“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Walla Walla in Walla Walla County, Washington — The American West (Northwest)

The Baker Railroad

Whitman Station

The Baker Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, August 14, 2020
1. The Baker Railroad Marker
Caption: The Blue Mountain narrow gauge engine pictured above ran from Wallula to Walla Walla from 1878-1881, and south from here along Dry Creek in Oregon from 1881-1883. Photo from Herb Banks Collection, Nez Perce County Historical Society.
Inscription.  The first railroad in the northwest, the Walla Walla and Columbia River, was constructed along this route by Dr. Dorsey S. Baker beginning in 1871 at Wallula. In 1874, when the track reached this point, known as Whitman Station, Baker told local citizens his funds were exhausted and the line would end here unless the public contributed the remaining capital needed to complete it into Walla Walla. Despite prior attempts at public financing, this spurred citizens to raise the needed funds, and the railroad was completed from Wallula to Walla Walla in 1875, becoming the first in the northwest other than short portage lines on the Columbia.

The Baker Railroad was a narrow gauge track, initially built with wooden rails on which strap iron was nailed. The ends of the iron were bent over the ends of the rails to help prevent the iron from curling up from friction by locomotive wheels. This didn’t always work, and sometimes the iron worked its way loose and sprang up through the floorboards of the passenger car, which was popularly known as “the hearse.” To prevent such “snakeheads” or “widow-makers”
The Baker Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By Barry Swackhamer, August 14, 2020
2. The Baker Railroad Marker
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as they were called, the train traveled very slowly and the passengers kept a sharp watch, though no serious accidents were reported. In 1878, the Oregon Steam Navigation Company (O.S.N) bought a controlling interest in Dr. Baker’s Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad. During its ownership, the O.S.N built a fourteen mile branch line from Whitman Station south to a point in Oregon southwest of present-day Milton-Freewater along Dry Creek, known as Blue Mountain Station. The O.S.N was sold in 1880 to Henry Villard, whose Oregon Railway and Navigation Company converted the Walla Walla & Columbia River line to standard gauge in 1881 to meet the new Northern Pacific line being built east from Portland. The last remaining narrow gauge branch was the line from Whitman station to Oregon. It was abandoned in 1883. The current track is owned by the Union Pacific and leased to Blue Mountain Railroad.
Erected 2011 by Frenchtown Historical Foundation.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Railroads & Streetcars. A significant historical year for this entry is 1871.
Location. 46° 2.76′ N, 118° 29.256′ W. Marker is in Walla Walla, Washington, in Walla Walla County. Marker is on Old Highway 12 near Frenchtown Road, on the right when traveling east. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 7246 Old Highway 12, Walla Walla WA 99362, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other
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markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Oregon Trail Memorial (a few steps from this marker); Battle of Walla Walla (within shouting distance of this marker); Local Tribes (approx. 1.1 miles away); Frenchtown (approx. 1.1 miles away); a different marker also named The Battle of Walla Walla (approx. 1.1 miles away); Saint Rose Mission (approx. 1.1 miles away); Wai-i-lat-pu (approx. 1.1 miles away); St. Rose Mission (approx. 1.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Walla Walla.
Also see . . .  Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad and Blue Mountain Locomotive -- Youtube. The title says it all. (Submitted on October 29, 2020, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 29, 2020. It was originally submitted on October 29, 2020, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 195 times since then and 52 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on October 29, 2020, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.

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Mar. 27, 2023