What’s up with that? Burned railroad bridge replacement chuggin’ along




Any updates on the replacement of the railroad trestle that burned back in July in Brush Prairie? The bridge was supposed to be repaired in two to four weeks after the fire, but I’ve heard a rumor that they are going to replace it with a steel span. I live about half a block from the railroad tracks and have been here my whole 48 years! Back in the late ’60s and early ’70s, the engineers on the train that came from the mill in Chelatchie used to throw packs of Wrigley’s gum out to us kids when the train passed through Battle Ground.

—Craig Browning, Battle Ground

Craig, that trestle isn’t repaired just yet, but it should be by the end of the year, according to county officials.

To catch our readers up, that 100-foot trestle, which is located west of Northeast 87th Avenue and south of 119th Street as it passes over Curtin Creek, was severely damaged by a fire on July 13. Firefighters responded to the call, which was initially reported as a building fire, and laid a quarter-mile of hose on the tracks to douse the flames.

“The bridge was catastrophically destroyed,” said John Holladay, Clark County railroad coordinator. “The majority of the bridge was burned beyond use.”

The bridge is owned by Clark County and leased to the Columbia Basin Railroad. The line eventually leads to Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, a 33-mile short line that offers rail excursion trips between Yacolt and Moulton Falls.

After the fire, county officials said the bridge would be closed for two to four weeks for repairs, but it remained closed much longer than that.

Holladay said that’s because it took a while to examine the bridge and determine how to best repair it. It didn’t help that materials for the repair have a long ordering time, he said.

Repairs should be done by the end of the year, if not before, Holladay said.

Don’t hold out for a steel span. The bridge will be rebuilt basically as it was — out of wood, Holladay said.

He declined to comment on the cash value of the damage, but did say it would be expensive to replace the bridge.

The fire affected shipping of plastic pellets that Battle Ground’s Andersen Dairy uses to make bottles, President Jack Dunn said. Since the fire, his company has been getting bulk plastic pellet shipments via truck instead of by rail.

“One railcar takes four trucks off the road,” he said.

Fortunately, the dairy isn’t getting charged extra for the alternative shipping method at the moment, but that could be a problem if the trestle stays out of commission for a longer period of time, he said.

Got a question about your neighborhood? We’ll get it answered. Send “What’s Up With That?” questions to neighbors@columbian.com.