Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite place in Tacoma is Pt. Defiance. When they put speed bumps through Five Mile Drive, making it so a nice relaxing drive is interrupted periodically by a big bump, I got no less than five phone calls asking how I felt about it. When they tore out the wood benches along the walk between the Boat House and Owen Beach, I actually cried. A few weeks ago when some brain dead teenager set fire to the Pagoda at the Japanese Gardens in Pt. Defiance, I didn’t even write about it because I was simply too angry. And now another era ends. Camp 6 is closing.
There are plenty of other online and offline news outlets that are doing a fine job of covering the history of Camp 6 and the steam logging museum located there. So I’m going to spend this post talking about my personal history with Camp 6.
As a child, I loved trains. My grandfather worked for Burlington Northern Railroad and for my eighth birthday, he got me a ride in a freight train locomotive. Every year at the Puyallup Fair, the thing I looked most forward to was going on the miniature train ride. The fact that Pt. Defiance Park had a real honest-to-God steam locomotive train that you could ride was amazing to me. And when the train wasn’t running, you could actually walk on the train tracks with no fear of a train running you over. As a kid, Camp 6 was like a life-size train set.
In my teens and early 20s, Camp 6 became something else to me. It was the secret place in Pt. Defiance. Everyone went to the Owen Beach or Fort Nisqually or the Japanese Gardens, but Camp 6 was the last stop before the exit to the park. By the time most people got there, they had already had their fun in the park. Camp 6 was the place you could go and be alone with someone. There were few girlfriends or girls I wanted to be girlfriends I didn’t take to Camp 6.
As a father, my son and I have spent hundreds of afternoons at Pt. Defiance Park. The train didn’t run as often, but still ran occasionally during the summer. I remember one particular afternoon we were traipsing through the forest trails that go throughout the park and we found ourselves near the entrance of Camp 6. We walked in and they just happened to be running the train. We paid a few bucks and got on board. It was a nice break after spending hours going through the trails. The next time we went to the park, my son wanted to go to Camp 6. We pulled into the gravel parking lot and walked on the train tracks. I happened to have my camera and took a few photos. One of which I’ve included in the post.
The owners of Camp 6 leased the land from Metro Parks. They wanted to sell it, but could not find a buyer. They’re now going to sell the parts of old train cars, and all of the old logging equipment to whoever will buy it. They’re also going to tear out the train tracks and remove all other heavy equipment. Metro Parks says they have no idea what they’re going to do with the area. This isn’t the first time a significant attraction has closed down permanently. Years ago, Never, Never Land closed. Easily identified by Humpty Dumpty sitting on top of a stack of books, Never, Never Land had a selection of statues from various fairy tales. You’d walk down the path and see all of these life size scenes from tales you grew up hearing like the Three Little Pigs. When it closed down, most of the statues were taken out and nothing else was really done. They let some of the bigger displays rot. I expect that similar lack of care will be taken in the end of Camp 6. It’s a sad day for me. It’s a sad day for Tacoma.
It’s sad not only for Tacoma, but for the whole region. Let alone priceless family memories such as yours, there isn’t much left to help explain to everyone that thinks the region is nothing but Microsoft, Starbucks, and Boeing, that there was something before that. Something that brght everyone here. Part of the beauty of Camp 6 was that it was located in a forest that if it isn’t old growth, it’s pretty close to being and old growth forest.
Camp 6 was an important link to our past, and I am sad to say that I never had the chance to let my son see it.
I was lucky enough to experience this. My Father Jerry Patrick helped run the train during the 1960’s and 1970’s. So sad that this is gone.
I used to ride on this train when I was a kid, I’m sad it had to be closed, nows it’s a walking trail for sami highschool students when they want to get high during their class breaks.
My uncle Vance was a part-time engineer for the Camp 6 locomotive (late ’60s?). Somewhere in my parent’s photo collection is a snapshot of (4 or 5 yr. old) me standing on the deckplates with my uncle, just after he lifted me up to pull the steam whistle cord. Both of us with grins that only little kids and their uncles can make…