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
Opened

1890

Sumpter Valley Railway Historic District
Nearest city Bates, Oregon
Area 1,223.8 acres (495.3 ha)
Built 1890 (1890)
Architect West, Joseph A.
NRHP reference # 87001065[1]
Added to NRHP August 3, 1987

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]

History[edit]

Route in 1931

The railway was incorporated in 1890 by David Eccles.[4] The 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railway's purpose was to haul logs to the Oregon Lumber Company sawmill in South Baker City. The sawmill and railroad remained separate corporations of the same owners for the life of the railroad.[5] The builders of the railway also owned the Grande Ronde Lumber Company in Perry, Oregon, and the railway was financed by Mormons in Utah.[6] The line was built over terrain originally considered as part of a railway from Denver, Colorado to the Pacific coast; but the Union Pacific Railroad opted for a different route to avoid bypassing growing communities which might provide an attractive opportunity for competition by the rapidly growing Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company.[5]

Much of the original equipment came from the Utah & Northern Railway in Idaho and Montana. The Union Pacific owned the line and began converting it to standard gauge around 1887. Eccles owned a significant amount of Union Pacific stock, exerting enough influence to acquire the now-unneeded narrow gauge equipment. The first locomotive to arrive was a small 4-4-0 numbered 285; the Sumpter Valley also purchased a number of the U&N's Brooks 2-6-0 locomotives, along with a large number of boxcars and flatcars. In 1906, the railroad also acquired four locomotives from the Tonopah Railway (later the Tonopah & Goldfield Railroad).[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.[7] The railroad continued to use wood fuel for their locomotives until converting to oil fuel in June, 1940. Diamond-shaped smokestacks were replaced by cabbage-shaped Rushton stacks after 1916.[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. Freight service remained, however, and in 1939 the railway purchased two 2-6-6-2T "mallet" locomotives from the Uintah Railway in Colorado. These engines were converted from coal to oil burners and given tenders from two 2-8-2 locomotives. As traffic declined, the railway sold off the other, unneeded locomotives.[4] 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.[7]

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.[8] Sister locomotive 20 is also located at the railroad.

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.[9]

Gallery[edit]

Locomotive roster[edit]

Number Builder Type Date Works number Notes[5]
1st #1 Lima Locomotive Works Shay locomotive 1889 244 purchased from Sunny South Lumber Company in 1897
2nd #1 Brooks Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1881 purchased from Utah & Northern Ry
3rd #1 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1901 19211 purchased from Tonopah Ry in 1910
1st #2 Brooks Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1881 purchased from Utah & Northern Ry
2nd #2 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1901 19210 purchased from Tonopah Ry in 1910
1st #3 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-0 1888 9519 purchased from Tonopah Ry in 1910
2nd #3 Heisler Locomotive Works Heisler locomotive purchased 1971
4 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1904 24689 purchased from Tonopah Ry in 1907
5 Brooks Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1881 530 purchased from Utah & Northern Ry; sold to Eureka and Palisade Railroad in 1912
6 Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-4-0 1880 4982 purchased from Utah & Northern Ry
7 2-8-0 Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad C-16 class
8 2-8-0 ex-Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad C-16 class; sold to Eureka and Palisade Railroad in 1912
9 2-8-0 ex-Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad C-16 class; sold to Eureka and Palisade Railroad in 1912
10 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-0 1880 5164 ex-Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad C-16 class; sold to Eureka and Palisade Railroad in 1912
11 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1878 4429 ex-Utah & Northern Ry; scrapped 1942
12 Brooks Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1881 purchased from Utah & Northern Ry
13 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1881 purchased from Minnesota, Lyndale and Minnetonka Railroad
1st #14 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-0 1881 5932 purchased from Connotton Valley Railway
2nd #14 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-0 1906 28806 purchased from Eureka and Palisade Railroad in 1912
15 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-0 1890 11075 purchased from Eureka and Palisade Railroad in 1912
16 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-2 1915 42073 purchased new; sold to Peru in 1945
17 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-2 1915 42074 purchased new; sold to Peru in 1945
18 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-8-2 1915 42075 purchased new; sold to Peru in 1945
19 American Locomotive Company 2-8-2 1920 61981 purchased new as #100; sold to White Pass and Yukon Route in 1941; returned in 1977
20 American Locomotive Company 2-8-2 1920 61980 purchased new as #101; sold to White Pass and Yukon Route in 1941; returned in 1977
50 Baldwin Locomotive Works 4-6-0 1916 42865 purchased new; sold to Peru in 1945
250 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-6-2 tank locomotive 6/1926 59261 purchased from Uintah Railway in 1940; sold to International Railways of Central America of Guatemala in 1947
251 Baldwin Locomotive Works 2-6-6-2 tank locomotive 4/1928 60470 purchased from Uintah Railway in 1940; sold to International Railways of Central America of Guatemala in 1947
285 Grant Locomotive Works 4-4-0 1870s purchased from Utah & Northern Ry; used for construction prior to beginning rail service

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  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. ^ a b c Ferrell, Mallory Hope (1970). Rails, Sagebrush, and Pine. San Marino, CA: Golden West Books. 
  5. ^ a b c d Ferrell, Mallory Hope (1964). "Sumpter Valley Railway". The Western Railroader. Francis A. Guido. 27 (293): 1–14. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ a b "Our History Began in 1890". Baker County Parks and Recreation Department. Retrieved January 17, 2009. 
  8. ^ Brown, Greg (July 1996). "Excursion, Rail Festival Mark Portland's Union Station Centennial". Pacific RailNews, p. 10.
  9. ^ "The DeWitt Museum". 2004–08. City of Prairie City. Retrieved March 29, 2018. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Sumpter Valley Railroad at Wikimedia Commons