Northern Pacific in Washington

Northern Pacific in Washington

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The Northern Pacific crossed the Cascades into Seattle. (425) 888-3030,

History of Railroads in Washington

From the day the people of Washington learned that congress had appropriated money for a survey terminating on Puget Sound, their constant expectation was fixed upon a transcontinental railway. The territorial charter of the Northern Pacific Railroad Company was granted by the legislature Jan. 28, 1857, to 58 incorporators, the road to be commenced within three and completed within ten years after the passage of the act the capital stock to be fifteen millions of dollars, which might be increased to double that amount.

It does not appear that the company took any immediate steps to raise the necessary capital. The legislature of 1857-8 passed a joint resolution to be forwarded to congress, giving reasons why the road should be built, and declaring the route surveyed by Gov. Stevens to be the shortest and cheapest.

The political questions involved in a Pacific railroad, and the struggle with secession, temporarily retarded the evolution of the grand project, although in the end its construction was hastened by the war. I find the Washington legislature of 1865-6 passing a resolution of congratulation upon the inauguration of the ‘masterly project,’ and declaring its purpose to aid by any and all means in its completion.

The next legislature, however, gave expression to its jealous fears lest favoritism should prejudice the interests of the territory, congress having granted a magnificent subsidy in lands and money to the central and southern roads, without having done as much for the northern by several millions. The memorial represented, first, that Washington by its poverty was entitled to the bounty of the government, while California possessed sufficient private capital to construct a transcontinental road without a subsidy and, secondly, that from its geographical position the northern road would build up a national and international commerce of far greater extent and value than the central, from the nature of the soil along its whole extent, which guaranteed a rich and powerful agricultural population, in view of which facts congress was asked to grant the same privileges to the Northern Pacific that were granted to the Union Pacific Company. Meanwhile the other railroads were rapidly progressing, and the people of Oregon, who were alive to the benefits of a terminus, were desirous of a branch from the central road to Portland. Should this scheme be carried out it would delay, if not frustrate, the original design of a railroad from Lake Superior to Puget Sound. Hence congress was again memorialized that the adoption of the proposed branch from the Humboldt Valley to Portland would be a ruinous and calamitous mistake, detrimental alike to the nation and its interests on the Pacific coast.’ Thus we see with what anxiety this isolated community were clinging devotedly to the shores of their wonderful sea, and how they regarded the action of the government and the railroad companies. On the granting of the railroad subsidies in 1860, the Northern Pacific just failed of being chartered by congress, as it had been by the Washington legislature, with I. I. Stevens as one of the board of commissioners. Before the friends of this route could again obtain the favor of congress, Stevens bad died upon the battlefield. However, on the 2d of July 1864, the Northern Pacific Railroad Company received its charter, signed by President Lincoln.

The bill as passed withdrew the money subsidy and increased the land grant, thus giving the commissioners much more to do to raise the means for the construction of their road than had been required of the other transcontinental companies. When the two years allowed in the charter for beginning the road had expired, no money had been found to commence with, but by the help of Thaddeus Stevens another two years of grace was permitted to the company, which were wasted in an attempt to secure a government loan. Again congress extended the time for beginning operations to 1870, but limited the time for completion to 1877. The first firm step forward in financial affairs was in 1869, when congress authorized the company to issue mortgage bonds on its railroad and telegraph line. Another important change permitted the company to extend the Portland branch to Puget Sound in place of the main line, but required 25 miles of it to be built before July 1871. It was in the last months of the limit of grace that the banking house of Jay Cooke & Co. took up the matter and furnished the money. Contracts were let on both ends in 1870. The 25 miles required in western Washington were completed before July of the following year, extending northward from the Columbia via the Cowlitz Valley, and the work went on along the several divisions till 1873, when Cooke & Co. failed and construction was suspended, after barely completing the distance in Washington from Kalama, on the Columbia to Tacoma on the Sound. It was not resumed until 1875, after the company had gone through bankruptcy and been reorganized, after which time it proceeded with fewer drawbacks to its completion in Sept. 1883, via the Columbia River pass and Portland, the main line across the Cascade Mountains remaining unfinished until 1887.
A territory without the population to become a state, and having such serious obstacles to overcome could not be expected to own many miles of railroad built by private enterprise. The ambition of the people, however, always outran their means. The first charter granted by the legislature to a local railroad company was in Jan. 1859, to the Cascade Railroad Company, consisting of B. B. Bishop, William II. Fauntleroy, and George W. Murray, and their associates, to construct a freight and passenger railroad from the lower to the upper end of the portage at the cascades of the Columbia. Previous to this there had been a wooden track laid down for the use of the military department.

The charter required to be constructed a wooden railroad within three years, and in five years an iron track. This road, which about this time was a necessity, became the property of the O. S. N. Co. soon after its organization. Rival companies incorporated at different times, but without effect. In Jan. 1862 a, charter was granted to the Walla Walla Railroad Co. to operate a railroad from Walla Walla to the Columbia at Wallula, the road to be completed by Nov. 1865. The time was extended two years in 1864. This company seems to have been unable to accomplish its purposes, for in 1868 articles of incorporation of the Walla Walla and Columbia River Railroad Co. were adopted by a new organization. The survey was made in the spring of 1871, and work commenced in the following Nov. A wooden road was decided upon, owing to the cost of iron. In 1872 sufficient flat iron to strap down the curves, and locomotives weighing each seven tons, with ten flat cars, were purchased. But the wooden rails, not answering expectations, were discarded in 1875 and replaced by iron. In Oct. the road was completed, being a three-feet gauge, costing $10,300 per nine, the entire road having been built by private capital, except $25,000 donated by the citizens of the county of Walla Walla. The first shipment of wheat was made from Walla Walla to Wallula in this month. In 1881 the road wan sold to the O. R. & N. Co., when its bed was changed to the standard gauge. A branch was constructed to the Blue Mountains. In Jan. 1882 the Puget Sound and Gray Harbor Railroad Co. was organized, the object being to construct a line of road between Seattle and Cray Harbor, a distance of 58 miles.

An act was passed in Jan. 1862 incorporating the Puget Sound and Columbia River Railroad Co., which was empowered to operate a road from Steilacoom to Vancouver within ten years from the date of their charter, but which never availed itself of its privileges, the Northern Pacific railroad soon after promising to supply the needed communication with the Columbia. Its charter was, however, so amended in 1864 that the road might be extended to a point on the Columbia opposite Celilo, and the legislature of 1857-8 went through the form of memorializing congress for aid in constructing it, though it had no antecedent to justify a belief that its prayer would be granted.

In Jan. 1864 the Seattle and Squak Railroad Co. was incorporated, being authorized to locate, construct, and maintain a railroad with one or more tracks, commencing at or near the south end of Squak Lake, in King County, and running thence to a point in or near Seattle. It was required to begin work within two and complete the road within six years. The Oregon Railway and Navigation Co. was incorporated June 13, 1870. It was a consolidation of the interests of the Oregon and Cal. Railroad Co., the Oregon Steamship Co., and the Oregon Steam Navigation Co, all of which was brought about by negotiations between Henry Villard, of the Union Pacific, and J. C. Ainsworth, president of the O. S. N. Co. The O. R. & N. Co. built rapidly, and besides purchasing the Walla Walla and Columbia River railroad, extended its lines south of the Snake river from Walla Walla to Waitsburg, Dayton, Grange City, and Pomeroy, and to Pendleton in Oregon and north of Snake River from the Northern Pacific at Connell to Moscow in Idaho, with branches north to Oakesdale, in Whitman County, and south to Genessee, Idaho, near tho Clearwater River. The Northern Pacific also built several branches in eastern Washington opening up the wheat lands to market, and constructed the Puyallup branch in western Washington. An organization, known as the Oregon Transcontinental R. R., constructed in 1883 a railroad from Stuck River to Black river junction, 20 miles, which connected Seattle and Tacoma by rail, under the name of Puget Sound Shore R. R., which has recently been purchased by the N. P. R. R., which gives that company an entrance to Seattle. The Seattle, Lake Shore, and Eastern railway is completed from Seattle around the head of lakes Washington and Union, and south along the east shore of Lake Union to Gilman, whence it will be extended eastward via North Yakima and Spokane Falls. It has a branch to Earle and Snohomish, which is being pushed north to a connection with the Canadian Pacific. The Seattle and Northern railroad, incorporated Nov. 19, 1888, has for its object the construction of a road from Seattle northerly via Whatcom to a point on the northern boundary of Wash., at or near Blaine, 100 miles also from where it crosses the Skagit up to the mouth of the Sank, and thence in an easterly course to Spokane Falls, 300 miles also from the Skagit crossing westerly via Hidalgo Island and Deception pass to Admiralty Head, on Whidbey Island. Elijah Smith is president, and H. W. McNeil vice-president of the company. The Columbia and Puget Sound railroad, which is partially constructed, is intended to run to Walla Walla and the Columbia River. The Seattle and West Coast railroad runs only from Snohomish to Woodenville at present. Satsop railroad runs from Shelton in Mason County to Gray’s Harbor. The Puget Sound and Gray’s Harbor railroad is being built from Little Skookum to Gray’s Harbor. The Vancouver, Klickitat, and Yakima is in process of construction from Vancouver to North Yakima. The Oregon and Washington Territory railroad belongs to what is known as the Hunt system of roads in Oregon and Washington. It runs from Wallula Junction to Walla Walla by a circuitous route, nearly paralleling Snake River, but branching off at Eureka Junction and going down the other side of a triangle to Walla Walla, and thence to Pendleton and Athens in Oregon. In 1887 some businessmen of Pendleton organized the above corporation for the purpose of securing an independent road from Wallula, with a branch to Centerville, now Athens. They contracted with G. W. Hunt, an experienced railroad builder, then residing at Corvallis, Oregon, who began the work. He discovered when be hail graded 30 miles that the company bad not the money to carry it on, and purchased the concern to save his outlay. Going east he obtained the necessary aid from C. B. Wright of Philadelphia. From this time on he made and carried out his own plans, having only one subsidy of $100,000 from Walla Walla. He is building lines into all the rich farming districts, and competing successfully with the O. R. & N. Hunt was born near Mayville, Chautauqua County, New York, May 4, 1842, educated at Ellington Academy, went to Denver in 1859, his first interest in transportation being in the ownership of wagons and ox-teams which he earned in California. His first railroad contract was on the Oregon Short line, for 10 miles in Idaho and subsequently on the O. R. & N.’s Blue Mountain line, and in Washington from Farmington to Colfax, and its Pomeroy branch on the Oregon Pacific, and on the Cascade division of the N. P. on both sides of the Stampede tunnel, and 10 miles of the Seattle, L. S., & E. R. R. In 1860 he married Miss Leonora Gaylord of Boise City, and has a handsome residence in Walla Walla.

The Fairhaven and Southern railway company, Nelson Bennett, prest, with a capital stock of from one to six millions, is making arrangements to build from Vancouver, B. C., to Vancouver, Wash., via Fairhaven and Tacoma. The Manitoba R. R. is selecting a route through Washington to Puget Sound. Besides the unverified rumors of the intentions of transcontinental roads, there are in 1889 thirty-six different railways in progress of construction or about to be commenced in Wash. The total mileage of railroads in Wash. in Jan. 1888 was 1,0150 miles, to which has been added about 200 miles. The complaint against high fares and freights was considered by the legislature of 1887-8, and several bills were offered to correct the evil but the boards of trade of Seattle and Vancouver remonstrated, saying that legislation at that time would drive away capital, and crush out the new local roads which they depended upon to compete with the great railroads. Instead of restrictive acts, the legislature at their suggestion changed the existing railroad assessment law from a tax on the gross receipts to a tax on all railroad property, in the same manner as on that of individuals, except in cases where otherwise provided. The state constitution lays down the same principle, but gives the legislature power to establish ‘reasonable maximum rates’ for transportation services.

Mention has been made of the rapid development of Washington in the years between 1880 and 1888. Some account of this change and the cause of it may be fairly considered essential to this history. It was necessary when the construction of the N. P. R. R. was decided upon to fix a point upon Puget Sound which should be its terminus, and where its freight might be transferred to foreign and coastwise vessels. The agents chosen by the company to make the selection were Judge R. D. Rice of Maine, vice-president, and Capt. J. C. Ainsworth of Portland, Oregon, the managing director for the Pacific coast, who reported after a careful examination in favor of Commencement bay and the town of Tacoma, meaning the village at that time containing about 200 inhabitants employed at the saw-mill. The report was accepted, and the R. R. Company sold the 3,000 acres constituting the site of the present city to the Tacoma land company, except enough land for shops, side-tracks, depot, and wharves. The land co. also purchased of the R. R. co. 13,000 acres, being the odd-numbered sections within 6 miles of the waterfront. This company was organized under the laws of Pennsylvania, and its corporators were large preferred stockholders of the R. R. co. its capital stock was $1,000,000, divided into 20,000 shares at $50 per share, of which the N. P. R. R. owned a majority, and put brain and money into it, but as long as the railroad reached Tacoma only from the Columbia the growth of the town was slow. As soon as the direct line was established, the situation was changed, and the event was duly celebrated. Today in place of the straggling village of 1877, there is a beautiful city of 30,000 inhabitants, with miles of streets 80 feet wide, and avenues 100 feet wide, many handsome edifices and residences, the most inspiring views of Mount Tacoma and the Sound, with street railways, banks, public and private schools, and all the accessories of modern civilization. The coalfields tributary to Tacoma create a large amount of business. The lumber mills in the immediate vicinity cut 1,100,000 feet per day, removing the timber from 12 square miles annually. Many manufactures are suggested by the wealth of iron, coal, and timber in this region, which it is yet too soon to expect. According to the Seattle Journal, the name Tacoma first appeared in Theodore Winthrop’s book Canoe and Saddle, being applied to the mountain known to the English as Rainier.

The impetus given to the Sound country by the N. P. R. R. also affected Seattle, for so many years the chief city of the Sound. It increased rapidly in population, and achieved a population of 30,000, with real estate transfers of $12,000000 in the year, which preceded its great catastrophe by fire in the summer of 1889, by which $10,000,000 of property was destroyed, and thousands of people rendered temporarily homeless. From this heavy misfortune will arise a certain amount of good, in an improved style of construction of business houses. The hope is entertained that the government will establish a navy yard on Lake Washington, connecting it by a canal with the Sound.

Railroads and industrialism changed the Pacific Northwest economy not only by accelerating and mechanizing the extraction of natural resources but also by accentuating divisions between classes and races. Business interests, led by railroad and timber barons, formed elites that dominated industries, towns, and politics workers organized to protect and assert the interests of labor. The result, particularly in Washington and Idaho, was a considerably polarized society that featured an unusually high degree of labor radicalism between 1880 and 1920. (In his textbook and other works, Carlos Schwantes has written a good deal about this aspect of regional history.) But conflict did not occur solely between classes. Within the working classes there emerged additional divisions defined by race.

The economy of the American West was characterized by a dual labor system. Whites occupied the majority of the white-collar and skilled blue-collar positions. They also occupied semi-skilled and unskilled positions, but enjoyed higher rates of mobility out of those kinds of jobs. People of color, on the other hand, occupied in disproportionate numbers the semi-skilled and unskilled positions at the bottom of the economic ladder. These workers—Indians, blacks, and people of Mexican and Asian descent—had fewer chances to escape the lower rungs (although in some cases members of minority groups owned and operated their own businesses). When white workingmen formed into unions in the American West, they often were organizing not only against capital but also against the non-white worker who, in a variety of ways, was perceived as a threat to whites' economic security. In the Pacific Northwest of the 1880s—the very decade when railroads increased the pace of industrialization in the region—these patterns of labor organization and conflict played out against Chinese communities.

Chin Fook Hing (right) was a Chinese importer in Seattle. This 1909 photograph shows him in his shop, located at 114 Second Avenue. (Special Collections, University of Washington, Social Issues Files Cb, neg. 420)

Chinese migrants (left) lived throughout Washington, as this Walla Walla portrait of a Chinese youth documents. (Special Collections, University of Washington, Social Issues Files Cb.)

Streams of emigrants began leaving China, mainly for other parts of Asia, during the late 18th century. The great majority regarded themselves as sojourners, i.e. people who intended to return to China rather than settle permanently in the places to which they had moved. During the 1840s, as the Chinese empire collapsed under pressures imposed by other nations, rapid population increase, declining standards of living, and problems in government, Chinese sojourners began moving to the New World, and particularly to California where the gold rush had attracted the attention of migrants from around the globe. Between 1849 and 1882, approximately 300,000 Chinese entered the United States. Many entered more than once, taking return trips to China others left and never returned. As a result, the 1880 census counted only about 100,000 Chinese in the U.S. The ratio of men to women among these immigrants was about 20 to 1. As late as 1920, women still amounted to less than fifteen percent of all people of Chinese descent in the U.S.

Chinese immigrants worked primarily as laborers and lived largely in the states and territories of the American West. Most toiled at mining and constructing railroad lines across the region, and they also worked in agriculture. Some worked at providing services to other Chinese people, particularly those concentrated in Chinatown districts in western cities. Opportunities were limited by racism and segregation. Because American jobs generally paid better than the employment that cold be had in China, Chinese sojourners generally earned enough money to make immigration worthwhile (although many never acquired enough savings to be able to afford to return to China). However, with the exception of a few businessmen operating in Chinatowns, none had good access to paths of upward mobility within the American economy. The Chinese were paid lower wages than white workers, and they suffered other forms of economic and civil discrimination which were based in part on racism against Asians and in part on fear of the Chinese as economic competitors. Yet the demand for labor in the American West during the later 19th and early 20th centuries was generally high, and for this reason Chinese (as well as Japanese and Mexicans and Filipinos) were routinely recruited and employed.

Chinese laborers (right) working on the Northern Pacific Railroad tracks along the Columbia River gorge. (Special Collections, University of Washington, Social Issues Files Cb, neg. 522.)

Beginning in the early 1850s in California, and then continuing in other times and places in the West, white workingmen protested that the Chinese drove down wages. White labor criticized the Chinese for accepting lower rates of pay, and criticized employers who hired the Chinese instead of whites. The animus against the Chinese and their employers grew strongest in times of economic downturns, such as during the mid-1870s and mid-1880s, when many Chinese workers involved in railroad construction were laid off. In California during the later 1860s and the 1870s, white workingmen took the lead in organizing an anti-Chinese movement in politics and within unions. The state and its cities passed a number of laws to discourage more Chinese from coming and to drive out those who were already there. Through mobs, lynchings, and other forms of violence, Chinese workers were also terrorized. Both the violence and the organizing spread across the West and to the entire country. During the later 1870s, both the Democratic and Republican party platforms contained anti-Chinese clauses. By 1882, the pressure against the Chinese resulted in passage of legislation outlawing the immigration of most Chinese into the United States. The act was designed primarily to exclude laborers merchants, diplomats, students, teachers, and travelers were permitted to enter the country. But the drop-off in immigration was sizable. In 1881, 12,000 Chinese had entered the U.S. in 1887, 10 Chinese did. (Over time, immigrants figured out how to use loopholes in the law to gain admission, so between 1882 and 1917 another 92,000 Chinese actually arrived.)

The Chinese Exclusion Act was the first major piece of legislation restricting immigration to America. It is noteworthy that Asians were the initial group to be singled out for discriminatory treatment in immigration policy, as well as the only peoples to be entirely excluded from immigration to the U.S. On top of this, until the early 1950s, Asians were the only immigrants who could not be naturalized as American citizens. Such draconian restrictions were entirely out of proportion to the relatively low numbers of Asians in the American population.

Passage of the 1882 Exclusion Act skewed the population of Chinese in the United States. It inhibited the predominantly male population from bringing wives from China, and thus greatly limited the immigrants' ability to reproduce themselves in the U.S. or to live with their families. Most immigrants' family members stayed in China. The Chinese community in the U.S. remained heavily male, and over time it aged markedly and declined in size. These demographic traits further marked off a population that was already quite distinctive, that already tended to cluster in homogeneous enclaves around the West, and that was discouraged by white discrimination as well as by a sojourners' orientation from undergoing substantial acculturation. In stark contrast to most immigrants groups in the U.S., the Chinese population declined sharply, from roughly 105,000 in 1882 to 62,000 in 1920. One can track this decline in the three states of the Pacific Northwest.

Contrasting advertisements, (left): According to Murray Morgan in Skid Road , "Wa Chong & Co. began manufacturing `Havana Cigars' in Seattle on February 1, 1883. Theirs was the first cigar factory on the Sound. During the anti-Chinese agitation, a white label on the cigar meant only Caucasian workers were employed. " (Seattle, 1982 ed., p.120. Reproduction from City of Seattle Directory. Special Collections, University of Washington, Social Issues Files Cb, neg. 539)

Northern Pacific in Washington - History

“Easton is between Talmage and Hubner Spur. It was named in 1886 by the Northern Pacific Railroad Company when they established the town near the east end of the Stampede tunnel. The post office was established on June 23, 1890. Weston was established near the west portal - thus, the name of each of these railroad towns. The town is located 12 miles west of Cle Elum. The town site of Easton was surveyed in 1902, the plat being filed for record on August 2, 1902.”—NPRHA

When I shot this picture of the Easton depot in April, 1974 the NP Stampede Pass line still carried the daily Amtrak Empire builder 7-8 while the resurrected North Coast Hiawatha 9-10 took the GN route over Stevens Pass before returning to former NP rails through Montana!

Squint at the train board and you will see that 3 trains were listed through the 1950’s. 1-2 The Mainstreeter, 5-6 The Spokane-Seattle Express, and 25-26 the North Coast Limited. In the end Easton was only a flag-stop for the Mainstreeter itself renumbered after the merger into Burlington Northern to avoid a conflict with the Denver Zephyr.

1. Easton depot looking west to Stampede Pass
2. Train board
3. NP water tank

> Squint at the train board and you will see that 3
> trains were listed through the 1950’s. 1-2 The
> Mainstreeter, 5-6 The Spokane-Seattle Express, and
> 25-26 the North Coast Limited. In the end Easton
> was only a flag-stop for the Mainstreeter itself
> renumbered after the merger into Burlington
> Northern to avoid a conflict with the Denver
> Zephyr.

Thanks so much for this timeless, classic photo of an NP depot.

In the late 1960's, the locomotive engineer on many of the North Coast Limiteds and Mainstreeters passing by this depot was a gentleman named Francis William "Frank" Scobee. As many railroaders did, he came out of a railroad family. His father, Richard Scobee, had worked as a signal maintainer in Easton since 1923 (after starting as a signal helper in 1916). Frank Scobee was one of five children born to Richard and Frances Scobee, and was raised in Easton.

Frank and his wife Edlynn met after he graduated from Easton High School in 1936 and began work for the NP as a caller, laborer, and engine watchman at the roundhouse located in Easton. She was a waitress in Ed's Cafe where most of the railroaders dined in Easton. They got married and had a child in 1939, shortly before he became a fireman in 1940. He was promoted to engineer in 1945. He was exceptionally skilled in his craft, and the NP promoted him to road foreman in 1960 in Montana and Idaho. In 1968 he returned to his first love, running passenger trains between Seattle and Ellensburg until Amtrak took over passenger service when he returned to freight service for what was now BN until he retired in 1978 after 42 years of service.

The son born in 1939 was named Francis Richard Scobee. He became a combat pilot in Vietnam. "His flying skills were as exceptional as the locomotive-handling talents of his father, and he was selected for astronaut training in 1978." Commander Francis R. Scobee piloted the Space Shuttle Challenger on a successful flight in 1984. He was again commander of the Space Shuttle Challenger when it was launched on that fateful day: January 28, 1986.

(Quote and information extracted from to book "Steam to Diesel - Jim Fredrickson's Railroading Journal".)

Francis Richard Scobee’s son is currently Major General Richard W. Scobee. He is currently the 10th Air Force commander, Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas. His command includes all fighter, bomber, special operations, rescue, airborne warning and control, fighter and bomber flying-training missions, combat air operations battle staff, remotely-piloted aircraft, space, and cyber units in the Air Force Reserve Command.

On 10/7/72 No. 8 was cleared at Easton with one order copied on a NP form:

1) & 2) BN Clearance + T.O. 614 delivered to No. 8 at Easton WA 10/7/72

Creating Burlington Northern

The history of Burlington Northern began nearly 70 years before its creation.  In 1893, James Hill completed his transcontinental Great Northern Railway (GN) between the Puget Sound and St. Paul/Minneapolis although he wasn't the first to do so. 

Another, the Northern Pacific Railway (NP), had accomplished the very same feat five years earlier in 1888. In spite of this, Hill was a cunning and effective railroader who commanded the resources and shrewdness to dominate the Pacific Northwest.  When NP entered receivership on August 15, 1893, following that year's financial panic, he gained a considerable stake in the property. 

The Burlington Northern Railroad logo. Author's work.

In 1901, the Empire Builderਊlso grabbed the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q), which provided him with a direct route into Chicago.  It was at this time that a fight broke out with another noted tycoon, Edward Harriman, who wanted control of the CB&Q.  To do this, he acquired a considerable stake in Northern Pacific. 

On May 3, 1901 Harriman established the "Northern Pacific Corner" and briefly accomplished his objective.  Hill quickly countered by forming the Northern Securities Company which effectively placed GN, NP, and Burlington under common control. 

This was the first attempt to merge the properties but proved short-lived.  A Supreme Court order in 1904 broke up Northern Securities and it was forced to divest control of all three.  However, by then, Harriman and had already sold his interest in NP. 

Burlington Northern Predecessors

According to the book "The Great Northern Railway, A History" by authors Ralph W. Hidy, Muriel E. Hidy, Roy V. Scott, and Don L. Hofsommer, he tried to reacquire his stock following the Supreme Court order but was denied in 1905. 

After the Hill's death in 1917 another merger was attempted during the 1920's but was, again, blocked by the ICC.  With little hope of seeing the union occur at that time the idea was dropped altogether.  The proposal was not renewed until after World War II when many railroads contemplated merger to combat declining market share. 

Burlington Northern C425 #4254, GP35 #2536, and GP9 #1774 operate over the former Spokane, Portland & Seattle north of The Dalles, Oregon in Washington State along the Columbia River in October, 1978. Roger Puta photo.

While the industry remained heavily regulated the ICC realized its monopolistic nature had long since passed.  As early as the 1920's the idea of creating three or four major eastern trunk lines was considered but later shelved when the stock market crashed in 1929. 

The process that eventually created Burlington Northern began quietly in 1955 when the presidents of NP and GN launched informal discussions on the matter. 

In his book, "Burlington Northern Railroad: Historical Review, 1970-1995," Robert C. Del Grosso notes this mega-railroad was originally to be called the Great Northern Pacific & Burlington Lines. It was believed the giant system could raise profits through capacity reductions and more fluid, point-to-point operations.

What is likely either Amtrak's "Mount Rainier" or "Puget Sound" arrives at Portland Union Station with former Burlington Northern equipment in August of 1971. Drew Jacksich photo.

Following the talks, a series of studies was conducted leading to a formal application filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission on February 17, 1961.  The merger would officially bring together the Northern Pacific, Great Northern, and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy into the previously-named conglomerate. 

It would comprise a network of 24,500 miles and lease the Spokane, Portland & Seattle for a period of 10 years before absorbing this property into the parent company.  In typical ICC fashion the process moved forward very slowly.  Finally, on March 31, 1966 the agency surprisingly voted against the merger in a 6-5 decision. 

Undeterred, the three railroads continued pressing for the union.  A great hurdle was cleared when an agreement was reached with the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific (the "Milwaukee Road") stipulating that their only transcontinental competitor would be granted eleven new western gateways.

This strategic opportunity garnered the Milwaukee bountiful new sources of interchange business, particularly with the Southern Pacific at Portland, Oregon.  With this issue resolved the ICC reopened hearings on January 4, 1967.  Later that year, on November 30th, the merger was approved by an 8-2 vote.   

As the process moved forward the new railroad's name was changed to Burlington Northern, Inc. (BNI) during April of 1968.  After a bit more legal work and other objections were overcome the four systems became one at 12:01 AM on March 2, 1970.

Lots of first-generation Burlington Northern power await their next assignment at Superior, Wisconsin during August, 1976. Rob Kitchen photo.

25 Years Of Burlington Northern

The new Burlington Northern dominated the West, dwarfing all other western carriers by several thousand miles. 

Along with its four primary railroads, several smaller subsidiaries also comprised BN including:

  • Pacific Coast Railroad (GN)
  • Minneapolis, Anoka & Cuyuna Range Railroad (GN)
  • Walla Walla Valley Railroad (An NP-owned interurban)
  • Colorado & Southern (CB&Q)
  • Fort Worth & Denver (CB&Q)
  • Winona Bridge Railway (CB&Q)
  • Oregon Electric Railway (An SP&S-owned interurban)
  • Oregon Trunk Railway (SP&S)
  • Lake Superior Terminal & Transfer (A joint GN/NP property)
  •  Midland Railway Company (A joint GN/NP property)

BN's total mileage was never larger than the year it was formed.  At that time it possessed a network of 25,879 miles although this excluded the Colorado & Southern and Fort Worth & Denver.  As the years passed it greatly reduced superfluous capacity, particularly following passage of 1980's Staggers Act.   

As it turns out the merger's timing proved quite fortuitous.  While the 1970's were a difficult decade for many, BN weathered these troubled times better than most.  Not only did it bring together four strong carriers but the merger also occurred only a few years before two important pieces of legislation became law.

A mix of former Great Northern, Burlington Northern, and Northern Pacific equipment make up Amtrak's "North Coast Hiawatha" at Yakima, Washington in August of 1971. Drew Jacksich photo.

The first took place in 1970 when Congress passed the Rail Passenger Service Act, later signed into law by President Richard Nixon.  It created the National Railroad Passenger Corporation on October 30th that year originally known as Railpax it was renamed Amtrak on April 17, 1971.

This new carrier took over most intercity passenger services and relieved many railroads from this money-losing burden. The second occurred only months later when the Clean Air Act was signed into law on December 31st. 

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency the act, in summary, addressed the following:

"The Clean Air Act is the comprehensive federal law that regulates air emissions from stationary and mobile sources. Among other things, this law authorizes EPA to establish National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) to protect public health and public welfare and to regulate emissions of hazardous air pollutants. 

One of the goals of the Act was to set and achieve NAAQS in every state by 1975 in order to address the public health and welfare risks posed by certain widespread air pollutants.

The setting of these pollutant standards was coupled with directing the states to develop state implementation plans (SIPs), applicable to appropriate industrial sources in the state, in order to achieve these standards.

The Act was amended in 1977 and 1990 primarily to set new goals (dates) for achieving attainment of NAAQS since many areas of the country had failed to meet the deadlines."

One of its most important goals was to reduce particulates released by coal-fired generating stations, which had traditionally used bituminous coal.  This highly abundant resource is traditionally found east of the Mississippi River and, in particular, within the Southern Appalachian Mountains. 

It was also relatively cheap to extract although its high levels of sulfur produced significant acid rain when burned. Powder River Basin coal, predominantly found in southern Montana and northeastern Wyoming, was also abundant but generated far less pollution. 

It had never been mined in a great quantities until the 1970's.  In his article, "The Empire Of BNSF: The Railroad That Would Be King" from the June, 2001 issue of Trains Magazine, historian Fred Frailey notes that BN garnered only $42 million from hauling coal during its first year (by comparison, Norfolk & Western at the time enjoyed four times the revenue from black diamonds). 

This business was primarily handled from bituminous coal mines located in southern Illinois.  That all changed with the Clean Air Act.  In 1970, BN moved just 4 million tons of coal, a number which jumped to 7.2 million just two years later (ranking it behind only lumber and grain as the railroad's top commodity). 

It then exploded to 31.4 tons in 1974.  More than any other freight, coal was responsible for not only BN's renaissance but also its eventual rise into the nation's second most profitable railroad.

A long string of Burlington Northern SD40-2's and a fuel tender with what appears to be empties at Donkey Creek, Wyoming in July of 1991. Warren Calloway photo.

All of BN's Powder River Basin (PRB) coal was handled over its Orin Subdivision, the former Burlington line running through northeastern Wyoming and southern Montana. 

In 1977 the਋lack Thunder Mine opened here and quickly became the region's largest by volume (today it can produce near, or more than, 100 million tons annually).  After struggling somewhat during its first few years (a result of high inflation, the oil embargo, and general economic downturn) it posted much stronger numbers as 1980 neared. 

In 1970 it carried operating revenues of $800 million but by 1974 this had increased to $1.52 billion.  The early 1980's brought three other major events which greatly improved BN's position passage of the Staggers Act (1980), Milwaukee Road's abandonment of its western extension (1980), and merger with the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (1981). 

The Staggers Act (signed into law by President Jimmy Carter on October 14, 1980) was a boon for the industry as it made it far easier for railroads to reduce/abandon/sell excess capacity, carry out mergers, and enjoy greater freedoms in setting freight rates. 

Burlington Northern SD60M #9282 appears to have a unit coal train east of Bismarck, North Dakota during October of 1991. Warren Calloway photo.

BN was also awarded sole possession of the West in 1980 when the Milwaukee Road, having entered bankruptcy proceedings on December 19, 1977, elected to abandon its Pacific Extension west of Miles City, Montana. 

The company's failure to challenge for transcontinental traffic was as much its own doing as any competition from BN. 

Finally, the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) joined its network on June 8, 1981.  It was a 5,000+ mile regional serving the states of Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Memphis, Tennessee. 

BN saw great value in the property thanks to Frisco's lucrative and growing petrochemical business along the Gulf Coast. 

As mergers continued throughout that decade the railroad continually focused on traffic growth.  With the Staggers Act's passage, total traffic, nationally, had jumped 10% from 1980 to 1988, and 40% by 1995's merger with Santa Fe. 

On July 20, 1983, BN implemented point-to-point scheduled intermodal service within dedicated unit trains between major markets, marking its start in this arena.  During BN's last year of independence (1994), it enjoyed gross revenues of $4.995 billion.

A trio of cabooses, including a former Frisco unit, bring up the tail-end of a Burlington Northern freight near Keenesburg, Colorado during July of 1981. Roger Puta photo.

After launching informal talks with the legendary Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe the two carriers announced their merger intentions on June 30, 1994.  The plan was approved by shareholders on February 7, 1995 and the Interstate Commerce Commission consented to the union on August 23, 1995.  

From that point the process moved forward relatively quickly as the਋urlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation was formed to acquire each railroad's holding company (Burlington Northern, Inc. and the Santa Fe Pacific Corporation), a process made official on September 22, 1995. 

The last piece of the puzzle included merging the actual railroads on December 31, 1996 Santa Fe and its iconic "Warbonnet" livery was dissolved into Burlington Northern, subsequently renamed as the਋urlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company. 

Today, what is known as BNSF Railway earns nearly the highest profits in the industry, has one of the lowest operating ratios, and derives a significant earnings from COFC (Container On Flat Car) shipments. 

Building the Northern Pacific Railroad

When construction of the Northern Pacific Railroad came to a halt in 1873, James B. Power changed American railroad history by introducing the large-scale wheat farm.

James B. Power, a land commissioner for the Northern Pacific Railroad, was instrumental in the completion of one of the most important railroads in American history. In fact, if it weren’t for Power and his bonanza farm plan, the Northern Pacific may very well have met a different fate.

Trouble for the Northern Pacific Railroad

In 1873, the eastern rail crew of the Northern Pacific Railroad had just finished laying 450 miles of track, from Duluth, Minnesota, to Bismarck, North Dakota. Meanwhile, in Washington State, the western crew had begun building the other end of the railroad. But with 1,500 miles of unbroken ground still separating the two crews, they received orders to stop construction. The railroad had run out of money.

Northern Pacific officials were partly to blame. They had made too many expensive purchases, like 50 extra “first-class” locomotives. Worse, their money lender, Jay Cooke & Company – then the biggest bank in America – went broke. Soon an economic depression swept the country, and no one could help finance the railroad. Just when it looked like America’s dream of a transportation system from Lake Superior to the Pacific Ocean would remain a dream, James B. Power stepped in.

Power’s Bonanza Farm Plan

As land commissioner for the Dakota division of the Northern Pacific Railroad, Power believed the railway could be completed if more people would move to North Dakota, where the Northern Pacific owned nearly a fourth of the vast land. Settlement would bring in money for the railroad through land sales and busier railroad traffic. It seemed like a logical solution.

The only problem was, people didn’t want to move to North Dakota. Many referred to the region as the “Great American Desert.” They thought the cold, dry prairie held little opportunity and wondered whether anything could grow in such harsh weather.

But Power argued that the land actually contained excellent soil for growing crops, especially wheat. That plus North Dakota’s mild summers made it an ideal place to start a wheat farm. Hard spring wheat (the best wheat for making bread) grew especially well there. Power thought the railroad would benefit the most from farms that produced large amounts of hard spring wheat to fill the Northern Pacific’s grain cars.

“[I have] strong faith that dirt on the line of the N.P. is a good thing . . . and in the end will prove profitable,” Power told the Northern Pacific Railway’s Board of Directors in Hiram Drache’s The Day of the Bonanza.

Indeed, one farmer had even become rich off his sizable wheat crop. Others could too, urged Power. By advertising and offering deals on land, he tried to attract settlers.

Northern Pacific Railway Investors Set an Example

People still had doubts about the “Great American Desert,” but in 1874 Power managed to convince two railroad investors—Northern Pacific president George Cass and director Benjamin Cheney—to put his plan into action. Cass and Cheney cashed in their railroad bonds and bought a large tract of land near Casselton, North Dakota. Next, they hired Oliver Dalrymple to develop and manage a wheat farm for them. Dalrymple had already operated a large wheat farm in Minnesota and had a solid reputation along with the experience that Cass and Cheney lacked.

Bonanza Farms Bring Settlers

With Dalrymple in charge, Cass and Cheney’s farm grew from about 13,000 acres to more than 30,000 acres. It became known as the first bonanza farm because of its large production of wheat, producing 600,000 bushels during one peak year. What’s more, news of Cass and Cheney’s success brought throngs of settlers to North Dakota to try this large-scale wheat farming.

Operating a bonanza farm like Cass and Cheney’s was like running a big company. Dalrymple used as many as 1,000 men and hundreds of horses, plows, and reapers to help seed and harvest the wheat. Although most bonanzas were smaller than Cass and Cheney’s (some, in fact, measured only a few thousand acres), all bonanza farms needed many helpers—and not just in the field. Other typical employees included bookkeepers, blacksmiths, and cooks.

Although the majority of bonanza farms closed before the turn of the twentieth century, the population of North Dakota had increased by more than 1,000 percent, dispelling the myth of the “Great American Desert.” More importantly, the Northern Pacific raised enough money to complete the railroad. Workers began laying track again. In 1883, the eastern and western rail crews met in Montana and drove the last spike into the ground. Soon after, trains were traveling from Minnesota to Washington.

Thanks to Power and his bonanza farm plan, the Northern Pacific Railroad is remembered today as America’s first northern transcontinental railroad and one of the most important railways in American history.

Issaquah’s Northern Pacific Depot

Today, you can visit the Issaquah Depot to admire a classic restoration, see exhibits about Issaquah’s past, ride the Issaquah Valley Trolley, and much more.

Gilman’s Depot, circa 1892.(IHM 86-87-18)

Selected chronology of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway, and Northern Pacific North Bend line. From the notes of Dale Martin Jr. Information sources are listed in <> brackets.

1885 April 29Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Ry. incorporated
1887 February Construction begins on SLS&E
1887Tracks reach Woodinville
1888 SpringSLS&E affiliate Seattle Coal & Iron Co. begins coal mining in Gilman and shipping by rail.
1889Gilman station constructed
1889 DecemberOperations reach Sallal Prairie (63 miles from Seattle) – end of construction
1890 May 23Northern Pacific RR acquires control of SLS&E stock
1892 May 1SLS&E operations consolidated with those of NP
1893Nationwide “panic” (economic depression) begins, and lasts four years.
1893 June 30SLS&E bankruptcy= enters receivership
1893 AugustN P bankruptcy= enters receivership
1894SLS&E passenger service on North Bend line is daily except Sunday Seattle to Gilman takes 2 hours, Seattle to North Bend 3 hours 5 min Round trip to Seattle requires an overnight stay in Seattle
1896 July 28SLS&E properties sold by bondholders’ committee to Seattle & International Ry. Sale finalized July 1897.
1896 AugustNorthern Pacific Railway reorganization completed
1898 JanuaryNP buys bonds of S&I regaining control of SLS&E properties in western Washington
1899 Gilman renamed Issaquah
1900Puget Sound Lumberman Magazine ran an interesting article about life Along the Seattle & International.
1901 March 21NP Ry. absorbs Seattle & International Ry. short-line identity of track through Issaquah disappears
1902Issaquah trestle rebuilt at a cost of $8,792
1904 JuneLake Washington belt line of NP completed through Renton and Kirkland: eventually North Bend branch passenger trains ran this way (instead of through Fremont and Kenmore). adding ten miles and one-half hour to an Issaquah-Seattle rail ride.
1904 OctoberNP passenger service from Seattle to North Bend takes 2 hrs. 55 min. each way. Round trip to Seattle in one day with a 7 hr. 50 min. lay over in Seattle.
1909Milk condensary established in Issaquah. It and successor operations on this site are the longest-lived rail shippers in Issaquah (now Darigold)
1909 October 22The October 22, 1909 Issaquah Press notes that as of October 17, round trip fare from Issaquah to Seattle has increased to $2.00.
1910s Much improvement to roads in Western King County new ferries across Lake Washington auto stage businesses flourish
1914Issaquah-Renton-Seattle Auto Stage advertises Issaquah-Seattle service in 1 hr. 10 min. Three round trips daily
1915 FebruaryNP Seattle-North Bend passenger trains (via Renton) daily. Seattle to Issaquah takes 2 hrs 30 min. Round trip to Seattle in one day, with a 2 hr 30 min layover in Seattle
1917 December 28 — 1920 MarchU.S. government controls and operates railways.
1918 January 1”North Bend & Seattle” Railway Post Office ends – end of mail sorting on the passenger train through Issaquah
1920Grand Ridge coal mine closed (Central Coal Co.)
1920 NP builds new 54,120 gallon wooden water tank at the junction of the main line and the coal mine loop south of town. A wooden water pipe supplies the tank from Cabin Creek on Squak Mountain above the coal mine. The tank is 37 feet high at the top and is used to supply water to the steam engines as well as several neighboring houses.
1922NP ends Seattle-Renton-Woodinville-Issaquah North Bend scheduled passenger service
1923 Pacific Coast Coal Co. closes major coal mine in Issaquah area mine loop track south of station mostly dismantled.
1928 February 22N. P. Logging Train wrecks (no injuries) just wrecked log cars and track) while going west behind High Point Hotel.
1929 JanuaryIssaquah Station agent Jim O’Connor moves to Arlington.
1930Mr. Harvey is Issaquah Station Agent. In November, Mike Procaccio – Issaquah Section Foreman for the past year – is replaced by Joe Rogerson.
1938NP ends Seattle-Fremont-Woodinville-Bellingham scheduled passenger service
1939U. S. highway 10 widened to four lanes. Issaquah trestle altered with concrete piers and deck plate girder span
1956 April 16June 21, 1956 Issaquah Press reports that, “On April 16 a shiny orange diesel, locomotive rolled the freight train along the Northern Pacific tracks through Issaquah.” Originally built for the CB&Q, by Electromotive (a division of GM), the #558 replaced the #1372 steam engine that had served Issaquah for many years.
1956 December 2First Casey Jones excursion: Seattle-Snoqualmie round trip was pulled by the 4-6-0 Locomotive number 1372 + 13 cars+ GP7. It carried 1,300 passengers.
1957 June 29Casey Jones excursion: Seattle-Snoqualmie round trip
1958 May 23NP closes Issaquah station agency
1959 December 6 Casey Jones excursion: Seattle-North Bend round trip.
1968 June 9 Last Casey Jones excursion. Seattle-North Bend round trip.
1970 March 1Burlington Northern RR formed from a merger of NP, GN, CB&Q, SP&S, PC
197-BN abandons former SLS&E: Lake Union-Woodinville route becomes the Burke-Gilman trail. 12.1 miles long.
1974BN abandons Issaquah-Snoqualmie Falls: gets running rights over Milwaukee to Snoqualmie.
1975 JanuaryIssaquah trestle dismantled.
1981 JuneBN announces that Redmond-Issaquah track is under study for abandonment.
1983Issaquah Historical Society commits to restore the Issaquah Depot as the society’s main project. Depot is in deplorable condition at this time.
1984 March City of Issaquah buys former NP depot.
June 1994Issaquah Historical Society dedicates remodeled Historic Train Depot as a museum.
1989Weyerhaeuser closes Snoqualmie sawmill. Rail freight service to Snoqualmie-North Bend ends.
1990Issaquah station listed on the National Register of Historic Places
June 1995Depot is included in Inventory And Evaluation of Historic Properties Associated with Transportation in Washington State by Florence K. Lentz. Field Site # PS3-O24-R
1998BN abandons Redmond-Issaquah track. Track and right-of-way is sold to King County’s Land Conservancy for eventual conversion to trails.
May 2001Issaquah Historical Society conducts experimental trolley service, allowing passengers to tour Issaquah between the Depot and Gilman Blvd. The vintage Oporto trolley car was on loan from the City of Yakima, and operated from the Issaquah Depot for one year.
2013Issaquah Valley Trolley service begins aboard the organization’s restored trolley car. Summer trolley service continues to be part of the IHM’s programming.

– Burlington Northern
– Seattle Times
– Louis Tuck Renz, author of book, The History of the Northern Pacific Railroad, printed in 1980

Northern Pacific Railway Company Records, 1870-1968 PDF

Researchers must use collection in accordance with the policies of Archives and Special Collections, the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, and The University of Montana--Missoula.

Languages English Sponsor Funding for creating this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. Funding for encoding this finding aid was provided through a grant awarded by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Table of Contents

Historical Note Return to Top

The first survey for a northern route to the Pacific was conducted by the War Department in 1853. The Northern Pacific Railroad Company was organized in 1864 with Josiah Perman as president. Construction began at Carlton, Minnesota, in February 1870, with an initial operation of 125 miles. That same year, construction began at Kalama, Washington Territory, near Portland, Oregon, and that line was extended to New Tacoma, Washington Territory, by 1873. The company was reorganized in the wake of financial troubles in 1875. The western and eastern lines joined at Gold Creek, Montana, in 1883. The real completion date was 1888 when the tunnel through Stampede Pass, Washington, was opened, replacing a switchback line over that pass. The company was reorganized for a second time in 1896 as the Northern Pacific Railway Company.

The company’s lines were organized into divisions. According to the 1881 annual report, the divisions were as follows:

Wisconsin Division: Brainerd, Minnesota to Dulluth, Minnesota

Minnesota Division: Minnesota/North Dakota border to Great Lakes

Dakota Division: Bismarck, North Dakota to North Dakota/Minnesota border

Missouri Division: Bismarck, North Dakota to Miles City, Montana

Yellowstone Division: Miles City, Montana to Livingston, Montana

Rocky Mountain Division: Livingston, Montana to Missoula, Montana

Clark’s Fork Division: Missoula, Montana to Montana/Idaho border

Pend D’Oreille Division: Montana/Idaho border to Ainsworth, Washington

Cascade Division: Ainsworth, Washington to Tacoma, Washington

Pacific Division: Tacoma, Washington to Portland, Oregon

The geographic boundaries of divisions changed over time. They were originally based on the distance an engine could go before it needed service and fuel, a distance that became greater with changes in engine technology.

Under its charter, the Northern Pacific could not build branch lines to feed into the main line. In order to meet its needs for feeder lines and other cooperative transportation ventures, the main company formed separate corporations to construct connecting lines. These small rail and other transportation lines were then sold to the parent company, which under its charter was able to acquire previously constructed lines.

The Astoria and Columbia River Railroad Company was incorporated on April 4, 1895. It operated between Seaside and Goble, Oregon, from May 1898 to March 1911. Its predecessor was the Seashore Railroad Company. By 1909 it was an operating subsidiary of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway Company until the two companies merged in 1911.

The Camp Creek Railway Company was incorporated June 8, 1911, and built from Manhattan to Anceny, Montana. It opened its line in 1912, and sold to the NPRR in June 1914.

The Central Washington Railroad Company operated a line from Cheney to Coulee City, Washington.

The Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company was incorporated on February 14, 1855. It operated main lines from Chicago, IL, to St. Paul, Minnesota, and to St. Louis, MO, and Cody, Wyoming. Like the Northern Pacific, it created and absorbed numerous branch and predecessor lines. Also like the NPRR, it became a part of the Burlington Northern Railroad Company in 1970.

The Clearwater Short Line Railway Company was incorporated on November 9, 1898, and sold to the Northern Pacific Railway Company on June 23, 1914. Its main lines were from Riparia, Washington, to Grangeville, Stites, and Headquarters, Idaho.

The Coeur d’Alene Railway and Navigation Company was incorporated on July 6, 1886, and was leased to the NPRR in 1888. Its main line ran from Cataldo, Idaho to the Montana state line near Mullan, Idaho. It was sold in foreclosure to the NPRR on January 26, 1897.

The Connell Northern Railway Company was incorporated on June 1, 1909. It operated between Connell and Adco, Washington, between in 1910 and 1914. It was sold to the NPRR on June 25, 1914.

The Drummond and Phillipsburg Railroad Company was incorporated on January 17, 1887 and sold to the Northern Pacific and Montana Railroad Company on September 7, 1888. It operated a line between Drummond and Phillipsburg, Montana. There was also an extension to Rumsey, Montana, that was abandoned in 1904.

The Dixon-Polson Line operated between Dixon and Polson, Montana.

The Gaylord and Ruby Valley Railway Company was incorporated on March 29, 1897 and sold to the NPRR on February 28, 1899. It started a line from Renovo, Montana, to Twin Bridges, Montana construction was completed by the NPRR.

The Great Northern Railway Company was originally the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railroad Company (incorporated May 23, 1879) the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Company (incorporated March 10, 1862), and the Minneapolis and St. Cloud Railroad Company (incorporated March 1, 1956). The first division of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad Co. completed its first line from St. Paul to Minneapolis in 1862. The Great Northern Railway Company was formed on September 18, 1889 and involved the purchase or absorption of these and numerous other lines. Originally operating in Minnesota and the Midwest, the company completed its line from Duluth and St. Paul, Minnesota, to Everett and Seattle, Washington in 1893. It was the only line to build to the west coast without federal land grants.

The Green River and Northern Railroad Company was incorporated on September 22, 1890 and was sold to the NPRR on April 21, 1898. It was a branch line that joined the NPRR system at Palmer Junction in western Washington state.

The Kootenai Valley Railroad Company was incorporated on October 19, 1898. Its main line ran from Bonners Ferry, Idaho, to Porthill, Idaho, on the Canadian border. It was sold to and merged into the Great Northern Railway Company in 1913.

The Livingston-Gardner Branch operated from Livingston to Gardner, Montana.

The Missoula and Bitter Root Valley Railroad Company was incorporated on January 4, 1887. It operated a line from Missoula, Montana, to Grantsdale, Montana, 1888. That same year, it was incorporated into the Northern Pacific and Montana Railroad Company.

The Missouri River Railway Company was incorporated June 13, 1906, in North Dakota. It built track from Glendive to Sidney, Montana, and from Cannon Ball to Stanton, North Dakota. It was sold to the NPRR on June 20, 1914.

The Northern Pacific and Montana Railway Company was formed of the Drummond and Phillipsburg Railroad Company, the Helena and Northern Railroad Company, the Helena, Boulder Valley and Butte Railroad Company, and the Missoula and Bitter Root Valley Railroad Company in 1888. Its main lines ran from Logan, Montana to Butte and from De Smet, Montana, to the Idaho state line. There were also numerous branch lines.

The Northern Pacific and Puget Sound Shore Railroad Company was incorporated on August 23, 1884. Its main line operated between Meeker and Seattle, Washington, with branch lines to Kennydale and from Kirkland Junction to Kirkland. It was sold to the NPRR on April 21, 1898.

The Peninsular Branch operated between Shelton and Gordonville, Washington.

The Port Townsend and Southern Railroad was incorporated on September 28, 1887 and operated from 1890 to 1914. Its predecessor was the Olympia and Chehalis Valley Railroad Company. Its main lines from between Tenino and Olympia and between Port Townsend and Quilcene, Washington. The main line was sold to the NPRR in 1914 the line was then sold to Joshua Green in 1917.

The Puget Sound Shore Railroad was incorporated on August 19, 1882. It operated a line between Stuck Junction (south of Kent, Washington) to Seattle. It was sold to the Northern Pacific and Puget Sound Shore Railroad Company October 31, 1889, which was in turn sold to the NPRR on April 21, 1898.

The Rocky Fork and Cooke City Railway Company was incorporated on December 10, 1886. It operated a line from Laurel, Montana, to Red Lodge, Montana. It was sold to and merged into the NPRR on April 21, 1898.

The St. Paul and Duluth Railroad Company was incorporated June 28, 1877. It was sold to the NPRR on June 15, 1900.

The St. Paul and Northern Pacific Railway Company was sold to the NPRR on November 2, 1896.

The Seattle and International Railway Company was incorporated on June 30, 1896. Its main line ran from Seattle, Washington, to Sumas, on the Washington-British Columbia border, which it purchased as the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway Company. It operated from July 1896 to March 1901, when it was sold to the NPRR.

The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway Company was incorporated on April 28, 1885. Its two main lines ran from Seattle, Washington, to Sumas, on the Washington-British Columbia border, and from Spokane Falls to Davenport, Washington. It was sold in foreclosure in July 1896—the eastern portion to the Spokane and Seattle Railway Company, the western portion to the Seattle and International Railway Company. These were, in turn sold to the NPRR, in 1900 and 1901.

The Shields River Valley Railway Company was incorporated October 24, 1908 and built a line from Mission to Wilsall, Montana. It was sold to and merged into the NPRR on June 23, 1914.

The Spokane Falls and Idaho Railroad was formed on October 25, 1886. Its main line was from Hauser Junction, near the Washington-Idaho border, to Coeur d’Alene. It operated from 1886 to 1898, when it was sold to the NPRR.

The Spokane and Palouse Railway Company was incorporated in 1886. It operated a line from Marshall, Washington, to Genesee and Juliaetta, Idaho from 1886 to 1899. It was sold to the NPRR on February 21, 1899.

The Tacoma, Olympia and Grays Harbor Railroad Company was formed on May 7, 1890. Its main line ran between Lakeview and Ocosta, Washington, on Grays Harbor. It was sold to the United Railroads of Washington on August 2, 1890, which was in turn sold to the NPRR on April 21, 1898.

The Washington and Columbia River Railway Company was incorporated on August 4, 1892. Its main line ran from Pendleton, Oregon, to Dayton, Washington, through Wallula and Walla Walla, Washington. It operated from 1892 to 1907, when it was sold to the NPRR.

The Western Dakota Railway Company was formed on June 13, 1906. It was sold to the NPRR on June 20, 1914.

The Yakima and Pacific Coast Railroad Company was formed on May 1, 1890. It operated a line from Chehalis to South Bend, Washington. On February 13, 1892, it was sold to the United Railroads of Washington. This was sold to the NPRR on April 21, 1898.

The Northern Pacific carried passengers and freight throughout the western United States and was crucial part of the settlement and commerce of the area. In 1970, the Northern Pacific, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, and the Great Northern merged to form Burlington Northern Railroad Company.

Content Description Return to Top

This collection includes both bound and unbound correspondence, construction and expense reports, financial ledgers, right-of-way descriptions and maps, activity logs, publicity materials (including photographs and film reels), and personnel records created by employees of the Northern Pacific Railway Company and its subsidiary lines between the years 1870 and 1968--though materials are predominantly from the late 1880s through the early 1940s.

The Northern Pacific Railway Records present an extensive and detailed resource for researching railroad corporate management structures, land ownership histories for railroad associated properties (particularly in North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, and Washington state), economic impacts created by railroad construction and repair, corporate investment into raw material production for cheap construction supplies (particularly timber), and NPRR marketing strategies spanning a period of dramatic social and economic change in the American West. Correspondence records in this collection provide significant insights into prevailing railroad management structures during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries--when the rail industry dominated the social, economic, and political realms of rural American life. As was common during the time period, NPRR field operation managers were required to be technical experts as well as administrators. The records generated and/or compiled by the railroad's engineering staff reveal this complex balance of designing construction projects, scheduling traffic flows, and managing day-to-day operations. Rights-of-way documents, property maps, and construction drawings form a uniquely valuable resource for researching individual real estate histories and large-scale settlement patterns. The financial records in this collection provide detailed accounts of occupations and pay schedules for railroad personnel, the corporation's purchases of construction materials and sundry supplies (often specific to individual stations), and freight volumes carried from the region to national markets. The NPRR promotional department records in this collection preserve sometimes overt and often subtle techniques intended to both create and reinforce the railroad's preferred images of life in the Rocky Mountain West and Pacific Northwest. These promotional materials form a particularly interesting body of evidence for comparison and contrast with perceptions presented by contemporary regional literatures as well as the department's focus on highlighting agricultural abundance during periods of drought and farm foreclosures.

Materials in this collection were predominantly generated or compiled by engineering and promotions personnel. For the most part, engineering department recording procedures are consistent however, the materials in sub-group 2 were generated by subsidiary and associated rail lines that reflect widely varrying recording policies and project goals. Additionally, NPRR engineers tended to move frequently, causing some degree of discontinuity.

Use of the Collection Return to Top

Restrictions on Use

Researchers are responsible for using in accordance with 17 U.S.C. and any other applicable statutes. Copyright not transferred to The University of Montana.

Preferred Citation

[Name of document or photograph/item number], Northern Pacific Railway Company Records, Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, The University of Montana-Missoula.

Administrative Information Return to Top


The collection is divided into three subgroups: Engineering Department Branch Lines, Predecessors and Related Companies and Advertising and Publicity Department.

The collection is further divided into sixty-one series:

Subgroup 1: Engineering Department, 165.25 linear feet and 14 oversize volumes, 1870 - 1968

Series I: Main line General, 22 linear feet and 3 oversize volumes, 1870 - 1965

Series II: Second Main Line, 33 linear feet, 1905 - 1956

Series III: Main line office, Helena, 0.25 linear feet and 5 oversize volumes, 1887 - 1893

Series IV: Idaho Division (Montana/Idaho), 1.0 linear feet, 1881 - 1900

Series V: Clarks Fork and Pend d’Oreille Division (Montana/Idaho), 3.5 linear feet, 1881 - 1910

Series VI: Missoula Division (Montana/Idaho), 6.0 linear feet, 1906 - 1909

Series VII: Missouri Division (Montana/Idaho), 4.0 linear feet, 1891 - 1912

Series VIII: Montana Division (Montana/Idaho), 1 volume, 1913

Series IX: Rocky Mountain Division (Montana/Idaho), 25.0 linear feet, 1882 - 1961

Series X: Yellowstone Division (Montana/Idaho), 0.75 linear feet, 1881 - 1953

Series XI: General Oregon/Washington, 28.0 linear feet, 1880 - 1910

Series XII: Cascade Division (Oregon/Washington), 7.5 linear feet and 3 oversize volumes, 1882 - 1892

Series XIII: Pacific Division (Oregon/Washington), 4.5 linear feet and 1 oversize volume, 1871 - 1909

Series XIV: Portland Division (Oregon/Washington), 1.25 linear feet, 1881 - 1909

Series XV: Seattle Division (Oregon/Washington), 0.25 linear feet, 1901 - 1905

Series XVI: Western Division (Oregon/Washington), 4.0 linear feet and 1 oversize volume, 1883 - 1907

Series XVII: Yakima Division (Oregon/Washington), 1.5 linear feet, 1883 - 1889

Series XVIII: Dakota Division, 2.25 linear feet, 1883 - 1910

Series XIX: Minnesota Division, 7.5 linear feet, 1881 - 1960

Series XX: Wisconsin Division, 2.5 linear feet, 1881 - 1893

Series XXI: Other Construction Projects and Unidentified, 8.5 linear feet and 1 oversize volume, 1881 - 1968

Series XXII: Photographs, 2.0 linear feet, 1882 - 1959

Subgroup 2: Branch Lines, Predecessors and Related Companies, 60.75 linear feet and 18 oversize volumes, 1881 - 1960

Series XXIII: Astoria and Columbia River Railroad Company, 1 folder, 1894 - 1898

Series XXIV: Bear Creek Western Railway Company, 1 folder, 1901 - 1910

Series XXV: Camp Creek Railway Company, 1.0 linear feet and 1 oversize volume, 1911 - 1912

Series XXVI: Central Washington Railroad Company, 4.5 linear feet and 3 oversize volumes, 1888 - 1910

Series XXVII: Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Company, 5.5 linear feet, 1900 - 1960

Series XXVIII: Clearwater Short Line Railway Company, 15.5 linear feet, 1890 - 1910

Series XXIX: Coeur d’Alene Railway and Navigation Company, 2.0 linear feet, 1883 - 1892

Series XXX: Connell Northern Railway Company, 0.25 linear feet, 1909 - 1910

Series XXXI: Dixon-Polson Line, 0.5 linear feet, 1913 - 1958

Series XXXII: Drummond and Phillipsburg Railroad Company, 0.25 linear feet, 1887 - 1888

Series XXXIII: Gaylord and Ruby Valley Railway Company, 1.0 linear feet, 1897 - 1902

Series XXXIV: Grays Harbor and Columbia River Railway Company, 0.25 linear feet, 1901 - 1909

Series XXXV: Great Northern Railway Company, 1 oversize volume, 1909

Series XXXVI: Green River and Northern Railroad Company, 0.5 linear feet and 1 oversize volume, 1887 - 1891

Series XXXVII: Kootenai Valley Railroad Company, 1 bound volume, 1890

Series XXXVIII: Livingston-Gardner Branch, 0.25 linear feet, 1922 - 1960

Series XXXIX: Manitoba Southwestern Colonization Railway, 1 folder, 1881 - 1882

Series XL: Missoula and Bitter Root Valley Railroad Company, 1 partial reel of microfilm and 2 bound volumes, 1887 - 1888

Series XLI: Missouri River Railway Company, 8.25 linear feet, 1909 - 1912

Series XLII: Northern Pacific and Montana Railway Company, 2.0 linear feet, 1883 - 1908

Series XLIII: Northern Pacific and Puget Sound Shore Railroad Company, 1.25 linear feet, 1882 - 1891

Series XLIV: Peninsular Branch (Washington), 1.25 linear feet, 1901 - 1906

Series XLV: Port Townsend and Southern Railroad, 1 bound volume, 1906 - 1907

Series XLVI: Puget Sound Shore Railroad, 1 bound volume, 1891

Series XLVII: Rocky Fork and Cooke City Railway Company, 0.5 linear feet, 1889 - 1890

Series XLVIII: St. Paul and Duluth Railroad Company, 0.5 linear feet, 1892 - 1898

Series XLIX: St. Paul and Northern Pacific Railway Company, 0.25 linear feet, 1885 - 1887

Series L: Seattle and International Railway Company, 2 bound volumes (one is oversize), 1900 - 1904

Series LI: Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway Company, 1 bound volume, 1893

Series LII: Shields River Valley Railway Company, 2.0 linear feet, 1908 - 1910

Series LIII: Spokane Falls and Idaho Railroad, 0.25 linear feet, 1888 - 1891

Series LIV: Spokane and Palouse Railway Company, 4.0 linear feet and 4 oversize volumes, 1885 - 1907

Series LV: Tacoma, Olympia and Grays Harbor Railroad Company, 3.5 linear feet and 3 oversize volumes, 1890 - 1892

Series LVI: Tacoma Terminal Company, 2.5 linear feet, 1887 - 1893

Series LVII: Washington and Columbia River Railway Company, 0.25 linear feet, 1898 - 1902

Series LVIII: Western Dakota Railway Company, 0.5 linear feet, 1909 - 1913

Series LIX: Yakima and Pacific Coast Railroad Company, 1.0 linear feet and 3 oversize volumes, 1890 - 1893

Subgroup 3: Advertising and Publicity Department, 2.5 linear feet, 24 moving image items, and 2 oversize boxes, 1895 - 1950

Series LX: Moving Images, 20 16mm film reels and 4 VHS tapes, circa 1920s - 1940

Series LXI: Publicty Photographs, 2.5 linear feet and 2 oversize boxes, 1895 - 1950

Custodial History

The custodial history of these records is largely unknown. One group of records received in 1970 had been stored in the Northern Pacific depot in Missoula, Montana, until their transfer to the archives after the creation of Burlington Northern Railroad. Some of the materials may have been discarded from the Minnesota Historical Society’s NPRR collection, or may have been received directly from the NPRR.

Acquisition Information

Gift, in part, of Burlington Northern Railroad, 1970.

Processing Note

The collection was originally received in three major and three minor accessions that were processed as LC 128, LC 141, LC 178, SC 218, SC 319, Film collection 3, and Video collection 7. Some of the photographs had been transferred to the archives photograph collection, but a significant number remained unprocessed.

In 2003, these collections were combined, identified, and extensively re-described. Arrangement was based largely on the corporate divisions and arrangement identified by the Minnesota Historical Society. Boxes 43-51 from LC 178, routine correspondence from the Assistant General Freight Agent in Minneapolis, Minnesota, were discarded. Authorities for Expenditure from LC 178, boxes 1-42, were transferred to the Minnesota Transportation Museum in May 2003.

Photographs were integrated into two series according to purpose of origin. Photographs intended as a documentary record for railway operations--for example construction projects, railroad facilities, engines, and personnel--were assigned to Series XXII. The majority of materials in Series XXII are identified and described individually, with reference to location and date as such information could be established however, the series also includes some grouped photographs recovered from a separated collection and integrated in 2003. Photographs intended for promotional purposes--for example promoting the agricultural abundance of the communities serviced by the railway, landscapes along the various routes, and promotional exhibits--were assigned to Series LXI. Materials in Series LXI are identified and described in groups according to subject matter. However, some promotional photographs are present in Series XXII. These photographs were individually indentified and described during original processing. During 2003 reprocessing these photographs were assigned to Series XXII to retain their individualized research references. During original processing photographs were assigned identification numbers according to the year and order in which they were processed. During 2003 reprocessing all previously processed photographs were assigned new reference numbers to reflect their relationship within the larger collection--regardless of year. Please refer to the scope and notes comments for Series XXII and LXI to gain further details on photograph processing.

Film and video materials that were seperated from the collection during original processing were reintegrated in 2003 as one series (LX). All collection VHS tapes are duplicates of film reels. For each instance of a one-to-one relationship, tapes were assigned a common reference number to the film reel original. One VHS tape contains transfers of several film reels. In this one instance the VHS tape was assigned a unique reference number.

The archives thanks Missoula railroad historians Bill and Janyce Taylor for their assistance with the processing.

Separated Materials

All previously separated materials were either re-integrated into the collection as described in the processing notes or were deaccessioned.

Related Materials

The majority of the Northern Pacific Records are held by the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota. Their collection includes approximately 10,600 cubic feet of records that date from 1861 to 1970.

There are also numerous records held by the Minnesota Transportation Museum in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Minnesota State University in Mankato holds a collection of NPRR pamphlets.

Detailed Description of the Collection Return to Top

Subgroup 1: Engineering Department, 1870-1968 Return to Top

This subgroup contains materials generated by employees of the Engineering Department of the Northern Pacific Railway's primary rail lines. Series III through XX contain records generated by the geographic divisions the railway established for hierarchial management (largely defined by state borders and more localized spurs). Series I and II contain records related to constructing and managing the primary lines spanning these geographic divisions. Materials primarily consist of records generated or compiled by NPRR Engineering Department managers (usually identified as "chief engineer," "assistant engineer," or "engineer in charge") regarding property acquistions, construction projects, repair work, station activities, line traffic, production numbers from subsidiary operations, and general management.

These materials provide significant primary resources for examining railroad corporate management structures, land ownership histories for properties associated with the main railroad lines and spurs, regional and localized economic impacts created by railroad construction and repair, and cycles of railroad investment into timber harvesting as a source for cheap construction materials. Information in this series is primarily presented through general correspondence, bound financial ledgers, compiled tracking reports and narrative summaries, blue print diagrams and maps, and day books maintained by unidentified railroad staff. Throughout this subgroup the phrase "Force Reports" in folder titles refers to reports filed by line engineers regarding actual and projected personnel hours (work force) for construction and repair projects.

This classic view commemorates the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad (left) transcontinental line in 1883 as it ran from St. Paul, Minnesota to Tacoma by way of Portland. (Special Collections, University of Washington, negative #594.)

Logging railroad, (below). (Special Collections, University of Washington, neg. #12093)

The arrival of transcontinental railroads in the Pacific Northwest during the 1880s marked one of the key turning points in the region's history. The Northwest had been integrated into global trading networks since the 1780s, when British vessels began carrying away sea otter pelts to China and the Northwest had been integrated into far western trading networks since the time of the Gold Rush, when California's demand for produce and lumber had sent ships to regional shores. Yet as late as 1880 the Pacific Northwest remained largely isolated from both the main currents of the global economy and the bulk of the population in the United States. From the writings of people like James Swan, Americans knew that the Northwest possessed resources to be exploited. Yet other parts of the country generally provided plenty of the kinds of resources that the Northwest had to offer, and the place remained too inaccessible for most people. Consider, for example, the extent to which people homesteaded in the region. Between 1862 and 1880, only 9,800 people in Oregon and 9,500 in Washington filed homestead claims by contrast, 62,000 and 59,000 filed claims, respectively, in Minnesota and Nebraska—states located closer to, and served better by railroads from, eastern centers of population.

The population of Idaho, Oregon, and Washington in 1880 amounted to no more than 283,000. After the arrival of transcontinental lines during the 1880s, the number of people grew quickly. By 1910 the three states contained more than 2 million residents. The substantial increase resulted in large part from the arrival of railroads, which brought more people to settle in the region, more investments in the extractive economy, more awareness of opportunities, and more of a means to increase exports to the rest of the world. No longer so remote, the Northwest became even more integrated into the networks of the global economy and the commerce of the United States. Boosters exuded confidence that the railroads would elevate the regional economy, and perhaps even put the Northwest on a par with other parts of the country. They were gratified to get the attention of big capitalists from the East and Europe, to be the focus of advertising campaigns, to become the destination for thousands of new migrants. They embraced the new cities and new commerce that railroads helped to create. However, many booster's hopes were misplaced. Railroads may have liberated the Northwest from its isolation and accelerated its pace of settlement, but they brought with them their own constraints and limitations. In some ways they heightened the sense that the Northwest was the colony, the hinterland, of other places.

If the railroads exported the Northwest (or at least its products) to the East, they also imported the East to the Northwest. By that I mean two things. First, railroads transported to the remote region the social and cultural and economic and political traits that characterized Gilded Age America. By conquering distances between different corners of the country, railroads helped to disseminate the modernizing ways of the late 19th century. The Northwest received as a result an intense dose of urbanization, industrialization, and immigration—and it came at a formative time when social institutions were beginning to jell. Outside of the Willamette Valley, industrialism found few entrenched institutions within Anglo-American society that were capable of resisting or buffering its ways. Second, railroads came with strings attached, and these strings took the form of conditions determined by people back East. No western town, territory, or state had the resources to build a transcontinental line itself. As a result, they relied upon cooperation between the federal government and finance capitalists to obtain rail connections, and they had to live with the terms that those eastern "benefactors" laid down. They had to accept, for example, the bargain struck between Congress and the Northern Pacific Railroad which granted the company immense tracts of western lands as an incentive for building the line. Most of all, they had to learn to live with the enormous influence that railroad companies exerted on their societies.

Follow this link for more Logging Scenes.

Railroad companies immediately became the most powerful economic actors in the Pacific Northwest, and they toiled to shape its economic development to their benefit. They built or expanded towns, for example, where it best suited (or profited) them, often leaving bypassed sites to wither. They became the largest private landowners in the region, and wielded enormous influence over the distribution and utilization of land. Moreover, they became the biggest boosters of the Pacific Northwest. They distributed millions of flyers and pamphlets and broadsides to advertise the area, not just in the eastern states but also in Europe, and they hired agents to encourage emigration to the Northwest. Railroads profited in multiple ways from the population influx that they encouraged. For example, they charged fares to passengers migrating to the region they sold land to many of the newcomers and they shipped back east the produce or natural resources that the newly enlarged population generated. They also formed companies to develop the region's land and resources on a much larger scale. The amount of economic activity increased dramatically because of their arrival yet the powerful railway companies naturally directed much of that activity, making it hard for Northwesterners to feel that they had been "liberated," in economic terms.

One sphere in which railroads expedited growth was the logging industry. The first explorers and fur traders had noticed the abundant timber and made some economic use of it, and the California Gold Rush created a demand for Northwest wood products that really launched the lumber industry. Between 1860 and 1880, eight out of every ten dollars invested in manufacturing in Washington Territory went to the timber industry. Yet these remained slack years with wildly inconsistent levels of production, and many sawmills struggled to stay in business. As late as 1880, Washington ranked 31st among all states and territories in timber production. Over the next decade, however, its output multiplied eight times, and by 1890 it had risen to fifth in the United States by 1905 it ranked first, and it continued to lead the nation for every year but one until the 1930s. The arrival of railroads had suddenly accelerated timber production. (Another key factor was that in this era the forests around the Great Lakes began to give out, after having been harvested for decades, and timber companies such as Weyerhaeuser moved to the Pacific Northwest to get new supplies of wood.)

Railroads stepped up timber production in myriad ways. First, they were enormous consumers of wood products themselves, using 20-25 percent of the annual timber production between the 1870s and 1900 for railroad ties, bridges, stations, fences, and fuel. Second, railways enabled loggers to penetrate deeper into the forests by providing access to many more trees than before. Third, as owners of enormous amounts of land, railroad companies treated forests as private property and worked both to develop and to conserve timber resources. Fourth, they imported to the Pacific Northwest more machinery and more people than ever before, and put them to work in the timber industry. Fifth, they lowered the cost of transporting logs out of the forests to mills, and from mills to the eastern states. In short, railroads were machines that revolutionized the timber industry.

Just as railroads "mechanized" and accelerated production throughout the economy of the Pacific Northwest, the "steam donkey" further mechanized and accelerated production in the timber industry. Steam donkeys were introduced during the 1880s to replace the ox and horse teams that hauled fallen logs out of the forest. By 1900, Washington had three times the number of steam donkeys of Oregon and California combined. Not coincidentally, its production of lumber skyrocketed.

Pacific Northwest faces one of its most severe heat waves in history

Forecasts for a heat wave of historic proportions in the Pacific Northwest have solidified, and a consensus is building among meteorologists that this could rank among the most extreme events the region has ever seen.

National Weather Service forecast offices in Portland, Ore., Seattle and Spokane, Wash., have all used the word “unprecedented” to describe the expected heat and are warning about its potentially lethal effects, considering significant portions of the population lack air conditioning.

Numerous cities are predicted to approach or surpass their hottest weather ever recorded in June and probably any calendar month. Washington, Oregon and Idaho could challenge state highs, which are close to 120 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

With projected temperatures 15 to 30 degrees above average, the heat wave will be exceptional for its intensity. The duration, with triple digit afternoon highs and unusually warm nights lasting three to seven days, will also be brutal.

Excessive heat watches and warnings affect over 13 million people, covering parts of northern California and western Idaho and much of Oregon and Washington, except for areas right along the coast. The excessive heat warning in effect for the area around Portland calls for “dangerously hot” temperatures Saturday through Monday.

The temperature in Portland is predicted to reach 109 degrees on Sunday, which would break its all-time record of 107 degrees.

In Seattle, predicted highs Saturday, Sunday and Monday are 95, 99 and 99 degrees and the Weather Service says 100-plus can’t be ruled out. If Seattle manages to reach triple digits, it will mark just the fourth time on record. It needs to exceed 96 degrees to establish a new heat record for the month of June.

While extreme heat is expected to last about three or four days in Portland and Seattle, it could persist for up to a week in eastern Washington.

The event “could rival some of the longest lasting and extreme heat waves in the recorded history of the Inland Northwest,” wrote the National Weather Service in Spokane.

Spokane is predicted to see temperatures top 100 from Saturday through at least July 1. Temperatures are forecast to peak around 110 degrees Monday and Tuesday, which would break its all-time record of 108 and potentially shatter its June record of 105 multiple times.

If triple-digit heat endures as long as predicted in Spokane, it will match or break the city’s record for most triple-digit days in a row: six.

While Portland, Seattle and Spokane are the largest population centers bracing for this heat wave, several other cities in the Pacific Northwest also face the prospect of punishing, record-setting heat:

Watch the video: Episode 1, Northern Pacific Railroad History


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