Sumpter Valley Railway

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Sumpter Valley Railway
Sumpter Valley Railway logo.jpg
Locale Sumpter, Oregon
Terminus McEwen, Oregon
Commercial operations
Name Sumpter Valley Railway
Original gauge 3 ft (914 mm)
Preserved operations
Operated by Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration Inc.
Stations 2
Length 5.1 miles (8.2 km)
Preserved gauge 3 ft (914 mm)
Commercial history


Sumpter Valley Railway Historic District
Nearest city Bates, Oregon
Area 1,223.8 acres (495.3 ha)
Built 1890 (1890)
Governing body Federal
NRHP Reference # 87001065[1]
Added to NRHP August 3, 1987
Preservation history

The Sumpter Valley Railway, or Sumpter Valley Railroad, is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge heritage railroad located in Baker County, in the U.S. state of Oregon. Built on a right-of-way used by the original railway of the same name, it carries excursion trains on a roughly 5-mile (8.0 km) route between McEwen and Sumpter.[2] The railroad has two steam locomotives and several other pieces of rolling stock.[3] Passenger excursion trains operate on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day through the end of September.[3]


Incorporated in 1890, the 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railway's initial purpose was to haul logs to a sawmill in South Baker City. The builders of the railway owned the Grande Ronde Lumber Company in Perry, Oregon, and the railway was financed by Mormons in Utah.[4]

By 1891, the line had reached McEwen, 22 miles (35 km) west of Baker City, and the railroad began offering passenger and freight service. To reach uncut forests further west, the company extended the line in stages. It reached Sumpter in 1896 and continued southwestward to Whitney, Tipton, Austin and Bates. By 1910, it arrived in Prairie City, a ranching and mining community along the John Day River in Grant County.[5]

Ten years later, the railway began losing business to automobiles and trucks, and in 1933 the 20 miles (32 km) of track between Prairie City and Bates were abandoned. Scheduled passenger service on the remaining line ended in 1937. In 1947, the railroad ceased all operations except for 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of track in the Oregon Lumber Company yard in South Baker City. This last section was abandoned and removed in 1961.[5]

Heritage operation[edit]

In 1971, a group of volunteers set out to rebuild the Sumpter Valley Railway. Locomotive No. 3, a 1915 Heisler-type steam locomotive, was restored to operation in 1976, and the new railway opened for business on July 4, 1976, over a track of less than 1 mile (1.6 km).[2] The Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration Inc. was created and 6 miles of track were reinstalled by hand over the next 15 years, to connect the McEwen, Oregon station with Sumpter, Oregon. SVR No. 19, a type 2-8-2 steam locomotive built in 1920, was restored to operating condition in 1996.[6]

In 2007, the railway opened its reproduction of the original Sumpter Depot, within sight of the Sumpter Valley Dredge State Heritage Area operated by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The railway operates a number of historic Sumpter Valley Railroad and adjoining 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge logging railroad steam locomotives and equipment on the line every summer.[2]

In Prairie City at the western end of the original line, the Sumpter Valley Depot Restoration Committee renovated the Sumpter Valley Railway Passenger Station in the 1970s. The City of Prairie City has used it to house the DeWitt Museum since 1984. Its collections include lanterns, lights, and other railway artifacts, and photographs of train wrecks and of life along the rail line.[7]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09. 
  2. ^ a b c "Sumpter Valley Railroad History". Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration Inc. 2008. Retrieved January 18, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b "Sumpter Valley Railroad". Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration Inc. 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2012. 
  4. ^ Bailey, Barbara Ruth (1982). Main Street: Northeastern Oregon. Oregon Historical Society. pp. 32–33. ISBN 0-87595-073-6. principally a logging railroad, was constructed in Baker County with Mormon backing from Utah. Its builders also owned the Grande Ronde Lumber Company, which operated a large mill and mill village at Perry, near La Grande. 
  5. ^ a b "Our History Began in 1890". Baker County Parks and Recreation Department. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  6. ^ Brown, Greg (July 1996). "Excursion, Rail Festival Mark Portland's Union Station Centennial". RailNews, p. 10.
  7. ^ "The DeWitt Museum". City of Prairie City. 2004–08. Retrieved January 19, 2009.  Check date values in: |date= (help)

External links[edit]

Media related to Sumpter Valley Railroad at Wikimedia Commons