From the Chehalis "Bee Nugget."
September 4, 1924
This site features daily historical railroad posts from the Big Bend/Columbia Plateau region of Washington state.
Photos by Eric Swinger.
"I visited the Taunton Substation this past weekend and discovered two interesting things. First, I met the owner, who is understandable irate about people trespassing and destroying his property. However, he was ultimately kind and allowed us to continue on to photograph it. He's gruff, but I think a pretty nice guy.
"Second, we noticed that they were replacing railroad ties under almost all of the joints. They were also regaging the track over a few wash outs. We saw equipment at the crossing near Taunton and also at the crossing along Crap Creek Road (where it turns north to Royal City)."
Guest post by Leland Weiss.
See his work and photos over at Lost Rail.
Here are a few shots of the last PCC operation. This was their first train out on the line after the pseudo-embargo in summer 2006 (if I recall correctly). The first image I'm pretty sure is Hite, the other two are west of there but I'm not completely clear on where.
Blackie was my neighbor after he moved to Ephrata after retirement.
BIRTH-10 Oct 1931
Everett, Snohomish County, Washington
DEATH-11 Nov 2013 (aged 82)
Ephrata, Grant County, Washington
Eulogy by VWB Pete Peterson, District Deputy of the Grand Master, District 28
FRED T. “BLACKIE” MOSER
We are here to Honor and remember our friend
Blackie Moser…Husband, Brother, Father, Grandfather, mentor & teacher.
Blackie was born October 10th 1931 in Everett
Washington. He passed on November 11th 2013 here in Ephrata.
He was preceded in death by his wife Barbara of
29 years, a son Michiel and a granddaughter
Mariah. He was survived by the second love of his
life, Norma Burleson, and by children Dennis
Meyers (Karen), Timothy Meyers (Theresa), Misty
Noel (Michael) and Deana Moser (Dale). He was
blessed with 8 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
He was a Mason with 57 years, 11 months and 3
days in the craft. He belonged to Skykomish Lodge
#259, Ephrata Lodge #167 and Thomas M. Reed Lodge
#225 after they consolidated with Occidental Lodge #72.
At the time of his passing to that Celestial
Lodge, that house not made with hands, he was a
Past Master of two Lodges having previously
served in several positions within those Lodges,
Past District Deputy of the Grand Master in
District #28 and Senior Grand Deacon of the Most
Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted
Masons of Washington. He was also a member of the
Photography Committee for Grand Lodge. He was a Man who lived Masonry.
He was also heavily involved in the Order of
Eastern Star for over 52 years. He had belonged
to Occidental Chapter #28, Pyramid Chapter #257
of which he was twice a Past Patron, and Oasis
Chapter #191 of which he was Associate Patron at the time of his passing.
He was a member of the Central Washington Amateur
Radio Club, having been a Ham Radio Operator for
more than 50 years. He served as President of the
club in 2012-13. He was usually found on Tuesdays
and Thursdays at Time Out Pizza here in
Ephrata sharing the company of the Romeo’s
(retired old men eating out) and talking about
Ham Radio and other topics. Don’t get me wrong,
there are women at these informal
get-togethers…usually female Hams, but not always.
He was also active in the Sassy Sams, an RV group
that also included many of the Hams in their
number. He was the cook on Sunday
mornings…serving blueberry pancakes, eggs and
bacon. I will definitely miss those breakfasts.
He was also a member of the Basin Carriage Club
where he served as President and Board Member.
His antique cars, a Hudson and a Ford Model T were his pride and joys.
He could usually be found of a Thursday evening
at the Hot Rod Garage enjoying the company of
Mick Qualls and company taking part in the lively
discussions regarding issues relating to Grant
County and its future. He even had his own chair
in the room…a fact I only discovered recently at a Toast in his Honor.
These are some of the statistics of his life, but
they only begin to tell the story of this incredible man.
The following song may well express Blackie’s
outlook on life. The words are taken from the Old
Testament Book Ecclesiastics and put to music by
Pete Seeger. This version was sung by the Byrds.
I’m sure you will recognize it. (Turn, Turn, Turn)
I met Blackie at an Eastern Star meeting sometime
in 2006. He and Norma had sold his house in Lake
Havasu and moved to Ephrata to be near Norma’s
family. I remember being immensely impressed by
the man and by the love the two of them shared.
Over time, we became much better acquainted and
even started to share our souls to each other. I
for one am not generally inclined to do this.
But, such was the character of this man that I
found myself opening up and sharing my life
willingly with him and he with me.
He was elected to become Worshipful Master of
Ephrata Lodge #167 at which time the Brothers of
Skykomish Lodge #259 came over to install him.
That was my first acquaintance with Skykomish
Lodge and I was so impressed with those Brothers
that I knew I needed to join with them. I have
been a Mason for 43 years and this is the only
time I have felt compelled to belong to another
Lodge besides Ephrata. I have never regretted it.
They took me in and made me a part of that
special group of Brothers. I have Blackie to thank for that!
The drives to and from Skykomish and later other
parts of the state, provided the time to really
share with this great and good man. I learned a
great deal about him and his life. In telling the
stories, he taught me a lot about himself and his
philosophy. There was much to think about.
First and foremost, Blackie was Cherokee! He was
quite young when he was sent to live with his
paternal Grandmother in Oklahoma. What a
wonderful woman she must have been. His father
and mother were having difficulties and his
grandmother took him in and provided stability in
his life when he sorely needed it. I remember
Blackie telling me that she would send him to the
White church one week and to the Cherokee
teachings the next so that he would have the
necessary foundations to decide for himself which
way he wanted to follow. He opted for the
Cherokee Way, because to him, it was a kinder way to live.
His Grandmother passed when he was twelve. The
Whites wanted to place him in an Orphanage or
with a White family to try to turn him into their
conception of what he should be. This was common
in those days as the Whites were intent on
turning the Indians or Native Americans as is
politically correct now, into Whites. The
children were sent to Indian Schools, forbidden
to speak their native language and forced to
adopt the White ways. The Cherokee, Navaho and
other tribes were forced into this regime with great harm done to both sides.
Blackie rebelled and hopped a train to the
Northwest to try and find his father, Fred F.
Moser who worked for the Great Northern
Railway. I believe that he arrived in the
Auburn/Seattle area where he was discovered by
one of the employees of the Great Northern
Railroad. He was questioned by this man who then
discovered whom he was looking for. The man told
him to wait right there. Shortly thereafter the
man returned with his father who happened to be
at this train yard that day. There began
Blackie’s lifelong relationship with the
railroad. Some things are just fated! This was obviously one of them.
He and his father became much closer then. I
remember Blackie telling me of his time in
Everett. Because he was Indian, he suffered much
torment from the other kids. I took it that a few
fights ensued and his life was a living hell. But
still he persevered. Learning had become a beacon
for him…a way to express himself. Blackie was a
very intelligent man whose quest for knowledge
was a driving force in his life.
I know that he and his father lived in Skykomish
while his father worked for the Great Northern
there. It was one of the highlights of Blackie’s
life. Blackie also went to work for Great
Northern, eventually becoming the lead engineer in that district.
One time, Blackie and his father went elk
hunting. The terrain was very steep and they
hiked in quite far. Blackie spotted a bull and
was about to shoot it when his father said “Shoot
him if you want Buckie, but we’ll have to eat him here”.
Somewhere in this time, he won a scholarship
provided by the Great Northern to go to Princeton
to study Mechanical Engineering. He got his
degree and obtained his certification as a Professional Mechanical Engineer.
He worked for the Alaskan Railroad for a time
before going into the Army and the Korean
conflict. He drove trains for the Army at this
time. Blackie was probably at his best in the cab of a locomotive.
One night, he was driving one of those trains
when North Koreans infiltrated a fuel dump and
set it on fire. Vern Corkins happened to be on a
ship in the harbor when the barrels of fuel
exploded while Blackie was driving the train
though that area. It was definitely a memorable
time. It was only many years later that they
discovered their proximity to each other at that time.
Blackie returned to the states and joined the
Northern Pacific driving trains until their
merger with Burlington Railways in 1995. That
relationship became untenable and Blackie
retired. He then worked for the Mount Rainier
Railway until his final retirement.
Blackie grew up in the steam era, first with
coal-fired and then with oil fired steam engines
and only later with diesels. Steam, I think, was his first love.
Not only an Engineer, but a machinist as well, he
made several steam whistles for friends and if I
could find one of them, I would love to have one.
The music of those whistles invades you soul and lives there forever.
He would set up dipole antennas when staying in
motels overnight so that he could communicate
with the world while traveling with the railroad.
His tales are one of the reasons I am now an
Amateur Radio Operator. He was an inspiration to
others. I am one of those others.
He loved Astronomy and wanted to pass on that
love to others. Skykomish High School had an
Astronomy class but no telescope. Blackie gave
his old telescope to the school when he purchased
a new one. He was that kind of man.
Blackie was a very passionate man. The death of
Barbara nearly killed him. If it hadn’t been for
the support of his Eastern Star Sisters and
Brothers and his Masonic Brothers, he would have
likely, by his own admission, embalmed himself in
alcohol. But, eventually, he found solace in
Norma. Blackie and Norma’s husband Doyel had
worked together for many years…the two couple had
known each other and been friends for a very long
time. Doyel passed in February and Barbara in
June of 1993. It took a while, but they finally
came together and found a love to sustain
themselves through the rest of their lives.
Remember that Blackie was Cherokee. Women are
highly revered in their culture. Women own the
land. A man will build her a house and protect
her, but when she places his moccasins outside
the door of that house, they are divorced. Thank
you Norma for keeping his moccasins within your home.
There are two men who have been major forces in
my life…my own father and Blackie Moser. I honor
them both and regret their passing.
I think Blackie knew that his time on this earth
was short. One Thursday evening about nine months
before his passing, he shared the following poem
with the folks at the Hot Rod Garage. The poem is
from the Makah tribe, but could easily have been written by Blackie himself.
I give you this one thought to keep -
I am with you still - I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awake in the morning's hush
I am the swift, uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone -
I am with you still - in each new dawn.
This is Blackie Moser K7FTM over and out.
Newsletter courtesy of Bill Virgin.
Bill had reached out to me to use my photo of the 557, which I quickly granted in exchange for a copy of the newsletter.
I don't know when the newsletter was discontinued, but a casual search of the interwebs didn't turn up anything, other than Mr. Virgin passing in 2020.
Today is the 16th year "of occasionally posting my findings of ferroequinarcheology."
That first post in 2008 wasn't much more than the above sentence. Since then I've concluded this is my online filing cabinet, and you all get to rummage through as you see fit.
Thanks for everyone's contributions. There are too many names to properly list them all, but you all are important.
Story by Gary Dinsmore, as a response to this from Mac McCulloch:
"I have a 1968 Idaho Division train brief off Dan Bolyard's website about the Wheeler Turnaround 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 John Langlot and I are writing about the GN in the 1960's and his career. John worked the GN beet local for at least one stand in the 1960's."
I arrived in Wheeler WA on September 25, 1963. Here is a link to a news paper account of a big explosion there.
Edited link to what Gary initially sent, as his was a dead link now.
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.
Photo by Gary Durr.
Grain isn't the only thing that the EWG(Eastern Washington Gateway RR) hauls... on this beautiful spring day C-40 #9129 hauls an extremely long string of Bare table cars East Bound through Hanson Washington. The cars have been in Storage all along the EWG line for more than a couple of years, and they are finally getting called back to service... They will be brought to Geiger Jct. and there the 9129 unit will be traded out for two big UP units, for it's final leg into Cheney Washington, where it will be interchanged to the BNSF and eventually forwarded to Union Pacific.
Photo by Roger Hepkema.
The Columbia Basin's Wheeler job has run beyond Wheeler to reach the remainder of the MILW's Moses Lake branch. Seen here at the wye, the train will now head a mile east on the old branch mainline to reach the fertilizer distributor at Seiler (at the east end of the stubbed branch). It's just a few minutes from sunset on 10-16-2013.
Photo by Gary Brown.
"This was a very sad scene to come upon as I came down Main St. and arrived at the yard crossing. MILWAUKEE ROAD-Othello,WA was gone. Anyone who had not been here prior to about 1977-78 would never guess what had once graced this yard . What a loss Othello had suffered with the passing of MILWAUKEE ROAD LINES WEST."
Photo by Gary Brown.
"Othello was a new scene on Milwaukee Road West to me at this time. It was a place I would fall in love with, returning several times in the 70s."
Guest post by Bruce Butler.
Yesterday, 1/26/2021, I was assigned to train HG26-1, unloading 72 grain loads brought in by our scoot train. Some breaks in the unloading process gave me the opportunity to shoot some pictures.
We have unloaded about 25 cars and a "lot change" situation gave me some time for outside pictures. This view looks north.
Same spot, but looking North East with the Highline Grain elevator shown on the right.
Another view, looking North East.
Looking south. The bridge under I-90 is in the distance. The inner loop, used by BNSF unit trains is on the left and curves to the east. The track on the far left (note the derail at the very edge of the picture) is a stub track, mostly used to set out any bad order cars.
Looking east across the stub track at the Highline elevator.
We are at the tail track of the wye and I had to align that switch for the west leg, where my train is sitting, before proceeding. Another "lot change" situation delayed unloading the next car and gave me the time to get the switch without having to pause the unloading activity.
We have finished unloading this 72 car train and I have pulled forward enough to clear the unloading shed. This gives the Highline crew the ability to sweep the floor of stray grain and do their clean-up.
Another view from the same location above. We are right in the switch at Four Lakes, where the Highline spur switches off of the CW main.
For those who might be interested, here is the official WSDOT (Washington Department of Transportation) track plan for the Highline Grain Facility.
Guest post by Bruce Butler.
U30B 5608 leads a Westbound at Boylston. It was a nice fall weekend in October 1975. My dad and I had spent the night sleeping in his 1964 VW camper. We heard a couple of eastbound freights during the night, their GE engines wide open thumping away with their distinctive 4-cycle sound. In the morning this westbound showed up. Couple of GE's on the point, then an SD45, another GE, and what looks like an SD40-2.
Courtesy of Gary Durr.
"Here is a great picture of the Milwaukee roads depot at Beautiful down town Moses Lake, Washington in September 1970...This is now part of the CBRW railroad an Eastern Washington Shortline...but back then it was the Milwaukee roads 20th subdivision of the Washington Division...Thought that it might be of some intrest to this group... Photographer unknown... Gary Durr Collection."
Photo by Mark Danielson.
"In August of 1972 a few cars loaded with wheat fell into a coulee just east of Taunton, Washington. The wreck was blamed on heat expansion of the rails, causing them to bow. After they took the cars away and fixed the tracks, I watched them suck up the heaps of wheat with a giant vacuum cleaner."
Photos by Dave Morgan.
"Photos of ice car 79000 in Othello, WA. The car was built in Feb 1935, and photographed here in Dec, 1970. Normally at section crew locations, before electricity, there was an ice house. The Milw. provided ice for the crews to use in their ice boxes. Refrigerator cars were also iced in Othello."