|Last Update: July 27, 2005
|Check out our Astoria Trolley Movie
58 Mb - 16 minutes long (see our other Railroad movies on the Railroad videos Page.)
|Visit the official Astoria Trolley Homepage
The railroad on which the Astoria trolley now runs on was once part of a trans-continental railroad. Built in the 1890s, as the Astoria and
Columbia River Railroad, the line extended from a Northern Pacific connection at Gobel to the town of Astoria, then over a vast low level
trestle and swing bridge over Youngs Bay and down into Seaside, Oregon. The Spokane, Portland and Seattle, officially took control of the
line in 1911.
What made the Astoria part of the line significant, is that much of it was built on low level pile trestles along the waterfront of the city. At
one time the trestles extended almost 5 continuous miles from one end of Astoria to the other, making it one of the longest railroad
trestles in the world. Although it was thought passenger traffic would be heavy from Portland to the coast, automobiles killed much of
that by the 1930s and by the 1950s, the line was used exclusively for freight traffic. Astoria had two depots. The first one was built in the
1890s, but was replaced with the current and rather stunningly large brick depot in 1924. But with passenger service gone, the depot
was all but abandoned by the 1950s.
By the 1960s, the Youngs Bay bridge was in such disrepair that locomotive weights were restricted. By the 1980s, the section between
Astoria and Seaside would be officially abandoned and the trestle would be torn down. Today virtually no sign of the Youngs Bay trestle or
even the old railroad grade to Seaside exists. During removal, efforts were made to literally erase any sign of the railroad.
In 1970, the SP&S was merged into the Burlington Northern Railroad system and along with it, this line. Today, the tracks extend from
Portland, to the west end of Astoria, but no freight is shipped from Astoria. The last freight shipper from the Astoria area shipped by rail in
the early 1990s. By that time, Burlington Northern was ready to divest itself of the entire unprofitable Astoria line. In the mid 1990s,
several slides pushed sections of track into the Columbia River, cutting off Astoria from the rest of the line. Burlington Northern saw no
reason to repair the line as no major freight traffic existed west of Wauna. By the late 1990s, the Portland & Western railroad took over
operations on the remaining portion of the Astoria line and the BN sold the land that the railroad occupied, to the state of Oregon. The
track and ties and all related equipment were sold to the Portland & Western RR, making it a mutually beneficial situation where the state
owns the land, but the operating RR owns the tracks and doesn't have to pay property taxes. The slide was eventually cleared by 2000
and major repairs conducted on the Astoria branch as there was hope that a new ship dismantling business would ship tons of scrap via
the railroad from Astoria to Portland. But that business never materialized and the line west of Wauna again fell dormant. That would
briefly change in 2002, when the new Lewis & Clark Explorer passenger train began operating in the summer months. The train
consisted of three 1950s self powered diesel Budd cars owned and maintained by the State of Oregon and operated by a Portland &
Western engineer and conductor. The train would be the first time that regular passenger service ran over the historical line in more than
half a century. But it's short lived. The train was only meant to be a temporary exhibit for the Lewis & Clark 200th anniversary and 2005
is expected to the last season. After that, the line will again fall dormant between Astoria and Wauna, likely being taken out of service,
but not officially abandoned, in the hopes that future passenger or freight service might materialize. One hope is that a steam engine,
now being restored in Astoria (see below for pictures), might be able to provide such passenger excursionsin a few years, between
Astoria and Wauna.
By the 1980s, BN sold the tracks that remained inside the city limits of Astoria to the city. Officially, the city owns the line from its western
most point, approximately 1/2 mile from Youngs Bay to Tongue Point in the east. The city operates a historic, elegant and very efficient
trolley service on this section during the summer months.
The trolley used on this line is a 90+ year old historic 1913 electric trolley, not a replica, and was painstakingly restored in Astoria, by the
Astoria Riverfront Trolley Association. Old 300, as its called, was built in 1913 by the American Car Company of St. Louis, Mo., for the San
Antonio Traction Company in Texas. This type of trolley used a steel frame and wood body. Later models would use all steel bodies. This
trolley was first retired in 1933 and placed outside of a museum. Parts were removed to service trolleys in other parts of the country
during the shortages of World War Two. By 1980, the body was pretty rotten but an attempt at restoration was begun. The original
wooden body had to be discarded, but the body from another similar trolley still existed as someone's residence until about 1978 and was
used in the original restoration. The trolley was originally built on a unique 4 foot gauge platform. But when restoration was first
attempted, standard gauge wheels and traction motors were fitted. By the 1990s, the trolley was moved to Portland where it served for a
period of time on the Portland to Lake Oswego Willamette Shore Trolley line. The latest restoration was completed in Astoria in 1999. At
that time, a special diesel generator and trailer was fabricated which would allow the trolley to operate stand alone on tracks without any
external electrical power source. Today the trolley is still owned by the San Antonio Museum Association, but on lease to the City of
Astoria for $1 per year.
Passengers can ride this trolley from one end of town to the other as many times as they wish for a one time all day fee of only $2.
The trolley operates back and forth all day, during the summer months, allowing passengers the ease of exploring Astoria's wonderful
attractions without the need of a car. The restoration and maintenance was impeccable. Every effort was made and succeeded to give
the riders the true feel of riding in an early 20th century trolley. The restorers and operators of this trolley should be commended for a job
well done. Much more information about this trolley's history can be found here.
In just the last year or two, a complete renovation of the entire trolley route and Astoria Riverfront was begun. Compare a few pictures
below from the 2002-2004 era to today and you'll see that the trestle deckings have all been rebuilt and widened for safe pedestrian
access as well as new paved paths, mini-stations and development on the route. The Trolley has played a large role in the recent
economic development of the Astoria Riverfront.
|On the left is a map of the Astoria Railroad tracks including the Trolley line. On the right is the map of the 90+ mile Astoria-Portland line now operated by the
Portland & Western Railroad.
|My first view of the Astoria Trolley since 2004 occured here east of the depot as the Lewis & Clark Explorer passes the Trolley. This view is from the engineer
cab of the Lewis & Clark train as the two trains meet and continue past each other. By the time, the Lewis & Clark stops at the depot, the trolley will have
returned west to the depot to pick up waiting passengers and take them further into Astoria's historic waterfront. Photos: July, 2005
|The Trolley is sitting at the depot stop, taking on some passengers from the Lewis & Clark on this bright and wonderful sunny summer day in Astoria. As the
trolley was quite full, elected to walk down the waterfront first, before riding the trolley later. Photos: July 2005
|These pics show views of the Lewis & Clark Explorer train parked at the Astoria Depot next to the Astoria Trolley which is about to depart.
Photos: July 2005
|The trolley passes over one of numerous trestles on its waterfront route, but also does some street running. Note the bright yellow line painted on the street
that tells motorists not to park in such a way that blocks the trolley's path. They don't always listen. Historical buildings and new trolley stops line the route.
Stops are placed at strategic locations, such as hotels, museums and busy shopping parts of the town, but trolley operators will gladly stop anywhere along
the line that is safe to drop off passengers. Photos: July 2005
|This is a good view of the diesel generator that either trails or leads the trolley, depending on direction of travel. Its a simple design, not meant to detract from
the beauty of the historic original trolley. Built in house by the trolley restorers, it houses a small diesel engine and generator that allows the trolley to operate
just as it did in the early 20th century, but independent of overhead wires. You could say this is one of the only operating "diesel-electric" trolleys. The
generator leads the trolley when its traveling east and follows, when it travels west.
Photos: July 2005
|The motorman's controls are simple and located at both ends of the trolley. They include a single brake gauge, a modern amp gauge, throttle, single air brake
lever, and reverser, as well as an emergency/parking brake wheel. With the diesel generator leading the trolley, the view is not the best for the motorman, but
plenty safe for the speeds that the trolley travels at. Photos: July 2005
|The interior of the trolley can be described as elegant. Restored to it's original look and feel, it includes a ton of beautiful wood and brass work through out the
90 year old trolley. Note the historic lights, which were originally DC power, but later converted to AC power as DC power bulbs were getting harder to find.
Also note the original conductor counter wheel that remains mounted inside the trolley. Photos: July 2005
|One interesting aspect of the Trolley line in Astoria is this new track arrangement at the east end of town where the Portland & Western section of the line
meets up with the City of Astoria section. FRA rules forbid freight and heavy passenger trains from operating on the same line as light trolleys. As a
consequence, the line has actually been severed at the eastern end of Astoria, completely separating the two lines and eliminating any chance of the trolley
travelling on P&W or the P&W traveling on Trolley track. The track on the right is used by the trolley and used to go straight through, but was built to by pass
the two tracks on the left which are used by the P&W and end directly in front of the depot. Photos: July 2005
|These photos show the view of the motorman as the Trolley completes the last sections at the east end of town, then reverses for the ride to the west end.
Note the numerous trestles it crosses, as well as some street running. Major fills in the early 20th century, replaced what used to be a continuous 5 mile long
trestle from one end of town to the other. The imposing structure of the Astoria-Megler Bridge was built in 1966 and is 4.1 miles long from end to end. It
stands over 200 feet high to allow all ships to pass under it and is one of the most impressive bridges in North America. Views of it from the trolley are
abundant as it passes directly under this structure. Photos: July 2005
|The trolley's furthest west point is about 1/4 mile short of the end of the line and the two stall trolley barn. We elected to disembark and try to visit the steam
engine that is being restored new by. As we walked down the last few feet of track, I noticed this old sign warning of the draw bridge 1 mile ahead down the
line. Ironically, the drawbridge mentioned is the Youngs Bay bridge which was torn out decades earlier, but this sign still remains as the last surviving
testiment to the Seaside branch of the Astoria line. View from the west side of the Astoria-Megler bridge near the end of the Astoria Railroad line and the
railroad car parked near the Trolley barn that you can read more about further down.
Photos: July 2005
|2004 and older photos
|I first spotted the Astoria Trolley in the summer, 2004 making one of it's last runs on a Saturday evening. Here we see it running east past the Astoria depot.
Soon it will stop and make it's run back west and head for the Trolley barn a little less than 2 miles away. Note the special trailer which houses a diesel
generator that powers the trolley's electric traction motors.
|This is the Astoria depot as it appeared in 2002. It was built in 1924 to replace the original depot, built in the 1890s. This is a significantly large brick depot of
unique style. But by the 1950s, passenger service was dropped and the depot was only used by railroad crews who occasionally stored locomotives here
through the 1970s. When these pictures were taken in 2002, the building has been abandoned for a long time. But since that time a basic external renovation
|The depot as it appeared in 2004. Still not in full use and the interior closed to the public, the exterior is in much better shape as it was prepped for the almost
daily arrival of passengers from the Lewis & Clark Explorer passenger train out of Portland. As this is a major stop of the Astoria Trolley, passengers are
given the opportunity to disembark the Lewis & Clark train and journey all through Astoria on the Trolley.
|These are views of the line in Astoria several years prior and show some of the trestle work. Amazingly, in a short amount of time, just the last year or so,
many more piers were added and trestle decking completely rebuilt and widened to allow for pedestrians, changing the scenery that you seen here. Also a
paved path was built to follow much of the railroad. The Trolley has significantly improved the waterfront of Astoria. Photos: 2002-2004
|This railcar is an ex-Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railroad car that was built in 1915 and served the City of Astoria taking passengers to Steam ships which
were destined for San Fransico. In 1918, the Steam ships were taken over by the government for use in WW1, and this car pressed into mainline service. In
recent years, it was brought back to Astoria and is now placed in storage with the hopes that it can be rebuilt and pulled by a steam locomotive that is
currently under restoration. Photos: 2004 (Car was still in same place and still covered as of July, 2005)
|This is the Riverfront Trolley barn. It was constructured just a few years ago, around 2000-2001. This nicely built twin stall engine house currently only
houses the trolley, but might someday also house the steam engine or other equipment when it finally gets restored in the next several years.
|The Trolley barn is built directly over the tracks that used to continue on into Seaside. Behind the trolley barn, you can see the last few feet of rails of the old
SP&S railroad, later Burlington Northern. Note the old switch. The track you see here, used to cross the Youngs Bay Railroad swing bridge, just southwest of
here and then went on to the coastal town of Seaside, Oregon. The line southwest of here was abandoned in the 1980s. The long piling swing bridge was
completely torn out and today almost no sign of it remains. Even the railroad grade and minor bridges on the way to Seaside were completely obliterated.
Photos taken: 2002. (Today, even these abandoned rails and switch are gone)
|The Astoria Railroad Preservation Association's Baldwin 2-8-2 #21 Steam project.
|After departing the trolley at the east end of Astoria, we decided to visit the shops where the ex-Santa Maria Valley # 21 was being worked on.
The Astoria Railroad Preservation Association is conducting the lengthly restoration and today we were able to find several very friendly guys in the shop who
welcomed us and gave a quick tour. Located about a block from the Trolley Barn, the shop houses the boiler and firebox inside, while outside the frame and
cylinders sit, along with parts of the tender. The cab restoration is completed and it sits in storage near the depot. Note the firebox sitting out. This was the
original firebox. The APRA fabricated an entirely new one from scratch and it's about to be installed shortly.
Photos: July, 2005
|Photos of the boiler and firebox and other parts undergoing restoration inside. The restoration process began in the early 1990s and has taken sometime, but
no detail is being left untouched and the restoration is extremely extensive including many brand new fabricated parts. Not the least of which includes the
firebox, and two sand domes. Its hoped to be done within a couple of years. When completed the steam engine is hoped to be able to be operated on
approximately 20 miles of railroad between Astoria and Wauna that is currently owned by the State of Oregon but operated by the Portland & Western. Because
the P&W doesn't use the track between Astoria and Wauna, and because its recently undergone major rework for freight traffic that never materialized, it would
be the perfect route to operate this steam engine and an excursion passenger train on a regular basis.
Photos: July, 2005
|These views aren't directly related to the railroad, but they show the town of Astoria and the Astoria-Megler highway 101 bridge at sunset. I took these photos
in 2003 on a hill above the city. The town is a beautiful and highly recommended destination for anyone visiting the Pacific Northwest.
|If you have any further information, pictures, or corrections about this railroad or the Astoria Trolley, please
Email me anytime.
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