If you have lived in Walla Walla for any length of time, you have heard the distant horn of diesel locomotives as they go about their switching chores. The sound usually echoes off the buildings and greets the early risers. But did you know that engines have been making that sound with whistles, horns, and bells for the past 143 years? The stretch of railroad from Walla Walla to Wallula is the oldest point-to-point rail operation in the State of Washington.
In this Museum After Hours presentation Gary Lentz portrays William Tye, a conductor on the Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad, who offers a visual presentation on the history of the railroad from a railroad employee’s point of view. The talk will discuss the people who built their dreams, cleared the right-of-way, laid the track, and operated the engines and trains that helped build Walla Walla into the town it is today.
Imagine riding on the railroad in 1878 from Walla Walla to Wallula. You have to make a connection with one of the riverboats that will transport you to Portland, down the Columbia River, and around the rapids. From there you can make connections by sea to places around the world. The Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad provides you with that opportunity. It may be slow and somewhat dangerous but such is life in the last part of the Nineteenth Century. Lentz’s presentation as William Tye will provide insights into those dangers and the rewards of taking such a trip.
Fort Walla Walla Museum is in the process of restoring one of the original engines on the Walla Walla & Columbia River. The fourth of six engines owned by the railroad, the Blue Mountain, is currently on display. Background on the engine, how it came to work for the Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad, and what happened after it left, as well as how it found its way back, will all be discussed and illustrated in the program.
The program will also explain why Doctor Dorsey Baker’s Walla Walla & Columbia River Railroad was nicknamed “The Rawhide Railroad,” why “snakeheads” were a threat to passengers, and why the fledgling railroad was boycotted in its early years by the same people it promised to serve.
Please join the museum for this interesting and fascinating look into a subject often taken for granted but so important to us and those who settled the area a century and a half ago. All Abooooard!