|This is a very picture intensive article, so it's been divided up into three parts.
This is PART ONE.
Click here for PART TWO. --- Click here for PART THREE.
|This page is a spur line of my main
Abandoned & Historical Railroads Homepage
|This is an article about a trip that John and I took from the prairies of Northeast Washington to the
Rocky Mountains of Idaho/Montana Boarder during the weekend of August 27-30, 2004. In less than
4 days, we explored many historical railroad and logging sites, including dozens of abandoned
tunnels and bridges in addition to logging camps and abandoned donkeys and even another
abandoned "steam locomotive in the woods". So, sit back and I hope you enjoy this very picture
intensive article. Below you'll see the pictures and descriptions of each significant historical site that
we visited in the order that we visited them. Hope you enjoy the article. Since I'm not as intimately
familier with the railroad and logging history of Washington and Idaho as much as Oregon, there are
a few gaps that need to be filled in by those in the know. Please email me anytime if you have
anything to add to this article.
|View of the east portal
from up above near the
McNary Dam site.
|Parked west of the
highway fill that now
covers the old grade, so
that we can hike to the
|Walking through the culvert
under the highway fill.
|Map of the area
|Looking east, back at the
culvert and along the old
|The west portal of SP&S
Tunnel number 13.
|The view inside the tunnel.
There was no sign of any
railroad ties or track.
|Me standing at the
entrance gives an idea of
the size of the portal.
|Looking out the east
portal from inside.
|John standing at the east
|The now abandoned parking area outside the
east portal. The only access to this area is
through the tunnel, but a gate blocks off this
parking area to vehicles now.
|Looking back over the old
grade toward the east
|Looking towards the dam
from the east portal over the
portion of the line that is
|Further down the grade is
this washout, where the
grade has completely fallen
into the river just this side of
a hillside cut.
|The Plymoth depot. Located 1 mile west of Tunnel 13. The original depot,
which was built in 1907 was abandoned in the early 1950s when the line was
moved and this depot was built. Today, it too appears to be abandoned and
boarded up. It was in full use through at least the 1970s. The structure next
to the depot is the remains of a water tower.
|Depot and Caboose, Ritzville, Washington
It was well past dark, but we made a quick stop in Ritzville, Washington. Here, the original brick depot, built in 1910 still stands and is
operated as a museum. Burlington Northern runs through the town and in less than 30 minutes 2 trains blew through town at a high
rate of speed on this apparently busy line. An old display caboose compliments the depot museum. All pictures were taken with long
exposure shots at night.
|This is a modern caboose of the type that still serves in limited service with the BN. It was built by International Car Company,
sometime in the late 1970s or 1980. Today it's on display next to the Ritzville depot. It appears as if it was just pulled of mainline
service and put right here without any particular restoration work.
|This brick depot served Ritzville from 1910-1971. Probably being closed
when the SP&S was absorbed by Burlington Northern. Today it's
preserved as a local museum.
|This is a shot of a fast
approaching BN freight. I
though it was coming in on the
track further away, but when it
blew by only a few feet away
from me, I was quite startled.
|Old Homestead northeast Washington.
It's not uncommon to find old homesteads like this in remote areas of the northwest. While not railroad related, it's still interesting.
We didn't trespass onto the property. Instead taking pictures from a distance. This place was probably built and occupied in the early
20th century. Today it appears to be totally abandoned.
This small town on the eastern boarder of Washington was a point of interest, because of this old abandoned store and very old truck
parked out front. Union Pacific and Burlington Northern used to converge into this town, but today, one line is abandoned, while the
other is operated by the Palouse River and CC shortline Railroad, which operates on leased Union Pacific track. The track ends here at
Thorton. The remaining section east of here is abandoned, which you'll soon see parts of.....
|Abandoned Union Pacific line east of Thornton, Washington.
I'm not sure of the details of this railroad, but it was owned by the UP and then later abandoned, sometime in the 1970s or 1980s.
Primarily served as a grain train. The following are several short bridges along the line that remain in very preserved condition. The
grade also remains in fairly good condition. We followed a pretty rough road next to the tracks to take these pictures.
|These abandoned railroad bridges were in remarkable condition. Located between Thornton and Oaksdale, Washington.
Not the surrounding grainfields that the railroad primarily served. Unknown when it was abandoned by the UP.
|The town still has RR
service to it's huge grain
|A huge, very old mill building
of some type in Oaksdale.
|Near Oaksdale, another
small abandoned trestle.
|Near Oaksdale, the old UP
grade dives into this deep
|Another very old abandoned homestead, near Oaksdale,
|Steptoe Butte, Washington.
South out of Oakdale is a place called Steptoe Butte. While only about 3500 feet high, it's by far the highest point for many miles around
and offers some incredible views of the surrounding rolling hills and farmlands.
|Click HERE for a panorama view from the top of Steptoe Butte.
File made using Photostitch, saved in Quicktime formatt. Recommend right click, then "save target as" for best viewing.
File size 2.49 MB
|The drive to the top is a little
steep and there are no
guardrails, but it's all paved.
|The summit also serves as
a major radio tower site.
|The impressive view from the top. The elevation difference from the summit to the valley floor is only about 1000 feet.
But as you can, Steptoe is by far the highest thing for miles around.
|The fields of eastern Washington. Large grain silos like this one dot the countryside. Most were built along side
railroads that are now long abandoned in the area.
|The abandoned Milwaulkee Road, Tekoa Bridge
A huge abandoned structure towers over the eastern Washington town of Tekoa as a reminder of the glorious railroad days that
originally built this town. Here, the Milwaulkee Road Railroad drove right through town, and Union Pacific once had a major railyard
here. Today, both railroads have left town, but the abandoned structures remain.
|The Tekoa bridge was most likely built in 1910, when the line, which extended from Chicago all the way to the western shores of
Washington state, was built. The company went bankrupt in 1977 and abandoned it's entire line in the western states of
Washington, Idaho and Montana by 1980. This is just one of many Milwaulkee Road structures that we'll see on this trip. In the
second pic from the left, you'll see an empty field, but years ago, Union Pacific had a huge railroad yard that run under this trestle.
|Union Pacific entered the town from the west, then entered it's main railyard, before splitting off to the east and south on two
seperate lines. This small bridge over Hangman creek, was very old and in poor condition. Look back at my truck from the
bridge, you can see the Milwaulkee road bridge and the area where the old railyard used to exist. This painting on a sign just
outside of town, gives an idea of what the area looked like. The child fishing is supposed to be sitting on this very bridge looking
back at the Milwaulkee bridge as a train passes over it.
|East of town the UP line
crossed little Hangman
creek. The line just east
of here was abandoned
before 1964, but I'm not
sure about the rest of the
UP line's history.
|As the south running UP
line leaves town, it
crosses Hangman creek
several times. This is
one of the surviving
|The east running UP line, left the railyard and then
crossed this Hangman Creek bridge, before leaving
|We were able to find a
4x4 road which allowed
us to drive up onto the old
grade and almost right to
the east portal.
|The trains used to run
under this highway
overpass, but today it's
only a dirt road.
|Although we didn't have
too, we parked a short
distance from the portal
and walked in.
|This old Milkaukee bridge
is about 1 mile east of the
|Approaching the tunnel
you see that the grade is
staring to overgrow, but
has seen vehicle traffic in
|The east portal of
tunnel # 41. Built in
1909 and abandoned
|The only markings on the
tunnel portal was the
number 41 cast into the
|Inside the dark and wet
|Driving through the 4x4 road
back to the highway.
|Looking towards the
west portal about 1/2
|The Railroad Towns of Plummer and St. Maries, Idaho
These two towns were once major railroad stops and junctions for the Milkaukee Road and Union Pacific railroads. Today, some of the
lines are abandoned, but St. Maries River Railroad Company, owned by the Potlatch Timber company, began operating the line between
Plummer and St. Maries and St. Maries to Bovil, when the Milkaukee Road went out of business. The St. Maries Railroad interchanges
with the Union Pacific in Plummer and services several mills in the above mentioned cities. Unfortunately, I didn't see any locomotives,
but the line is based out of St. Maries and uses all ex-MILW equipment. It's future is a bit uncertain since the line is losing money and is
expensive to maintain.
|This ex-Milkaukee bridge was
built in 1909 to cross the
Benewah Lake in between
Pedee and St. Maries. The
western half has an upgrade.
There's a tunnel at the east end.
Today the bridge is used by the
St. Maries RR.
|Plummer Junction is a major junction western Idaho where multiple railroads once came
together. Today several lines of track remain, but only the St. Maries River Railroad and the
UP see any service here. The pictured depot actually replaced the original Milkaukee Road
depot at an unknown date. Today it's abandoned and falling apart. Probably serving as a
train order station for several years.
|Milwaulkee Road Caboose 01905 is on display in the town of St. Maries, Idaho. While I tried to find some information on this
caboose like model number and build date, information was lacking. If anyone knows, email me.
|This is the south end of the vast
St. Maries Railroad yard,
looking north. This used to be a
Milkaukee Road yard.
|This is an old Maintenance of Way shed. Likely dating back to the original
construction of the railroad yard in 1909.
|This is a very picture intensive article, so it's been divided up into three parts.
This is PART ONE. Click here for PART TWO. --- Click here for PART THREE.
|If anyone has any further information or pictures about any of the stuff in this article, please
Email me anytime. Thanks.
|Copyright © 2004 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
Note about the photos on this site:
Most photos were taken by me, except for those that are otherwise indicated. I usually allow people to use my photos for personal use or
websites. Simply Email me. I may not have authority to grant permission regarding some photos that were only loaned to me by others
specifically for this website. Every effort has been made not to include other's photos without the proper permission and credits, however, if
you see any photos which belong to you and that I don't have permission to use, I apologize. If you send me an Email, I will remove the
photos immediately or give proper credit, which ever you wish.
|This picture was taken from an overlook on the Oregon side of the Columbia
Gorge, on our way to eastern Washington. It's a fast moving UP freight,
heading for Portland.
|Return to the Railroad History Page
Return to the Historical Expeditions Page
Return to my main Toyota Page
|Abandoned SP&S Tunnel # 13, near McNary Dam, Washington
We found this tunnel, quite by accident. While crossing into Washington from Umatilla, Oregon, we noticed a tunnel bored through the
rocks, near the McNary Dam. We wondered at first if it was an old bypass tunnel for the dam constructions, but as we found a way to
the site, it became clear that it was likely an abandoned railroad tunnel. The current railroad is a short distance to the north of the
abandoned tunnel and grade, but about 100 feet higher in elevation. The next question became, was this a spur line built for the dam?
The answer is no. What it was, was in fact, the original route of the railroad before the dam was built. As the old route was flooded, it
had to be moved to higher ground. However, part of the old route still remains above water level. This tunnel, plus a few miles to the
west and about 1 mile to the east near the base of the dam are all that remain above water, of the old route. The dam was built
between 1947 and 1954. A total of 38 miles had to be abandoned by the Spokane, Portland and Seattle, who owned the line. The new
track that was built on higher ground, opened in 1951. Since the track had to be relocated a short distance north of the town of
Plymouth, a new Plymouth depot was built at the same time.
This tunnel was called number 13 and was located on the SP&S, second subdivision, milepost 193. It's 699 feet long. Built in 1907, it
was abandoned in 1951 when the line was rerouted. A highway and large fill was later constructed over the grade, but a culvert tunnel
was constructed to allow access to the tunnel. The hard rock tunnel was left open to allow for recreation and fishing on the lower
river of the dam and even appears to have allowed vehicle traffic for a period of time as there is a dirt parking lot on the east side of the
tunnel. But today, the grade is gated off west of the highway and requires a short hike to reach the tunnel site. The grade west of the
tunnel has all been converted to a road. The grade east of the tunnel to the dam is only a dirt trail, with some sections having fallen into
the river. The rest of the grade is under water behind the dam.
Today the nearby line is operated by Burlington Northern, which absorbed the SP&S in 1970.
|The abandoned Milwaulkee Road Tunnel 41 (Watts Tunnel)
This huge abandoned tunnel stands alone on the old grade just east of the Idaho/Washington boarder. We didn't think we'd actually be
able to access the tunnel, but after finding a 4x4 road that lead us to the grade, we were actually able to drive right to the east portal.
We later found out, that it appears (although not confirmed) that you can drive right to the west portal with a car. Like the rest of the
line, this tunnel was likely built in 1909 and abandoned in 1980. It's built into Sorrento Hill, and is sometimes called the Sorrento Tunnel
or Watts Tunnel.