History of the Trail - Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail

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Historic Milwaukee Road steam engine on Rosalia trestle, eastern Washington

The John Wayne Pioneer Trail follows the historic route of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, also known as the Milwaukee Road. Founded in the midwest in 1947, the Milwaukee Road gradually expanded west, successfully conquering significant engineering challenges and extending to over 10,000 miles of line to reach western Washington. The Milwaukee Road corridor was the best engineered rail line serving the Pacific Northwest.


South Cle Elum 1910




Building the Milwaukie Road, hand hoisting rock,
1906

Malden's boom days as the Columbian Headquarters of the Milwaukee Road, 1911. At one time, Malden had a depot, multiple hotels, saloons, stores, and the largest locomotive turntable in the world. Today a post office is almost all that remains of Malden's services.


The Milwaukee Road through the Washington Cascades


In 1914 the railroad adopted electrification as an alternative to steam power for sections of the route. The system used a 3,000 volt DC line overhead. The first district was electrified in 1915 in Montana, and two years later, a separate district was electrified between Othello and Tacoma in Washington. Remnants of this historic period of electrification can still be seen along the John Wayne Pioneer Trail.
                                         
  
  Electric substation at South Cle Elum                 Electrification at Beverly station


A Milwaukee Road train crossing the Cow Creek Trestle in eastern WA.
This trestle is now gone, creating one of the trail's gaps. (See detours).

The company made the decison in 1973 to de-electrify the units that were electrified, and switch to diesel in an effort to save costs. However, just as the electrification infrastructure was scrapped, the 1973 oil crisis took effect. Strained by financial burdens and growing competition, the railroad went through several restructuring processes before final bankruptcy in 1977. For more history of the Milwaukee Road in Washington, see Cascade Rail Foundation.

  
The restored Kittitas Depot is one of only two remaining depots on the Milwaukee Road in Washington

After the last train ran on the line in 1980, the state of Washington bought the former Milwaukee Road corridor for $3,000,000 via a quickclaim deed. Controversy soon sprang up over how to use the State's new property. Horseman and outdoor enthusiast Chic Hollenbeck envisioned its use as a trail, allowing people to walk, bicycle, ride a horse, or drive a team across the state. Hollebeck lobbied hard to make this a reality. The trail was named the John Wayne Pioneer Trail for Hollenbeck's admiration for the cowboy actor. Hollenbeck was also the founder of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders, a group organizing an annual ride across Washington on the trail since 1981.

Members of the John Wayne Pioneer Wagons and Riders at the South Cle Elum Depot


West of the Columbia River, 110 miles of the trail were developed into Iron Horse State Park in 2006, but east of the Columbia River the trail remained largely undeveloped.

In the 2015, three legislators from the 9th District crafted a State budget proviso attempting to close 135 miles of the eastern JWPT and give this property to adjacent land owners.

This proviso was crafted behind closed doors, without pubic input or comment (See media coverage). Fortunately, an error in the wording of the proviso temporarily nullified it. However, when this was near loss of the eastern section of trail was discovered, trail supporters went to the Washington State Capitol to lobby legislators to "Save the Trail". Numerous public meetings were held to seek public input on the future of the trail. State Parks formed an Advisory Committee representing interested parties to work on JWPT planning. Trail supporters significantly outnumbered opponents.

The Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail Organization was formed in January 2016 as a direct result of the public's surge of interest and the effort to save the trail.

The 2017 Washington State Legislative Session is critical to obtain needed funding for the trail. Learn more about the State Parks' requests in the 2017-2019 budget for JWPT projects.

in our work to obtain necessary funding for the trail.



 Mark Borleske speaks to the press in the State Capitol January 2016 to SAVE THE JOHN WAYNE TRAIL!

2016 - State Parks hosted public meetings to gather input on the future of the Trail.
Friends of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail Organization, P.O. Box 3011, Winthrop WA 98862
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