ILWACO - Northeast Electric workers unearthed a section of the Clamshell Railroad track while they were beginning to install a new stoplight in Ilwaco in late July. The track was laid in 1889 as part of the Ilwaco Railroad and Navigation Company's line that eventually ran from Nahcotta to Megler.
The electric company brought a four-foot section of the track to the Ilwaco Heritage Museum a couple of weeks later, along with a piece of a tie and several spikes of varying lengths. Nancey Olson, executive director, asked the workers at Northeast Electric if they could bring by any railroad artifacts they uncovered as they worked and she said, "They would bring by items they dug up on a regular basis."
Barbara Minard, collection manager, said the rail, tie and spikes will be stored with the museum's transportation artifacts.
"The problem is that metal, once it again sees the light of day, begins to rust and needs a dry environment while wood is just the opposite and needs moisture to be preserved," Minard said. She said about a year and a half ago the museum installed an HVAC system that regulates temperature and humidity in the storage building. "The humidity will be kept between 45 and 60 percent. The railroad tie is waterlogged and we won't know what shape it is going to be in until it is completely dry."
Minard explained that the section of rail that was uncovered ran toward the freight depot and that beyond that point there was a turnaround. A section also led to the dock at what is now the Port of Ilwaco and that passengers could get off the train on a peer and then board a boat with relative ease.
While the rail, tie, and spikes will be stored for the time being, Minard said they will likely be part of future railroad displays as the museum rotates what they exhibit at its building on Lake Street in Ilwaco between First and Williams streets.