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Mr. Hipkins and His Maintenance Car

‘Pa Hip’ was the key man on the streetcar line.

The Maintenance Car of the Seattle Renton & Southern Line, circa 1916 | RVHS Photo: #93.1.456

This is the shop-built locomotive used as a repair car for maintenance work on the streetcar line between Renton and Seattle. The car traveled along Rainier Avenue from Renton to  downtown Seattle, then up 4th Avenue to Stewart Street. This photo was taken in 1916 or ’17.

It was also used for hauling coal cars, probably from Newcastle, and delivering them to one of the many fuel yards along Rainier Avenue that in turn, delivered the coal to their customer’s homes by horse and wagon.

Louis Hipkins, looking out of the cab window on the locomotive, was the master mechanic and blacksmith that built the locomotive at the company car barns on Rainier Avenue at Hudson Street. He was known as “Pa Hip” to all his friends and fellow employees.

He worked for the car line, building and repairing the cars for 47 years. When the car line changed ownership, which it did many times, the new owners insisted he remain with the company before the sale was finalized.

The line ceased operations on January 1st, 1937, ending 47 years of private transportation service. The Rainier Valley line was the only streetcar line that was not bought and operated by the city.

There were several owners over the 47 years and they all lost money except Mr. Osgood, the original investor. When the rail line ceased operating, city busses took over the transportation needs of the Valley.

When Pa Hip retired, he and his wife moved to their cabin on Camano Island where about ten Columbia City residents also built summer homes, The post office address for their “little community” was what else but “Columbia City #2, Camano Island, Washington.”

Days Gone By 

South District Journal 9/27/2000

By Buzz Anderson


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