Why Seattle?

Jim Hill had to plan the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway in secret so that Harriman could not block his way at key points along the route. So, when he first incorporated the railroad, he called it the "Portland and Seattle Railway." He hoped that Harriman would suspect that Hill was building a new line from Seattle to Portland.

Eventually, Harriman found out Hill's true intentions. Harriman staked out a claim for a right-of-way along the narrowest parts of the north bank of the Columbia River. But Hill went to court, arguing that Harriman was not really serious: Hill had crews of hundreds of men and heavy machinery working on the line, while Harriman had but two men and a wheelbarrow! Hill prevailed, of course.

Since the cat was out of the bag, Hill renamed the railroad "Spokane, Portland and Seattle." Actually, he might not have bothered to change the name, but added "Spokane" to the title as a concession to the town of Spokane, which wanted some publicity in exchange for letting a new railroad into its city center.

Empire Builder letterboard

Screen and text colors based on the Great Northern Empire Builder.

Back to the History of the SP&S