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Portland Railroad and Terminal Division of Portland Traction Company


Portland Railroad and Terminal Division
of Portland Traction Company

The Rise and Fall of the Portland Traction Company,
and the state of the railroad in 1981

Text and photos (taken August 1981) by Craig Bass

The Descent Begins

Once again the pendulum of the economy swung, and in 1924 the line was reorganized into the Portland Electric Power Company.  Declining traffic forced the abandonment and removal of the Troutdale branch in 1927. 

UP 3203 and SP&S 700 at Oaks
Union Pacific 3203 and SP&S 700 stored on display at the Oaks in August, 1981
Photo # oakspark
In 1930 the road was placed under the holdings of the Pacific Northwest Public Service Company but continued to operate as PEPCO.  Pacific Northwest Public Service Company dissolved in 1933, releasing the railroad.

Traffic on the Estacada branch south and east of Boring ceased in the early 1940's.  The railroad was sold in 1946, this time to California-based Portland Transit Company.  The City and Interurban systems were separated, the city trackage becoming Portland Traction Company and the Interurban lines became the Portland Railroad and Terminal Division of Portland Traction Company, the name by which the railroad was known in 1981.

The city system fell victim to Portland Transit's busses and a motorized society.  The last interurban passenger train polished the rails in January of 1958.  In 1962, the railroad was purchased jointly by the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads but continued to opreate as an independant company.

An Overview of the Railroad in 1981

The historic Oregon City line is long gone; its steel truss bridge over the Clackamas River at Gladstone feels only the weight of fishermen and pedestrians.  Humming electric freight motors have been replaced with growling diesels as one daily train sways along rusty rails at restricted speed.  While the passenger trains are only a memory, there is still work to be done -- freight to be moved.  PTC interchanges with Southern Pacific at Portland's East Side Yard, where the company's offices and shops are located.  PTC motive power consist of two orange EMD SW1 switchers, more than enough horsepower to handle the average train of two to six cars.

PTC engine house, East Portland Yard

PTC's enginehouse, in the shadow of Interstate 5 in August, 1981
Photo # enginehouse


PTC fuel dock, East Portland Yard

Nothing extravagant about PTC's 1981 fuel dock at East Portland Yard - it was a simpler time!
Photo # fuel


PTC #100 at East Portland Yard
Portland Railroad and Terminal Division's SW1 #100
rests at East Portland in March, 1981
Photo # 100atEPY

North of the yard, tracks in Water Street serve a southeast Portland warehouse district.  A spur runs east in an alley south of S.E. Main Street to reach a warehouse and Spokane, Portland & Seattle's street trackage on S.E. 3rd Avenue*, crossing the Southern Pacific's mainline (two tracks and a siding) at grade.   Also from the yard, abandoned streetcar tracks cross Market Street then turn west to run below the Hawthorne Bridge's approach to the east bank of Willamette River.  This remnant of trackage is all that remains of the city streetcar system and had become useless when the approach to the east end of the bridge was rebuilt at a higher elevation years ago. After the bridge approach was elevated, interurbans which used to cross the river on the Hawthorne Bridge to reach downtown Portland would stop at the river's edge to transfer passengers to a bus that would take them the rest of the way into the city.

East Portland Yard
East Portland Yard
Photo # east_portland_yard

Two miles south of the yard, the track curves past the site of the Oaks Amusement Park.  During the heyday of interurban travel, the Oaks was the destination for thousands of picnicking families and was a focal point for weekend excursions on the trolley.  Prior to its American Freedom Train rebirth in 1976, Southern Pacific's GS-4 Daylight  No. 4449 was stored on a display track at the Oaks; in 1981 Union Pacific 4-6-2 No. 3203 and Spokane Portland and Seattle 4-8-4 No. 700 remain stored here.

(Update 5/14/2012: at some point, these locomotives were moved to Union Pacific's Brooklyn Roundhouse, but latest news is that they are being evicted from that location.   Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation is raising money & building a new home for the 3 locomotives near Oregon Museum of Science & Industry, south of the Hawthorne Bridge.  They broke ground October 2011 & it's supposed to be completed by June 2012.   Thank you Kathryn Notson for this info.  She adds:

Here are the documents which people should read to learn more about the ORHF project for the 3 locomotives:  ORHF Newsletter No. 16, The Trainmaster, December 2010, September 2011, & November 2011, Portland City Council Agenda, July 27, 2011 (Items792-794) for the 3 Ordinances.  Ground was broken October 21, 2011 on the new ORHF location for the 3 locomotives.  Contact for further updates.)

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*Thanks to Jim Abney for correcting my error on calling this Union Pacific's trackage.  Read Jim's memories of switching this area on my comments page!

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