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IN 1928: freight on lower level is westbound, is coming out of Horseshoe Tunnel onto Lower Martin's Creek Trestle bound for Scenic

Collection of H. S. Od

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erica's longest tunnel

In 1929 Jim Hill's wish was realized

three required conductors. Each of
the four General Electric locomotives
(Nos. 5000-5003) had two trolley

A 5000-kilowatt power plant was
built on the east slope near Leaven-
worth, and a 33,000-volt transmission
line brought power to the substation
at the tunnel where it was stepped
down to 6600 volts for the trolley
wires. Transformers on the locomo-
tives further stepped the voltage down
to 500 volts for the four traction mo-

These were 500-volt, threephase 275 h.p. induction motors with double extension shafts and a pinion

on each end. Each pinion meshed with an axle gear; there were two gears on each driving axle. The two trucks of the locomotive were hinged together with an articulated joint. This was the only three-phase electrification in the Western Hemisphere. It was chosen because it was particularly suitable for regenerative braking, a system the railroad thought could be used in controlling westbound trains on the downgrade of the tunnel.

This particular type of electric locomotive had to run at whatever road speed corresponded to the 375 rpm synchronous speed of the motors. Train tonnage could not be heavy enough to slow the motors below this speed or motor damage would result. The 375 rpm motor speed corresponded to a 15 mph road speed, and at this speed three electric locomotives could pull the steam engine and about 1600 tons of train up the 1.7 per cent grade from Wellington to Cascade Tunnel Station.

The electrification was opened on July 10, 1909. Although it was off to an auspicious start, the ashcats were unfortunately back to shoveling coal within a month.

On August 11, 1909, both water wheels at the Leavenworth power station failed. This piece of bad luck kept the electric locomotives out of service until September 9, when they were finally able to haul trains through the bore again.

For a while the electrification seemed to be jinxed. Minor troubles cropped up, as they will with any new system, all through the winter of 1909-1910. Then with winter almost ended, tragedy struck not only at the electrification but at the entire railroad operation of Wellington, causing the loss of many lives. As had so often been the case in the past, snow was the killer.

On February 22, 1910, train No. 26, an eastbound local passenger train, arrived in Skykomish from Seattle to find an order holding it until a rotary plow arrived from the east. No. 2, the


Oriental Limited, reached Sky a short time later. At 10:15 p.m. the rotary started back east followed by No. 2 and No. 26. Although they were somewhat late, they all passed through Cascade Tunnel without trouble. No. 26 left Wellington about 1 a.m. on the 23rd. No. 26 met No. 25, the westbound passenger train, and No. 27, the westbound mail train, east of the tunnel and arrived in Leavenworth about 6 a.m. on the 23rd. No one knew that No. 26 was to be the last train through Wellington for 16 days, nor was there any hint that the two westbound trains which No. 26 had met would be death traps for 84 passengers and crewmen in what was to be America's worst snowslide disaster.

Although No. 26 had reached and passed Wellington safely, the track between Scenic and Wellington had been blocked by several slides within an hour or two. When the westbound trains arrived at Wellington they were headed into the passing siding to await clearing of the track to the west. There they lay for days while the storm raged. East of Cascade Tunnel, Tumwater Canyon had also been blocked by hundreds of slides and Wellington was isolated from the rest of the world, except by telegraph.

On the 23rd, two Mallets started west from Leavenworth to attempt to smash through the slides. After 12 hours of hopeless attempts, they returned to Leavenworth to await a rotary plow. The rotary did not arrive from the east until the 27th. It immediately headed west and by the evening of February 28 the plow train had reached Merritt, 15 miles east of Wellington. They had been in telegraphic communication with Wellington up to this time.

When they attempted to raise Wellington on the morning of March 1, the wire was ominously dead.

An unseasonable rainstorm had been raging on the west slope during the evening of February 28. On the hill above Wellington the snow was about 14 feet deep and the rain increased the danger of a slide. At 1:45 a.m. on March 1, without the slightest warning, the entire hillside above Wellington avalanched down onto the tracks and into the gulch, carrying everything with it. A wall of snow and debris 14 feet high, 2000 feet wide, and all of a half mile long quite literally picked up the railroad and rolled it down into the valley. The mail train, the passenger train, three electric locomotives, a fourth electric locomotive which was in the inspection shed, a rotary plow, three steam locomotives, a considerable part of the overhead wiring, and part of Welling

THREE-PHASE B-B electrics by GE were limited to two running speeds: 7.5 and 15 mph.


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GE built eight of these 260-ton 1-C+C-1's for Big G; Pennsylvania eventually bought them.

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BILLED in 1947 as world's most powerful single-cab locomotives were GE-built 5018 and 5019, 360-ton B-D-D-B's. UP is rebuilding 5018 into coal-burning gas turbine at Omaha.



ton itself was swept down the hillside into the gulch and buried under tons of mud and snow. The situation had been dangerous all winter since a forest fire had destroyed the timber on the hillside during the previous summer. The trees which would have anchored the snow and mud in place were no longer there.


A deathly stillness settled Wellington. Any human being who had been anywhere near the railroad tracks was down in the gorge in the avalanche. The electric locomotives, the rotary plow, and some of the passenger cars could be seen sticking up out of the snow and mud, and a few dazed people were beginning to pull themselves up out of the passenger cars. A yard man finally got to a telephone at the tunnel portal and called Cascade Tunnel Station only to find that it too had been practically wiped out by an east slope avalanche. Word was finally passed to Scenic and relayed by a roundabout route to Spokane. When the Leavenworth crew which had fought its way up to Merritt with the east slope rotary contacted Leavenworth to report that they couldn't raise Wellington on the wire, the sad news was passed to them.

Despite superhuman effort, it was two days before the east slope crew, which by now consisted of 250 men under the personal supervision of General Manager Gruber, plus the rotary and two big Mallets, finally fought their way up to Cascade Tunnel Station. As the big rotary ground its way down the main track on March 11, the crew were appalled at the terrible devastation. Every building in the little town of Cascade Tunnel had been smashed flat. However, after plowing out the main track they found there had been no deaths, although many people had been severely injured.

But if Cascade Tunnel Station had been lucky, Wellington at the West Portal had not. After clearing the tracks at Cascade Tunnel Station, the plow train passed through the tunnel. Even though they had been forewarned by the people at the East Portal, the crew were hardly prepared for the catastrophe that met their eyes as the rotary eased out of the tunnel at Wellington. In contrast to the lack of casualties at the East Portal, 84 people had died in the two trains and 17 elsewhere. The death list of 101 persons ranks as the worst snowslide disaster in the United States.

On March 11 an eastbound rotary churned its way into Wellington from Skykomish, followed by a passenger train, the first in 16 days. Big G was moving again after the most costly tieup in its history.

ONCE AGAIN the Consolidations and Mallets were hauling trains through the tunnel, but this was to be the last -the very last-time. The wire crews finally put the electrification back in service, and by the summer of 1910 the electrics were hauling trains through the tunnel once more.

With 67 Mallets in service, Great Northern was the largest user of this type of locomotive. Jim Hill was constantly prodding his motive power department for bigger power, and in 1910 it came up with a novel idea. Some of the Cooke, Rogers, and Schenectady Consolidations were sent to the Baldwin Works for rebuilding, never again to be seen as 2-8-0's. Instead they came back to the Cascades in the form of the biggest motive power yet seen in the mountains: 2-6-8-0 M1 road Mallets. Baldwin had taken the old Consolidations and lengthened the boiler, then had put an additional six-coupled engine under the boiler and moved the old Consolidation twowheel trailing truck forward of the new engine. The six-coupled engine included low-pressure cylinders with a 35-inch bore and 32-inch stroke. The Consolidation's old 21-inch cylinders were bored out to 23 inches and used as high-pressure cylinders. The resulting locomotive developed some 78,000 pounds tractive effort, had 350,000 pounds weight on drivers, and had feedwater heater and superheater.

That these 2-6-8-0 Mallets were successful is indicated by the fact that the Great Northern used them until 1927 in the original form received from Baldwin and then rebuilt them again, increasing the weight to 394,000 pounds and the tractive effort to 102,592 pounds.

Again in 1911 the Great Northern went to the motive power market, purchasing the first of more than 200 2-8-2 locomotives. These were designated Class O and assigned to the 3000 series. Their 61,500-pound tractive effort was not the equal of that of the 2-6-8-0 Mallets, but the O's were more suited to road service than the Mallets and they operated much more efficiently and cheaply. The Great Northern was to continue purchasing these efficient, versatile locomotives until 1933, when the last of the O class —perhaps the only Mikados ever equipped with 69-inch drivers - were rebuilt from Mallets in the Great Northern's own shops.

The new Class O Mikes were frequently used in Cascade Mountain service as road locomotives with the 2-6-8-0 Mallets as pushers. Since they could run at higher speeds with greater safety than either the Mallets or the Consolidations, they were often

used in the role of helpers on passenger trains.

In 1912 Great Northern again invested in big power, this time primarily to increase the size of the ore trains on the eastern end of the system. However, some of the big 2-8-8-0 Mallets eventually found their way into Cascade Mountain service and they are worth mentioning here. They developed 100,350 pounds tractive effort and 420,000 pounds on drivers, and carried 210 pounds boiler pressure. Some of these machines were rebuilt for simple operation in later years the first in 1923. (This may have been the first simple articulated locomotive.)

The backbone of the Cascade Mountain freight power for many more years until the old line up to Wellington (by then called Tye) was abandoned was to be the Class 01 Mikado and the Class M2 2-6-8-0 Mallet. One of these Mikados would arrive at Skykomish from Seattle with 60 cars, about 2500 tons. Two of the big 2-6-8-0 Mallets would be waiting. One would be cut in about one-third of the way back and the other about two-thirds of the way back. The road engine would take coal and water and receive a brief inspection.

An hour after the Mike arrived at Skykomish the train was ready to move again. For perhaps the 10,000th time the Great Northern was again to take up its everlasting battle with those cursed 21 miles of 2.2 per cent grade. In one respect the battle hadn't changed much. It was still grind, grind, grind away at 5, 6, or 7 mph. But the operating characteristics had changed; a lot more skill was required to handle 2500 tons of train with better than 200,000 pounds of tractive effort than had been required to handle 600 tons with two of the old Brooks 1892 2-8-0's. Also, whereas the two old Brooks engines and their entire 600-ton train could get lost in Horseshoe Tunnel, when the Mike and its engineer broke into daylight on the upper trestle he could look down on the lower trestle and wave to the crews on the hack and the second pusher. Too, usually only one water stop was necessary at Scenic for 20 minutes.

Four and a half hours after leaving Sky, the three engines would ease their train into Wellington Yard. The pushers were cut out of the train and the electrics coupled in, two in the middle and two in front of the Mike. The electrics hauled the train through the tunnel at about 7.5 mph in 22 minutes. The stop at Tye was shortonly 15 minutes. After a stop at Cascade Tunnel Station to switch out the electrics, the train would head down

the grade to Wenatchee, which it would reach in about 4 hours. This was quite some difference in operation from the early days. One of the Mikes could haul a 60-car, 2500-ton train from Seattle in 15 hours with two Class M Mallets between Skykomish and Wellington. In the old days, operating over Stevens Pass, this trip could take days.

2500-TON trains created a new problem with the electrification. For several years three units had been used to pull 1600-ton trains and a 2-6-8-0 Mallet through the tunnel at 15 mph. With the advent of 2500-ton trains three units could not provide enough power. For a while the trains were broken in two at Tye and hauled through the tunnel in two cuts. This was time-consuming, and when in 1923 the division point was moved from Leavenworth 22 miles farther east to Wenatchee, thus adding still more running time to each trip, it was decided that the trains must go through the tunnel in one piece and eliminate switching time. Adding a fourth unit to drag trains through the tunnel at 15 mph in one piece would have overloaded the power plant. So the electrical engineers got their heads together and devised what is known as a "concatenated" traction motor connection which would allow the motors to run at half speed, thereby enabling them to pull more tonnage without overloading the power plant. This also permitted the addition of a fourth unit to the train. This motor connection was quite successful and in later years it became known as the "Cascade" connection.

From 1923 on, four electric locomo

tives could pull the 2500-ton trains through the tunnel, but at half the former speed, or at 7.5 mph. Passenger trains were hauled through by two units at the usual 15 mph.

This posed a new problem. Actually the electric locomotives were now being used less than before because of the fact that there were fewer and heavier trains operating than in former years. Crews, locomotives, and power plants were sitting around idle, an expensive proposition. The Great Northern studied the problem and decided that the time had come to extend the electrification to Skykomish. Their study indicated that the necessary investment would result in considerable operating savings, and the railroad's management made the decision to construct the extension. At this time another study was made concerning the feasibility of a new tunnel which would permit the abandonment of not only the old tunnel electrification but also some 9 miles of the proposed new extension

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- that between Tye and Scenic. Such a tunnel would eliminate practically all of the snowsheds and virtually remove the never-ending fear of avalanches.

Once again the Big G called on John Frank Stevens. He made an exhaustive examination of the proposed tunnel project in 1925, some 25 years after he had completed the boring of the original tunnel. He had not been idle meantime but had taken a most important part in the completion of the Panama Canal some years before. Stevens' recommendation that the tunnel be built was accepted by the Board of Directors in November 1925. So, with sure knowledge that the

extension would be in use only a few years, construction costs for the 9 miles of electrification between Tye and Scenic were held to an absolute minimum. The new electrification would be of the 11,000-volt, singlephase type, which meant that the old three-phase system would be discontinued. Hence, on March 5, 1927, a new single-phase system was placed in operation on the 25 miles between Skykomish and Cascade Tunnel Station. The old powerhouse generators continued to be used since they could be operated as single-phase machines, although a second single-phase plant was installed at Skykomish as a 7500kilowatt frequency changer station.

Meantime, once the decision to bore new Cascade Tunnel had been made, the deteriorating condition of the snowsheds made it imperative that the new tunnel be completed by the winter of 1928-1929. Hence, in late 1925 the contracting firm of A. Guthrie & Company of St. Paul, Minn., was given the contract to proceed with all possible speed. To expedite the work, the contractor used the novel method of boring a smaller diameter tunnel 60 feet south of the main bore, to one side of the proposed location of the main tunnel. He then moved men and supplies to several locations in this pilot tunnel. They bored through to the main tunnel center line and then began working in both directions from several points at the same time. Thus several crews were at work all the time instead of one crew at each working face. This method resulted in a drilling record of 4.8 months per mile of tunnel in comparison with 7.2 months per mile for 12.4-mile Simplon, 8.2 months per mile for 5-mile

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THE date is about 1928 and a double-headed steam passenger train has just arrived at Tye from Skykomish with juice assistance.

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