This Month in Edmonds History: Edmonds’ Railroad Legacy

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    Train at Edmonds Station, 1947

    My Edmonds News is proud to present a monthly look at Edmonds history, straight from the archives of the Edmonds Historical Museum. For the month of May, we’ll revisit 1971.

    May 1, 1971 represented a transition in passenger train travel through Edmonds: It was the day that Great Northern’s passenger train service ended and Amtrak’s service began. Amtrak, a new national passenger company, began operating on many abandoned Great Northern lines at this time. The current “Edmonds Station” was constructed by the Great Northern Railway in 1956.

    The Great Northern Railway was started in 1889 by “The Empire Builder,” James Jerome Hill; he combined several smaller railways, eventually stretching the line from Duluth and Minneapolis/St. Paul across North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho into Washington. In 1891, a Great Northern track-laying crew reached Edmonds from the north and moved to Seattle over the Seattle and Montana proposed right-of-way. In 1893, the last spike was driven on the Great Northern Pass Route at Scenic, Wash. Great Northern Railway opened railroad service to Edmonds and onto Seattle. Service extended to Vancouver, BC on tracks of the Seattle and Montana and Fairhaven & Southern Railroads, later purchased by Great Northern.

    By 1910 the Great Northern Railway had two tracks through Edmonds, with eight trains stopping daily. The increased numbers of freight trains and steamers, together with the shingle mill industry, helped Edmonds grow and prosper. During the 1920s, freight business increased, while most passenger needs and services gradually declined. Today, six daily Amtrak trains serve Edmonds, including the Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle/Portland and the Eugene-Portland-Seattle-Vancouver Amtrak Cascades. Edmonds is also served by the Sound Transit commuter service.

    Model railroad layout under construction at Edmonds Historical Museum.

    The Edmonds Historical Museum will celebrate Edmonds’ rich railroad history on June 4, from 1-4 p.m., with the grand opening of its new Train Room. The museum recently acquired a large model train layout designed by Edmonds’ native Don Drew. The layout was located in Drew’s Edmonds office and was used to showcase his Pacific Fast Mail (PFM) company products. PFM was a pioneer in the brass model train industry. The layout will be accompanied by historic photographs and information about the railroad industry in Edmonds. For more information, go to www.historicedmonds.org.

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