Submitted by scott on
Start Date
End Date

August 6th, Twain's party departs Missoula on the Northern Pacific railway. This particular train had two special cars attached carrying the newly appointed receiver for the bankrupt railroad and the Supreme Court judge who had appointed him. Twain did not join them. They traveled through the Bitterroot Valley, ancestral home of the Salish people. They passed the site of the "starvation winter" of 1883-1884, and on through the Flathead Indian Reservation. Although they did not realize the significance of the area, the route traversed where the massive ice dam of Lake Missoula was, on the Clark Fork River 15 to 17,000 years previous. The dam was a lobe of the Cordilleran Ice Sheet that came down Purcell Valley. The lake is believed to have covered 500 square miles and the dam possibly 2000 feet high. Twain's party arrived in Spokane that night, at 11:30, and put up at the Spokane House. He gave a lecture on the 7th and spent the 8th touring the economic disaster zone that Spokane had become. Clara treated the hotel guests to a Chopin nocturne and they departed that night at 11:30. They boarded the Great Northern railroad again and headed west. Though they were unaware of the significance of the region they traveled through the Channel Scablands, the results of the massive and repeated floods from Lake Missoula. The morning of the 9th found them in Leavenworth, Washington. The train, with an additional engine, drove up through Tumwater Canyon to a point where the eastern portal of the first Cascade tunnel would be located. An additional engine was added to the rear of the train and Twain was allowed to ride with the engineer along the switch backs over Stevens Pass and down to the site of Wellington. Wellington was the western portal of the original Cascade tunnel and the site of one of the most disastrous avalanches in railroad history. The train continued down the slope to Martin Creek and through the horseshoe tunnel. then down along the Tye Creek, through Skykomish and on to Tacoma, Washington.

By 1887 the Northern Pacific, like many U.S. roads, was living on borrowed time. Henry Villard returned to the board of directors. Though offered the presidency, he refused. However, an associate of Villard dating back to his time on the Kansas Pacific, Thomas Fletcher Oakes, assumed the presidency on September 20, 1888. In an effort to garner business, Oakes pursued an aggressive policy of branch line expansion. In addition, the Northern Pacific experienced the first competition in the form of James Jerome Hill and his Great Northern Railway.

Arlee was named after the Salish leader Arlee. In October 1873, he moved a small group of his people from the Bitterroot Valley, a "conditional reservation" according to the 1855 Hellgate Treaty, to the Jocko Agency, later known as the Flathead Indian Agency, located a few miles south of the town of Arlee. This forced move stemmed from the efforts of a congressional delegation led by future president James Garfield to negotiate Salish removal from the Bitterroot Valley. The Indians of Arlee have a celebration that happens to fall on the fourth of July.

During the Pleistocene glacial periods, glaciers dammed the Clark Fork River Valley creating Glacial Lake Missoula. The ice dams broke periodically and at that time the Clark Fork River carried more water than the combined flow of all of the streams of the world: The Missoula Floods, also known as the Spokane Floods or the Bretz Floods, would rush down the Clark Fork and the Columbia River, flooding much of eastern Washington and the Willamette Valley in western Oregon. After the rupture, the ice would reform, recreating Glacial Lake Missoula.

As we have a day here, the ladies have overhauled and repacked their trunks. I think there is no occupation that has the fascination for women when travelling as the unpacking and overhauling of large travelling trunks. They go at it early miss their luncheon and are late to dinner and yet show no signs of fatigue. ...

This is a land of abandoned erosional waterways, streamless coulees with empty cataract cliffs and plunge basins, potholes and deep rock basins, all eroded into the basalt of the gently southwestward dipping slope of the Columbia Plateau. The pattern of dry stream ways; a plexus, an anastomosis; totally unlike any other drainage pattern on earth. A debacle was demanded to explain this landscape, the volume of which would fill normal stream valleys to overflowing. These great floods spilled over former divides, eroding their summits to complete the new network.

With the opening of the line to the coast, GN received twenty E-7 Ten-Wheelers (4-6-0's). Sporting 72" drivers and a tractive effort of 17,730 lbs, they were the first Ten-Wheelers acquired specifically for passenger service. The E-7s were limited to 9 passenger cars and 350 tons. While reliable Eight-Wheelers (4-4-0's) continued to handle the train for the level parts of the journey, the E-7 serves as the backbone of the transcontinental passenger power pool.

In 1889, the Great Northern Railroad leased trackage rights through the Tumwater Canyon. In the agreement, the GN was required to maintain it, but the right-of-way remained the property of the CR & TN. Included in the agreement was the stipulation that any changes made would allow the CR & TN to use the Tumwater Canyon, resulting in a rather strange, but not all that uncommon, three rail arrangement. As engineering techniques improved, the GN was able to do away with the switchback and tunnel method employed by the CR & TN, replacing it with track that had a maximum 2.2% grade.

Stevens Pass is named for John F. Stevens, an engineer in the employ of the Great Northern Railway. He had located the route the railway took over the Rockies, Marias Pass, and he had found the route over his eponymous pass. Not an ideal route but workable and James Jerome Hill had little time to waste.