Oregon Electric Railway

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Oregon Electric train passing through Albany, Oregon
Oregon Electric express, mail and baggage car, circa 1913

The Oregon Electric Railway (OE) was an interurban railroad line in the U.S. state of Oregon that linked Portland to Eugene. Service from Portland to Salem began in January 1908.[1] The Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway purchased the system in 1910, and extended service to Eugene in 1912. Regular passenger service in the Willamette Valley ended in May 1933. Freight operations continued and the railway survived into the 1990s, ultimately as a Burlington Northern feeder. Operation as an electric railroad ended July 10, 1945.

The tracks run parallel to the main modern Union Pacific line between Portland and Eugene, used for freight and passenger service. The OE line is to the west, closely following the Willamette River.[2] In the 2000s, the line has been under consideration as an alternative for Amtrak's Cascades and Coast Starlight passenger lines. Removing passenger service from the clogged Union Pacific track would improve the timeliness of the trains, permit higher capacity, and allow higher-speed travel, peaking at 110 MPH.[2]

Burlington Northern operated the last freight train on the Portland-Beaverton segment of this mainline on December 31, 1994, in preparation for the construction of Westside MAX, part of the TriMet light rail system.

The right-of-way between Portland and Tigard has since been abandoned. From the north bank depot, it followed 10th Avenue, Salmon Street, and West Bank of the Willamette River. Portions of the right-of-way between the Southwest Waterfront and Multnomah Boulevard are currently under Interstate 5.


Garden Home Railway Depot circa 1911
Oregon Electric Railroad Depotin Beaverton, Oregon
Beaverton Depot, ca. 1911
The interior of an Oregon Electric Railway train

Main line[edit]

In order from north to south

United Railways line[edit]

In order from west to east

Dispatcher's table at the Portland Terminal Depot

Forest Grove line[edit]

In order from west to east

Map of telephony lines of the Oregon Electric Railway


City workers uncover a section of railway ties beneath Fifth Avenue in Eugene, about two blocks from the Oregon Electric Railway Station. This view looks west between High and Pearl Streets.
  • The former Oregon Electric line from Tigard to Eugene is now operated by the Portland & Western Railroad. BN donated the track from Tigard to Quinaby (a farming community north of Keizer) to the State of Oregon and sold the track to the Portland & Western. South of Quinaby, the line is still owned by BN successor BNSF and leased to P&W for operation.
  • The OE branch between Hillsboro and Beaverton is now part of the MAX Blue Line
  • Passenger service is again available on the segment from Tigard to Wilsonville as part of the Westside Express Service (WES) commuter rail line. WES service continues north of Tigard to Beaverton using a former Southern Pacific track that the OE had used since the mid-1930s when its own route north of Tigard to downtown Portland was abandoned. The OE used to join with the ex-Southern Pacific track at Greton, located in the northern part of Tigard near the intersection of S.W. North Dakota Street and S.W. Tiedeman Avenue. Today, the original OE track ends and joins the former SP line southeast of S.W. Hall Boulevard. The parking lot of the current WES station in downtown Tigard is where the OE tracks used to lie; the abandoned right-of-way is still plainly visible north of downtown Tigard.
  • The former station in Eugene has been reused and is now the Oregon Electric Station restaurant.
  • The Albany station is now a pizza parlor.[3]
  • The Multnomah depot was located at the current site of the John's Market parking lot, on the northwest corner of SW 35th and Multnomah Blvd. The adjacent 1913 Nelson Thomas Building, characterized as "streetcar era commercial" architecture, still stands.[4]
  • The North Bank Depot in Portland was the northern terminal for the OE from 1912 to 1931.[5] Used also as a warehouse, the building (and a matching one across the street) was preserved and converted into condominiums in the 1990s.
  • The site of the Tigard station is now occupied by the Tigard Chamber of Commerce.
  • The former Springfield Southern Pacific station was leased to Oregon Electric for a brief period. Is now a museum.[citation needed] It has an authentic semaphore signal and baggage car outside.
  • Several of the railway's electric substations still exist, including those at Tonquin and Waconda.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "New Track Construction in 1907". Electric Railway Review. XIX (1): 4. January 4, 1908.
  2. ^ a b Esteve, Harry (July 25, 2009). "Oregon bids big for faster trains". The Oregonian.
  3. ^ John, Finn J. D. (March 25, 2009). "Oregon Electric line -- state's past and future?". Offbeat Oregon History. Retrieved July 2, 2011.
  4. ^ Marco's Café: About
  5. ^ "Electric Line Changes: Trains Stop Operating on Salmon and Tenth (subheadlines: Oregon Electric Service Now Terminates at Jefferson Street; Ticket Office Moves)". (June 20, 1931). The Morning Oregonian, p. 4.

Further reading[edit]

  • (May 1995), "Freight out, light rail in", Trains Magazine, p. 24.
  • The Spokane, Portland and Seattle, by Charles and Dorothy Wood (Seattle, Washington: Superior Press), 1974
  • Railroad Signatures across the Pacific Northwest, by Carlos A. Schwantes (Seattle, Washington: University of Seattle Press), 1993

External links[edit]