The year was 1905 when Mr. Hill announced to the public that he wanted to build
a line from Spokane to Portland. Work begun immediately there after and
continued till the golden spike ceremony on March 11, 1908 at Sheridan's
Point,Washington. On May 3, 1909 the SP&S operating department took charge
of the Pasco-Marshall track, and begun to operate through service between
Portland and Spokane. SP&S operated until the merger of the Burlington Northern
on November 1, 1979. For seventy sum years this road was the big of the small.
The building and construction of the SP&S RY. was no simple or easy task for
James J. Hill. There were many obstacles to overcome and battles both in court
and out. Mr. Hill was determined to have a line that would allow him access to
Oregon area that was rich in untapped resources of lumber, fishing trade and
international trade though the Port of Portland. It was this untapped wealth
that cause one of the greatest rivalry between James J. Hill the "Empire Builder,"
and Edward Harriman, president of the Union Pacific and Southern Pacific, for
control of the Pacific Northwest.
Hill knew he needed a direct easy access to the Oregon markets. Which he believed
with a line run down the Columbia River's north bank, would provide numerous
advantages. Such as the Columbia cut through the Cascade Range on a .2 percent
grade, as opposed to the 2.2 percent grades that the Great Northern and Northern
Pacific encountered to the North. Mr. Hill knew this would be a great advantage
in achieving maximum ton miles hauled, with a minimum use of trains.
This railroad had many different aspects of transportation which included the
Spokane & Inland Empire Railroad, electric interurban service on the Oregon
Electric, United Railways, Steamship service between Flavel, Oregon and San
Francisco, on the Great Northern Pacific Steamship Co, steamboat service on the
Columbia River between The Dalles, Portland and Astoria, bus line serving the
northwest Oregon area, the SP&S Transportation Co., Portland Astoria & Pacific
and Gales Creek & Wilson River Railroad, all of which played an important part
of the success of the railroad and the Inland Empire.