Thursday, September 4, 2008

"Interbay" What's in a name?

Great Northern Railroad, Interbay Yard, Seattle, 1960. Although I didn’t realize it until years later, I was a lucky young man to have spent considerable time photographing locomotives in rail yards around Seattle that would soon loose their charm and identity through merger and abandonment. For me, each yard had it’s own personality. The one thing in common to the four major venues was the friendly personnel, almost unfettered access, and diversity of motive power.

And you could always count on finding interesting maintence of way equipment and “stuff” stashed in the out of the way corners of the engine facilities and adjacent tracks.

In order to render this blog a little more interesting, I try to incorporate gems of information to accomplish that end. For example, when I wrote about Northern Pacific’s “Stacy Street” Yard, I uncovered it’s namesake, an interesting character by the name of
Martin Van Buren Stacy, who built not one, but two mansions in early Seattle, one of which became an “upscale” eatery.

When I wrote about Milwaukee Road’s northern extension into Seattle, including the interchange with the non-electric trains - “Van Asselt” Yard, I discovered
Henry Van Asselt. Van Asselt was a Dutch mover and shaker who, along with several other pioneer families, settled in the rich Duwamish River bottomland, an area later to be known as “Georgetown.”

Two more yards needed attention, one of which is kind of obvious – Great Northern’s “Interbay” Yard. I say “kind of obvious” because it is located between Elliott Bay – Seattle’s harbor, and Salmon Bay, homeport for many of the
“Deadliest Catch” crabbers, on the Lake Washington Ship Canal.

Apparently the yard I knew as “Interbay” is also known as “Balmer” Yard. We certainly never referred to it by that name as a young train chaser in Seattle in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. But it apparently is known to a different generation as “Balmer” Yard, named in recognition of Mr. Thomas Balmer, a former
Great Northern Railway Company attorney.

The origin for the name of Union Pacific’s “Argo” Yard eluded me. I was looking for a mover and shaker, someone with a colorful history. After some time, I gave up, and contacted the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle for assistance in identifying the origin for the naming of Argo Yard, something with a little zip or spice!

The answer was deceivingly simple!

Dear Robert McDonald:
Our volunteer researcher found the following information through the Tacoma Public Library's place name file:
Argo was the name of a junction on the Northern Pacific Railway lines south of Seattle in the community of Georgetown in King County. The place was named for the Greek legend about the Argonauts who sailed on the ship Argo to seek the famed Golden Fleece. It is now part of Seattle.
Carolyn Marr
Museum of History & Industry

The linkage to Northern Pacific is because, in reality, Union Pacific never laid steel north of Portland to Seattle. Rather than essentially building a parallel track between the two cities, it was quicker, and a lot cheaper, to negotiate track rights with the already in place Northern Pacific Railroad.

Sometimes things are just what they are – no mystery, no intrigue, no bs!

1 Comments - Click here:

SDP45 said...

As to the UP building to Seattle; they did spend a bit of money in doing the surveys, and a little grading, to rattle the NP into believing they would build their own line, but I understand they were hoping for the trackage rights from the beginning.

Neat find on all the names!


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