Friday, October 24, 2008

Northern Pacific's "Palmer Cutoff"

Northern Pacific 255, Auburn, May 27, 1961. Heading over to check things out at Auburn was always a time of anticipation. You just didn’t know what would show up there.

Northern Pacific 255, a 1,750 horsepower General Purpose dash Nine (GP-9) is representative of a large fleet of locomotives built without dynamic braking capabilities. And why not. The NP covered a massive tidewater area from the Puget Sound down to the Columbia River, none of which required the utilization of hill-holding dynamic brakes.

Auburn was a sleepy crop town before the Northern Pacific arrived via the Palmer Cutoff. And boy did things change then. Not only did the railroad bring in a full service locomotive servicing facility with roundhouse and shops, but also a classification yard.

Freighters arriving from the east were broken down into northbound traffic for Seattle, and southbound traffic for Tacoma. In fact, it was the ratio of cars that finally cast the die for Seattle to become the official western terminus.

The inevitable mergers did Auburn no good, and it was Burlington Northern Santa Fe who dealt the coup de grâce to the City and its culture. Here is a “first person” account of Auburn’s final railroad days, as told by the
last employee to work at Auburn.

I am truly privileged to have been able to enjoy Auburn as it was …

Railroad Stuff: Northern Pacific Railroad 255, built as GP-9 by Electro Motive Division, February 1956, sn 21427. Became Burlington Northern 1878, renumbered 1534 by BNSF and rebuilt as a GP-28 at Morrison-Knudsen in Boise Idaho.

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