Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad

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Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad
Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad 6116.jpg
2005 excursion on the POTB
Locale Northwestern Oregon, United States
Dates of operation 1986–2007
Predecessor Southern Pacific Transportation Company[1]
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 94.4 miles (151.9 km)
Website potb.org/industrialpark/railroad.html

The Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (POTB) is a 94.4-mile (151.9 km) shortline railroad in northwestern Oregon, United States. Purchased from the Southern Pacific Transportation Company in 1990 by the Port of Tillamook Bay, the railroad was used to transport lumber and agricultural products over the Coast Range between the Oregon Coast and Portland and its suburbs until heavily damaged in a 2007 storm.[1][2][3][4] The Port of Tillamook Bay began operating the unincorporated railroad on March 27, 1986,[2] but the tracks were originally constructed by Oregon judge George R. Bagley and others in 1906.[5] The railroad's main line is between Hillsboro and Tillamook.[2] The general manager of this line is Michele Bradley.[6]

Storms[edit]

In January 1990, the railroad was significantly damaged by a storm, and the cost of repairs was about $1.3 million, exceeding the costs of all other repairs in the area.[7] In February 1990, after having leased the railroad, the Port of Tillamook Bay purchased the railroad from the Southern Pacific Transportation Company for nearly $2.9 million.[8]

Twisted and broken railroad tracks above the muddy Salmonberry River in a forested canyon
The Salmonberry River and the damaged Hillsboro–Tillamook line in February 2008

In 1996, another storm heavily damaged the Hillsboro–Tillamook line. A length of about 7 miles (11 km) of line was "nearly completely destroyed",[9] with two bridges washed out and "boulders the size of cars" washed through one of the line's tunnels by flooding on the Salmonberry River.[9] A preliminary estimate of the damage, given by the Oregon Department of Transportation, was $5 million.[9] In March, Oregon governor John Kitzhaber was convinced that repairing the railroad would not harm steelhead runs and permitted repairs to continue through the end of the month.[10] But in June, Kitzhaber determined that the Port of Tillamook Bay had violated state environmental laws by eroding the steep terrain in the Coast Range. The state became more concerned about the repairs' effect on steelhead.[11]

During a storm on December 2 and 3, 2007, known as the Great Coastal Gale, the railroad was again significantly damaged in the Salmonberry Canyon area.[1] Tillamook County logging companies faced increased costs because they had to transport timber via roadways. The cost of repairs to the railroad was first estimated at $20 million.[12] Fisheries groups suggested permanently abandoning the railroad once the cost estimate was revised to $57.3 million, because they thought "that economically, the railroad is not viable, and environmentally, rebuilding it would affect fish runs already hammered by last winter's storms".[13] Workers began assessing the damage in February 2008 in snowy, rugged terrain, and found that the high Salmonberry River had eroded steep embankments, leading to the collapse of trestles and bridges and to the damage of tunnels. Later that year, they hiked as many as 18 miles (29 km) each day to the canyon to further assess the damage.[14] The port opted to not repair the damaged track over the mountains, but still owns more than 101 miles (163 km) of railroad right-of-way, including main line, spurs, and sidings.[1] The port also leases a 3.5-mile (5.6 km) section of track from Banks to Hillsboro to the Portland and Western Railroad, and maintains the coastal portion of the line used by the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad.[1]

Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad[edit]

The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (OCSR), a non-profit museum group, operates a heritage railroad in conjunction with the POTB that runs dinner trains on a portion of POTB track from Garibaldi to Wheeler[15] as well as summer excursions to Rockaway Beach.[16] As of 2011, OCSR was negotiating a contract with the port commission to perform track maintenance in exchange for controlling the scheduling along the portion of the line.[17] There is disagreement between the port authority and OCSR about the percentage of ticket revenues to be paid to POTB.[17] OCSR wanted an agreement with POTB as assurance that if the scenic railroad invests $30,000 to $40,000 in a building to house a new, larger train engine, that the tracks would not be used for another purpose.[17] Meanwhile the port commission said it had received an offer of more than $4 million to sell the railroad for scrap, an amount that would pay off the nearly $1.7 million in debts the port has accrued on the railroad.[17] A former port commissioner speaking on behalf of OCSR believed, however, that the port would have trouble gaining federal approval to completely abandon the rail line.[17]

In March, 2012, OCSR agreed to lease from POTB 46 miles (74 km) of line from the Salmonberry River to Tillamook.[18] This would effectively make the entire line a tourist railroad. OCSR plans to extend services to Tillamook as soon as practicable, with extension to the north a future possibility.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e "Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad". Port of Tillamook Bay. Retrieved July 1, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Robertson, Donald B. (1995). Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History. Caldwell, Idaho: The Caxton Printers, Ltd. p. 133. ISBN 978-0-87004-366-6. 
  3. ^ "Railroads operating in Oregon" (PDF). Oregon Department of Transportation. Retrieved July 3, 2011. 
  4. ^ Associated Press (January 12, 1990). "Worst is over for storm victims in Oregon". The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, Wash.). p. A4. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  5. ^ Lockley, Fred (1928). History of the Columbia River Valley From the Dalles to the Sea. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing. pp. 709–710. 
  6. ^ "Minutes approved 7/19/11" (PDF). Port of Tillamook Bay. July 19, 2011. p. 1. Retrieved August 4, 2011. 
  7. ^ Associated Press (January 25, 1990). "Coastal county to get storm aid". The Bulletin (Bend, Ore.). p. A4. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  8. ^ Associated Press (February 4, 1990). "Tillamook port buys rail line". The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.). p. 2D. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c "Flooding and mudslides cripple railroading in the Pacific Northwest". Pacific RailNews: 10–11. April 1996. 
  10. ^ "In-stream railroad repairs to continue". The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.). March 23, 1996. p. 3B. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  11. ^ Associated Press (June 4, 1996). "Tillamook Railroad needs oversight". The Register-Guard (Eugene, Ore.). p. 2E. Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  12. ^ "Tillamook port cuts back operations after railroad is devastated". The Daily Astorian (Astoria, Ore.). December 7, 2007. Retrieved July 1, 2011. 
  13. ^ Milstein, Michael (September 30, 2008). "Tillamook RR repair cost tops $57 million". The Oregonian (Portland, Ore.). Retrieved July 1, 2011. 
  14. ^ "Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad damages". CW Construction. Retrieved July 16, 2011. 
  15. ^ "Dinner Trains". Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. Retrieved August 3, 2011. 
  16. ^ "Special Excursions". Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad. Retrieved August 3, 2011. 
  17. ^ a b c d e Swindler, Samantha (June 29, 2011). "Still no agreement between Port, OCSR". The Tillamook Headlight-Herald (Tillamook, Ore.). Retrieved July 5, 2011. 
  18. ^ Rimel, Anthony (April 4, 2012). "Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad wins lease to extend track". Coast River Business Journal (Tillamook, Ore.). Retrieved April 10, 2012. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 45°29′55″N 123°24′14″W / 45.498647°N 123.403931°W / 45.498647; -123.403931