Griffin Area Logging Railroads

Three different logging railroads served the greater Griffin area many years ago.

These railroads are discussed in Gone But Not Forgotten – Abandoned Railroads of Thurston County, Washington, written by Dr. James Hannum, a resident of our community.

The Puget Sound and Chehalis Railroad was the first railroad. It was also known as the Mosher and McDonald Railroad and then the McCleary Timber Company Railroad. The railroad had 12 miles of track terminating on Mud Bay at the current address of 2144 Madrona Beach Road NW. This site is about 1.4 miles up Madrona Beach Road northwest of the park and ride lot on Mud Bay.

The railroad was constructed shortly after 1888. Soon after Henry McCleary purchased the railroad in 1906, the link to Mud Bay was abandoned after a connection was made from McCleary to the Northern Pacific Railroad. Logs were rolled into Mud Bay from a log rollway running parallel with the shoreline and then rafted to saw mills located on Puget Sound. Two switchbacks took the railroad up the hill around the Indian Shaker Church before the railroad began running westward to McCleary, generally south of what is now Highway 8.

The most remembered railroad serving the greater Griffin area was the Mud Bay Logging Company Railroad. Initially the railroad was called the Thurston County Central Railroad. It was constructed around 1906 and abandoned in 1941.

The Mud Bay Logging Company Railroad eventually had two mainlines totaling 35 miles. An extensive facility was located on Mud Bay where the park and ride lot is now located just east of where Perry Creek enters Mud Bay. Logs were hauled from the company’s logging operations, dumped into Mud Bay, and then rafted to sawmills on Puget Sound. Remnants of several piers may still be seen extending into the Bay north or the park and ride lot. A marker commemorating the facility is located at the northwest end of the park and ride lot.

The initial railroad ran southward from the terminus on Mud Bay, across the county right of way on what is now Madrona Beach Road, and up Delphi Valley on the west side of McLane Creek down to Waddell Creek. Short spurs snaked out from the mainline to serve areas where logging occurred. A branch line was built westward from its original line to serve the company’s operations in the north portion of the Black Hills. Again, a large number of short spur lines were connected to this new mainline.

Dr. Hannum indicates that a third railroad (the Jameson Logging Company Railroad) also served the greater Griffin area running into Summit Lake from the south. Not many records of this railroad remain. It appears to have been built around 1905. This railroad may actually have been a short section of the old McClearly Timber Railroad. A short history of Summit Lake includes a hand drawn map that shows the McClearly Railroad running westward from the northwest shore of Summit Lake and then parallel with Highway 8 toward McCleary.

Bill Durward recalls helping his father take the annual school census for Schneider’s Prairie School District in 1922 or 1923. They traveled by automobile up what is now Highway 8, parked on the side of the road, and walked up railroad tracks leading to company houses on Summit Lake. Presumably there was no auto road leading to the Lake at that time. The northern portion of Summit Lake was located in Schneider’s Prairie School District and remains part of the Griffin School District. Bill recalls the railroad as being called the McCleary Timber Company Railroad. The short connection to Summit Lake probably was soon abandoned as a 1929 Metsker map of Thurston County shows the McCleary Railroad ending several miles west of Summit Lake.

STEVE LUNDIN

Steve Lundin is a long-time resident of the Griffin community located in northwest Thurston County. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Washington and a J.D. degree from the University of Washington Law School and recently retired as a senior counsel for the Washington State House of Representatives after nearly 30 years.

He is recognized as the local historian of the Griffin area and has written a number of articles on local history and a book entitled Griffin Area Schools, available from the Griffin Neighborhood Association at a cost of $10.

Lundin also wrote a comprehensive reference book on local governments in Washington State entitled The Closest Governments to the People – A Complete Reference Guide to Local Government in Washington State. The book costs $85, plus shipping and handling. It is available on the web from the Division of Governmental Studies and Services, Washington State University, at http://dgss.wsu.edu/ or from WSU Extension at www.pubs.wsu.edu .

Posted in local history.