Monday, October 4, 2010

Milwaukee Road Depot - Cle Elum, WA

This past weekend Linda and I had the opportunity to visit the Milwaukee Road depot in Cle Elum, Washington. This is definitely worth the stop if one gets the chance when traveling along I-90 between Seattle and Spokane.

The Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road) South Cle Elum Rail Yard located in South Cle Elum, Washington, was a division point on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad's Coast Division. It was established by the railroad in 1909 during construction of its "Pacific Extension".

After the completion of the first two transcontinental railroads into the Pacific Northwest, the Northern Pacific Railroad and the Great Northern Railway, The Milwaukee Road decided that in order to compete, it too must expand into the Northwest. It began construction on the Pacific Extension in 1906 and completed the rail line into Tacoma, Washington in 1909.

The Milwaukee Road placed division points approximately every 100 to 150 miles (240 km) apart. The division point was where locomotives were serviced, where train crews came on and off duty, and where trains were sorted and rolling stock stored. In addition, depots or stations were also placed at division points in order for passengers or freight to get on or off trains. Here is a picture of the depot before restoration.

The division point at South Cle Elum was placed between the terminus at Tacoma and the next division point at Othello, Washington. Thus South Cle Elum was the last crew change westbound before crossing the Cascade Range at Snoqualmie Pass and going into Seattle, Washington; as well as the first crew change eastbound from Seattle to Othello and beyond to the Midwest, the Twin Cities and Chicago, Illinois.

The rail yard at South Cle Elum consisted of the depot, the roundhouse (now a ruin), the turntable (also a ruin), ash pit, water tank (now a ruin), and the bunkhouse where train crews spent time between shifts. After The Milwaukee Road electrified around 1920, an electric substation and substation operators' residences were also built at the rail yard.

In 1980 The Milwaukee Road ceased service in Washington. It sold off much of its property. The bunkhouse became a bed and breakfast, the substation operators' houses were taken over by private individuals who continue to live in them. In lieu of paying back taxes, the railroad transferred ownership of the main line and infrastructure to the state. Because of the integrity of the buildings as well as the integrity of the setting, the rail yard and associated buildings were listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2003. Click on the aerial photo for more detail.

The Depot and Cafe is located on 801 Milwaukee Road, South Cle Elum, WA 98943. The phone number is (509) 674-2006. Their website is Here is a map of the location (click on the image to enlarge the map). Located inside the depot is the Depot Café restaurant Also located adjacent to the depot is the Iron Horse Bed and Breakfast

Here is a topographic map of the site (click on the image to enlarge the map).

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