Burien Washington - Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services

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Rebuilding the Rails
A Boon to Business
The closing of the line was a bitter blow to many. Property all along the route had already been platted, and many people had started building homes. From Seahurst to White Center, residents (and potential residents) were left waiting for transportation. Consequently, the money needed for Seattle to take over and operate the line - around $30,000 - was raised fairly quickly.
With the track cleared, service resumed and the line rapidly built up a lucrative business under its new management. The passenger trade was brisk. Many spans and passing tracks were built. Freight hauling became almost as profitable as passenger traffic, with carloads of bricks, building supplies, and produce sharing the tracks with passenger cars.

Many shipyard workers moved to Burien, since the railroad traveled to Riverside, site of one of the shipyards. The streetcar and better roads spurred rapid growth of the South End after 1911. They also transformed the character of the community from agricultural to suburban, as more white-collar workers commuted because of improved transportation. Many of them settled in the Seahurst and Three Tree Point areas.

As the trolley line and Ambaum Boulevard brought more people to the area, businesses sprouted along Ambaum and SW 152nd. Even in the 1930s, however, the Highline area remained "a community of chicken farms, greenhouses, and truck gardeners hauling produce to the Seattle Public Market." Rail service was discontinued to Seahurst in May, 1929. White Center was served until December 17, 1933 when a slide covered the Michigan Street siding. The Toonerville Trolley was the only line of its kind in Seattle - entirely single-tracked over private right of way. And it is not entirely gone: to this day, some of the old tracks lie buried beneath the pavement on Ambaum Blvd.

Continue on to learn more about the life of Jacob Ambaum.

14700 6th Avenue SW   /  Burien, WA 98166  /  Ph: (206) 988-3700  /  Fax: (206) 243-2784
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