Fruits and veggies, though, were not the WWV's only source of traffic as
it also transported some other types of freight such as scrap metal,
lumber, pulp, and paper. During peak operations the railroad served a
multitude of customers: at Walla Walla these included the
Snyder-Crecelius Paper, Continental Can Company, Snider/Birds-Eye Foods,
Northwestern Ice & Cold Storage, Walla Walla Grange Supply,
Consolidated Freight, and Conoco Oil; at Milton-Freewater it served
Continental Can's warehouse, Umatilla Canning, Harris Elevator (grain),
Rogers Canning, Milton Box, Blue Mountain Growers Co-Op, Milton Grain,
Lamb Fruit, Stadelman Fruit, another Milton-Ice & Cold Storage,
Smith Frozen Foods, E. Brown & Sons, Mojoinner Fruit, Valley Feed,
and Pendleton Grain Growers. This, of course, did not include the many
orchards the WWV also served.
Electrified operations would come to end on December 16, 1949 when the railroad acquired a former Northern Pacific Alco HH660 diesel switcher, #770. It later picked up an additional unit from NP, #775, in May of 1950. During the era of electrification the WWV used primarily B-B steeple cabs and box motors. However, due to their increased temperamental nature and management realizing that if there was ever a power failure during the peak summer fruit and vegetable harvest business could be seriously affected, it was decided to replace them in favor of more reliable diesels. The decision to dieselize was also an interesting one; a model had to be chosen which could navigate the Walla Walla's extremely tight trackage that swung down streets and through alleys to reach customers. Initially, General Electric's light 44-ton design was considered but it couldn't move the required tonnage, which led to the decision in choosing the Alcos.
In November of 1955 the region experienced an unusually hard freeze, hitting apple and prune orchards in particular. While the WWV did see carloads of both commodities rebound somewhat by 1960 neither reached such high levels again (which had peaked at more than 1,000 carloads annually). Despite this setback in 1959 the WWV saw its highest originating loads ever, providing parent NP with 3,550 cars. In 1968 the shortline retired Alco #775 and replaced it, as well as #770, with two EMD SW1s (#77 and #104) between August, 1971 and March, 1972 following the Burlington Northern merger in 1970. By this date beets made up nearly 45% of the WWV's traffic base and a switch to corn syrup as a sweetener in the late 1970s forced many farmers in the region out of business and a significant loss of income for the railroad. For more reading about the history of the Walla Walla Valley please click here.
(Thanks to Blair Kooistra and Marc Entze's "Walla Walla Valley: 1968, Twilight Of A Former Interurban In Produce Country" from the December, 2004 issue of Trains as a primary reference for this article.)
There were also over issues facing the little line; trucks
were taking away considerable business as well since its traffic was
predominantly short-haul in nature. Additionally, shippers could not
take advantage of the larger cars then being used within the industry
(which would have lowered shipping costs) since the Walla Walla's track
and infrastructure could not handle the heavier equipment. Alas, by
1982 the railroad originated just 163 carloads and service became so
sporadic that BN transferred remaining WWV employees
to other positions and operated the line on an as-needed basis. After a
continued drop in carloads in 1983 BN petitioned the Interstate
Commerce Commission for complete abandonment of the route in 1984 with
approval granted on April 19, 1985. The railroad wasted no time in
completing the process and the final train ran on May 26 of that year.
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