The next two roads in Tumwater that really interest me are the railroads. The Olympia Tenino/Port Townsend Southern Railroad and the Olympia Terminal/Union Pacific and the transition between the two show how roads changed Tumwater and how they changed the focus of Tumwater.
The Port Towsend line ran through old rive focussed Tumwater, connecting its industries directly to the saltwater.
The Union Pacific line (while it did connect through a branch down to the old Olympia brewery site then on saltwater) is certainly new Tumwater. And, through ownership changes in the early 1900s, both lines became owned by the same company (Union Pacific) and the latter replaced the former in connecting Tumwater to the Olympia waterfront.
In geography, here’s the difference between the two lines. The Port Townsend line ran through west side of what is now the Tumwater Falls Park. Much of the current trail is actually the old rail road grade. It continued down the west side of the Deschutes River (now Capitol Lake) until reaching saltwater near where Tugboat Annies is now.
You can see the Olympia terminus of the Port Townsend line in the famous Olympia birds eye (from UW Digital Collections).
You can see some of the Tumwater stretch in this picture from the Washington Historical Society.
While the Port Townsend Line sunset in 1916, the Union Pacific (former Olympia Terminal Line) was being completed just a year earlier. This is the current line when you think of the Olympia Brewery. Going down Custer Way, this is the line you cross over. The one obstacle that the road had to face to get from up on the east bluff to downtown Olympia and the waterfront was the bluff itself. The solution was a tunnel under Capitol Boulevard.
You can kind of see the railroad tunnel to the left (we’re looking south back into Tumwater).
What’s interesting to me is that while the new railroad, the railroad that started drawing Tumwater up and away from the river, seems so tiny compared to I-5. While tunneling under Capitol Way created a nice short cut for the railroad, it pales in comparison to the obliteration of the same hillside by I-5 just decades later.
All references in this post come from two wonderful books by James Hannum, that I wrote about here.