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Piccadilly area

Piccadilly is the area immediately north of Central Way (NE 85th Street). In the original 1888 Kirkland townsite plat, the streets were named, not numbered. Piccadilly Avenue is today’s 7th Avenue (NE 87th Street).

By Kent Sullivan and Matt McCauley

Original Kirkland station platform

This original location for Kirkland on the Belt Line, as far as the NP was concerned, was an open platform at Milepost 17.4, on the east side of the main track, immediately north of the Piccadilly Avenue crossing. It was a simple affair, approximately 12 by 24 feet. This was replaced by the depot at Milepost 17.0 in 1912. Little is known about this platform; no photos have surfaced, as of yet, and no physical evidence remained into modern times. As described on the Depot Area page, the official station location (as shown in time tables) moved to MP 17.0 when the depot went into service.

Piccadilly Avenue was the primary route east out of Kirkland until the business center shifted a few blocks south and Kirkland Avenue became the most-direct route. It was logical that development occurred in the Piccadilly area, given that it was the closest location served by rail to downtown Kirkland.

NP map showing site of original station platform (courtesy NPRHA)

Take a trip through time in the Piccadilly area

Picturing all of the changes in industries and railroad spurs over the 75+ years of development in Piccadilly is a tall order. We put together an animation to help you visualize the evolution.

Simply click on the image at right to begin. You can click the animation at any time to pause it. You can also skip forward and back by using the progress bar at the bottom.

The aerial images from 1937 and 1970 are courtesy King County Road Services Map Vault. The 1981 aerial image is courtesy University of Washington Libraries Maps & Cartographic Information.

This is new technology for us, so if you have any difficulty, please contact us and let us know.

Note: There is no audio accompanying the animation.

Note: The full-sized video is also available.

Team Track and Siding

In April, 1905, the NP completed construction of the first spur in Kirkland. Because the demand was generated jointly by several Kirkland businesses, the spur was considered to be a “team track”, meaning one shared by several business and owned by the railroad. The official client for the spur was listed as the Kirkland Development Company in NP paperwork. Railroad ownership was possible because the spur was located entirely within the existing NP right-of-way and no additional property was needed.

By March, 1907, the Belt Line had sufficient traffic to prompt the NP to propose converting the 350-foot long spur into a 2500-foot long siding. Management approved the work in May and the project was completed in June. This type of siding, sometimes informally known as a “passing track”, allowed trains to pass each other – both ones in opposing directions as well as to allow one to overtake another in the same direction. (According to later NP track-laying records, the siding was apparently extended to just under 3000 feet.)

By the end of 1908, Kirkland shippers were generating enough business that the NP proposed a 500’ spur off the south end of the passing track because parked rail cars were inhibiting the siding from its intended use (allowing trains to pass). This was, as one might say, a good problem to have. Goods being shipped from Kirkland then included: shingle bolts, shingles, piling, cord wood, and lumber. The spur was completed in March, 1909, and was used, in one configuration or another, for decades. For example, the Van Aalst bulb farm shipped its first carload of bulbs out of Washington via this track in late August, 1926. Note: The team track designation was transferred to this spur from the siding.

It is also likely that automobiles for the local Ford dealership were shipped to the team track and unloaded. The dealership was owned by James G. Robinson until August 1919, who became involved with businesses using the railroad in Feriton in 1923. Automobile unloading moved to the Forrester spur in 1927. See below.

Ad for Ford autos sold at J. G. Robinson & Co. Ford dealership on May 8, 1918 (East Side Journal, courtesy Kirkland Heritage Society)

NP track-laying records indicate that the siding was greatly shortened, and returned to its original configuration as a spur, in 1990.

View looking south from the north end of the Kirkland Siding, with crane parked, circa 1960 (courtesy NPRHA, George Simonson collection)

Notice that the picture shows a stock or cattle car being used for this transportation—possibly for air circulation? (East Side Journal, September 2, 1926, courtesy Kirkland Heritage Society)

Kirkland Fuel Co. Spur #1

Kirkland pioneer John Fisher arrived in the Puget Sound area in 1878 and was involved in the earliest Kirkland townsite work–logging. John married Kathryn Jones and they had two sons, Harvey and Lawrence. John also had a daughter, Ione, from a previous marriage. By 1925, when Fisher was 56 years old, he became the Town Marshal of Kirkland and had the distinction of being the person living in Kirkland who had been there the longest, along with Harry French.

In early 1915, Fisher requested reconfiguration of the NP team track to serve his Kirkland Fuel Company. His request was to add a spur off the team track, ending with a “bunker” (elevated section for dumping material), to accommodate coal deliveries, and to turn the existing team track spur into a siding (double-ended spur), to create access to the new spur. Local businesses had been sharing the team track for unloading commodities like coal and hay, but coal was hard to offload, because it required using men with shovels. A spur with a bunker facilitated direct loading into trucks via gravity.

The NP approved the project in May and the reconfiguration was completed in September. Interestingly, J. G. Robinson complained to the NP in this timeframe about Fisher removing or blocking road access to the team track, which may have increased the chances of this work being approved.

Ad for Kirkland Fuel Co. on April 3, 1919 (East Side Journal, courtesy KCLS)

Fisher feuded with the NP for months about refunding a portion of his $140 deposit, which eventually caused the NP to re-compute the total cost and bill him an additional $6.63, for a relocated telegraph line, in June, 1916! That was a dog that should have been allowed to sleep, it seems.

In 1921, Fisher moved Kirkland Fuel Co. to the south side of Piccadilly Avenue (7th Avenue). (See below for more information.) NP track-laying records indicate this spur was kept in service as a team track but shortened from 525 feet to 393 feet, likely to remove the elevated bunker. A BN SPINS document verifies that it was still in use as as a team track in 1978. (The BN instituted the Shippers Perpetual Industrial Numbering System, aka SPINS, in the 1970’s.)

It is likely that the spur was removed at the same time the siding was reconfigured as a spur in 1990 but it could have happened earlier.

William Forrester Spur / Kirkland Fuel Co. Spur #2 / Hillcrest Fuel Co. / Automobile Unloading Platform

William Forrester owned and operated a fuel, lumber, cement, and building materials (windows, sash, doors, etc.) business in Redmond that was served by the NP’s Snoqualmie Branch. He approached the NP about getting a rail spur for a to-be-built Kirkland branch of his business in November, 1916. Interestingly, he told the NP that he perceived a void in the market, that he could fill, left by the recently-closed Hewitt-Lea Lumber Co. in Wilburton, which was caused by the lowering of Lake Washington. (The lumber company depended on lake water to manage and move their logs.)

Forrester formally requested the spur in January, 1917 and the NP approved it in March, but Forrester dithered due to the uncertain supply of merchandise during World War I. He waited long enough that the NP canceled his first request and the process had to start over in August, 1918. A 262-foot spur, shoe-horned in between Fisher’s Kirkland Fuel Co. spur and the passing track, was approved by the NP in November and operational by March, 1919. Forrester argued with the NP over a billing discrepancy for over a year, finally paying them an additional $16.16 in October, 1920. Forrester died suddenly in a traffic accident in 1941. Note: Apparently Mr. Forrester did not operate using a formal business name and no collateral or newspaper advertisements have yet been located.

As mentioned above, in 1921, John Fisher moved his Kirkland Fuel Co. to the south side of Piccadilly Avenue (7th Avenue), and the NP approved extending the William Forrester spur to serve Fisher’s new location in November, but work was not completed until September, 1923, for reasons unknown at this time.

Fisher sold the feed part of his business to Todd Feed and Fuel in June, 1924 and became part owner in that enterprise. It appears that he sold the fuel part of the business to a Mr. Jones, who renamed the enterprise Hillcrest Wood Yard. In October, 1927, Mr. Jones took on Manford Rerick as a partner and the business was again renamed, to Hillcrest Fuel Co. The business apparently switched from railroad to truck deliveries about two years later, relocating to vacant property east of Sample Chevrolet Co.

Regarding the feed side of Fisher’s business, Louie Todd was murdered in July, 1931, and the estate was sold the business to Lakeside Feed Company in 1932. Albers Brothers Feed Co. apparently gained control of the enterprise soon after, because they sold it to a M. Rubenstein and A. E. Tillman in July, 1937, who retained the Lakeside business name. Fisher did not live to see this sale of the company he started, dying in April, 1935 at age 65. Lakeside Feed put its best foot forward under new Manager Ray Whitcomb, by remodeling and redecorating the retail store, in May, 1938.

Note: A short article in the October 3, 1929 East Side Journal announced Fisher getting back into business by starting the Pioneer Fuel Co. but no further information has been found on this operation to date.

Ad for Fisher Grain & Feed Co. on January 1, 1924 (East Side Journal, courtesy KCLS)

Ad for Todd Feed Co. on February 14, 1924 (East Side Journal, courtesy KCLS)

By Summer 1926, there were at least five car dealers in Kirkland: Baker Motor Co. (Buick), Blau Chevrolet, Charmed Land Garage (Dodge Bros.), Kirkland Motor Co. (Ford), and Drew Motor Co. (Willys Knight and Overland). Local NP employees were aware of the potential for substantial revenue for transporting cars and petitioned for an automobile unloading platform in July, 1927. Upper management in St. Paul apparently didn’t need much convincing because they approved the project at the end of August and the platform was finished on September 16. The AFE mentions that Drew Motor Co. anticipated having 10 carloads delivered per year, with 20 carloads for Blau Chevrolet.

In August, 1949 the NP proposed improving the automobile unloading platform by “providing water and electrical connections, and installing an Evans loader lift”. This platform was located just south of 7th Avenue, on railroad right-of-way but served by the former fuel company spur. The plan was approved later that month and construction was finished in November. Railfan and former Kirkland resident John Magnuson recalls cars being delivered there in 1957, and likely later, mostly for Lee Johnson Chevrolet. In these days, cars were shipped in special boxcars that a third set of doors on one end. Open “auto rack” cars did not appear until the 1960s.

Aerial photos indicate that the automobile loading platform was removed sometime before 1970 and the spur was shortened to end north of Piccadilly Avenue. It is likely that the spur was removed at the same time the siding was reconfigured as a spur in 1990 but it could have happened earlier.

Note: The Evans loader lift was designed for box cars that had Evans auto racks installed inside.

Note: Both the Fisher and Forrester businesses had small structures (offices / dry storage) on their properties, based on aerial photos from 1937, but no ground-level photos of the buildings have yet surfaced. There are unfortunately no photos in the historic King County property tax records.

Note: Two well-remembered businesses in this same immediate area, Kirkland Packing Company and Kirkland Transfer Company, did not have their own spurs, but oral history strongly suggests they used the team track.

Note: Safety at the 7th Avenue crossing was an ongoing concern for the community in the 1950s and 1960s. For more information, see the Collisions between Trains and Automobiles and Resulting Safety Improvements section.

NP automobile boxcar 4914, showing end doors, that could be used to load or position cars more easily (from the Jay Williams collection, courtesy Eugene Deimling)

Kirkland Packing Co. in November, 1925; Note proximity to siding (East Side Journal, courtesy KHS)
Kirkland Transfer Co. with delivery trucks, circa 1955 (East Side Journal, courtesy KHS)
Looking south from 7th Avenue at NP GP9 locomotive 228 switching cars, circa 1957. Main track is at right, behind locomotive. (courtesy George Simonson collection, NPRHA)