Saturday, August 21, 2010

"Sir! Freight Train Dead Ahead!"

US Naval Institute Proceedings, January 1954. Click on the document to enlarge. Then click on the magnifying glass to read:

Many "Students of the Road" do not realize the Milwaukee Road ran a tug and rail barge service for more than four decades on Puget Sound, and had wharfs in Seattle and Tacoma for transshipping freight from rail to deep sea steam ship!

By the time the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway reached Puget Sound, competitors were firmly deep-rooted in Seattle and Tacoma, with access to lucrative lumber mills. To overcome this situation the Milwaukee Terminal Railway Company was organized and incorporated under the laws of the State of Washington in April 1905.

Pier 6 Seattle

The purpose was to construct rail bridge ferry landings and trackage to operate car ferries from two terminals; Seattle and Tacoma, to access important tidewater lumber mills located on Puget Sound lacking rail facilities.

This was a clever move in many ways, eliminating the need to construct hundreds of miles of overland trackage, made more difficult by the convoluted terrain of the Puget Sound Region.

The Port Angeles Rail Bridge operated for a very short time, 1913 to 1915, when the final rail link between Port Angeles and Discovery Bay was completed. Click to enlarge.

Rail-heads were established in Tacoma, and at Pier 27 on Elliot Bay in Seattle. Landings were constructed and service inaugurated connecting the Bellingham and Northern Railway Company at Bellingham; the Seattle, Port Angeles and Western Railway at Port Angeles and Port Townsend, and Port Gamble.

To complete the strategy, car barges were constructed, and a towing company chartered to tow the barges from Tacoma and Seattle, to the distant mill towns. This water born traffic, together with the operation of the Front Street and Commerce Street Lines at Tacoma, were operated by the Milwaukee Terminal Railway Company until December 31st, 1915, at which time the property of that company and its operation, was taken over by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul & Pacific Railway Company.

Pier 27 in Seattle just before it was removed in 2007. Seattle's waterfront finger piers were gradually filled in to facilitate container ship operations. The darked area to the left in this photo is the fill between former Pier 26 and the Milwaukee Road Pier 27

To better manage the marine operation, the Milwaukee Road decided it best to own their own tugboat and crews. To accomplish this goal, a first-class steel tug, the "Milwaukee," was ordered from the Seattle Construction & Drydock Company, at a cost of $100,000.

The "Milwaukee" was launched on January 22, 1913, christened by Miss Imogene Calkins, daughter of the railroad's Puget Sound traffic manager, R. M. Calkins. She, of course, was painted Milwaukee orange with black hull and white highlighting, a handsome vessel indeed!

Steam Tug "Milwaukee"
  • Official Number: 211599
  • Radio Call Sign: WA8200
  • Gross Tons (fully loaded): 222 tons
  • Net Tons: 101 tons
  • Length: 117' 6"
  • Breadth: 22' 6"
  • Draft: 15' 2"
  • Built: Seattle, 1913
  • Engine: Triple Expansion (15", 24", 38" x 24",) single-ended Scotch boiler, developing 1,000 horsepower at 150 pounds pressure.
In 1954, the Milwaukee Road retired the tugboat, ending 41 years of reliable service on Puget Sound. She was sold to Foss Tug & Barge in Seattle. Foss decided not to re-power the aging hull, and scrapped her in 1956.

Foss Tug & Barge continued the contract with the Milwaukee Road, servicing Port Townsend and Bellingham. I have not been able to determine when the last trip to Bellingham occurred; but the last trip from Port Townsend was documented on March 25, 1985.

"S.O.S. - Milwaukee" Stranded!

Marrowstone Point Light, Marrowstone Island, Puget Sound. 1952. I have a large collection of marine negatives; mostly tug boats, left by my late Dad. He was an extraordinary "amateur" marine historian. Dozens of his meticulously annotated photo albums, containing complete fleet histories, have gone to deserving individuals and public collections. One is on display at Oakland California on the S/S "Red Oak Victory."

I was rummaging through the negatives when I noticed an envelope with a sparse notation, "Tug (US) Milwaukee Aground, 1953." Three negatives tell the story of a tugboat aground somewhere on Puget Sound. Through careful research of Puget Sound Lighthouses, I was able to identify the location as Marrowstone Light.

Furthermore, the "Milwaukee" having departed Port Townsend, was rounding close abeam Marrowstone Light. She apparently cut the corner short, or perhaps got hit broadside by the tide flooding through Admiralty Inlet, stranding with a loaded rail barge! From Dad's sea documents, I determined he was working for Puget Sound Tug & Barge out of Pier 59 in Seattle, as 1st Assistant Engineer on the "Active."

The set of negatives suggest the "Active" was sent up to pull the "Milwaukee" off the ground, with a second tug dispatched to take control of the rail barge. This photo was taken looking south from the rail barge, with the stranded "Milwaukee" and Marrowstone lighthouse to the right.

One Million Miles!

When she was placed "out of service" by the Milwaukee Road in 1954, Byron Fish, a staff writer at the Seattle Times, got curious as to how many miles the old "Milwaukee" had dragged rail barges up and down the Sound. Here are his astonishing findings, taken from the tugs logbooks:

  • Seattle to Port Townsend: 7,176 round trips, 76 miles each way.
  • Seattle to Bellingham: 3,946 round trips, 156 miles each way.
  • Seattle to Eagle Harbor (Winslow) 576 round trips, 16 miles each way.
  • Grand Total: 1,170,480 miles.
Byron also found the "Milwaukee" had made 288 trips up to Port Angeles before that facility was abandoned, and during WWII, numerous trips to the Navy Yard at Bremerton, for another 100,000 miles.

In all that travel, over 41 years, the only replacement was of the Scotch Boiler. Much credit for this remarkable achievement goes to the Chief Engineer, Clifford Rowe, who ruled the engine room for 38 of those 41 years! Her last Master was Captain Ed Lee.

When these figures were compiled in 1954, only three other vessels had crossed the Million Mile Mark on Puget Sound, all Washington State Ferries.

Rail Barges

I was able to find records for two Milwaukee Road rail car barges, the Milwaukee Terminal (MT) MT-20 and MT-21. Apparently retained the same Milwaukee Terminal Railway Company number. Although I cannot verify, the steel carfloat barges probably constructed by Reliable Welding of Olympia, Washington in 1944.

Car Barge MT-20
  • O/N: 176014
  • Length: 259'7"
  • Beam: 42'0"
  • Draft: 9'9"
  • Gross tonnage: 1,029 tons
  • 3 tracks, 24 cars

Car Barge MT-21
  • O/N: 176064
  • Length: 259'6"
  • Beam: 41'9"
  • Draft: 10'0"
  • Gross tonnage: 1,039 tons
  • 3 tracks, 24 cars
Other articles in this Blog written about the Milwaukee Road marine service on Puget Sound, including service to North Vancouver BC (PGE):

Puget Sound Barges
In My Own Back Yard
In My Own Back Yard Updated
In My Own Back Yard Update Updated

10 Comments - Click here: said...

What an invaluable addition to Puget Sound History and the love of the 'old tugs' Remarkable pictures-and a brilliant history to a lovable 'old lady'- Your compilation of facts, figures and maps is much appreciated. Thank you for your time-consuming research that enables you to furnish us with an interesting history. L

Mike Skehan said...

Fascinating glimpse of railroading I've never really thought much about. A million miles on a boat going 10 knots is a really long time...

LinesWest said...

Fabulous research and presentation as usual Sir. Thank you!


Eric said...

Hi Robert, the highlight of this post for me was the shot of Seattle Pier 6. Reminds me of Pier B-C in Vancouver that I'm modelling in HO scale. Too many modellers go the route of a small fishing pier, when they could be modelling this type of commercial pier and associated trackage. Even if a portion is modelled, using a backdrop, it makes for an imposing and interesting scene bustling with activity that pre-dated the current intermodal container port. Thanks for "barging" in and "tugging" at our memory banks.

Unknown said...

My father was a lawyer for the Milwaukee in Chicago. In 1948, he was promoted to Vice President & General Counsel - Lines West (Mobridge, SD - Seattle) and we moved to Seattle. When the tug Milwaukee was scrapped in 1956, Foss give the ships bell to my father and he passed it on to me. I still have the ships bell. My dad also gave me the bell from one of the last steam locomotives on the line. It is a monster compared to Diesel locomotive bells.

Anonymous said...

Came across your "Oil-Electric" blog site while doing searches on Google, very nice site, lots of great train information. I was especially interested in a section on the Milwaukee barge operations on Puget Sound. I noticed with interest the map you have posted of a two track barge landing at Port Angeles. This is actually a proposed landing, that is quite late (can't read the date of the map as the lower corner is chopped off) but note the C.M.St.P.& P. initials on the legend, which would date it 1927 or later. I am wondering if the Port Townsend barge slip was coming due for heavy repairs and the railroad was seriously considering moving the operations to Port Angeles.
As you stated, there was a barge landing at Port Angeles in the beginning. It was a single-track, 75 foot transfer bridge, No. MT-560, built in 1914 and removed in August, 1917, being rebuilt as MT-418 for the Todd Dry Dock in Tacoma. It was located about three blocks west of the one in your map, roughly at the intersection of Front Street and Cedar.
Also note your map shows the second depot building just below the landing, with the third, and current at that time, depot one block east, on Oak Street. This would place the date of your map at least as late as 1936, when this smaller depot was built, which still exists today as a hobby shop. The original 1914 depot was located west of all this, near the intersection of Second and "A" Streets.
I am a former Milwaukee Road employee who worked several times at Port Angeles, relieving agent Johnny Sanwald during hunting season each fall.

Allen Miller.

Anonymous said...

I read with interest your article on the tugboat, "Milwaukee." My grandfather was Clifford Rowe, the Chief Engineer who ruled the engine room of the "Milwaukee" for those 38 of 41 years! My dad's brother (and son of the "Milwaukee's" Clifford Rowe) also named Clifford Rowe, was Chief Engineer of the "Spokane," a Washington State Ferry for many years, and, after "retiring" from that, continued to work for the Washington State Ferries, in Maintenance. My own father, Edward Rowe, also made his living in the engine room of Merchant Marine ships for many years, and later, obtained his "land" engineer power plant license. THANK YOU for writing such a nice article about such an important part of Puget Sound history!
Lorraine Rowe-Conlan

Anonymous said...

I love your blogs !

As a researcher/lover of FM opposed piston diesels ,I find many of your entries wonderful !

Unknown said...

I am looking for maps and/or photos of the RR depot at Fairmount, near the head of Discovery Bay. Can you tell me where the map in your blog came from? Do you haver any other maps. or any photos? Thanks

Robert in Port Townsend said...

Fairmount map came from publicly available topo maps.

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