All Aboard the Clamshell Railroad!

Jul 19, 2013 | 2 comments

All Aboard

All Aboard!

Before assuming his duties as superintendent of the Peninsula’s narrow gauge railroad back in ‘aught five,’ Edward R. Budd made a tour of inspection over the road.  Afterwards, when he was asked for his general impressions, he replied, “Clamshell Railroad!”  It’s not clear whether or not Budd made the remark in a derisive manner, but the term stuck in affectionate memory of the quirky little rail line.

The official name of the railroad changed throughout its short life, depending upon who had controlling interest in the company.  At first, though, it was called the Ilwaco Railroad and Navigation Company, shortened as is the way with railroads to “I. R. & N.”

Celebrating the I. R., & N.

Celebrating the I. R. & N.

One of the local newspaper editors teased that those letters really stood for the “Irregular, Rambling, and Never-Get-There” railroad.  The “advertisement” he put in his paper is reproduced on the outer north wall of Bailey’s Bakery and Café in Nahcotta, not far from the once-upon northern terminus of the line.

When I was a child, there were still many physical reminders of the train on the Peninsula. Sections of track could be seen cemented into the newly paved First Street in Ilwaco.  Several of the old coaches were being used as summer cabins in Long Beach. Almost every curio shop on the Peninsula had a bit of railroad memorabilia for sale.

Over the years, books have been written about the line, several of the depots have been rescued and renovated (most famously the Depot Restaurant in Seaview), and the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum has become a depository for artifacts (the largest being an original passenger coach) and information.  In addition, CPHM hosts “Clamshell Railroad Days” each summer – a celebration that begins today at the Long Beach Depot with entertainment by the Bayside Singers and the Shoalwater Storytellers!  And cupcakes!  All Aboard at 2:00 p.m.!!


  1. Steve Wright

    Sydney ,I loved your story about the I.R.&N. I find it rather timely as yesterday I assembled the Lionel train set that belonged to my cousin when we were growing up! That was back in the early 60s and the train has been sitting in a box for 40+ yrs! It still works, whistle and all. Your story makes me want to find out more
    about the I.R.&N.!

  2. Stephanie Frieze

    I have always thought that re-instituting the railroad would be a great tourist attraction, not to mention relieving some of the traffic, but no one is disposed to giving up property or ponying up money for laying track. Although whimsical it may have been, it bespeaks of a gentler way of life. One could not be in a rush when relying on a friendly railroad!


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