Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad continues to be dependent on much of the
same lumber traffic that sustained the Southern Pacific for over seven
decades and is also an important transportation connection to the small
communities it serves. The line the Port of Tillamook Bay operates
today was originally opened in 1911. After traffic began to dry up in
the 1970s and early 1980s the SP decided to rid itself of the line,
which it partially accomplished in 1983 and in 1990 the Port purchased
the entire branch. The history of the railroad, however, dates back to
1952 when the U.S. Navy wanted to sell its small 5.5-mile terminal
railroad which served its Tillamook Naval Air Station in downtown
For years the port operated just this short stretch of track,
interchanging with the SP in Tillamook. For the SP's part, its line to
the port was just one of many located in the rugged regions of western
Oregon near the coast. These branch lines were difficult for the SP to
operate with sharp curves, many tunnels and bridges, and steep grades.
However, for many years they proved to profitable as the area was (and
still is) rich with timber. For the railfan community these branches
became quite an attraction as most of SP's fleet of early six-axle EMDs,
namely SD7s and SD9s, could be found there as they offered the best
traction while being able to easily tread over the light rail.
Once the Southern Pacific elected to shed most of its Oregon branches
and Tillamook purchased the line the port also picked up several of the
Class I's SD9s that had operated there. Today, along with the
railroad’s remaining freight operations
it also operates a tourist train, which has become quite successful
over the years due to both the extremely breathtaking topography as well
as the fact that the Port of Tillamook Bay is likely the only railroad to own a diesel locomotive painted as your common Holstein dairy cow, (GP9 #101)! Interestingly, this little tourist train known as the Oregon
Coast Scenic Railroad has become quite successful in recent years.
Today, it operates two steam locomotives; Curtiss Lumber Company Heisler #2 and recently acquired McCloud River Railroad 2-6-2 #25.
The railroad also is restoring Polson Logging Company 2-Truck
Shay #2 as well as three other steam locomotives! If it can complete
all of these projects the tourist railroad should make quite a name for
itself (it also uses POTB GP9 #101 and restored Great Northern F7 #274).
The railroad continues to operate the POTB's trackage located along
the coast near Tillamook and offers a wide range of trains from general
excursions to charters and dinner trains. For more information about
riding the Oregon Coast Scenic please click here to visit their website.
Having said that, though, this scenery does come at a price. The
line is just as difficult for the POTB to operate as it was for when SP
owned the property. Additionally, running trains in the Pacific Northwest
can have its disadvantages as many who live there know, especially with
the very wet climate the region experiences, which often times results
in slips and mudslides. As such it makes the right-of-way very
difficult to maintain (one particular reason, among others, that SP
wanted rid of the line). Through it all, however, the railroad has
pressed on, especially after a 1996 flood that nearly shutdown the
railroad altogether. After its direct hit with the 2007 storms,
however, it's truly an unknown today as to whether the Port of Tillamook
Bay Railroad will ever again operate the entire 101 miles of track
between Portland and Tillamook.
Today, because of the 2007 storms I am not sure how much the railroad
continues to operate. However, prior to the disaster its traffic base
primarily consisted of lumber, other timber products, grain, and
Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad Locomotive Roster
|EMD||GP9E||3771||Ex-T&NO (SP) GP9||1|
|EMD||SD9E||4368, 4405, 4406, 4414, 4432||Ex-SP SD9s||5|
|EMD||SD9||6113, 6114, 6116, 6124, 6139, 6157, 6164, 6178, 6196||Ex-GN, Ex-C&S, Ex-CB&Q||9|
Since that destructive storm hit the railroad has been attempting to rebuild from the damage but so far, several years later, still faces a lot of work to do so. For more information on the railroad, its history, and
a map of the line please click here
(this information is a bit dated but does provide an overview of the
line's operations). Regarding the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad's
daily operations prior to the 2007 storm destruction, according to Scott
Lothes, "Common practice is for the Hill Job
to operate east with loads on Monday/Wednesday/Friday and west with
empties on Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday with no services on Sunday. The Hill Job typically met the Coast Job at Batterson, Oregon."
Thanks to Scott Lothes for help with the information on this page.
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Port Of Tillamook Bay Railroad