|Also check out the Portland & Western Railroad Page,
which is the line that operates the remains of this branch today.
|This article also includes information and photos of three lines that connected to this railroad:
Stimson Mill Spur line out of Seghars
Willamette Valley & Coast Railroad out of Cherry Grove - See my article about this Railroad
Carlton & Coast Railroad out of Carlton, Oregon - See my article about this Railroad
|Last Update: February 5, 2006
|Map of the Westside Branch.
The blue dots indicate the currently active line. The yellow dots indicate the abandoned section.
|The Southern Pacific St. Joseph Branch was a connecting mainline of Southern Pacific that served both Washington and
Yamhill Counties in Oregon. In it’s history, it had no less than 3 separate lines that branched off it and headed into the
woods as both logging and mill spur lines. It also served a large number of rural communities. Today, it’s but a shadow of
it’s former self and most of it is now abandoned.
The line technically begins in Beaverton, Oregon and construction began in 1870 under the name Oregon and California railroad. This
makes it one of the oldest branch lines in Oregon. The line reached St. Joseph, 37 miles away, in 1872. St. Joseph was a small, but
important agriculture community in the area. By 1880, the line was continued south to McMinnville and eventually Corvallis.
In 1906, a connection was built between St. Joseph and Lafayette, to allow traffic to proceed from Corvallis all the way into the Portland via
two separate routes, the Westside route, through Forest Grove (discussed here) or the Newberg route into Cook (now Tualatin). This made
St. Joseph an important junction.
The Southern Pacific acquired the line in 1887 as part of its acquisition of the Oregon and California. While under Southern Pacific
ownership, this line was generally known as the Westside Branch. In 1945, the east-west trackage between Beaverton and Hillsboro was
changed to become known as the “Tillamook Branch”, since the Southern Pacific Tillamook trains generally used that route to reach
Portland. And the Westside branch was generally the trackage from Hillsboro, through St. Joseph, to Corvallis.
The Tillamook Branch and Westside (St. Joseph) Branch meet at a large wye and station located in Hillsboro, Oregon. Up until the 1930s,
an electric interurban train ran between Beaverton and Forest Grove, called the Red Electric. Electric passenger trains were common on the
branch lines out of Portland.
As the line entered Forest Grove, it begins to turn directly south. There were many little stops along the line, but the first major branch line to
be encountered, when heading south, was the Stimson Saw mill spur at Seghers. This spur line is 2.5 miles long and serves a large mill.
From 1932-1952, a logging RR branched west past the mill. See below for more info.
As the Westside continued south, it immediately crossed a short bridge over Scoggins Creek. The next major stop on the line was the town
of Patton. Here, another branch line existed to service a sawmill and the town of Cherry Grove, called the Willamette Valley and Coast
Railroad. The line only existed for a short period, but has a very interesting, although elusive, history. Check out my
Willamette Valley & Coast RR article.
The branch line was built around 1912-1913 and was about 5.4 miles long, heading west into the Patton Valley off of the Southern Pacific
mainline. The line was built to service a large sawmill near Cherry Grove. But in January 1914, a freak flood rushed down the Tualatin River,
and washed out the dam, log pond and destroyed part of the mill. The entire season’s logs were lost. The original intention was to
continue the railroad into the woods, through the Coast Range and eventually to the Oregon Coast, hence the name. But that never
happened. The damaged mill and railroad were sold in 1915. It was apparently rebuilt and electrified by the 1920s, but closed by 1934, due
to the Depression. The railroad was officially abandoned by September 1935 and the rails pulled up.
As the Southern Pacific Westside mainline continued south, it crossed another short bridge at the Tualatin River and then entered the town of
Gaston. South of Gaston at a place near Cove Orchard is the likely burial spot of an abandoned locomotive. In the early 20th century, this
section of track constantly faced damaged due to a large sink hole. At one point, a locomotive derailed and went head first into the marshy
ground and began to sink. The tender was saved but the locomotive disappeared and was written off. Over the years, many tons of concrete
and rock were piled onto the sink hole and finally stabilized it.
Further south, the line entered the towns of Yamhill and then Carlton. Carlton was a major stop, with a large Southern Pacific depot and the
largest branch line to connect to the SP Westsider, the Carlton and Coast Railroad. The Carlton and Coast was built in 1910 and extended
14 miles west into the Coast Range. Later it extended even further. Be sure to check out my extensive article on the
Carlton & Coast Railroad and the Flora Logging Company.
As the Southern Pacific Westsider continued south out of Carlton, it traveled several more miles before crossing a bridge over Hwy 99W and
then entering the town of St. Joseph, where trains could either head northwest to Newberg and eventually Cook, or southwest to McMinnville
and eventually Corvallis. The original connection at St. Joseph was built primarily to allow trains to only continue on to McMinnville from the
north, rather than Newberg, so that’s where most traffic went, but in later years a full wye connection was built to allow trains to travel in all
By the late 1970s, Southern Pacific was rarely using the line from St. Joseph north to Seghars (The Stimson Mill junction). Traffic was
frequent on the line between Beaverton and Forest Grove and between Tualatin and Corvallis, but the only things served on the St. Joseph
branch were the Stimson Saw mill and a few grain silos in and around Carlton. By 1980, Southern Pacific found that it was only storing cars
on the line, south of the Stimson’s Mill junction. By 1985, they abandoned and tore up a major section, from the Stimson’s Mill connection to
just north of Carlton.
For a few years, the tracks north out of St. Joseph extended almost 5 miles, including about a mile north of Carlton, where they ended. The
purpose of the tracks was to continue to serve any remaining customers in Carlton. But by the early 1990s, the line was cut back to about 1.5
miles, which is what remains today. Today, the southern portion of line is used by the Portland and Western exclusively to store cars. The
Southern Pacific lines were leased by the Portland and Western in the early 1990s and continue to runs trains from Newberg, through St.
Joseph down to Corvallis, but nothing exist anymore of the original town of St. Joseph.
The original section of the line between Beaverton and the junction to the Stimson’s Mill still exists today and is in active service under lease
of the Portland and Western Railroad. In Hillsboro, the large wye that connects the Tillamook and Westside Branches, still exists as does
the historic depot and is still in use by the Portland and Western Railroad crews. The entire remaining line sees almost daily service.
I explored the abandoned section and found that the grade still exists, but is largely decayed. Some sections have been reclaimed by local
farmers. Of the two short bridges that existed south of Seghars and north of Gaston, both are gone, but the concrete abutments remain, as
do pieces of the bridges, which were used to as barriers to prevent people from falling into the creeks.
The large historical depot in Carlton still exists and is being restored. Now privately owned and used as a store, it’s original design,
including the interior has been largely retained. A short section of track remains out front, probably with the intention of displaying a
Caboose or car at some future date. Also, the wig wag, which protected the street in front of the depot still exists and is on display in front of
Why Southern Pacific chose to destroy what could have continued to be a vital back up rail link between the Willamette Valley and Portland, is
beyond me. The original abandonment only included about 11 miles of track and two minor bridges. Both ends of the line were clearly still
in use, so the abandonment makes little sense to me. Southern Pacific was abandoning many lines during that time period. If the Portland
and Western and the Port of Tillamook Bay had not come along when it did to take over those lines, I have little doubt that no rail service
would exist southwest of Portland.
|Photos of the Line
Color photos were taken by Brian McCamish unless otherwise indicated.
Black & White photos are courtesy of the Yamhill County Historical Society, unless otherwise indicated.
|The Hillsboro Wye and Depot
|Map of the Hillsboro wye
|The Hillsboro depot and wye, located in Hillsboro, Oregon. Since 1945, the Westside Branch officially began here. Here the line from Beaverton branches off
into two direction. The north line makes it's way to Banks, and eventually Tillamook. In the old days, Southern Pacific operated the entire branch. Today, the
Portland & Western operates out to Banks, where it interchanges with the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad. The west line, continues onto Cornelis the Westsider. It
used to go to St. Joseph, McMinnville and eventually Corvallis. But today, the Portland & Western only operates to the Stimson Mill, a few miles west of Seghars.
A second line heads west, just north of the wye and runs a few miles to Forest Grove before dead ending. It too is still in service used by the Portland & Western.
Photos taken: March, 2004
|The Dilley Siding
|Map of the Dilley area.
|The crossing and abandoned siding at Dilley. The mainline is still active here and the train in the photos is the Portland & Western HIllsboro switcher, making it's
way down the north end remains of the St. Joseph branch to the Stimson Mill. The siding located here was abandoned sometime prior to the 1990s, but what it
served I'm not sure. A large parking lot exists here and I assume perhaps a mill did as well. Photos taken: March, 2004
|The photo on the right, shows a short bridge on the line over Dilley Creek. The other photos show the Hillsboro Switcher as it continues south on the line
towards the Stimson Mill. Photos taken: March, 2004
|Seghers and the Stimson Mill Junction
|Just a few hundred feet past the Seghers Road siding is the Stimson Mill Junction. Prior to 1985, the Westside mainline headed straight here and a switch
was in place that allowed trains to take the Stimpson Mill Spur. Today, the Mainline south of here is abandoned. You can still see the remains of the grade
on the left side of the track. The switch no longer exists and instead the track heads directly to the Stimpson Mill. The line curves to the right, goes under
Hwy 47 and then travels west another 2.5 miles before reaching the Mill. Photos taken: March, 2004
|Stimson Mill & Spur
|Map of the Stimson Mill Spur.
|The spur has only one vehicle
crossing, just east of the mill, but
it's the trains that stop, not the
cars. April, 2004
|Looking east from the mill site,
where the double track goes back
to a single just prior to splitting
again and entering the mill
property. April, 2004
|A few hundred yards east of the
mill, sprouts a siding, where the
P&W interchanges mill traffic.
|Stimson Mill spur looking east,
just east of the mill.
|The Stimson mill. Here the tracks split off into several directions into the mill. Note the sign that prohibits railroad crews from going past this point. I haven't quite
figured this out. I understand the mill has it's own locomotive, so maybe there are rules that prevent the Portland & Western crews from operating on mill property.
If anyone knows what this sign really means, Email me. There is actually about 1/2 mile ofrailroad track inside the mill property. The mill was built in the 1930s
and has continued to operate all these years. Photo on the far right, showing the mill, was taken from on top of the Hagg Lake/Scoggins Dam, west of the mill.
Photos: April, 2004.
|Rob Jacox's Western Rails Website, has a photo of the Stimson Mill's own switcher, located on this page.
This is the direct link to the photo, taken by John Bauer in August, 2004.
|Brief History of the Stimson Lumber Co.
The Stimson Lumber Co. originated in Belfair, Washington where they operated a logging railroad from 1914 into the 1930s. In about 1930, they came to Oregon.
In 1931, they built a new mill and dam on the site of the current mill (pictured above). A railroad was constructed northwest into the woods. The Southern
Pacific built a brand line to the mill. Beginning in 1932, Stimson ran the logging railroad using 2 Shays and 22 log cars. Approximately 16 miles of railroad was
built and included at least one major camp. In 1952, the railroad was abandoned and coverted into a log truck road for the most part. At least one of the two
Shay survived and was donated the Oregon Forestry Center in Portland, where it still exists today.
|The Abandoned Grade - Seghers to Patton
|Back to the Westside mainline and
looking south, where the line used to
continue on to St. Joseph.
|The track here was removed in 1985.
Just beyond the bushes is the first
abandoned bridge site on the line.
|Looking back at the mainline. It's hard
to believe a switch and track existed
here only 20 years ago.
|Here at this first abandoned bridge over Scoggins Creek. Scrapper crews appear to have removed, what I believe was a steel plate girder bridge and then
dismantled it on site in 1985. What you see here appear to be pieces of the bridge that were buried and welded together on either side of the creek to keep people
who might drive on the grade from going into the creek. The picture on the right shows the sight from the Highway 47 Scoggins Creek bridge. Photos: March,
|The abandoned grade south of the Scoggins Creek bridge site.
Some of the abandoned grade here and south of here has been
reclaimed by local farmers, used either as an access road or
farmland. March, 2004.
|The Willamette Valley & Coast Railroad - Patton to Cherry Grove
|Almost nothing of this shortline exists today, except for possibly the mill site. The railroad was built around 1912 to serve a mill in Cherry
Grove about 5 miles from the Southern Pacific. It was abandoned by 1935. Check out my Article on this Railroad
|After viewing an old county map, I
now have an accurate idea of
where the elusive line went and
include it here plotted on a USGS
|About a half mile past this gate are
the mill pond, dam and mill
remains. Unfortunately it was
clearly marked with a no
|This short rise could very well be
the only remaining grade of the RR
east of Cherry Grove. I'm not
positive this is the grade, but it's a
|Driving up Patton Valley Rd.
towards Cherry Grove. The RR
would have been out in the middle
of the field to the left, but no grade
|More Abandoned Grade - Patton to Yamhill
|The second abandoned bridge was located over the Tualatin River just north of Gaston. Just like the bridge before it, it appears to have been a plate girder
bridge that was dismantled on site by the scrappers. Pieces of the bridge were then placed on the grade as protective barriers to keep people from driving into
the driver. Photos: March, 2004.
|The abandoned grade just south of Gaston, Oregon.
Photos: March, 2004.
|I found this rotted wood box along the grade. I don't know exactly
what it is, but it appears like it might be an old abandoned railcar. If
anyone knows, email me.
Photos: March, 2004.
|The abandoned grade and highway crossing in Yamhill, Oregon. In the left photo, the
grade ran in front of this very old log barn. In the right picture, it crossed the highway and
ran in between the white and metal buildings.
Photos: March, 2004.
|Carlton & Coast Railroad
|These photos of the Carlton & Coast RR are courtesy of the Yamhill Co. Historical Society and are shown by permission.
The Carlton & Coast railroad existed from 1910-1940. It left the Southern Pacific mainline in Carlton and head 14 miles and beyond into the Tillamook
Forest. While I haven't yet had a chance to explore this historical railroad, I hear that some minor remains do exist. I plan to explore the area later this year.
Check out my new full feature article on the Carlton & Coast Railroad and Flora Logging Company
|Carlton Southern Pacific Depot
|The Carlton Depot. I'm not sure when this particular depot was built, but it's not the original depot from the 1800s. This appears to match the construction
design of depots that were built for Southern Pacific in the 1920s. I'm not sure when it was abandoned. Tracks ran to here from St. Joseph as recently as
the early 1990s, so it could have been in use as of then. Today it's privately owned and when I visited the site in March, 2004, it appeared to be undergoing
renovation as a private business. Note the short section of track that remains in front of the depot. I wonder if the owners plan to put a display car or
caboose here. Photos: March, 2004.
|More photos of the historical depot. Note the wigwag on display in front of the depot. This wig wag protected the highway that crossed the tracks next to the
depot. Today, the wig wag has been moved 90 degrees and repainted. It's no longer active, but is on display. Photos: March, 2004.
|These two historical photos of the Carlton depot were taken by Ben Maxwell in 1961. They are courtesy of the Salem Public
Library Historic Photos collection and are shown here by specific permission.
|St. Joseph Junction
|St. Joseph Map
|The St. Joseph Railroad bridge
over Highway 99W.
Photos: March, 2004.
|Picture on the left is looking east towards Newberg. In middle is looking west toward McMinnville. The track on
the left goes to McMinnville, while the track on the right is the remains of the St. Joseph branch. The picture on
the right shows that the Portland & Western still uses the 1.5 miles of remaining track to store cars.
Photos: March, 2004.
My Portland & Western Page
My Carlton & Coast Railroad - Flora Logging Co. Page
My Willamette Valley & Coast Railroad Page
|If anyone has any further information, corrections or pictures about the SP St. Joseph
Branch, please let me know. You can Email me anytime. Thanks.
|Return to the Railroad History Page
Return to the Historical Expeditions Page
Return to my main Home Page
|Copyright © 2004-2006 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.
|The Hillsboro switcher passes the crossing at Seghers Road. This is what is known as Seghers, although not much is here except for an old house or two.
Note the old Southern Pacific crossing sign. Photos taken: March, 2004