|Note: This is a personal railfan site and is not affiliated with the Willamette Valley Railway
|Also check out my related Albany & Eastern Railroad Page former sister company
|Also check out my related Abandoned Sweet Home Depot & Oregon-Electric Holley Branch Page.
|And my related Willamina & Grand Ronde Railroad Page, which this company used to operate.
|The Willamette Valley Railroad was originally born in 1980, when the Dave and Mike Root purchased the
ex-Longview Portland & Northern Grand Ronde Division. In 1985, they purchased the remains of the Valley &
Siletz Railroad and combined the two railroads under the name, Willamette Valley Railroad (WVRD) In 1988,
the two railroads were unmerged and operated as separate companies. In 1991, the Roots Brothers formed a
company called Rails West and began to operate the Port of Tillamook Railroad under contract. However, that
operation ended in 1993 and today, the POTB operates its own railroad. In 1992, the V&S Railroad was closed
down and abandoned. By the mid 1990s, the Grand Ronde Division was sold.
The current Willamette Valley Railway (WVR) was born in February 1993, when the Roots brothers leased the
Mill City, West Stayton and Geer branches from the Southern Pacific and moved operations to those lines. In
1995, the line between Geer and Salem was abandoned by the Southern Pacific. In 1996, the West Stayton line
was purchased from the SP by the Roots brothers. In 1998, the Root Brothers separated the operations into
two separate and independent companies. Mike Root took over operations on the Mill City Branch, and would
later acquire the BNSF "OE" Holley branch. He called his new railroad company the Albany & Eastern Railroad.
(AERC) To learn more, visit my Albany & Eastern Page.
Dave Root retained the Willamette Valley Railroad and that company, discussed on this page, continues to
operate the West Stayton Branch to this day. The WVR operates two very well cared for GP35 locomotives
and interchanges with the Union Pacific (who merged with the SP in 1996) in Woodburn, Oregon.
The West Stayton line runs from Woodburn to Stayton which is 31.6 miles. There is also a short spur that runs
to West Stayton on the branchline.
This is a family and locally owned shortline. There is little doubt that if not for Dave Root and his brother, this
line would have been long ago abandoned and torn up. Instead, customers have a viable way to transport
goods to the Union Pacific and hopefully will continue to have that option for a long time to come.
See the bottom of the page for a more detailed write up of the Roots Brothers Railroad operations in Oregon.
If you have any photos or information that you'd like to add, please Email me.
|Basic map of the Willamette Valley Ry
West Stayton Branch
|The two locomotives of the WVR. Both looked absolutely beautiful and well cared for. Both are EMD GP35Es that make 2500 h.p. 2502
was built in 1965, while 2503 was built in 1964. Both unit served with the Southern Pacific from the day they were built until purchased by
the Roots brothers presumably around 1993 when the Mill City and West Stayton branches were leased. The Albany & Eastern also has a
GP35E numbered 2501, which used to be the sister locomotive to these two. Photos: May, 2005
|The interchange at Woodburn. Theses photos show the wye that comes off of the Union Pacific mainline. In woodburn is a two track
yard where cars are set for the UP. When I visited, there were no cars in Woodburn and the WVR engines were parked on the wye
where they usually are when not in use. Photos of the UP are of a southbound train passing through Woodburn. Photos: May, 2005
|A MoW truck in a fenced yard next to the locomotives in Woodburn. A keen observer will note that the logo on the side of the truck is
identical to the logo used by the Albany & Eastern, except with different lettering. It's interesting to note that neither railroad appears to
display this logo on any of their locomotives.
|In 1985, Boise Cascade was looking to get rid of the remains of it's Valley & Siletz Railroad Branch. The V&S
branch was originally built in 1916 as a logging railroad that connected a mill in the Boise Cascade town of
Valsetz, west of Independence. The branch that was once over 40 miles long was cut back to only a 3 miles,
when the mill in Valsetz was closed and the town was razed in 1978. Boise Cascade only kept the last 3 miles
of track to service several mills in and near Independence. Along came the Roots Brothers to rescue the
remains of the line. By 1985, the operation only serviced one mill, the Mountain Fir Mill and was less than 2
miles long from the Southern Pacific interchange. The Roots moved into the 2 stall engine house built by
Boise Cascade in the late 1970s to replace their facilities in Hoskins, which were abandoned by that time. This
shop allowed the Roots to service their engines on the V&S branch and the Willamina branch as well as
contract out repair services to other railroads. However, in 1992, the Mountain Fir mill closed down and
ended the need for the Root's V&S Branch. Eventually, the line south of the engine shops was abandoned
and the tracks removed.
Today, the engine shops still remain along with the last segment of V&S track, approximately 3/4 of a mile, most
of which includes the remains of the V&S interchange and yard. Following the closure of the Mill, the Roots
moved their headquarters to McMinnville. The locomotive shops were still used as a repair facility,
subcontracted by Gunderson, Inc to complete repairs of railroad cars. The Port of Tillamook and the newly
formed Portland & Western - Willamette & Pacific Railroads also had engine repair work performed at the
shops in the 1990s. The shops are now owned by George Lavacot who was a business partner with the Roots
and he currently bases his operations out of there, which include leasing out two SD-9s. One of those SD-9s
is 4433 that is currently leased by the PNWR. He also has a steam locomotive that was being restored inside
the shops as of at least a few years ago, the Santa Maria Valley #205, a 2-6-2.
|A map of the old
WVRD V&S branch.
|The photo on the left shows the remains of the Mountain Fir Mill which appears to have been taken over by someone else, but no longer
ships by rail. In the next photo, I'm driving on a street that used to have rails in it, but no longer. Note the old crossing warning painted in
the next photo for rails that no longer exist. The next photos shows a gravel road that used to be the railbed and finally a photo of a piece
of rail near the gravel road that was mysteriously discarded by the scrappers. Photos: April, 2005
|Behind the locomotive shop was the most interesting. Note that front of the shop has two roll up doors while the rear of the shop only
has one. Here, I found a number of interesting pieces of equipment. Photo on the right shows the tracks as they head off toward the
P&W interchange. Photo: April, 2005
|This Southern Pacific car appears to be a former baggage car converted into a MoW car at some point. Beyond that I don't know anything
else about it. Note the old steam locomotive tender, sans trucks. Photos: April, 2005
|The tank car appeared to be extremely old. It was consistent in appearance with a tank car in a photo on the former LP&N Chelatchie
Division that was used to fuel steam locomotives. The locomotive tender pictured was on it's trucks, and is from the Bloedel Donovan
Lumber Mills #14 a 2-6-6-2 Mallet. It appears the rest of the locomotive was scrapped at some point. Photos: April, 2005.
|Brian R. Sopke took took photos in 1997 of the WVR operations. Included is a shot of the WVR 2501 (before it was painted and before it
went to the AERC) at the Woodburn yard, a shot of the control stand which still says 6303 from its SP number and three shots from the
locomotive cab near Mt Angel's Pepsi plant.
|Floyd Scott took these photos of the WVR motive power in January, 2005.
|Photos of the WVR in action around Woodburn and Stayton. Courtesy of Jeff Shultz, March-April, 2004.
|The woodburn wye and Union Pacific interchange. The two large water towers are easy land marks that can be picked out in the above
ground photos elsewhere on this site. Courtesy of Jeff Shultz and Larry Nunn.
|The Pudding River trestle about 2 miles south of
the UP interchange. Courtesy of Jeff Shultz and
|An S-shaped spur about 1 mile south of the main UP interchange. This spur is
relatively new, built sometime after 1985 according my USGS maps.
Courtesy of Jeff Shultz and Larry Nunn.
|Photos of the Mt. Angel depot on the WVR line.
Courtesy of Jeff Shultz and Larry Nunn.
|Weyerhauser owned Trust Joist Mill in Stayton is a major shipper
on the WVR line. Courtesy of Jeff Shultz and Larry Nunn.
|Jeff Shultz took these photos of the WVR and was kind enough to allow me to show them on this site. These photos and more can also
be found on his website: http://www.shultzinfosystems.com/gallery/Oregon-Railroads Jeff and his father in law, Larry Nunn also flew
over the area and took some aerial photos of the area. Be sure to see Jeff's website for many other Oregon railroad photos.
|This write up on the Roots Brother’s Oregon Railroad History is courtesy of Jeff Moore. Jeff operates the
following two websites: McCloud Rails and High Desert Rails.
Root Brothers (David and Mike) came to Oregon in 1980. They had been working for the Union Pacific in California and, while basically
happy, decided they wanted to own their own railroad. Their initial efforts centered around the Quincy Railroad, which connects the
small town of Quincy, CA with the Union Pacific (ex-Western Pacific) mainline at Quincy Junction. Total mileage operated is around 2.5
miles. Their attempted acquisition of the Quincy fell through, and so they started looking elsewhere. They found the Grand Ronde
division of the LP&N, while on vacation in Oregon.
The final papers giving them the line were signed in 1980 and the Roots renamed the line the Willamina & Grand Ronde. That event
happened to coincide with a track inspector from the Oregon Public Utilities Commission (PUC) condemning the entire line due to terrible
track conditions. The rail was 56- to 60- pound, with most of it over a century old. The ties were nearly all shot, surfacing was bad, and
drainage was non-existent. The PUC estimated that rehabilitation of the line up to acceptable standards was going to cost $167,000 per
mile, which was far more money than an operation like the W&GR could justify.
Congress had passed a couple grant programs designed to help light density rail lines survive. The "Railroad Revitalization and
Regulatory Reform Act of 1976" provided Federal grants to state to preserve railroad service on lines already approved for abandonment
by the ICC, and the "Local Rail Service Assistance Act of 1978" expanded the grant program to include light density lines that were in
danger of being abandoned. The Root brothers applied for grants under these acts shortly after they bought the railroad, but they ran into
a snag. The grant programs were administered by the states, meaning that it was up to each state to decide how the grant money was
to be used. The State of Oregon decided that any use of said grant money must be done in such a way that the perceived public benefit
of spending the money must exceed the public investment in the private property, and a complicated formula was drawn up to measure
the cost/benefit ratio. The initial grant application for the entire W&GR ended up showing that the costs exceeded the benefits, with the
result that in 1980 the Oregon State Department of Transportation recommended against any public investment in the WGR. This caused
the Roots to go back and review their railroad. The first thing they noticed was that the three miles between Fort Hill and Grande Ronde
moved almost no freight at all. They re-applied for the grant only for the 5.2 miles between Fort Hill and Willamina, and the result was a
favorable cost/benefit ratio. The Roots got their first grant money in 1981, and they set out to completely rehabilitate the 5.2 miles
between Willamina and Fort Hill. In the end a total of $450,000 was spent on this stretch, which re-laid the line with heavier and newer 90-
lb rail, replaced hundreds of ties, dumped a lot of crushed rock ballast, improved drainage, and did some alignment and re-surfacing of
the track structure. The 3 miles of the line beyond Fort Hill could not be saved with money available outside of the grant program, and as
a result it was abandoned in 1985.
The Root Brothers expanded their presence on 2 January 1985 when they bought the two-mile long remnant of the Valley & Siletz in
Independence. They formed the Willamette Valley Railroad to run this operation. The only shipper on the Willamette Valley was the
Mountain Fir Lumber Company sawmill in Independence.
The Root brothers inherited the #110 with their purchase of the WGR, and they continued to use it on that line into the mid-1980's. Around
the time of the creation of the WVR they purchased three locomotives from the SP, SW-1200's #2273 and #2274 and GP-9 #2890. The
#2890 was initially sent to Willamina to work on the WGR, but by the late 1980's that unit was stored out of service next to the ex-Valley &
Siletz shop building in Independence and the #2274 was handling all operation on the WGR. The #110 was used very infrequently after
1989 or 1990. While the #2273 was repainted a bright orange and red scheme (very similar to the paint worn by the #4449) and re-
numbered 201, the #2274 and #2890 remained in SP gray and red, but with the SP lettering blanked out. The Roots did rotate motive
power regularly between the two operations...the #2274 did operate in Independence, while the #2273/#201 did make it up to Willamina
The WGR was merged into the Willamette Valley Railroad on 10 March 1986, and the WGR became known as the Fort Hill Branch (or WGR
Branch) of the Willamette Valley Railroad at that point (the other line became the Mountain Fir or V&S Branch of the WVR). This
arrangement lasted until 1988 when the WGR was "unmerged" from the WVR and re-established as a separate company.
The Mountain Fir sawmill closed in May 1992, ending operations on the Willamette Valley Railroad for the moment. The Roots started
talking about selling the WGR to the Fort Hill company about this time. After several years of speculation this finally happened, with the
WGR sold to the newly formed Hampton Railroad Company. Hampton immediately contracted operations of the WGR out to the
Willamette & Pacific/Portland & Western.
The Roots formed a venture known as Rail West that took over operations of the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad on contract in May 1991.
This kept them busy through 1993, when the brothers concluded they had overextended themselves, and they gave up on the contract to
operate the POTB. The POTB now operates its own railroad fairly successfully.
On 22 February 1993 the Roots leased the Mill City, West Stayton and Geer branches from the SP. This date is a significant one in Oregon’
s Willamette Valley Railroads...the Roots expanding on the east side, Dick Samuels taking over the Molalla Branch, and the startup of the
Willamette & Pacific on the West Side branches all happened on this very day. The Mill City line went from Albany to Lebanon, then north
to the Santiam River, then east up the Santiam to Mill City; the West Stayton line ran from a connection with the SP main at Woodburn
south through Silverton and Geer to West Stayton, and the Geer branch ran from Salem almost due east to a connection with the West
Stayton-Woodburn line at Geer. The Roots ran these lines as the Willamette Valley Railroad. Initially most WVR-SP traffic interchanged
on the northern line was handled over the Geer branch into Salem, but a variety of factors caused the SP to abandon the Geer branch in
1995, and since then all SP(UP)/WVR traffic has gone through Woodburn.
This arrangement lasted up until 1998, when the Root brothers had another business split. Mike Root took over the Mill City line, making
it the Albany & Eastern, while David Root took the West Stayton line, continuing to operate it as the Willamette Valley. There appears to
be no further business relationship between the two brothers or their railroads.
Jeff credits the following sources for some of the above information:
Backwoods Railroads, Branchlines and Shortlines of Western Oregon by D.C. Jesse Burkhardt, Washington State University Press, 1994.
North Willamette Shortlines by D.C. Jesse Burkhardt, August 1991 Pacific RailNews.
Rebirth of the Virgina & Truckee R.R. by Ted Wurm, May-Murdock Publications, 1992.
|Relevant Links to this Railroad
The Willamette Valley Railroad does not appear to have it's own homepage at this time.
Albany & Eastern's Official Homepage
Western Shortline's Albany & Eastern Locomotive Roster
Western Shortline's Willamette Valley Railroad (current) Roster
Union Pacific customer page for the Albany & Eastern
|If anyone has any further information or photos on any of the above railroads 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 © 2004-2006 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.
|Last Update: July 21, 2006
|The former Willamette Valley Railroad
The abandoned V&S Branch
|The photo on the left shows the current end of the tracks on the old V&S line, about 3/4 of a mile from it's connection with Portland &
Western Westside branch. The next three photos show the switch tracks for the locomotive shops and finally the photos of the two stall
locomotive shop apparently built in 1985 by the Roots brothers. Photos: April, 2005
|If you have any information about this equipment, such as it's type and history and what the locomotive
shops are being used for today, please email me. Thanks
|Willamette Valley Railway
West Stayton Branch
|Reader's Photos of the current & past WVR operations
|An interesting horseshoe curve on the line between Show
and Aumsville. Note the same area on the map.
Courtesy of Jeff Shultz and Larry Nunn.