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It began 80 years ago today.  March 30, 1942 was the first day of forced relocation and incarceration of individuals of Japanese ancestry in Washington State.  The first affected were the 200 children, women, and men living on Bainbridge Island.  By May 22, 1941, employees of the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company logging railroad – who built and maintained an extensive network of more than 150 miles of track – were forced to leave their jobs and homes. 

Initially, many of those forced to evacuate were sent to Puyallup and temporarily housed in squalid conditions adjacent to the Puyallup Fairgrounds.  Soon after, these people were relocated out of state, many to a hastily-built prison camp in Idaho.  In all, for most of WW II more than 8,000 residents of King County were imprisoned.  They consisted of  aliens and citizens, children and adults, women and men, and the healthy and the infirm.  Following their release, many never returned to their communities. 

Workers of Japanese ancestry had a profound impact on railroads in Washington State.  In the immediate aftermath of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese immigrants were active in the construction of many area railroads including the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway and the Great Northern Railway.  The next time you travel on the Museum’s railway between North Bend and Snoqualmie Falls consider that it was originally built by Japanese immigrant labor.