Milwaukee Road Depot

ALLEN MILLER, visiting from Darington, parked his pick-up truck in front of the American Legion Building on First Street where we met to talk about the time when the building was a depot and visitors could arrive in Snohomish by train.

The Legion building at 1201 First, built with 19th Century drug money by Lot Wilbur, was the depot for the Milwaukee Railroad from 1911 until 1930 when railroad passenger service to Everett was replaced by an eight-cylinder Studebaker bus. The company moved its freight operation to the Great Northern tracks on the other side of the river, and in the1940s, the unused steel tracks were pulled up and sold for scrap to Japan. But that’s another story.

Allen once worked as an agent/operator for the Milwaukee Railroad and is now an avid collector of company records, photos, memorabilia and a historian with a head full of fascinating stories.

For example, on the second floor of the Legion building where Post Commander Pat Guyot (pictured above on the right), was showing us the Post’s restoration progress, Allen went immediately to a section of wall with leftover wallpaper. This was the kitchen area of the agent’s living quarters, he explained, and Mrs. Kent Gill could have been the one who put it up since her family was the last one to reside in the upstairs living quarters when her husband was the station agent.

Then there is the story of the great James Hill’s failed negotiations with the prosperous young Snohomish City business leaders in the 1880s to build a trestle on the north side of the river for his Great Northern Railroad, which was following Wall Street money to Everett. In response, Mr. Hill’s tracks were installed on the south side of the river with no station for Snohomish.

Our historic image of the trestle passing behind the former depot shows only the parallel lines of preserved wood where the tracks once ran. The railroad company simply abandoned the massive wooden structure, which eventually became an eyesore and hazard that had to be dismantled by the city struggling to find extra wartime dollars, I imagine.

Next month I will share with you Allen’s story about the time when the railway flagman at the Avenue D intersection had to hire a lawyer.

Published in the Snohomish County Tribune, January 27, 2010

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ABOUT THE PHOTOGRAPHS:
The abandoned railroad trestle pictured here around 1940 was built by the Milwaukee Railroad in 1910 along the north bank of the Snohomish River. 1201 First Street, currently the American Legion Building, was the depot and passengers would use the elevated wooden walkway on the right leading to the front of the building. The station agent and his family lived on the second floor. Photo courtesy Allen Miller.

View of the backside of the former depot as it appears today with the wooden trestle replaced by a concrete walkway as part of the Riverside Trail completed in 2006. The American Legion Post #96 has owned the building since the 1950s.

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