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

Early Skykomish

Affectionately known as "Sky" Skykomish began with the Great Northern Railway

 
 
Early Skykomish Marker image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, July 11, 2016
1. Early Skykomish Marker
Inscription.  In 1890 when James J. Hill decided to extend his Great Northern Railway to the Pacific coast from Montana, he hired John F. Stevens as chief locating engineer to determine the route of the railroad. After locating Marias Pass in Montana, Stevens continued west to Spokane and the Columbia River.

There he began the exploration of the Cascades to determine the best route to the coast. This led to the location of the pass bearing his name 15 miles east of what was to become the town of Skykomish. From 1905 to 1907 Stevens was the chief engineer in charge of building the Panama Canal, and later he was in charge of reorganizing the China — Trans-Siberian Railroad in Russia.

John F. Stevens met John Maloney and hired him to help his engineers with the survey of the railroad. He advised Maloney to develop a homestead here because he believed the site would be an important point in the operation of the railroad.

The Railroad
The last spike on the Great Northern Railway was driven 6 miles east of Skykomish near Scenic, Washington on January 6, 1893, completing the rail line to the Pacific coast. The first scheduled
Marker detail: John F. Stevens<br>(1853-1943) image. Click for full size.
photographer unknown, Norton Collection
2. Marker detail: John F. Stevens
(1853-1943)
train passed through Skykomish on June 18, 1893. Patrick McEvoy, the engineer on this first train, later settled in the town.

Originally the rail line traversed the summit of Stevens Pass on a series of difficult switchbacks. In 1900 a 2.63-mile tunnel was completed to eliminate the switchbacks. Snowslides continued to plague the operation of the railway on the route between Scenic and Wellington (Tye). In 1929 a 7.79-mile tunnel was completed between Scenic and Berne.

On March 5, 1927 electric locomotives began operation from Skykomish east. The use of electric locomotives eliminated the danger of smoke and gases in the tunnel. In 1956 a ventilation system was installed in the tunnel to permit the operation of diesel locomotives through the tunnel. On July 31, 1956 the last electric locomotive left Skykomish. This was the end of the glory days of railroading in Skykomish.

At one time eight passenger trains a day stopped in Skykomish (eight mail deliveries per day!). The railway marketed the area as an outdoorsman's paradise. During the passenger train era some of the finest passenger trains in America stopped here — the Great Northern Flyer, the Oriental Limited, the Cascadian and the Empire Builder. There was also a passenger train known as "the Dinky," which went to Seattle in the morning and returned to Skykomish in the evening. Passenger
Marker detail: Substation and Electric Locomotive<br>circa 1930 image. Click for full size.
photography by Lee Pickett, Norton Collection
3. Marker detail: Substation and Electric Locomotive
circa 1930
train service ended in 1971 when Amtrak took over the passenger train business.

The early 1920s was a period of change in Skykomish. The rail yard was expanded in anticipation of the electrification of the line and the construction of the 7.79-mile tunnel at Scenic. To accommodate the anticipated increase in workers, a new hotel called the Hatley was built. It was later renamed the Cascadia.

During this time the depot was moved from the south side of the tracks to its present location, and by 1927 a large concrete building was constructed where the depot was originally located. This building was a substation used to convert voltage and frequency of electricity for use by the electric locomotives. The substation was demolished in 1992.

The coal chute, constructed in 1894 to supply coal for the steam locomotives, was removed in 1912 when the locomotives were converted to oil. The original roundhouse, constructed in 1894, was modified several times over the years. The last one burned in 1943 and was replaced by a one-stall locomotive house. The coal chute and roundhouse were located on the south side of the tracks just east of the present-day depot.

The railroad today is important in its appeal to rail fans and the historical interpretive opportunities it provides.

The Town
Affectionately known as "Sky" by railway employees,
Marker detail: Wandschneider’s Hotel, circa 1903 image. Click for full size.
photographer unknown, Norton Collection
4. Marker detail: Wandschneider’s Hotel, circa 1903
rail fans and residents, Skykomish began with the Great Northern Railway.

During the construction of the railroad in 1892 the soon-to-be town was known as Maloney's Siding. The depot was simply a boxcar sidetracked for this purpose. After completion of the railroad in 1893 a post office and general store were established and the town was named Skykomish. The name is derived from the Native American words skaikh, meaning "inland," and mish, meaning "people." Native Americans had been visiting the area for centuries to hunt and gather during the warmer months.

Following John F. Stevens' advice, John Maloney staked a claim and built a store to supply the needs of railroad men and prospectors. In 1899 Maloney and his wife, Louisa, filed a plat of the town, and on June 5, 1909 Skykomish was incorporated.

The first school was a one-room building accommodating several students. By 1900 the enrollment reached 50 and a larger facility was needed. A new school was built in 1902, and by 1919 there were 152 enrolled. Frank Wandschneider built a hotel, and restaurants and saloons followed. The restaurants and saloons with card rooms and pool halls were open 24 hours a day to serve the railroad crews. Poker and panguingue (pan) were favorite card games of railroad men who played to pass the time between calls to work.

In 1904 a fire destroyed
Marker detail: Holdridge and Wren Logging Company, 1958 image. Click for full size.
photograph by Bob Norton
5. Marker detail: Holdridge and Wren Logging Company, 1958
In the 1930s, trucks replaced trains in taking logs to the mill.
the hotel and other businesses established along the main street. One of the few buildings spared in this fire was Maloney's General Store. The hotel was rebuilt in 1905 by D. J. Manning, catering not only to railroad employees, but also to recreationists who arrived by train to fish and hunt in the area. Other businesses soon rebuilt.

In December 1970 a fire destroyed three false-front buildings (between the present hotel and the tavern) that had given the town the western frontier look typical of so many railroad towns where the tracks were "main street."

The Timber Industry
The completion of the railroad permitted the development of mills to harvest and utilize the fir and cedar forests in the area. Logging railroads and later truck roads were constructed to take the logs to the mills.

The Skykomish Lumber Company was organized in 1898 and incorporated in 1900 by John F. Stevens, Peter Larson, George Farr and John Maloney. The mill, located one-half mile west of Skykomish, had a capacity of 50,000 board feet per day. The company also operated a shingle mill with a capacity of 100,000 shingles per day. In addition the company furnished material for the Great Northern Railway. A single order was placed for 9 million board feet for construction of snow sheds to protect the trains from avalanches. This mill was acquired by Bloedel-Donovan Lumber
Early Skykomish Marker (<i>wide view; Great Northern & Cascade Railroad yard in background</i>) image. Click for full size.
By Cosmos Mariner, July 11, 2016
6. Early Skykomish Marker (wide view; Great Northern & Cascade Railroad yard in background)
Mills in 1917 along with 133,690,000 board feet of standing timber (the average home uses about 7,000 board feet of lumber).

Maloney built a shingle mill on the river in town where the motel stands today. This mill had a capacity of 80,000 shingles per day. To supply the mill with cedar, cutters cut the blocks (called bolts) of cedar along the river bottoms above town and the bolts were floated downriver to a log boom that stretched across the river at the mill site.

With the end of locally based railroad activity, depleted old-growth forests and increased related environmental concerns, the timber industry in Skykomish has declined. The forests are still an important asset to the town, providing many recreational opportunities.

(marker photograph captions)
• John F. Stevens, 1853-1943, photographer unknown, Norton Collection.
• Railroad Avenue and Railroad Yards, circa 1914, photograph by Lee Pickett, Norton Collection.
• The Town of Skykomish, 1899, artist unknown, Norton Collection.
• Substation and Electric Locomotive, circa 1930, photography by Lee Pickett, Norton Collection.
• Wandschneider’s Hotel, circa 1903, photographer unknown, Norton Collection.
• Railroad Avenue, Skykomish, circa 1907, Maloney’s General Store (left) and Skykomish Hotel (center) built in 1905 by D. J. Manning after a fire destroyed the
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original hotel, photographer unknown, Norton Collection.
• Skykomish School, constructed 1902, photograph by Lee Pickett, Norton Collection.
• Bloedel-Donovan Mill, photograph by Darius Kinsey, Norton Collection.
• In the 1930s trucks replaced trains in taking logs to the mill. Holdridge and Wren Logging Company, 1958, photograph by Bob Norton.
• (Marker Background Image) Bloedel-Donovan Railroad Trestle across the Skykomish River, photograph by Darius Kinsey, Norton Collection.
 
Location. 47° 42.553′ N, 121° 21.607′ W. Marker is in Skykomish, Washington, in King County. Marker is on East Railroad Avenue east of 5th Street North, on the right when traveling east. Marker is located on the south side of East Railroad Avenue, overlooking the Great Northern & Cascade Railroad yard. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 101 5th Street North, Skykomish WA 98288, United States of America. Touch for directions.
 
More about this marker. This is a large, framed "billboard-style" marker, mounted at eye-level within a heavy-duty wooden kiosk.
 
Categories. Industry & CommerceRailroads & StreetcarsSettlements & Settlers
 

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Credits. This page was last revised on January 30, 2019. This page originally submitted on January 30, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. This page has been viewed 50 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on January 30, 2019, by Cosmos Mariner of Cape Canaveral, Florida. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.
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