Portland Railway, Light and Power Company

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Magazine advertisement from Oregon Voter, June 1920

The Portland Railway, Light and Power Company was a railway company and electric power utility in Portland, Oregon, United States, from 1906 until 1924.[1] A series of mergers of various transportation companies in 1905–1906[2] culminating in the merger of the Portland Railway Company; Oregon Water, Power and Railway Company; and the Portland General Electric Company on June 28, 1906 established the Portland Railway, Light and Power Company (PRL&P).[1] Nearly 200 miles of track and 375 urban and interurban streetcars were thereupon consolidated under a single company.[1] Upon its formation, PRL&P became the only company to operate streetcars within Portland city limits; it also continued to sell electric power.[3] The name, Portland General Electric (PGE), remained in use as a division of PRL&P and, after subsequent reorganizations in 1930 and 1940[2] eventually PGE became once again fully independent as a power utility company, making PGE in some ways both an ancestor and a descendant of PRL&P.

The company's interurban lines used standard-gauge track, with the exception of the line to Vancouver, Washington, while most of its urban (or "city") lines were narrow-gauge, specifically 3 ft 6 in (1067 mm) gauge.[2] A few lines in the southeast part of the city were standard-gauge,[4] converted from narrow gauge in December 1908 for efficiency, so that they could operate out of PRL&P's Sellwood carbarn, which was closer to the area those lines served but was only equipped for standard-gauge operation.[2]:129–130

By 1910, PRL&P was a $15 million holding company, having received 43 franchises from the city of Portland, mostly in the form of land grants.[5] It was a monopoly, and "liable to anti-trust action under the Sherman Act."[5][6] The company only installed safety devices (such as pedestrian bumpers) on its streetcars after "extreme public pressure."[5] While PRL&P installed many public streetlights, the city council complained about the power rates charged to the city.[5]

The former Sellwood Division Carbarn Office and Clubhouse of PRL&P has survived and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The large carbarn it once served was demolished in the 2000s.

PRL&P was reorganized as the Portland Electric Power Company (PEPCO) on April 26, 1924.[1]

Two former PRL&P streetcar buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Bay E of the West Ankeny Carbarns was listed in 1978,[7] and the Sellwood Division Carbarn Office and Clubhouse was listed in 2002.[8] The company's 1911 hydroelectric facility in Estacada, Oregon, the River Mill Hydroelectric Project, is also listed on the NRHP.[9]


  1. ^ a b c d Thompson, Richard H. (2006). Portland's Streetcars, pp. 57 and 99. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 0-7385-3115-4.
  2. ^ a b c d Labbe, John T. (1980). Fares Please! Those Portland Trolley Years, pp. 118–123. Caldwell, ID (US): Caxton. ISBN 0-87004-287-4.
  3. ^ Tucker, Kathy (2003). "Portland Railway Company Car (photo)". Oregon Historical Society. 
  4. ^ Thompson, Richard H. (2010). Portland's Streetcar Lines. Arcadia Publishing. p. 98. ISBN 978-0-7385-8126-2. 
  5. ^ a b c d MacColl, E. Kimbark (November 1976). The Shaping of a City: Business and Politics in Portland, Oregon 1885 to 1915. Portland, Oregon: The Georgian Press Company. p. 10. OCLC 2645815. 
  6. ^ Cited in MacColl as "American Banker", May 28, 1910
  7. ^ Alfred M. Staehli (March 2, 1978). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory – Nomination Form: Bay E, West Ankeny Car Barns" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved December 26, 2014. 
  8. ^ Dodds, Linda; Dodds, Gordon (June 1, 2001). "National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Portland Railway, Light and Power Sellwood Division Carbarn Office and Clubhouse" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved April 22, 2012. 
  9. ^ http://focus.nps.gov/pdfhost/docs/NRHP/Text/01000497.pdf

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