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Washington \ Apex Gold Mine Railroad

Apex Gold Mine Railroad.

By John A. Taubeneck

W   hile Washington isn’t known for its mining railroads it did indeed have several interesting roads of this type. One of these was owned by the Apex Gold Mining Co. located on Money Creek just west of Skykomish in eastern King County. Like many of its kind this road was steep, short, and unprofitable. Hard rock mining in Washington tended to extract more money from the investors than from the ground.

The Apex was located in 1892 by Alex McCartney who cut a trail to the mine and managed to pack out 400 tons of ore over the next couple of years. In 1897 McCartney sold out to John F. Stevens (of Stevens Pass and Panama Canal fame) and John Malony, both civil engineers with the Great Northern Railroad. Under their ownership 2000’ of tunnel was driven and enough ore was extracted to keep interest up.

In June 1903 the mine was sold again to Abner Griffin, A. L. Chambers, and Alex McCartney for the sum of $25,000. These men managed to talk King County into starting construction on six miles of wagon road to their mine. After expending $2900 the county put a halt to work on the road and left $8000 owing to the 95 workers. This debt was shouldered by the mining company and as they had no money to pay the men off they had to keep them employed. At this point Chambers and McCartney sold their shares to Griffin who was left holding the bag.

Down but not out Griffin kept going with his pack teams bringing from one to one and a half tons of ore down to the railroad each day. When a carload was ready it was shipped to the Tacoma smelter where it realized from $1000 to $1300 profit. By this time the company was $38,000 in debt and no one would take Griffin’s checks. A stockholder’s meeting was called and it was decided to pay out half of the income from the ore sales as a dividend on the stock which over night turned the Apex from a money pit into a glory hole. Within fifteen days of the dividend payment the stock price had tripled and $8000 had been raised.

By the end of 1906 a Pelton wheel had been installed on Money Creek to power an ore concentrator, electric light plant, and saw mill. The wagon road had been completed to the mine and two miles of 36” gauge railroad was in place with enough rail on hand to build another three miles. A cable tram carried the ore from the mine to the end of the wagon road 1000 feet below. The ore bunker on the Great Northern RR had burned with a lose of $7000 but was rebuilt and shipments to the smelter continued by January of 1907. The total expenditure to this time was about $150,000.

With the completion of the ore mill sacked concentrates were shipped out rather than bulk ore. As the railroad inched its way up Money Creek from Berlin Station on the GN horses were used as motive power on the way up and gravity for the return trip. By the end of 1907 4.5 miles were in place. Despite bright promises it wasn’t until 1909 that the rails reached the mine six miles above Berlin. All during the construction there had been much grousing in the press by Griffin that the GN was going to get much business from this line but wouldn’t help pay for it.

With the railroad completed it was decided to order a 20-ton Shay from Lima and an unidentified gasoline locomotive. The gas loco was reported in route from the East in February 1910 but was never mentioned again. On April 30th the Shay (C/N 2300) was shipped from Ohio. The mine closed not too long after this and sat idle until it was leased by W. J. Priestly in 1917. The Shay was sold to the Alaska-Gastineau Mining Co. of Juneau, AK in March 1913. Priestly continued working the mine as a cottage industry using a gas speeder and later a Bulldog Mack dump truck on the railroad. By the late 30’s a white horse was used to pull one empty four-wheeled car up to the mine. When the car was loaded it was allowed to roll back to Berlin with only a board against one wheel for breaks, the horse following at its own pace. By 1937 the state had decided to build a road up the Tolt River and down Money Creek. As part of this project Preiestly’s railroad right of way was acquired and the rails removed. The mine was closed in 1943 with a total production of about $300,000.

If you visit Money Creek today there is nothing left to see of all this activity. The construction of the road and later changes have removed all traces of the railroad. Berlin was changed to Miller River during World War I and has slowly returned to the forest. Still, this is a great day trip into the Cascades. Take Highway 2 to the Money Creek Camp Ground exit then follow the old road to the Money Creek road on the right. This is a good gravel road that will take you almost to the mine.

Originally Printed In: Tall Timber Short Lines Vol 5 #2 Apr-May 1997. Reprinted here with Author's permission.
Revised: July 3, 2017.

Reference Data Available Online:


Locomotive Roster

Historic References.

The metal mines of Washington By Ernest Newton Patty, Washington Geological Survey.
Description of the Miller River mining area and the Apex Mine includes a photograph of the lower tram house and a diagram of the mine.

Mining and engineering world, Volume 27 1907 #18 Published by Mining World Company, Chicago.
Brief mention of mine holdings and construction of the railroad.

Agricultural, Manufacturing and Commercial Resources and Capabilities of Washington, 1901.
Brief early mention of mining at Apex.

Washington \ Apex Gold Mine Railroad
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