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Above: Lester slideshow (uses Flash player)

Above: This is where the Lester Depot once stood.

Above: The west end of town entering the watershed area.

Above: The railroad viaduct climbing east of Lester.


Journey to Lester

Behind this yellow gate begins a melancholy journey to our recent past. A time gone by where there once was a thriving town that no longer exists. But it does exist in our hearts, and for the many folks who once lived there- who are now in their golden years that can reflect on this chapter in their lives.

In the summer of 2006, we visited this ghost town to respectfully bring the enchantment and memory of this place back into our heart and soul. What is left is a fragment of what once was. For the past residences of this town, both living and those who have passed, we dedicate this to you.

Above: Lester is nestled in a wilderness valley between Greenwater and Stampede Pass. It is not approachable during the winter snow.

The sounds of Lester are the wind and the birds along with the occasional train that pipes its way further up through the Stampede Pass tunnel. An eerie silence of nature and machine.

Yet there is a lingering sadness that looms throughout this ghost town. Its hard to believe there were nearly one thousand residents living here tucked in a scenic valley just west of Stampede Pass. A valley that begins the journey west that forms the Tacoma water shed just above the Howard Hanson dam. A village so to speak that supported the railroad line through many skilled workers. They raised families here, had their own grocery store, school and hotel.

But the passage of time is not always kind. As trains became more efficient and reliable, there became less need for a dedicated town to support that uphill climb over the pass. Still, Lester marched on with aplomb and the Lester School itself became a proud namesake.

But not for long. Tacoma school district eventually closed the school- and without an industry to support the town, residences began to evaporate. The city of Tacoma purchased the land in and around the city of Lester and their life long leases apportioned to residents of the town had an interesting clause in the contract. Their homes would revert back to the city of Tacoma at their death. These homes could not be sold or transferred.

And in time, these homes were bulldozed one by one. The structures that do remain are most likely of folks who have long since taken residence elsewhere and who have not passed away.

I was recently fortunate to visit a special Lester presentation hosted by the BNSF Retirees group of Auburn. In attendance were many folks who lived and worked there. Their tales and experiences are as remarkable as the fading memory of Lester.

All content & images are copyright ©2006 Clint Thayer