Last revised: December 4, 2023
By: Adam Burns
Oregon's rich forests of evergreens and numerous mountain ranges, which includes the Cascades, Ochocos, Blue Mountains, and Wallowas, makes the state a beautiful place to visit.
Surprisingly, it even comes alive with rich fall colors each autumn as the maples, oaks, dogwoods, ash, birch, alder, aspen, cottonwoods and others burst into brilliant shades of red, yellow, branch, burgundy, and gold each October.
From a railroading perspective, Oregon was difficult from a construction and operational standpoint with its rugged terrain. Most famous was the Southern Pacific, which maintained the "Cascade Line" (via Klamath Falls) and "Siskiyou Line" (via Ashland and Medford) to reach Portland.
The railroad also operated a premier passenger train on its "Shasta Route", the Shasta Daylight. It was boasted as "A Million Dollar Train With A Million Dollar View" with nine chair cars decorated in Oregon-inspired colors; Crater Lake Blue, Summit Green, Canyon tan, and Cedar Red. It also included full dining service, the fabled Coffee Shop Car, and the later "Timberline Tavern" dome-lounge.
At the time of the train's debut, in the late spring of 1949, the Southern Pacific spared no expense in its long distance trains. That sentiment had quickly changed the following decade and the Shasta Daylight was discontinued in 1966.
There are currently two heritage railroads in Oregon which offer trips hosting food service to provide guest a glimpse of what rail travel was like many decades ago, the Mount Hood Railroad and Oregon Coast Scenic.
The Mount Hood Railroad offers full course meals on many of its trains throughout the operating season. They provide different classes of service (Standard, First, and Diamond) in addition to many special events throughout the year.
The Mount Hood Railroad is a heritage line operating between Hood River (located along the south bank of the Columbia River), where it interchanges with the Union Pacific, and Parkdale, Oregon. Its original route is still in operation, running a total of 22.2 miles
Interestingly the Mount Hood has its roots dating back to 1906 and operated as an independent short line until 1968 when it became part of Union Pacific.
UP held on to the railroad until most of the region's freight business dried up. The Class 1 subsequently intended to abandon the property until a local group of railfans stepped in and saved the line, taking over operations in 1987.
While the entire line is quite scenic, it becomes more-so the closer one gets to Parkdale as views of majestic Mt. Hood become increasingly frequent. From a visual standpoint, this is one of the great heritage railroads open to the public and a must-see!
The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad is based in Tillamook and has operated on the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad since 2003 using a historic Climax geared steam locomotive and standard 2-6-2 for power (#2 and #25 respectively).
They regularly offer dinner trains during the operating season, a three-hour trip. Known as the Sunset Dinner Train this trip includes reserved seating in the dining car and a full four-course catered meal. The entrée is regularly changed. Drinks include non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. This experience is offered every Saturday, during the operating season, through early September.
Following severe damage from flooding in 2007, the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (POTB) has not been operating freight trains following severe washouts along this former Southern Pacific branch line that originally extended from Tillamook, back to Portland. The Oregon Coast Scenic only utilizes a short 5-mile coastal segment of the line between Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach.
Unfortunately, the entire line is cutoff from the national rail network following the flood damage but remains owned by the POTB. In 2012, the Oregon Coast Scenic leased an additional segment of track running as far east as the Salmon River (46 miles from Tillamook) but repairs to this section remaining ongoing.