|Last Update: September 23, 2004
|The Springwater railroad line, once an extension of the electric trolley lines in Portland, Oregon to
the city of Estacada, Oregon, dates back to 1903. Today, the part of the line closest to Gresham
and Portland, which was finally completely abandoned by 1990, is now a paved bike trail. This
write up will concentrate on the section of the line between Boring, and the Cazadero Dam, near
Estacada. This section is not part the paved bike trail and still retains some of the remote and
interesting character of the old railroad. Discussed here will be a wooded 3 mile section of the
grade in a gorge and will include photos of three abandoned cabooses that we discovered along the
old right of way as well as the remains of one of the trestles that was abandoned over 65 years ago.
The history on this railroad was difficult to obtain. From what I can find, the Portland Water and Light Railroad was
formed and built several "electric railroads" from the city of Portland, which extended the trolley car system from
Portland to outlining areas. The rail line in question, commonly called the "Springwater line" began in Sellwood, a
community now part of Portland, Oregon, and was completed to Gresham, Oregon in 1903. By 1904, the line was
completed to the brand new Cazadero dam construction site, just south of Estacada, Oregon, bringing the total
length of the Springwater line to 34 miles of standard gauge track. The Cazadero bridge, a massive span railroad
and truck bridge was built, crossing the Clackamas river to the dam site. Once the dam was completed in 1907, the
short railroad spur from the Springwater line to the dam was abandoned and only vehicle traffic crossed the bridge.
Today, 100 years later, that same massive steel bridge is used to serve employee access to the dam. Two other
major trestles were built along this line between Gresham and Estacada. The Eagle Creek Trestle between Barton
and Estacada and the Deep Creek trestle between Boring and Barton.
The entire line from Sellwood to Estacada and beyond was electrified. This meant that electric trolleys could run
the entire line. Electricity was provided by the new Cazadero power plant. The line served both freight and
passenger service, but half of the line (Boring to Estacada) was abandoned by the early 1930s, after the wooden
trestles at Deep Creek burned down. Freight and Passenger traffic would continue to be served on the line from
Sellwood to Boring. In 1958, passenger service was dropped and only freight was carried. The remainder of the
line was sold that year to Union Pacific and Southern Pacific jointly and operated exclusively as a freight line run
powered diesel locomotives. The two companies had already incorporated the Portland Traction Company and
operated the line under that name. Despite being essentially a trolley line, it was originally built to heavy steam
locomotive specifications, so it could easily handle the light diesel locomotive freight traffic. By the 1970s and
1980s, freight traffic was infrequent. The line served only a few companies, including a brick factory just outside
the city of Gresham and a few businesses in Boring. The Portland Traction Company's other railroad lines in
Milwaukie and Portland had already been sold to a new up and coming family railroad called the Oregon Pacific.
UP and SP were interested in getting rid of the line to Boring as well and applied to abandoned it. The local
governments, and a few politicians looking to make a name for themselves saw an oppertunity to get some cheap
land to turn into a bike trail. The local customers protested the proposed abandonedment and the Oregon Pacific
attempt to buy the line to add to it's already operational Milwaukie division, but that was not be. The city had
already made it's deal with the larger railroads. In 1990, the remaining section of the line, Sellwood to Boring, was
abandoned and sold to the city of Portland and local governments, which turned it into a bike trail. The remaining
tracks were removed in 1990. By 1996, the bike trail on the section of the line from Sellwood to Gresham was
completed and opened to the public. An unpaved section of the grade continues to Boring and is commonly used as
a bike trail as well. Sadly, unlike some other rails to trails programs, the city left very little history behind when
they built the new trail. Every single historical bridge was torn out and replaced by brand new ugly concrete and
The largest intact original section of railroad grade from Boring to Estacada, that has not be developed, consists of
a 3 mile stretch of unmaintained dirt trail located deep in a wooded creek gorge between Boring and Barton. The
remainder of the old railroad grade between Barton and Estacada only exists in very short sections as local farmers
and land owners have all but destroyed the original grade. The grade right of way from Gresham to Estacada is
easily located via a set of power lines that still exist along the entire old right of way. Hwy 223 now covers where
the grade used to run south of Estacada.
|Maps of the Area
|Click on all images below for larger view
|An overview map of the
locations mentioned in
relation to Portland, Oregon
|Map of the 3 mile gorge
section of the railroad
|Map showing the location of
the Eagle Creek trestle
|The Mountain Bike Trip
On April 5, 2003, my friend John and I decided to explore a short section of this old railroad with our mountain
bikes. The section we explored is located in a wooded gorge between Boring and Barton and is about 3 miles
long. The only access is at the north end of the gorge in Boring. The ridable section terminates as what used
to be a very long double span trestle, before continuing to Barton and finally Estacada. One goal of the trip
was to find out if the trestle still existed. This was the only access to the trestle site. This section of the
railroad was abandoned sometime in the late 1930s. It was raining and a cold, early spring day. But that
wasn't going to stop us.
The ride was fairly easy, although muddy on a rainy day like it was. Within about 1/2 mile, the trail is washed
out by a deep culvert but is barely crossable via a couple pieces of 2x4 boards. The remaining 2.5 miles is
easily traversed. The railroad grade follows a nice flowing creek (more of a river this time of year) to the east
and provides some nice scenery for the ride. Upon reaching the end, we would discover, much to our
disappointment that the trestle, spanning Deep Creek is long gone. We later learned that the trestle burned
down sometime in the 1930s. The tracks that lead to the trestle were pushed aside and in later decades stolen
by a few locals to be sold as scrap. Essentially, this section has been abandoned for about 65-70 years.
|These pictures show what most of the old grade looked like. This section's trackage was removed sometime in the 1960s,
stolen by locals and later sold as scrap.
|Several posts that probably
are from the burned down
|The north embuttment of what used to be the Deep Creek trestle. This was a double span
wood trestle which had a fairly large landing in the middle, before spanning another creek
and then continuing on to Barton. The trestles were at least 100+ feet high and were
several hundred feet long per span. The trestles are now long gone. Burned down by
accident in the 1930s, and not rebuilt. John is looking across the ravine where the trestle
used to stand. Note the concrete blocks in the creek that were related to the trestle.
|The old Union Pacific Caboose on
display at the Trestle Glen
|While continuing to explore the camp, we found a road that reached to the old trestle landing site. It was at
this landing site that we found the most interesting things of the day. Two abandoned Union Pacific cabooses,
sitting out in the middle of a open field, next to the trestle landing railroad grade. How these cabooses got
there is a mystery. It's possible they were trucked in many years ago along with the 3rd caboose that is on
display at the camp, in an effort to combine the three into one display. But the road to the landing, requires
crossing a light wooden bridge that does not look like it would support truck traffic. There are private dirt
roads that lead to the landing from the west, and this is likely how the cabooses got here. Perhaps originally to
be used by the camp as display items. Today they are quite abandoned and in very poor condition.
|One of two Union Pacific cabooses abandoned in a field near the Trestle Glen Camp - Barton, Oregon. This first
caboose was pretty well stripped of most of the interior and hardware. The only clue to when it was last used was a
tag on the furnace that said it was last rebuilt in the late 1970s. Both cabooses appeared to have been abandoned
there a long time ago, probably in the early to mid 1980s.
|Pictures of the second abandoned caboose. This one was located about 100 feet from the other. It was in slightly
better shape with more of the interior intact. Note the old furnace, fuel tank, and brake line pressure gauge near the
elevated position where the operator sat. This caboose also contained a galley, a bunk, a private bathroom, and
several storage compartments.
|These pictures were taken by John.
|A view of me inside one of
|A view across the creek
where the bridge used to be.
Note the powerlines that
followed the railroad.
|Pictures of the Cabooses abandoned in the field. Note me looking out the window of one of the
|By the time we found these cabooses, it was already starting to get dark and raining even harder. We had a
long way to go to get back to the car. We didn't make it back until after dark and that made for an even
colder miserable ride. Mistaking a deep hole in the ground, for a shallow puddle in the dark, sent me over the
handlebars and onto my head. That added to the misery, but it was all worth it.
Prior to this trip, I had discovered the Eagle Creek Trestle, which is along this same railroad between Barton
and Estacada. The old railroad grade on either side of the trestle is all but gone. Farmers and land owners
have taken over the grade and plowed over or destroyed it in most sections. But the trestle remains. Built in
1904, it was abandoned around the late 1930s when the wooden trestle up the line burned down.
|What's left of the Eagle Creek Trestle, abandoned in the 1930s. Some pictures I took a few
months prior to this trip. This trestle was built around 1903 and was abandoned in the 1930s
when the wooden trestles up the line burned down and shut this section of the line down.
|The Cazadaro bridge as it appears today. It is in remarkable condition considering it's age, over 100 years
old. The bridge was the original railroad bridge that crossed the Clackamas River and supplied men and
equipment to construct the Cazadaro dam. After construction, the tracks were removed and the bridge has
served as a vehicle and pedestrian bridge to the dam/powerplant site ever since.
|Return to the Abandoned & Historical Railroads Page
Return to my In Search of History Page.
Return to my main page.
|Copyright © 2004 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.
|Once reaching the end of the gorge and trestle site, we tried several side trails in an attempt to cross deep
creek and reach the landing site on the south end, in the hopes of finding more trestle remains. This was
without success, but in following one trail we found ourselves at a summer camp called Trestle Glen, near
Barton. This Summer Camp is quite old, although modern, and appears to have been built on property owned
by Southern Pacific and Union Pacific. There was no one around, so we explored the camp. On the site, we
found an old caboose on display, although the outside badly deteriorating.