What’s that in Graham?

Rainier from West Graham

First of all, let me say that when you drive into Graham, you are at a four-way stop with a strip mall on the NE corner, a small grocery and the post office on the SE corner, a closed gas station on the SW corner and a Rite-aid on the NW corner. There are a few other buildings but for the most part, this rather inauspicious intersection is the center of Graham.  A few blocks to the west, however and you can find views like the one above.

Since at least the mid ’70’s I have been driving by the property at the intersection of 252nd and Meridian looking at what appeared to be a small western town and wondering what the story was behind it. A couple of years ago I stopped and took some photos of the buildings, the small train and, from a distance, a large barn in the back of the property, but still had no idea what it was.

Rainier from West Graham (7)

Could be the Old West

I Think I can Hear Spurs

I Think I can Hear Spurs

The impetus for further investigation was noticing that the train had been moved, much of the track was gone and those wild-west-cow-town buildings, like the Cartwright’s used to walk by when they went into town, were gone.  I looked at the spot where the old west buildings used to be and wished I had paid more attention to them four years ago.  I had to get some answers before everything was gone.

I finally spoke to someone who directed me to Karl “Bean” Thun. Unable to find a phone number, I eventually came up with a couple of addresses and sent actual real letters, on paper and stuff. One of them found its way to Bean and he was nice enough to get in touch and gave me the scoop (which, by the way, is about the only scoop I’ve been able to get about Graham).

The property was purchased by Bean’s dad, John Thun, back in the ’60’s.

If you are a local, you may remember John Thun for the airfield named after him. Now it’s officially known as the Pierce County Airport, but it’s still often referred to as Thun field.

Anyway, John’s dream was to build an amusement park on the property. According to his son, he built all the buildings himself, by hand, rock-work and all–Apparently building things was a passion and a gift for him–but the project never came to fruition, time and taxes got in the way, so it sat, arousing curiosity, for years.

Examining the locomotive I noticed the power plant was marked, “MM”, and the side of the frame bore the name, “Plymouth.” Neither provided me much information at the time but I now know that the engine is from a Minneapolis Moline tractor and that Plymouth was the brand name under which the J.D. Fate Company of Plymouth, OH began building gas locomotives in about 1909. Most Plymouth locomotives were small (built for use in mines and similar operations), and were built for track gauges from 18″ to 66″. Today they are built by the W. W. Williams Co. in Columbus, OH.

Minneapolis Moline came to be in 1929 when Minneapolis Steel and Machinery merged with Moline Plow and was based in Hopkins, Minnesota.  In 1963 the company was taken over by White Motor Co. and the Minneapolis Moline name was dropped.


Lil’ M and M

Despite much searching, I cannot determine what model this locomotive might have been.

Today I went back to spend a little more time with my camera while what remains, remains. I shoot with a Canon Rebel XTI and most often with the standard 18-55 mm lens, but I have amassed a group of old glass form non-digital days that works beautifully with an adapter. I used a Takumar 17mm fisheye, a J. C. Penney 80-200mm zoom, and a Takumar 85 mm lens for this shoot.

The barn is listing heavily to the east and after looking inside I decided to follow Mr. Thun’s advise and stay on the outside of the building…but I did get a couple of shots from the outside  through the windows.  I was sorely tempted to go in and see what was upstairs…until I spotted the hole in the upstairs floor…the kind a foot leaves when breaking through rotten wood.

Rainier from West Graham (10)

Gravity Will Win in the End

I took the opportunity to get several more shots of the barn, the train as it sits on what’s left of the track at the back of the property, and the water tower built to enhance the looks of the whole set up. and, finally, I left. I think my curiosity has been satisfied.

As my previous readers will note, I like to dig up and present more information about my subject places.  Graham has proven a tough nut to crack; libraries have not even provided information as to how it got its name or when it was established. Nor have I been able to find any genealogical info as a starting point.  I did find the origin of the name, however.  It seems that mail delivered for the loggers and miners in the area were dropped off at the home of Mr. Graham.  It became common practice, when something had to be delivered to the area, to just, “take this to Graham”. Repeat it enough and it sticks, thus the unincorporated area of Washington State called…Graham.

If anyone reading this post can point me in the direction of more information please leave me a comment and get me on the trail.

I leave you with this gallery of shots for my two days, four years apart, photographing John Thun’s dream.  And, check out my other photos at my Flickr photostream.

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