Wednesday, September 27, 2017

To Tacoma by Trolley, then Snoqualmie

A Century ago Seattle was connected to surrounding communities by interurban railways.  Among the early arrivals was the Puget Sound Electric Railway ("PSER") who operated electric interurban trains between Seattle and Tacoma for more than 25 years.  PSER  trains connected Renton, Kent, Auburn, Orillia, Milton, Fife, Tacoma, and points in between.  

Power for PSER trains was delivered in rural areas by an electrified third rail and in Seattle by an overhead wire.  Much of the line was energized with power from Snoqualmie Falls.  And this electric propulsion allowed quick acceleration and for speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Though efficient and  practical, operations ended on December 31, 1928 when the company defaulted on bond payments. Though a short-lived operation, PSER did influence settlement patterns, and today portions of the right of way in King and Pierce Counties have been re-purposed as the Interurban Trail.

The electric interurban story is not well represented in area museums and few traces of these railways are identifiable today. However, the Northwest Railway Museum has accepted the donation of PSER car 523, the last known surviving Seattle-Tacoma electric interurban car.  This car will be used to interpret the story of early 20th Century electric railroading in King County, a particularly interesting contrast with the modern investment in light rail now taking place in the region.

On Saturday, September 23, 2017, the Museum's attention was focused in Petaluma, California where car 523 has been stored for approximately 20 years.  On that beautiful Saturday, Precision Crane picked up the 523 and set it on a Gerlock Towing and Heavy Haul trailer for transport to Snoqualmie.

A few days later, on Wednesday, September 27, 523 arrived in Snoqualmie and was offloaded onto a railroad flatcar by Ness Campbell Crane.  The flatcar allows this 1907-built car to be moved in and out of the exhibit building so a comprehensive collections care plan can be developed.

The Museum is incredibly grateful to Mr. Paul Class and the Streetcar Investment Group for their generous donation of this car, and to King County 4Culture for funding the cost of transportation from California to Washington.  Extra special thanks are also due volunteers of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad HIstorical Society, the Petaluma Trolley Living History Museum, and the Northwest Railway Museum because this would never have happened without all of you!


Anonymous said...

This is wonderful news. As kids we used to go to the local store via the Anty Urban trail (the old Interurban ROW) PSER always has been of great interest to me and I always looked for vestiges of its ROW between Tacoma and Renton. Bravo Richard & crew for getting this car. If I hadn't moved to Northern California I'd be volunteering to help with the car's restoration.

Jesse Clark McAbee

Unknown said...

Very nice! I thought all the cars had been long since burnt for scrap.

By the way, the flatcar looks interesting too, any history on it?

Thanks! -Sam