The Vancouver Register reports that L. M. Hidden and other Vancouver businessmen have incorporated the Vancouver, Yakima & Klickitat Railroad on September 22, 1887.

  • By Gregg Herrington
  • Posted 8/30/2008
  • Essay 8742

On September 22, 1887, the Vancouver Register reports that a group of Vancouver, Washington, businessmen led by L. M. Hidden has incorporated the Vancouver, Yakima & Klickitat Railroad. It is envisioned as Vancouver’s rail link to the outside world, via the Cascade Mountains to Yakima, for there are no prospects of other rail links in the foreseeable future. The line will never fulfill its goal, but by 1897 it will reach some 13 miles to Brush Prairie.

High Hopes

The Vancouver Register exclaimed in reporting the Hidden group’s endeavor,  “The dawn is breaking.”

In 1890, historian Hubert Howe Bancroft wrote, “The Vancouver, Klickitat and Yakima is in the process of construction from Vancouver to North Yakima.” But despite the work and the enthusiasm for this commercial link, the pace was slow. In 1897 the line reached only 13.5 miles to Brush Prairie, northeast of Vancouver, and the operation went broke amid economic hard times.  

Indeed, connections to Kalama and Puget Sound weren’t complete until 1903 and rail service south to Portland and east up the Columbia River to Pasco, Spokane, and on to the Midwest didn’t come until 1908.

A Logging Road

Over the decades, the line underwent several ownerships, including Northern Pacific from 1903 to 1950. During logging’s heyday in the early twentieth century, the line played a crucial role in getting supplies and people to the camps and logs to market.

Passenger trains ran daily to Yacolt, which today is the smallest incorporated town in Clark County. Eventually the line reached 33 miles to Chelatchie Prairie in northeast Clark County, at the doorstep of the Cascades foothills. International Paper Co. opened a mill there in 1960 and serviced it with the line, which it operated as the Longview, Portland & Northern Railway.

The dream of a trans-Cascades route never was seriously explored after those early years. In 1987, Clark County bought the line and rolling stock. The county is leasing it to Columbia Basin Railway for freight hauling under the name Vancouver Junction Railway. A nonprofit excursion line runs infrequent trains over part of the route. As of 2008, plans are under way by the county to build a pedestrian and bike trail on much the right of way, adjacent to the tracks.  

The descendents of L. M. Hidden are very much a part of the Vancouver business and civic scene today (2008),

Sources: Walter R. Grande, The Northwest’s Own Railway (Portland, Oregon: Grande Press, 1992), 87-88; “The History of the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad,” 2003, Chelatchie Prairie Railroad website accessed August 2008 (; “Hill Brought Main Line Prosperity to the Northwest,” The Vancouver (Washington) Columbian, July 4, 1976, p. A-24; Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Washington, Idaho and Montana, 1845-1889 (San Francisco, The History Company Publishers, 1890), 389.

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You