The Building of the White Swan (Simcoe) Branch Line

 

 Originally incorporated on May 5, 1909, the Toppenish, Simcoe, and Western Railroad began construction into the rich farmland west of Toppenish at Wesley Junction, about 3 miles north of Toppenish. Financial problems resulted in slow progress. By three years after incorporation, 5 miles of roadbed had been graded, but only one mile of track had been laid.

On July 2, 1912, the North Yakima & Valley Railroad (NY&V), purchased the Toppenish, Simcoe & Western. By the end of 1912 the NY&V had completed the grading of the roadbed to White Swan, but rail had been laid only to Farron, 8.6 miles from Wesley Junction.

The NY&V was bogged down in debt and was sold to the Northern Pacific Railway Company on June 24, 1914. The NP finished laying about a mile of rail from Farron to Harrah in 1915. The line opened for full service to White Swan, nineteen miles from Wesley Junction, on November 4, 1916. Agents were assigned and depots were built at Harrah, Brownstown, and White Swan. The line was primarily a  freight service, but passenger service was offered with a passenger car attached to the rear of the freight train.

Agricultural related products became the mainstay of the freight traffic during the late 1920ís and 1930ís. Hay, wheat, sheep, horses, and cattle were some of the early commodities that moved on this line. As irrigation was improved and farming became more intense, such items as sugar beets, potatoes, fertilizer, and some varieties of soft fruit added to the freight traffic. An article in the Toppenish Review in 1927 said that during the month of August, 619 cars of produce had been sent to market over the Simcoe branch to Toppenish. According to the freight agent, the total would have been more than double if the cars had been available.

As freight traffic increased after the great depression, passenger traffic diminished. Eventually, the Northern Pacific discontinued passenger service. Exactly when passenger service was discontinued is not clear, however, the passenger depot at White Swan was removed prior to 1936.

In the late 1930ís and early 1940ís, freight traffic on the Simcoe Branch was at an all time high. West of White Swan, logging made an impact on the economy after WWII. In April 1952, a lumber mill was opened west of White Swan and the Northern Pacific responded by constructing a spur line running west from the old depot site about a mile towards Ft. Simcoe.

By the late 1950ís, farm shipments on the Simcoe Branch took a dramatic downturn, due in part to increased shipping by diesel trucks. As traffic slowed, the NP cut back on its agents and depots, finally centralizing all freight handling in the Toppenish depot.

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