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Chehalis Western
Vail logging line
Curtis, Milburn & Eastern





A brief history of the lines

In western Washington, south of the Puget Sound, Weyerhaeuser hauled logs by rail up until 1992. This was done by a private logging railroad, two common-carrier railroads that as far as I can tell only hauled logs for Weyerhaeuser, and finally a vast railroad system that was just a private logging railroad. The name Chehalis Western was used twice, once as a common-carrier railroad, once as a private logging railroad. I hope to explain the various interrelated operations as clear as I can.

Vail - South Bay line

Weyerhaeuser operated a "nameless" logging line from a reload at Vail north to the log dump at South Bay, on Henderson Inlet of the Puget Sound. The Vail-South Bay line crossed the Milwaukee Road's Tacoma-Centralia line at Western Junction. This line was not part of the Chehalis Western, though CW trains operated on the north end of it from Western Junction to the log dump at South Bay.

The Vail line dieselized with a single Fairbanks-Morse H-10-44 switcher, built in 1948 as number 481. It was lettered Weyerhaeuser Timber Company. A second FM switcher was acquired for the Vail line in 1975 when Weyerhaeuser transferred the only locomotive from their White River mill (near Enumclaw), it was renumbered 714 on the Vail line. In 1975 and 1976 the F-M's were retired in favor of a pair of rebuilt EMD GP7's acquired from Morrison-Knudsen.

"Old" Chehalis Western

In 1936, Weyerhaeuser purchased from the Milwaukee Road a portion of the Milwaukee's line from Chehalis to Raymond. The line purchased extended about 18 miles from Chehalis to Dryad. The Milwaukee began operating over the parallel NP branch between those two locations.

Weyerhaeuser named this new operation the Chehalis Western. It was an ICC-regulated common-carrier railroad, possibly because CW trains would be operating over portions of the Milwaukee Road and Northern Pacific on trackage rights to reach remote log reloads and the log dump at South Bay.

The CW only utilized the first 9 miles of the trackage purchased from the Milwaukee from Chehalis to Ruth. The trackage from Ruth to Dryad, about 9 miles, was removed by Weyerhaeuser. A new line was built from Ruth south into the woods at Camp McDonald, possibly reusing rail from the Ruth-Dryad segment.

In 1939 the Milwaukee bought the two covered Howe truss bridges over the Chehalis River along the abandoned portion of the line at Mays and Dryad from Weyerhaeuser, and moved them to Park Jct. on the Tacoma Eastern to bridge the Nisqually River.

The CW hauled logs from Camp McDonald to Chehalis, then operated over the Milwaukee Road from Chehalis to Western Junction, where they joined Weyerhaeuser's Vail-South Bay logging line and headed due north to the log dump at South Bay. Weyerhaeuser also operated a log reload on the NP's Raymond branch at Pe Ell. CW trains operated to Pe Ell over the NP from a connection at Milburn.

There were also log reloads on the Milwaukee's line to Raymond east of Dryad. These two reloads were at Murnen and Hilda, the CW operated to Hilda as late as 1972. To reach them CW trains operated over the NP from Milburn to Dryad, then on the Milwaukee's branch to Raymond to the reloads. The Milwaukee abandoned their trackage from Dryad to Raymond sometime between September 1972 and June 1973, and began operating over the parallel BN (former NP) line all the way from Chehalis to Raymond.

The Chehalis Western dieselized with a pair of Fairbanks-Morse H-10-44 switchers built in 1949, numbers 492 and 493. They were joined in 1968 by a rare Alco C-415 centercab switcher as number 684.

The Curtis, Milburn & Eastern

In late 1975, operations on the Chehalis Western were drastically changed. The operation to Pe Ell over the BN (ex-NP) was eliminated, and the line to Camp McDonald was abandoned beyond the log reload at Curtis.

The truncated railroad was reorganized as the Curtis, Milburn & Eastern effective December 1, 1975. The only power left on the line was C-415 684, the FM switchers were previously retired or reassigned to the Vail line.

The new, common-carrier CM&E hauled logs from the reload at Curtis twelve miles to Chehalis, where they were turned over to the Milwaukee Road. The Milwaukee then took the logs to Tacoma, some may also have been left at Western Junction, then taken over the Vail line to the log dump at South Bay.

The "New" Chehalis Western

After the Milwaukee Road abandoned all operations west of Miles City, Montana, on February 28, 1980, the Weyerhaeuser purchased all of the Milwaukee trackage south of Tacoma, except for the Milwaukee's joint trackage (with the Union Pacific) to Hoquiam or the trackage rights over the BN to Raymond.

All operations on the Vail line, the CM&E, and the former Milwaukee Road trackage would be operated by the resurrected "Chehalis Western", this time a private railroad not regulated by the ICC. A new shop facility at Western Junction, replacing the old shop at Vail, all operations would be based out of Western Junction.

The new CW purchased four new GP38-2's from EMD to operate their greatly expanded railroad. The Vail line's two GP7's were relettered Chehalis Western in 1982 or 1983, and the CM&E's C-415 was relettered "CWWR" in 1990.

The new CW operated over the ex-Milwaukee Road line to Chehalis and then the CM&E to the reload at Curtis, and up to the reload at Vail. Logs were gathered at Western Junction, then hauled to Tacoma for export or South Bay for movement in log rafts to the Weyerhaeuser's saw mill in Everett.

The Chehalis Western shut down in July 1992. Two of the four GP38-2's had been transferred to Weyerhaeuser's Golden Triangle Railroad in Mississippi in 1989. The GP7's were transferred to Weyerhaeuser's Columbia & Cowlitz Railway in Longview, WA. After operations ended in 1992, the remaining two GP38-2's were transferred to Weyerhaeuser's Texas, Oklahoma & Eastern. The rare C-415 was sold to the City of Tacoma, along with the entire railroad, about 1995. It is still (as of October, 2001) at Western Junction, it and the shop there are leased to American Orient Express, which is using the facility as a repair shop for it's fleet of passenger cars. Prior to AOE leasing the shop in September, Coast Engine & Equipment Co. was leasing the shop and number 684.

Go to CW-VAIL-CM&E Roster for detailed locomotive roster


This information was compiled from many published sources, so many that I didn't keep track of what info came from where. I will eventually create a bibliography.

I would like to thanks Allen Miller for supplying corrections and additional info to this page.


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This page was last updated on October 7, 2002

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