|This is a very picture intensive article, so it's been divided up into three parts.
This is PART TWO.
Click here for PART ONE. --- 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.
|Coverted Union Pacific Swing bridge, Coeur D'alene Lake, Idaho
I was only able to see this bridge from a distance. This was the solution to extend a rails to trails park over the original railroad
structure that seperated Coeur D'alene Lake from Chatcolet Lake. This trail is built over an old Union Pacific line. For years, the trail
ended at the east end of this bridge. In 2003, the bridge structure was entirely rebuilt and raised significantly above water level to allow
boat traffic to pass under it while leaving the bridge closed. It certainly detracts from the original railroad structure and is quite ugly in
my opinion, but at least they retained the original historical drawspan and tender house.
|The bridge as viewed from Hwy 5, 1.6 miles to the south.
|Abandoned Milwaulkee Road Bridge, east of St. Joe Idaho
One of the neatest bridges we found on the trip was this very unique double span truss structure over the St. Joe River. Using two 150
foot spans the strangely designed structure was erected in 1909 for the Milwaulkee Road Railroad. The following information is
courtesy of Jeff Moore. Please check out his McCloud Rails Website. Potlatch kept the St. Maries-Avery section as a private logging
railroad, operated with St. Maries River equipment and crews. Potlatch continued to run log trains out of Avery up until around 1987,
when they lost a court battle with the Forest Service over the first twelve miles of the right-of-way west of Avery. The Forest Service
reclaimed that right-of-way from Potlatch as a result of the legal action. Potlatch considered building a new reload operation at the end
of the part of the railroad that they had left, but in the end decided to just truck logs down into St. Maries. Thus the old Milwaukee
mainline was abandoned from Avery to a stud mill located about three and a half miles east of St. Maries, by the late 1980s. Shortly
afterwards, the rails were lifted vehicle traffic was allowed to use this bridge on a limited basis. Logs were placed on either side of
deck platform to protect vehicles from falling into the large gaps.
|The bridge is easily viewed
from Highway 50, near St.
|The bridge has been lightly used by vehicles for more than
24 years, but remains virtually original, except for the lack of
|The gap that seperates the
two 150 foot long spans.
|My truck makes it's way over the bridge. Access is only to a dirt road and part of the old grade, so the
bridge is lightly used.
|Driving the abandoned Milwaulkee Road Railroad grade, Calder to Avery, Idaho
Entire sections of the old Milwaulkee Railroad were turned into single lane dirt roads in which you can drive on. One of neat things
about these roads is the fact that you can drive over the original railroad bridges and through the original railroad tunnels. The
interesting section is between Calder and Marble Creek, Idaho. The line continues from Marble Creek to Avery, but that section was
turned into a major highway and most semblance of the original grade, including the trestles, have been lost on that section. Once
again, the line was built in 1909, Milwaulkee abandoned it in 1980, but it was turned over to Potlatch who used it a private logging
railroad. They abandoned this section after the Forest Service forced them to abandoned the line from Avery to 12 miles west, in 1987.
|One of the first bridges we encounted was this one
over Elk creek. Note the original wood pilings from the
|Another ex-RR bridge over
|This large ex-RR bridge crossed the confuence of Francis
and Agatha Creeks. It's ironic that the bridge would have a
wieght limit for vehicles, considering many thousands of
tons of train used to pass over it daily.
|The first of many old railroad tunnels we would later
drive through. This one located east of Herrick, Idaho.
|Avery, Idaho - Former Milwaulkee Road Railyard.
Avery, Idaho was once the site of a very large railroad yard for the Milwaulkee Road. Here the railroad ceased to follow the St. Joe
River, and began its long ascent up into and over the Rocky Mountains where it would pass over (actually through) the Idaho/Montana
state line. Avery was and still is, a very small town. But from 1909 through 1980, this was a major stop on the Milwaulkee Road. A
large depot still exists that once served passengers. This was a critical point on the line. Steam, and later diesel locomotives were
changed out for electric locomotives to go up and over the pass. A turn table, and huge engine house once existed here, as well as a
power substation station for the electric trains. Crews were also changed here as well the railroad time reset from Pacific to Mountain
Today, however, almost all semblance of the railroad in Avery is gone. The huge railroad yard was abandoned by the Milwaulkee in
1980. Potlatch Lumber then purchased this section along with the most of the other Idaho Milwaulkee lines west and south of here.
They operated this section as a private logging railroad, but the Forest Service forced them to abandoned the line from Avery to 12 miles
west, in 1987 and the railroad to Avery was lost forever. The tracks were paved over in the early 1990s, to build a highway. There is
virtually no hint of the former railyard in Avery, except for the restored depot and display passenger car. I was quite surprised to later
see pictures of the town and how the highway now sits on top of the old railroad yard.
|Looking at the depot (pink
building) from across the
Highway. The highway, the
grass and where I'm standing
all used to a be a large
|The center of Avery. To
the left is the old depot.
The rails used to run
here as well, but are now
|The Avery depot was built in 1910 and abandoned by the
railroad by 1980. It was later converted to the town post
office and library. Today it's been nicely maintained. While
the color is a little strange, it's a nice looking depot.
|This passenger car was parked next to the depot and is on display. It appears that the
town is working to restore the car or perhaps turn it into another building. The small
pond in the left picture actual dates to the early days of the railroad. In 1910, passengers
would watch and feed the fish in the pond, just as you still can now.
|Although small, Avery
does have a gas station
and store and is a good
place to fuel up.
|Avery to the Idaho/Montana boarder - Driving the old grade and lots of tunnels.
The old Milwaulkee Railroad left Avery and headed north along the North St. Joe River, going through a number of small tunnels and over
several bridges, before turning easterly and winding up and over the Rocky Mountains. Much of this latter section, has been turned into
a Forest Service managed bike trail, called the Hiawatha Trail. While I'm not normally a fan of rails to trails programs, this one is pretty
spectacular. And it's because of this trail that virtually all of the high bridges and tunnels on this part of the Milwaulkee road have been
maintained and preserved. They otherwise, would have likely been torn down and closed off. One nice thing about this part of the old
railroad is that it offers a chance for vehicles as well as hikers and bikers to enjoy the chance to experience the old railroad grade,
although one large part of the trail is exclusively for bikers and hikers only.
North of Avery, the old grade has been turned into the primary Forest Road into the area. Although the original forest road still exists,
it's in sad shape and most people use the old grade, which is well graveled and maintained. It also drives through several ex-railroad
tunnels, which makes the road extremely interesting and worth the drive alone. From Avery, after crossing through three tunnels the
grade (and now road) crosses over a high steel bridge that was once used by the railroad. Continuing to follow the North St. Joe Creek,
along the east side, the road crosses through four more tunnels, and several more old RR bridges, before reaching a point on the line
called Pearson. This is the point where the official bike trail begins and vehicle access ends for a while. Heading east now, the
railroad and now trail, would continue through 10 more tunnels, including the St. Paul Pass 1.5 mile long tunnel at the summit that
passes under the Idaho/Montana state line. Would later be able to meet up with the railroad grade and drive on a short part of it just
south of the St. Paul Pass tunnel. The railroad also crosses several more spectacular bridges in this area, that we were unfortunately,
only able to view from a distance as they are part of the hiker/biker portion of the trail.
Once again, this line was originally built in 1909 and abandoned, when the Milwaulkee Road Railroad, went bankrupt in 1980.
|Tunnel # 36 is the first tunnel, located less than 2 miles
north of Avery.
|Tunnel # 35 is located just a 1/2 mile north of the prior
tunnel. both are fairly short.
|Tunnel # 34 is located just over a mile from the prior
tunnel and is the last tunnel before the line crosses the
North St. Joe River over a long high span bridge.
|But these pictures, taken the next day show a different view. This is the
highest and longest of the old Milwaulkee bridges that vehicles are allowed to
drive on. Hikers and Bikers can enjoy some higher and longer bridges further
up the line.
|Driving over the North St. Joe Railroad bridge.
From this view, it's hard to see how spectacular
this bridge is.
|Tunnel # 33 is located approximately 2 miles north of the
North St. Joe Bridge.
|Tunnel # 32, is less than a mile north of the prior tunnel.
|One of many broken signal
telephone polls from the
railroads along the old grade.
|Just north of tunnel # 32 is the Big Dick Creek Railroad bridge, now converted to a road bridge.
(No, I'm not making that name up and it's not a typo.) Pictures on the right were taken the next
day and give a different perspective.
|Tunnel # 30 is located less than 1/2 mile north of the prior
|Tunnel # 31 is located less than 1/2 mile north of the Big
Dick Creek ex-RR bridge.
|At the end of the forest road we had easy access
to view the portals of tunnel 25 (left) and tunnel 26
(right) This is part of the trail that does not allow
vehicles, but does allow hikers and bikers.
|Although we couldn't drive the grade on this section, we were able to take a
forest service road that roughly followed well below the grade ane were able to
get a few glimpses of the huge bridges along the old route.
|Tunnel # 22 is also known as the Moss Creek tunnel. It's about .31 miles
long. Looking at the east portal, we can see bikers. Access on the grade is
restricted to bikes east of here, but not west of here, where we found we
could experience a few more miles of RR grade and one last tunnel in the
|Another forest road allowed us
to view tunnel 28 and the old
grade from a distance.
|From the upper grade, you can see one of the huge
trestles below and across the valley that railroad crosses
before it winds up to our current location.
|In the foreground is the
windy forest road which
leads up to the upper grade.
In the background is the
lower portion of the grade.
|Stopped along the grade to
take in the very scenic
|Tunnel # 21, would prove to be the last one we could drive through. The portion of the grade is heavily
used by bikers, hence the sign to stop and honk before proceeding into the tunnel. I think many were
suprised to see us as they appeared to be under the mistaken impression the entire trail was
exclusively for their use only.
|Tunnel # 20 is also known as the St. Paul Pass tunnel. At about 1.5 miles long it is one of the longest tunnels on the Milwaulkee
Road and certainly the longest one in this area. Note the bikers preparing the dive into the west portal of the dark tunnel.
Vehicle traffic is not allowed in the tunnel. To reach the other side, vehicles have to take a steep windy road over the pass.
|At the top of this pass is the
Idaho/Montana boarder. Almost
1000 feet directly below this
point is the center of the St. Paul
Pass Railroad tunnel.
Apparently a similar sign exists
in the tunnel, but is a bit harder
to find in the dark.
|This is the east portal of the St. Paul Pass Tunnel, located in the state of Montana.
Also, the official start of the Hiawatha Trai A parking lot full of SUVs and bike
racks is testament to that. The east portal is preceeded by a large wooden
snowshed. The grade continues on north of here and apparently vehicles are
allowed to drive on it, but we discontinued our explorations this far north, here.
|Abandoned Marble Creek Railroad tunnel
From the St. Paul Pass Tunnel, we back tracked all the way back into Avery and then headed west for a few miles to the local of Marble
Creek. From there we took Forest Road 321 to the south. There would some very interesting things to explore in this area. USGS
maps indicated that 2 abandoned railroad tunnels existed along Marble Creek. While I could find virtually no information on them, I did
read a short story from an old logger that briefly mentioned that the Forest service used about 9 miles of railroad grade and 2
abandoned tunnels to access the area. The interesting part was that they were considered abandoned and being used by the FS in the
early 1920s! The tunnels were extremely old, and I figured we would find them collasped. Upon reaching the site of the first tunnel, we
realized that it was down by the creek, over 200 feet straight down. With sheer cliffs prevently easly access and no confirmation the
tunnel even existed, we skipped it. The second tunnel was suppose to be easier to find as it was at the same level as the forest road.
As we stood as the assumed location staring at a cliff wall, we assumed the tunnel was long collasped. But as we began to drive away,
we noticed a small opening just down the road. The tunnel did exist! Unfortunately, I have no idea when it was built, other than prior to
the early 1920s or which logging company used it.
|The tunnel is hidden from
view of the road. You'd
never see if if you didn't
know exactly where it was.
|The south portal looking out
from inside the tunnel, John
|The tunnel is hidden from view of the road. You'd never see if
The south portal. Left view is with me standing in the picture.
|The view inside the tunnel. The
tunnel was in poor shape and there
nothing to indicate it was used as a
|The north portal had wood shoring and we could
see why. It was already half collapsed and very
dangerous. This tunnel has been abandoned for
more than 80 years.
|Abandoned Marble Creek Logging Splash Dam
The camp 7 splash dam was one of more than a dozen built in Marble Creek between 1915 and 1931. This one is clearly visible from
the road and worth checking out. Although most of it is gone, you can see some remnants. Splash dams were built to move logs down
the low level creeks. As the gates were raised, a rush of water would flow downstream and logs that were stored behind the dams
were would be let out several at a time to flow downstream. Men were often killed here because apparently the dam operators would
not always warn those that were fishing or bathing downstream and people would be carried away or crushed by the onslaught of
rushing water and logs.
|The dam was blown apart years ago, but the remains on either bank still exist after more than 73 years.
|Abandoned Steam Donkey in the woods and more..
Continuing south, we decided to try to find a reported abandoned steam donkey and other logging remains that were abandoned in the
woods. As it turns out, they do exist, but require a hike along a steep (although well marked) dirt trail several miles into the Hobo Creek
drainage area. What we found was a nearly completely intact steam donkey, abandoned here in 1928. It was one of several Steam
Donkeys abandoned in this drainage. One was pulled out in 1961 and is on display in St. Maries, Idaho. The others were likely scrapped
or still remain in some form or another. What saved this one from the scrapper's torch was that it's completely impossible to access
except by foot and it's located on a steep hillside. Along this same trail, we also discovered another remains of a splash dam and the
remains of an old logging camp.
|Abandoned here more than 76 years ago, this steam donkey is in remarkable condition. Thousands of feet of 1" steel cable
are still spooled up with thousands more laying on the ground in the area. Why it was left behind is a bit of mystery, but when
steam donkeys served their useful purpose they were commonly left behind in the woods, as moving them from place to place
was difficult at best and if they broke down, they were guaranteed to be abandoned as most of the time they could only be
moved under their own power. But finding one intact is rare, as most were scrapped out, especially during World War Two.
|This springboard notch was
made the loggers who cut
this tree down. These
notches were commonly
used in early logging and are
|Another set of remains of a splash dam. This time on Hobo Creek. Used for the same
purpose as the dam mentioned above. This one was built by the Rutledge lumber
company in 1923. At more than 80 years old, much of the original structure remains.
|Not much is left of camp 5 was one of 15 Rutledge lumber company camps. This one was
built in the 1920s. The only access to the camp from the day it was built, through today, is
a steep dirt pack trail.
|This is a very picture intensive article, so it's been divided up into three parts.
This is PART TWO. Click here for PART ONE. --- 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.
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