Images of Rail Yakima Valley Transportation Company By Kenneth G. Johnsen
Images of Rail Yakima Valley Transportation Company By Kenneth G. Johnsen
Images of Rail Yakima Valley Transportation Company By Kenneth G. Johnsen

Images of Rail Yakima Valley Transportation Company By Kenneth G. Johnsen

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Images of Rail Yakima Valley Transportation Company By Kenneth G. Johnsen
Images of Rail Yakima Valley Transportation Company By Kenneth G. Johnsen
Softcover 127 pages
Copyright 2010
1.Early Days
2.Expansion into an Interurban Railroad
3.Rise and Fall and Rise Again of City Service
4.From Freight Only to a Living Museum
5.Roster and Infrastructure

No one would have guessed, when the Yakima Valley Transportation Company was incorporated in the summer of 1907, that it would outlive all of its contemporaries to become America's last intact example of early-20th-century interurban railroading. Hundreds of electric interurban lines were springing up all over the country in the early 1900s, and the YVT at that time was very much like all the rest.
Built with the remains and franchise of the failed Yakima Inter-Valley Traction Company, the YVT established public transportation in Yakima with a 3-mile line leading west along Yakima Avenue from the Northern Pacific (NP) main line to a point on what today is called Nob Hill Boulevard. In 1908, it headed east, crossing the NP and linking the east side of town with the west. Three new streetcars arrived in Yakima during the summer of 1908. Yakimans were justly proud of their electric line on the edge of the Washington desert.
Financial difficulties in 1908 and early 1909 culminated in the secret purchase of the YVT by agents of the Union Pacific (UP). Union Pacific was not particularly interested in getting into the streetcar business, but it had long been eyeing the Yakima Valley and was covertly building a line from the Columbia River to Yakima under the alias of North Coast Railway. Irrigation in the valley was opening up vast agricultural lands, and Union Pacific wanted to tap this new business. The YVT, if expanded into an interurban, would be the perfect vehicle to bring in carloads of produce to the Union Pacific railhead in Yakima. Yakimans did not know it at the time, but the purchase of the YVT by the Union Pacific in 1909 for freight purposes would ensure its longevity into the 21st century.
The YVT began to flourish as Union Pacific capital flowed in. Extensions were built along Fruitvale Boulevard and west toward Ahtanum and Wiley City. Interurban cars and locomotives were purchased, the first three arriving on July 1, 1910. The automobile had not quite taken hold, and so passenger revenues increased as new tracks were laid. During the weeks that the Washington State Fair was held in Yakima, the railroad was strained to capacity taking fairgoers from town to the fairgrounds.
In August 1910, an imposing stone and brick carbarn/shop complex was built on property at the corner of South Third Avenue and Pine Street. A high-tech (for 1910) belt-driven machine shop was installed, enabling the railroad to manufacture parts and things it needed to stay in operation.
Lines were further developed to a Bureau of Reclamation project at Harwood and on to Henrybro, or Gromore as it was also called. Vast farmlands were opening up in this area, and YVT was positioning itself perfectly to be able to handle the business. Union Pacific's archrival Northern Pacific had nothing comparable, and so the UP enjoyed a virtual monopoly.
By 1912, YVT had begun work on what would be its last major expansion, the line to Selah. Getting to Selah required crossing the Naches River and climbing through a narrow break in the hills called Selah Gap (along with the Yakima River, the Northern Pacific mainline, and the old Yakima-to-Selah wagon road). To get through Selah Gap, a shelf was blasted out of the canyon wall along which YVT made its precarious crossing. A rare, second-hand Pegram Truss bridge was brought to the Naches River crossing in kit form from an earlier life in Manhattan, Kansas. The bridge, originally built in 1895, was reassembled over the Naches River in 1913 and is still in service today.
While freight service thrived, automobiles made significant inroads into YVT's passenger business as the teens turned to twenties. The wooden trolley cars purchased between 1908 and 1910 were starting to look bleak, cold, and uncomfortable compared to the passenger auto. In 1926, YVT negotiated an agreement with the city to allow it to substitute a bus for the streetcar on its Summitview line. The 29-passenger Mack bus no. B-1 was an instant hit and brought patronage back to the line. Encouraged, YVT bought two more buses and used them on other lines. The result was not nearly as good, and soon streetcars were running on their old routes again.

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