Making an Edmonds calendar | History Files

By Tim Raetzloff | Feb 07, 2018

In January, the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission begins its annual ritual of preparing a calendar of historic photos of Edmonds. Emily Scott is the person most responsible for the 2019 calendar. (The current one focuses on the 1950s).

The theme of the 2019 calendar will be transportation, a theme close to my heart, but not actually my idea. I think it was Emily’s idea.

Various methods of transportation were assigned to various commissioners. I asked for and got railroads. In Edmonds, that should actually be railroad, singular. Unlike Seattle, which ultimately had four transcontinental railroads and a couple of regionals, Edmonds was dependent upon the Great Northern Railway.

So Edmonds railroad photos will be of the Great Northern or its successor, Burlington Northern, and then Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF). Old photos will all be Great Northern.

I sent out a plea to railroad fans for photos. They sent me nine vintage photos. Only one had I seen before. It is a photo of a train in front of the Edmonds depot and section house. The section house was located near Dayton Street. It still exists, but not at that location. It has been moved to Second Avenue South, and it is listed on the Edmonds Historic Register.

It turns out the depot may exist, too.

Bob Kelly of Pacific Northwest Railroad Archives in Burien sent me several photos, three from the Edmonds depot. It appears different in each photo. I asked Bob if he knew if these were three different depots, or a reconstruction or two.

Bob checked the Authorizations For Expenditure (AFE) of the Great Northern Railway. Those records indicated that it was the same depot that had been remodeled.

According to the AFEs, the first Edmonds depot was built in 1891. It was 76 feet long by 32 feet wide. The AFE record says that the depot was shortened to 49 feet long and remained 32 feet wide in 1929. Then, in 1957, it was extensively remodeled to 110 feet long by 32 feet wide. But Scott Tanner of Edmonds, a railroad collector, sent me a photo of construction in 1956.

The photo shows the old depot in the background and foundation work on the new depot in the foreground. To me, that would indicate that a new depot was constructed, but Bob believes otherwise. He consulted someone, whom he described as an expert on the subject.

They gave me information that a new section was constructed, and the old depot was moved north to connect with the new construction. The old depot became the freight room of the Edmonds depot.

If that is accurate, part of the original 1891 Edmonds depot still exists. It is the south end of the Edmonds depot, and is now occupied by the Swamp Creek and Western Railroad Association, which maintains the HO-scale Port Columbia and Eastern model railroad. The location is worth a visit both for the Port Columbia and Eastern, and the historic nature of the building.

I believe the club still has one evening a month when the layout is open to visitors, and is open National Train Day in May, for the Edmonds Waterfront Festival in June, and for a Holiday open house in December.

The photos of the depots had other things in them, as well.

In the depot dedication photo in January 1957, Railroad Avenue is still dirt, and it was raining. The earliest photo shows the depot in its first configuration, and, excitingly to someone interested in history, it shows schooners loading lumber at a mill dock beyond, as well as a passenger train – maybe the Oriental Limited – loading at the depot.

The calendars are certainly popular. But they also give members of the Edmonds Historic Preservation Commission a chance to learn a little more about our subject.


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