Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Coal trains from Snoqualmie?

There is coal in the Snoqualmie Valley! 

"Soon there will be scores of rail cars full of sequestered carbon headed from Snoqualmie to power Seattle, and dozens of new local jobs mining the ore, too." 

Well, not quite, but almost a century ago an enthusiastic Mr. R.T. Warwick, Agent of the Northern Pacific Railway in Snoqualmie could easily have said such a thing. 

In 1925 the California Alaska Corporation was operating the Niblock Mine, which was extracting coal from two seams located near today's I-90 exit 27, just outside Snoqualmie city limits.  In a common move both then and now, Mr. Newenham of that venture had offered a glowing report light on evidence and advised that, 

"they have opened up number three vein and found it (to be) twelve feet thick, and a very high grade of coal."  

Agent Warwick dutifully reported this information to the railway company's traffic manager.  Statements like this were difficult to verify over distance, so these glowing reports usually went unverified, causing the value of mining company stock to rise, and sometimes even tricked railway companies into building rail lines that would never see enough traffic to recover the cost of construction, let alone operation.  The promise of coal and iron mines in the Snoqualmie Valley was part of what led to the construction of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway into the area.  Yet when the valley was connected by rail, it was its vast timber resources that dominated the local economy.

So a colliery was operated on and off by a series of three successive operators over a period of almost 40 years, but it never achieved any of the success found to the west in the mines of Issaquah, Newcastle, and Renton.  So there will not be any coal trains in Snoqualmie at any time in the foreseeable future.

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