End of the line
Area railroad group feels shut out of city's decision
March 31, 2022
On April 5, City of Shelton crews will begin removing the former Simpson Lumber Co. railway tracks crossing West Railroad Avenue between 11th and 12th streets.
The track removal is scheduled to take three days. It's part of the city's Western Gateway Project, and will include a new sidewalk, curbing, pavement, a water main and a new bus shelter. The $2.6-million project is funded in part by the Transportation Improvement Board and the American Rescue Plan Act.
Simpson stopped using the line in 2015. In August 2020, the city was given the former Simpson Railroad right-of-way along West Railroad Avenue from First Street to U.S. Highway 101. The city's plans include a 1.5-mile walking trail.
But for many local railroad and history buffs, the removal of the tracks means the loss of the 10-mile line from Simpson's former plant in Dayton and the Shelton waterfront.
In its newsletter, the nonprofit Peninsular Railway Lumbermen's Museum wrote, "We are simply perplexed as to the reasoning behind removing the potential for heritage preservation and economic stimulus for the City of Shelton."
The article added, "We are very disappointed by the events that have transpired these last few months. We can be sure the disappointment will be shared by historical enthusiasts nationwide if the removing the Simpson Railroad is allowed to continue. After all, it is part of the very fabric and soul of a once-thriving lumber town."
The Shelton-Mason County Journal asked members of the Facebook group "Well, You Might Be From Shelton if .... " to share their thoughts on the project. Most said they oppose the track removal.
"I don't understand why they can't come up with a solution that allows the tracks to stay," wrote Chelle Ingram. "I really miss the trains, it's part of our history. I mean it's called Railroad Avenue, but they are removing the railroad? What's next, get rid of the train engine?"
"Leave the rails," suggested Arne Swenson. "It is part of our heritage, and the rail rider is a cool tourist attraction. But go ahead and put enough gravel or asphalt between the rails for a nice walking/biking surface."
Les Bagley wrote that he believes a new hiking/biking trail can co-exist with the existing rail line, in the same right-of-way.
"The Simpson Railroad built the City of Shelton by bringing logs to the mills, employment to the people, and money to build the businesses and homes that make up the community," he wrote. "Creating an interpretive train ride attraction which will draw visitors and their money to the community seems like a win-win situation for everyone involved. The railroad has been there for 125 years. Why can't it stay?"
Lee Rentz suggested the rails be preserved and maintained for possible future use, with a gravel trail running parallel to the tracks,
"Removing the tracks reduces our future options," he wrote. "I would love to see the rail line, the Vance Creek Bridge, the High Steel Bridge, and a rebuilt logging camp preserved as a national monument to the industry that did so much in building America. This would be the perfect location for it."