July 25, 2012
This artifact, found by the Field School in a 50 cm x 50 cm shovel test near the northern terminus of the historic road (on the eastern edge of the Village, appears to be the remnants of a railroad boxcar door lock seal, made from lead and iron wire.
Much like the lead bale seals recovered from Hudson's Bay Company deposits, or with modern utility meter locks, these seals were utilized to ensure that the load on a boxcar had not been tampered with during transit from its point of loading to its point of delivery. The wire from the seal was placed through the boxcar door latch hasp, then the lead seal was crimped over the wire. upon delivery to its final destination, the seal was cut or torn from the hasp, and the boxcar door could be opened.
Most interestingly, this seal was stamped "S P & S RY," an acronym for the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway. This seal likely dates to the ca. 1906-1930 period. The SP & S Railway was created in 1906 and was jointly managed by the Northern Pacific Railway and the Great Northern Railroad as a way to compete with the Union Pacific Railroad, in connecting Spokane to Portland through the Columbia River Gorge. Known as the "North Bank Line" for its route on the north bank of the Columbia River Gorge, this rail route was one of the most scenic in the nation. The S P & S was merged into the Burlington Northern Railway in 1971, and is still a favorite of Pacific Northwest railroad enthusiasts.