The Northwest's Own Railway


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.

Art Putnam copyright 1996

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