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