Scenic USA - Washington

Old Number Six

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Old Number Six - Newhalem, Washington

Photo by Jim Stiles
Jim Stiles Photography

   Plans to harness the power from the upper Skagit River began to develop in 1918. The task of building three monumental dams, totaling some 250 million dollars, was stretched out over a period of 50 years. The first order of business required access to the first Gorge Dam site. This rugged land of the North Cascades called for rail connection from the Great Northern Railroad terminal in Rockport to the town of Newhalem. Because of excessive grades, the railroad was only extended a few more miles, far short of second site at today's Diablo Lake Overlook. Here in the precipitous Cascade Mountains, further access relied on electric power to raise materials and passengers to the remaining dam sites.
   The 23 mile long Skagit River Railway was completed in 1920, and the steam-powered train moved materials and workers for the next 34 years. Sparing the expensive with moving the railroad to higher ground, the railway was abandoned when phase 2 raised Gorge Creek High Dam (the first dam) to 300 feet and flooded the area. Utilizing a freshly completed U.S. Route 2, the Skagit River Railroad era came to a close. All that remain today are old photographs, faint memories and a freshly refurbished Baldwin Steam Engine. Here in Newhalem, beside the Skagit General Store, rests Old Number Six. Built in 1924, the proud steam locomotive welcomes visitors to Newhalem and the southwest boundaries of the Northern Cascades National Park.

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