Hillyard Shops

Great Northern published this little history booklet in 1954 when it opened a new Diesel shop at Hillyard, the railway’s Spokane yard and shops. The booklet, which is from the Spokane Public Library’s Northwest Collection, notes that Hillyard (named after James J. Hill) was incorporated as a town in 1892 and selected by the GN as a location for its yard and shops in 1893. While the booklet makes it appear as if these were independent events, it is more likely that Hill asked some of his local confederates to incorporate the town so he could avoid paying taxes to the city of Spokane. (Spokane nonetheless annexed Hillyard in 1924.) On the other hand, Hill generally opposed naming railroad-built structures after himself, so it is likely that the name was thought up locally.

Click image to download a 4.1-MB PDF of this brochure.

As previously noted, Hillyard is where the Great Northern built its gigantic R-1 and R-2 locomotives. Not only were these the first locomotives built by the railway (or, this booklet claims, any American railroad), this booklet quotes the shop foreman of the time saying, “to tell the truth, none of us at HiIlyard had even been inside a locomotive works.” They had, however, completely disassembled and reassembled many locomotives, and in any case the locomotive boilers (the most technical part of the work) were made in Seattle and shipped to Hillyard.

The booklet incorrectly describes the R-1 as a Mallet, but technically a Mallet uses the same steam in different cylinders twice, once at high pressure and once at a lower pressure. The Great Northern did own some Mallets, but they were overly complicated so it converted them to “simple” single-pressure operation. Many railroaders continued to apply the term Mallet to any articulated locomotive with multiple sets of drivers, which explains why this booklet makes the error.

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