Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad

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Bellingham Bay and British Columbia Railroad was a railroad that was built in the northwestern part of Washington, between the town of Whatcom, now Bellingham, then to the town of Sumas, to connect with the Canadian Pacific Railway for a continental connection.


Only remaining portion of the old B.B. & B.C. RR

The company was incorporated in California on June 21, 1883.[1] After the Northern Pacific Railroad chose Tacoma over Whatcom on Bellingham Bay, local railroad boosters along with Pierre B. Cornwall at their head started the B.B. and B.C. Railroad in 1883.[2]

The company was capitalized for $10,000,000, with its aim to build a line from Bellingham (then known as Whatcom) to Burrard Inlet now located in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, a distance of about 56 miles. The company owned a town site and about 4,000 acres (1,600 ha) in the Bellingham area.

Construction began in 1884 with much activity, then soon slowed. After reaching Whatcom Creek, it headed towards Sumas, Washington, to a connection, also being slowly built in Canada. At that time the Canadian Pacific Railway was working very hard over the Canadian Rockies and down the Fraser Valley.

By 1889, the line was still slowly pushing forward towards the Canada–United States border, while another road, the Fairhaven and Southern Railroad, was pushing south from Fairhaven towards Skagit County and planned a connection with the northbound Northern Pacific Railroad.

But construction soon continued and the road was graded further north with materials en route by ship, and reached the Canada–US border in 1891 and several weeks later the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the border.

More lines were completed and by 1902, lines to Glacier, Washington and Lynden Washington had been built as were other short lines to numerous logging camps. Signs of these old roads can be found throughout the county. Another spur headed east of the former township of Goshen, Washington, crossed the Nooksack River just east of the Mt. Baker highway then crossed the Northern Pacific Railway tracks, through the town of Deming, Washington and ended near the township of Welcome.

The B.B. and B.C. was taken over by the Bellingham and Northern Railway in 1912, which in turn was taken over by Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway in 1918. The line was used to serve several industries along the line including a limestone mine in Kendall, Washington, a lumber mill in Strandell as well as a farm supply store and two Bellingham Cold Storage plants.

At the end of February 1980, The Milwaukee Railroad left Bellingham thus abandoning the stretch of track. Burlington Northern would then take over and make serious changes to the line. The Limestone Mine in Kendall had then recently abandoned rail service there as they had switched over to trucks. BN would abandon the section of track between the Lynden Spur cutoff and Northern Cold Storage plant and eventually remove track in said location. The spur leading from the limestone mine was also cut and removed. In late 1996, the section past Mt Baker Plywood was cut off.

In 1998, the Bellingham Cold Storage began to lease the section of track from Mt Baker Plywood to the Orchard Street plant by purchasing it from the BNSF. The Cold Storage began to name it the Bellingham International Railroad to reflect the international trading going on with the Bellingham Bay. The usage was short lived however due to a washout happening further down the line. The section was shut down for the third and final time.

Today, two halves of the line are still in use. The section in Bellingham has been cut into two sections with the old mainline now being a small spur serving the waterfront Cold Storage and ending at Mt Baker Plywood with the said mill having its own small shunter. The other section of it is the Cement Plant line that serves a telephone pole factory and steel mill. The Sumas side now the section of the track that goes up to Lynden. The Lynden spur serves a grain plant, lumber mill, garbage plant and roofing company. In Lynden, a farm supply store and cold storage is served. The Darigold plant no longer uses rail service and is now abandoned, however the lumber mill only gets service when needed. The Sumas section is used daily while the Lynden section sees weekly service, this is usually seen on Tuesdays but can also happen on Thursdays and Fridays. In Bellingham, the Cold Storage is served daily while Mt. Baker Plywood only uses the line when the boxcar is loaded.

The remains of the former line can be seen in several locations. In Bellingham, the section used by the cold storage is almost fully intact except for removed rails and crossings. The track at the Orchard Street facility to the original cutoff is still around and is used by the local railway museum for speeder rides in the summer, this began in 2010. Two trestles still remain with one still having rails intact, but are heavily protected for historic reasons. Many sections of the old trackbed are gravel roads now leading to private driveways while a section of it was turned into a small road fittingly named "Milwaukee Loop." Google Maps still shows a small section existing even though it was pulled out. Lots of track and even the switches still exist but are quickly being removed by BNSF. In Maple Falls, a caboose still exists at a camping site.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Railroad history, Issues 82–84" (82–84). Harvard University. Graduate School of Business Administration, Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. Retrieved January 5, 2010. 
  2. ^ Cornwall, Bruce (June 25, 2007). Life Sketch Of Pierre Barlow Cornwall. Kessinger Publishing, LLC. p. 70. ISBN 0548332355. 


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