 1921 it was said that in order for the Harrington Harvester to sell its machines at distant towns, they used two small white mules that pulled and scratched their way up the old City Hall hill pulling one of their machines. They wrote that the belly of the mules drug against the ground as they forced their way up the hill. Those were years in which the cream cans lining the platform was a familiar sight as local farmers shipped milk and cream to Spokane via the Great Northern. "Jack Robasse is in receipt of a letter from L A Malgrem, auditor of passenger receipts congratulating him on the marked increase in cream shipments from the Harrington station. For the first seven days of the month there were 50 cream shipments. This means about $1,000 a month coming into this community." (Citizen: 5-09-1924)

In 1926, "Frank Tate, local signal man for the Great Northern Railway at Harrington, received a telegram Sunday morning announcing the death of his father, and left that night on GN passenger train No. 4 for Glyndon, MN. Mr Tate's father was a veteran station agent, whose tenure of service with the same company, and in the same capacity, spans a stretch of 33 years in the endless chain of Time." This was prior to Frank's 1932 marriage to Lois Cobb.

"Following P T Metler's long service here as station agent, J A Robasse served many years in that capacity, and he was followed in 1934 by J D Brady who went from here to Northport, and is now at Douglass. C C McCormick came in 1936 and is still agent, and first-trick operator. 'Chuck' McCormick started his railroading in 1918 in Spokane; he was 'bumped' in 1919 and came to Harrington for a few months, bumping Mr McCain. From here Mac went to stations east of Spokane. Local Employees of the GN. Operators at the depot besides Mr McCormick, include W J Hartman, 2nd trick; L D Christy, 3rd trick; Vernon Nelson, who started his railroad career in 1949 at Okanogan, relief operator. Since Sept 1, 1948, GN employees have been on a five-day a week schedule. Women operators held positions during the war years, and those working at Harrington included Myrtle McFarland (now Mrs Wallace Bramer of Harrington); Betty Mycon (Mrs Rudolph Wagner, Harrington); Nancy Billisborough (Mrs Edwin Long of Moses Lake). Frank Tate is signal maintenance man and Orville Swartz is his assistant. Tate, son of a railroading father, has 34 years of railroading to his credit, twenty-three of which have been put in at Harrington. Harry Watanabe, Japanese, in service with the GN since 1919, is section foreman; Pete Rocco and Dominico Aiello, Italians, with long service records with the company and H McPeak, complete the crew. Better condition of track and road beds eliminates the necessity of large section crews; also, specialized crews come in on work trains to do special jobs. Mr McCormick has furnished The Citizen some interesting data, most of which we all have known in the past, but details of which we soon forgot." (Citizen: 1953)

Hanable McPeak was born in 1898 in Floyd Co, VA and was in the service in WW I. Hanable came to Harrington in 1921 the year after his marriage to Lydia Wegele. Hanable was the father of current Harrington resident Bud McPeak. Bud enjoys telling his recollections of Harrington when he was a young lad. "Hanable was employed by the Great Northern for 28 years, residing at Mohler 17 1/2 years. In 1926 Hanable worked for RR in Harrington until 1935 when he went to Bluestem. He was foreman part of the time. He would put in ties and check tracks. In Bluestem he worked under Harry Hodgey. In Harrington, Harry Watanabe was foreman. In Mohler Jim Masselli was foreman. It was hard physical labor, and Dad died at his 57th birthday on June 4, 1955. Those little motor cars were dangerous, 5 men would fit on one and then in all kinds of weather, off they would go to check the tracks, and fix whatever needed repair. These section crews replaced spikes, replaced bad ties, pull them and replace them. The steam engines were coal-fired, and the men would not hear them coming, as the motor on the motor car made a lot of noise itself. Very dangerous. They would then pick up the motor car and get it off the tracks so the train could go through, and then put it back on the track and continue working. Candy Kuper's husband, Don Walters took Hanabel's place when he left the RR. Frank Tate was a signal maintenance operator, he'd light the kerosene lights when a train was coming, that of course was before the double tracks. They had to put the train on the siding in order to let another train go through." Bud's knowledge of his dad's job was pretty thorough.

Arlie Bischoff worked for the railroad for 30 years, and saw work at Wilson Creek, Wenatchee, Kettle Falls, Rosalia, Essex and Libby, MT. He had a position in Harrington from 1961 to 1972 as a laborer, yes, pick and shovel, and Arlie said "Pick and Shovel was like slave labor, had to keep the section running, drive spikes and fix crossing planks." Hours were from 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. except when he was foreman, and he didn't like that very much, as "it was a 24 hour a day job, if anything went wrong, the foreman had to go, no matter what". In 1972 he was out on machines, he would use a motor car, speeder, to patrol the tracks from Bluestem to Lamona, and that was double track. He mentioned working with Len Long, John Lamb and Gary Studheit, and quickly added, that he could share his manuscript with me to include all the men he ever worked with on the rails. From 1972 through 1983 he used an electomatic tamper-liner, which is said to correct the alignment of the rails and make them level; 1983-1988 Arlie used a Mark 3 Tamper with switch lifter. Arlie could have been a teacher as he wanted to fully describe the various jobs he had. "A 'gandy' is a nick-name for a section hand. The gandy would work a six day week, ten hours long, with tasks such as hand digging in the ties, tamping them tight with a spade, sweeping the switch points clean during a blizzard, shoveling tons of ballast and tamping it under the tracks, and swing a spike maul."

"Frank Tate retires from Great Northern. Frank Tate retired Sept 1 from service with the Great Northern, that started in 1916 when he was in high school. He worked summers during the four year stretch of high school. He went on with the company steady in 1920, working at Glinden, near Fargo, North Dakota. Frank was born at Fargo. He worked at Minneapolis, Minnesota. In 1921 he came to Washington and to Harrington in 1923. He has been signal maintenance man. His mother, the late Mrs Jennie Tate, lived here with her son for several years. In 1931 Frank and Miss Lois Cobb were married. July 23, 1958 Frank sustained a fractured leg in an accident one mile west of Canby. he was on the motorcar and he succeeded in getting the car off the track out of the path of the on-coming train, but a hubcap of the engine caught in his overall leg--and he came out of the accident with a severe fracture. He was in Sacred Heart hospital 17 weeks. His injury was severe--and less courageous men would have ended their physical work at that point. He proclaimed 'I'll return to work. His friends and relatives shook their heads at the thought. For many week he battled, but never gave up. Eventually he was able to hobble with crutches, a painful, hard ordeal--but he was determined. Later a cane was his helper. After 21 months, Frank did return to work. The Tates own their home and take pride in their yard and home. An avid reader, Frank will probably catch up on his reading. He also enjoys walking. Mr and Mrs Tate are leaving this weekend for salmon fishing on the coast. They plan to do some traveling, and enjoy recreation for which heretofore they have had too little time." (Citizen: 9-16-1965)

Sunday, June 29, an interview was conducted with Ed Lust, 92, living in Spokane Valley. He came to work at the Great Northern Harrington Depot on Aug 1, 1955 and worked there until he retired in 1980. The depot was still there. He and Al Kleckner retired at the same time. Ed had the Relief Job there, his week started at midnight Thursday night to 8 a.m. Friday; Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Monday and Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 12 midnight. His duties included copying train orders, taking care of the few telegrams, and getting information on the phone. Ed worked at Kettle Falls in 1952 for a couple of years. His wife had relatives in Davenport and it was Ed's aim to get on at Harrington. Ed was a hard worker, and said that with five children one had to work a little extra to take care of the family needs. He farmed some for Ray Reker and also hayed for Jimmy Graham. Ed expressed pride in his position with the Great Northern, "It was a good railroad when it was Great Northern. When it became Burlington Northern, you became just a number". Ed will turn 93 in August, but is not planning a big party. He shared some of his memories of WW II when he was in Radio Intelligence in Europe. He went through Germany, spent some time in Austria but on D-Day, he was sitting on the coast in England. Mina and Clain were in Davenport waiting for his return. Typical of most elderly golfers, Ed has a few complaints about his shoulders aching. His last trip to Harrington was for the 50th year anniversary of the Harrington Golf and Country Club, as he was one of the original members.

An interview with Betty Mycon, former employee of the GNRR, revealed that the Great Northern ran advertisements for a 4-week training session to enable women to join their work force during the war. Betty graduated from John Rogers high school in Spokane in 1944, attended the training and was carried by a Great Northern to Harrington in June. She was a Great Northern telegrapher, and could use the telegraph machine, but said quite honestly that they had a private telephone line to the railroad that negated the need for much use of telegraphing orders. She would receive the orders for the train by phone, and then put the orders in the "hoop" where the conductor would then grab the orders as the train went through the area. Betty worked 4-12 and said that Myrtle Bramer worked the midnight shift. At that time McCormick was manager or the depot agent. And this telephone that she used was not at all like the cell phones of today. Oh, no, and not like the phones that preceded the cell phones. Betty used one of those large wooden, battery-loaded crank phones. "I wonder what happened to that old phone when the depot was removed?" Betty enjoyed visiting about the days of yore, when she would help pull the pallets from the train. "In those days, beef ready for the market was brought in, sometimes a half of a cow. And Jim Davidson would go to the railroad and get his grocery orders." As Betty recalls, she earned $400 a month, and that was good money for the day. When she worked for the railroad she lived with Mrs Belle Talkington, and paid for her board and room. Betty was pretty animated as she spoke of meeting "Prince Charming" who she married the following May, 1945, and became the woman known in Harrington as Betty Wagner. Myrtle Bramer was born in 1925 and worked in Harrington for the GN, like Betty, when she first moved to Harrington in 1943. Myrt died in 1971.

"Dispatcher's Career Spans Three Decades. Edwin Haugan, who has worked for the Great Northern in Harrington since 1952, (with 2 years off for Army service), dispatches his final messages Wednesday from the local station. Haugan originally was a telegrapher for the GN and has seen many changes over the years including a merger creating the Burlington Northern. When asked what the most exciting thing was that had happened while he was on duty, he related the following story, 'Some girls from Davenport had borrowed a car and come over to watch their boyfriends play ball against Harrington. Not realizing that the street behind the depot was not a through street, their car wound up straddling the main track.' After getting the girls to safety, Haugan headed down the track with a warning flare to stop a freight due any minute. It was too late, the train was coming around the bend and in a matter of seconds the car was airborne. No one was injured, but you can imagine the story those girls had to tell about why they were late getting home." (Photo Caption: 2-23-1984)
The children react as they watch a scientist make "Toothpaste for Elephants", the concoction foamed and rose out to fill the beaker, and continued to foam down the sides.

A discussion of the GNRR would not be complete without some mention of Dr L F Wagner. "Dr Wagner Has Been GN Surgeon 46 Years. Dr L Wagner, Great Northern surgeon and examining physician for employees, has held that position since 1907. In the first years of his appointment, accidents on the railroad were common and he was frequently called out for professional service. To facilitate his transportation problem, the doctor purchased a speeder that tracked on the rails. It was driven by a gas engine--but often the doctor had to do a foot race behind the volocipede to get the motor started. Often the engine lacked power to negotiate a grade, which required another turn of pushing the thing. The doctor's experience with this not-always-convenient convenience during the five or six years he had it, were as varied and colorful as Jack Benny and his Maxwell. Dr Wagner relates one experience, when he was called to Mohler: 'As my speeder sneezed down the tracks, I was aware No. 27 (fast mail) was soon due, so I stopped at a crossing this side of Mohler, set the machine off onto the road, and waited in it for the fast mail to pass. As 27 sped along, the trainmen saw my machine along the tracks so when they pulled through Harrington, they rushed into the station and reported the train had 'hit the doctor's speeder, knocked it off the tracks and someone should go out right away and see about the situation.' After the train passed, I set my put-put back on the tracks and continued west. While I was on the tracks I wasn't within four miles of that mail train.' In due time railroad safety measures were much improved and the doctor was called out less frequently. He was a bit weary of boosting the speeder off and on the tracks and pushing it up grades so he sold it to a man up north where the railway schedule included about three trains a week. Ironically, the speeder was hit and wrecked by a train." (Citizen: 3-13-1953)

Now more than 30 years following Ed Haugan’s cessation of employment from the railroad. In a recent interview he shared many of his recollections of the years he worked for the Great Northern Railroad, which became the Burlington Northern and is now the Burlington Northern Sante Fe. For about 10 months Ed attended the telegraph school located at the corner of Main and Post in downtown Spokane, learning Morse code, railroad accounting, train order procedures, etc.
He spent about four weeks “breaking in” at the SP&S, Great Northern interlocking plant at Fort Wright. His first assignment was as a relief telegrapher at Wilson Creek. After that he was shipped around to various stations on the main line as needed from Spokane to Wenatchee. At that time, the main line included Ephrata, Quincy, Columbia River, Fairchild, Edwall, Odessa, Harrington and Fort Wright. He also had short stints on a couple of branch lines which took him to Valley, Oakesdale and Pateros.

Drafted into the U.S. Army in 1953, Haugan did his basic training at San Luis Obispo, Calif. and was sent to Livorno, Italy, where he was “Trick Chief of COM Center” or supervisor of their communications center. Returning in 1955, he bid in for the relief job at Odessa, where he worked the day shift Saturdays and Sundays for the Station Agent Ray Garrett, relieving the second trick operator Mondays and Tuesdays from 4 p.m. to midnight and working the midnight-to-8 a.m. shift Thursdays in Harrington. In 1961, he bid in for the agency job at Harrington.

The Harrington depot was manned 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Located on the double track between Bluestem and Lamona, it was one of the busiest train order positions in the Spokane Division. In the 1950s and up to the early 60s, the agency at Harrington was a bustling operation. In addition to handling train orders, the agency was also responsible for the station accounting, selling passenger tickets, transmitting Western Union telegrams, handling Railway Express and local wayfreight (keeping the payroll). Other duties included ordering grain cars, typing up the waybills, making up switch lists for the train crews picking up the cars, making yard checks and writing many miscellaneous reports that had to be sent to Spokane or Seattle daily.

Up until the very early 1960s, the Great Northern ran four passenger trains a day in each direction. Now Amtrak is all that is left of the passenger business. Most of the passenger tickets sold at Harrington and Odessa were for train #5 westbound to Ephrata, Wenatchee and Seattle and train #6 eastbound to Spokane. These trains were kind of like local street cars, stopping at every station on the line either dropping off or picking up passengers and Railway Express shipments.

As the years progressed, the station duties were gradually consolidated or done away with. The first to go was the Depot Agent’s responsibility for the station’s accounting, followed by elimination of Railway Express, passenger tickets, local LCL freight shipments and Western Union Telegram service. When Centralized Traffic Control was installed, it eliminated the need for train order operators. The Harrington depot was one of the last of the train order stations to close (in 1984). There were a few in the community who would have liked to save the telegraph office section for historical purposes, but they didn’t get much support, and the depot was torn down. The structure itself was about 60 feet long by 25 feet wide. A waiting room and rest room were on the south end, the office in the middle and a freight house on the north end. Haugan says the depot had no insulation whatsoever and in the winter time you had to practically sit on top of the oil stove to keep warm. During most of the time he was Depot Agent, the station crew consisted of relief operator Ed Lust, second trick Don Fox and third trick Al “Bud” Kleckner. Frank Tate was the signal maintainer, and Sid Olsen from Edwall was the section foreman.

Haugan’s sentiments regarding the merger of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific to form the Burlington Northern were quite similar to those of Arlie Bischoff, feeling that the friendly atmosphere was lost, the jobs became more impersonal and the employees were treated more like a number rather than as part of a team. After the agency job at Harrington was abolished in 1984, Haugan accepted a buyout rather than commuting or moving to another city. He worked for the McCartney Insurance Agency and did the books for Fire District 6 for awhile, then took a bus driver’s job with the Harrington School district for 11 years after which he retired officially.
During those in-between years, he enjoyed traveling to such destinations as Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Turkey, Israel, Italy and most of the continental European countries more than once and China three times. He is an avid photographer and has shown his travelogues over the years to many organizations and schools. Up until this year he hosted groups from Spokane on garden tours in the Harrington area and, since he was an active member of the Harrington Opera House Society, the groups also got a tour of the Opera House as a bonus.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Such a great story and memory of the "Big Bend Railroad History" Thanks Ed for sharing your life on the railroad and of Harrington, WA.