|Special Thanks to engineer Leonard Morgan and the MHRR for the cab ride and also to Jeff Moore for providing
a write up and some additional photos for this article.
|FULL LENGTH HOME MOVIE of our CABOOSE & LOCOMOTIVE CAB RIDE!!
The Caboose Ride (Part One) - 70Mb - 19.28 minutes long
The Locomotive Cab Ride (Part Two) - 142Mb - 39.12 minutes long
Also check out our other Railroad Home Videos on my Railroad Videos Page.
|Last Update: October 24, 2007
|Today, the Mount Hood Railroad is a privately owned passenger excursion railroad that runs along 22 miles of
track between the city of Hood River, Oregon and Parkdale, Oregon. This short line used to serve several
large mills and local industry and interchange with the Union Pacific mainline in Hood River, but that changed
when some of the mills closed down and freight service dramatically decreased. This almost 100 year old
railroad, now is used almost exclusively as a passenger tourist line, although it has the capacity to continue to
serve as a reliable freight short line to the UP mainline, if any customers so desired.
The history of the Mount Hood Railroad dates as far back as the 1880s. That's when the Oregon-Washington
Railroad and Navigation Company built the mainline from Wallula, Washington, west to Portland, Oregon,
passing through Hood River. It was then that the first depot in Hood River was built. But in about 1905, it was
decided that a railroad would be built south, out of Hood River into the interior and mountains to serve as a
logging railroad. The line was incorporated as the Mount Hood Railroad. To make the steep climb from the
Columbia River to the mountains, the railroad built a switchback which is still used today. This was a common
feature on logging railroads of old, but virtually unheard of on existing railroads today.
In 1911, the original depot in Hood River was torn down and the current depot, which still exists today, was
built. That depot was meant serve both the Mount Hood Railroad and the Union Pacific mainline and was
located right at the interchange. There was also a depot located in Parkdale, although I'm not sure if it still
In 1968, Union Pacific acquired the short line, but it retained the Mount Hood name and equipment. In 1987, a
private local group purchased the line from Union Pacific and has been running it ever since. If not for this
private investment, it's very likely that the line would have gone the same way as the other Union Pacific short
lines that ran into the interior, east of here, and been abandoned and torn up. In 2002, the Federal Railroad
Administration, loaned 2.07 million dollars to the Mount Hood Railroad, mostly for track rehabilitation and the
line seems to be in good shape for the foreseeable future. It's unfortunate that it no longer has the freight
business that it once had, but it should remain a successful tourist line.
The Railroad has three locomotives, including a GP38 (number 02) that was just recently purchased in 2002,
probably through the above loan program. When I visited the property, I saw number 02 hooked up to the
scenic railroad train. Number 88 and 89 are both GP9s, number 88 was hooked up the dinner train, while
number 89 was parked on a siding, along with two older cabooses. I assume number 89 is used as a back up or
for freight service. I did not see any locomotive facilities on the site, so I'm not sure where maintenance and
fueling is performed. There is a maintenance shack and equipment that would be used for track maintenance.
Be sure to read the completely history of this railroad at the bottom of this page.
|In April, 2005, my lovely wife surprised me with tickets to ride the Mt. Hood Railroad. On April 9th, we did just
that. But it was not just any train ride. We were fortunate to experience every aspect of riding a train that
anyone could dream of. We started out in the cupola of the caboose enjoying the best view in the house and
returned home in the locomotive at the head of the train. The following are our pictures of this wonderful
|Our locomotive today would be number 02. It's
the newest MHRR engine in the fleet, purchased
in 2002 and it looks nice. It's not hard to
understand why it's their primary motive power.
|The view from the caboose cupola was stunning. At some
15 feet off the ground, the views were hard to beat,
especially as the lead car for the first few miles of the trip.
|The most famous aspect of the MHRR is this
switchback. One of only 5 switchbacks that are still
active in the U.S. This replaced the turn table that
existed here decades ago and allows the trains to make
a VERY steep climb up the hills that separate Hood
River from the valley.
|As we begin to leave the
MHRR yard, the UP
mainline tracks diverge off
into the distance and
continue east down the
|The steel bridge over the
Hood River is the largest on
the line and is also the
oldest, being built in 1906.
It's nicely painted and well
|Jen sitting in the caboose.
|The old mill at Dee. Dee was the primary reason this railroad was built. This mill was
a major shipper on the railroad and area employer until it burned down in 1996. It was
unfortunately never rebuilt.
|The rear open air car gave
us a surprisingly close
(and loud) view of the
locomotive as it pulled us
up the rails.
|An imposing view of Mt.
Hood in the background
as 02 prepares to do the
runaround near Parkdale.
|As we approached
Parkdale, the conductor
(Bob) gets ready to
dismount and uncouple
the cars for the runaround.
|Inside one of the passenger
cars. Included in the string
of cars were several
passenger cars, a
refreshments car and open
|Parked in Parkdale, the train has a 1 hour layover here,
which allows enough time for the passengers to get
something to eat and enjoy the scenery of the little town.
|Number 02 with Bob the conductor
approaches the cars for it's runaround
of the train.
|For me, the cab ride was the most thrilling part of the trip. Other than a quick tour and ride with a very nice PNWR engineer, this was the
first time that I, and certainly Jen, had a chance to spend any significant time in a diesel locomotive cab. MHRR engineer, Leonard Morgan
was kind enough to allow us to ride on the return trip from Parkdale to Hood River. The trip was not without incident. A failure in the
dynamic brakes kept the crew busy trying to solve the problem and very alert for the steep descent down the valley. Below you'll see my
photos, but be sure to check out our video, linked at the top of this page, which is very detailed, showing all aspects, views and sounds
from the cab.
|In September, 2004, I visited the home of the Mt. Hood Railroad for the first time and took these photos.
|This depot was built by the Oregon-Washington
Railroad & Navigation Company in 1911 and replaced
the original depot built in 1882. This historical picture
was taken in 1915 and is located inside the depot.
Today the Mount Hood Railroad uses the depot.
|Mount Hood Railroad number 02 is a EMD GP38, built in October, 1969.
It's the newest MHRR locomotive, purchased in 2002. It makes 2000 h.p.
and is generally used to pull the scenic train. Note how the locomotive is
set up to "push" the train. The locomotive pushes the train for the first
serveral miles until it reaches the switch back, then it pulls the train the
remaining 19 or so miles of the trip. It's numbered 02, because it was
purchased in 2002.
|Caboose number 1040 is currently used on the scenic
train. This is an ex-Union Pacific CA-5 Caboose,
number 25249. It was built in August, 1952 and retired
from the UP in April, 1986.
|The maintenance shack and vehicle. Note the railroad
wheels that allow this truck to be driven on the railroad
tracks. Tracks protrude from this white shack, which
indicate that its used to store railroad speeders and/or
|MHRR number 88. This unit is an EMD GP9R, built in September, 1959. It was aquired by the MHRR in 1988 (hence the number
of the locomotive) The locomotive makes between 1700-2000 h.p. depending on which engine was installed during the R
conversion. When I saw it, it was hooked up to the dinner train.
|The lesser used equipment and locomotives are
stored here, just a short ways east of the depot and
the scenic and dinner trains.
|MHRR number 89. This unit is an EMD GP9, built in May, 1959. It likely
makes about 1750 h.p. and was acquired by the MHRR in 1989. It was
parked by itself. Looking the most ragged, I assume that it's used the
least and probably regulated to back up and/or freight service.
|This is an ex-Great Northern caboose, number X-116. It
was heavily modified for use on the MHRR, including
building larger viewing windows (on the opposite of the
caboose). The GN logo and number was retained. It
was built by International in 1968 and later transferred to
Burlington Northern as their number 10076 during the
merger. Today, it appears to be regulated to storage on
a MHRR siding.
|Ex-Union Pacific caboose, number 25198 is class CA-4
caboose, built in November, 1944. It was donated to City
of Montpelier, Idaho in March 1986; stored on UP tracks
at Montpelier with fire damage as late as 1992. By 1993,
it moved to UP Albina Yard, Portland, OR and apparently
is now owned by the MHRR. Note: The above info is
from Utahrails.com based on the caboose number, and
I'm not sure if it's accurate.
|This is probably the most significant bridge structure on the 22
mile long line. It's located just south of the town of Hood River,
and crosses the Hood River. The metal truss structure is the
original part of the bridge, built in 1906, but many of the wood
pilings have since been replaced with new steel pilings.
|The remains of the Dee Forest Products Plant, in Dee, Oregon. These views are from the west side of the
Hood River, East Fork, looking across the river at the mill. This mill was the last major freight shipper on
the Mt. Hood Railroad, until the mill mostly burned down in 1996. It was never rebuilt. I took these pictures
when I visited the area in September, 2002.
|On the Dee Forest Products
mill site. This is looking
north along the Mt. Hood
mainline toward Hood
River. September, 2002.
|On the Dee Forest Products mill site. This is looking south toward the end of the line at
Parkdale, which is about 5.5 miles away. Some of the buildings on the mill site survived
the fire, but the mill is totally abandoned and the line now ships very little, if any, frieght.
Note the Mt. Hood in the background in the far right picture. September, 2002.
|Reader's and Historic Photos
|Jeff Moore rode the Mt. Hood Railroad in approximately 1991. He sent in these photos. From left to right: At the Hood Rood River Yard,
with the depot in the back ground. - Locomotive number 88 pulling the passenger train. - Number 89 at the Hood River Yard. This loco was
typical used for freights on the line at that time. - Looking over the hood of number 88, from inside the cab, at the end of the line in Parkdale.
Photos are courtesy of Jeff Moore.
|Jeff Moore was kind enough to send me the following historical information about this railroad.
Be sure to visit Jeff's McCloud Rails Website. Thanks for the write up, Jeff!
|Relevant Links to this Railroad
The Mt. Hood Railroad Official Homepage
Scroll down a ways on this page to see some more Mt. Hood RR locomotive pics.
|If anyone has any further information on any of the above railroad that you'd like to share, you can
Email me anytime. Thanks.
|Return to the Railroad History Page
Return to the Historical Expeditions Page
Return to my main Toyota Page
|Copyright © 2004-2007 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.
|Here’s a basic history of the Mount Hood Railroad. Some of this information is from a small booklet, Rider’s Guide to the Mount Hood
Railroad, which was published by John A. Mills and was sold by the railroad to it’s passengers. Back when I was an early teenager my
family and I rode the passenger train, and we picked up the book at that time.
The origins of the Mount Hood Railroad centered around the Lost Lake Lumber Company, which located a mill in Hood River shortly after
1900. At the time it was one of the largest inland lumber mills in Oregon and employed 300 men. Lost Lake was run by the Davidson family
of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and the town of Hood River had gone to great lengths to get the Davidsons to locate in the town.
Lost Lake’s business plan called for logs harvested in the timberlands up the Hood River valley to be driven down the Hood River to the mill.
However, they were unable to drive logs down the stream and quickly ran into financial trouble. They kept their dream afloat for a little
while by borrowing money from David Eccles and his Oregon Lumber Company, but after a while they were forced to sell out to Eccles
entirely. Eccles and his Oregon Lumber Company were very active in the timber industry elsewhere in Oregon, as they were responsible
for building the Sumpter Valley Railroad and the timber industry that it supported and they started what would later become the
Oregon-American Lumber Company operations at Vernonia.
Eccles quickly moved in and started doing what needed to be done to make the operation work. Hood River was “improved” to allow for
easier passage of logs, and Eccles announced that he was going to build a dam just above the town. David Eccles was a prominent figure
in the Mormon church, and he brought in a good number of Mormons to replace previously employed people. There was a great deal of
friction between the Mormons and the rest of the community, mostly because the Mormons tended to isolate themselves from the rest of
the community and the Mormons tended to send most of their earnings back to families in Utah instead of spending it at local businesses.
Shortly after Eccles announced his plans for a dam, three local businessmen stepped in and secured a 99-year lease on the only really
good dam site above the town, announcing their own plans to build a dam to produce electricity. They thought they had Eccles cornered.
Eccles countered by stating that he would tear down the mill in Hood River and move it, along with it’s 300 badly needed jobs, 16 miles up
the river, with a new railroad constructed to serve the mill. Survey crews were in the field shortly afterwards. The initial route surveyed
missed all of the orchards in the valley, and after the orchard owners complained the survey was adjusted to take the railroad through
them. However, in order to serve the orchards the railroad was forced to build a much steeper grade out of Hood River than it really
wanted to, and was also forced to build the switchback to gain elevation. If the original surveys had been followed all of this would have
been avoided. By April 1905 150 men in six camps were working on the grade. Some legal issues regarding the right-of-way in Hood River
itself had to be solved before the first rails could be laid, but these were resolved and the first train movements were being run by the end
of November 1905.
A supervisor from Eccle’s Sumpter Valley Railroad and a crew of Japanese laborers from sugar beet fields that Eccles owned near La
Grande were brought in to lay the rails, and by February 1906 the rails were down and operational as far as Odell, six miles from Hood
River. By the end of March 1906 the line was in operation all the way to Dee, where the old Lost Lake sawmill from Hood River was re-
assembled and placed into operation.
The Mount Hood Railroad was established as a common carrier, meaning that is was obligated to handle all traffic offered to it, which
included passengers and fruit as well as the lumber, which remained as the lifeblood of the operation. In addition to this trackage the
Oregon Lumber Company built and extensive network of private logging railroads to the south of Dee. One of these came near the small
community of Parkdale, and an entrepreneur in that community named R.J. McIssac was able to convince Eccles to extend common
carrier service over the six miles of former logging railroad line above Dee. This was done in 1910, and the Mount Hood reached the form
that it holds today.
From opening day in 1906 until 1916 the railroad ran a mixed train that handled both passengers and freight in the same train. In 1916 the
company replaced the passenger cars with motorcars specially equipped to run on the rails. A total of three such railbus-type vehicles
were acquired, another White in 1917 and a 30-passenger rail bus built by Mack in 1922. The Mack was by far the most successful, and it
lasted for 13 years and traveled and estimated 400,000 miles over the Mount Hood before being destroyed in a fire in 1935. By that point
passenger traffic was so low that all remaining business was handled by the caboose attached to the regular freight train.
The railroad remained independent and successful. Two diesels were purchased, an Alco S-3 acquired new in 1950 and an Alco HH1000
purchased used in 1954. These two handled operations over the line up until 16 October 1968 when the Mount Hood Railway Company, a
subsidiary of the Union Pacific, purchased the line and assumed operations. Apparently UP used the two ex-Mount Hood diesels on the line
through 1970, when they were retired and replaced by regular UP power.
The railroad remained technically a separate entity under the Mount Hood Railway name, but was essentially just a branchline in the UP
system and was operated as such. Freight traffic remained primarily lumber and fruit, and business was good.
In 1984 Diamond Fruit Growers consolidated it’s operations in the Hood River Valley to Odell, closing their plant in Parkdale in the process.
That same year saw Champion International Corp. closed the sawmill in Dee, which put the survival of most of the railroad in serious
jeopardy. Two local residents, Jack Mills and Don McGraw owned property near the Dee-Parkdale portion of the line and they feared that it
would be abandoned. They started meeting with UP officials to try to convince UP not to abandon the southernmost five miles of the line,
and were able to convince local UP management to not pull the rails. However, UP corporate headquarters in Omaha overturned the local
management, ordering that abandonment procedures commence on the Dee-Parkdale segment. Omaha did leave the door open for the
locals to save the part of the line they were interested in…however, the only way they could do so was to buy all 22 miles of the line, from
Hood River to Parkdale. UP’s asking price was $2.8 million. However, after intervention by the Oregon governor and some other wrangling
the price tag dropped to $800,000.
During the winter of 1986-1987 UP placed the Mount Hood Railway on a list of 87 branchlines that were to be sold as soon as possible.
Jack Mills spearheaded an effort to put together enough private investors to buy the line, and as a result of those efforts the new Mount
Hood Railroad Company came into being. Early in 1987 UP notified 60 potential buyers that bids were being accepted for the Mount Hood. A
total of six bids were received. The Mount Hood Railroad’s bid was the lowest of the six, but UP selected the local company anyway
because it presented the most comprehensive business plan of any of the bidders. The Mount Hood Railroad offered $650,000 for the
railroad and the Hood River depot, with an additional $600,000 to be raised to purchase locomotives and rolling stock and to do start
maintenance. However, negotiations began in June 1987 quickly broke down because UP was not offering the Mount Hood enough money
for each carload of freight delivered to Hood River to make the operation viable. The Mount Hood was only the second of the 87 planned
branchline sales to go through, and UP was trying hard not to give away too much in this deal, as to do so would put the company in a
difficult position in the next 85 negotiations. Negotiations were at an impasse, and finally in August 1987 UP broke off negotiations and
refused to talk further. The deal appeared to be dead.
Mills and his railroad had one last card to play, however. UP’s new CEO and Chairman of the Board was Michael Walsh from Portland, and
had many mutual friends with Mills, McGraw, and others involved in the Mount Hood Railroad. Walsh told Mills and McGraw before
negotiations began that he would not get involved in the negotiations unless they broke down, and immediately after the UP team walked
away from the table Mills called Walsh to inform him of the developments. Walsh intervened at that point, bringing the UP back to the table
with a new offer that increased freight rates to be paid to the Mount Hood just enough to make the short line viable. The deal was finally
made, and the new Mount Hood Railroad took over on 2 November 1987.
The new Mount Hood quickly got back into the passenger excursion business in addition to the freight business that it already had. The
passenger excursion business took off, becoming quickly popular. Freight business remained steady up until 16 November 1996, when the
Dee Forest Products plant in Dee burned to the ground and was not re-built, eliminating the largest and steadiest shipper on the line. De-
regulation and UP indifference had already driven most of the fruit business to trucks, and as a result the line was suddenly left with very
little freight to haul. The void left by the loss of the freight business was filled in 1997 with the lease of the Spirit of Oregon Dinner Train set,
which had run on the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad out of Banks up until August 1996. The dinner train was leased for a one-year trial,
after which it was purchased and made a steady part of the Mount Hood operation. The railroad has said in the past that it was basically
breaking even with the freight and passenger excursions, and that the dinner train has allowed the company to remain profitable.
A lot has happened on the MHRR since my last major update. We've ridden several more times and I will try to post photos
when time allows. Last year, the MHRR was hit with major flooding that caused extensive damage the railroad and cut off
access to Parkdale. Much of the track was repaired at the MHRR's expense, but the repairs to the last few miles of track
could not be completed due to lack of funds. However, freight shipments from Odell north continued. Passenger service
continued as normal after the normal winter break.
Earlier this year, the MHRR announced that it would begin steam operations, using several steam locomotives brought in by
a private company. The steam operations lasted for several months, but were not economically feasible and ceased
operations by the fall of 2007.
The fate of the MHRR is not clear. Rumors have suggested that the MHRR is currently for sale. But thankfully, the line
appears to still be operational as passenger and freight service is still scheduled. If you have more information, please
email me. Be sure to check the MHRR's Home page for the latest info.
Here's some photos of the short lived MHRR steam operation, courtesy of my Uncle Geron Marcom.