The Roundhouse

018: The Last Logging Railroad

 

  "The Miserable Mile" on the Simpson Railroad, so named by the crews from enduring this last stretch of the trip; a slow, bouncy, flat mile of rail before reaching Mill 5.  Photo by Joel Hawthorn.


“The Miserable Mile” on the Simpson Railroad, so named by the crews from enduring this last stretch of the trip; a slow, bouncy, flat mile of rail before reaching Mill 5. Photo by Joel Hawthorn.

Did you know about the Simpson Railroad?  This logging railroad in the wilderness of Washington state is the last in the United States.  Now, the Simpson Railroad faces an uncertain future due to the company which owns it shutting down its mill operations in June of 2015.  We talk with local historians and residents to answer the question:  What has made the Simpson Railroad so unique?

A roundhouse scene: The Simpson lokies don't get out much these days except for a bit of switching in the mornings. The 900 is in the near stall, then the 1200 and 1201 while the 1202 reposes in a stall on the west side of the building.  Photo by Joel Hawthorn.

A roundhouse scene: The Simpson lokies don’t get out much these days except for a bit of switching in the mornings. The 900 is in the near stall, then the 1200 and 1201 while the 1202 reposes in a stall on the west side of the building. Photo by Joel Hawthorn.

News

Fire Up 611 reached a new milestone this past week.  Norfolk & Western #611 operated under its own power of the Norfolk Southern mainline between Spencer and Greensboro for testing.  The locomotive will be starting its excursion season very soon!

Armstrong turntable Simpson Railroad, Shelton WA.  Photo by Joel Hawthorn.

Armstrong turntable Simpson Railroad, Shelton WA. Photo by Joel Hawthorn.

Simpson Railroad Engineer & Historian – Pete Replinger (2:15)

Pete began his career with the Simpson Railroad as a brakeman and worked as an engineer from 1967 to 2000.  Since retirement, he has also conducted research on the railroad’s past.  He shares his wealth of knowledge and experience about how their operations have changed over the years.

12.23.2011 A mini tug pushes a load of waterwood into position for the claw to retrieve and place into a bunker car. There will be no further work done for the year - next week is vacation - and the crew was loading logs to "cover the dock". Next week King tides are coming and with the high water, if the dock is not weighted down the ties would lift the rails!  Photo by Joel Hawthorn.

12.23.2011 A mini tug pushes a load of waterwood into position for the claw to retrieve and place into a bunker car. There will be no further work done for the year – next week is vacation – and the crew was loading logs to “cover the dock”. Next week King tides are coming and with the high water, if the dock is not weighted down the ties would lift the rails! Photo by Joel Hawthorn.

Photojournalist – Joel Hawthorn (14:23)

Having lived in the logging town of Shelton WA for over 25 years, Joel has also seen the railroad through a number of years.  He has dedicated a substantial amount of time to documenting the Simpson Railroad and its employees, even having published a book which you can preview about the railroad.  He talks with us about why it has been so important for him to capture the spirit of the railroad throughout the years.

At Knights, Shelton,WA.  Photo by Joel Hawthorn.

At Knights, Shelton,WA. Photo by Joel Hawthorn.

Question of the Day (42:48)

What shortline railroad operations interest you the most?  Let me know and I will respond to your comments in our next episode.

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10 thoughts on “018: The Last Logging Railroad

  1. NiriTawa

    I have love two things since I was a small child in the 1950’s Flying, I am now an active pilot with over 15,000 hours in my logs, and railroading. I have an “N” scale layout that I am building in a building that was built gust to house it. It replicates the Omak line of the Great Northern Railroad from Appleyard, to Omak, in 1957.

  2. lucas leighton

    very sad but maybe the mill will start up again unlike any of the ones in maine and my favorite short line has to be the bellfast and moosehead lake railway which my uncle owned and it seiced freight ops in 99 and had a swiss steam loco and 14 cars and the yard in unity and Belfast were recently removed along with the last 1.4 miles of track to city point where they run tourist trains out of and there whole diesel fleet was made up of ge70tonners and one swiss 4-6-0 which is now in tennesse and they also leased only 1 loco bar gp7 77 and they only leased that one.

  3. Woody Dahl (USMC)

    It is very sad to hear of the closure of this railroad and installation.

    Railroads in my opinion are things of beauty. They depict growth and expansion.

    Frankly, a railroad logging outfit I think would do better than truck logging as you won’t be bulldozing and cutting water diverting roads for the log trucks. A railroad is static and constantly in use and therefore maintained.

    This is a bygone era of the history that built this country.

    And Niri Tawa. You never told me about your train set!

  4. John

    I started my career railroading at the NYS&W in Utica,NY. Our roundhouse was in an original Erie Lackawanna RR roundhouse. The main part of the building was about 140 yrs old. A flood in 2006 wiped out the mainline south of the shop and they didn’t repair it because the line only served a handful of industries. Unfortunately it was also the only line that allowed locomotives in need of inspections/ repairs to us. When we lost that link, we lost our shop. Fortunately for me I’d been hired by Union Pacific just months earlier. It was sad to hear my fellow workers either had to relocate or find work else where. Anyway, I’d love to hear about the Erie Lackawanna and or B&O railroad. They used to operate in my hometown of Norwich,NY.

  5. Nick Ozorak Post author

    Agreed, Woody. Fortunately, organizations like the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad and Cass Scenic Railroad work hard to preserve logging history.

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