The Neukirchen Brothers and the Northern Pacific

In 2010, volunteers from the Western Division of the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association stopped by to talk about a project they were working on. They were in the midst of sorting through the Jim Frederickson collection, some of which dealt with the railroad in Issaquah. They generously offered to loan out the items so that we could scan them for inclusion in our own archives. We are still cataloging the 200+ documents copied from their collection. (For more information on the documents, see the blog post Northern Pacific Railway Documents Come For A Visit).

By Kris Ikeda, Archives Specialist

Letter from John Neukirchen to Superintendent, Northern Pacific Railway Company. January 4, 1910.

Letter from John Neukirchen to Superintendent, Northern Pacific Railway Company. January 4, 1910.

In 1910, while organizing his desk, John Neukirchen, President of Neukirchen Brothers, discovered an application for a side train that he had meant to submit months ago. He anticipates shipping 8-10 cars per week, and begins discussions for a spur track (AFE 233-11: the Mine Loop/Neukirchen Spur) to service the Neukirchen Mill.

After reviewing the application, I.B. Richards, General Superintendent in Tacoma, Washington, responds to his Superintendent, J.E. Craver, that a lumber road and the use of lumber trucks would be a preferred alternative, but Craver determines the distance is too great and recommends the spur track. The Neukirchen Brothers will be tasked with obtaining a signed easement and have agreed to pay labor costs. The rails, switches, and other necessary railway parts will be supplied and paid for by the Northern Pacific Railway Company.

A plot plan for the proposed spur track was drawn on April 3, 1911. The easement was intended to be 16 feet wide by 8 feet to either side of the center in the southwest quarter of Section 34, Township 24, north of Range 6, and east of the Willamette Meridian.

When the Neukirchen Brothers agreed to the terms set by the Northern Pacific Railway Company, they did not consider that obtaining a signed easement would be their greatest hurdle. Signatures from the landowners, Robert and Helen Thompson, were acquired easily. The other signatures necessary to complete the easement paperwork were those of the officers of the Issaquah & Superior Coal Company. These company officers were Germans who were involved overseas with the war effort. A verbal agreement had been received, but that was not enough to satisfy the Northern Pacific Railway Company.

G.H. Worley, an Agent for the Northern Pacific Railway Company, is insistent and direct throughout the correspondence. If an easement were not secured, he suggests that the rails are removed and used on a commercial track project. Richards suggests the idea of a bond to protect the metal rails, an investment of the Northern Pacific Railway Company, while on private property. In response, Neukirchen considers the bond an injustice, indicating that his mill cannot afford the added expense, but he is left with little choice. Richards provides only three options: secure the written easement, pay the bond, or have the rails removed.

The Neukirchen Brothers enter into a bond agreement through the National Surety Company of New York, and are held bound to the Northern Pacific Railway Company in the sum of $860. The bond protects the investment of the Northern Pacific Railway who has agreed to furnish track metal for, and lay and construct a spur tack near Issaquah at the request and convenience of the Neukirchen Brothers.

The spur track is built, but the story of this document collection ends with the cancellation of the bond and the railways’ renewed interest in removing the rails. It is possible the bond was cancelled due to lack of payment. Several letters between railway officers indicate that the balance remains due on the build work completed for the spur track and cannot be collected from the Neukirchen Brothers. The Neukirchen Brothers spent much to refurbish the mill, have experienced a poor market with low prices, and are struggling to collect from their customers. The bond is cancelled on August 11, 1914.

(Click on the images below to view them)


To review more documents from the Jim Frederickson Collection, visit the Digital Archives; the full set of documents are currently being cataloged, and will be made available as cataloging is completed.

Climax Locomotive

Looking back: Superior Coal and Improvement Co. locomotive

Published in the Issaquah Press on July 14, 1999

Climax Locomotive

Superior Coal and Improvement Co.’s Climax locomotive circa 1910. [IHM photo]

This 1910 photograph shows the Superior Coal and Improvement Co.’s Climax locomotive that was used to haul coal from the mines south of Goode’s Corner to a connector with the Northern Pacific Railroad. The connection was located near what is now the intersection between Rainier and Gilman Boulevards. As someone has observed in hand writing over time, Victoria Ek is standing second from the left in front of the engineer’s cab. Ek was the city’s treasurer in 191.

Gilman's Depot, circa 1892

Issaquah’s Northern Pacific Depot

78 First Avenue NE

Issaquah Depot Museum

Issaquah Depot Museum

Issaquah’s Depot was constructed in 1889, and helped to transform the small farming community into a bustling coal town. It was originally built under the auspices of Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway, but became part of the Northern Pacific network after the Panic of 1893 shut down the SLS&E. In the 1980s, the Issaquah Historical Society lobbied the City to purchase the historic building, after which volunteers spent more than a decade restoring the building. The Depot was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1990.  A detailed timeline of the Depot’s use and construction appears below.

Today, you can visit the Issaquah Depot to admire a classic restoration, see exhibits about Issaquah’s past, ride the Issaquah Valley Trolley, and much more.

Gilman's Depot, circa 1892

Gilman’s Depot, circa 1892.(IHM 86-87-18)

Selected chronology of the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway, and Northern Pacific North Bend line. From the notes of Dale Martin Jr. Information sources are listed in {} brackets.

1885 April 29Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Ry. incorporated {BN}
1887 February Construction begins on SLS&E {RENZ}
1887Tracks reach Woodinville
1888 SpringSLS&E affiliate Seattle Coal & Iron Co. begins coal mining in Gilman and shipping by rail.
1889Gilman station constructed
1889 DecemberOperations reach Sallal Prairie (63 miles from Seattle) – end of construction
1890 May 23Northern Pacific RR acquires control of SLS&E stock {RENZ}
1892 May 1SLS&E operations consolidated with those of NP {RENZ}
1893Nationwide “panic” (economic depression) begins, and lasts four years.
1893 June 30SLS&E bankruptcy= enters receivership {BN}
1893 AugustN P bankruptcy= enters receivership {RENZ}
1894SLS&E passenger service on North Bend line is daily except Sunday Seattle to Gilman takes 2 hours, Seattle to North Bend 3 hours 5 min Round trip to Seattle requires an overnight stay in Seattle
1896 July 28SLS&E properties sold by bondholders’ committee to Seattle & International Ry. Sale finalized July 1897. {BN}
1896 AugustNorthern Pacific Railway reorganization completed {RENZ}
1898 JanuaryNP buys bonds of S&I regaining control of SLS&E properties in western Washington {RENZ}
1899 Gilman renamed Issaquah
1900Puget Sound Lumberman Magazine ran an interesting article about life Along the Seattle & International.
1901 March 21NP Ry. absorbs Seattle & International Ry. short-line identity of track through Issaquah disappears
1902Issaquah trestle rebuilt at a cost of $8,792 {Times}
1904 JuneLake Washington belt line of NP completed through Renton and Kirkland: eventually North Bend branch passenger trains ran this way (instead of through Fremont and Kenmore). adding ten miles and one-half hour to an Issaquah-Seattle rail ride. {BN}
1904 OctoberNP passenger service from Seattle to North Bend takes 2 hrs. 55 min. each way. Round trip to Seattle in one day with a 7 hr. 50 min. lay over in Seattle.
1909Milk condensary established in Issaquah. It and successor operations on this site are the longest-lived rail shippers in Issaquah (now Darigold)
1909 October 22The October 22, 1909 Issaquah Press notes that as of October 17, round trip fare from Issaquah to Seattle has increased to $2.00.
1910s Much improvement to roads in Western King County; new ferries across Lake Washington; auto stage businesses flourish
1914Issaquah-Renton-Seattle Auto Stage advertises Issaquah-Seattle service in 1 hr. 10 min. Three round trips daily
1915 FebruaryNP Seattle-North Bend passenger trains (via Renton) daily. Seattle to Issaquah takes 2 hrs 30 min. Round trip to Seattle in one day, with a 2 hr 30 min layover in Seattle
1917 December 28 — 1920 MarchU.S. government controls and operates railways.
1918 January 1”North Bend & Seattle” Railway Post Office ends – end of mail sorting on the passenger train through Issaquah
1920Grand Ridge coal mine closed (Central Coal Co.)
1920 NP builds new 54,120 gallon wooden water tank at the junction of the main line and the coal mine loop south of town. A wooden water pipe supplies the tank from Cabin Creek on Squak Mountain above the coal mine. The tank is 37 feet high at the top and is used to supply water to the steam engines as well as several neighboring houses. {added by Eric Erickson}
1922NP ends Seattle-Renton-Woodinville-Issaquah North Bend scheduled passenger service
1923 Pacific Coast Coal Co. closes major coal mine in Issaquah area; mine loop track south of station mostly dismantled.
1928 February 22N. P. Logging Train wrecks (no injuries) just wrecked log cars and track) while going west behind High Point Hotel. {added by Eric Erickson}
1929 JanuaryIssaquah Station agent Jim O’Connor moves to Arlington. {added by Eric Erickson}
1930Mr. Harvey is Issaquah Station Agent. In November, Mike Procaccio – Issaquah Section Foreman for the past year – is replaced by Joe Rogerson. {added by Eric Erickson}
1938NP ends Seattle-Fremont-Woodinville-Bellingham scheduled passenger service
1939U. S. highway 10 widened to four lanes. Issaquah trestle altered with concrete piers and deck plate girder span {Times}
1956 April 16June 21, 1956 Issaquah Press reports that, “On April 16 a shiny orange diesel, locomotive rolled the freight train along the Northern Pacific tracks through Issaquah.” Originally built for the CB&Q, by Electromotive (a division of GM), the #558 replaced the #1372 steam engine that had served Issaquah for many years. {added by Eric Erickson}
1956 December 2First Casey Jones excursion: Seattle-Snoqualmie round trip was pulled by the 4-6-0 Locomotive number 1372 + 13 cars+ GP7. It carried 1,300 passengers. {Times}
1957 June 29Casey Jones excursion: Seattle-Snoqualmie round trip
1958 May 23NP closes Issaquah station agency {BN}
1959 December 6 Casey Jones excursion: Seattle-North Bend round trip. {CJ map}
1968 June 9 Last Casey Jones excursion. Seattle-North Bend round trip. {Times}
1970 March 1Burlington Northern RR formed from a merger of NP, GN, CB&Q, SP&S, PC
197-BN abandons former SLS&E: Lake Union-Woodinville route becomes the Burke-Gilman trail. 12.1 miles long.
1974BN abandons Issaquah-Snoqualmie Falls: gets running rights over Milwaukee to Snoqualmie.
1975 JanuaryIssaquah trestle dismantled. {Times}
1981 JuneBN announces that Redmond-Issaquah track is under study for abandonment. {Times}
1983Issaquah Historical Society commits to restore the Issaquah Depot as the society’s main project. Depot is in deplorable condition at this time. {added by David Bangs}
1984 March City of Issaquah buys former NP depot.
June 1994Issaquah Historical Society dedicates remodeled Historic Train Depot as a museum. {added by David Bangs}
1989Weyerhaeuser closes Snoqualmie sawmill. Rail freight service to Snoqualmie-North Bend ends.
1990Issaquah station listed on the National Register of Historic Places
June 1995Depot is included in Inventory And Evaluation of Historic Properties Associated with Transportation in Washington State by Florence K. Lentz. Field Site # PS3-O24-R {added by Eric Erickson}
1998BN abandons Redmond-Issaquah track. Track and right-of-way is sold to King County’s Land Conservancy for eventual conversion to trails. {added by David Bangs}
May 2001Issaquah Historical Society conducts experimental trolley service, allowing passengers to tour Issaquah between the Depot and Gilman Blvd. The vintage Oporto trolley car was on loan from the City of Yakima, and operated from the Issaquah Depot for one year.{added by David Bangs}
2013Issaquah Valley Trolley service begins aboard the organization’s restored trolley car. Summer trolley service continues to be part of the IHM’s programming.

{BN} – Burlington Northern
{Times} – Seattle Times
{RENZ} – Louis Tuck Renz, author of book, The History of the Northern Pacific Railroad, printed in 1980


Railroad Tracks into town

Early Day Railroad Construction

If you take a close look at the railroad tracks in front of the Issaquah Depot, you can see bolts that hold together sections of rail. These are known as joint connections. These days, many of the rail joint connections used on older rail systems are no longer necessary. Modern rail laying methods involve welding rail sections together to make a continuously welded rail. Welding rails together is expensive but lowers maintenance costs. And, if you are a rail passenger, welded rail gets rid of the old “clickity-clack” sound when the wheels crossed rail joints. But, the traditional jointed rail system that we have at the Issaquah Depot is still used on some railways in the US and in other countries.

To make a jointed rail, the ends of rail sections are bolted together with 2 heavy steel plates, called fishplates or joint bars, one on each side of the rail joint. Full lengths of rail, as supplied by the factory, would have bolt holes in them. But, if an odd length of rail is cut for repairs or to fit a rail section, new bolt holes have to be drilled through the rail. Unfortunately, railroad workers in the 1800s and early 1900s did not have motor driven machines to make these holes. They had to manually drill holes in the vertical part, or web, of the rail. To help ease this job a bit, a rail drilling machine that used men as the “motor” were developed in the 1800s.

A sample of one of these machines is on display at the Depot museum. It’s a New-Style Paulus model made by the Buda Boy Co., patented in 1890 (pictured at right). It would have been operated by two railroad workers, one on each side turning a hand crank. The cranking would turn a horizontal shaft at the bottom of the machine. Attached at the rail end of the shaft was a large drill bit that turned to cut a hole in the rail. As the drill shaft turned, the machine’s mechanism moved the drill through the rail very slowly.

The IHM rail drill was restored by volunteer Eric Martin and is fully functional. Eric set up the display with the drill bit completely through the rail as it would appear when workers finished drilling a hole. To do this, Eric and I hand cranked the machine until the drill bit pierced the rail. After about 20 minutes of turning the handles, with a few short rests, we achieved success. However, Eric admits to a bit of “cheating” to shorten the work time; he pre-drilled a half-sized bolt hole in the rail using a modern motor powered drill.

For select groups, like rail enthusiasts, a specially trained docent could demonstrate how the drill operates without actually having to drill a hole.

This is one of a variety of projects we tackle at the Auto Freight Building (aka “The Shop”) on the corner of First Avenue and Bush Street. If you see our door open on a Saturday morning, feel free to stop by and find out what we are working on!