19 May 2009

On the Scene of NX, Pt 1

The cast of main characters from NX

For those of you who were fortunate enough to watch the original Northern Exposure (NX), you were actually seeing scenes shot in Roslyn, Washington. You would have had no way of knowing that Roslyn was actually a coal-mining town with those mines owned and operated by the Northern Pacific Railway under the company name of Northwestern Improvement Company.

Old NP Ry logo and map
The only clue you would have had would have been this building with the Northwestern Mining Company name on its face. There never was an explanation for it in any of the episodes. That is because the story line for NX ignored the coal mining and railroad history of Roslyn. In fact the film producers went out of their way to ensure that we saw very little of that heritage in those episodes.

Here is a 1928 railroad map of Washington State showing the NPRy going through Roslyn. There is also another railroad to its south--the Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul and Pacific, aka the Milwaukee Road, which ran through South Cle Elum:

Click onto the above map for a much-larger image so you can see the details.
Below is a location map for the various underground coal mines located around Roslyn, Ronald and Cle Elum. You may also click this one to a larger size.

The NP was a short line out of Cle Elum built to access those coal mines in 1886. The last of those coal mines shut down in 1963. The last use of the NP RR line was in 1986 when the lumber yard in Ronald closed, ending any further use or need for that line forever. Shortly thereafter the tracks were pulled up and the right-of-way became a dedicated historic trail. When I returned to Roslyn after my two year absence I came armed with maps showing the locations of these mines. I wanted to see at least one of them. As it turned out there was very little left to see.
(to be continued).

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