Imagine. The 1870s in Kalama. Way back when the Northern Pacific Railroad was constructed between Tacoma and our humble town. That one bold development is what really put Kalama on the map.

Early developers purchased 700 acres here in Kalama and broke ground for the terminus of the new railroad in May 1870. And just like that—the population started to grow with employees of the railroad operations.

Kalama’s population swelled to 3,500 with the railroad building a dock, a sawmill, a car shop, a roundhouse, a turntable, hotels, a hospital, stores, and homes. Soon added to the burgeoning town of Kalama were, of course, saloons, a brewery, and a gambling hall! And the naturally deep segment of river meant sailing vessels could reliably reach Kalama adding to the commerce.

The 1870s are also when trains floated on the Columbia River!

After the Civil War railroads knit the country together, laying tracks at a furious pace but those tracks stopped at the edge of the Columbia River—right here in Kalama.

For 25 years, from 1883 to 1909, the train was ferried across the river by the world’s 2nd largest ferry at that time – the Tacoma – which could transport either 12 passenger cars or 27 freight cars across the Columbia River from Kalama to Goble, Oregon.

And the beloved Minnetonka was the little engine that could pull that big train on and off the ferry.

One auspicious visitor to float across the Columbia by train immediately saw the potential of the region. Teddy Roosevelt foretold the success of the yet-to-be established Port of Kalama in a 1903 speech:

“I realize as every thinking man must the wonderful future that lies before this state, for it is one in which in its future development is going to show as great and varied industrial growth as New York or Pennsylvania.”

And now look at you now, Port of Kalama! Happy 100th years of progress!