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tv   Rails To Paradise  CSPAN  August 5, 2017 1:08pm-1:22pm EDT

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don't think that anyone can be culturally competent. i think it's a lifelong journey, and it's something that we have to continue to work on. we can aspire to be culturally competent, but cultural sensitivity is much more important. >> we're on the tahula bridge of glass this ca toma, washington, a gateway that invites visitors to this beautiful city. as we continue our look at the nonfiction literary life, we hear the story of the tacoma railroad and its role in the economic growth of the region. >> the name of my book is "rails to paradise," and it is about the train that ran from tacoma, washington, to point rainier national park -- to montana -- mt. rainier national park. i wanted to focus on a specific
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railroad, and i found that there was very little information that was known about this train that provided a very vital service to mt. rainier. we are at the famous bridge of glass in tacoma, washington, and this whole community owes its existence to the railroad. the northern pacific as a corporate entity had been very well studied and understood, many books had been written about it, but virtually no information was known about the tacoma eastern which was a smaller, rural railroad that was very important to the upbringing of both tacoma and mt. rainier national park. in this area in 1873, there was only several hundred people that were living here. when they, the northern pacific established commencement bay as the terminus for the railroad, the population of tacoma
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exploded with the announcement that this was going to be the terminus, because this is where lincoln had chartered the northern pacific to be able to end in his journey connecting up with the great lakes. and is so knowing that -- and so knowing that drove a lot of speculation, and the population of this area grew exponentially every year after 1873 leading up to the depression of 1893. and then we, everything kind of flattens out, everything gets nice and mellow until we see the alaskan and yukon gold rushes, and all of a sudden everything takes off again. the tata coma eastern railroad -- tacoma eastern railroad doesn't have its advent until 1890, and it's mostly a logging railroad, so it really did not have much of an influence on this area until john bagley takes it over in 1899 after the bankruptcy.
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when he has $100,000 a year in construction bonds from the milwaukee road aiding him in building the line out to the gateway, to mt. rainier national park at ashford. and with each successive development, he is attaching more and more communities of south pierce county and their saw mills to the rail line. and each one of those became a very important economic driver for not only the tacoma eastern, but for tacoma as well. and we see that in the formation of the st. paul and tacoma lumber company which was at the time that it was built the singer largest saw mill in -- single largest saw mill in north america. and-all of those logs came off the shoulders of mt. rainier national park. so with the ease of transportation, the railroad
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really helped to spark economic development all up and down the west coast. and that was in the form of being, of ease of transportation for agricultural goods and for the lumber industry. but it also brought in an opportunity for people to see america first. and in seeing america first, one of the places that wases instrumental in helping -- that was instrumental in helping to drive heritage tourism or tourism in general was the national park system. and the cornerstone of the national park system is yellowstone. after that you have yosemite, and the third national park that was established was mt. rainier. when here atta coma the railroads realized they had a golden opportunity for people to come and visit this area and take advantage of the natural wonders that are available to them at mt. rainier national park. the tacoma railroad had built
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its way south 100 miles. it took them until 1905 before they got to the gateway of mt. rainier national park. and from there the trip, which would have taken upwards of a week to be able to get there via horseback, now only took a matter of hours. to put this into perspective, prior to the arrival of the railroad in 1905 the average stay at mt. rainier national park was 30 days. when you came to recreate, you were expected to get the entire experience, meaning that you came out, you brought in your pack equipment, you were going to go and either walk the wonderland trail -- which circumnavigates the volcano -- or you were going to climb the peak, one or the other. each one of those undertakings took a tremendous amount of time, and it took a tremendous amount of logistics. with the railroad's arrival in
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1905, the amount of time that it took to be able to stay at mt. rainier national park actually dropped. and to put that into perspective, by 1915 we have good roads running from tacoma, washington, to mt. rainier national park, and we have the automobile age coming into fruition. the average time spent at mt. rainier national park prior to 1905 was 30 days, after 1915 it was eight hours. when we think of challenges that railroads faced, the tacoma eastern didn't have challenges in terms of high mountains to be able to climb or tunnels to be able to drill through. what they did have was a lot of political influence by the big brother, the northern pacific, which was an interchange partner that they had. and the northern pacific really felt like it was their responsibility to develop mt. rainier national park, and they
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did not like the idea that tacoma eastern was going to have access to the best route into mt. rainier national park. and so they tried to develop a secondary entrance into mt. rainier national park called the carbon entrance, but that one was, didn't have very good access to the places that people wanted to go. so the a tacoma eastern became the way to get to mt. rainier because it, at the gateway of mt. rainier national park at ashford, you had direct access to the, to the facilities at longmire which is where the national, mt. rainier national park headquarters is located, and you also had easier access to the paradise which is where everyone wanted to go. privately, it was being sponsored by the milwaukee road. the milwaukee road had the
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chicago/milwaukee/st. paul and pacific had secretly been funding the construction bonds, and the tacoma eastern became a subsidiary of that railroad. when the milwaukee road transcontinental arrived in tacoma in 1909, it then turned the tacoma eastern into a subsidiary of the milwaukee road x. at that point, you were able to be able to catch a train in chicago and go all the way to mt. rainier national park on, basically, one ticket. so in 1919, 1918, december 31, 1918, the milwaukee road absorbed the tacoma eastern and a lot of its subsidiaries and formed one gigantic corporation at that point, and at that point it became solely as the milwaukee road. and the passenger trains on that line were numerous. as you can imagine, there were a lot of people -- especially during those summer months -- that wanted to reck rate at --
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recreate at mt. rainier national park, and for the 100 miles between tacoma and mt. rainier, it was one of the most successful passenger lines in america due to the presence of mt. rainier. what's interesting is the fact that when we think about railroad construction, we think about chinese labor. here in tacoma, the vast majority of the laborers that work with the a on the tacoma eastern were japanese. those that worked on the northern pacific were chinese. the japanese labor, because they came in after the chinese exclusion act, they started backfilling in with japanese laborers to fillet boar vacancies -- to fill labor vacancies, and they were sent off to do construction on the tacoma eastern. and all this came to a head after a labor strike which took place in 1904. the japanese struck when they found out that pierce county had
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placed a tax upon their, upon them solely for being japanese. and they went on strike and struck for, to have that tax repealed so that they could have that extra 20 cents, which was a big deal. i mean, that was 20% of their wages recouped. the, most of these men worked for a dollar a day, but they were under contract with labor tongs that were located in san francisco, in seattle, portland or vancouver, british columbia. and they took a percentage of their wage. so having a tax on top of the commissions that were being taken by the labor tongs was very problematic for them in actually earning a decent wage. so having the chicago, milwaukee, st. paul and pacific in 1909, they had to settle for
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second and third best on just about everything. it put them in kind of a conundrum economically. there was vast stretches of rail line. they had the shortest rail line between puget sound and chicago. they also had the best gradient, but they didn't have very many branch lines. if you look at a study of james j. hill and his development of the great northern, he purposely went to communities where he could establish a branch line to be able to feed the economics of that railroad. with the milwaukee road, you have a hard time being able to draw branch lands that actually were meaningful that brought in enough money to be able to sustain it. and being the last one in, they were the first one out. in 1980 when we see lee iacocca going before congress and asking for help to be able to bail out chrysler, we also see the
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milwaukee road going before congress and asking them for a bailout as well. well, they had to have -- make a choice; are we going to bail out chrysler, or are we going to bail out the milwaukee road? well, chrysler's impact was far bigger than the milwaukee road's because it was only felt from chicago to seattle and tacoma, so they chose chrysler. and when that caused the collapse of the milwaukee road -- i'm not saying that was congress' fault, there was a whole bunch of to other extenuating circumstances -- they didn't get the bailout, and chrysler did. it became the single largest bankruptcy in american history at that particular time. what i'd like people to take away from books like "rails to paradise" is that railroads are relevant, and they're relevant for a number of different reasons. they contribute to broad patterns of our social history. a tacoma would not have developed the way it had, had it not been for the advent of the railroads. there are also persons that are
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very important to our past which leaf us a legacy -- which leave us a legacy for future generations to be able to the remember them by. there's also engineering significance, the construction or the aid that was lent in the construction by the japanese. that's an oft-overlooked aspect of it. but we also have to look at what a story like the development of the tacoma eastern has to teach us in the future. and and i believe that the book does a very good job in being able to lay out that this was an important and significant railroad not only to tacoma, but to the region as well. >> next from our trip to tacoma, university of washington-tacoma economics professor katherine baird offers her thoughts on the state of the u.s. education system. >> the

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