Re: Coal in the Northwest

Richard Hendrickson

On Dec 26, 2009, at 6:34 PM, Phillips, III, J.A. wrote:

Richard Hendrickson ...Fact. I grant that NP steam locos burned
lignite (flammable dirt that only barely qualifies as coal) in
extreme eastern Washington. However, on all of the railroads that
served Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, the Columbia River, and most
of the rest of the area, steam power burned oil.
Okay, those who know much more about the NP than I do have convinced
me that the NP was an exception, and that NP steam power was largely
coal burning, even on the extreme western end of the system.

....The GN burned coal and oil, off and on, depending upon fuel
I'm not buying this for the period we're discussing here, the late
steam/early diesel era. GN's big passenger power was mostly oil-
fired system-wide, and I can't recall seeing any photos of coal-fired
locomotives anywhere in Washington state during or after World War
II. Certainly all of the motive power that ran down through Oregon
into California burned oil. As for other major railroads in the
area, SP, UP, SP&S, MILW, CN, and CP all ran their steam mostly or
entirely with oil fuel.

There were also numerous small mines in King (Seattle) and Pierce
(Tacoma) counties.... Further mines were located to the south
around Centralia....
I never claimed otherwise. What I did claim is that commercially
significant coal mines didn't exist in Oregon. And I will add that,
though some coal was obviously mined in Washington state, it didn't
amount to much. The Pacific Coast railway as a major coal hauler?
Give me, as we say, a break.

I am frankly puzzled at the uproar my remarks generated; aside from
the NP's use of coal, nothing that has been posted on the subject
invalidates my original premise that coal was neither mined nor used
in significant quantities in Oregon, nor was it a major railroad or
industrial fuel anywhere else in the Pacific Northwest. I can't
imagine why that premise should have prompted such a heated
response. After all, where oil was readily available at reasonable
cost, it was almost universally recognized as a better fuel for steam
locomotives in almost all respects, and especially better than the
cheap coal most railroads bought for locomotive fuel. So what's
behind the aggressive efforts to make coal appear more important as a
locomotive and industrial fuel in the Pacific Northwest than it was?
I don't get it.

Richard Hendrickson

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