117 Year old Moss Bay Rails


John Boykin in Seattle, (Washington State in the Pacific North West of the USA) responded to news about the CorusRail 125 event in September 2002, John described some rail sections that he had purchased from a local scrap dealer.

John explains :

I have several pieces of light T-section rail rolled by the Moss Bay Steel Works in the Peter Kirk era: 1886 and 1888. One has "56 lbs per yard" spelled out in the mill mark. These were sold to the Puget Sound Construction Co. for the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Ry building out of Seattle, Washington. 1887 to 1889 were the construction years of the SLS&E

All arrived by schooner in Seattle. The 1886 load ("300 tons rail") was shipped out of Workington. It seems remarkable that they should have had 3 finish rolls for one order in the two years. The rails were all found in Northern Pacific Railway sidings in the Snoqualmie Valley of western Washington. I purchased the rails from a scrapper.

Rails rolled for the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Ry., Washington Territory. I know other batches of rail were sent to Seattle and Vancouver, B.C., but these are the only Moss Bay rolling mill marks I have.
.Moss Bay 56lb./yard rail of 1887

The Douglas fir forests of the Pacific Northwest were the most productive in the world. They are true rain forests; no tropical rain forest produces as much wood per acre as these did. More than 90% of them are gone. Most were logged in the era which used railway transportation of the logs. Again the region supported the densest network of private logging railroads in the world. Logging areas and the thousands of mills supported many branch lines from the common carrier railroads, especially the Northern Pacific Ry. in Washington State. One of these branches, east of Seattle, began life as the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Ry. It was incorporated in 1885 after the Northern Pacific in 1873 chose Tacoma, 30 miles south of Seattle, as its terminus on Puget Sound. The promoters raised enough money in New York to build about 50 miles of what was to be a transcontinental connection for Seattle. Peter Kirk and the Moss Bay Iron & Steel Co. were well known to railroad promoters in New York at the time. Deep in debt, the SLS&E was purchased by the NP in 1890.

Puget Sound Construction Co. 1886 rail from Moss Bay

The first shipment of rail arrived in Seattle on 11 August 1887 aboard the bark, PERSIAN, inbound from Workington. All was T-section rail at 56 lbs/yard, 4 3/16" high from Moss Bay. This was a very widely used section at the time. It was originally laid on the mainline of the SLS&E. "PSCCo" was the Puget Sound Construction Company, organized by the promoters of the SLS&E for the sole purpose of constructing the railroad. The "PSCCo" rails were sold to the Chicago, Milwaukee & Puget Sound RR to build a branch passing through the Snoqualmie River valley (completed 1911) as did the SLS&E (completed 1889, becoming a branch of the NP). All three of the rails were eventually re-laid on sidings on these branches, and saw the passage of billions of board feet of logs and lumber until the timber ran out.
Both lines were taken up in 1975-1977.

Puget Sound Construction Co. 1887 rail from MossBay

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