Sunday, February 19, 2017


Ralston is about 10 miles south of Ritzville. It happens to be along a route that I take on a perhaps yearly basis and am familiar with, but is a bit off the main highways. That said, if you find yourself traveling between Spokane and Tri-Cities, the route through Ralston avoids what I refer to as the Valley of Everlasting Boredom (Hatton Coulee) between Lind and Connell. And the route passes relatively close to Palouse Falls - a side trip that should be on everyone's list of must see places in Washington State. 

The first view of Ralston is its high rise grain elevator.  

The taller elevator is a remnant of the day when Ralston still had an active rail line. The newer elevator on the left is served by trucks as the rail has been abandoned since 1980. Ralston had the misfortune of being served by the wrong rail route - the Milwaukee Road Pacific Extension. Better train routes for serving grain shipments were located to the northwest and east.

With more prosperous Ritzville just 10 miles away Ralston slowly faded over time. The mechanization of farm equipment meant less people were needed to farm the dry land wheat. Paved roads and cars further undermined the small town. By 1980 the town was mostly a ghost town with a few residences left. My first visit to Ralston was on a hot summer day after Mount Saint Helens had blanketed this area with 4 to 6 inches of ash. The land was a moonscape of gray but with a blue sky. But even at that time the store above was closed up. 

There is however a local community pride that continues. The local grange hall appears to be maintained.

The road rises up on the south side of town and someone is keeping up the old hotel as a residence.

There is a maintained small park along the side of the road. The park is dedicated to the memory of a WWII boatswain, Reinhardt Keppler, killed in action in the Pacific. Fiver other locals, including two brothers, lost in the war are also honored. 

By WWII this area was already declining in population. I tried to image the young men leaving the wide open spaces and isolated farmsteads and heading out into the vastness of the Pacific Ocean to serve their country. I hope that they found some joy and adventure before they arrived at their fate. In small communities losses like this must have been particularly hard.

No comments: