Seattle residents were bitterly disappointed in 1873 when the Northern Pacific selected rival Tacoma as the future Puget Sound terminus for Washington Territory’s first transcontinental railroad. Kurt E. Armbruster’s enthralling account describes their frantic quest for an Elliott Bay saltwater depot—including the scheming between city founders and railroad companies.
Even in early territorial times Seattle aspired to be the “Queen City of Puget Sound” by tapping into a rich Asian Pacific commerce, and a cross-country rail link to the eastern United States would play a critical role. Frustratingly thwarted again and again, “Seattle Spirit” finally prevailed by 1890, but not without cost. The city was forced into “war” with the Northern Pacific over extensive land grants, and with railroad barons attempting to manipulate local politics and commercial expansion.
Armbruster’s lavishly illustrated narrative portrays the growth of railways across the Puget Sound region—from the initial 1853-54 government surveys to the completion of the Milwaukee Road in 1911. The accounts include details about individual lines, the intense Seattle-Tacoma rivalry, and the colorful personalities and urban ambitions that eventually brought the Emerald City to the forefront of Washington commerce.
Kurt E. Armbruster is a Seattle resident and a University of Washington graduate. An expert on Puget Sound railroads, he has published numerous articles in historical and railway journals. Three years of intensive research and writing went into the preparation of Orphan Road.
Illustrations / photographs / maps / notes / bibliography / index / 280 pages (1999)