Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad runs first train on March 7, 1877.

  • By Greg Lange
  • Posted 1/24/1999
  • Essay 755
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On March 7, 1877, owner James M. Colman (1832-1906) operates the first train over the Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad, a line that runs from Seattle to the coal town of Renton.

The Seattle & Walla Walla Railroad was established in 1874 after the Northern Pacific Railroad chose Tacoma rather than Seattle as its western terminus. The citizenry of Seattle was incensed at the decision and promptly began building their own railroad. After a time, James Colman hired Chin Gee Hee and his crew of immigrant Chinese workers to extend the line to Newcastle, Washington.

Although the Seattle & Walla Walla never got close to Walla Walla, the 21-mile line earned quick profits hauling coal from South King County mines to Elliott Bay piers and helped to establish Seattle as the economic center of Puget Sound.


Robert C. Nesbit, He Built Seattle: A Biography of Judge Thomas Burke (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1961), 35.

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