Re: Aerial photo Black River Jct PNW interest
Author: George Andrews
Date: 12-24-2017 - 12:45
WOW !!! What a find, so many details that fill in my knowledge of the area. ( Note that the picture looks almost Due West. ) When I first moved to Puget Sound in 1995, I lived in The Hillcrest Apartments on Interurban Ave, just out of picture at upper right. I had a clear view of the current Black River Jct. from across the valley in the winter; less so in the summer when the trees at Fort Dent Park leafed out.
Regarding Black River Jct., there were several locations that used this name. If you zoom in on the grandstand area of Longacres Horse Race Track you can see a small white building on pilings along the NP embankment just to the upper right of the grandstand end. This wooden shack was NP Black River ( no Jct. in the name ) train order office. This was also the South end of the NP Black River wye; the nightly NP freight from Auburn Yard to Sumas would use the South leg to access the Lake Washington Belt Line through Renton, Bellevue, and Woodinville to Snohomish and points North. Further North ( out of picture right ) were the diamond crossings of the joint U.P. / Milwaukee Road line from Tacoma and the NP at Black River Junction; these diamonds were at such an acute angle as to require moveable points. The original wooden interlocking tower on the West side of this crossing was removed in favor of a new concrete tower a bit further North at the joint U.P. / MILW Black River Jct.. This tower controlled movements to & from the now separate U.P. and Milwaukee Road tracks ( now on Pacific Coast RR. trackage rights ) North to Seattle, as well as movements to & from the MILW / PCRR wye & main line East through Renton to Maple Valley. ( This line crossed NP's Lake Washington Belt Line in the middle of the street at Houser Way and Burnett Ave. in Renton, at the Milwaukee Road and later Spirit of Washington Dinner Train depot. ) A small yard located between the NP and MILW / PCRR tracks was used for Seattle pickups and setouts by Milwaukee Road freights which originated / terminated at MILW's Tideflats Yard in Tacoma.
At one time the Renton branch of Puget Sound Electric Railway ran parallel to Grady Way and the Belt Line tracks, crossing the NP and joint U.P. / MILW lines on a separate wooden trestle. The PSE Renton branch split from their mainline at the N.E. quadrant of present - day Interurban Ave. and Grady Way.
Currently there are only a few traces of history left from the era of the photograph. The small trestle with a road crossing under the NP mains behind the Longacres grandstand is still there, though lengthened for the new 3rd BNSF main track between Black River and Kent. This is the current location of the Sounder / Amtrak Tukwila Station. Although the much - loved Longacres Race Track was bought and redeveloped by Boeing in the early 1990's, several foundations and even some floor tiles are still half - hidden in the bushes East of the Sounder station. Zoom in on the Riverview Farms barn to the right of Grady Way, West of the mainlines. This is the current location of Family Fun Center.
Railroad - wise, the joint U.P. / MILW diamond crossings of NP / BN were replaced with several crossovers ( early 1980's ??? ). More recently the U.P. line from Black River Jct., North to Argo, has been sold to Sound Transit and / or BNSF; it is used by all 3 railroads as needed. Surprisingly, the North legs of both the NP & Milwaukee Road wyes are still in place. The NP North leg runs to an aggregates yard ( old garbage dump ) and the Sewage Treatment Plant, though no cars have been seen at either location for many years now. The North Leg of the Milwaukee / PCRR wye is used 6 days a week by the BNSF Renton Rocket ,a local that delivers 737 fuselages to the Boeing plant in Renton. This local also switches the Black River garbage reload of Waste Management / Allied Waste. ( I guess this area was just meant for trash !!! ) The Renton Rocket uses the former MILW / PCRR tracks through Renton to a reverse switch into Boeing on the North side of town.
Highway - wise, Grady Way is now a straight shot West across Interurban Ave. and under the I-405 off - ramps, becoming Southcenter Parkway. Southcenter Mall is the largest shopping center in the region, and the nearby Segale Business Park includes an Upland development, with the remnants of once - extensive U.P. spurs.
For those with the access, I recommend the late Warren Wing's 3 - volume series of A Northwest Rail Pictorial; especially the 1st book pgs. 98 through 104.