|Black and white photos are courtesy of the Yamhill County Historical Society and are shown by permission.
|Basic History Overview
Information from multiple book and internet sources. To make corrections or provide
further info, please Email me anytime.
By: Brian McCamish
Oregon and California Railroad
Hillsboro to Gaston to St. Joseph
In 1872, one of the first railroads in Oregon was completed from Portland to St. Joseph (Several
miles west of McMinnville, Oregon) via Hillsboro and Gaston, by the Oregon and California Railroad.
In 1887, Southern Pacific acquired the Oregon and California and this line. Southern Pacific would
at one time control most of the lines in and around Yamhill County. In the early 1990s, part of this
line was abandoned south of Gaston (just south of the connection to the Stimpson’s Lumber Mill) to
several miles north of St. Joseph. The line was no longer serving any customers and railroad
companies tend to shed the rails as soon as they are no longer needed to avoid paying property
taxes on the land. Today, the line from St. Joseph to 2 miles north, is used to store cars awaiting
pick up. St. Joseph used to be a small town, but today nothing remains except the mainline and
railroad overpass (called St. Joseph overpass) that crosses Hwy 99W.
Willamette Valley and Coast Railroad.
Patton Valley to Cherry Grove
This short line extended west from a connection with the Southern Pacific (line discussed above) at
Patton to the community of Cherry Grove. Patton is a point on the Southern Pacific just south of
Gaston on the line between St. Joseph and Forest Grove. This short line should not be confused
with the Willamette Valley & Coast Rail Road Company that operated out of Yaquina and was
foreclosed in 1895.
The line was built around 1912-1913 and was about 5.4 miles long, serving a new saw mill that was
built near Cherry Grove. In January of 1914, a freak flood rushed down the Tualatin river, washed
out the dam and wiped out part of the local lumber mill. Even worse, all of the season's logs that
were in the mill pond were washed down river and lost. No lives were lost but the employment base
was gone and many people moved away. Very little history exists about this line and it isn’t even
listed in many historical sources, so we have to assume traffic was light and probably infrequent. A
quote from a residence of Cherry Grove:
I am a granddaughter of August Lovegren, and my father, Philip Lovegren, was heavily involved in the original development of Cherry
Grove. It was named after Cherry Grove, Minnesota, a farm belonging to my grandmother's family. The family moved to Oregon in 1911
from Preston., Washington, near Seattle, where Grandpa had operated a successful sawmill. He had great faith in the future of this
corner of Oregon, and originally planned to run a rail line through the Coast Range to the coast (which he called the Willamette Valley
and Coast Railway). . Unfortunately, there was a depression in lumber prices at the end of 1913, and then a major storm in 1914
washed out the south end of the dam on the Tualatin River which formed the millpond, and the whole season's logs were lost. He sold
the mill at a loss in 1915, and was in the process of building a new mill in Stanton, Washington, when he died in 1917. In its heyday,
there was about six miles of track connecting out to the main line. The remnants of the dam are still there at the head of the valley. The
post office and general store were run for many years by my aunt and uncle, Effie (Lovegren) and John Pearson.
An electric sawmill was ultimately built at Cherry Grove in the 1920's, and was likely served by the
railroad, but it failed in the depression and it and the railroad were closed by 1934. The mill was later
reopened as the Koennecke Mill and handled salvage from the Tillamook burn until that played out
in the 1950's, but by that time, the rails were already gone. Today, my understanding is no trace of
the railroad exists, but I'll be checking the area soon to be sure.
Carlton and Coast Railroad
Carlton to Tillamook Gate
This short line extended west from a connection with the Southern Pacific at Carlton, 14 miles west
into the coast range along the North Yamhill River. The railroad was incorporated in 1910, started
operating in 1912, and abandoned in 1940. Communities on the line included Pike, Fairdale, and
Chesterbrook, with the line ending at a point called Tillamook Gate. The line was operated primarily
for lumber interests as well as common traffic. In the 1930's the track length was extended slightly
with 23 miles in operation. The company operated several geared logging locomotives and several
standard steam locomotives during its time, the oldest of which was an ex-Southern Pacific 4-4-0
built in 1868. Today its existence and heritage is marked with a country gravel road built on top of
part of the original rail road right of way and aptly named, Old Railroad Grade Road. The line was
originally planned to be built all the way to Tillamook on the Oregon coast, but that never
materialized. I’m not sure what remains of the old line, including any trestle remains, but I plan to
explore the area at a future date. Some older pictures of the line indicate that several large trestles
were built, but since the most of the line that was not turned into a county road is not indicated on
any maps, locating the sites and the old grade is going to be a bit difficult.
Dayton, Sheridan and Grande Ronde Railroad
(Oregon Railway Company)
Sheridan to Broadmead, Whiteson, Dayton, Lafayette, Dundee, Newberg, Sherwood
and Cook (near Portland.)
In the late 1870s, the farmers of Yamhill County were dissatisfied with domination of rails by the
Oregon Electric and got together to incorporate their own railroad, the Dayton, Sheridan and Grande
Ronde Railroad. The line was originally built using cheaper narrow gauge and constructed from
Sheridan to Dayton, via Broadmead and Whiteson. Originally intending to connect with the large
dock landings in Dayton, where freight could then proceed down the Yamhill and Willamette Rivers
via steamboat. This potential was never fully realized. In 1880 the line was going bankrupt and was
bought out. The name was changed to the Oregon Railway Company, to reflect it's larger
aspirations and the line was completed to Dayton and extended to the town of Lafayette to the north
and then on to the down of Dundee. In 1886, the line was then extended from Dundee all the way to
Cook,(Just south of Portland, Oregon) via Newberg and Sherwood. With a direct rail link to
Portland, there was no need to ship freight down the Willamette via Dayton.
In 1914, the line between Cook (near Portland, Oregon) all the way to St. Joseph was electrified and
ran passenger service, just as many other lines from Portland to the outlying areas did at this time.
A loop was built in the town of Newberg with rails running up and down the main city streets. But
the electric line was less than successful and electric service was abandoned by 1929. The rails,
except those in Downtown Newberg, remained in service through today, but all electrification was
Also in 1891, the line from Dayton to Dayton Junction, several miles west was also abandoned. No
trace of that line exists and a county road was built over the old right of way.
The line between Whiteson and Sheridan remained in service and still exists today.
Sheridan and Willamina Railroad
Sheridan to Willamina
As mentioned, in 1878 a line was completed from Whiteson to Sheridan. The line terminated in
Sheridan where a 56 foot turntable allowed locomotives to turn around. In 1907, the Sheridan and
Willamina Railroad was incorporated and built a short 5.4 mile line from Sheridan to Willamina to
serve a brick plant. The Sheridan turntable was relocated to Willamina. The Willamina and Sheridan
Railroad also ran passenger service from Willamina to Broadmead (about halfway between Sheridan
and Whiteson.) on Southern Pacific tracks. In 1913, the Sheridan and Willamina came under
Southern Pacific ownership. Tracks still exist and are in use all the way west to Fort Hill, several
miles west of Willamina, to serve several lumber mills that remain in the area today.
Dayton, Sheridan and Grande Ronde Railroad
(Oregon Railway Company)
Broadmead to Perrydale and south
In 1881 a line was completed from Broadmead south all the way to Airlie, via Dallas and Monmouth.
The line saw little freight use and was used mostly for passenger service. In 1927, the section
between Monmouth and Airlie was abandoned as well as the section between Dalles and
Perrydale. Leaving only the Broadmead to Perrydale section and the Dalles and Monmouth section
open. In 1934, the Dalles to Monmouth section fell victim to the Great Depression and was
abandoned as well. Some of the grade in this area has been turned into a paved rails to trail park in
the early 1990s.
The Broadmead to Perrydale section remained open for many more decades. Serving as a short
spur line to serve a grain elevator in the town of Perrydale. But in 1985, it too was abandoned. A
bridge existed over Salt Creek, but ariel photos show that it was apparently removed along with the
rails in the mid 1980s. Although the old grade still exists. A historic abandoned depot existed in
fairly poor shape in Perrydale as of 1985. I’m not sure if it’s still there, but I plan to explore the area in
the near future.
Oregon Railway Company
Dundee to Woodburn and south
In 1880, construction on a line from Dundee south to Woodburn and south all the way to Coburn,
west of Eugene was begun. The line was originally intended to eventually cross the Cascade
Mountains and hook up with the Central Pacific in Eastern Oregon. However, competition and
litigation caused many problems for the line. A very large bridge needed to cross the Willamette at
Fulquartz landing, near Dundee. Construction of the bridge started and stopped several times over
the next 12 years. During bridge construction rails ran to the river on both sides. Traffic was not
heavy and at times the line was not used. The cross the river a ferry was probably used. Finally in
1892, construction on the bridge was halted for the last time and the line from east bank (Ray’s
Landing) of the Yamhill to Woodburn was abandoned. A short time later, the line from the west bank
(Fulquartz Landing) to Dundee was also abandoned. The right of way is long gone, possibly
converted to a county road or just simply faded into the numerous agriculture fields of the area. It’s
not known at this time if any remains exist along the Willamette on either bank where the original
bridge was constructed. I'll be visiting that area soon as well.
Oregon and California Railroad
St. Joseph to McMinnville, Amity and Independence
In 1880, the Oregon and California continued the line from St. Joseph all the way to Corvallis, via
McMinnville, Amity and Independence. The new line was called the Western Oregon Railroad. By
1892, the entire line was owned by Southern Pacific and by 1893, most of the line was converted
from narrow gauge to standard gauge.
In 1906, a 2 mile line between Lafayette and St. Joseph was constructed to connect the two
railroads. After construction, the lines from Whiteson west to Dayton and north to Lafayette were
abandoned as the connection they served was no longer needed. County roads now sit on top of
the old railroad rights of way and almost no original trace of the line exists today, except for some
possible log footings to a bridge that crossed the Yamhill River at Lafayette.
Today the line is still in use and is ships traffic several times per day as one of the busier and more
successful short lines in Oregon.
Willamina and Grande Ronde Railroad
Willamina to Fort Hill and Grande Ronde
Sometime in the 1920's, logging interests built a line connecting mills in Grande Ronde and other
locations with the Southern Pacific Railroad at Willamina. Eventually, this line wound up being
owned by International Paper's Longview Portland & Northern division. In March of 1980 the line
was sold to a new local operating company called Willamina & Grande Ronde. The line, west of Fort
Hill was apparently abandoned around 1985. Probably when the mills it served closed down.
Portland and Western locomotives currently operate as far west as the Fort HIll Lumber mill, several
miles west of Willamina. Reports are that the grade, bridges and possibly track west of Fort Hill, still
exist, but have been abandoned for almost 20 years. A future trip will confirm this and will record
what is left of abandoned trackage and bridges west of Fort Hill and Willamina.
The Active Railroads of Yamhill County Today
For many decades Southern Pacific owned and ran the remaining railroads of Yamhill County. In
the early 1990s, Southern Pacific was looking to be rid of many of its unprofitable short lines and the
lines in and around Yamhill County were no exception. In danger of being abandoned, the
customers along the line were looking for someone to take over and operate the lines. In 1993, the
Willamette and Pacific Railroad was incorporated and leased the railroads from Albany, north to
Newberg from Southern Pacific. The goal was to increase operations and efficiency of the line,
which they did. New facilities were built in Albany to service this line and the railroad today can only
be called a modern success.
In 1995, the Portland and Western Railroad, owned by Genesee & Wyoming Industries, purchased a
lease agreement with Southern Pacific to operate the line between Portland and Newberg.
Genesee and Wyoming is based in Greenwich, Connecticut and owns a number of short lines
through the U.S., Canada and even overseas.
Major repairs needed to be conducted on the wooden trestle east of Springbrook (in Newberg) and
were completed within a month and the line reopened. The Portland and Western also began
acquiring other lines in and around the Portland Metro area, most notably, the Astoria to Portland
line, which was closed due to a major landslide. That line is still apparently closed today, but work is
being planned to clear the slide and open the line once again, when enough customer demand is
In 1996, Southern Pacific and all of its property, including the lines in Yamhill County were acquired
by Union Pacific. Lease agreements again ratified and the Portland and Western and Willamette and
Western continued to be allowed to operate as normal.
In 2000, the Portland and Western and Willamette and Western were merged into one company, still
owned by parent company Genessee and Wyoming and both using the Portland and Western name.
Today, all of the remaining railroads in Yamhill County fall under the ownership of Union Pacific and
leased operation of the Portland and Western, using almost exclusively Portland and Western
locomotives and even a few cabooses for reverse runs. The tracks are maintained by the Portland
One minor exception is the short line of the old Smurfit paper mill in Newberg (now owned by SP
Newsprint as of 1999.) This line has been historically operated by a small switcher locomotive that is
owned and operated by the paper mill. I assume the same is true today. Rail cars are brought from
the mill at the south end of Newberg, along the Yamhill River, to the mainline at the north end of
Newberg and left on a siding for Portland and Western locomotives to pick up daily.
Recent Abandonments or Inactive Railroads
When I visited the area in February, 2004, I noticed that the tracks in between Sherwood and
Newberg were rusty, indicating no use in some time. In fact, executives at the Portland and
Western said that the line had not be used in over 6 months and there are no currently plans to
reopen the line to regular traffic. The problem is the condition of the line and the expense required
to make repairs. The line is not abandoned, but use is definately limited. The Portland and Western
Railroad, based in Albany, still operates the lines all the way north into the middle of Newberg. From
the north end of Newberg to somewhere around Sherwood or beyond, the line is basicly inactive.
It’s interesting to note that bridge repairs were required in 1995 to get this section of track
operational again. I wonder if perhaps those same bridge problems have caused the line to be
There are other minor abandonements along the lines. Several occurred in the mid 1980s as already
mentioned, such as the Broadmead to Perrydale line and the lines west of Fort Hill, near Willamina.
But other even more recent abandonments include several sidings along the mainline, such as in
northern Newberg. See website for pictures.
More information will be added as it become available.
|If anyone has any further information or pictures about any of these railroads please let me
know. You can Email me anytime. Thanks.
|Railroad maps. Click on above images for larger view
|Return to the Railroad History Page
Return to the Historical Expeditions Page
Return to my main Toyota Page
|The History of Railroads in
Yamhill County, Oregon