|Also, check out my related United Railways (Oregon-American Mill) Page. The RR that used to interchange with the GC&WR Railroad.
|Last Update: May 9, 2006
|The Gales Creek & Wilson River Railroad was born out of the desire of a man name JL Washburn to reach a significant amount of Timber
stands his company owned west of where the United Railways Line ran through Banks, Oregon. After failing to convince the UR owners to
build a logging railroad, Washburn built one himself, starting in 1917.
They started in Wilkesboro, what was at the time, the end of the United Railways line.
The GC&WR left the UR and then crossed the SP Tillamook branch via a trestle and then continued west for a number of miles before turning
north and finally arriving at a place called Aagaard Mill. Later known as Glenwood. The original line was about 12.74 miles long. Little
known is the fact that the line also originally connected with the SP at Wilkesboro.
It took about 3 years to construct the line, because it was largely done with horse teams and the right of way kept getting washed out during
the winter months. Also a very long high trestle had to be built over Beaver Creek, west of Orchard Dale and another significant trestle over
Gales Creek, further up the line. The GC&WR obtained 60 and 66lb used rail from the UR parent companies, the Great Northern and
Northern Pacific. They also contracted out with a United Railways work train to do the track laying.
By 1920, the line was in operation using 2 used Colorado Midland locomotives and one cabooses. The locomotives were 29 and 32 year
old Schenectady 4-6-0s at the time the CG&WR purchased them in 1919. The original headquarters of the line was located at a place called
Washburn, about 9 miles up the line. In the early days, 4 small saw mills and a hop grower were the only shippers on the line. Washburn
had run out of funds to build a logging road into the woods and develop his own stands.
In approximately 1921, the Ross Lumber company built a line north off of the GC&WR about 3 miles west of Wilkesboro. It’s not clear how
deep into the woods this line ran, but probably not far as this operation only lasted a few years.
1922, a deal was struck and Washburn sold the GC&WR to the GN and NP. The GN/NP owned the United Railways and had formed the
Spokane Portland & Seattle Railroad, which would over see both the UR and GC&WR, but both railroads would operate their own crews, and
retain their railroad names. One of the reasons the GN/NP agreed to purchase the GC&WR, even though they didn’t really want it, was
because they were afraid of the SP taking it over. One of the first things they did when they took control, was pull out the SP connection and
from then on, the GC&WR only connected directly with the United Railways.
Business was slow until 1933, when the Tillamook Burn hit, scorching 11 million board feet of timber west of the end of the GC&WR
railroad. This would end up being a major boom for the railroad as the timber had to salvaged as soon as possible or be lost forever from
disease and rot. Three major logging companies and land holders came together to form the Consolidated Timber Company. They were
the Blodgett Company, Crossett-Western and Henry F Cheney.
By 1936, the end of the GC&WR was extended a short distance to a place just west of Glenwood. There, a large 4 track yard, engine facilities,
and camp was constructed. From there, Consolidated Timber ran a line west into the woods and built numerous logging spurs. One
interesting aspect of the Consolidated line was that a huge continuous switchback was needed for the railroad to make the steep climb into
the mountains. For the next 10 years, logging railroad traffic would be frequent and plentiful, with as many as 4 to 6 log trains running on
GC&WR at any one time. Trains would run the entire length of the GC&WR and then run on the United Railways all the way to Rafton,
northwest of Portland, Oregon, where the logs would be dumped into the river.
By 1946, the Consolidated Timber Company had panned out the timber and ceased operations. Their track west of Glenwood was
abandoned. With little to no traffic to handle on the GC&WR, the line was doomed. The line completely shut down at the end of 1949. By
1950, it was officially abandoned and in 1951 the tracks were pulled up.
In 1957 the Wilson River Highway (Hwy 6) was extended from the Glenwood area to the Sunset Highway (Hwy 26) near Wilkesboro. The
route used some existing roads, but also used a couple of sections of the abandoned GC&WR railroad grade.
This elusive railroad was hard to research and even harder to track down. After almost giving up, I finally came upon some old maps which
showed me where the grade really was. Unfortunately, this was after at least two trips to the area, so I missed a lot of stuff.
However, most of the grade is located on occupied private land, so it’s not really accessible anyway. Contrary to popular belief, Hwy 6 was
not built over the entire grade. In fact, only a few short sections of the highway are on the grade itself. Most of the grade does roughly follow
where the highway is today, but actually runs next to the road rather than under it. As for remains, there is not much. As far as I can tell,
there are no GC&WR Railroad trestle remains left, although there are still two that I need to check. Significant sections of the old grade have
been wiped out by farmers and home development in the area. However, some remote sections of the abandoned grade do still exist, but
are heavily overgrown. The engine shops and grades in Glenwood do exist and they are significant historical structures.
Of the Consolidated Timber Company logging railroads, there are a number of trestle ruins that remain today. Most are located in an area
designated for off highway vehicles, near a place commonly called “Brown’s Camp.” Many of the old logging railroads were later turn into
truck logging roads when logging resumed in the 1970s. Some original untouched grades still exist.
|Maps of the Gales Creek and Wilson River Railroad
|I made these maps to show the location of the railroad grade and specific features as they are today. This was one of the hardest abandoned railroad grades I've
ever had to locate and was at a loss until I saw an old map. I've plotted the route based on a 1928 county map.
|Wilkesboro was originally the end of the United Railways and the beginning of the Gales Creek & Wilson River Railroad. In later years, the United would be
extended north to Vernonia and beyond. Today, the United Railways track survives, operated by the Portland & Western, but the GC&WR is long gone. In the left
photo, where my truck is parked is the approximately location that the GC&WR connected with the UR. In the middle photo, the GC&WR ran along side the UR,
but today there is no sign of the GC&WR grade here. In the far right photo, the GC&WR passed over these Southern Pacific tracks right where I'm standing to take
this picture. Today, there is no sign of that trestle or even approaches. The bridge in the background is the Wilson River Highway bridge that was built in the late
1950s. Photos: May, 2005
|Washburn is about 9 miles from Wilkesboro. Its where the lines original headquarters were located and its named after the original GC&WR Railroad owner, JL
Washburn. The headquarters were later moved to Glenwood in 1936 when things began to really pick up after the Tillamook burn, Photo on the left shows a short
section of Hwy 6 between Wilkesboro and Washburn that was built over the abandoned railroad grade. The photo on the right shows a pond that is located next to
Washburn. This may have been a mill pond at some point. Today, nothing is left of Washburn and the locomotive shops that used to exist here.
Photos: May, 2005
|The Gales Creek Trestle
|Unfortunately, the trestle is long gone, but here at this site, a long trestle was built over Gales Creek (on the right) and a local dirt road that is now the Wilson Creek
Highway. This trestle took longer than expected to build and was part of the reason the line was not completed until 1920, despite construction starting in 1917.
Photo: May, 2005
|Left photos show that just west of where the GC&WR Railroad originally ended, near Glenwood is this short trestle site over Gales Creek. In 1936, the line was
extended about a mile where a large facility was built for the logging railroads that began to operate from this area. Today, the little bridge is gone but the
concrete abutments remain, although heavily damaged, probably from flood waters. The photo on the right shows the approximate area where the railroad
crossed the road to reach the yard, and railroad facilities. Highway construction has wiped out any sign of the grade here. Photos: May, 2005
|A short road off of the highway can be taken to see the general area that was the locomotive facilities. This road is actually built on top of the old railroad grade.
The sign post at the end of the road appears to have been built out of old bridge timbers, although I'm not sure from where. I believe this was originally built by the
folks that operated a trolley museum out here until recently. The crown jewel of this trip was finding the locomotive shops (right photos). This shop was built by
the CG&WR Railroad in 1936 when their headquarters were moved here to facilitate interchanging with the Consolidated Timber Company. The extension on the
back of the shops was actually built a while back by the Oregon Trolley Museum which was located here from 1957 until 1995, so they could store two trolleys in
the shop. The shop is a single stall locomotive shop with an 80 foot long pit. Unfortunately, I was only able to snap a few quick photos showing the front from a
distance and the backside of the shops as the property owner was very busy at the time of my visit. But I thank him nonetheless for allowing me to have a very quick
look around. Photos: May, 2005
|Another locomotive shop is also located on property. This was probably a machine shop, or storage building as no pit is located inside. It was also built in 1936.
The 4 track yard extended west out this direction for a while before returning to a single track to the woods, operated by Consolidated Timber. The Oregon Trolley
Museum operated here from 1957 to 1995, hence the RR signs, but they have since relocated to Brooks, Oregon. Today, most remains of the Trolley museum,
including the tracks are all gone. Only the two locomotive shops remain on the privately owned site. Photos: May, 2005
|These are photos of Glenwood when it was a major sprawling logging base of operations for the Consolidated Timber Company. Note the locomotive facilities in
the middle of the photo and if you look hard enough, you can also see the machine shop in the background. A few of these buildings may still exist today. I had
assumed the houses in area were all new development, but after looking at the photos a few might actually date to the logging camp days. Photo on the right is of
Glenwood in the 1960s or 1970s when it was operating a trolley museum. Sadly even this operation is now gone, but at least it was moved to a different location
near Brooks, Oregon. Washington County Historical Society
|Consolidated Timber Company Railroads
|The Consolidated Timber Company was formed after the first Tillamook burn of 1933, which scorched 11 million board feet of timber. Most
of this timber would be lost forever if it was not logged quickly before disease and rot took over.
Three major logging companies and land holders came together to form the Consolidated Timber Company. They were the Blodgett
Company, Crossett-Western and Henry F Cheney.
At Glenwood a huge logging camp and mill was built and the place was called Consolidated Camp by 1936. A line was built west into the
woods. The new Consolidated logging railroad generally followed the north side of Gales Creek, heading west. Near the present day
Gales Creek Forest Camp, the line then made a sweeping switchback curve the south and east, crossing the road that would later become
Highway 6, via a trestle. Now on the south side of present day Highway 6, the line continued west to a point called Owl Camp.
Owl Camp is located a the present day summit of Highway 6, near present day Rogers Camp and the Tillamook OHV area. From here, the
line spit into two major branches. A north branch, which was later converted into the present day Storey Burn road. And a south branch
which headed into the present day Tillamook OHV area. Both branches had a number of spurs that ran off of them.
For the next 10 years, logging railroad traffic would be frequent and plentiful, with as many as 4 to 6 log trains running on GC&WR at any one
time. Trains would run the entire length of the GC&WR and then run on the United Railways all the way to Rafton, northwest of Portland,
Oregon, where the logs would be dumped into the river.
By 1946, the Consolidated Timber Company had panned out the timber and ceased operations. By that time, a 3rd major Tillamook had
taken place and that may have affected their operations. The track west of Glenwood was abandoned. But decades later, some of the old
Consolidated grades were later be converted into logging railroads and can still be driven on today.
|The railroad heads west out of Consolidated Camp at Glenwood and follows the north side of the Gales Creek. Today, part of the grade has since been turned
into a logging road that mostly gated off. These photos were taken of the grade just east of Gales Creek Forest Camp.
|These are the remains of three seperate trestles as they appeared in 1998 that are located off of the south branch. Now located inside the Tillamook OHV.
Photos: Feb, 1998. Special thanks to Matt Wolford to took and sent in these three photos
|The remains of this trestle are located off of Storey Burn road which was built on top of Consolidated's north branch. Photos: Feb, 2004.
|More photos of Consolidated logging railroads that were later turned into logging roads and today are forest access roads. These photos were taken near Brown's
Camp. Photos: May, 2005.
|This photo shows two cabooses. An OE caboose
in the foreground and the original GC&WR
caboose in the background. This was the only
caboose to operate on the GC&WR line for
several years. Picture courtesy of Martin E Hansen
|The GC&WR Railroad started out in 1919 with two used locomotives that
belonged to Colorado Midland. These are two seperate photos of Engine
number 1. Number 2 was nearly indentical. Engine number 1, pictured
here, was transfered to the SP&S Astoria division and used as a switcher in
Astoria from 1930 until 1944, when it's crownsheet blew, killing an engine
watchman. It was then scrapped. Engine number 2, was apparently
transfered to the SP&S Goldendale branch after working the GC&WR for only
a few years. It was scrapped in 1932.
Both locomotives were Schenectady 4-6-0s. Number one was built in 1890,
while number 2 was built in 1887. Pictures courtesy of Martin E Hansen
|The Consolidated Timber # 3. The picture was
taken in 1946 while they were picking up rails east of
the summit. Bud Rogers is the boy in teh picture
and kind enough to email me this info. Photo
courtesy of Marc Reusser.
|Other Interesting Historical information
|Ed Cushman's uncle worked as one of the Gypso loggers for
Consolodated Timber during the 1940s. He was kind enough to relate the following information.
Also another vivid memory is, when I was about 13, of riding on Consolidated Timber Co. rails to my uncle's logging site somewhere south of
the summit. (We used to call it owl camp.) We would ride out on a 'crummy' a small gas powered rail car, to a re-load site where the logs
were loaded by a steam powered donkey and boom onto 'disconnect' cars for the their trip down to Glenwood. At Glenwood they were
reloaded again onto either skelton cars or gondolas for thier final run over Cornelius Pass and to a dump on the river. This was about 1944
as near as I can remember. I know that the 1945 burn took care of a lot of the trestles on the Consolidated Timber Co.line.
My uncle had been one of the many "gyppo" operators for Consolidated. He then went on to have a successful logging operation of his own
into the mid 50s.
What some of us at that time called the Owl was a small area that was and is now at the summit of the Wilson River Hiway. Consolidated's
railroad ran from the their mill and shops to the summit (the owl) and then branched. One branch going in a generally northern direction
while the other went more or less south. When I rode it, we traveled by auto and parked at the summit and then took the gas rail car out to the
job site, which I am guessing was perhaps several miles out on that southern branch. The logs were hauled via log trucks (rubber tired)
from the landing to the reload I mentioned, and then loaded on to the disconnect rail cars.
I think the reason it was called 'Owl Camp' came from term, working the 'Hoot Owl' which referred to the very early morning starting time in the
woods in the summer when the fire danger had increased. The loggers would be out ready to start at the first sign of daylight and quit about
2:30 or so in the afternoon or sooner if the humidity dropped to low.
One day my Uncle had to stay a little late at the job site and it was after the speeder (crummy) had left for its return to the Owl. I was a bit
concerned as to how we would get back but a locomotive soon showed up with a set of empty disconnects to leave on the siding for the next
day so we road back on an empty flat car that it had picked up. It's only car. What a view!
|Roy Bonn of the OERHS was kind enough to relay the following information:
My first trip to Glenwood was in the mid-1950's before the completion of the hiway from Wilksboro to the junction with hiway 8. We drove out
the unfinished hiway, it was closed to traffic but it was ready to be paved and it was winter time, I noticed the original railroad ditch line was
the east ditch of the hiway, the west side of the hiway had a new ditch. Just before the hiway grade climbs to go over the hill, the railroad
turned a bit east and was built on a good following the slope and when it reached the top, it tunneled the hill. If you look closely along the
edges of the road, you can spot where the tracks wandered from side to side as it descended the hill. It curved to east, where a house has
been built on the grade, and turned a bit to the west as it started across the long trestle across the low land. The grade was intact from that
point on until it reached the trestle over Gales Creek. It was on the north side of the stream. Paul and I surveyed the line from that point on to
the old mill office which we did to try to get the SP&S Ry to donate the line to the OERHS. We were turned down on our request. The rail line
crossed the hiway just east of the road into the mill site. The road was not built on the railroad grade but encroached on it where it curves
west along the creek. When SP&S sold that section of the railroad, OERHS purchased it and at one time ran trolleys to the hiway. The hiway
r.o.w. is 100 feet wide in that location. At Timber Junction, there is a gravel road to the north of the hiway that extends a few hundred feet west.
That originally was built as a spur which crossed the road from the mainline. In the 1930's the present hiyway was a gravel road that went
only as far as the Consolidated camp.
The old cook house was purchased and moved and was used as a residence for many years. I have not been there for 13 years so am not
familiar with the recent changes. The engine house was a one stall building with machine tools on each side for servicing. There had been
an extension to the rear which housed a steam engine to operate a system of pulley operated machines. That extension collapsed during
heavy snows one winter and we removed the rotten material and rebuilt the extension to give us more space for streetcars. There was an
overhead crane in the building that extended out the back of the building to about even with the extension. This crane was purchased by
Diamond Lumber company in Tillamook by the Lyda Bros, who owned the property and it was eventually removed by them by running it out
the front of the building which tore out the upper center section of the building. There was a small building built on stilts across the tracks
from the engine house which had a siding and a dock for receiving supplies by rail. The rear building was originally 2 sections and a third
was added later when it was used as a truck shop. A water tank stood out front for filling the steamers. A pump house was situated next to
the creek which supplied water for the entire camp. On the hill to the side of and across the tracks from the truck shop, a steep siding was
built for tank cars with bunker C oil to be unloaded for use by the steam engines as they were oil fired.
The sawmill as shown in the photo, was sold along with the camp to the Lyda Bros. who operated the sawmill and used the buildings until
the mill was closed by a strike by the employees. The Lyda Bros kept that portion of the property until about 20 years ago. The old engine
house had its pit covered and the building was used for storing dry lumber. The sawmill was in operating condition when we purchased the
site for the Trolley Park and it slowly rotted away until someone set fire to it and not much is left. There had been a dam on the Creek so logs
could be floated to the mill from the the unloading site. The story about the sawmill strike as told to me by the Lyda's was, The employees
wanted a raise and Lyda told them that he could not afford to give them a raise as it was not making any profit. He told them that if they went
on strike that the mill would never operate again. They all laughed and said they didn't believe him and went on strike. The mill never
reopened again. I first visited the mill shortly after the closure when we were looking for a site for our streetcars.
When the OERHS first acquired the old Consolidated Timber Company Co. site at Glenwood, later known as the Trolley Park, we found
records pertaining to logs shipped by rail to be dumped in the Willamette River as other odds and ends. There was also a map of the
logging lines of the company. Paul Class probably still has those records unless he donated them to OHS. He also walked a lot of the old
r.o.w, I walked some, and he found where one of the spurs still had the rail line intact. We discussed the matter in board meetings but it was
determined that due to the growth of timber, that it would be impossible to haul out of the woods. The logging railroad was abandoned in
1944 and an acquaintance of mind was the railroad super at the time. He then was hired by the lumber company in Oakridge and was the
Super of the logging railroad until it was abandoned. He claimed the only reason they were abandoned at the time was that they did not want
to pay him retirement benefits.
My United Railways Page
Used to interchange with the GC&WR
My Portland & Western Railroad Page
Operates the remains of the United Railways branch
Oregon Trolley Museum
From 1957 until 1995 this organization operated a trolley museum on the grounds that used to be the
GC&WR Glenwood yard and shops. They are now located in Brooks, Oregon.
|If anyone has any further information or pictures about this railroad, please let me know.
You can Email me anytime. Thanks.
|Copyright © 2005-2008 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
Note about the photos on this site:
Most photos were taken by me, except for those that are otherwise indicated. I usually allow people to use my photos for personal use or websites. Simply Email
me. I may not have authority to grant permission regarding some photos that were only loaned to me by others specifically for this website. Every effort has been
made not to include other's photos without the proper permission and credits, however, if you see any photos which belong to you and that I don't have permission
to use, I apologize. If you send me an Email, I will remove the photos immediately or give proper credit, which ever you wish.