Last Update:  May 9, 2006
Lewis & Clark Explorer Movie  
Also check out the related Astoria Trolley Movie
(see our other Railroad movies on the Railroad videos Page.)
Check out this website with a number of Sam Davey photos of the Astoria Division taken in the 1990s when Burlington  Northern ran this route.  
Thanks to Andrew Fields for the link.
On October 3rd, 2005, one of the greatest non-steam excursion railroad operations in the northwest came to an abrupt,
allbeit expected, end.    Begun in 2003 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Lewis & Clark Expedition to explore
the West, the excursion was never intended to last beyond the end of the anniversary celebrations in 2005.   
Today, the Lewis & Clark Explorer is no more.

Portions of the modern day Portland & Western Astoria line date as far back as the early 1880s.    Northern Pacific completed a line between
Portland and Goble on the Oregon side of the Columbia River in 1883.   At Goble, ferries transported trains across the Columbia River to
Kalama, Washington, where they continued their journey to the Puget Sound area by rail.   Opened on October 3, 1883, this served as the
primary rail route between Portland and the Puget Sound until 1909 when a bridge was constructed across the Columbia River between
Portland and Vancouver.

By 1889, the Astoria & South Coast Railway began constructing a line from Seaside to Astoria that would eventually reach Goble to the already
existing Northern Pacific line, connecting the North Oregon Coast to Portland.   By 1895 after several failed financial attempts at building a line
east of Astoria, the Astoria & Columbia River Railway was formed and exactly 3 years later, the line was completed to Goble.  On May 7, 1898
service was opened from Seaside all the way to Portland.  What would today be known as the
Portland & Western Astoria branch, was born.

By 1911, the Astoria & Columbia River Railway was officially sold to the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway.  It was never a heavily used line.  
By 1970, the SP&S merged into the Burlington Northern, who operated the line into the 1990s.   

In 1996 a slide at Aldrich Point threatened to cut off Astoria from rail service to Portland, forever.   Aldrich Point is about 18 miles east of Astoria.  
BNSF, like many of the major carriers during the 1980s and 1990s was already looking to divest itself of less profitable short lines to allow it to
better concentrate on it's mainlines and wasn't interested in clearing  the slide.

By July 1997, the relatively new
Portland & Western railroad struck an agreement with  BNSF to purchase the trackage and other equipment.   
BNSF continued to own the land under the track for several more months.  Then in November 1998, the State of Oregon accepted BNSF's
quitclaim land donation of the Astoria branch.  This would mean that the State would own the railroad right of way, but the
Portland & Western
would own the actual trackage and equipment and would continue to serve customers along most of the line.   Interestingly, the state actually
owns the bridges and tunnels on the line, but the P&W is responsible for maintaining them.

The slide at Aldrich Point was cleared by 1999, thanks to federal funds from Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) passed
by Congress in 1998.   The grant allowed 80 cents of every dollar spent by the Portland & Western to clear the slide to be reimbursed.  On April
29, 1999, the first train, Locomotive 1202, pushing a Jordan spreader, reached Astoria since the 1996 slide.  Note:  The EMD SW1200 No. 1202
was later sold in 2000 and is no longer with the
Portland & Western.

In 2002, Congressman Wu secured 2 million dollars to conduct significant repairs on the line between Port Westward and Astoria replacing  
almost 40,000 ties and surfacing the track.  These repairs helped raise the track speed on the entire route to over 25 mph for freight engines
and 30-35 mph for passenger trains.  

As repairs were completed on the line, plans were underway for a new ship disassembly business in Astoria to begin shipping scrap metal to
Portland via the Astoria branch.  This prospect invigorated the line and for the first time in years, it appeared that Astoria might once again ship
freight by rail.   However, at the last minute, environmental rules prevented the scrapping business to begin.  It appeared that all the to work to
repair the line was in vein.   Until, the Lewis & Clark Explorer...

In early 2003, the State of Oregon secured enough funds to purchase three used 1956 Budd cars  from  BC Rails of British Columbia, number
10, 11 and 31.    Number 31 was an ex-Great Northern unit, the only Budd car purchased by the Great Northern, before being sold to BC Rails.  
Number 10 and 11 were passenger units, while 31, usually coupled in between 10 and 11,  was converted by BC Rails into a half
kitchen/dinning car, half passenger car.   Total passenger capacity is more than 200 when all three cars were used.  

The excursion train began in the spring of 2003, when state officials at the Oregon Department of Transportation collaborated with the Portland
& Western Railroad  to operate the three Budd car  train between Linnton, Oregon (just west of Portland) over 90 miles to Astoria, Oregon.  The
excursion train would operate 4 days per week during the spring and summer seasons.   Leaving Linnton early in the morning, the train would
arrive in Astoria nearly 4 hours later.  With a 4 hour layover, riders would have plenty of time to explore the sights of one of the most tourist
friendly cities in Oregon, before boarding the train for the 4 hour ride home, or staying the night and catching the train the following day.

The attraction of the excursion went well beyond its destination, Astoria.  The train would travel over one of the most historic and oldest railroads
in Oregon. Many features of the line, including its three swing bridges and single remaining tunnel are historical features that date from the late
1800s.   In addition, the views along the Columbia River are breathtaking and in many cases only visible from the remote tracks or the water
itself.  Regular passenger trains last ran on this line in 1952, so this would be a new and unique experience.

Originally, the Lewis & Clark Explorer was envisioned to operate from Union Station in the heart of Portland, Oregon.  This might have increase
the ridership and popularity of the excursion.   Also, Amtrak was suppose operate and maintain the train under contract.   However, at the last
minute, Amtrak became less than enthused at the idea and started to back out.     Instead, the  train would to be operated out of Linnton, and
would be maintained and operated by
Portland & Western Railroad crews, thanks to the Portland & Western Railroad who stood up at the
minute and agreed to operate the train.    Amtrak would still provide ticket sales and while not departing from Union Station, a bus would be
available to pick up passengers who wanted to start their journey from there instead of driving out to Linnton.

The Budd cars were built in 1956 in Red Lion, Pennsylvania.   Each of the three Budd car had twin 275 h.p. diesel engines for a total of six
engines with direct drive through a drive shaft and differential, not unlike a car, to the wheels.  They were last used by BC Rails on a regular
465-mile intercity route between North Vancouver and Prince George, British Columbia.  The cars underwent a major rebuild in the 1980s and
were in fairly good condition.   Unfortunately, a few mechanical problems did arise over the three years they were operated on the Lewis &
Clark, including some engine failures and air conditioning break downs.   The air conditioning system of number 31 had to be repaired at a
cost of $20,000 in 2003.  Needed repairs on the engines and transmissions would have been much greater.  So as a result, as the engines
showed signs of major problems, they were simply left not running.   Although equipped with six engines, the trains were originally designed to
travel as fast as 80 mph.  With a top speed of 35 mph on the Astoria branch,  they could get away will only half their power.  By the time we rode
the train, they were down to only 3 operating engines.  1 per Budd car.   However, several weeks later, the Budd cars experienced such a failure
that they actually had to be pulled by a Portland & Western freight engine before returning to normal service after several days.    

On October 3, 2005, the Lewis & Clark Explorer made its last run from Portland to Astoria and back.  The sun set for the last time for the
Lewis & Clark Explorer as it pulled into Linnton that evening.

There was hope that the State might be able to muster the funds and the will to continue to operate the line, but that was not be.  The State only
planned to operate the train for 3 years and that's exactly what it did.   The Budd cars are currently up for sale and will likely never see service on
the Astoria Line again.

The future of the A-line itself is anything but bleak.  A number of shippers from as far west as Wauna all the way to Linnton keep the Portland &
Western busy with several dedicated switching crews.   Currently, no freight traffic ships from Astoria or the from the approximately 26 mile
stretch of track between Astoria and Wauna.    However, folks in Astoria are currently restoring a beautiful steam engine, and while no concrete
plans are in place, it's hoped that once completed, passengers might once again grace the Astoria line, at least between Astoria and
somewhere near Wauna.

This time, pulled by steam.
Map of the 90 plus mile Portland & Western Astoria line.
We were able to meet the Engineer Ken Nichols and Conductor Jan Zweerts (conductor suit).  Both are extremely friendly folks.  Ken definitely likes his job and
it shows.  They couldn't have picked a better ambassador for the passengers and especially  the lucky kids who got to come up front and spend some time
with the Engineer as he was operating the train.  July, 2005
Portland & Western crews conduct major tie repairs on the western sections of the Astoria line in October, 2002.
Lori Assa / The Associated Press - Oct, 2002
Most of these photos are of our Lewis & Clark Explorer trip.  However I've also included some photos of the Astoria line from
my exploring this route, to give a general perspective of this branch.
Linnton - Start of the journey
Linnton, Oregon at about 7:30am.  Just prior to departure, we boarded the train.  Along for the ride is my Wife, Parents in law and Dad.   
These Budd cars were prior used for long high speed runs between cities up in Canada.   A small restroom is located at each end of each car.   We were
seated at the very rear of the rear car.  What would turn out to be both a blessing and mistake.  Our close proximity to the rear vestibule made it very easy to
step outside for a very clear view  to the rear of the train for the first segment of the trip.   But the best views are from the front next to the Engineer.  
Fortunately, we were treated to those views as well later on.  July, 2005
The rear vestibule also includes one of the Engineer's seat, which was empty, since he was in the seat at the front of the train.   The speedometer still worked, reading
30 mph, which was track speed for most of the trip.  The middle Budd car includes a baggage storage area and kitchen and a tiny hallway that allows passengers to
squeeze through.   The last picture shows the full interior of one of the Budd cars.  
July, 2005
This is near milepost 10, just south of United Junction.   The overpass in the background is the Gillihan Loop Road bridge.  The line between Linnton and
Scappose looked much like this.   Wooded and straight with lots of trees and local farms.  For this segment, the line generally follows Highway 30, but usually
trees and a small distance separate the railroad from view of the highway.  Views are
WESTBOUND from the REAR of the train.  July, 2005
United Junction
United Junction is where the former United Railway meets up with the Astoria branch.  Both were owned and operated by the SP&S and later the Burlington
Northern, but now both are operated by the
Portland & Western.  Note the sanding tower located at United Junction.  Its needed to get the trains up the very
steep Cornelius pass and was actually installed by the P&W in recent years.   For much more info and pics of this branchline, check out my
United Railways Page. Pictures taken when I explored the line a few months earlier.   March, 2005
Passing through Scappose.  Views are WESTBOUND from the REAR of the train.  July, 2005
St. Helens
Passing through St. Helens. Note the railroad sign of the same name.  The trailer just the left of the sign is actually the Portland & Western St. Helens offices
and near where the St. Helens Switcher ties up at night.  Also passing a local saw mill in St. Helens as well as the 2.5 mile long St. Helens industrial spur.   
Views are
WESTBOUND from the REAR of the train.  July, 2005
These photos were taken when I explored the area a few months earlier and are of part of the St. Helens Industrial spur.  This 3 mile long spur was built in
1909 by the St. Helens Terminal and Dock company to link the SP&S mainline to industries that were located along the Columbia River.   The spur operated as a
seperate railroad using its own power until 1931 when the SP&S took it over.   Today, the Portland & Western operates on this track serving the remaining
industry along this spur.   March
, 2005
The St. Helens depot as viewed when I explored the line a few months earlier.    I'm not sure when it was built, but today it no longer serves as a depot.  
Instead it's the local Chamber of Commerce office.  The next picture is of the St. Helens P&W switcher in March, 2005.  The P&W revolves power as needed  
and a different engine was in use when our train passed by a few months later.   Note the P&W St. Helens Office trailer in the far right photo.  March
, 2005
The left photo was take just north of St. Helens, passing over a small bridge.  The second photo shows that same bridge as viewed in March, 2005 when I
explored the line.  The middle photos are passing over a bridge at milepost 35.5 that goes over one of the tributaries to Tide Creek.    The next view is near
Elder Rocks, south of Gobel.  Far right view is a large cut, possibly a daylighted ex-tunnel north of Prescott.   Views are
WESTBOUND from the REAR of the
July, 2005
Trojan is the site of an abandoned nuclear power plant.  The only one to ever exist in Oregon.   Built in 1976,  It was decommissioned by the mid 1990s and the
reactor was removed and shipped to Hanford for burial.   Today it is completely decommissioned but its eerie buildings, imposing water cooling tower and
parking lots still exist as if everyone was simply off for the weekend.  First picture is viewed
EASTBOUND  from the FRONT of the train. July, 2005.  The other
two views were taken March, 2005 when I explored the line.
Street running in Rainier.   For a distance of approximately 1/2 mile, the railroad shares the road with local vehicles and traffic as it passes through the heart of
down town Rainier.  Views are
WESTBOUND  from the REAR of the train. July, 2005
More views the street track in Rainier on our return trip.   Views are EASTBOUND  from the FRONT of the train. July, 2005
Passing near the site of Tryon.  Views are WESTBOUND from the REAR of the train. July, 2005
Daylighted tunnel 1 and 2
Left view is a cut near Walker Island.  This used to be Tunnel number 1 prior to be daylighted sometime before 1921.   Middle views shows the tracks following
along the Columbia River. The last view is through a second cut north of Walker Island.   This was tunnel number 2, but was also daylighted before 1921.   
Views are
WESTBOUND  from the REAR of the train.  July, 2005
Tunnel # 3
Tunnel number 3 is the last of the 4 original tunnels to still exist on the line.  The others were daylighted in the 1920s and 1930s.  Its a hardrock tunnel which
doesn't require wood shoring, making it easier to maintain.
Views are
EASTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
Port Westward (Locodo)
Port Westward, also known as Locodo was once a 3 mile long spur that ran out to an ammunition plant build during the Second World War.  The facilities
included a number of short spur tracks and operated until the end of the Korean War in 1953.   The spur still exists, except for the last 1/4 quarter mile which
was actually partly built as a trestle out over the Columbia River.    However, I'm told it hasn't been used for many years.
Views are
EASTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
I took these views of the Port Westward spur a few months earlier.   A power plant now exists on the site of the ammunition plant and its possible that the
railroad was used for a period of time to supply fuel for the plant.   But the line doesn't appear to have been used for quite some time.   March, 2005
Clatskanie is the site of a small saw mill that still ships about 5 cars per week by rail.   This is the second to last furthest west shipper on the line as of today.  
The mill at Wauna, west of here is the last shipper.  I took these pictures when exploring the route a few months earlier.   March, 2005
Clatskanie Swing Bridge.
The first of three swing bridges that are all almost 110 years old was the one at Clatskanie.  Built in 1897, the bridge is almost entirely intact just as it was
originally built.  Just as they did 100 years ago, crews turn this bridge almost daily using a manual hand crank.      
Views are
WESTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
Views of the same bridge on the return trip.   In the far right photo, note the picture of the "dog legs".  These are where the swing bridge track and solid ground
track meet up.  As the train approaches, the crew needs to verify that the track is lined up and locked in this spot, before proceeding across.    
Views are
EASTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
Wauna.  This is currently as far west as the Portland & Western freight normally travels on the Astoria line.   Its Milepost 73.5   About 25 miles short of Astoria.  
The mill is significant in size, but only receives and ships by rail on an occasional basis.  Perhaps once a week or less.   The track west of here was
essentially abandoned for several years, because a slide cut off the line at Aldrich Point in 1996, but was cleared in 1999.  Now that  the Lewis & Clark
Explorer is no more, the section of rail west of here will once again be dormant.
Views are
WESTBOUND from the REAR of the train.  July, 2005
Pictures from our return trip show some more views of the mill at Wauna.   The spurs that head off into the mill itself and the cars that P&W crews have set out.
The last photo is going over the bridge at Driscol Slough just east of Wauna.   Views are
EASTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
The two left views are just west of Cliffton.  Note the cast away ties from the major tie replacement that took place in 2002.   The middle view is the site of
Cliffton and the two right views are just east of Cliffton.
Views are
EASTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
Aldrich Point & Brownsmead
View on the left is a low level trestle near Aldrich Point.  On the right is a rural school house near Brownsmead.  Several miles east of here is where the 1996
slide occurred that blocked the line.
Views are
WESTBOUND from the REAR of the train.  July, 2005
Blind Slough Swing Bridge
The Blind Slough Swing bridge.  Another 100 plus year swing bridge is that still operated manually to this day.   Each day when the train arrives, twice a day,
crews close the bridge for the train, then open it back up for boat traffic as soon as it crosses.  
Views are
WESTBOUND from the REAR of the train.  July, 2005
These views of the Blind Slough Bridge are from our return trip later that afternoon.   Note the warning signs that tell the train Engineer how far he is from the
bridge.  It is required that the train make a complete stop and visually inspect that the bridge is closed before proceeding.  Note the volunteer bridge tender
crew waiting at the scene.   After the train passes, they will reopen the bridge for boat traffic.
Views are
EASTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
These wonderful shots were taken at Blind Slough a few weeks after we rode the train.  They are shown here courtesy of Greg Brown.  Note the bridge tender
using "manual" power to close the bridge prior to the train's arrival.   Photos:  
Courtesy of Greg Brown - Aug, 2005
Knappa. The only remaining wig wag on the Astoria line.     The old wooden bridge over the railroad is Knappa Road.  The wig wag guards Waterhouse Road as
it crosses the railroad tracks.  The abandoned siding was approximately 1/3 mile long and is located just west of Knappa.  Several logging companies dumped
into the Columbia near here and this was probably a reload many decades ago.   Views are
WESTBOUND from the REAR of the train.  July, 2005
These are the same views as seen from the return trip home.   Note the better picture of the famous Knappa wig-wag.   It was recently rebuilt, but with parts
hard to come by, it was no easy feat.  Views are
EASTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
John Day River Swing Bridge & Daylighted Tunnel # 4
The third and final swing bridge was the John Day River Swing bridge.  Just east of here was Tunnel # 4 which was daylighted prior to 1935.  Although its hard
to imagine that a tunnel ever existed here.   This bridge appears to be a more modern deck girder swing bridge that likely replaced the original span.   As the
train heads northwest, away from the John Day River, we noticed a number of very old abandoned power poles.  Probably last used many decades ago.   Note
the mudflats of the John Day River.   Originally, a trestle spanned these mudflats, but today its replaced by a long fill.
Views are
WESTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
These are the views west of Tongue Point.  As the train approaches Astoria, the giant  Astoria Columbia River bridge comes into view off in the distance.  Note
the bike path that was recently installed as part of a significant economic upgrade package, partly due to the Lewis & Clark Explorer.
Views are
WESTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
More views of the track west of Tongue Point.   All of the trackage from Tongue Point, west into Astoria is technically owned by the City of Astoria.
Views are
EASTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
The Astoria Riverfront Trolley and the Lewis & Clark Explorer pass each other as the L&C train approaches the Astoria depot and the Riverfront Trolley nears its
furtherest point east.   Views are
WESTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005
After stopping the Lewis & Clark Explorer, Ken makes one last check of the checklist before taking his 4 hour break.     The family is all gathered in front of the
Astoria depot.  Unfortunately, despite being a significant building, built in the early 1920s, it's currently closed and was not part of the Lewis & Clark Explorer
experience.   Hopefully it can be restored and put back to use someday. July, 2005
The Astoria Riverfront Trolley
One of the things that makes this excursion so convenient and such a darn shame that its going away is the Astoria Riverfront Trolley.  With a stop directly in
front of the depot, for only $2 one can ride the trolley all day long along Astoria's Riverfront and spend the 4 hour layover visiting and shopping the numerous
shops, stores, attractions and restaurants that are right along the trolley tracks.  The trolley can make one complete round trip is about 30 minutes, so its never
too far away.   I have MUCH more info, pictures and video of the Trolley, which thankfully, is not going away on my
Latest News and Updates
On March 21, 2006, I visited Linnton for the first time since riding the Lewis & Clark Explorer the year prior.   Since ending operations in October, 2005, the
RDC cars have been stored here, awaiting evenual sale to any prospective buyer.  As it would turn out, the cars would remain here only a few more weeks
before finally being moved.   March, 2006
These photos were taken by Doug Berger who allowed these examples to be posted here.  For more pictures, visit this website.
On May 6, 2006, a Portland & Western crew using the GP9, 4433, hooked up to the RDC cars and transported them from their storage at Linnton to the Union
Pacific Brooklyn yard.   The route from Linnton to Brooklyn involved going over the Cornelius Pass, then to Banks, then to Brooklyn.   Sincere Thanks to Doug
for sharing these photos here.   May, 2006
Doug Berger Photos.
If you have any further information, pictures, or corrections about this railroad or the Astoria Trolley, please  
Email me anytime.
Related Links

My Portland & Western Railroad Page
My United Railways Page.
My Astoria Riverfront Trolley Railroad Page.
My Portland & Southwestern Railroad Page
My Kerry Timber Railroad Page.
My Bradley-Woodard Timber Railroad Page.
Return to my Railroad History Page

Return to the Historical Expeditions Page

Return to my main Home Page
Copyright © 2005, 2006 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.
What appears to be a local logging reload station just west of Rainier.    Views are WESTBOUND from the REAR of the train. July, 2005
Approaching the Astoria depot we start to see what remains of the Astoria yard.  At one point in time, there was a turn table, water tower, engine shops and
much more here.  Today, only a few sections of track and the depot remain.   One interesting thing is that while the P&W Astoria line and the Astoria Riverfront
Trolley line were once part of the same railroad that continued through Astoria and down to Seaside, today there is a break in the track to permanently separate
the two lines.  FRA rules do not permit even the chance of a freight train or larger passenger locomotive from operating on tracks used by the lighter electric
trolley for safety reasons.   In just the last few years, several sections of track were removed from in front of the depot and now the P&W line officially ends
directly in front of the depot, while the Astoria Riverfront Trolley line continues west through Astoria, ending at the far went end of town.  Views are
WESTBOUND from the FRONT of the train.  July, 2005