Thursday, October 25, 2007

Railroad to nowhere!

We are well aware that most railroads were built to join point “a” to point “b.” But there is a bunch of railroads built to “nowhere!” These are found on coastal river bar jetties. This is a photo I took in 1962, on the North Jetty of the Columbia River, looking toward Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.

I wonder if I could hike this far out on the jetty today! Looking carefully, you can see remanence of the railroad trestle used to construct the jetty. This construction railroad ran from 1914 to 1917.

A pile driver creates a trestle, which is advanced out into the open sea, driving piles upon which a railroad is built. A locomotive pushes dump cars out onto the advancing trestle, dumping rock to the center, left and right, filling in between the pilings, forming the completed jetty. Can you just imagine the death defying excitement of the workers aligning the piles for the pile driver out at the head of such a construction site? In this case, rock was barged to a transfer dock at the beginning of the trestle and loaded into dump cars.

This jetty, the Columbia River North Jetty, when completed in 1917 was 2.3 miles long, 30 feet above sea level, and 25 feet wide. This construction method was used on several Pacific Coast river bars.

I was able to locate some excellent photographs of the trestle construction method at the WSU Digital Archives. See "Interesting web sites" on the right hand side bar. This series of photographs were taken of the Grays Harbor North Jetty in 1913. Photograph number two in the series of four, shows the transfer station used to unload the rock barges to the rail cars.

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