I've been holding out on you. Several months ago our friends at WAAAM found a small handmade album of faded images meticulously annotated in very faded pencil. Thank goodness they realized what a treasure it was and sent it our way. I've worked with our friends at WAAAM, our railroad enthusiast friends across the state, as well as my friends Google and Photoshop to get this ready to share with you. You're in for a real treat. Here's what we've been able to figure out:
Between 1900 and 1902 a young man named Earl Conser was a member of an engineering crew working on the realignment of the railroad between Hood River and Rowena. The original rail laid in the 1880s had too many bends and curves, all of which could be corrected with some more tunnels, extensive fill and blasting. This was probably a pretty appealing job for a twenty year old from Portland.
Earl Conser probably took most of the photos in the album himself, though there are a few Benjamin Gifford images mixed in. I'll eventually share over 30 images from this wonderful album with you, but we'll start with just a week of posts so I don't wear you out.
There are so many things I love about this image, but I think I'll let you appreciate it yourselves. It was taken just east of Hood River, showing a newly completed tunnel on the OR&N Company track.
I hope you enjoy our visit with Mr. Conser and friends at the rail camps and construction sites between Hood River and Mosier. From everything I've learned about Mr. Conser I think he would be thrilled to know his album was being shared widely 115 tears after he prepared it.
[Ed. note: Adding a little more information about this image]
The caption from the album says: "East end of tunnel No. 2 showing old ? and handcar of Engineers Corps/ B? Campbell E? H?, Stanley Starr/J. W. Macrum C. N. Jaquette"
Tunnel 2 is east of Mosier, just west of Memaloose Island. The railroad now uses a deep cut through the basalt south of this tunnel (behind these men) instead of the old tunnel in this picture. You can explore the old alignment in Google Earth. It's easiest to approach from the west side. Search for the big rail cut, then look for the old alignment on the north side of the cut.
This is the same tunnel we saw in this Benjamin Gifford image.
I've been waiting for these and this first one turned out terrific. Looking forward to being able to see the detail in the rest. Such an exciting find. Thank you for your work in preserving this treasure before it faded away!
suej on 5th December 2016 @ 7:10am
Many of the wonderful photos we now are able to view were Benjamin Gifford. For those of you who don't know who he was, he photographed all up and down the Columbia, between Portland and The Dalles. He had an initial studio in Portland and eventually removed to The Dalles were he worked until he went back to Portland in 1910. It was there that he partnered with Arthur Prentiss in a studio they had until Gifford retired. He spent his remaining years in a log cabin house with his wife in Vancouver.
Do we know if that tunnel is still there, or is it long gone?
Arlen will be going wild over all this....
Charlott on 5th December 2016 @ 7:11am
It looks like there is surveying equipment laying on the bed of the rail cart.
Dale Nicol on 5th December 2016 @ 7:13am
O my o my ! ... way way cool ! Looking forward to more ... thank you !
Stever on 5th December 2016 @ 8:12am
The tunnel is still there. Driving westbound coming down the hill to Mosier you can get a brief glimpse of it if you know where to look.
Marilyn on 5th December 2016 @ 8:34am
Wear us out??
How could you be silent about this for several months?
When you open up the photo, it has instant appeal
L.E. on 5th December 2016 @ 8:42am
There is a box on the handcar. What does it say on the end of the box?
gc on 5th December 2016 @ 9:10am
The crate says "CAKES GOLDEN STAR". It has an image of a star with rays projecting outward. I have been unable to figure out what the crate might have held.
Arthur on 5th December 2016 @ 9:14am
Arthur, do you know if Earl's name is Earl Hosmer Conser?
L.E. on 5th December 2016 @ 10:43am
Arlen is going wild over this.....amazing find and sharing from the WAAAAAAM folk.....love the surveyor stick......some things didn't change for many years. Arlen
Arlen Sheldrake on 5th December 2016 @ 10:48am
I think I answered my own question.
In the December 22, 1900 Oregonian:
"Death of Mrs. Ruth E. Conser, wife of Conductor W.S. Conser of the Southern Pacific, died at her home.....She was born of pioneer parents at The Dalles, April 28, 1856, and soon afterwards moved to Portland with her mother, Mrs. Amanda Hosmer.....A husband, son and daughter survive her....the latter are Earl H. Conser connected with the survey department of the O.R.&N......"
Amanda Hosmer, Earl's grandmother was Amanda Coffey. The Coffey family were early surveyors in the Gorge area and their homestead was close to where I grew up.
On another note.....I just spent the weekend in a hotel in Tacoma on Hosmer Street, named after Theodore Hosmer, an early Northern Pacific Railroad man who was involved in laying out the Tacoma terminus.
L.E. on 5th December 2016 @ 11:23am
Yes, that's the same Earl H. Conser. He died in an automobile accident in 1930. His obituary was inserted into the album, possibly by his wife or daughter.
Arthur on 5th December 2016 @ 11:32am
I believe "Cakes Gold Star" was a brand of soap at the time. I guess they are doing a supply run for their camp.
another hukari on 5th December 2016 @ 11:41am
Thanks for that hint. I've found an 1891 trademark registration in Oregon for "Golden Star as applied to soap, on boxes, bars and wrappers" granted to the Luckel, King & Cake Soap Company.
Arthur on 5th December 2016 @ 12:22pm
Tunnel is still there and open. When the present big cut was made the tunnel was blocked but over time has re- opened, Access is illegal on RR property but doable.
Kenn on 5th December 2016 @ 1:15pm
From - Heppner Gazette-Times. (Heppner, Or.) 1925-current, July 03, 1930, Image 6
Motor Crash Results In Death - E. H. Conser
Earl H. Conser of Burns, 50, died Wednesday morning from internal injuries received when he went to sleep at the wheel of his automobile, and drove off the highway at the end of a culvert near Burns early Sunday morning. He was driving alone and was not found by passing motorists until 4 a. m.
Mr. Conser, a nephew of George Conser, one-time cashier of the First National bank of Heppner, was a former resident or this city, having served as an employee of the First National bank and at one time as deputy county clerk. He left Heppner in 1908.
He was cashier of the First National bank of Burns since 1918, until recently when he resigned to take active charge of the Seneca company. He retained interests in the bank and was the active vice president
Mr. Conser is survived by his widow, nee Wllletta Leaser, a daughter Kathryn, and a sister, Mrs. J. L. Gault of Corvallis.
LMH on 5th December 2016 @ 1:49pm
I should have included the caption from the album: "East end of tunnel No. 2 showing old ? and handcar of Engineers Corps/ B? Campbell E? H?, Stanley Starr/J. W. Macrum C. N. Jaquette"
Tunnel 2 is east of Mosier, just west of Memaloose Island. The railroad now uses a cut instead of the old tunnel in this picture. This is the same tunnel we saw in http://historichoodriver.com/index.php?showimage=1327
Arthur on 5th December 2016 @ 5:29pm
I'd say the soap box was being repurposd for their small surveying equipment, supplies, and hand tools. The box in the back has the familiar marks of the case for the transit or level. The one thing of size that I don't see, that should be with the range poles and stadia rod would be the tripod.
spinsur on 5th December 2016 @ 7:40pm
I don't know if they had "cake" yeast then. But the box could have had yeast cakes in it at one time.
Judy on 5th December 2016 @ 9:40pm
Earl Conser is using the tripod for his camera!
I came back to take a look at the photo before I go to bed. There is so much detail.
You can see the iron stakes pounded into the sand, for tying up the boats. You can see the high water mark, probably from the spring flood, which makes me wonder if there is a water mark from the 1894 flood, on those rocks.
How high did the Bonneville Pool rise on the rocks?
All that labor to build the tunnel, and then it is abandoned. At least they had a simple solution for getting rid of the rock.
L.E. on 5th December 2016 @ 11:45pm
Before tunnel 2 was replaced by the parallel cut, this spot on the line was straightened to eliminate the sharp curve and trestle. A trestle on a curve is threatened by the thrust from the trains, and the curvature itself drags down the trains power and efficiency.
Kenn on 6th December 2016 @ 7:45am
Ah, good point LE on the tripod!
spinsur on 6th December 2016 @ 8:54am
To clarify the rail history: As I understand it, this tunnel was cut about 1882. The project Earl Conser was involved in straightened track on this side (east) of the tunnel so, as Kenn explains, there is not a curve on top of a trestle. You can see the old and "new" curve clearly in the Gifford photo I link in the Notes. The same thing was done east of the Hood River depot, resulting in the "new" rail bridge we still have today.
At a later date the tunnel was bypassed completely and the track made even straighter with a deep cut through the rock south of the tunnel.
You will see some tunnel construction pictures in this series, but they are a different tunnel.
Arthur on 6th December 2016 @ 9:24am