Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Never Built Northern Pacific Grand Coulee Branch

Article I wrote for Them Dam Writers.

On November 3, 1933, the Northern Pacific filed an application with the Interstate Commerce Commission for the legal authority to build the 28 1/2 miles of railroad to the Grand Coulee Dam site.

Charles Donnelly, president of the Northern Pacific, made this announcement in a telegram sent to the Slokane “Chronicle” in which he said:
“It is expected the Great Northern will share in the cost of construction and use of the new line, and negotiations in that direction now are under way.”

The new line would be built from Odair, a station near Coulee City on the Washington Central branch of the NP, up the floor of the Grand Coulee to the dam site. The GN will connect with the line via the Washington Central from Adrian to Odair.

The new line is estimated to cost $750,000.

While Mr. Donnelly’s telegram did not state when work would be started building the new line, it is believed men will be put on the job sometime in December to rush completion of the extension by the following spring.

About 300 to 350 men will be given work building the line, local railroad officials have estimated.

Ultimately the NP did not build the line, as it was holding out for a deal with the government for exclusive rights to haul every last item into the dam via rail. The government balked at this deal and put out construction of the line to bid, won by David H. Ryan. The NP was to still furnish rails and fasteners to complete the line, which would be returned when the line was removed at the end of construction.

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