Historians, city make push to preserve Washington logging road

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Efforts are under way to preserve the Simpson Railroad in Washington, which shut down in 2015.
Justin Franz
SHELTON, Wash. – A year after the Simpson Railroad in western Washington shut down, historians and local officials are making a push to preserve America's last logging road as an operating museum.

If they are successful in acquiring the railroad, buildings and equipment, they could attempt to open a diesel-era version of the Nevada Northern or East Broad Top.

The Simpson Lumber Co. sold its mill in Shelton, Wash., to Sierra Pacific Industries in early 2015. The mill and railroad were closed last spring.

The Simpson once had a rail system that stretched hundreds of miles into the woods of western Washington, but in recent years it operated just 10 miles of track from Shelton to Mill 5. The railroad rostered a handful of EMD switchers, including SW9 No. 900, which dates to the transition from steam to diesel in the 1950s.
While the locomotives and cars were included in the sale to Sierra Pacific, Simpson Lumber retained the right-of-way and the eight-stall roundhouse in Shelton. Soon after the sale, City Commissioner and Shelton Historic Preservation Board member Tracy Moore approached Simpson with the idea of donating the right-of-way and roundhouse to the community. Simpson officials were open to the idea and suggested a feasibility study.

The results of that study were presented to the city commission this month. The study states that turning the roundhouse into a logging railroad museum would cost upwards of $20 million. Moore tells Trains News Wire that the city hopes to talk to Simpson officials about donating the artifacts to the city, and in the meantime she is working on getting the roundhouse and railroad listed on the National Historic Register. She says Sierra Pacific has also set aside items of historic interest, including locomotive No. 900, that would be a critical part of any future museum.

“Simpson was a major factor in the development of our city and a major part of the identity we have today,” she tells Trains News Wire. “If we are successful in acquiring the roundhouse and rails, we will have a permanent and tangible reminder of Simpson and our past.”

Stathi Pappas, curator of collections at the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, Wash., tells Trains News Wire that the Simpson Railroad is a subject worth of preservation and he is hopeful the city is successful in its efforts. Pappas notes that while many preservation efforts have focused on steam-era logging railroads, few have made an attempt to save artifacts from the diesel-era.

“The Simpson Railroad embodies an unbroken link to the earliest years of railroading in Washington and of logging railroading in the Pacific Northwest,” he says. “This is a rare opportunity for the preservation community to save a railroad like this.”

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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