The City of Portland was one of the Union Pacific's very first streamliners in its City fleet. The railroad hosted an entire array of other plush City trains including the City of Angeles, City of Denver, City of Salina (the original M-10000), City of St. Louis, City of San Francisco). The Portland
became a highly successful streamliner following its debut as an
semi-articulated trainset and convinced the UP that offering numerous
on board amenities along with a sleek-looking train was the future of
passenger rail travel. Today, the City fleet can still be witnessed, in a manner of speaking, as the UP’s official business train is not only decorated in the Cities’
classic livery but also includes the original equipment from them,
right down to the two E9A and E9B diesel locomotives that power it!
This early publicity scene of the "City Of Portland" shows the M-10002 trainset as Indian's ceremoniously hand the crew a salmon near Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge during April of 1940.
The Union Pacific Railroad (UP), the largest and one of the most
powerful railroads in the country, has been with us since 1862. The company is far older than any other American Class I
railroad today with the Kansas City Southern in a nearby second. In that time UP has become not only one of the most
highly respected institutions in the nation but also has seen nearly
every major railroading event in our country’s history, and accordingly
has a very long and storied history. Initially launched on May 5, 1935, the City of Portland was Union
Pacific’s gateway to the Pacific Northwest, although, because it
operated a more southerly routing than famed Northwestern passenger
trains like the Great Northern’s Empire Builder or Northern Pacific’s North Coast Limited the train is sometimes forgotten about or overlooked.
Another early scene depicting the "City of Portland" (westbound train #105, noted in the number-boards) probably during the early 1940s, this time led by an A-B-B set of E6s with #987 up front.
Like the City of Los Angeles, for the first twenty years or so
of the train’s existence it was operated in conjunction with the
Chicago & North Western Railway which ferried the Portland
from Omaha, eastward to Chicago. This setup lasted until 1955 when the
UP, dissatisfied with the services C&NW was providing handed the
train over to rival Milwaukee Road, a partnership that would last until
the train’s end. While the Empire Builder and North Coast Limited may go down in history as the most famous Northwestern passenger trains, the Portland
carries several historical distinctions; first, the train was the very
first streamlined transcontinental passenger train to operate when it
took to the rails in the spring of 1935, known on the UP as the M-10001
it was a semi-articulated trainset with a five-car consist; second, the Portland
was the first to offer dining and sleeping services. The train was
also the first to feature the now-classic round-end observation.
Along with the City of Los Angeles, the Portland was Union Pacific’s premier passenger operation and the railroad spared no expense on the train. While the City of Portland's routing offered a bit less scenery over the prairies and foothills of the famed Overland Route between Omaha, Nebraska and Granger, Wyoming the train featured accommodations as fine as anything one could find nationwide. With the railroad receiving upgraded equipment from both
Pullman-Standard, American Car & Foundry, and EMD following World
War II, the Portland the train was completely reequipped with new
lightweight, streamlined equipment and in the 1950s received
The new equipment, as the original streamliners that had
debuted in the mid-1930s, was also adorned in a striking livery of
Armour yellow and light gray with red trim, a paint scheme still in use
today on the Union Pacific. Overall, on a typical Portland
train one could expect to find four Pullman sleepers, café-lounge, dome
lounge-observation, dome coach, and a dome diner (in total the train's
consist included about 13 cars).
For power the train featured E7s on the point, and later used both E8s
and E9s (the last two E series models EMD ever produced). Interestingly, despite the City of Los Angeles and City of San Francisco normally receiving the most attention by historians, UP always considered the City of L.A. and City of Portland its two, premier streamliners, providing them with the newest and best equipment as it became available.
To provide passengers with the best viewing experience aboard the Portland
the Union Pacific scheduled the train to run through darkness, as much
as possible, east of Cheyenne, Wyoming so that patrons could enjoy the
breathtaking views of the mountain ranges through western Wyoming,
Idaho, and Oregon. Listed as Trains #105 (westbound) and #106
(eastbound) on Union Pacific's official timetable, the Portland
would leave Chicago Union Station around 5 pm in the evening and be
handed off to the UP at Omaha around 1 am early the following morning. From there patrons could wake up to breakfast
at Cheyenne and see the gorgeous mountain views for the rest of the
day, having dinner that evening in south-central Idaho as the continued
westward. For more reading about the Portland please click here.
Union Pacific's combined "City of Denver" and "City of Portland" (train #111) heads westbound from Savanna, Illinois led by an A-B-A set of E9s on July 30, 1964. The UP was one of the few roads like the Santa Fe, B&O, and Southern to maintain top-level passenger service until Amtrak took over all intercity operations.
Heading to bed that night passengers could then wake up early
the next morning ready to de-board at Portland although the train did offer through sleeper service to Seattle. Overall the trip would
normally take just under 41 hours with UP able to carry an average train
speed of nearly 56 mph (quite fast for the rugged country in which the
railroad operated!). Through the end the City of Portland, along with her sister City
trains, remained a top-notch, all matching consist operation by Union
Pacific although by the 1960s the railroad had combined most of its City fleet east of Wyoming. While service remained at a high level this, however, did not secure the Portland or other City
trains’ futures as they were all discontinued with the startup of
Amtrak in the spring of 1971. Today, the trains live on in memory only
and UP's official business train.