Bothell, Washington is a community adjacent to the Seattle metropolitan area. It is near the northern end of Lake Washington. At one time, the Northern Pacific Sumas Branch ran through the village on its way to the Canadian border. There wasn’t a lot there even in its peak as source of traffic on the railroad. There were a couple regular shippers and small depot that housed the agent. The community to the west was Kenmore which had a log dump and a mill and to the east was Woodinville. There were several shippers in Woodinville but was also a junction with the line that ran on the east side of Lake Washington from Renton.

Many of you may be familiar with the term “LDE” or Layout Design Element. Tony Koester has long championed the concept of adding prototype-based focal points to your railroad. The LDE brings together purpose, location, era and railroad. It can say something about the terrain, industry and intensity of operations. There are my attempt to pretend that I understand prototype operation. I don’t! I have always built stuff and hardly ever ran my equipment. Mostly because of my choice to live in the not so great state of California. Homes are at a premium as you likely already know. Readers of this blog know that I do have space now but have lacked the focus to put it into play. I am starting to see a way forward in direction. Bothell is my focus currently. It will make an interesting diorama and an operating point as part of my planned railroad.

The layout of Bothell is very compact and simple. It has four switches and three customers. A moderately size feed mill, a sheet rock wholesaler and a team track with dock. The focal point is very compact depot of a non-standard design built by a predecessor of the Northern Pacific. To better illustrate the simplicity of Bothell, I have inserted a plan plot done by the railroad detailing some changes to the track in 1955. This is close to the era I model.

I am in the process of sketching out the details of track placement on module for my garage. I need to fit a 60″ radius on one end and fit in the 21 feet allocated for the scene. Stay tuned on that front.

The is a shot taken by Rick Leach showing the depot just prior to it being torn down. In fact, demolition was underway. The camera is point northwest. This not the era I intend to model but the large collection of photos Rick shared really help with planning.

This is the west end of the depot. You can see a small portion of the feed mill in the background.

This is the switch leading to the customers. Note the super elevation on the main and the spur pitching the opposite direction. This is one feature that will not make it on my scene.

The lead photo was taken by Rick’s dad in 1963. It captures much of the original characteristics of the old Northern Pacific. The classic GP-9 in its original colors of imitation gold and black long since gone from the northwestern rail scene. By the way, the depot had been rebuilt several time over its life. There are three different siding material used with shiplap on the west end and novelty on the east end. The hip roof had cedar shingles and a platform for a fire barrel. The NP adopted a sand and brown color scheme in 1943. The Bothell depot was later repainted with just the sand color.

In the early 1960s, the building was rebuilt removing the hip roof and composite shingle material. The picture yields information on a section car set out and the classic barber pole crossing sign.

Here is a view of the opposite side of the Walters Feed Mill at Bothell. The picture dated from 1968. Earlier pictures show that there was a second smaller mill on the right side of the remaining building. I don’t know when this business folded. The whole region was rapidly changing from a rural farming area to residential.


Rick Leach’s dad took many pictures in the area having lived in Bothell and Woodinville. Rick has shared some of these pictures of the 1940s. The first shot of Bothell was taken before 1945 showing ten-wheeler 1361 rolling into town. The depot was painted red and bottle green which was likely the original scheme applied by the NP when it took over the line.

It is a bit hard to see the details of this picture but the locomotive headlight had a wartime hood in place. The depot did not have an coal shed on this end. Rick Leach told me that logs did fall off as the trains made their way past Bothell on their way to Kenmore.

The Douglas Leach picture shown above was taken the late the 1940s after the depot was repainted and a small coal shed was added.

The year is 1947 and there was a special train movement for some group excursion. The old truss rod steel underframe coach was used as part of the movement. The picture shown more detail of the feed mill and the small mill structure to the left of the main building.

Bothell has a simple charm that can be a manageable project.

Thanks for the checking out this posting.



14 thoughts on “PROTOTYPE INFORMATION: Bothell a LDE?

  1. Gene, Thanks for sharing these pictures of Bothell. They show the different elevations in even relatively flat terrain. A good example for us modelers to take note of

    • The station was on ground above the Sammamish river with hills rising immediately alongside on the south. As a cyclist I never thought of this as flat country! The slough/river is not much above sea level here (30′?) but the hills can reach over 300′. Just west (maybe a quarter to half mile) of the Bothell station was a good sized trestle spanning the Sammamish, maybe 20′ above water level. It’s still there today as part of the trail.

      • Dave
        I have a topo map for area showing elevation changes. Several of Douglas Leach photos show the grade change. I also have a shot of Walters mill taken from a distance

  2. Excellent choice for your scene. Because of family friends we visited the town several times in the mid 1950s then again in 1965/66 when I attended U of W.

  3. Thanks for sharing the photos Gene. I commuted through the yard area on the bike trail that replaced the rails for years and almost all traces of the line, except for some overgrown (with the ever-present blackberry) ROW, have disappeared. Woodinville rail infrastructure is slowly disappearing, too. Hard to believe the few pieces left were once the original mainline out of NP. The pictures you share bring the past to life. Bothell will provide you an interesting layout.

  4. Thank you for this rather extensive set of photos and information on a neat rural branchline station and surrounding industry. It would make a perfect shelf switching layout with staging tracks on either or both ends.

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