Houghton

“Houghton” refers to the portion of the LWBL from where it crosses today’s 108th Avenue NE north to where it crosses today’s NE 68th Street.

By Matt McCauley and Kent Sullivan

Anderson Shipbuilding Co. Spur

Today’s Carillon Point development sits on the lakeshore at a spot originally part of a 143-acre homestead claim belonging to a widow named Nancy McGregor, whose two adult sons staked claims south of her. About 1874 she and her sons left the area and a portion of her claim was purchased by the James and Sophia Curtis, who came to the area with their adult children via covered wagon from South Dakota. In 1901 Curtis sons built the steamboat Peerless on the property in in 1901, removing it via the Black River to Puget Sound. Later that year the portion of the Curtis property on which the Peerless was built was sold to lake steamboat captains George Bartsch and Harrie Tompkins who created a small boatyard, incorporating in 1904 as the B&T Transportation Company.

John Anderson was a Swedish immigrant who came to Seattle in 1888 at age 19 or 20. Not long after his arrival, he took a deckhand position on the Lake Washington steamboat C.C. Calkins, engaged primarily in passenger service between Leschi Park and the luxurious Calkins Hotel, located in Calkins’ Mercer Island community he named East Seattle. Anderson rose quickly, from deckhand to fireman to purser. After earning his pilot papers, he became the Calkins mate and then master, earning the title Captain Anderson. He spent about two years on the Calkins and then bought half ownership in the lake steamer Winnifred, soon becoming its sole owner. Anderson began building and buying other lake boats and soon his Anderson Steamboat Company dominated Lake Washington Transportation.

Anderson merged with Bartsch and Tompkins in 1908, adsorbing their steamboats and the yard, and a new company was created: Anderson Shipbuilding Company.

In 1917, during the First World War, NP records reveal considerable correspondence with the Anderson Shipbuilding Company regarding the construction of a 4800-foot spur to serve the shipyard. An internal NP telegram dated October, 12, 1916, directs the region’s roadmaster to accompany Capt. Anderson to the area of the line south of the shipyard to determine the requirements to construct a spur down the hillside to the shipyard. This would have been a substantial undertaking, the grade to the shipyard was determined to be 2.8%. (By comparison, standard railroad convention held that grades were not to exceed 2%).

Anderson’s request for a spur related to having obtained government wartime vessel construction contracts for two steel steamers, but a February 2, 1917, NP internal letter states that the project was “held up for the present” due to Anderson relinquishing those contracts to Ames Ship Building & Drydock Co. due to Anderson’s inability to procure necessary steel.

On July, 2, 1917 Anderson formally requested the spur, due to having been awarded a contract to construct three vessels for the US Shipping Board. In response, an NP official outlined in a letter to his superiors at the NP’s Minnesota headquarters that the proposed spur was longer, steeper and more tightly curved than was allowed under NP guidelines. He also pointed to a lack of locomotives available with the capability to operate on a line that irregular. In its place the official recommended a shorter spur that would be steeper, about 6%, and more tightly curved, but that would be served by a shipyard-owned Shay geared locomotive (used primarily in logging applications) which was capable of operating on the proposed grades and curves. This proposal was not acted upon, however, and a third, shorter, 635-foot spur was proposed in November, 1917 and was approved by NP management in January, 1918. However, negotiations with Henrietta Ross, for an easement across property she owned south of the shipyard, were unsuccessful. Ross wanted $15 per month ($250 in 2018 dollars) and Anderson and the NP thought this was excessive. Given that and the imminent end of the war, the proposal went no further and the request was officially cancelled in February, 1919.

Note: All of these proposed spurs would have connected to the main track just south of today’s NE 53rd Street and are documented in the same proposal.

Note: The Lake Washington Shipyard, successor to Anderson Shipbuilding Co., did have rail service to its warehouse in Feriton during World War II.

Map showing Anderson Shipbuilding Co. and adjoining parcels (courtesy King County Road Services Map Vault)
The original proposal for a spur to Anderson Shipbuilding Co. was almost a mile long at almost a 3% grade (courtesy NPRHA)
The revised proposal for Anderson Shipbuilding Co. was much more reasonable but was not built (courtesy NPRHA)

Houghton Station

Although there was never a formal depot at Houghton, the NP did create a “flag stop” for passenger service, where the CKC crosses today’s NE 60th Street, in February, 1911. A station sign was erected at that location no later than Spring, 1912. Passengers could ride as far as North Bend on Train 345 (No. 445 beginning November, 1913) or Seattle on Train 346 (446). This train ceased service by October 1, 1922 but Houghton continued to be listed in employee timetables until January, 1925. No siding was ever built at this location but there may have been a simple open platform to facilitate passengers boarding trains, as with the original Kirkland station.

Note: Of course, these passenger trains also stopped at the Kirkland station, and, beginning in July, 1921, also at Firloch, when it also became a flag stop.

Note: King County records show that an overhead pedestrian bridge was considered at NE 60th Street in 1907, perhaps speaking to the volume of foot traffic in the area. More research is needed to learn whether it was ever built.

Early NP map showing location of Houghton station sign — note north is down in this image, so that annotation about station sign can be read easily (courtesy NPRHA)
Proposed overhead pedestrian bridge, 1907 (courtesy King County Road Services Map Vault)

Guernsey & Kincaid Spur

By 1910 it was clear to most in the Seattle area that the automobile was here to stay. While cities like Seattle enjoyed trolleys and streetcars, rural areas (the vast majority of King County then) depended on roads, which were often little more than wheel rutted paths that turned into muddy goop during rains. This need increased substantially the clout of the Good Roads Movement started in the 1880s by bicycle enthusiasts and placed great pressure on King County to build more and better-quality roads.

King County took steps to meet this demand, supported by the Washington State chapter of the Good Roads Movement. Most county roads at that time were surfaced with crushed rock. Dump trucks were not yet in widespread use, so the easiest way to transport crushed rock for the roads being built in the Houghton and Kirkland area was by rail. Samuel Hill, of the Maryhill Museum, was quite involved in the Good Roads Movement, and personally oversaw preparations for delivery of crushed rock for the construction of State Highway No. 4 (today’s NE 68th Street). He contacted the NP in May to request immediate construction of a spur.

Guernsey & Kincaid were selected as the road building contractors for the project. A 360-foot spur, with a rock bunker, was proposed, approved, and constructed all in the space of a week in June—quite a rapid execution for the usually-deliberate NP. This spur, named “Kincaid”, was located about 500 feet south of Bridge 16 over NE 68th Street.

Long after the road was completed, the NP proposed removing the spur in January, 1916. The plan was approved in February and the work was completed in March. NP paperwork noted that the spur had not been used for almost two years and that the bunkers had decayed to such a point that the switch had been taken out in early 1915.

Proposed rock bunkers for King County road construction, 1909 (courtesy King County Road Services Map Vault)

Note: The drawing above was created for the location originally proposed (see “King County Ferry Oil Spur” in the Feriton section). It is assumed the as-built bunkers were similar.


Red White and Blue Trading Co. Spur

The Red White and Blue Trading Company, owned by the Campbell Mill Co., opened for business in Kirkland at the very end of December, 1928. Their main plant, including bunkers, was located on the Campbell dock on Lake Washington, but by June, 1929, President James Campbell petitioned the Northern Pacific for rail service in Feriton. The spur, located about 65’ south of Bridge #16 over NE 68th St., was approved in July and completed by early October. The trading company was in the wood and coal fuel business and needed a track to receive those items. Louie Sands was the first manager of this enterprise. Not much is known currently about the ongoing business of the trading company. Mr. Campbell died in July 1941, and shortly thereafter, in September, a request to remove the spur was made, which was completed by year’s end.

NP map of proposed spur for Red White and Blue Trading Co. spur, May 27, 1929 (courtesy NPRHA)

Bridge 16

In May, 1910, the NP began work on a proposal for constructing an underpass for State Highway No. 4 (today’s NE 68th Street), which was under construction. In June, the State and the NP agreed to split the cost 50-50. NP management approved the project in late July and it was completed the following month. This structure became known as Bridge 16 (the closest milepost). Construction of State Highway No. 4 is the reason the Guernsey & Kincaid spur was installed.

By March, 1932, it was time for a thorough renewal of the bridge. As the NP’s proposal stated, “The piles are badly decayed at the ground line and the stringers are soft.” Work was completed by the end of August and was expected to last 10-12 years.

Looking east on NE 68th St. under NP Bridge 16—note two Low Clearance signs, circa 1956 (courtesy Kirkland Heritage Society)

By 1944, the local population and the size of vehicles had increased significantly, so the NP approved rebuilding and enlarging the bridge. However, action was delayed by the end of World War II. In December, 1945, the Kirkland Commercial Club complained to the NP that the current 20’ width (18’ of which was roadway) was insufficient and should be increased to 24’. The NP agreed, and the paperwork documents that this is the width originally intended in 1910 but not achieved, for unknown reasons. The NP also decided to increase the height 18”, which required 14 cars of ballast to be spread on the approaching track. Trucks were getting larger and taller and hit the bridge with increasing frequency, resulting in damaged vehicles, cargo, and bridge members, not to mention track that was temporarily impassable. Work was completed in late January, 1946. In 1954, Houghton officials requested that the NP widen the south side of the bridge to enable a pedestrian underpass, which the NP agreed to do in November.

Even with the work done in 1946, the bridge was still too low, with only 11’ of clearance, for a notable number of trucks, as articles from January, 1961, July, 1964, June, 1965, July, 1965, and January, 1967 demonstrate. In several of these collisions, the impact was hard enough to shift the rails, which would have caused a derailment if oncoming trains had not been alerted. In one case, there was a train on the bridge when the accident occurred but it was able to move ahead safely.

Houghton and Kirkland officials took notice in March, 1966 and began discussing the situation with NP corporate officials, because it was also desired to widen the roadway to four lanes. Planning work continued and was approved by all of the involved governments in November, 1967. The NP created a proposal in January, 1968 to get the ball rolling, with the NP paying 25% and the two cities splitting the rest of the cost. Finally, In August 1969, NE 68th Street was widened to four lanes, and the bridge was rebuilt in steel on concrete piers. The new bridge was 127 feet long, with a 56-foot-long steel center span, and 35 ½ foot-long timber approaches at either end, replacing an all-timber bridge that was 69 feet in length.

Looking east on NE 68th St. under NP Bridge 16, circa early 1900s (courtesy King County Archives)

This bridge was built completely of wood, and therefore, required much maintenance over the years:

  • 1918: Extended one span on each end to provide more support, due to high bulkheads
  • 1919: Renewed bents and deck
  • 1927: Renewed ties and guard timbers
Looking S along track over Bridge 16—note track out of alignment, on July 19, 1967 (courtesy Kirkland Heritage Society)
Looking west on NE 68th St. under NP Bridge 16, with possible lumber spill from truck, circa 1956 (courtesy Kirkland Heritage Society)