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Thread: King over the Palouse

  1. #1

    Default King over the Palouse

    Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad's CW Line

    Eastern Washington is home to some of the best agricultural areas in the United States. The area south of Spokane, known as the Palouse, abounds in fields of wheat, barley, oats and several other commodities. Because of this prime farmland, the area was settled over a century ago with many towns rising out of the ground in the 1870’s and 1880’s. It was during this time that the railroads realized the importance of the region and started laying their iron rails through it.

    The Central Washington branch line, built by Northern Pacific, originally ran north from the mainline at Connell, WA, to Odair where it turned east for the run back to NP’s mainline at Cheney, WA. In the 1930’s, the United States Government built tracks from Odair to the site of the new Grand Coulee Dam. This increased freight traffic as the line hauled much of the equipment for the dam. Then, in 1942 the dam was completed and shortly afterwards the railroad line was taken out. The portion of the line between Odair and Wheeler was abandoned by BN in the 1970’s. The bottom half, south of Wheeler, was sold to a shortline about the same time that Watco purchased the northern half. Today, the CW branch refers to the line between Cheney and Coulee City (2 miles west of Odair) which is operated by the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad under Watco.

    Trains on this line are based at Cheney and the PCC has a small yard in town where they interchange with the BNSF. Traffic on the CW branch has remained the same, until recently, with just a few exceptions. Passenger trains used to run daily on the line until they were discontinued in the 1950’s. The bulk of the traffic on the CW branch consists of hopper cars. Occasionally, there will be a piece of farm equipment to deliver to Coulee City. Unfortunately, another chapter in the CW branch is about to close as Watco is filing for the abadonment of this line. Most of the elevators are finding that it is cheaper to truck their wheat to a loading facility on the BNSF. Consequently, traffic has dropped off to virtually nothing and PCC hasn't run a train on the line for about a month.

    But back in April 2005, they were still running trains even though the grain harvest was a good 4 months away.

    Attachment 648
    The crew came on duty at 6am in the town of Coulee City and by 7am they were picking up a block of hopper cars at the Cement elevators.
    Attachment 649
    Leading the train for the day was PCC 799 which is actually an ex-BLMR engine that PCC aquired along with the Blue Mountain Railroad in 2000.

    A couple miles farther and the train enters the town of Hartline. There is no pickup in town today so the train has no reason to stop. A couple more miles down the tracks and towns of Hanson and Almira hug the railroad.

    Attachment 650
    Although wheatfields dominate the landscape, there are a few places where the scenery varies into either trees or scrub brush.
    The next town is Govan where Central Washington Grain Growers Inc. owns an elevator. This company owns 8 elevators along the route and is PCC's biggest customer.

    Attachment 651
    The train rumbles through Govan without slowing down since all that is left are a couple houses, two elevators and what looks like an old schoolhouse.

    Attachment 652
    At Wilbur the train has a pickup to make at one of the two elevators located in town.
    Attachment 653
    After Wilbur another interuption occurs in the scenery as the train parallels US Hwy 2.
    After passing by the Rocklyn elevator the train arrives in Davenport. Davenport is the largest of the towns that PCC serves on the CW branch and boasts two elevators. Also in town is the wye track from the old branch line to Eleanor. The residents of Davenport are a close community and most have lived here all their lives.

    Attachment 654
    This couple can remember back to when the BN railroad used F-units and cabooses on their daily passenger trains.

    After making a pickup in Davenport, the train continues east through the communites of Major and Mondovi.

    Attachment 655
    Taking a few curves, the train decends down into the next town of Reardan.

    The Reardan Grain Growers own an elevator at Reardan and another at Hite which is the next elevator the train passes. The fields around Hite are green with the wheat that next fall will bring in revenue for the railroad.

    Attachment 656
    An old railroad crossing sign shows the wear of many passing years.

    Attachment 657
    Next the tracks make a sharp turn south and duck under both Hwy 2 and BNSF's Columbia River Subdivision.

    From here it is just another 10 miles back to the yard at Cheney where the crew can tie up their train for the day. And so another day on the CW branch comes to an end but with the pending abandonment, it doesn't look like there will be any more days on the CW branch.
    Last edited by westbnsf; 12-29-2005 at 04:30 PM.

  2. #2
    Mike Guest


    I don't know how to put photos in the text, so I can't help there. But once that's done, I would definetely recommend approval.

    The text tells a story that is not only interesting, but needs to be told. It sounds like this line is about to become a part of history, and future railfans will want to learn about this line.

    The photos are all good. Nothing off-the-wall spectacular, but every one of them is well-lit, well-composed, and does a good job of telling the story. I really like this essay.

  3. Default

    Nice job Marlin! I've seen plenty of photos of 'the good ole days' on the CW, so it is nice to see some documentation on the line with possibly its last operator.

    I do have a couple of minor comments....

    1. In this fragment "turn south and duct under both Hwy 2" duct should be duck.

    2. In this sentence "And so another day on the CW branch comes to an end but with the current operation problems..." you mention operation(al?) problems, but no where else in the essay do you refer to operational problems. Would it be better to revise this sentence to say something about the impending abandonment instead?

    Besides these minor issues, I vote for approval.

  4. #4
    paul@mwr Guest


    I think this is a very good essay with some great photography. Most of what I noticed with the text is some simple grammatical errors and punctuation that I'd like to see fixed before it goes public. Marlin, I think if you carefully read your text you will find these, but if you would like me to note them I would be happy to send you a PM with the sentences to review. Nicely done.
    Last edited by paul@mwr; 12-29-2005 at 06:50 AM.

  5. #5


    > Marlin, I think if you carefully read your text...

    Marlin can't see the essay or your comments at the moment, it's in the review area. We need to vote on what you see, though we have previously said that if we approve an essay we'll allow minor grammatical corrections without a recount.

    (When he fixed the pictures earlier, I moved it to the "revision needed" area so he could see/work on it. It didn't have 3 no votes then, but it was obvious they had to be fixed before it would get approved.)
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  6. #6
    paul@mwr Guest


    Quote Originally Posted by Bob
    Marlin can't see the essay or your comments at the moment, it's in the review area.
    Oh yeah. Well, I approve it and would like to see the grammatical tweaks I mentioned and the review comments cleaned up as appropriate since some of us on the review panel are morons.

  7. #7


    Quote Originally Posted by paul@mwr
    ...some of us on the review panel are morons.
    Knock that off.... Many of the early essays we did were done by review panel members, so they could see the comments as we went. That's why it's so easy to forget how the system works for regular members.
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  8. #8


    A few of the comments here talk about putting the photos in the text. That has been done now. Most of the messages relating to that were deleted, however a few comments have been left since they were part of wider ranging comments.
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  9. #9
    SDP45 Guest


    I appreciate Marlin's work on the last days (so it seems) of this line.

    I can see this piece as being part of a much larger work, more or less from the days of the competition of the Seattle, Lake Shore, & Eastern/Central Washington to now.

  10. #10
    Bruce Butler Guest


    I notice one minor error in the text below the picture of the couple at Davenport. I don't think that BN ran F units and cabooses on their passenger train. It is true that F units (and cabooses) were common on the CW freights in the mid to late 1970s. However the NP discontinued the passenger trains, numbers 315 and 316, in January 1954; well before the BN merger.

    The CW passenger run was normally one of NP's gas electric cars which left Spokane in the morning and returned in the evening. If the gas electric was "indisposed" a steam loco with a baggage RPO and a coach would substitute. The last run of this train was steam powered with NP Q6 pacific 2256 doing the honors.

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