Five years after the four Super Class ferries sailed in to service for Washington State Ferries,
the State found that they weren't going to be enough. Even the addition of the Kulshan didn't
help much. The fleet was suffering from expensive upkeep and obsolescence; four vessels were
still of all-wood construction, only one of which--the Vashon--could still do a day's work. WSF
assigned her to the San Juans to help out with traffic there.
Bids put out for what was dubbed a "Super Super Class". W.C. Nickum and Sons submitted thier
design, which was a larger version of the Supers. The state, with several years of running the
Supers knew the expanded design wouldn't be enough and rejected it. Instead, they chose a
design by Phillip Spaulding. The vessels, with a long, low look would be 440 feet long, 87 feet
wide, and could pack 206 cars onto their decks. The massive vessels would be the largest
double ended ferries in the world, and were dubbed with a very 70's name: the Jumbo Class.
Todd Shipyard in Seattle was awarded the contract. Plans originally called for a total of four
vessels to be built. The first two would be put in service and then, based on their success, two
more would be built. The first two were named Spokane and Walla Walla. As it turned out,
while both the ferries proved their worth, the two sisters to have been built never were
constructed. The funding wasn't available.
The interiors of the two vessels reflected popular color trends and design of the early 1970s:
the dominant colors were orange and yellow. The complaints about the boats were varied, from
the elevator music playing in the passenger cabin that irked many passengers who enjoyed the
quie, to the uncomfortable seating and finally the largest blemish on the new boats--the vibration
they had at full speed. The boats had a shake not seen on the Sound since the Kalakala had
been retired some five years earlier.
The complaints didn't stop there. When the Walla Walla was assigned to the San Juans, the
grumbles from both north and south Sound were fierce and immediate. The residents of the
islands complained about her large auto capacity overwhelming and her wake swamping
sailboats. Residents down Sound wanted to know why a vessel built with federal mass transit
dollars was being assigned to a route with the lowest passenger ridership in the fleet.
Avoiding conflicts from both sides, WSF removed the boat, reassigning the Walla Walla
alongside her sister on the Seattle-Winslow route. The grumbling eventually faded and the
ferries remained on the route until the Mark II's replaced them in the late 1990's--a run of more
than 20 years.
Top: the Spokane nears completion while the work on the Walla
Walla is well underway.
Middle: the Spokane, circa 1974, still practically new.
Bottom: The Walla Walla in 1974, after being reassigned to the