The largest artifact in the collections of the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum is the 1889 Pullman-built narrow gauge wooden passenger coach NAHCOTTA. It has had a lucky, and colorful life:


On a trip to Chicago, Illinois, in March 1889, Jacob Kamm (vice-president of the Ilwaco Railway & Navigation Co.) ordered the wooden narrow gauge passenger coachNAHCOTTA. The coach was constructed by the Pullman’s Palace Co. based on Floor Plan #620, and according to the shop order, it was painted “Pullman Standard” — a dark chocolate brown color.

1889 – 1930

The NAHCOTTA provided 41 years of service for the railroad and its successive owners:

  • 1889-1907 – Ilwaco Railway & Navigation Co
  • 1907-1910 – Ilwaco Railroad Co
  • 1910-1930 – Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation CO (under Union Pacific)

The NAHCOTTA was a typical passenger coach for the 1880s, not a fancy custom built car. However, it was the only Pullman coach owned by the IR&N. Thus, its distinctive characteristics make it recognizable in historic photographs. The most noticeable features being the double-hung windows, 13 on a side. The end door windows are in the upper 2/3 of the door, and the top of the door has right angles in the corners. The letter board is narrow, the end curves on the roof are distinct, and the lower truss rod is clearly visible under the car on each of the long sides.

1930 – 1960s

Along with the other passenger coaches, the exteriors now painted a dark green, the NAHCOTTA was sold. There is a story from one family in Long Beach, Washington that their great aunt bought the Jackson and Sharp combination car for $50. With all the seats removed to make room for living quarters, the NAHCOTTA was used as a cottage in Seaview, Washington. By then, it was painted several shades of a pale greenish color.

1960s – 2003

In the 1960s, Henry Welzel, farmer and railroad enthusiast, acquired the NAHCOTTA, and moved it to his property in Fife, Washington. For approximately 30 years, Mr. Welzel refurbished the NAHCOTTA to the way we see it today. He painted it at least twice in various shades of red with yellow design elements.

In the interior, Mr. Welzel kept much of the original Eastlake-style woodwork. He used oak where repairs and replacements were needed. His craftsmanship was excellent as he created those pieces to the same pattern and dimensions as the original paneling and moulding. Mr. Welzel also set in a partition with an interior door creating two seating compartments. He added various items of railroad memorabilia that are not original to the NAHCOTTA. Since the original seats had been removed when the car served as a cottage, Mr. Welzel had replica Carter Brothers style seats made and installed them in the NAHCOTTA.

2003 – Present

At the bequest of Henry Welzel, the NAHCOTTA returned to Ilwaco in May 2003, where a covered courtyard and raised platform were built for its display next to the Ilwaco Freight Depot, just ½ east of the original IR&N tracks.

Now at the Museum, the NAHCOTTA plays an important role as the center piece of the region’s railroad interpretation, and embodies much of the history of the quirky railroad which continues to fascinate the public. The IR&N’s story has spawned several books, interest groups, self-guided driving tour, and an annual event:  “Clamshell Railroad Days” held in July at the Museum.