Re: Pacific Northwest lumber traffic

Greg Martin

I always find it interesting when the lumber moves to California becomes the topic.
Let me just say that for the California market the majority of products consumed were by in large just a few species like Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock ( also referred to as Hem Fir, or White Fir), Redwood, Western and California Incense Cedar Ponderosa Pine, Inland Douglas Fir/Larch (DF-L). Very little as to say a negligible amounts of Canadian Spruce/Pine/Fir SPF was consumed. Timbers, dimension, boards trim and plyscore/plywood were mostly gathered from Washington State south with the majority of products coming from the mid Willamette Valley, then Northern California and them Washington State, followed by Idaho and Montana, then British Columbia.
Roll paper did come across the boarder as did grain, but for the Canadian Lumber that crossed the boarder it was BC coastal mills trying to access points like Oklahoma and Texas and parts of Colorado and a small percentage for the California market for specialized products.
As for Southern California the SP owned the receivers by about five to one. The folks that were on the Santa Fe could gain SP wood through the Stockton or Bakersfield interchange with the SP really pushing the Bakersfield interchange.  For the shippers on the OE the normal interchange was Portland, OR via the NP or the GN. SP&S was to the GN at the Oregon Trunk to the WP at K-Falls to the Santa Fe at  Stockton to receivers in Southern California. The NP could utilized this route as well but favored the SP, but let us not forget the choice of routes was the shippers. The NP to the SP was a short haul but less bridge routes involved. The Milwaukee favored the UP and the few UP receivers in the LA Basin could often be found with lumber from Washington State in their yards. 
Greg Martin  
Eventually all things merge into one and a river runs through it.
Norman Maclean
Doug Polinder writes:

"My observations of Pacific Northwest lumber traffic agree with Chuck Soule's sightings in Tacoma. GN received interchange cars from CN at New Westminster BC, and I believe CN forwarded cars from PGE to GN. In many of the southbound trains through Ferndale WA the majority of the cars were Canadian, the vast majority of them CN. CP tended to interchange with NP at Sumas WA/Huntingdon BC, and CP cars on GN were uncommon. NP had one train a day from the border, while GN usually had three or four.

The Canadian cars flowed south to California. NP moved cars to Portland and handed them off to SP. GN had a longer linehaul since it interchanged with WP at Bieber CA. Very little Canadian traffic moved east on GN or NP, since the Canadian roads did not wish to shorthaul themselves when they could carry their own traffic east to Minneapolis or Chicago (via SOO or other interchange partners).

Former GN employees confirm these observations. I have not yet uncovered any wheel reports or other documentation from the steam era or 1960s; that would be like finding the Holy Grail or Schliemann's Mask of Agamemnon.

Doug Polinder
Grand Rapids MI

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