Cedar Mtn Depot – Where art thou?

In February of this year I received a photo of the Cedar Mountain Railroad Depot from the Pacific Northwest Railroad Archives. I was over the moon since photos of Cedar Mountain are super rare. At the time we spent a bit of time trying to sort out where this depot stood from 1891 until it burned down in 1933. Here is where we left off Cedar Mountain Railroad Depot Mystery

Then I met Dow D. He is a current railroad employee and has great connections inside the railroad history world. Like me he is fascinated by Cedar Mountain and with some digging has helped us locate where the depot stood. Can you see me doing a researcher happy dance?

The overview of the area (Photo at top) outlined the three sites we originally discussed. One of our strongest contenders was #1 which was to the south of the Jones Bridge. It was located close to where the spur to the mine left the main line. It also aligned with the landslide that is in the background of the old photo.

Cedar Mountain Pacific Coast Railroad Depot

Speaking of the landslide, I was troubled by the view of it being blocked now by a raised road. Dow gave me a clue that helps explain that. One of his railroad sources told him the photo was between 1915-17. That would predate the trestle access into Cedar Mountain after the bridge was rebuilt in 1924 and the roads reconfigured. Here is a set of current photos of how this landslide looks today. Ponder if this is the same one you see to the left of the depot above.

Dow sent me a long email explaining where the depot was located. His email included substantiating railroad charts and timetable for our Cedar Mountain section of the track. Here is how he described these documents:

My good friend Matthew “Map” Kelley, was able to find a Milwaukee Road railway track chart showing the route from Renton to Maple Valley. On the track chart, it indicates, elevation, curvature of the tracks, speed limit, station locations, what type of track in use, types of auxiliary tracks and sidings etc. Well…the chart he provided me shows the depot.

Dow D describing charts from Matthew “Map” Kelley

The time table covers the railroad between Seattle and Maple Valley. It has miles from Seattle, a list of stations/crossings, capacity of track and sidings. Here is that Time Table #20 from October 23, 1921.

Railroad Time Table – Cedar Mountain listed towards bottom

Next we have the two track charts. The first is from Elliott to just past Cedar Mountain. The second is from north of Stevens to Maple Valley and beyond. These are from the 1940s but like a lot of documents they are revisions upon originals from much earlier dates.

First Track chart – Cedar Mountain with depot noted just right of center
Second Track Chart – focus is on Maple Valley

I learned a lot about these charts from Dow. Here is a list of how to read the data:

  • Top row has Milwaukie RR mile posts. (2160, 2159 etc)
  • Line below mileposts that steadily rises to the right – this documents the incline of the railroad. See the dashed lines with numbers? That is the elevation above sea level.
  • Station Names in big bold letters
  • Diagram/small map of track showing spurs and sidings. But best of all stations/depots are denoted with little black squares. The Cedar River bends are also drawn in for reference. Check out where our depot sits in relation to the lay of the land. Darn close to where the bridge crosses today at the first river bend.
  • Numbers starting at 800 and in 50 increments (800,850,900 etc). We think this must be Pacific Coast Railroad mile markers or some system to denote locations.

Another clue that Dow gave us was:

Check out these 1930’s and 40’s Jones Rd. Pacific Coast Railroad photos. You can see the siding, and also the station sign…although tis hard to make out….but it says Cedar Mountain. I believe the station was just south of that sign out of the picture frame.  

Dow’s email with photos

Now please zero in on the first Track Chart diagram/small map area for Cedar Mountain. There you can clearly see where the depot was located. It is close to the north end of Belmundo’s Reach Park. It would be north of where our #1 of 3 possible locations identified on the map from original article.

Ready for a now set of photos of this spot? Just a nice grassy area along a paved trail. The railroad track and the bustling coal mining operation was long ago demolished. Think about how much a place can change in 90 years!!!

How about a video next? You will notice a loud din. That is from Highway 169’s traffic which above this grassy spot.

Cedar Mountain Depot used to stand in this grassy area

This video was taken from the edge of the road that connected to the trestle. You can see that in the old train photos where the train is coming under the bridge and a ramp is seen on the right side. Does that help you orientate yourself with the now grassy area?

But wait!! I found more smoking guns. The first one is the Time Table telling us Maple Valley and Cedar Mountain Depots were 3.8 miles apart. I took that info to Google Earth and measured how far it was between the two depots. Check out how close my rough estimate gets us to just south of Jones Bridge.

Google Earth measurement between two RR Depots

The other new info came when I heard about a road project on Maple Valley Highway. This project repaired culverts in the area between Stevens & where Hwy 18 passes thru Maple Valley. They unburied a wood structure and called in the WSDOT Archeologist. Could it be a undocumented bridge along the highway?

This made the news and I was super excited to hear what they found. Below is a link to the article that explains how it was part of an original 1920’s road. They used an old method of laying wood down across a boggy area. No bridge just an old wooden road. Link to MyNorthwest Article

Best of all, in this article was a link to the King County Map Vault. Hot Dog!! Another collection of maps for me to browse. There I found a 1907 map of our area. It was an engineer’s drawing and plan to improve the John McCoy Road which was the predecessor to Highway 169. It shows us the Cedar Mountain depot, the railroad, a very early bridge, the coal mine bunker and how that old road was configured.

1907 Map from King County Road Map Vault – John McCoy Road aka Hwy 169

There is so much to digest here that I am going to write another article about it. But for today please see how this map has the depot, the bunker and the bridge clearly noted. The depot was exactly where Dow said it was. On the bridge, look at the track chart. See how a little road is to the right of the depot? That matches the 1907 map southerly bridge configuration.

However, what can be confusing is how the bridge is to the south of these structures versus the current bridge which is to the north. But do not despair. With the sections clearly noted on this map I was able to overlay it onto today’s existing roads and bridge. The current bridge location is near to the intersection of the sections denoted by that white road line. Our Depot location theory is still valid.

Overlay of 1907 map onto 2021 King County IMap using Hillshade view

Too bad there isn’t more river drawn on this 1907 map. Other maps have a little island here and the river bend not as wide. My assumption is the great flood of 1911 wiped out this earliest bridge and the replacement was built in the current configuration and location.

One more old vs new map overlay to give you a perspective. This is a 1934 Coal Mine Map on top of the current Google Earth 2021 view. I have added two rectangles to denote the approximate locations of depot and bunker.

1934 Cedar Mtn Coal Mine Map on top of 2021 Google – squares are the depot (brown) & bunker (black)

What a great find Dow made! I cannot thank him enough. Add a little Batgurrl map magic and we have solved the mystery of the Cedar Mountain Depot Location.

If you want to read more about my search for Lost Coal Mines here is a link to my directory of articles.

Shoot me any questions or better yet any information you have to add. This is a never ending deep dig into 100 years of old coal mine history.

Remember Times are a changing.  Blink and all will be changed. Literally, a town can disappear!

Locating Lost Old Coal Mines of King County

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