Southern Pacific Railroad built the M/V Stockton in 1927, part of a trio that included
sisters Lake Tahoe and Fresno. Though mechanically the most advanced type of
ferry in the world, they were built using old fashioned methods, which included
riveting the hull. While the hulls and superstructure were made of steel, the car
deck was made of timber as was the passenger cabin, wheelhouses, and crew
By 1938 the majority of ferries on San Francisco Bay were idled. Southern Pacific-
Golden Gate attempted to hold on until 1940, but by then it was obvious that the
era of the ferryboat was over. The vessels were offered for sale and were sold to
Captain Alexander Peabody's Puget Sound Navigation Company (Black Ball Line)
in 1940. The vessels were all towed north to start their careers on Puget Sound.
Stockton became Klickitat and started work on the Edmonds-Kingston-Port Ludlow
route with the Nisqually. Both vessels stayed on this run from about 1941 until the
Port Ludlow route was dropped in 1950 with the opening of the Lofall-South Point
The State of Washington took over ferry operations in 1951, sending the Klickitat
up to the San Juan Islands where she would remain for the next 30 years. She was
replaced as the Sidney ferry in 1965.
The Steel Electric ferries were modernized beginning in the late 1950's. All the
boats had their decks sponsoned out eight feet. The passenger cabins were
modernized, though still made out of wood. The car deck was plated over with steel
and the wooden railings on the promenade deck outside the passenger cabin were
replaced with steel railings.
The ferry received a gold band on her smokestack in 1977 when the entire class
turned 50 years old. It was at this time WSF made the decision to refurbish the
class once again.
The Klickitat was the first to be rebuilt, and although she benefited from some
lovely oak paneling in the passenger cabin, the rebuild of the passenger cabin
overall was poorly executed. Perhaps the biggest mistake was replacing the
observation rooms at either end of the passenger cabin with an outside shelter
deck. The area that had once been a gracefully curved room with windows facing
Puget Sound was instead filled by the crew’s quarters. In addition, the ferry was not
retrofitted with an elevator as the others in the class would be.
Amazingly, even though the ferry hadn't met current safety standards since the
1950's, when returned to service in 1982 the Klickitat went back to work on the
Anacortes-Sidney run and was issued a SOLAS certificate.
Not long after, the ferry was moved over to the Port Townsend-Keystone route,
where she would finish out her career.
Cracks were discovered in her hull in the spring of 2007, and even after repairs
were made, the head of the DOT had her removed from service along with the
Illahee in November of 2007. (The Quinault and Nisqually were already out of daily
For a time, it appeared that at least one ferry would make it back to service;
however, the Klickitat was not scheduled for any yard time to have repairs made.
With the announcement that no more money would be put into the 80-year-old
vessels, the Klickitat was retired along with the rest of the class on 13 December
The Klickitat spent months tied up at Kingston while waiting for space to open up at
Eagle Harbor. Finally, she was towed down to the harbor to keep company with the
rest of her sisters. In June of 2009 the Klickitat, along with the other Steel
Electrics, were sold for scrap, leaving Puget Sound for the scrappers in Mexico on
August 14th, 2009. They arrived in Mexico on 25 August 2009, and starting with
the Klickitat were cut up one by one, ending their 80-year service life.
BUILT/REBUILT: 1927/1958/1981 Bethlehem Shipbuilding Union Yard, San Francisco, CA/ Commercial Ship Repair, Winslow, WA/Tacoma Boat Inc., Tacoma, WA.
PREVIOUS/LATER NAMES: a. Stockton, b. Klickitat OFFICIAL NUMBER: 226567 CALL SIGN: WA6855
L/B/D: 256 x 74 x 13 GROSS/NET TONS: 1408/957 PASSENGERS/AUTOS: 616/64 (2007)
PROPULSION: Diesel-Electric SPEED: 12 knots
NAME TRANSLATION: “Beyond.” Also, one of the Native American names for Mount Adams.
FINAL DISPOSITION: Scrapped in Ensenada MX, 2009
The Klickitat after being pulled from service. Courtesy of Matt Masuoka.
The 1970's melodrama Emergency! was about to wrap up its run when it decided
go film an episode in Seattle. The script called for the two principals in the show,
John Roderick "Johnny" Gage (Randolph Mantooth) and Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe)
assisting in an emergency on board a Washington State Ferry.
The Klickitat was chosen for a ludicrous scenario in which gasoline is pumped into
the fuel tanks instead of diesel, resulting in an explosion and fire.
Initially happy to work with the production company, state officials were less than
pleased with the final result, which made the crew, who are not only highly trained in
both first aid and firefighting, but who never would have let the situation occur in the
first place, look totally inept.
In the future when WSF granted permission to film on board, crews were either
conspicuously absent, such as the case with the Grey's Anatomy episode on the
Wenatchee, or they appeared briefly and decidedly not incompetent.
The episode of Emergency!, entitled "Most Deadly Passage" is filled with ridiculous
cliches , some very bad overacting and exploding car tires on the supposedly
super-heated car deck, which the actors go blithely walking across with seemingly
no ill effect.
What the episode does have is some great footage of the pre-rebuilt Klickitat, and is
worth viewing for that alone--provided you can get past everything else.
|At top, the Stockton. Photo courtesy of Brandon Moser. #2, the Klickitat hard around at
Edmonds in the 40's. Author's collection. #3, in the San Juan Islands, early 1950's.
Author's collection. #4, her remodeled passenger cabin. Courtesy of I.S. Black.