THE COLUMBIA RIVER & NORTHERN RAILWAY
Also know as The Goldendale Branch.
By Jerry Tanquist and Ron McCoy, April, 2014.
A railroad had been proposed for many years in Klickitat County, Washington, to link Goldendale with the Columbia River at Lyle. In 1902 The Columbia River and Northern Railway Company (CR&N) was incorporated. All stock holders and officers were residents of Portland. The railroad was completed in late 1903. The route from Goldendale was south and west across the high prairie to Centerville, then west and north down the Swale Canyon to the Klickitat River. From there the route followed the Klickitat river to its confluence with the Columbia River.
At the time there was no connecting rail line along the north shore of the Columbia so the railway company purchased a steam ship company, The Dalles, Portland & Astoria Navigation Co., to transport goods on the river. Wheat was the main commodity, but the rail & steam ship combination was also an important source of transportation for the residents of this otherwise isolated area.
In 1908 James Hill completed construction of the Spokane, Portland and Seattle (SP&S) Railroad on the Columbia's north shore. It quickly acquired control of the CR&N and incorporated it as a branch line. The steam ship company eventually ceased its operation as shipments moved by the all-rail route. Meanwhile, the railroad became widely known as the Goldendale Branch.
In 1915 a large lumber mill was opened in the community of Klickitat, about 12 miles upstream from the Columbia. It became an important user of the railroad. The mill also built about 70 miles of narrow gauge logging railroad into the surrounding woods to support its mill operation. Gear-driven locomotives were used on it until the logging railroad shut down in 1964. Trucks were then used to haul logs to the mill.
Rail shipment of finished timber from the mill helped keep the Goldendale Branch in business. In 1990 the mill closed and this branch line shut down in 1992.
In 1993 the route was purchased by "The Rails to Trails Conservancy" which in-turn donated the route to the Washington State Parks system. Thirty-one miles have been developed as a trail and is now open for hikers, bikers and horse riders.
For more information, see:
The Northwest's Own Railway Vol. II- Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway and its Subsidiaries; Walter R. Grande, © 1997, published by Grande Press. ISBN 0-9634128-1-7. COPIES OF THIS EXCELLENT OUT-OF-PRINT HARD-BOUND BOOK MAY BE AVAILABLE DIRECTLY FROM OUR CHAPTER. PLEASE SEE THE "CONTACT US" PAGE AT http://pnwc-nrhs.org/contact.html TO INQUIRE ABOUT PRICE AND AVAILABILITY. The PNWC also has much of the original reference material within its extensive archives.
Early Klickitat Valley Days; by Robert Ballou, pages 298-316. © 1938, published by Goldendale Sentinel.