30 days of biking: The old coal railway in Newcastle

Scheduling conflicts and prior obligations pushed me out the door early this morning for a ride over to an  old railroad grade in Newcastle.

I’m glad I got out early for Day 11 of 30 Days of Biking, as I missed the showers that fell here most of the day during my typical biking times.

The May Creek Trail is one of those out-of-the-way paths that few people use. Although I’ll see the occasional bike track through here, it’s predominantly used by folks walking their dogs.

It runs for a couple of miles in a heavy forest above the steep May Creek canyon. It’s easy to forget you’re close to dense suburban neighborhoods while bicycling through here. I heard more roosters than cars.

Originally, the route was a railroad grade (Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad) that connected the SoDo area of Seattle to the coal mines around the old town location of Newcastle up on Cougar Mountain. Although the tracks only stretched 22 miles, well short of Walla Walla, the train had plenty of business hauling coal to the Seattle port. (There’s an interesting article about the Seattle & Walla Walla RR at History Links.)

The trail, well-maintained by volunteers with the Newcastle Trails Association, connects with a pipeline trail that runs from my neighborhood in Bellevue.

The trail ends at the location of the now missing Kennydale Trestle that stretched 1,100 feet across the May Creek canyon and more than 200 feet above it; that’s longer and taller than the Wilburton Trestle I visited Monday.

The only remains of the old trestle are mounds that supported the piers as the trestle headed across the gorge. A modern day power transformer station about halfway between the trestle site and the trailhead at the pipeline trail is the site of the Bartrum Station.

In the early morning overcast, I could almost imagine visiting here on my penny-farthing in 1880 as President Rutherford B. Hayes and Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman paused here en route to a visit to the mines.

30 Days of Biking

Total days — 11/11

Total miles — 146

Permanent link to this article: http://www.bikingbis.com/2012/04/11/30-days-of-biking-the-old-coal-railway-in-newcastle/

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  1. […] isolated at the edge of the May Creek ravine. For 1.3 miles it’s actually a rail-trail, following the route of the Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad that largely served the Newcastle coal mines in the late 1800s and early 1900s. A couple of spur […]

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