Dedicated to the citizens of Mason County, Washington since 1886

HISTORY AT A GLANCE

Cars versus trains in Shelton, 1924

In 1924, Olympic Highway came down into Shelton from Hillcrest. Drivers wanting to continue on the highway had to make a left turn onto Railroad Avenue, then turn right on Fifth Street and drive up to reconnect with the highway, which for a few blocks in town was known as Alder Street. At that time, Alder did not extend beyond Fifth Street to the east. The Peninsular Railroad roundhouse was on Railroad Avenue near Fifth, and a number of train tracks crossed Fifth Street. The streets were paved for the first time in 1923. This story is from the Feb. 22, 1924, issue of the Journal.

As the result of an accident at the Fifth Street Highway crossing in town last week, following several near accidents of late where autos have almost collided with loaded logging trains or backing engines, the state safety department is considering the question of danger at this site, especially in summer when travel over the Olympic highway is heavy. Four tracks in the railroad yards, as well as the Peninsular Railroad main line, are crossed at the Fifth Street corner, and since the highway was paved, making travel smoother over the crossings, our own drivers as well as strangers pay little heed to the crossing signs or even the warnings of brakemen.

Representatives from the state departments of safety, public works, and highways came to Shelton on Feb. 20, to decide the feasibility of various safety methods to prevent accidents, including other routes for passing through town and across the tracks with lessened chances for accident. Because of the several tracks, and the standing railroad cars on one or more of them at most times, it was not considered feasible to rely on the electric bell signal. The bell and the waving of a watchman have not always been sufficient in keeping heedless drivers from trying to bump a heavy logging train off the track.

The state men favored the plan of making a new section of the highway continuing on First Street to Alder and then down to Fifth, which is where the present pavement is reached. This would result in there being only one track to drive over, on First Street, where an electric signal could be placed. This route would also serve to divert the through traffic and relieve congestion along Railroad Avenue, which is becoming a problem in Shelton.

To make the change would require the opening of Alder Street to First and the removal of one dwelling, the cost of which would be covered by the town. It would be up to the state to take care of grading and paving the new route.

Since the paving of downtown streets was completed, the Peninsular Company has been considering measures for safety at Fifth Street and has adopted several plans. The through trains carrying air brakes are equipped, when pushing their loaded trains through town, with an air hose and whistle, enabling the brakeman on the head car to sound an alarm or snub the train. Generally, one of the brakemen is on the crossing when the loaded trains are moving.

In last week's incident, when a new Dodge car was damaged by contact with a loaded car of logs, the driver paid no attention to the brakeman's waving until too late to stop. Many times the trains are moving so slowly that drivers fail to appreciate the danger and take the chance of beating the train cars rather than waiting a few minutes for them to pass. When traffic is heavy during the summer, with many tourists on the highway and the added condition of cars parked on both sides of Railroad Avenue, the likelihood of accidents at the crossing is apparent.

Although the businessmen of the street, who felt that the highway question was settled, will not appreciate the new route, all will agree that the new paving has brought new problems which require adjustment in the interests of public safety.

Jan Parker is a researcher for the Mason County Historical Museum. She can be reached at [email protected]. Membership in the Mason County Historical Society is $25 per year. For a limited time, new members will receive a free copy of the book "Shelton, the First Century Plus Ten."

 

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