Northwest Spokane: street industrial tracks history/photos?

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BN 4246

Rail buff.
#1
I'm curious about the railroad tracks in north/west Spokane, particularly west of Division Street that appear to have run almost all the way to the bluffs, crossing streets at grade, and sometimes running right down the center of West Spokane streets. Can anyone direct me toward historical links/photos/information? For instance, did this line connect on its west end somewhere? Who owned it? When was it abandoned? Does anyone have photos of trains on these tracks? Any information anyone has or would be willing to direct me to would be most appreciated. Thanks!
 
#2
Did some quick Googling. Found this document concerning neighborhood development in the West Central neighborhood of Spokane, the area roughly west of Monroe and south of Indiana. Link to the PDF file: http://www.spokaneplanning.org/docs/Long_Range/Neighborhood_Planning/West_Central/FINAL_WCNAP_Web_May_2012.pdf

Page 2 says "During the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the Northern Pacific Railroad and Union Pacific Railroads built routes through the neighborhood. As part of the Union Pacific route, a long high trestle was built at the southwest edge of the neighborhood to cross the Spokane River. Union Pacific also constructed a rail yard at the western edge of the neighborhood. A spur line was built from downtown Spokane and ran diagonally northwest through the neighborhood to Fort Wright. A portion of the tracks can still be seen from Ash and Sinto westward. By the early 1970’s these rail routes were abandoned and some areas still remain vacant awaiting development."

That implies that those tracks were a UP or NP spur line to serve customers in the area.

Todd
 

Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#5
Thanks for posting the maps. The old trackage in Spokane and SE Washington can get quite confusing, especially since much of it has been removed over the past 40+ years.

I recall the old UP and GN trestles over Hangman Creek prior to the BN merger. After the merger, the new concrete bridge was constructed and BN (former GN, NP, SP&S), UP, and Milwaukee Road trackage through Spokane was consolidated with excess trackage being removed. The GN depot on Havermale Island was razed and the land donated to the city, which was used as the site for the 1974 Spokane World's Fair.

Sidelight: I drove up from Sacramento to attend the 1974 Spokane World's Fair. Many thought a city as small as Spokane could not pull off a World's Fair, but it was a success and one of the few which actually made money. UP 8444 (now 844) made an appearance.
 

Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#6
For archived maps and photographs, you might start a series of on-line searches of the Holland Library at Washington State University (Go Cougs!)

The noted railroad photographer, Dr. Philip Hastings, took many photographs of railroads in the Spokane area and SE Washington in the early '50's while he was in the Army and stationed in the Spokane area. You might start some on-line searches for his photographs.
 

BN 4246

Rail buff.
#8
Thanks for the replies everyone! I just now had time to check out the replies to my question. I'll enjoy looking through your posts. :)
 
#9
I agree, thank you for posting those maps, Bruce. They're great, and really a huge part of what I was looking for. I thought the spur tracks past Ash were GN, not UP. And I always wondered if they crossed the river or went farther north somewhere. The .pdf that was posted seems to say that the spur tracks did cross the river to Ft. Wright, but I don't see where or how that's possible. It's surprising how extensive the UP yards and spurs north of the river actually were... but it makes sense based on what I remember of the buildings and land use in the area of the tracks.

I recall seeing a tank car once when I was a boy, on an industrial spur just East of Ash, but it was gone a few years later when they started ripping up track and businesses changed ownership and function. I would love to see photos of this trackage... I'll start looking for the Hastings photos. Many thanks for the replies! Feel free to continue contributing if anyone has anything.
 
#11
Doing some more investigating, it looks like the UP spur to NW spokane on the 1950 map was once the GN line that crossed the river to Ft. Wright.

See the 1898 map attached.

Spokane1898map.jpg

And maybe the postcard was the RR bridge.

SpokaneFtWrightBridge.jpg
 
#12
By god, I think you've got it! That would make sense since I'd always heard the tracks going NW into West Spokane were GN. They must have cut them off and sold the line to the UP at some point. Fascinating map and postcard photo. I'd bet money that bridge is the railroad bridge. Thanks!
 

weekendrailroader

Guy with the green hat
#13
There is an article on the railroads of Spokane in a 1950's issue of Railroad Magazine (there is a picture of a red Inland Empire Electric car on the cover of the issue). IIRC, it was the July 1956 issue. I have that issue in my collection at home. Perhaps there's some photos of what you're looking for in there.

EDIT: It was a June issue, still unsure of the year. Here's a photo of the cover, though:
http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTYwMFgxMTM2/z/DI0AAOxyBC1R~~KA/$%28KGrHqYOKosFHl9wTvqhBR%2B%2BK!hqF!~~60_35.JPG
 
#14
I just spent the last hour tracing what's left of the ROW from the GN High Bridge across the valley on Google Maps. It's fascinating to find out where all the tracks used to be. I recall driving along Government Way toward Cheney and looking left and thinking, "that HAS to be where a train ran." It just looked like a railroad grade. Turns out, I was right!! The old GN line into town used to run along the bottom of the bluffs going North from the High Bridge Wye. You can still clearly see the looping ROW that eventually intersects with the cut-off trains now use coming into town from Seattle. I THINK you can still see the area inside Greenwood Cemetery where they blasted shut the old entrance to the SP&S Tunnel going north to the Wye.

West Spokane GN:SP&S Lines.jpg

GN and BNSF west of Spokane.jpg
 
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Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#15
I recall an article in the Spokesman Review around 1972-73 after the BN merger. The article discussed how the railroads and the city were working to consolidate trackage through Spokane, abandon unwanted lines, and cede the right of ways to the city. One goal was to clean up the area and use Havermale Island, site of the GN passenger station, as the grounds of the 1974 Spokane World's Fair.

The article emphasized how the legal process was slowed down and complicated by the many sections of join ownership and trackage rights employed by the five class I railroads (UP, MILW, NP, GN, SP&S) which had entered the city from the west prior to the BN merger.
 
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Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#16
I just spent the last hour tracing what's left of the ROW from the GN High Bridge across the valley on Google Maps. It's fascinating to find out where all the tracks used to be. I recall driving along Government Way toward Cheney and looking left and thinking, "that HAS to be where a train ran." It just looked like a railroad grade. Turns out, I was right!! The old GN line into town used to run along the bottom of the bluffs going North from the High Bridge Wye. You can still clearly see the looping ROW that eventually intersects with the cut-off trains now use coming into town from Seattle. I THINK you can still see the area inside Greenwood Cemetery where they blasted shut the old entrance to the SP&S Tunnel going north to the Wye.

View attachment 128275
Good research. An aspiring railroad scholar/author/ historian could write several books on the railroads of eastern Washington and northern Idaho starting in Spokane and working east through Coeur d'Alene to Wallace and south through the Palouse to Lewiston.

The SP&S-GN junction was Ft. Wright Junction. That name may show up on some of the old maps. Prior to the BN merger and subsequent consolidation/construction, the railroads' main lines crossed Hangman Creek in the following order from south to north:

NP: low bridge

UP/Milwaukee Road: high trestle

GN/SP&S: high trestle

The postcard from the late 1800's/early 1900's (judging by the clothes) may have been the original GN/UP(?) crossing before the high trestle was built to eliminate the grade down to Hangman Creek and back up. The original name was Hangman Creek, which shows up on maps and railroad books. I don't know when the name was changed to a more benign Latah Creek.

For those not familiar with Spokane: the NP mainline and bridge are still there, but the high trestles have been replaced by the "new" high bridge. The former GN/SP&S and UP/MILW mainlines have been funneled into the former NP elevated mainline through downtown Spokane.
 
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#17
There is an article on the railroads of Spokane in a 1950's issue of Railroad Magazine (there is a picture of a red Inland Empire Electric car on the cover of the issue). IIRC, it was the July 1956 issue. I have that issue in my collection at home. Perhaps there's some photos of what you're looking for in there.

EDIT: It was a June issue, still unsure of the year. Here's a photo of the cover, though:
http://i.ebayimg.com/00/s/MTYwMFgxMTM2/z/DI0AAOxyBC1R~~KA/$(KGrHqYOKosFHl9wTvqhBR++K!hqF!~~60_35.JPG
Cool! I'll have to see if I can track down a copy.
 
#18
The SP&S-GN junction was Ft. Wright Junction. The name may show up on some of the old maps you have found. Just prior to the BN merger and subsequent consolidation and construction, the railroads crossed Hangman Creek in the following order from south to north:

NP: low bridge

UP/Milwaukee Road: high trestle

GN/SP&S: high trestle

The postcard from the late 1800's/early 1900's (judging by the clothes) may have been the original GN/UP(?) crossing before the high trestle was built to eliminate the grade down to Hangman Creek and back up.
Thanks, Bill. I knew all of the trestles coming into town, having grown up there. I had no idea that there was ever a low-level crossing at Ft George Wright, though, that's fascinating to me. I spent time trying to trace where the street tracks (the ones that end near Maxwell) in NW Spokane would have gone before they were cut off; I didn't see any bridge footings in the river, but there is an old grade going toward Doomsday Hill that I believe was once a trolley car grade, perhaps the old GN we're talking about? I can't quite figure where it would have crossed; it would have been a hell of a grade if it crossed right at Ft. George Wright.

EDIT: I should have looked at the 1898 map again. It clearly shows where the grade and tracks would have gone. You've been a gold mine of information, thanks! That old map and the postcard are really neat.
 
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Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#19
I edited my last post to provide more info for the post BN merger youngsters in the audience and those who are not familiar with the area. If you grew up in Spokane, it is all old news to you.
 

Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#20
I should have looked at the 1898 map again. It clearly shows where the grade and tracks would have gone. You've been a gold mine of information, thanks! That old map and the postcard are really neat.
It is all beginning to make sense to me. IIRC, the GN was completed in the late 1890's, but the SP&S was not built until the early 1900's. Ergo, the GN/SP&S Ft. Wright Junction leading to the high trestle over Hangman Creek would not have existed in 1898. The bridge in the post card most likely is the original GN/UP(?) crossing of Hangman Creek.

I doubt the builders of the GN and SP&S would have thought that over 100 years later, rail geeks would be pondering their original mainlines in such detail.
 



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