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Everett & Monte Cristo Railway
book now in second priting

      This stunning photo is from page 24 of Everett and Monte Cristo Railway, captioned "The Everett and Monte Cristo's Locomotive 3, probably in 1893. Notice the link-and-pin coupler on the pilot beam, which had not yet been changed to a Gould couplers was a matter of pride for the railway, which claimed to be the first mainline railway to be completely equipped with the new devices. The material being hauled is probably rails, ties, and fish-plates for construction of the line." Photo courtesy of Railroad Museum of Philadelphia. See many more photos of the railroad and mines at this Journal website, an introduction to the Monte Cristo mines and the area around it in Skagit and Snohomish counties.

      Last week on Veteran's Day [written in 2002] I marched with the American Legion Post 43 Honor Guard at Granite Falls and had a chance to walk part of the old route of the Everett & Monte Cristo [E&MC] Railway, which once ran right through the downtown. I have been thinking about it a lot while reading the book named for that railroad, which was written by Phil Woodhouse, Daryl Jacobson and Bill Petersen and published by Oso Publishing. (Update: the book is again available new; it has gone into a second printing.)
      The Everett and Monte Cristo Railway [ISBN 0-9647521-8-2, Oso Publications, 2000] is a terrific book from stem to stern. The line was constructed from Granite Falls — northeast of Everett in Snohomish County — to the famous Monte Cristo mines, and first ran a train in April 1892. Another line was constructed at the same time east from Everett to hook up with the new one. Originally called the Snohomish, Skydomish & Spokane or "3S line," it was started in 1889 by Port Gardner businessmen who worried that James J. Hill was going to bypass Everett with the line that would soon be known as the Great Northern. The book explains:

      In 1889, some Port Gardner and Snohomish City businessmen began to worry that the Great Northern, which was heading west over the Cascades, would not make Everett the tidewater terminus but would instead continue to Seattle or Tacoma. This prompted the men to form a railroad corporation called the Snohomish Skykomish and Spokane Railway and Transportation Company. [Ed. note: Organizers of the new line in 1891 included Emory C. Ferguson, the original settler of Snohomish City; L.H. Cyphers, J.J. Folstad, William M Snyder, F.M. Headlee and Isaac Cathcart, who was the namesake of a town on the Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Railroad route.] The 3S, as they called it, would run from Port Gardner Bay to the Cascade Mountains. There it would join with the Great Northern, thus assuring that Port Gardner would be the tidewater terminus. The company was incorporated on April 19, 1889, and bonds were sold to finance the construction. The company obtained the necessary right-of-way and began building the extension from Snohomish City. (Some track was laid in an easterly direction because the line was also expected to tap the Silver Creek mining district, but nothing substantial ever became of this.) Construction to Lowell, a distance of 7 miles, was completed in March 1892. However, because of financing problems, the railroad was never operated and the trackage was sold to the Everett Land Company (a Colby, Hoyt and Hewitt company). Because the right-of-way and other holdings were already in order for the 3S Railway, the Everett Land Company wasted no time in selling its holdings in this line to the Everett and Monte Cristo Railway (also a Colby-Hoyt company) for $400,000.
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We recently visited our newest sponsor, Plumeria Bay, which is based in Birdsview, just a short walk away from the Royal family's famous Stumpranch, and is your source for the finest down bedding. See our Journal feature on this local business and learn more details and how to order items at their website.

      After laying seven miles of track to Lowell, the original 3S partners went bust and E&MC bought them out. A Howe truss swing bridge was constructed across the Snohomish River at Lowell and trains were switched at Snohomish City to continue on the E&MC tracks through Granite Falls to Monte Cristo. The book explains how the Colby-Hoyt syndicate of Everett hired H.C. Henry of Seattle to build the line as they negotiated with the John D. Rockefeller New York interests to exploit the mines in the North Cascades. Those were boom times and action was frenzied in that year before the Financial Panic of 1893 that threw a wet blanket on the Northwest gold fires. By the summer of 1893, surveyors and graders were performing amazing feats by traversing the many canyons and gullies on the way to the foothills and the Barlow Pass that had recently been discovered. Before M.Q. Barlow discovered the pass, supplies and miners had been packed in along the Skagit River to the north and then south along the Sauk river, a very long roundabout way. The train was thought to be salvation and would have been except for the Depression and for snowstorms that constantly wreaked havoc on the rail bed.
      [2005 Ed. note: the editor has recently discovered that Barlow is referenced several times in various histories as both M.Q. and J.Q. We have determined that they are more than likely the same man. J.Q. Barlow was originally an engineer with the Northern Pacific construction teams that laid track across the Plains and the Rockies, and we think that the "M" in the spelling may have for a nickname. We are working with Messrs. Woodhouse and Jacobson to confirm our findings and we hope that a reader might have further information.]
      The book is jam-packed with great period photos along with an appendix of track layouts, reminding the rail book enthusiasts of Dennis Thompson's counterpart book about the Logging Railroads of Skagit County. The authors are obviously well versed about both railroads and construction and they follow the line through its various incarnations, including life as a branch of the Northern Pacific after the turn of the century. I like the fact that it is full-sized at 8 1/2 x 11 1/2 inches, a format that allows for excellent display of the photos, including locomotives, cars and the terrain crossed by the tracks, including the hellish Robe Canyon. Rail enthusiasts will also enjoy the minute details of the route and construction, but the reader never gets bogged down in minutia.
      Frank Wilkeson, who surveyed the Skagit and Sauk River areas with D.C. Linsley in 1870 and was a railroad boomer in Skagit County in the late 1880s, wrote about the Monte Cristo area in the New York Times on Feb. 27, 1893:

      The whole story of the development of this new district is certainly unique in mining annals. Although exposing marvelous ledges in extent, the ores were not high grade, and, moreover, shipment by wagon over the "punching" [puncheon] roads of a Western Washington jungle was out of the question. A railroad was a necessity. On the sound a syndicate of New-York capitalists was building a new city, Everett. Monte Cristo, due east, was a natural tributary. Hence the construction of the railroad by New-York bankers and the purchase of a controlling interest by them in some of the leading Monte Cristo mines. . . .
      Monte Cristo itself awaited for its development the coming of the railroad which was then finding a short cut up the south fork of the Stillaguamish, building straight east from Everett, the new manufacturing city Eastern capital is establishing in Puget Sound. It takes fifty miles of this Everett and Monte Cristo railroad to reach the mines, fifty miles through virgin forest into hitherto unbroken solitudes. The road will cost $1,800,000, the expense of slashing and clearing the right of way in itself a heavy item. The road was being built, they said, solely for the purpose of developing the Monte Cristo mines and is backed by the latter's owners.

You can read Wilkeson's column at this Journal website. The authors provide a broad outline of Monte Cristo and the mines, including many photos not seen before. You can also read more details about Monte Cristo at this Journal website, which a portal to our four-part section on Sauk and Monte Cristo.
      There are many amusing sidebars, including a reprinted story from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that was written after E&MC president Frederick T. Gates announced in 1897 that the line would not be rebuilt by the company after the raging flood of that year that ripped up most of Skagit and Snohomish counties. The Rockefeller interests were about to pull the rug out and it would be up to Northern Pacific to find a use for the trackage. But the sidebar concerned a special few hundred yards that would be missed most by the young buck neckers and smoochers at what was called the "Kissing Tunnel." This sidebar anecdote is truly a hoot. Here is just a part of it:

      One other incident had aroused his curiosity and that was that E.C. Ferguson, Parker McKenzie and Will Hodgins were constant travelers up and down the road and never missed a chance to occupy a seat with a lady as tunnel #1 was approached. Will Hodgins always went on excursion days and always managed to be the center of the crowd of a half-dozen handsome young ladies just before entering the tunnel. The snap was first given away when an elderly milliner from Seattle overcome by the magnetic current threw herself upon conductor Speer and overwhelmed him with caresses. The road promptly sent her a bill for twenty kisses at five cents each.
      Do not miss this book. If you cannot find it locally, contact Oso books, oringinally located at the town of Oso, near Marysville, Washington, but recently moved to Hamilton, Montana. You can read about their list of books and Tall Timber/Short Lines magazines at this website. This is one you will want to curl up with on a rainy day or the next time you need inspiration for your model train layout. Meanwhile I enjoyed the walk through Granite Falls trying to imagine the town back when the E&MC route defined it in the 1890s. The old tracks at the north edge of town are long gone but the crowd at the cozy Spar Tree tavern, almost across the street from the original depot, made me feel right at home and helped me gain my bearings. And Mayor Floyd DeRosia and his charming wife Jackie promised to take us on a unique walking tour. Too bad the Granite Falls museum is closed for the season, but you can email Floyd at gfcity@gte.net and he will answer your history and rail questions.

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