Oregon's first railroads date back to May 20, 1861 when the small 5-mile Oregon
Portage Railroad took over for mules hauling goods between Tanner Creek
to the head of the Cascade Rapids (the railroad had dated as far back as
1858 using horse and mule power). The railroad's first locomotive, the
Oregon Pony was also the first steam locomotive to operate in the Pacific Northwest and today is preserved in Cascade Locks, Oregon.
The railroad eventually grew to a length of fifteen miles and its use
ebbed and flowed throughout the 19th century as demand warranted. In
1891 it was reactivated as a three-foot narrow-gauge operation but it
would finally cease altogether in 1896. In succeeding years following the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, the venerable Southern Pacific
would come to dominate rail operations in the state although other
classic lines could also be found in Oregon.
Today, Oregon's railroad network is mostly the realm of Union Pacific
although, as mentioned before, BNSF also has a small presence in the
state. The rest is operated by Class II, regionals Central Oregon &
Pacific and Portland & Western as well as shortlines Albany &
Eastern, City of Prineville Railway, Hampton Railway, Idaho, Northern
& Pacific, Klamath Northern, Lake County Railroad, Oregon Pacific
Railroad, Palouse River & Coulee City, Peninsula Terminal Company,
Port of Tillamook Bay, Portland Terminal Railroad, Wallowa Union
Railroad, White City Terminal & Utility Company, Willamette &
Pacific Railroad, and the Willamette Valley Railway.
Today, Oregon is home to nearly 2,500 miles of rails with its
one-time high of about 3,300 miles occurring during the 1920s.
Interestingly, the state has only lost about 25% of its infrastructure, a
remarkably low number considering most states have lost between 45% and
50%. For more information about Oregon in terms or route mileage over
the years please have a look at the chart above. Although Union Pacific's famous City of Portland and Southern Pacific's Shasta Daylight passenger trains no longer calls to Portland Union Station Amtrak still does with its Empire Builder and Coast Starlight services (and the building has also been completely restored). Aside from these services Amtrak operates the Cacades from Portland to Seattle
four times a day with two trips daily to Eugene as well.
To learn more
about the classic streamliners that served Oregon please click here.
Aside from the passenger and freight trains, Oregon is home to several
museums and tourist railroads such as the Oregon Electric
Railway Museum and very popular Moot Hood Railroad, which features
spectacular views of Mount Hood (and even includes a dinner train). In all, Oregon railroads feature some of the most stunning
scenery one can find anywhere in the country whether you are after main
line railroading, local short line service or just a ride on a train to
enjoy views of the Oregon countryside.
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