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.