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Hillyard Story

In 1893 the Great Northern Railway began construction on a new set of facilities in Hillyard, Washington (just outside of Spokane).  Over the years it was expanded into one of the largest overhaul and maintenance facilities in the West.  Hillyard had the capacity to handle the repair and rebuilding of 200 locomotives per year in addition to 30,000 freight cars, 400 coaches and 500 cabooses.  To the north Western Fruit Express had a large car shop for refrigerator car maintenance (my dad's grandfather was a carpenter at Western Fruit Express).  Two nearby ice houses produced ice for 500 refer cars a day.

While maintenance was always the focus, one of Hillyard's shining moments came in the late 1920's when the facility built the mighty Class R 2-8-8-2 articulated locomotives.  One of the most powerful engines of its day, they were designed to haul freight over the Rocky Mountains.  Baldwin built the first four R-1's, but in 1927 production shifted to Hillyard for cost savings.  Between 1927 and 1930 26 R-1's and R-2's were constructed (see photo below).

In the mid-1950's the shops were converted from steam to diesel service, and employed over 1,300 workers.

For the 1974 world's fair the rail traffic in and out of Spokane was rerouted, and that marked the end for Hillyard.  The land was designated for a new freeway.  Sadly today nothing is left of this once great facility save one of the brick ice houses.

This website is a small tribute to the many men and women who accomplished so much in the 80+ year history of the Hillyard Shops.

Credits for this information:

Walt Grecula et al, Memories of Spokane and the Hillyard Shops, Great Northern Railway Historical Society, Reference Sheet No.399

Kenneth R. Middleton and Norman F. Priebe, Steam Locomotives of the Great Northern Railway, Great Northern Railway Historical Society

Photo courtesy California State Railroad Museum

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