Grand Coulee Dam is the largest concrete structure ever built in North America with about 12 million cubic yards of concrete and is nearly a mile long in length (U. S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, 2010, Grand Coulee Powerplant). At the time of its construction it was the largest dam in the world (U. S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, 1981, p. 375). It was a shining example of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal providing jobs and massive economic stimulus to Washington State in the height of the Great Depression. Additionally the electric power generated by Grand Coulee Dam helped to start the aluminum industry in the Northwest and facilitated World War II production of needed warships, planes, and tanks. Construction of the dam and hydroelectric facilities was from 1933-1950.
From 1967-1980 a third powerplant was added to Grand Coulee Dam on the right abutment. The power production from 24 generators at Grand Coulee is the largest in the world and the powerplants generate 21,890,698,375 KWH (U. S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, 1981, p. 375 & U. S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, 2010, Grand Coulee Powerplant). Behind Grand Coulee Dam is Franklin D. Roosevelt Lake (Lake Roosevelt) that extends 151 miles upriver into Canada (U. S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, 1981, p. 377).
Grand Coulee Dam and Powerplants are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) under Criteria A & C. Water is pumped up from Lake Roosevelt behind Grand Coulee Dam and is impounded in Banks Lake behind Dry Falls Dam that then makes its way down through the system in a series of six main canals and three reservoirs to reach all of the irrigatable acreage in the Columbia Basin. This system alone consists of over 300 miles of main canals, approximately 2,000 miles of laterals, and 3,500 miles of drains and wasteways.
The CBP is the largest Reclamation project in Washington. At 670,000 acres under irrigation today, the CBP is still unfinished as it is planned to irrigate over 1,095,000 acres in the project area (U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, 2004, p. 44 & Warne, 1973, p. 127). The project area is in Adams, Douglas, Franklin, Lincoln and Grant Counties. It turned dry-farmed lands and sagebrush into one of the most productive agricultural areas in Washington.
This project was also to spur settlement of new farms for veterans returning from World War II. After World War II the boom experienced in the development of the CBP was highest from 1952-1959 with about 50,000 acres of land a year coming into irrigation, which was the largest growth to date in the planned 1 million acres (Warne, 1973, p. 138).
The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation) construction railroad started at Odair on the Northern Pacific Railroad and ran 30.7 miles up the Grand Coulee to Grand Coulee Dam. This standard gauge railroad was built under contract to supply materials needed in the construction of Grand Coulee Dam. When it was in operation from 1935 to 1950 it transported over 12 million barrels of cement, 46,500 carloads of materials for construction of the dam, 77 million pounds of reinforcing steel along with 10 million pounds of steel just for the 18 penstocks.
A yard was built at Odair to facilitate the assembly of the twice daily trains as “all carloads of freight going into the Grand Coulee Dam were interchanged from the Northern Pacific to the Government Railroad” at Odair (Bureau asks Bids on R.R. Removal August 10, 1950 as cited in Bolyard, 2010). By May 1951 the equalizing reservoir for the Columbia Basin Project was to be filled.
Prior to that the Reclamation construction railroad from Odair to Grand Coulee Dam was removed and the Odair Transshipment Building (OTB) was built from 1950-1951. Large equipment for Grand Coulee would still come by railroad to Odair, but it would then be transferred in this heavy crane facility to trucks for shipment to Grand Coulee. The OTB was now the principle point for unloading material and equipment in the construction of the Grand Coulee Pumping Plant and the Third Powerplant for Grand Coulee Dam. The OTB was an intrical part of the plan for this new transportation route to facilitate large freight movements to Grand Coulee entirely via truck (Hall, 1951, p. 92). Giant generators, turbines, pumps, shafts and nearly 5,000 carloads of cement were transferred at Odair including the largest shaft ever built for the third powerplant in 1973 (The New Depot at Coulee City, May 12, 1966 & Dam Large Load at Odair, August 9, 1973 as cited in Bolyard, 2010). The OTB is eligible for the NRHP under Criterion A for its association with the building of Grand Coulee Dam and it retains all seven aspects of integrity.
The Odair Transshipment Building was built from specification No. R1-CB-64. Don Akins, Inc of Ellensburg, Washington was the winning bidder at $48,166.00. Construction started on July 18, 1950 and it was completed by January 8, 1951. This butler steel sided building with a steel frame is 77 feet wide by 80 feet long and 53 feet high. It was built to accommodate the 75-ton Shaw Box bridge-type crane and two railroad tracks. This crane had been temporarily used in the construction of the right powerhouse during construction of Grand Coulee Dam in the 1940s (Hall, 1951, pp. 92 & 93).
Three pairs of 18 pane steel windows are located on the west and east elevation with 3 power operated steel doors and a pedestrian door on the south side and 2 power operated steel doors on the north side. The roof is a very low pitch gable roof that is asphalt over a steel substructure. Except for the asphalt roof this is an all steel building throughout. When built the building was painted two colors of gray: D.O.-10 gray from the windows to the roof and D.O.-2 gray to the bottom of the windows (Hall, 1951, p. 94).
The Odair Transshipment Building has an asphalt floor with asphalt parking and a roadway from it leading to Road 37 NE. There are two railroad spur tracks to the building one runs through it and the other stops inside of it for unloading of materials. Adjacent to the OTB is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (ex Northern Pacific) Coulee City branch line. The Odair Transshipment Building remains much the same as when it was built. In 1971 door No. 5 was enlarged to handle taller railcars and loads. A portion of the butler siding on the north side above door No. 4 & 5 has been replaced with new standing seam metal siding in the past 20 years. Additionally the windows were boarded up at that time. In 1971 the original exterior color scheme was still extant, but by 2008 it had been painted white.
Bolyard, Dan (2010) “Big Bend Railroad History”, retrieved October 28, 2010 from http://sdp45.blogspot.com. Bureau asks Bids on R.R. Removal. (August 10, 1950) “The Star”, Grand Coulee, Washington. Dam Large Load at Odair. (August 9, 1973) “News & Standard”, Coulee City, Washington. Hall, Bert A. (1951) “History of the Activities of the Civil and Structural Subdivision – Calendar Year 1950”. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation, Columbia River District, Columbia Basin Project, Coulee Dam Division: Coulee Dam, Washington. The New Depot at Coulee City. (May 12, 1966) “Grant County Journal”, Ephrata, Washington. U. S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation. (1981) “Project Data”. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation: Denver, Colorado. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation. (2004) “Oral History of William Gray”, Bureau of Reclamation Oral History Program, By Brit Storey, April 5-6, 2004. U. S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation. (2010) “Grand Coulee Powerplant” retrieved on November 5, 2010 from http://www.usbr.gov/dataweb. Warne, W. E. (1973) “The Bureau of Reclamation”. Prager: New York.