Saturday, December 29, 2007

Spokane, Portland & Seatttle, never went to Seattle!

Auburn, December 26, 1964. I’ve finally made home for my 10-day leave – see earlier story about getting home for Christmas. My buddy Elwin and I head out to do the “loop” beginning with the NP at Auburn, heading over to intercept the electric trains at Cedar Falls, Black River Junction, Argo, Stacy Street and finally Interbay.

Made for a neat day of train chasing, with a rich diversity of rail lines! NP, MILW, UP, GN, all in one venue!

It was pouring rain when we got to Auburn, and I think it took a few minutes to realize that there was a trio of Spokane, Portland & Seattle unit’s in the facility in addition to the usual NP livery! SP&S owned seven of these Century 424's, so half the fleet is right in front of me! I learned these units were only six months old, and still had the labels on the tires!

It only took me a few minutes to cajole the hostler into letting us ride with him as he shuffled the units around for fuel and sand. He explained that there had been a bad slide on the SP&S Columbia River line, so freights were being routed over the NP’s Cascade line to Auburn, then GN to Portland.

Like so many railroaders I encountered back in those days, as long as you didn’t get into things you shouldn’t be doing – like trying to lift a builder’s plate – they were generally pretty open, and liked to answer questions. I’m sure it came from taking pride in their craft.

Pretty spartan control stand. Just the basics - although I am not sure what the clothes pin was used for! He told me he had started out as a fire builder, and that it was a cold and miserable job back in the days of steam. As he was relating this to me, he had finally figured out how to turn the cab heaters on, with a great big grin.

Well the ride was way too short, and I could have spent the afternoon jawing with this old timer. As we are packing up our gear to leave, he made one lasting impression on me. He said, “You know, I don’t much care for these damn things – they all look alike…”

So as far as I know, this is the closest the SP& S ever got to Seattle!

SP&S Railway Historical Society presents a very detailed history of the line, and Art Putman has a pretty decent steam and diesel roster.

Railroad Stuff: Spokane Portland Seattle 300, Alco Century 424, 2,400 hp. Built 6/64, sn 3381.

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