South Bend depot

South Bend once aspired to be a major seaport and transportation hub. The Northern Pacific Railroad, completed from Chehalis to South Bend in 1892, was one of the few promised railroad plans that came to fruition in Pacific County and, under various mergers and name changes, it continued to operate until 1990. During the line’s peak years in the early 20th century, it hosted two freight and two daily passenger trains. The last passenger train left the South Bend Depot in 1954 and the freight trains ran until 1990 when, scheduled for abandonment, the line’s rails and ties were removed. In 1993, the property was transferred to Washington State Parks for recreational use.

Much to the amusement of other settlements around the shores of the newly named “Willapa” Bay, the slogan “Baltimore of the Pacific” continued to be used for promotional purposes long after the boom days of South Bend were over.

In December 1905, the South Bend Journal attempted to justify the comparison between Baltimore, Maryland, and the recently established seat of Pacific County in South Bend.

“Baltimore,” said the writer, “was the recognized center of the oyster industry on the Atlantic coast, so South Bend is rapidly gaining that unique position on the Pacific Coast.” Further, the article pointed out, that Baltimore was on a river at the head of Chesapeake Bay and South Bend was on a river above Willapa Bay.

The article went on to say that Baltimore had an average depth of 20 feet of water after significant dredging and that South Bend had about 30 feet without such government expenditure.

From that point on in the comparisons, readers were informed about the uniqueness of South Bend when compared to the famous city of the eastern seaboard. Baltimore, it was explained, was at the head of a bay 200 miles long generating expensive tows, while South Bend was but 17 from the ocean. Apparently, ‘nuff said! Similar comparisons for towing were made about the Puget Sound Cities and Portland.

And finally, despite work on channel and jetties, the article claimed that ships leaving Portland needed to be lightly loaded, with additional cargo added down-river — such “double-loading,” of course, would be unnecessary in South Bend. In summary, the article stated that South Bend as a seaport and industrial center had the “best harbor” north of San Francisco.

Hear! Hear!

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