Willamette Shore Trolley

From nycsubway.org


The Willamette Shore Trolley is operated by the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society, based in Brooks, Oregon. The history of this line is quite interesting.

The route of the Willamette Shore Trolley is that of the old Southern Pacific Jefferson Branch. The right-of-way of the Willamette Shore Trolley was first established in 1885-1887 as the Portland and Willamette Valley Railroad, which began operation in July, 1887. It was later purchased by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which converted the line to electric traction in 1914.

The railroad had a major impact on the development of southwest Portland. Initially 14 trains operated between Portland and "Oswego" (as it then was known) and became the main transportation link for developing residential communities along the route. Following electrification in 1914, passenger traffic hit its peak in 1920 with SP running 64 "Red Electrics" to and from Portland and Oswego daily. Passenger service ended on October 5, 1929, and many of the Red Electric interurban MU cars went to sister operation Pacific Electric in the Los Angeles area, where they became known as "Portland Twelves".

SP continued to operate steam and diesel freight service until 1983. In August of 1984, the Interstate Commerce Commission granted Southern Pacific permission to abandon the line. In November of that year the Portland Friends of the Willamette River Greenway, a non-profit corporation, was asked to assist seven government entities in their efforts to acquire the line, to guarantee the preservation of the right-of-way for future mass transit.

From September through December 1987, the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society operated a streetcar on the line to determine the feasibility of such a service there. Negotiations between Southern Pacific and the governmental entities continued until the six-mile line was purchased in the fall of 1988. Trolley service began on a long term basis in July 1990, with operations given by local trolley entrepreneur Paul Class using an ex-San Antonio, Texas Brill car, now currently situated in Astoria, OR.

Since then, the line has been extended from its original southern terminus, one half mile south to downtown Lake Oswego. In 1995 the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society again became the operator of the Trolley Service, in cooperation with the Cities of Lake Oswego and Portland, Clackamas and Multnomah Counties and Metro (a tri-county government agency). Currently, the right-of-way is owned by TriMet as a potential light rail route, which is not likely to happen any time soon.

The original north terminus of the line was at Riverplace, a location just south of downtown Portland. But in 2003 the route was cut back to SW Bancroft and Moody Streets, ending operation on some of the industrial streets of southeast Portland. A portion of this discontinued route will be reconstructed as part of the extension of the Portland Streetcar to Riverplace, set to open in 2005.

Currently, service is operated on Thursday through Sunday during the summertime, weekends in May, and Friday through Sunday in September. Special holiday runs are also scheduled at other times during the year.

The car in use is former Portland Brill "Master Unit" 813, constructed in 1931. Following its retirement on the narrow-gauge city system in 1950, it received standard gauge trucks and operated on the Portland Traction lines to Gresham and Oregon City until 1958. It was restored by the OERHS. Also on the property, but currently not in use, is ex-Blackpool, England double-deck car 48. A towed/pushed diesel generator provides the 600-volt DC power to the traction motors. A round trip takes about 2 hours.

The route is extremely scenic and passes through some of Portland's most exclusive riverfront homes and communities. Two spectacular features of the route are the 686-foot Riverwood Trestle and the 1,396-foot Elk Rock Tunnel, which was built tall enough to handle electric interurbans.

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Official Site - Willamette Shore Trolley. OERHS has an excellent and informative web site on the Willamette Shore Trolley.

Page Credits

By Peter Ehrlich.

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