Rails first reached Ballard in 1890 with West Street Electric Company's trolley service connecting the area to downtown Seattle.

PACIFIC MAG readers might remember Warren Wing, Seattle’s recently deceased rail fan extraordinaire, who, after retiring as a postal worker, started chasing trains and the pictorial history of Northwest rails full time. Long ago, Wing shared with me this photo of a Great Northern passenger train nearly completing its crossing of the Great Northern bascule bridge (often known as a drawbridge) over tidewater on the western side of the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks.

The photograph was used — courtesy of Wing — in the Ballard News-Tribune’s 1988 centennial history of the community, “Passport to Ballard.” There it is captioned, no doubt with Wing’s help, “Great Northern morning train to Vancouver, B.C., passing Ballard Station.” This carrier would have stopped in Everett, Mount Vernon, Bellingham and at the border but not, apparently, at the little Ballard station hiding in the shadow of the engine’s exhaust.

Rails first reached Ballard in 1890 with West Street Electric Company’s trolley service connecting the area to downtown Seattle. Three years later, the Great Northern completed its transcontinental service to Seattle directly along the Ballard waterfront, passing the many mills that gave Ballard the nickname “Shingle Capitol of the World.”

This new route over the big bascule bridge was made necessary by the construction of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the flooding of Salmon Bay behind its locks. On June 29, 1913, The Seattle Times reported on the progress of the canal and the “spectacular form” of this “mammoth bridge,” which it measured as 1,140 feet long and 26 feet wide.

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