HISTORY AT A GLANCE
Steam leaves the woods
July 20, 2023
In May 1956, the Simpson Lookout magazine included the following story:
"I'm the Three-Spot, named after William Shorter, one of the early Simpson engineers. I'm 30 years old, and as steam lokies go, that makes me a grandfather.
Steam is going out, stepping aside for the diesels. Simpson has used lokies like me since the nineties, but diesels are running the Simpson rails now. I'm just an old fellow puffing a lot of memories.
They had me run out to Camp Govey during the March snows to get some Cats. Snow was too deep to log in the mountains, and the Cats needed a ride to the flat lands. So they picked me over a diesel to go get the Cats. Truth is, I think the diesel didn't want to get its wheels cold.
One thing I like about Cats, even if they are diesel kin, is they help themselves. They don't have to be lifted on the flat cars - they run themselves right up there.
Coming to this little trestle, I sure smoked the crows out of the trees. Must be what made the crows black, old smoking lokies like me. I also really liked crossing Vance Creek bridge, 346 feet above the creek. Nothing down there but fish looking up, watching for cinders. Those Cats really had to hang on - what a splash they would have made, spilled from Vance Creek Bridge!
I talk too much. That's the trouble with us old lokies. We like to let off steam. While I take a drink and a little rest, I'll just add that we hope, when the day comes that steam is gone from the Simpson railroad, you'll remember us. We weren't fancy built or slicked up like the diesels, but we worked hard and we pulled in the logs that kept the town and the mills going for 60 years."
An article in the August 1958 Lookout began, "Steam at last has left the woods." In July, Simpson had removed its last steam donkey from Camp Grisdale and replaced it with a bright yellow diesel-operated machine. Bob Stevenson, who had grown up in Simpson logging camps and began operating a steam donkey at the age of 17, said about the passing of steam, "It's just like seeing an old friend leave. I've never run anything but steam. It's been my bread and butter all my life and I'm sorry to see it go."
In September 1958, the Simpson Logging Co. said "Farewell to Steam" in an official excursion from Shelton to Camp Grisdale, which was celebrating its 10th anniversary. Instead of log cars, the steam locomotive Benjamin Snider, also known as the Nine-Spot, pulled three Northern Pacific passenger cars filled with 250 guests making a last nostalgic trip.
■ Jan Parker is a researcher for the Mason County Historical Museum. She's 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."