First Northern Pacific Railroad passenger train reaches Ellensburg on February 26, 1886.

  • By Paula Becker
  • Posted 1/28/2003
  • Essay 5139

On February 26, 1886, the long-awaited first Northern Pacific Railroad passenger train arrives in Ellensburg from Yakima. Within two years the town population doubles to 1,200.

The arrival of the Northern Pacific Railroad linked Ellensburg with the wider world for trade and travel. As a thriving community in an ever-expanding area of ranches and fertile farmland, Ellensburg was a natural location for a railroad depot. The next major stop to the west was the line's Tacoma terminus. Going east, the line meandered from town to town across the Rocky Mountain ranges and the plains to an eastern terminus in St. Paul, Minnesota.

For Ellensburg, as for all the frontier towns the railroads linked, the coming of the Northern Pacific Railroad set the town's clocks to railroad time and imposed for perhaps the first time a temporal order other than the movement of the sun across the sky.


Carlos A. Schwantes, Railroad Signatures Across the Pacific (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1993), 57-63; "National Railroad Museum" ( NorthCoastLimited.htm); "Ellensburg On-Line, TM," (; Ruth Kirk and Carmela Alexander, Exploring Washington's Past: A Road Guide To History, Revised Edition (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1995), 124.

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