N.P. Ry.

Tell Tale Extra

Passes, Tunnels, and T.F. Oakes


Northern Pacific Railroad Company
Construction Department
Portland, Or
January 11, 1884

T. [Thomas] F. [Fletcher] Oakes, Esq.,
New York

Dear Sir:
I submit the following comparative statements of the lines trough several passes of the Cascade Range in Washington Territory.
A great number of passes were examined, and surveys have been made through twelve of them.
Those showing the best results were three in umber, and careful estimates have been made only upon the routes crossing over them.
Three passes are as follows: commencing with the mouth southerly:
1. The Natches Pass
2. The Stampede Pass
3. The Snoqualmie Pass
The terminal stations on the three routes are Ainsworth [Pasco area] at the east and Tacoma on the west end.
All three routes are over a part of the present Puyallup [Buckley] Branch.
Two of them (Stampede and Snoqualmie) also run over a part of the lately constructed road to Seattle.
All of them also run together in the Yakima Valley 56 miles.
The Stampede Pass rout follows the valley 46 miles father, while the Snoqualmie Pass is at the head of the Yakima River.

Natches Pass Route
This route ascends the Yakima Valley to Yakima City, thence follows the Natches River to the head where is passes through the Cascade Range by a tunnel 10,000 feet long, into the head waters of White River, which it descends to a suitable point and crosses over a low divide to connect with the Puyallup Branch at South Prairie Station 24.7 miles from Tacoma.
This route is the shortest and most direct of all, but the Natches Pass is 4,925 feet high above sea level, and the summit grade is 3,402 feet. This line will require heavy outlay for snow sheds in the mountains.
This line for many miles runs along the steep side slopes of the mountains, and in places will be exposed to dangerous snow slides. The grades over the mountains are 100 feet per mile on east side, and 116 feet on west side.

Stampede Pass Route
This is identical with the Natches Pass route, from Ainsworth to Yakima City.
From the latter point it continues to ascend the Yakima Valley some 76 miles farther; then turning to the left, ascends across the foothill, and crosses the crest of the mountains through a tunnel 10,000 feet long into the headwaters of the Green River, which it descends to Stuck Junction on the Seattle Line, 17.3 miles from Tacoma.
This route is almost 16 miles longer than the Natches route.
The summit of Stampede Pass is 3,693 feet above tide, and the height of the summit grade is 2,825 feet.
[p. 1] The route over this pass is the most favorable of any in the mountains, for constructing and operating a road.
While the snow falls in the winter to a depth of ten to 12 feet, on the top of the mountain, it is of much less depth at the level of the tunnel entrances and snow sheds will not probably be needed.
The mountain sides are less steep than by the other passes, and there are no indications of slides of any kind, either of earth, rock, or snow.
The mountain grade by this route are the same as the Natches, to wit, 100 feet per mile on east side, and 116 feet on west side.
Another line was tried over Stampede Pass with tunnel 16,700 feet long, and maximum grades of 53 feet per mile on east side and 80 feet per mile on west side.
The cost by this line is almost $700,000 greater than by of the shorter tunnel.
The summit grade by this long tunnel rout is only 24,50 feet above tide, and the route will be far the best for safe and economical operation, than can be obtained for crossing the Cascade Range.
For the most economical working it will require three to three and a half years to complete the shorter tunnel and five to six years for the long tunnel working twenty four hours per day, and seven days in the week.

Snoqualmie Pass Route
This rout ascends the Yakima River to its head, there crosses the Cascade Range by a tunnel 6,850 feet long, and enters the Snoqualmie River tributaries which it descends a few miles, then turning to the Southwest, it crosses two summits and Cedar River, and connects with the completed Seattle Line [Completed ca. 1882] two miles north of Stuck Junction [Auburn area] and 19.3 miles from Tacoma.
This is the lowest pass known in the Cascade Range, but its surrounding are of such character that its low elevation cannot be utilized with success.
The elevation of the summit is 3,010 feet and of the summit grade 2,860 feet.
As compared with Stampede Pass the elevation of pass is 683 feet lower, while the summit grade is 35 feet higher.
It has the advantage of a shorter tunnel than the other routes, but the grades approaching it are 124 feet per mile on both sides.
In passing through the mountains, this route is exposed for several miles to rock and snow slides of great extent, and at some points of very dangerous character; while the costs of snow sheds will be greater than on the Natches route.

The comparative length of the three routes from Ainsworth to Tacoma is as follows:
By Natches route: 224.6 miles
By Stampede route, short tunnel: 241 miles
By Stampede route, long tunnel: 239.5 miles
By Snoqualmie route: 250.5 miles

The length of incomplete road as follows:
Natches Pass route: 175 miles
Stampede Pass route: 197.5 miles
Snoqualmie Pass route: 206.5 miles

The estimated cost of each route, to complete it read for operation, not including rolling stock, and not including bridge over Columbia River at Ainsworth, but providing inclines for ferry transfer at that point, and not including a ferry boat, is as follows:

Natches Pass route: $6,953,000
Stampede Pass route, short tunnel: $6,713,000
Stampede Pass route, long tunnel: $7,393,000
Snoqualmie Pass route: $6,995,000

The estimated cost per mile of uncompleted road is:
[p. 2] Natches Pass route: $39,750
Stampede Pass route, short tunnel: $33,730
Stampede Pass route, long tunnel: $37,430
Snoqualmie Pass route: $33,890

The estimate of timber to build tunnels is based upon a rate of progress that permits the most economical working.
To [] the timber for their construction to any considerably extent would probably [] much increased cost.
A tunnel was completed in November last through the Alps between Austrian and Switzerland 33,685 feet long or more than twice the length of the long Stampede Pass tunnel which was commenced in June 18880, or in three years and five months. Boring for double track, it was possible to drive it much faster than if for single track.
Accompanying this is a table of the characteristics of each route, exhibiting in tabular form the length of each, length to be built, curvature, gradients, rise and fall, elevations of passes, and summit grade above tide, total cost of construction, cost per mile remaining to be built, and amount estimated, and included in cost of construction, for snow sheds.
No estimate is included for bridging the Columbia River at Ainsworth, as no sufficient data is in hand. It will be a long, and therefor expensive bridge, and a first class iron structure cannot be built for less than $1,200,000.
All of which is respectfully submitted.

[General] A. [Adna] Anderson

Note: Its my understanding Stuck Junction is located between Sumner and Auburn, WA. The point 'Two miles north of Stuck Junction' would create a western anchor point at or near the present Stampede Pass connection at Auburn-East Auburn. This latter line was not put in place until 1899-1900 via the Palmer Cut-Off. I don't wonder if the NP made use of some of the information gathered in this earlier surveying work for the later Palmer Cut-Off, or if the Palmer Cut-Off in any way followed the line envisioned for the NP via Snoqualmie Pass.

Northern Pacific Railway Corporate Records, Minnesota Historical Society, Saint Paul, Minnesota, Chief Engineer File F-156-8, MHS box 136.K.13.5B


Saint Paul, MN Tunnel One
Saint Paul, MN Tunnel Two
Big Horn, MT Big Horn Tunnel Daylighted 1949
Livingston, MT Hoppers Tunnel Daylighted 1952
Bozeman, MT Bozeman Tunnel 3,015 feet
Homestake, MT Homestake Tunnel Four Daylighted 1956
Homestake, MT Welch Tunnel Three
Homestake, MT Highview Tunnel Five
Helena, MT Iron Ridge Tunnel One
Helena, MT Mullan Tunnel Two 5,886 feet
Garrison, MT Garrison Tunnel Three
[p. 3] Garrison, MT Nimrod Tunnel Four
Garrison, MT Bonita Tunnel Five
Plateau, MT Phileman Tunnel Five and a half
Quartz, MT Quartz Tunnel Six
Westfall, MT Westfall Tunnel Seven Daylighted 1957
Quinns, MT Quinns Tunnel Eight
Quinns, MT Quinns Tunnel Nine
Quinns, MT Quinns Tunnel Ten
Cabinet, ID Cabinet Tunnel
Granite, ID Granite Tunnel
Easton, WA Easton Tunnel One Eliminated, line change
Easton, WA Easton Tunnel Two Eliminated, line change, 1951
Stampede WA Stampede Tunnel Three 9,834 feet
Stampede, WA Stampede Tunnel Four 650 feet
Stampede, WA Tunnel Five 487 Daylighted 1898
Stampede, WA Tunnel Six 309 feet Daylighted 1951
Eagle Gorge, WA Tunnel Seven 400 feet Eliminated, line change, 1960
Lemolo, WA Tunnel Eight 325 feet Eliminated, line change, 1960

Seattle, WA Main Street to Virginia Street, 5,142 feet

Tacoma, WA Ruston Tunnel
Tacoma, WA Nelson Bennett Tunnel
Ostrander, WA Ostrander Tunnel

Tunnel Three, Stampede Tunnel, was excavated 855 feet with hand drills, the balance with air drills. The entire tunnel, with the exception of 530 feet, required timbering. Between June, 1888 and some time in 1895, 9,491 lineal feet of masonry lining (brick and concrete) was constructed. The cement used was imported from England and some of the brick was from Japan. From 1898 to 1902 trouble was experienced due to swelling ground which crushed the masonry lining and caused mud to raise between the cross ties. An electrical lighting plant was installed in 1888. and a ventilating plant was built in 1914. It is located at the west portal of the tunnel and consists of two ten feet diameter Sturtevant fans which, at a speed of 220 rpm force into the tunnel, through a reinforced concrete nozzle, about 540,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The tunnel is cleared of smoke and gasses from a passing train in six or seven minutes.

Tunnel Four is located about one mile west of the Stampede Tunnel and is 650 feet long. The lining consists of concrete walls and brick arch. The material penetrated was solid rock but required timbering throughout.

Tunnel Five was located about two miles west of Stampede Tunnel and was 487 feet long. The material penetrated was earth and loose rock and required close timbering. The lining was timber, 12 by 12-inch sets and four-inch plank lagging. The tunnel was converted into an open cut in 1898.

Tunnel Six is located about 2.4 miles west of Stampede Tunnel. It is 309 feet long and has concrete walls and brick masonry arch. The material penetrated was solid rock but required timbering.

Tunnel Seven is located near Eagle Gorge It is 400 feet long and excavated through solid rock and required no timbering.

[p. 4] Tunnel Eight is located three miles west of Tunnel Seven and is 325 feet long. The lining consists of concrete side walls and 53 feet of concrete arch, the balance of the arch being of brick. The material penetrated was running ground and required close timbering.

Northern Pacific Railway, Office of the Chief Engineer, Saint Paul, Minnesota

Beaver, L. J., Historic Memories from Monuments and Plaques of western Washington, privately published, 1960, pp. 76a-b


Thomas Fletcher Oakes
(July 15, 1843-March 14, 1919)
Excerpted from an article by W. Thomas White
James Jerome Hill Reference Library, St. Paul, Minn.

Purchasing agent, assistant treasurer, general freight agent, vice-president, and general superintendent, Kansas Pacific Railroad (1865-1879); general superintendent, Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad and Kansas City, Lawrence and Southern Railroad (1879-1880); vice-president, Oregon Railway and Navigation Company (1880-1881); vice-president (1881-1888), general manager (1883-1889), president (1888-1893), receiver, Northern Pacific Railway (1893-1895).

Thomas C. Cochran, Railroad Leaders, 1845-1890: The Business Mind in Action Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1953
Railway Age March 21, 1919 p. 794
Louis Tuck Renz, The History of the Northern Pacific Railroad Fairfield, Wash.: Ye Galleon Press, 1980);
Eugene Virgil Smalley, History of the Northern Pacific Railroad New York: Putnam's, 1883

Material concerning Thomas F. Oakes is located in the Northern Pacific Railway Company Records of the Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul, Minnesota, and in the Henry Villard Papers of the Houghton Library of Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

[p. 7] SOURCE:
Frey, Robert L. Editor
Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography, Railroads in the Nineteenth Century, New York: Facts On File 1988

Author: John A. Phillips, III. Title: Passes, Tunnels, and T. F. Oakes. URL: www.employees.org/~davison/nprha/ttepasses.html.

© November 20, 2000