Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Plausible History

The Steamboat METALINE navigates the nearly impassable rapids at Box Canyon near Ione Washington. This photo was captured circa 1890s. Soon, the railroad would arrive, making such a dangerous journey unnecessary.
Although I am creating a freelanced railroad and I am thoroughly enjoying the freedom and the lack of constraints that freelancing offers, I wanted to evoke that sense of historic authenticity usually reserved for prototype modelers.

I hopped on to Google to research the location I chose for my modeling and from that research I developed a timeline of events important to the development of the MFTR as it "exists" today. Many of these events are historically accurate. (Such as the the construction of the original rail line in 1909.) Other events are completely fictional and serve as justification for the choices I've made in my modeling. (Such as the cement operations moving from it's original location to the town of Ione) Still others are minor tweaks of real events. (Such as the change in management and direction at the Ponderay Paper Recycling Co.)

With that in mind, here is a brief "history" of railroading in the Pend Oreille Valley:
  • 1892 - The Great Northern Railroad (GN) reached Newport Washington enabling shipment of timber towed upstream from mills located along the Pend Oreille River Valley as far north as Metaline Falls.
  • 1909 - The Lehigh Portland Cement Co. (Originally Inland Portland Cement Co.) is established in Metaline Falls.
  • 1909-1911 - The original line from Newport to the town of Metaline Falls was built by Fredrick Blackwell and given the name Idaho and Washington Northern (I&WN). 
  • 1925 - A slump in the lumber market led to the sale of the I&WN to the Milwaukee Road.
  • 1956 - Construction completed on the Box Canyon Dam.
  • 1967 - The Boundry Hydroelectric Dam is built in the northern most area of the Pend Oreille Valley. The dam supplies up to one-third of Seattle City Lights power, It's presence has changed the landscape, permanently submerging the famous Metaline Falls river rapids.
  • 1970 - The Great Northern together with the Northern Pacific, (NP) Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, (CBQ) and the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway (SP&S) merge to form the Burlington Northern Railroad (BN). This new railroad continued supplying rail traffic to the Pend Oreille Valley.
  • *1983 - the Vaagen Brothers Lumber company acquired the valley's largest mill located in the town of Ione.
  • 1985 - Soo Line purchased the bankrupt Milwaukee Road and takes over operations in the valley.
  • *1988 - The Ponderay Newsprint Co. is founded in Ione bringing with it new economic opportunities.
  • 1990 - Canadian Pacific gained full control of the Soo Line. 
  • *1991 - The Canadian Pacific, declared it economically unfeasible to continue operations in the Pend Oreille Valley. The line is handed over to the Port of Pend Oreille and given the name of The Metaline Falls Terminal Railroad (MFTR) in honor of both the lovely town and it's historic falls. Both of which have contributed greatly to the valley's history.
  • *1994 - Continuing to find success in the Pend Oreille Valley, The Lehigh Portland Cement Co. moved operations from it's aging plant in the town of Metaline Falls to a new plant located in nearby Ione. This move saved the railroad 20 miles of travel round trip. The old plant continued to receive occasional loads of cement to store in it's large capacity silos for many years after.
  • *1996 - The Burlington Northern merged with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (ATSF) to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). This new railway continues to supply traffic to the MFTR at the town of Newport.
  • *2002 - The Ponderay Newsprint Co. was sold and under new ownership, operations were scaled back and focus was shifted solely to paper recycling. The company's name was changed, appropriately, to the Ponderay Paper Recycling Co.
  • *2009 - In an effort to save on the costs of upkeep, the MFTR filed for abandonment of the rail line and its several tunnels and wooden trestles north of the Box Canyon Bridge leading to Metaline Falls.
(*These dates represent a fictionalized version of historical events.)

Developing this timeline has been a lot of fun. Not only did I enjoy creating a plausible history for my freelanced railroad, but I also found myself absolutely fascinated by the real history of the Pend Oreille Valley which only increases my desires to do it justice with my fictional representation.

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