Locomotive 1070 switches in the yard to fit the cars in their proper spots for the maintenance work ahead. A glimpse of cab activity shows the engineer and fireman doing their duties, while youngsters get to experience of the excitement of riding in the cab of a living breathing steam locomotive.
Riding the Steam Train
As the train waits to depart Wickersham, Engineer Tommy Thompson and Switchman Dan Cozine turn the locomotive on the wye track. Brakeman Tom Baker greets passengers as they board the train. Then locomotive 1070 begins its leisurely journey through the past as it starts up the steep grade through the town toward Mirror Lake.
Every other afternoon about five o'clock, engineer Ray Jacobus would pull into the station in Olympia on the return trip from Grays Harbor to Seattle. Passengers would get on and off the train, mail would be loaded and unloaded, and two young boys would be invited to climb up into the cab until their Dad walked down from the highway department building at the State capitol, and the family would get in the car and drive home. It was a fascinating experience.
Moving Freight on the Sumas Branch
A washout on the Sumas Branch between Wickersham and Sedro Woolley stranded half of a freight train and prompted the Bellingham Trainmaster Gary Neswick to request 1070 be steamed up and move the freight as Burlington Northern had no motive power north of Wickersham. The Lake Whatcom Railway complied and kept the freight moving so that Burlington Northern could have access to repair the washout.
Forty Five Years of Volunteers
The Lake Whatcom Railway began as an ambitious historic preservation project attracting widespread interest from all over the northwest. Instead of preserving individual pieces of equipment from a wide range of sources, it set out to preserve the remnant of an entire railroad company including equipment, right-of-way, track, structures, signage, operating rules, service, and company culture,. That railroad company was the Northern Pacific Railway. Here are the stories of some of the people that participated in this grand plan.
Preserving a Remnant of the Northern Pacific Railway
In his own words, Lake Whatcom Railway founder and visionary Frank Culp describes how his plan to save a remnant of one of the most historic railroad companies in America, the post World War II Northern Pacific Railway, came to be.
Authentic Recreation of the Northern Pacific Passenger Local
The Northern Pacific was one of the major transcontinental railways. But before the interstate highway system and commercial air carriers began to establish their dominance, the passenger locals would take passengers to the remote population centers from the transcontinental's stops. If the railroad had the mail service contract on the route, the first car would be a mail car. If the route was long, on board meal service was provided. Some trains had a baggage car if luggage could be checked to its destination. Some were so small, like the South Bend Local, that a single passenger coach was put on the end of a freight train. The Lake Whatcom Railway is the living embodiment of the passenger local of the Northern Pacific. These trains were pulled by steam or diesel locomotives, or even gas electric cars or rail diesel cars. Old timers look on these trips as the best transportation opportunities they ever had. You still can experience the enjoyment. All the equipment used, locomotives and passenger cars, are 100 percent authentic from the Northern Pacific or Northern Pacific Terminal Company railroads.
If you went down to the train station in the heyday of railroading, you might see a freight train coming through town pulled by a large locomotive. Or you might see a passenger train once or twice pulled by a fast passenger locomotive. But you would certainly see the switchers all day long everyday. The engineer might even invite you up in the cab to ride along as he did his day's work. The switchers made up the trains and delivered the railroad cars to where they were supposed to go. Both 1070 and 30 were switchers. What they both had in common is they worked with both passenger and freight trains. 1070 would pull passenger trains into Seattle's King Street Station in the 1930s. No. 30 would pull passenger trains into Portland's Union Station in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. And 1070 would turn the Aberdeen Local at Hoquiam in the 1950s. They both handled in their earlier lives the same cars they work with today at the Lake Whatcom Railway.
At the dawn of the year 1956, steam locomotives were a common sight on the Northern Pacific Railway. They were so common they seemed to be an indelible part of the landscape of western Washington. Then the Aberdeen passenger train was discontinued. One by one the passenger locals all over Washington were disappearing. Because of this, Carol Cornish began a correspondence with the higher levels of the Northern Pacific administration to operate excursion trains pulled by steam locomotives on branch lines that hadn't seen passenger trains in years. The destinations didn't matter. Riding a passenger train did. She met with success. Byron Fish of the Seattle Times picked up on the idea and the first train left Seattle for Snoqualmie in December 1956, substantially oversold. Kids were packed in three to a seat, and some never stopped walking the aisles from the front of the train to the back of the train for the entire trip. December 7 and 8 the following year, the Northern Pacific operated its very last steam powered passenger trains, Casey Jones Excursions from Seattle to Gate and return. These trains provided the inspiration and some of the equipment for keeping this Northern Pacific excursion passenger train tradition alive at the Lake Whatcom Railway, which purchased the last steam locomotive retired from regular service by the Northern Pacific.