Pullman Cars

Trips Into History visits two of the famous Pullman Cars, the railroad cars that revolutionized passenger train travel in the late 1800’s.

pullman car

Pullman Business Car dining area

In the 1800’s, comfortable travel was a relative term. As opposed to the covered wagon, a stage coach could be called comfortable although that can be argued. When the iron rails spread throughout the western U.S., the train was certainly a step up from both of these modes of transportation.

The two biggest improvements in passenger comfort offered by the railroads would most certainly have been the Fred Harvey Houses and later the Fred Harvey AT & SF Railroad dining cars. The other beyond a doubt were the Pullman Cars. The Pullman train cars offered a whole new way to travel.

The Pullman Passenger Cars were built by the Pullman Palace Car Company established in 1867 in Chicago Illinois. Prior to establishing this firm, George Pullman had worked as a cabinet maker and contractor. George Pullman’s company built rail cars from the mid 1800’s into the early 1900’s.

pullman business car

Business Car stateroom


The Pullman Company was of such a size that there was even a town built for it’s workers in 1880 south of Chicago and west of Lake Calumet. The town was given the obvious name of “Pullman“. This town would also become ground zero during the violent Pullman Strike during the 1890’s financial depression. This was a strike that ended only with the introduction of federal troops under the command of famous Indian War General Nelson Miles and with the arrest of Eugene Debs.

Two Pullman Cars featured int this article are the Pullman Business Car and the Pullman Sleeper. The sleeper car is what most people think of when they refer to the Pullman cars.

pullman car interior photo

Full bath in Pullman Business Car

The Pullman Business Rail Car

Shown here is the 1924 Pullman Business Car Number 404. The car served on the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. The rail car was used by the Eastern Division Superintendent of the AT & SF who was stationed in Emporia Kansas.

The Pullman 404 is very impressive. The train car is 60 feet long and weighs 60 tons. It was one of seventeen similar rail cars built by the  Pullman Company. The Pullman Business Car was also referred to as a “private car” which it was. In addition to it’s use as a perk for the railroad superintendents, the business or private car was also the calling card of the wealthy. Many if not most of the well known millionaires of the late 1800’s had there very own Pullman Car. Often the private car would be attached to a regularly scheduled train. During that era, it was THE way to travel by train.

pullman sleeper

Lower and upper berth arrangement in Pullman Sleeper Car

The 1924 Pullman Business Car was essentially a combination office and residence. This Pullman car had a dining room, meeting room, two staterooms, a bathroom with a shower. It could take the superintendent anywhere along the AT & SF route with the comforts he would have had in Kansas. The rail car also provided a room for a porter which was standard during that era.

The Pullman Sleeper

When these Pullman cars were introduced they were an instant hit. The Pullman Sleepers helped civilize rail travel, especially long distance rail travel. There were actually rail cars that were referred to be sleeper cars as early as the 1830’s. These were however very primitive and are not of the same quality and comfort that one associates with the famous Pullmans.

pullman sleeper car interior photo

Daytime arrangement in Pullman Sleeper

The Pullman Sleeper Car featured in this article is the 1924 “McKeever” Pullman Sleeper. The McKeever is a twelve section, fifty-five passenger car. Measuring 80 feet, 11 inches long, the rail car was built and operated by the Pullman Company. Similar to the Amtrak Sleeper Cars today, this Pullman had both upper and lower sleeping births. The porter would rearrange the compartment when the passengers were either dining or socializing. The rail car had bathrooms on both ends of the car, one for males and one for females. The mens room also had an added area used as a smoking room.

This car had air conditioning installed in 1935 and remained in service until 1964. The McKeever was a regular on the New York to San Antonio route. The car was so popular with travelers that many planned their trips to New York when the McKeever was going to be on the run. Interestingly enough, the way railroads were operated during the early to mid 1900’s, a passenger might travel on several lines during a long trip. When the McKeever car was in transit to New York from Texas it would be hooked onto other rail lines however the car kept it’s same staff during the entire journey. This alone would make it popular for rail travelers.

pullman rail car

Pullman Sleeper aisle in daytime arrangement

An interesting story about George Pullman and his early success manufacturing luxury rail cars actually had a lot to do with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. George Pullman offered the use of his Pioneer car to Lincoln’s widow during her trip to Springfield Illinois for her husband’s burial. Mrs. Lincoln’s trip in the Pioneer made Pullman and his cars known throughout the U.S. This publicity even encouraged industrialist Andrew Carnegie to invest in Pullman’s business.

A  related photo article on our Western Trips site you’ll enjoy is the Fred Harvey AT & SF Cochiti Dining Car...Also on Trips Into History see our photo article on the Railroad Post Office Car.

The Pullman Cars on Display

Both of these restored Pullman Cars and much more are on display at the Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio Texas. The museum also has on display a vintage 911 Baldwin steam locomotive and excellent exhibits of a 1924 Buffalo Fire Engine, horse drawn carriages, a model railroad setup and vintage classic automobiles. If your Texas trip takes you to the San Antonio area a visit to this museum would be a fun stop for the entire family. Train rides are available with admission Saturday and Sundays. The museum is located at 11731 Wetmore Road, San Antonio.

(Photos from author’s collection)

Baldwin Locomotive

Trips Into History visits one of the most successful steam locomotive manufacturing companies in American history. No doubt you’ve seen some of the steam locomotives produced by the Baldwin Locomotive Works from Philadelphia Pennsylvania.

1911 baldwin steam locomotive

The 1911 Baldwin Steam Locomotive

These vintage steam trains are on display at museums and historical sites all over America. During it’s heyday, Baldwin Locomotive, founded in 1831, turned out some of the most historic steam engine trains in American history. An interesting side note about Baldwin was that their locomotive business actually predated the era of commercial photography and the designs first showed to prospective customers were hand drawn illustrations.

During the first days of steam locomotives on the American scene, Baldwin was the leading builder. Baldwin was known to build the established type locomotives as well as engines that were essentially designed by it’s customers. It was the foremost name in American steam engine trains. Baldwin Locomotive Works was also known as an innovator of electric locomotives at the start of the 20th century.  Most historians put 1905 as the peak year for steam locomotive demand. The company also had a hand in the development of the diesels however it never was able to make a success of it’s production. Baldwin actually developed a line of diesels in the 1940’s but could never attain a survivable share of the market. Nevertheless, when a railroad buff talks about the great  steam locomotives, the old Baldwin Locomotive always enters the conversation.

baldwin locomotive

1911 Baldwin 2-8-0

Baldwin Locomotive Works also built steam tramway motors for lines in both this country and overseas. Interestingly enough, the company was founded by a silversmith and jeweler named Mathias W. Baldwin. Baldwin along with a machinist partner began building small steam motors.

The Baldwin 2-8-0

The steam train locomotive shown at left is a 1911 Baldwin 2-8-0. This particular steam locomotive was built for the Moscow, Camden and St. Augustine Railroad which operated in east Texas. The railroad still operates today as a short line carrier and is a subsidiary of Georgia Pacific. Today the railroad operates 6.9 miles of track from Camden Texas to a connection with the Union Pacific Railroad in Moscow Texas. The steam engine was a coal burner that was modified in 1929 to burn oil. The locomotive’s dry weight is 110,000 pounds. The driving wheels are 44 inches in diameter and the front guiding wheels are 24 inches.

baldwin locomotive boiler

Cab interior boiler area

The engine’s boiler is 54 inches in diameter. The locomotive is capable of 20,000 pounds of tractive effort. In terms of railroad locomotives, tractive effort is the power needed to accelerate the train from start to a certain speed. This is the power  needed to overcome the drag created by the rail cars to be pulled. The heavier the drag the more tractive effort or force that is required.

The 2-8-0 configuration of this locomotive means that the locomotive has two leading wheels on one axle, eight powered driving wheels on four axles and and no trailing wheels.

This 1911 Baldwin locomotive has a tender that holds 3,000 gallons of water and 1,200 gallons of fuel oil. The steam locomotive shown here was retired from service in 1956. The Texas Transportation Museum where it is now on display acquired the locomotive in 1970. This 1911 Baldwin went on display in 1984.

baldwin locomotive driving wheels

1911 Baldwin locomotive 44 inch driving wheels

Two additional Trips Into History photo articles you’ll find interesting are the famous Rocket Trains and Amtrak’s Southwest Chief which took over much of the old route of the historic AT & SF Super Chief.

The Santa Fe 5000 Locomotive

When it comes to a steam train ,the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe 5000 locomotive shown here is a geat example and it’s on display at Santa Fe Park near downtown Amarillo Texas.

The Santa Fe 5000 represents one of the most advanced designs that ever came out of the Baldwin Locomotive Works. This engine was built in 1930 expressly for the AT & SF Railroad. This steam locomotive was built for maximum traction and was a maximum freight engine. The configuration is a 2-10-4. The 2-10-4 type locomotive represented the most powerful steam locomotive on the Santa Fe Railway System.

santa fe 5000 steam locomotive

Santa Fe 5000 Locomotive

While the locomotive was built by Baldwin, the design of this engine was largely conceived by outside developers working for the AT & SF. Reportedly, the railroad and the designers had to sign off on any changes suggested by the factory.

Specs on this engine included a 104 inch diameter boiler, driver wheels of 69 inches and a driver wheelbase of 24 feet, 6 inches. This locomotive is massive in size and is one of the first impressions you get when seeing it up close.

During the Santa Fe 5000’s service life the locomotive traveled some 1,750,000 miles. The engine, which had been given the name “Madame Queen“, was retired from the Santa Fe system in 1957. The powerful steam locomotive lasted until the modern diesels came on the scene. Fortunately, the Santa Fe 5000 was saved from the scrappers. Most of the 5000 series locomotives did get scrapped but there are thought to be nine survivors presently spread around the U.S.

steam locomotive controls

Cab controls in the AT & SF Railroad 5000

The city of Amarillo received the locomotive directly from the AT & SF. After sitting idly for many years, restoration efforts began in 2005 and lasted three years. The locomotive was restored by the Railroad Artifact Preservation Society with financial help given by the city of Amarillo and various business interests.

The Santa Fe 5000 locomotive is registered with the Texas State Historical Commission and is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Both of these fascinating Baldwin steam locomotives are on display in Texas. The 1911 Baldwin is at the Texas Transportation Museum in San Antonio and the Santa Fe 5000 is on display near downtown Amarillo.

One of the very best railroad museums which also features Baldwin Locomotive engines is in Sacramento California. The California State Railroad Museum in Old Town Sacramento might very well be the best railroad museum in the world. The museum exhibits everything from the Governor Stanford steam train to the modern day diesels. If your western road trip includes Sacramento you’ll want to add this one to your trip planner.

(Photos from author’s private collection)


The Comanche Indians

The Horsemen of the Southern Plains

The Comanches emerged as a distinct tribe during the latter 1600’s. They are thought to have broken off from the Shoshone’s. Of all the Plains warriors none were as skilled horsemen as the Comanches. The Comanches are thought to have received their first horses from the Pueblo Indians after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

indian warriors

1834 George Catlin painting, Comanche Osage Fight

Comanche horsemanship started at a young age. From the time a Comanche child was perhaps four or five years old they owned a pony. Boys were known to drill every day with their horse. This daily drilling sharpened their equestrian skills to a very high degree. One type of practice a typical Comanche boy would work at was to ride his horse at a gradually higher speed while picking up objects off of the ground. At first, the objects might be small and light weight but gradually they would be larger and heavier. The boy would continue to drill with his horse and eventually be able to pick up a body from the ground while riding. This was considered an excellent trait to possess in the heat of battle. It was a skill excelled by the Comanche.

A Comanche’s horse was known to have great agility, speed and endurance. Likewise, the Comanche horse was noted for it’s alertness. These horses were known to respond instantly to word or touch. Some would say they could even anticipate their rider’s command.

How was it that the Comanches possessed such trainable animals? The answer was in their breeding. The Comanche was known to breed only the most fast and responsive stallions as studs.

The Horse Changed the Culture of Plains Indians

Since it were the Spaniards who introduced the horse in today’s western United States, there was a time when plains Indians lived without the benefit of these animals. Horses were brought into the southwest and the Plains grasslands with the Coronado Expedition of 1540. Prior to the horse, tribes lived a semi-sedentary life working the fertile soil along river bottoms. The buffalo, always an important animal to the Plains Indians, was hunted during the summer and fall.

indians buffalo hunting

1850's Paul Kane painting

It was the Indians of the Southwest, who were the first to come in contact with Coronado, who were the first introduced to the horse. At first, the Indians were only known to tend the horses for the Spaniards. As time progressed they owned their own herds. Toward the end of the 1700’s, most grassland tribes also owned horse herds.

When we see paintings today of Indian buffalo hunts we see the Native on horseback chasing and overtaking the herd. Before the horse, as mentioned above, the important hunts certainly took place but without the aid of a fast horse. When the horse was introduced to the Plains tribes, everything changed. The old village life suddenly seemed tame. Now the Natives could ride fast and dart and weave through the buffalo herds. Tribes that did not necessarily take to the horse immediately with the same enthusiasm nevertheless appreciated the freedom of being able to ride. As some would say, ride with the wind.

Plains Indians took to horses with such a skilled degree that it’s almost impossible to think of them without their mounts. Indian horses evolved from the half-Arab, half-Andalusian stock brought over by the Spaniards. By about 1800, this original stock evolved into the typical Indian pony with it’s relatively small size and shaggy coat. What’s interesting is that the Europeans who came west with their larger grain fed mounts didn’t have much respect for the smaller Indian ponies. As it turned out however, during buffalo hunts or in battle, the Indian mounts performed better than those of the Europeans.

Try our fun twenty-five question history quiz

Short History Quiz

comanches meeting dragoons

1835 George Catlin painting, Comanches Meeting Dragoons

Horse Warriors

The introduction of the horse also dramatically changed inter tribal warfare. Native Americans, like many groups, have always battled among themselves from time to time. The horse added a new dimension. A warrior was always known to keep his horse tied up near his tepee. The horse’s owner was it’s only rider. When preparing for battle a warrior would paint up his horse as well as himself. Multi-colored designs were the norm. In addition, a warrior would add adornments to his horse. This might include feathers, scalp locks and ribbons received from traders.

In the heat of battle, a Plains warrior might often drop down on one side of his horse. One leg would be over the horses back and an elbow in a sling on the horses neck. It was from this position that the warrior would operate his bow and arrow. Using the horse as a shield the warrior would shoot his arrows either from over the horses back or from under the horses neck.

map of comancheria

Comancheria area

Comanche Warriors

Many historians contend that the Comanches were the fiercest of all Indian warriors. Even more so than the Apaches. Their horsemanship skills no doubt added to this reputation.

Warfare was a big part of Comanche life. They developed methods for using traditional weapons while fighting on horseback. Their skill was apparent in Texas as well as across the border into Mexico. For decades, Comanches fought a rather running battle with Texas pioneers who were gradually moving westward from east Texas. The Comanches roamed the area called “Comancheria” as shown on the above map image. This was before and after Texas became a republic as well as during the Spanish occupation of the region. One of the main tasks assigned to the famed Texas Rangers was to protect settlers from Comanche raids. In addition to raiding white settlers, the Comanche was at various times, at war with just about every other Native American group residing in the Great Plains.

Noted battles involving Comanches against white settlers and buffalo hunters included the two Battles of Adobe Walls in the Texas Panhandle, the Battle at Plumb Creek in Texas, the Battle at Crooked Creek in Kansas. The final Comanche battle took place in 1875 at Palo Duro Canyon just southeast of today’s Panhandle city of Amarillo Texas.  This was the conflict that ended in the surrender of the famed Comanche warrior and half breed, Quanah Parker.

quanah parker photo

Comanche leader Quanah Parker

Comanche historians know that Quanah Parker’s mother was Cynthia Ann Parker, the young hostage taken during a bloody Indian raid on Fort Parker during the 1830’s in today’s east central Texas. Two interesting things about Quanah Parker was that he was arguably the most effective Comanche warrior in his tribe’s history, and somewhat surprisingly, after his surrender and move to the Indian Territory became a solid friend of the white man and adopted many of the white mans ways.

Parker went on to befriend many a Texas rancher as well. In 1905, Quanah Parker rode in President Theodore Roosevelt’s Inaugural Parade in Washington D.C. In addition, Texas has a town named after the Comanche warrior, Quanah Texas, on US Hwy 287 just northwest of Wichita Falls. Before his death in 1911 Parker had become a type of elder statesman for his people. Two thousand people attended his funeral.

Two additional articles on our Western Trips site you’ll want to see are A Visit to Quanah Texas and the Story of Colonel Ranald Mackenzie and Fort Concho Texas.

Sites to Visit

The Quanah Parker Star House– The Quanah Parker Star House was built around 1890 for the famous Comanche warrior. Quanah had 14 stars painted on the roof of his house, a smoke house and a summer house. Funding for the construction was provided by a Texas rancher and friend of Parkers, Samuel Burk Burnette.  In 1956 the house was relocated to Eagle Park fortunately saving it from destruction. Originally located near the Wichita Mountains, the house now resides in Cache Oklahoma. Much of the park today is a ghost town, the Star House however is still host to Comanche events.

Quanah , Acme and Pacific Railroad Museum– Located in Quanah Texas northwest of Wichita Falls, this museum is a treasure trove of regional information. This museum is in the former railroad depot for a Texas town that once was a key stop on the railroads, but no longer.

Comanche National Museum and Cultural Center– This museum located in Lawton Oklahoma offers visitors a glimpse of traditional cultural items and detailed history about the Comanche tribe.  Its purpose is to allow visitors a better understanding about the Comanche People. The museum opened in 2007 by a group of tribal members.

(Photos and images from the public domain)


Old Historic Buildings

There’s old historic buildings and then there’s the historic courthouse buildings that are the center of many communities around the United States. Courthouses around America come in many architectural styles and many were designed and built either at the end of the 1800’s or at the very beginning of the 1900’s. Many of these old historic buildings tell a story of the community and counties they reside in and therefore offer a real trip into history. They are a real part of a regions heritage.

historic courthouse in clarendon texas

Donley County Courthouse, Clarendon Texas

Take a road trip around the U.S. and you’ll have a chance to explore many of these historic structures which often times house exhibits that explain the founding of the region.

The Courthouses of Texas

Texas has more old historic buildings, and most of these are courthouses, than just about any state in the country. Among the things I have always found fascinating touring old courthouses in Texas are the variety of architectural styles employed, often very different from one another. It seems that the founders all had different ideas as to how their courthouse should look. It seems that many of the styles had European origins of some type and even in this there are dozens of varieties. When you view these historic structures, they are not merely pictures of old buildings, but are representatives of a time when elaborate public buildings were meant to add prestige.

donley county texas historic courthouse

Donley County Courthouse entrance

In today’s world, building a new structure of the types shown here are most often cost prohibitive. Even maintaining these old historic buildings today present a financial challenge. Fortunately, most of these structures are Historic Landmarks, both of national and state registers, and because of this often have historical societies that raise funds for their restoration and upkeep.

Donley County Courthouse, Clarendon Texas

Chances are you won’t find many old historic buildings that outdo the Donley County Courthouse in the Texas Panhandle town of Clarendon. Donley County Texas is in a region that was Texas cattle country. The area is sparsely settled as most of the surrounding acreage was vast range lands. This was in the area of the famous JA Ranch, operated by Charles Goodnight, the Father of the Texas Panhandle. Other notable ranches in the area included the RO Ranch and Carhart’s Quarter Circle Heart Ranch.Donley County took it’s name in honor of Stockton P. Donley, a lawyer and Texas Supreme Court judge.

donley county texas courthouse

Romanesque revival architecture

The Donley County Courthouse was built in a Romanesque Revival style in 1880. It was constructed of stone and brick.  It’s interesting to note that white settlers, mostly ranchers, didn’t inhabit this area until the 1870’s. The Panhandle region of Texas was the home of many Native American tribes including the Comanches and Apaches. In fact, it was in Palo Duro Canyon, not far from Clarendon and just southeast of present day Amarillo, where the famous Comanche leader Quanah Parker, surrendered to the U.S. Cavalry in September 1874. Donley became an official county in Texas two years later in 1876. At the time the Donley Courthouse was built and the area became a county, Clarendon was one of only three settlements in the Panhandle. The Donley County Courthouse was restored and it’s plumbing and electrical work was upgraded with oversight from the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program.

mclennan county texas courthouse

McLennan County Courthouse, Waco Texas

The McLennan County Courthouse, Waco Texas

Here is a courthouse with truly European origins. In fact, many say that the Beaux-Arts architectural style of the McLennan County Courthouse was inspired by St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome Italy.To emphasize the elaborate construction and design, on the top of the courthouse dome is a small lantern crowned by a statue of “Themis”, the Greek goddess of divine law and justice. The statue on top holds the scales of justice in her left hand and the hilt of a sword in her right. There was once a blade in the sword but unfortunately it was lost during a large Texas storm.

There are many who believe the McLennan County Courthouse has a strong resemblance to the Texas State Capitol Building in Austin, just about 100 miles south. Both old historic buildings have wings on each side of the main area and both have an elaborate statue display on their domes. The two significant features of the McLennan County Courthouse is it’s beautiful dome and it’s commanding front entrance.

waco texas historic building

Beaux-Arts architectural style

What is today McLennan County was at one time a Mexican land grant given out in 1925. The frontier line in Texas gradually moved westward. At one time it ran roughly in a line from Dallas southwestward to San Antonio. Indian troubles from the Comanches and  their ongoing threat caused permanent settlement in today’s McLennan County to be delayed until the 1840’s. McLennan County was founded by the Texas legislature in January 1850. The county was named for Neil McLennan, one of the areas earliest settlers.

You will also enjoy the photo articles on our Western Trips site of more historic old Texas County Courthouses and the Story of the Texas State Capitol and the XIT Ranch.

The Texas Historical Commission

As mentioned above, Texas has more historic courthouses that any other state. There are more than 234 courthouses in Texas still standing that are least 50 years old. Some eighty were constructed before the turn of the twentieth century. Eventually, most of these old historic buildings were significantly deteriorated due to inadequate maintenance, insensitive modifications or weather related damage.

mclennan county texas historic courthouse

Grand entrance to the Mclennan County Courthouse

The Texas Historical Commission  documented the condition of 50 of the state’s oldest courthouses in the late 1990s and determined that counties lacked the funds to preserve and maintain the buildings for future generations.

When the Texas county courthouses were added to the National Trust’s 11 Most Endangered Properties list in 1998, some action had to be taken. Due to all of this the state created the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program. This was the largest such creation of any one state. This nationally recognized preservation program reversed the trend of disrepair and started the process of restoring the state’s most treasured historic landmarks. Fortunately this action went a long way in preserving these historic buildings for all of us and future generations to enjoy.

(Photos from author’s private collection)




Tillamook Head / Oregon Lighthouse

Tlllamook Rock Lighthouse could be the west coast’s most unique deactivated lighthouse. Located one mile off Tillamook Head, the lighthouse stands one-hundred feet above the Pacific Ocean. The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse was built in 1881 on a small island just off the Oregon coast. The northern Oregon coastal location is between the towns of Seaside and Cannon Beach.

tillamook lighthouse

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

The Tillamook Lighthouse was originally planned to be built at Tillamook Head. It was soon determined that the site on the coast, twenty miles south of the Columbia River mouth,  was too foggy. Work then started to find a more suitable site. Surveyors took a boat out to the small island and decided to build the lighthouse on it. Just getting off the boat at the island, with the whirling Pacific Ocean waves, made that part a challenge. Building a lighthouse on the island was another challenge altogether.

Who Would Build This Lighthouse?

The locals were well aware of the rock island and the dangers it posed. As a result, no local skilled workers could be found who would agree to build the Tillamook Lighthouse. Eventually, workers were found elsewhere who were not familiar with the general area and the rock island in particular. After being housed further north at the mouth of the Columbia River, four workers were first transported to the island in October of 1879. A few days later the remainder of the construction crew were dropped off.

tillamook rock lighthouse

Tillamook Lighthose, 1947

The island offered no natural shelter whatsoever. There were no caves or crevices. A temporary shelter was built to house the workers. Other than that, the work crew was exposed to the elements twenty-four hours a day. This harsh environment most likely was the reason there were no local takers for the construction job. Tools, food and supplies were transported to the island by boat and, because of the wave action, had to be put ashore with a line. There was no way for a vessel to actually moor itself on the rock.

The Storm Hits

Three months after work began on the island, a tremendous storm hit. In January 1880, a nor’easter hit driving waves over the rock island. Parts of rock were torn off the island from the storm and the workers were exposed to all of it. Even the shack where the tools and food were stored was torn away by the storm. Other temporary structures such as the blacksmith shop were damaged.

tillamook head

Tlllamook Rock Lighthouse from Tillamook Head, 2012

The storm’s intensity was such that the service vessel, the “Corwin“, wasn’t able to reach the island until sixteen days after the storm began. When the Corwin did reach the rock, a line was affixed to the rock and supplies were put ashore. Amazingly enough, all of the workers survived the fierce storm.

Decades later in 1934, the fierce storms on that part of the Oregon coast destroyed the lighthouse lens and damaged some of the structure.

The Island

When you view Tillamook Rock Lighthouse you first notice how the island is relatively level at one end and rises on the other where the light is located. The work crew in 1879 leveled the top of the hump portion and it was there that the lighthouse was built. In fact, it took about seven months of work just to level the top of the hump. The lens house rises sixteen feet from the center of a two story structure. Finally, almost one and a half-years after the workers were put on the island, the light was lit. This was in January of 1881.

You’ll find the following photo articles on our Western Trips site interesting.  The Point Reyes Lighthouse near San Francisco and Haystack Rock, a unique geologic formation on the north Oregon coast. Also on this site, see our King of the Columbia Steamboatmen.

haystack rock

Haystack Rock off Oregon Coast near Tillamook Lighthouse

 Decommissioned in 1957

The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse had a long life protecting shipping. The lighthouse operated for seventy-six years. It was shut down in 1957 and replaced with a small whistle buoy.  Lighthouse keepers worked decades on the rock in isolated confinement. There were only so many people who could put up with the isolation. This plus the storms there gave the lighthouse the nickname of “Terrible Tilly”. The lighthouse, because of it’s location on this small island made it the most expensive lighthouse to operate. Most lighthouses closed because of a combination of high operating costs and advanced technology.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Today

The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is now owned privately and has the distinction of being the only lighthouse on the Oregon coast privately owned yet listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The island is also part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The lighthouse was sold several times. At one point it was turned into a Columbarium but the license was revoked in 1999.

While there is no access to the old Tillamook Rock Lighthouse , it is a spectacle to see one mile off Tillamook Head on the Pacific coast. The towns around Tillamook Head, Seaside and Cannon Beach, are very popular tourist destinations with plenty of beach rentals and B & B’s.

Astoria Oregon is about twenty miles to the north and offers plenty of historic sites such as Fort Stevens, Fort Clatsop and the world famous Columbia River Maritime Museum.

(1940’s Tillamook black and white photos from the public domain. Color photos from author’s collection)