Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Progress Being Made On Dam

Article I wrote for Them Dam Writers.

One yardstick to apply to the progress being made on Grand Coulee Dam was taken during a snapshot in May 1936. It was based on the tonnage handled by the railroad built for the purpose to move materials and equipment from Odair, near Coulee City, up the upper Grand Coulee, and then down the hill to the dam site. The story in the facts and figures was discussed in the MWAK “Columbian,” the house organ of the general contractors. It read as follows:


An oil burning Shay that backs down a 5 percent grade had a great part in moving the 162,000,000 net pounds that came in by rail by April 1. That meant a gross tonnage of 290,000,000 pounds for 2087 cars used.


A locomotive made daily trips from the mainline at Odair, 31 miles away, to Electric City. The low-geared Shay continued the additional five miles to the government warehouse by swinging wide about curves and along the cutbacks of high abutments.


From the cement silos to the warehouse yards is two miles, about 4000 feet as the crow flies. Up and down this grade, the Shay creeps along at the rate of from eight to ten mles per hour. This gear-driven engine is used in place of a road locomotive becasue the steep grade requires it.


Since the first use of the Shay on July 23, 1935, the month of March has taken over a lion’s share in monthly railroad work as 23,641 net tons, or 48, 316 gross tons, came into Electric City on 530 cars and 561 empties were returned. Tonnage for March was four times the 550-ton average for each month of the railroad operations in 1936. January and February were next highest in order with 16, 077 and 14,380 tons.


The explanation lay in the increaced cement shipments of 25 cars daily, with 72,000 pounds per car net; the 3,000,000 feet of timering arrived during the last two months and the 187 carloads of steel for the concrete-carrying trestles.


The 2087 carloads brought in meant 962 cars of bulk cement for the cement silos, and the 1125 of miscellaneous, such as timber, steel and explosives. Cement itself, both bulk and sack, reached 70,000,000lbs since the beginning of work.


The 120,000 net tons that had passed over the railroads represented 55 percent of all tonnage checked by the company warehouse, even though in the 21 months of receiving material, the railroad had only been in operation 8 of them.


Transportation equipment consisted of two engines, the road locomotive and the Shay. The road locomotive was built for the Southern Pacific Railway in March 1903. It was purchased by MWAk on July 29, 1935. The road locomotive had been in operation for two and a half months at the time of the article. It was making a daily trip to Odair, leaving at 5am and returning at 10am. The engine weighed 135 tons and was capable of carrying 3500 tons per train, or about 50 carloads of cement, the amount required at the peak of operations. It was derelict and out of service in 1937, likely due to age, and was scrapped at the dam.


The 80-ton Shay, was built for the Charles R. McCormick Lumber Co. as their #200, on May 27, 1926. This logging line had operations located around Quilcene, WA. It was purchased by MWAK on January 28, 1936. It operated from Electric City to the government warehouse, transfered materials about the yard at Electric City, unloaded, reloaded and carried them for the dam site whenever needed. It’s capacity was 5 cars downgrade and 5 empties up. It was always placed on the downgrade side of the cars it was moving, so it backed down the hill to lead it’s loads, in order to keep the high point of water around the firebox, making a boiler explosion less likely. This engine was scrapped at the dam in 1949.


The line did not sport a turntable to turn the locomotives. It did have a number of switchbacks in order to get down to the level of the warehouse near the river. From there material was trucked to wherever needed.


Train service and maintenance took place during the second shift only, using 30 men. Track was kept up by two section crews, each with six men and a foreman.


The storage yard at Electric City was used because of the lack of a suitable space at the dam site proper. The yard had more than adequate space, being 4,000 feet long and 200 feet wide. Loads were spotted about the yard over three lines of track.


Two cranes took care of loading and unloading heavy materials, one a locomotive crane with a 50-foot boom; the other a 75-ton gantry crane. Also in the yards was a repair shop and a steel bending machine, where reeinforcing steel, as for concrete, was cut and shaped. In the yard were stored much structural steel, pipe, machinery, timber, bridge steel, piling and other bulky materials.


Transportation equipment, with the exception of the cars that actually carring the materials, belonged to the company and was at it’s disposal. With the railroad owned by the government, the lines would be taken over by the government on the completion of the dam.

The shay is pulling empty cement boxcars through the cut at the northeast end of Grand Coulee. This area later became the back entrance to the USBR Grand Coulee Project Office and Industrial Area. Photo courtesy of the Coulee Pioneer Museum.

The former Southern Pacific engine, repainted to honor Governor Martin for the first official train to the dam, is now out of service and being prepped for scrap, after having been worn out after many years of heavy use. Photo courtesy of the EWU Hu Blonk archive.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

More on the Branch To Peach

Guest post by Ted Curphey.

Starting in 1911, Great Northern Railway let a contract for grading of a new branchline running north from Bluestem through Davenport and down Hawk Creek Canyon to the Columbia River at Peach then turning north toward the mouth of the Spokane River at Fort Spokane. Just below Hawk Creek Falls a short distance from Peach a tunnel was to be bored through a sharp bend in Hawk Creek Canyon. By early 1912 the tunnel was well along when this tragedy took the life Peter Olsen, originally of Sweden.
The incident convinced the project engineers that the soil above the tunnel was too unstable and the would be tunnel was turned into a deep cut that still exists. But it would be all for naught. Starting around 1907, the US Department of the Interior started earmarking various valleys for future dam and reservoir projects. Wanting to head off costly relocations of facilities such as railroads, they informed the railroad seeking to build in those valleys of their intention to flood those same valleys. I'm still trying to determine when the Great Northern was informed of the department's intention to flood the Columbia River Valley, but it was about the time the grading was finishing up on the new branch line. GN decided to not lay track on the grade. Of course the construction of the dam wouldn't take place until the Public Works Administration of the Great Depression. But this project actually went through unlike so many of those planned projects of the USDI. Other planned projects that never came about were at the mouth of the Deschutes River in Oregon and one just east of Connell to be filled by a diverted Palouse River with the reservoir extending all the way to Kahlotus.

From the "Spokesman Review."

January 29, 1912.

Map showing the tunnel location in relation to Hawk Creek Falls.

If it had completed as proposed, the branch would have crossed Hawk Creek on a tall bridge above the boat. The tunnel would have been just to the right of the bridge in this view.

The retaining wall holding up the roadbed for the GN branch above Hawk Creek Falls can be seen in this view.

Really, if it wasn't for all the trouble they had at that one spot, GN probably would have laid track on the branch.

Jayne Singleton added:

Here is an historic image of Peach WA where you can see the mouth of Hawk Creek in the distance and possibly where the RR tunnel would have come out. The water level is now where the two "sandy face" areas are. I was there this past week right below them. I Always think about Peach and the orchards that existed. We also have an image of the farm that was located where Hawk Creek campground is now, before the creation of Lake Roosevelt.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Cement Unloading At Cement

Courtesy of the Coulee Pioneer Museum

April 3, 1972

This was the time of the building of the third powerhouse at Grand Coulee Dam. Bulk cement was brought int by railroad car, and then unloaded into trucks for the final 30 mile move to the construction site at the dam.

This unloading site was built for this purpose, as there had not been a siding of any sort here prior.
In this view, you can see the waters of Banks Lake and the town of Coulee City on the upper left.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Scotty Watson Is New Grain Co Manager

Courtesy of Darrin Nelson.

From the Waterville "Empire-Press."

June 13, 1974

I grabbed this as it has some corporate history of CWGG.

Monday, September 21, 2020

1947 Bacon Tunnel View

May 11, 1947

Construction crews from the Conolley Construction Company are working on some of the last details before the tunnel gets lined with concrete.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

1937 Govan Area View

Courtesy of the NP Telltale.

The bridge is along what we now know as US 2, looking northwest. At the time, the highway was known as State Highway No. 2, the Sunset Highway.

Friday, September 18, 2020

1965 Hartline

May 11, 1965

It's a small town, though there are a few more houses today. It's clear the biggest industry in town is the grain elevators. At one time, elevators for Farmer's Union, General Mills, Almira Grain Growers, and Centennial Mills all competed for the local grain. After a series of purchases and mergers, all the elevators are now run by Highline Grain. There are a few more steel tanks in the row, and 3 of the flathouses are gone.

Of special note is the grain mill on the bottom right, that of the Farmer's Union. It was constructed in 1906 for the Hartline Mill & Elevator Company. Central Washington Grain Growers was formed when when Almira Grain Growers purchased the General Mills elevator and added the Farmer’s Union Grain in 1962. In 1975, the old mill was removed and replaced with modern receiving and shipping equipment. It was further upgraded in 1985 with high speed railroad car loading equipment, though it can only hold 6 cars ag a time.

Elsewhere in town, the large building on the upper left of town is the old school. The historic Hartline School building, completed in 1922, is one of the oldest and best preserved “rural brick schoohouses” in eastern Washington. No longer used by the school district, it has it's own preservation group.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

1965 Wilson Creek

May 11, 1965

The town of Wilson Creek is nothing more than a wayside station, since the Great Northern removed the intermediate terminal in 1924, moving it to Wenatchee. Long gone is the roundhouse, which stood across the track to the right of the concrete grain elevator.  Where the grain elevators stand used to be the site of a large coaling chute, seen here. Imagine the drama the night it burnt down in the 1910s. More drama was had in early 2016 when the 2 adjacent grain elevators burned down, as seen here.

The depot can be seen, to the left of the cut of cars on one of the remaining yard tracks. While it was long gone at the time, this was the point of a nasty derailment BNSF had in 2010, seen here.

Along the bottom left, the curving channel of a redirected Wilson Creek can be seen. The city put up with a meandering creek through the middle of town for years, complete with seasonal flooding, before the channel and a dike was put into place. Here is a flooding view from 1957. It drains into Crab Creek, which is flowing just beneath the bluff across from the grain elevators. This creek passes underneath the tracks as it flows westerly, and towards the upper right center of the image you can see the channel to the right of the tracks.

It seems there is a car or two on the siding just beyond the point where the creek can be seen along the tracks. This is the spot of the old wye track, seen here, going off to the left of the main. The property had just been sold in this view and soon a couple of steel grain tanks will be built on the site, with no sign of the wye remaining today.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

1965 Ruff

May 11, 1965

There probably isn't many more houses there today. The grain elevators are still in operation, but the tracks and depot are long gone now.

Friday, September 11, 2020

BN 1771 At Wenatchee

Courtesy of Bill Edgar.

Bill says:

"It's October 1975 and the Cascadian Cold Storage is loading up with this season's fruit, much of which still ships by rail at this point. BN 1771 is the rear unit of a trio of helpers ready to give a shove to a westbound freight ready to head west over Stevens Pass to Seattle. The helpers will operate to Skykomish, WA. The caboose line up is indictative of the busy local business the BN inherited from GN with local service west to Leavenworth, north to the Canadian border and east to Quincy, WA and beyond."

Thursday, September 10, 2020

1950s Coulee City View

Date can't be later than 1957, when the Presbyterian Church caught on fire. The lake was filled in 1951, so no earlier than that.

There are a LOT of changes in the 70 or so years since this photo was taken. Of note is the railroad tracks are laid out a bit differently through the area where the roundhouse is. The stockyard to the left of that is clearly in use.

About 2/3rds of the grain elevator complex is still standing, though it has been enlarged significantly, with more steel and concrete grain tanks in place now.

The grocery store, to the left of the grain elevators, has been extended to the alley, so is a lot larger today. It's also the only store in town now, where in the photo there were 2 others as well.

Find the depot, then note where Main Street is, the wide street heading towards the bottom right of the photo from there. The nearest building on the north side of the street, Einar's, is now an empty lot. The next group of buildings on that side of the street are still standing, though many businesses have come and gone over the years. The one with the whitish face is now an art gallery, and on either side, the two taverns are now closed. The lighter colored building across the street is now the city hall. At the time of the photo, I believe it was a bank.

Continuing down Main from where we were, a large tree obscures the back of the Thompson Hotel. The long building next to it now houses the library and insurance office. Back then one of the grocery stores was there. Across the street, the building with the black roof is gone, replaced by a larger building holding a tractor dealership. The buildings behind it in the same block are largely gone, with the lot filled with tractors and combines.

Back to main, the rectangular white building across from the one with the black roof now houses the post office and an art studio run by Don Nutt. The next building, with the rounded sides, was later used by Coulee Co-op/Cenex/Aglink, and was torn down within the last 10 years. Next door is the old Lee Theater. This building was torn down decades ago, and is now where the current Aglink building is.

Moving to the upper right of the town photo, the little white building near the intersection of the highway with 2nd street, is an old gas station, but is still a gas station, now run by Aglink. The Banks Lake Brew & Bistro is in the place now. Directly south of there is the old Washington Water Power substation, a site now occupied by a few homes.

In the lower right of the town photo is the rodeo grounds. The claim is that the first rodeo there was in 1952, so could this be a relatively new site?

Note all the springs in the lower part of the photo. The municipal supply is from a well site that was established along the row of bushes below the rodeo grounds. A large tank sits at the end of the trees there today. All the springs have been a boon for wild growing Russian Olive trees, and the better part of the bare area in the bottom of the photo is now full of them.

In the bottom right of the bigger photo, you can see where the railroad tracks cross what is now road J NE. It looks like the site of a spur track coming off the main track, out of the photo on the right, once was here. I don't think it was part of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern alignment, instead being a spur off the Central Washington. More of the Lake Shore can be found above the canal on the left of the photo, from about where the outlet gates are, running towards the upper left, where it intersects with the CW.

The lake is very full in the photo. The larger island seen, Crab Island, is far more inundated than we are used to seeing in the last few decades. The small island across the highway from town is a bit bigger now as well.

There are MANY more items that have changed. What can you find?