During the 1990s Alan Winston built a large web site named Seattle Spur and Spot. The web site documented what Alan called "loose car railroading" serving local industries. He wrote, "Even in this day of intermodal and unit trains, railroads still serve some customers with individual freight cars. These web pages look at various districts, lines, and industries which see carload switching in Seattle and the surrounding area. The emphasis is on places that can be appreciated safely without leaving public streets."
One of the locations Alan documented was the NP trackage along and near Terry Avenue at the south end of Lake Union.
Unfortunately Seattle Spur and Spot is no longer available on the internet. However, using web.archive.org I have reconstructed Alan's Terry Avenue web page that was last updated in June 1998. The reconstruction of his web page is below between the double horizontal lines. I have made a few changes. I have replaced the smaller thumbnail photos with the larger photos that were previously linked to the thumbnails. I have also inserted some additional text in a few places. I wish to thank Alan for giving his permission to post the reconstruction.
All photos are by Alan Winston. They are Copyright 2009 and may not be used without permission.
December 3, 2009
Seattle Spur and Spot
No longer connected by rail, Terry Avenue still provides some of Seattle's finest examples of street trackage, and is still worth a visit, even if the interest must be more Industrial Archeology than Rail Operations. Terry was reached by a line that came from Interbay along the south side of the Lake Washington Ship Canal and the west side of Lake Union. In recent years, traffic was primarily carloads of paper tucked into an unloading area at Craftsman Press and tank cars that went up to Bunge Foods on Terry Avenue.
Photo 1. The track now ends just this side of Denny Way, but formerly extended across and
into the doorway at left center. I believe this was the Frederick & Nelson's furniture warehouse.
Coming down the steep hill westbound on Denny Way from Boren Avenue could be bone
shattering if you didn't slow enough for the railroad crossing at the bottom. Since the track
was removed (or covered over?) there has been a more gradual vertical curve.
Photo 2. North one block from the end of track, still looking south, we see a spur leading to
the right, and one ending in the right foreground.
Photo 3. The Bunge Foods spur goes to the left off the three-way switch.
Photo 4. The Bunge Foods tank car unloading area suggests an interesting model railroading
project. Oil to the left of the door, "heavy corn" to the right. How do we know?
Photo 5. It says so! "Heavy corn" is presumably corn syrup or "corn sweetener."
Photo 6. It says "oil" here, but it's awfully hard to read.
Photo 7. This view looks north along Terry Avenue from just south of the three-way switch
shown in Photo 3.
The former Northern Pacific Terry Avenue Freight House on the west side of Terry Avenue became, for a time, a restaurant named "The Terry Avenue Freight House," with passenger and freight cars on the adjoining tracks (Photos 8 and 9). They are still there, but becoming decrepit. The adjacent team track area to the north has become a towing company's lot.
Photo 8. Looking northwest across Thomas Street and Terry Avenue at the Terry Avenue
Freight House, note the spurs on the east (right) side of the street crossing with a diamond.
Photo 9. The north end of the freight house and one of the railroad cars.
Photo 10. Looking north on Terry Avenue, we see a spur curving through a corner lot and
across Republican street, where it will curve back into the alley a half block east. There it will
switchback into the alley this side of Republican, as well as continue north to end in a pair of
spurs just south of Mercer Street.
Photo 11. A half block west of Terry, this spur came north out of the team track area, to cross
Republican Street, and end on a trestle tucked between two buildings.
Photo 12. Looking south across Mercer Street. The end of the trestle spur is just to the right
of the light colored building above the visible spur.
Photo 13. From the north side of Valley Street, we look south the length of the Terry Avenue
street trackage. The line to Craftsmen Press, and formerly up the east side of Lake Union,
crosses in the foreground.
Craftsmen Pressoccupied a former Ford automobile assembly plant for many years. Now it is being remodeled into offices and rental storage units. [Note: A 1951 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map identified this building as W. P. Fuller Co. - J Lancaster]
Photo 14. The Craftsmen Press spur curves to the right side of the building, crossing a switchback
spur into an alley. The line which formerly ran up the east side of Lake Union, but in later days was
just the tail track to the alley spur, is just beneath the picture, and to the left.
Photo 15. The shed roof over the paper dock is gone, but the track bay is more visible for the loss.
Photo 16. The sinuous track across Fairview Avenue north can still be admired,
but for how long?
Photo 17. A half block west of Craftsman, a spur headed up an alley easement to south of
Mercer Street. This spur was east of Terry Avenue.
Photo 18. The track from Terry Avenue joins the track from Craftsmen Press, and heads
northwest around the west side of Lake Union.
Photo 19. That may be a new looking building from the front, but the old loading dock area still
shows its heritage.
Photo 20. For much of the distance along Westlake Avenue, tracks and parking are cheek and jowl.
In the early nineties, I found a stranded switcher in this area, with a BN work crew finishing up repairs
between it and home. Although the day was still young, the loco and cars would sit there all day rather
than fight their way north past cars parked too close to the rails.
Photo 21. The second remaining across-street spur.
Photo 22. A lake-side trestle near the north end is accompannied by the remains of bents for a
long-gone spur. One of the few reminders of the spurs that once lined the lake shore. The
Aurora Bridge is in the background.
Photo 23. Another trestle, this time in what amounts to a concrete slot, due to later construction,
marks the end of the Westlake portion of the route, and the transition to the Ship Canal stretch.
Between the George Washington Memorial Bridge, high overhead on Aurora Avenue North, and the Fremont Bridge, the line again resorted to a trestle for part of the distance.
Photo 24. From the adjacent marina, the trestle looks more sylvan than utilitarian.
Photo 25. Looking east, with the Aurora Bridge overhead. The trestle is all but hidden in
Photo 26. Turning around from the photo above, we see the Fremont Bridge, and the track's
dark passage underneath.
Photo 27. From the Fremont Bridge west, the former right-of-way along the south bank of the
Lake Washington Ship Canal has become a trail.
Along West Ewing Street were several small industries, and further west, large waterfront industries.
Photo 28. Gascoigne Lumber has a track running down the center of the building, which
once crossed the street to run down the center of the next building, as well.
Photo 29. Across the tracks south of Gascoigne Lumber was this appealing operation.
Photo 30. Just west of 6th Avenue West, we reach the end of the disused rails. End of current
operations is another four blocks further west.
Near 11th Avenue West and Ewing Street, the line once met the trestle of the former Northern Fifth Subdivision over the Ship Canal to Ballard and points north. The line followed the curving base of the trestle until a common elevation could be reached, but for this discussion, we will end the line at today's active end-of -track.
Photo 31. Looking east from Nickerson Marina, towards the red rectangle sign that marks
the end of operations.
Photo 32. Looking west from the same position, we see the Coastal Transportation east switch.
The shed at the right is built on piers from the old trestle, still in their original location.
I don't actually know all this stuff, but am dependent on the kindness of others.
Thank you, Gerald Massie, for assistance.
Terry Avenue Postscript