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To keep up with the demand for timber at its lumber mill in Everett, WA, Weyerhaeuser Timber began construction of a 30 mile logging railroad about 15 miles east of Olympia in 1927. The Skookumchuck Railway ran south from the log dump at South Bay through Skookumchuck to a new logging camp at Vail. At South Bay the logs were dumped into Puget Sound, tied together as a raft, and then floated north to Everett.
In 1936, Weyerhaeuser acquired 10 miles of a Milwaukee Road branch line southwest of Chehalis and built five miles of new track south to Camp McDonald. The railroad then became the Chehalis Western and Weyerhaeuser built a new log loadout and shops there. The railroad also built a 0.6 mile connector track between its South Bay to Vail mainline and the Milwaukee Road thus establishing a new station called Western Junction. Weyerhaeuser supplied the building for the station and the Milwaukee Road supplied the operators.
In 1959, Weyerhaeuser acquired running rights for the Chehalis Western on a Northern Pacific branch line southwest of Chehalis to Pe Ell. Weyerhaeuser moved operations from McDonald to Pe Ell in 1961 and 1962. Much of this information came from the book "Logging Railroads of Weyerhaeuser's Vail - McDonald Operation" by Telewski and Barrett. They are working on a second edition which may include some of the pictures featured here. If you would like more information, get the book.
The log train from Pe Ell has Chehalis Western engine 684 (an Alco C415) on the point. The station had a rather interesting train order board. In the top picture you can see it just to the left of the large telephone pole. It looks just like a switch lantern and plate from the top of a switch stand. In reality that is exactly what it was made from. A chain went around a gear on the shaft and both ends went back inside the station. Depending on which end of the chain was pulled, set the indication for clear or stop for orders. Here it is set to clear. In both of the pictures on the following page, you will see the board set to stop.
The train has just cleared Western Junction on April 19, 1973. The train is on the 0.6 mile connector track from the Milwaukee Road to the South Bay to Vail mainline. This had been a sleepy little junction until 1971 when the Milwaukee Road gained trackage rights from Chehalis to Portland as a result of the BN merger in 1970. There had been one Milwaukee local and two loaded log trains (plus returning empties) each day. The number of trains nearly doubled with the addition of four to six full size Milwaukee Road freight trains per day. Disk 10