Starting up the Simpson Railroad

By Aaron Isaacs, HRA editor

A new tourist railroad is being born. Simpson Timber ran what was generally considered the last American logging railroad out of Shelton, Washington on the Olympic Peninsula. Sierra Pacific bought the company in 2015 and closed the Shelton mill and the railroad.

The Peninsular Railroad & Lumbermen’s Museum formed that year to save the remaining 10 miles of line and reopen it to passenger trains. It took four years of negotiation, but in 2019 they leased the line. As part of the deal, Sierra Pacific donated SW9 #900, SW1200 #1200, plus a caboose, some track cars and maintenance of way machines.

A photo freight passes a display flat loaded with logs.

Simpson motive power SW9 #900 and SW1200 #1200.

Sierra Pacific chose to retain the Shelton roundhouse, converting it to other company use. They donated the turntable to the museum, which has located its operating base to Dry Sort yard at the other end of the railroad.

The line connects to the general rail system at Shelton.

During the lease negotiations, the museum volunteers began restoring the railroad to operability. Located in a temperate rain forest, vegetation quickly encroaches. The line was pretty overgrown and required plenty of mowing and brush cutting. Mud and dirt covered the track in places. The museum is doing what is needed for FRA Class 1 track in order to haul passengers.

Not surprising for a lumber railroad, most of the line runs through the woods.

Excursions have begun using motor cars, including hosting a NARCOA trip. The line is also leased out to a rail bike operation.

Great Northern lightweight coach #1212 has been acquired for future locomotive hauled trains and is being restored. The goal to to run passenger trains later this year, but that is subject to Covid and completing the coach restoration.