Personal Experiences around the Northern Pacific

and the

Toppenish, Simcoe & Western Railroad

 

Richard Delaney was born in 1902.  He was a forestry student at the University of Minnesota when he applied for a summer job as a forest guard with the Indian Service.  He was accepted and assigned to service on the Yakima Indian Reservation out of White Swan.  He wrote an extensive diary and the following is quoted from it.  This diary entry relates to his Northern Pacific Railway trip from St. Paul to White Swan, Washington in 1922 at the age of 20.

"It was necessary to change trains at Toppenish, Washington, nearly the end of the journey.  In the short time I waited there I observed the town as a rawish, dusty, boardwalk settlement.  In age as a town it did not equal my own years. From Toppenish I proceeded to White Swan by means of an ancient passenger coach attached to the rear of a freight train that stopped and switched, loaded and unloaded at numerous sidings, where the train crew visited leisurely with farmers or others who might be assembled at those points.  The distance was only twenty miles, but the travel time was four hours."

"I was the only passenger.  When I expressed surprise at lack of passengers, the conductor snorted.  'Hell.  No one would ride this if they had a horse' ".

The conductor on the line at that time most likely would have been Mr. Tom Walker, who was assigned to the White Swan Branch Line in 1915.  He spent much of his career on the  branch from its construction until his retirement in 1953.  This picture shows Tom in his caboose on the White Swan Branch (later the Toppenish, Simcoe & Western).

In 1996, Tom's daughter, Donna Mott, visited and was able to tell a number of stories of her early years during the depression.  The Walker family lived near the Elm Street railroad crossing in Toppenish.  She related that the train would blow the "Walker whistle" when it returned from its daily run to White Swan.  The train would stop close to the family home, and she would go out to meet it.  Her father would give her the shopping list for four or five families who lived along the line, and then she would go accomplish their shopping for them.  The groceries were placed on the train as it left for White Swan the next day and the deliveries were made.  Thus the people who lived along the line were able to survive the depression when they didn't have the gas to drive their automobile into town.

Harold (Ham) Alexander, who worked for the Northern Pacific from 1933 to 1970 (except for his WW II service for the U.S. Navy), recalls pheasant hunting with Tom.  He says that a railroad track inspection car (speeder) was frequently used for pheasant hunting.  Shotguns were brought aboard the car for the hunt.  Ham recalled the time that Tom brought his new automatic shotgun.  As Tom lowered the gun after firing a shot, it accidentally discharged.  Ham recalls Tom's reaction, "That damn gun is no good," and he threw the gun off the car.  When it hit the ground it fired a again.  Ham stated that put an end to automatic shotguns on the speeder.

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