Why be modest? We’ll take credit for Washington State’s 120th birthday.
Washington became the 42nd state when President Benjamin Harrison signed a proclamation on November 11, 1889. It’s not coincidental that D. H. Gilman was signing Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway Company stock certificates (shown here) in 1888, or that investors were planning the town of Snoqualmie in 1889, or that the Snoqualmie Depot was built in 1890. Railroads were crucial to Washington Territory’s development and statehood.
Before railroads, you got here by wagon or ship. The first trains began operating in Washington Territory in the 1870s. In 1883, a spike driven in Montana completed the second transcontinental railroad, this one reaching the Pacific Northwest. (The first connected the East Coast to California.) Washington State’s population surged to 357,232 by 1890, a five-fold increase in 10 years. (In case you’re wondering, we’re past 6 1/2 million now.) Seattle's population grew from 1,107 residents in 1870 to 3,533 in 1880 . . . to 42,837 in 1890. Trains, of course, didn’t only bring an influx of people. Trains carried goods and materials essential to the region’s growth and development.
The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern connected Snoqualmie to Seattle in 1889, the year Washington became a state. Does the Northwest Railway Museum have any artifacts from that era?
The Snoqualmie Depot, shown here around 1896, was built in 1890. About 150 feet of original track remain in front of the depot today. The final image shows original SLSE rail laid in 1889. This was the main track until about 1963. Rail behind the depot is also from the period. However it wasn’t laid here until 1999. It came from local logging lines.
Bridge 35 over Snoqualmie River’s South Fork provides a view of the most common bridge design of that period. The through-pin-connected Pratt truss bridge was built in 1891, although it spanned a river in Montana before being relocated to North Bend in 1923.
The Northern Pacific day coach 889 is considered the oldest railway car/large object in the Museum’s collection. It was purportedly built in 1881, though it could have been built a few years later. (We have no definitive research yet.) The Canadian Pacific 25 was built in 1881 but didn’t find its way west until the 1890s.
You can see a picture of a steam locomotive built in 1885 (not in our collection) on the Washington State Steam Railroads and Locomotives website.
Secretary of State blog
Seattle History Examiner
Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: Oregon, Washington, by Donald B. Robertson