Thursday, November 17, 2016

Railroads of Sumas_Part 3 of 3_Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad (SLS&E)

Railroads of Sumas...part 3 of 3...Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad (SLS&E)

The second U.S. owned railroad in Sumas was the Sumas, Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad
(SLS & E). 

"The SLS&E was conceived and founded (April 28, 1885 in Seattle, Washington) by Seattle business interests in response to Villard of NP selecting Seattles intense rival Tacoma as its transcontinental western terminus.  The original scheme for the SLS&E was connecting with an intercontinental RR somewhere, while building north and east from Seattle."...Wikipedia, "Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway"...

The SLS&E ran their original track (completed in 1889) from Seattle (Ballard) though Bothell, Woodinville to Sallah Prairie (near Snoqualmie Pass) with the intention of connecting to the NP. 

After that plan changed they used some of this original line to complete the 126 mile line from Seattle to Sumas and a connection to the Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR).  The route started in the Ballard area of Seattle and headed north around Lake Washington, then dropped south and around Lake Sammamish to Issaquah and then headed east to Stampede Pass ( about 15 miles South of Snoqualmie Pass).  The route then turned north to Snohomish then on to Arlington traveling though Skagit County where they skirted on the east side of Lake Whatcom and straight up to Sumas. 

The construction and grading of the roadbed started March 9, 1887.  They started laying the rails and started running their first engine October 25th of the same year.  The work was slowed down due to four rivers, the Snohomish, Stillaguamish, Skagit and Nooksack.  There was very sharp competition between the SLS&E, the BB&BC and the Fairhaven & Southern Railroad (F&S) racing north to reach the great prize of connecting with Canada (and the eastern markets). 

In 1889, Eugene Canfield, who was building the F&S, decided to file an injunction against the SLS&E to prevent them from building a bridge over the Snohomish River.  Mr. Canfield claimed sole right to bridge the river was given to him by Congress when he was awarded a charter for the F&S and demanded $1,000,000 from the SLS&E to allow the bridge to be built. There are several accounts on how this was resolved.  Most of them tell a similar story...
.....historian and author Nard Jones relates how Judge Tom Burk (with LS&E interests in mind) boarded a company locomotive in Seattle and instructed the engineer to unhook the cars and proceed to Snohomish in a hurry.  The judge had spotted the F&S company man who was taking a writ to block the crossing of the Snohomish River waiting for a train in Seattle.  The SLS&E engineer, in great haste, got the judge to Snohomish.  Judge Burk then sought out local Sheriff Billy Whitfield and informed him that a man was bringing a writ to halt the construction.  Burk then asked the sheriff if there wasn't any outlaws in the mountains that needed looking for.  The Sheriff said there were and headed into the hills with his deputies.  It only took three days to finish the bridge while the outmaneuvered F&S man was looking for the missing Sheriff and his deputies and could not deliver the writ in time.... 

The following was the printed in the Bellingham Bay Express, April 5, 1890, p1, c5.

"An express reporter last evening met Mr. A. W.  Mohr who has the contract to slash the right of way and grade twenty-five miles of the above road south from the boundary line to the Samish Summit.  Six hundred men are now hard at work to complete his contract by June 1st.  Mr. Mohr states that the roadbed is comparatively lee, average grade being about six tenth percent.  The heaviest rock cut only being 75  feet long and 37 feet high and one heavy embankment about three-quarters of a mile long, with an average fill of nine feet.

The San Francisco Bridge Co. has the contract to construct the bridges across the Nooksack River at the fork.  About 1,000.000 feet of piling will be required and 500,000 feet of lumber to construct the bridge.  The approaches will require about 500 Feet of trestling on each side.  There will be two Howe Truss spans, the center pier being built upon an island in the river.  Work will commence upon the bridge within three weeks. The plies are now being cut on the upper Nooksack and floated down.

A large number of men are at work on the bridge at the mission where the C.P.R.R, connects with S.L.S. & E.R.R. and B.B. & B.C.R.R. 

Rails will begin to be laid about August 1st, being brought to the front as far as the Nooksack River over the line of the C.P.R.R.  Co. Rails will be  brought over the lines of the S.L.S. & E.R.R.  to Sedro on the Skagit River, then transferred to the tracks of the Fairhaven & Southern and delivered to the B.B. & B.C. R.R.  and forwarded by the latter company to the Nooksack River thereby keeping the work progressing from all quarters.

The express predicts that on the 1st of November, 1890, the connecting link that previously prevented  a traveler making a complete circle around the outer edge of the North American continent, by rail, will be completed and in successful operation."

May, 1890 saw the first SLS&E stock sold to the NP.

The SLS&E tracks arrived at the South Fork of the Nooksack River around 1st December, 1890.  There was plans to build a branch up to the Wardner Coal Mine at Blue Canyon on Lake Whatcom in the spring.  Although the Wardner branch was publicized it did not come to pass.

So...ultimately the SLS&E lost the race to Sumas and the lucrative CPR connection by arriving in town 48 hours after the triumphant BB&BC.

By 1892 the SLS&E was operating as a portion of the NP, was placed in receivership 23 June, 1893 and was sold July 28th, 1896 mostly to NP representatives.

picture 1
SLS&E Stock Certificate
this image from

picture 2
"SLS&E's engine #2, the D.H.Gilman, 4 July, 1892.  Photograph taken at Columbia St. Station on Railroad Ave., Bellingham"
this picture from

Monday, October 10, 2016

Railroads of Sumas_Part 2 of 3_Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad (BB & BC RR)

Railroads of Sumas...Part 2 of 3...Bellingham Bay and British Columbia (BB&BC)

Over 125 years ago, 1 March, 1891, the BB &BC Railroad arrived in Sumas with its tracks. It was a day of great celebration for the local community as Sumas was no longer isolated.

BB&BC Railroad was incorporated in California in June 21, 1883, headed by Pierre B. Cornwall. (Cornwall Park and Cornwall Avenue in Bellingham was named after him). The company was incorporated after the Northern Pacific Railroad selected Tacoma instead of Whatcom. The BB&BC was capitalized for $10,000,000, with its original goal to build a line from Whatcom (Bellingham) to Burrard Inlet (Vancouver, British Columbia). The company started construction in 1884 and headed toward Sumas.

The BB&BC Railroad was taken over in 1912 by the Bellingham and Northern Railroad and later by Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad in 1918.

"The Whatcom Reveille issue of March 6, 1891, had noted, "The BB&BC road arrived at Sumas at 1:00 p.m., Sunday (Mar.1st) amid great rejoicing. Col. Barker was threatened with a spasm, while many went wild. Johnson, Leitch and Walsh, all townsite proprietors, kept open house and let out considerable good cheer....The SLS & E road is expected to arrive Wednesday (Mar. 11th) when another big time will occur."

At the first of these celebrations, the townsite people were jubilant. Lots were selling like hotcakes. Some of the early settlers left their claims for a time and constructed board and tent shelters and hung out a "Hotel" sign to help take care of the fast arriving populace. Saloons and gambling houses mushroomed. There were plenty of partners at two bits a swing for the men at dance halls and nearby rooming houses flourished.

The townsite men set the pattern. They organized a brass band and furnished free beer at their offices. With construction crews from three railroad and newcomers arriving everyday, by work train and stage, money flowed freely, and accommodations were short but headaches were plentiful."

from Boundary Town, by Roy Franklin Jones

"The B.B. & B.C. Railroad crews reached Sumas with its track on March 1, 1891, seven years after the first efforts were initiated. The 23-mile line served Van Wyck, Wahl, Goshen, Central, Everson, Clearbrook, and Sumas. Along the road was a brickyard that contracted for sixty-three cars to haul its product to New Whatcom and one logging camp with 30,000,000 feet of logs for Bellingham Bay. Roth 1:301; Whatcom Reveillie, March 6, 1891.
Trying to keep pace with he extension of the railroad were crews installing telegraph lines beside the tracks. it was reported on May 5:
The telegraph line on the Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad Company's line has reached Everson and is one mile beyond that town. a total distance of sixteen miles. Trains are running daily to Sumas City The line from Mission to Sumas is rapidly nearing completion. The tracks will be running by 15th of May. Fairhaven Herald, May 5, 1891, p7, c1"
from Railroad History of Bellingham Bay, Washington by Neill D. Mullen

Picture 1
BB & BC Railroad pass, circa 1896

Picture 2

BB & BC Railroad pass, circa 1902

One peculiar sight that became common place on the BB & BC was the McKeen Motor Car #2, named Kulshan , that commuted between Whatcom (Bellingham) and Glacier via Sumas.  From 1905 and 1917, The McKeen Motor Car Company built 152 motor cars.  They were powered by an internal combustion engine and had a narrow, knife edge front end (called a wind splitter) and a rounded rear end.  The passengers looked out of round porthole windows.  The round shape of the windows was intended to provide structural strength. The vehicle was designed to run in either direction.  In order for the car to be reversed, the motorman had to shut down the engine, manually set the camshaft, then restart the engine. Today there is only one operational McKeen Motor Car operating and it resides at the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City, Nevada.

According to the McKeen Motor Car Company Historical Society...
The Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad operated one car (the Kulshan) on the Bellingham to Glacier (via Sumas) route, three times daily.  The Kulshan was a 250 H.P., 70' model with a baggage room.  The BB&BC RR equipment list noted a 1906 date of manufacture.  It had room for 64 passengers and weighted 40 tons.
Picture 3
McKeen Motor Car #2, the Kulshan next to the Sumas Railroad Station, circa 1910
(this image from the McKeen Motor Car Historical Society website)

Picture 4

Another view of the Kulshan
next to the Sumas Railroad Station sometime before 1922.
(this image from the McKeen Motor Car Historical Society website)

The Kulshan's  ultimate fate is a mystery.
One source (The McKeen Motor Car Historical Society) lists it as having been retired and sold to the Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad and sent to Chicago (being renumbered 5908). 
Another source (the Bellingham Business Journal, 31 March, 2008) made reference that it was discontinued after suffering a 'collision' at Hampton (between Everson and Sumas) and was retired in 1922.

This posting will be expanded as new information on the BB&BC becomes available.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Railroads of Sumas_Part 1 of 3_Introduction

The Railroads of Sumas..Part 1 of 3...Introduction

This multi-part posting will explore the railroad history of Sumas.

Sumas was incorporated in 1891 in anticipation of the commerce that would follow the railroad routes that were established between Canada and the United States.  The local entrepreneurs and investors held high hopes for the future of our community.

Railroad involvement in Sumas continues to this day...
picture 1
this picture taken 1 January, 2016...looking W. on 2nd St. toward Cherry St., Sumas, WA.
used with kind permission from the blog Railfan in Sumas, WA

Picture 2
...the Railroads of Whatcom County prior to 1920...Mr. J. Linn (minus the Bellingham Bay & British Columbia and Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern)
The railroads radiate out from Sumas like the spokes of a wheel.  Mr. Linn made a point of mentioning that none of the logging railroads were included on his map. 
Visit my blog tomorrow when we will talk about the ceremonious arrival of the first train in Sumas, WA., 1 March, 1891.  

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Wee Drop Inn, a popular eating place in Sumas, WA. Circa 1955 - 1970

Who remembers eating at the Wee Drop Inn?  This is a menu from the Wee Drop Inn which was north of the Sumas City Hall on the west side of Cherry Street.  It was owned and operated by Bob and Lily Breining from approximately 1955 till it's closing in 1970.  The date of this menu is unknown,but you will noticed that the most expensive meal is the T-Bone Steak with a shrimp or crab cocktail for $3.75.

Picture 1
Posted with permission from the Betty Snider Collection

Page 2
Posted with permission from the Betty Snider Collection

Page 3
Posted with permission from the Betty Snider collection

picture 4
Posted with permission of the City of Sumas.

The Wee Drop Inn is visible on the left side of the street in between the City Hall and Bromley's IGA Grocery Store.

Nooksack Nostalgia has lots of exciting news for the upcoming year.  Please check back and learn about what is happening.