|Last Update: November 15, 2005
|The Willamette Valley & Coast Railway in Cherry Grove is actually the second time this railroad name was used in the
State of Oregon, but it is entirely unrelated to the original Willamette Valley & Coast which was born out of Yaquina,
Oregon in the 1800s.
The beginning for the WV&C came in 1910 when August Lovegren arrived from Seattle, Washington where he had
already operated a successful saw mill. Originally from Minnesota, he had plans to establish a town and eventually run
a logging and common carrier railroad from his new town 5.5 miles to the already established Southern Pacific St. Joseph
branch. Plans were to eventually connect Cherry Grove and the Willamette Valley to the Pacific via the coast mountain
range, hence the name, Willamette Valley & Coast.
By 1912, the town of Cherry Grove was born and an official post office established. In 1913 a large concrete and fill dam
was installed on the Tualatin River just southwest of town. This dam was primarily used to create a log pond for a brand
new mill, but it was also touted as a recreational lake for locals.
The new railroad, which was constructed in 1913, began at Patton Junction on the Southern Pacific Railroad. It generally
headed west, following straight down the middle of Patton Valley for several miles, then skirted the north end of the valley
for the remaining few miles to Cherry Grove. The railroad ran right through town, then continued about ½ mile to the mill
and pond. A spur line headed north from the mill, and ran along side the mill pond and may have been used as a long
The line never did make it to the Pacific Coast and in fact there’s no known indication that the railroad ever extended
beyond Cherry Grove even to log timber, but there is a possibility that logging branch lines did exist. It’s not clear if
timber was ever brought in from the Southern Pacific mainline or if it was cut locally.
Diaster struck in early 1914. Logs that were tied up in the lake for winter broke loose from their boom. As they
gathered at the top of the dam and blocked the spillway it caused water to rush over the dam. Eventually the south end
of the dam, which was mostly earth and fill with only a thin concrete slab, washed away and all the seasons logs with it.
With no logs, August Lovegren decided to sell the mill at a loss in 1915. He went on to build a new mill in Stanton,
Washington, before he died in 1917.
The log pond and dam would never again be rebuilt, but the railroad and mill would live on, at least for a while longer. In
the 1920s, the mill was converted to electric power, but failed economically in the 1930s. This would bring about the end
of the Willamette Valley & Coast Railroad. On September 21, 1935 it was officially abandoned.
In 1945, the third Tillamook burn swept through the mountains to the west and once again, Cherry Grove became a
logging community. The mill was reopened as the Koennecke Mill. With the railroad long gone, the burnt logs were
trucked to be sawed before disease and rot took over and finished lumber was trucked out of Cherry Grove. However,
that played out in the 1950s and the mill was silenced forever. A few years later, Cherry Grove no longer justified a post
office and it was closed in 1959.
Cherry Grove is a residential community of perhaps several hundred. Almost all signs of the railroad have been wiped
out by agriculture that has taken place in Patton Valley. A few long fills hint that at what might be the abandoned grade
in the middle of the valley.
Some remains of the original dam did survive. I’ve yet to visit the site, but have included a photo that shows what
remained at least 15 years ago. It’s not clear if the old mill is still around although USGS maps do indicate an old building
existed near the dam at least into the 1970s.
If anyone has further information about this line, Cherry Grove, the dam or the sawmill, please email me. Also, if you
have any historical pictures, or modern pictures of any remains and would like to share them here, please do.
|Modern day USGS map with the line overlayed based on 1928 Metsker County maps. Based on the route, I suspect that a trestle existed just before the route
enters the modern day Cherry Grove. The line ended at the mill, but a short spur existed that ran north along the mill pond and was probably a log dump track.
It's not known if the line ever extended into the woods as a logging road, but it certainly could have.
|This a Ralph Friedman photo from the book in search of Western Oregon It apparently dates to around the late 1980s. This is the remains of Lovegren's mill
pond dam. A thin concrete structure was poured and then filled in on both sides with dirt to hold back the water. However, when the spillway was blocked
by logs, the water came over the top of the dam and then eroded the earth fill to the point that all the logs in the pond were lost. Amazingly, after all those
years,part of the huge concrete structure remains. Note how tall the dam was, compared to the people in this picture. The red line is the outline of the dam
remains, while the green line was the top of the dam when it was built.
|One of the very few photos of the Willamette Valley & Coast Railroad that I've seen. This photo comes from
Station's West by Ed Culp.
|Driving up Patton Valley Road, there are no obvious signs of the railroad. However, in this location, it would have ran to the left of the picture out in the
middle of the field. The trees in the distance to the left could possibly be what's left of a long fill that ran down the middle of the valley.
Photo: March, 2004
|Looking out over Patton Valley from Patton Valley Road, there's no sign of the abandoned line here. Photo: March, 2004
|A little more than half way up the line, this is one of the few section of grade that is easy to find. A fill built up to keep the grade level, but today is little
more than a grassy noll. In the second half of the line, it followed the modern day Patton Valley road pretty closely.
Photo: March, 2004
|One of several collapsed barns and homesteads that existed near the line. These buildings no doubt existed when the line was still active, but like the
railroad, they too are fading into history. Photo: March, 2004
|Photo on the left shows the Tualatin River about 1 mile up river from the dam. The next photo shows that the road to the dam is gated off about 1/2 mile
from the dam site. It's private land owned by a timber company. I didn't have time to make the hike when I was there, but I plan to return at a later date and
get a lot more detailed photos and check more closely for any grade remains as well as visit the dam site.
Photo: March, 2004
|Our Page on the Southern Pacific St. Joseph Branch
This is the branch that the Willamette Valley & Coast Ry connected to
|If anyone has any further information or pictures about this railroad that you'd like to share,
please Email me anytime. Thanks.
|Return to the Railroad History Page
Return to the Historical Expeditions Page
Return to my main Home Page
|Copyright © 2005 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.