WES Commuter Rail

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WES Commuter Rail
WES train.JPG
Type Regional commuter railroad
Status Operational
Locale Washington County, Oregon, United States
Termini Beaverton (north)
Wilsonville (south)
Stations 5
Services 1
Daily ridership 1,800 (Q2 2016, weekday average)[1]
Opened February 2, 2009[2]
Owner TriMet
Operator(s) Portland & Western Railroad[3]
Line length 14.7 mi (23.7 km)
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) standard gauge
Operating speed 37 mph (60 km/h) avg.[3]
Route diagram

WES Commuter Rail, or Westside Express Service, is a 14.7-mile (23.7 km) United States commuter rail line between Beaverton and Wilsonville, Oregon, in the Portland metropolitan area, mostly following busy Oregon Highway 217 and Interstate 5. The diesel-powered passenger rail service opened in February 2009 on upgraded existing freight rail tracks owned and operated by the Portland & Western Railroad (P&W). TriMet, the metropolitan area's regional transit agency, manages and funds the service, and it also owns and maintains the railcars and stations, but P&W staff operate the vehicles. In planning since the mid-1990s, the line has five stations: two in Beaverton, one in Tigard, one in Tualatin, and one in Wilsonville.

From the start of the first serious discussions of the idea,[4] it took thirteen years and $166 million to get WES operational.[5]


The route of WES consists of two historically separate railroads.

The route between Greton (near Tigard) and Wilsonville was originally built by the Oregon Electric Railway in 1908; at Greton the line continued northeasterly to Portland, a route that was abandoned in the mid-1930s. The Oregon Electric stopped running passenger trains in the late 1930s and soon after switched to diesel locomotives, continuing to run freight trains to Beaverton and Portland to the north, and to Salem, Albany and Eugene to the south.

The route from Greton to Beaverton was built by an affiliate of the Southern Pacific Railroad beginning in 1906, and opened to traffic in 1910.[6] This route connected with Southern Pacific's existing west-east line in Beaverton that provided service to Portland and Hillsboro, and a second route south of Tigard to Cook, which was a junction with an existing route between Lake Oswego and McMinnville. In 1914, the Southern Pacific electrified these lines as part of its Red Electric service in competition with the Oregon Electric Railway; by 1929 the Southern Pacific ended electric service, and passenger service was switched first to steam trains and doodlebugs, and later buses.

Both the Southern Pacific and the Oregon Electric (and its successor Burlington Northern continued to provide freight service on the line until the 1990s when both railroads leased its low-density branchlines to shortline operators. In this case, the Southern Pacific leased its lines to newly formed Portland and Western Railroad in August 1995; followed by the Burlington Northern leasing its lines to the Portland & Western in October 1995.[7] This put the operations of two competing railroads in the same hands for the first time in history.

Led by Washington County, planning for WES began in 1996, when county officials started working with the cities of Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin, Wilsonville and Sherwood, as well as government transportation agencies to study the idea of establishing passenger rail service between Beaverton and Wilsonville on the existing P&W line.[4] TriMet took over as the project's lead planning agency in 2002.[8] After years of delays due to lack of funding, the project received approval from the Federal Transit Administration in May 2004,[9] resulting in the funding of approximately 50 percent of the line's capital costs.


Wilsonville Station under construction

Track work began October 23, 2006, in Wilsonville, and a ceremonial "ground-breaking" was held two days later in Tigard,[10] although the project had already started and no dirt was moved.

During planning and construction, the project was called the Washington County Commuter Rail,[11] or alternately the Wilsonville to Beaverton Commuter Rail[12][13] since much of Wilsonville is in Clackamas County. TriMet held a naming contest to choose a name for the new line, and in November 2007 it announced WES (Westside Express Service) as the winner.[14] By December of that year, construction on the rail line was 75 percent complete and included five new bridges and two rehabilitated bridges, and improvements to 14 miles (23 km) of track and 14 road crossings. A distinctive feature of the line is the gauntlet track sections installed at the Hall-Nimbus, Tigard and Tualatin stations. The feature allows P&W freight trains to swing clear of the high-level platforms at the stops, so that wider cars do not strike them.[14]

In June 2008, the line was more than 90 percent complete, with all the track in place.[3] The four Colorado Railcar Diesel multiple unit (DMU) cars ordered for the line then arrived;[3] a total of three powered DMU cars and one non-powered "trailer car" were tested on the route. A ceremonial inaugural run for dignitaries and journalists took place on January 22, and public preview rides on January 30, ahead of a February 2, 2009, public opening.

Delays and problems with Colorado Railcar[edit]

Originally scheduled to open in September 2008, opening was delayed several times and eventually to February 2009 due to technical and other difficulties,[15] most notably the failure of Colorado Railcar (CR).[16] TriMet lost $3 million from the delays and from its financial support of CR, which included paying CR's suppliers and providing "rail engineering expertise and on-site technical assistance."[15] They provided bailout funds to CR, paying rent, phone, and power bills, and ultimately taking control of the failing company long enough to take delivery of its vehicles.[17]


Year Average
2009 1,175
2010 1,200
2011 1,449
2012 1,639
2013 1,739
2014 2,008
2015 1,869
2016 1,779[18]

Daily ridership continues to decline from the ridership peak achieved in 2014 of 2,008 daily boardings on the WES system. As of 2016 ridership is at 1,779 daily boardings.


WES trains run every 30 minutes between Wilsonville and Beaverton during morning and afternoon rush hours.[19] The scheduled one-way travel time is 27 minutes. For its first 3​12 years of service, the WES line was located entirely within TriMet fare zone 3, but travel on WES required a TriMet "All-Zone" (three-zone) fare, rather than a one-zone or two-zone fare. However, effective September 2012, TriMet discontinued all use of fare zones, and WES fares consequently became identical to the fares on any other TriMet rail or bus line. C-Tran all-zone day and monthly passes are also accepted as valid fare on WES. P&W, which continues to run freight trains on the line, operates the commuter trains, and TriMet maintains them.[20]


WES Stations
Beaverton Transit Center
Hall/Nimbus Station
Tigard Transit Center
Tualatin Station
Wilsonville Station
Station Year opened Park and ride? Transfer(s)
Beaverton Transit Center
No MAX, 20, 52, 53, 54, 57, 58, 61, 76, 78, 88
Hall/Nimbus Yes 76, 78
Tigard Transit Center Yes 12, 45, 64, 76, 78, 93, 94, YCTA 44, 45X and 46S (46S on Saturdays only)
Tualatin Yes 76, 97
Wilsonville Yes SMART, CAT, Cherriots

The self-propelled rail cars on the 14.7-mile (23.7 km) line serve stations in Wilsonville, Tualatin, Tigard, and at two locations in Beaverton. At the Beaverton Transit Center, the northern terminus of the line, commuters using WES are able to transfer between the WES cars and either of two light-rail lines: the MAX Blue Line, serving the Hillsboro–Gresham corridor via downtown Portland, and the MAX Red Line, connecting to Portland International Airport via downtown Portland. The Beaverton Transit Center station also offers connections to 11 TriMet bus lines.[21] Hall/Nimbus Station, the second stop in Beaverton, is served by local TriMet bus lines 76 and 78 and has about 50 park-and-ride spaces.[20] The station is within walking distance of Washington Square Mall and Nimbus Business Park.[20] The Beaverton Transit Center station has no park-and-ride facility.

Tigard Transit Center Station was an existing TriMet transit center and is served by six TriMet bus lines. Located in downtown Tigard, the station has about 100 park-and-ride spaces.[20] Tualatin Station is in downtown Tualatin, on Boones Ferry Road near the intersection with Tualatin-Sherwood Road. The Tualatin station is served by TriMet bus line 76 and includes 130 park-and-ride spaces, plus another 24 spaces in a nearby lot connected to the station by line 76.[22]

The Wilsonville station, at the southern end of the line, provides about 400 park-and-ride spaces.[21] Wilsonville's South Metro Area Regional Transit (SMART) opened a new transit center, known as "SMART Central", at the station in January 2009.[23] Wilsonville Station is connected via buses to residential and employment zones in the city.[21] Wilsonville and Salem-Keizer Transit (Cherriots) currently provide express bus service between the two cities, linking to the rail line.[3] The city of Canby to the southeast also links to WES through its Canby Area Transit service.[24] Other neighboring communities are also expected to use the Wilsonville stop, including Lake Oswego, Donald, Woodburn, and Aurora.[25][26]


Maintenance building
Interior of a WES train

TriMet's fleet of commuter-rail cars consists of three powered cars and one "control trailer", a type of car which is unpowered but has an operating cab at one end and can control the powered car to which it is coupled. The trailer can be pulled or pushed. The self-propelled diesel cars do not require a locomotive or overhead electrical wires.[21] Each of the three powered rail cars seat 74 passengers, while the unpowered car seats 80. The cars are numbered 1001–1003 (powered) and 2001 (trailer) in TriMet's fleet of vehicles. Originally priced at $4 million each prior to cost overruns, the cars are equipped with places for two mobility devices and two hanging bicycle racks, and have enough space for 139 standing passengers.[27] In a two-car train, passengers can pass between the two connected cars.[28] Interiors of both car types contain high-back seats with blue upholstery.[29]

2017 Budd RDCs still in TRE Livery at Wilsonville
2017 Budd RDCs still in TRE Livery at Wilsonville

Trains on WES were designed to travel at an average speed of 37 miles per hour (60 km/h) with a top speed of 60 miles per hour (97 km/h).[19] Each self-propelled car has two Detroit Diesel Series 60 12.7L engines, each of which is rated at 600 horsepower.[20] TriMet was required to purchase U.S.-manufactured trains due to federal funding of the commuter line, and purchased from Colorado Railcar, the sole U.S. maker of DMUs that comply with Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) rules.[30] The WES cars and the 35 freight locomotives sharing the track with WES include cab signals as part of a system designed to prevent train-to-train collisions. Positive train control is being installed along the line.[31] Cars on the line are serviced and maintained by TriMet at the maintenance facility at the southern end of the line in Wilsonville.[27] Adjacent to Wilsonville Station, the blue metal structure employs six mechanics.[27] The adjacent rail yard is used to store all WES trains when not in service.[32]

One piece of equipment replaced only a month after WES began operations is its train horn.[33] The FRA requires all trains operating on heavy rail lines to sound their horns for at least 15 seconds at a minimum level of 96 decibels (from 100 feet) as they approach crossings. For the rush hour-only schedule used when WES began operation, that meant over a thousand blasts a week along its route, starting as early as 5:30 am.[33] Complaints about the noise caused TriMet to replace the original 150-decibel Nathan horns with 75-decibel Leslie horns for a fleetwide cost $5,000.[33] The new horns, which met the minimum requirements, still led to complaints. TriMet asked the FRA for a waiver, proposing that they install yet another horn — similar to that used on MAX Light Rail — that would sound at 80 decibels and be accompanied by bells that would ring at 60 decibels continuously as the train neared a crossing.[33] However, the FRA turned down this request, citing safety concerns.[34]

Equipment failures and periodic maintenance on the agency's Colorado Railcar DMUs resulted in TriMet substituting buses for some runs on several occasions since the service began.[35] To provide backup equipment for the line, TriMet purchased two Budd Company Rail Diesel Cars (RDCs) from the Alaska Railroad in 2009.[35] The cars were originally built in 1953, and had been taken out of service in 2008.[35] TriMet refurbished the cars, and planned to operate them as a backup for the Colorado Railcar units when they are out of service.[35] They entered service on January 24, 2011.[35][36] Trimet bought two more Budd RDCs of the same model they got from the Alaska Railroad in 2017 from Allearth, LLC [37]. As of early September 2017 they have not entered service yet.

Car number(s) Manufacturer Model Year built First used
on WES
1001–1003 Colorado Railcar Aero[36] 2008 2009 Diesel multiple units (DMUs)
2001 Colorado Railcar Aero 2008 2009 Unpowered control car
1702[36] Budd RDC 1953[36] 2011 Ex-Alaska Railroad 702; originally New Haven 129[36]
1711[36] Budd RDC 1952[36] 2011 Ex-Alaska Railroad 711; originally New Haven 121[36]


According to TriMet, WES Commuter Rail has a cost of $16.32 for each rider; compared to $4.21 for a bus rider or $3.23 for a MAX light rail rider.[18]


There are no plans to expand WES service, owing to low ridership.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "American Public Transportation Association - Transit Ridership Report - Second Quarter 2016" (PDF). American Public Transportation Association. 22 August 2016. p. 5. Retrieved 1 January 2017. 
  2. ^ Leah Weissman (February 5, 2009). "WES' first day — 'I plan on using it every day'". Beaverton Valley Times. Retrieved September 30, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "WES rail car debuts in Wilsonville". Portland Tribune. June 19, 2008. Archived from the original on June 23, 2008. Retrieved January 1, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b Hamilton, Don (July 18, 1996). "Cities take another look at passenger trains". The Oregonian.
  5. ^ Justin Carinci (July 7, 2009). "State studying WES possibilities". Daily Journal of Commerce. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  6. ^ The Southern Pacific in Oregon, Ed Austin & Tom Dill
  7. ^ http://www.brian894x4.com/PortlandandWesternRR.html
  8. ^ Gunderson, Laura (September 26, 2002). "TriMet takes over lead on commuter rail". The Oregonian, p. B3 (Portland)/B2 (Wash. County).
  9. ^ "Wilsonville–Beaverton commuter train OK'd" (May 11, 2004). The Oregonian (MetroWest edition), p. C1.
  10. ^ "TriMet Breaks Ground for Commuter Rail Line". This Week in Passenger Transport. American Public Transportation Association. November 6, 2006. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  11. ^ Washington County Commuter Rail Project. City of Beaverton. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  12. ^ "Smith Announces FTA Approval of Wilsonville to Beaverton Commuter Rail". Senator Gordon Smith news release. May 10, 2004. Retrieved September 27, 2008. 
  13. ^ Land Use & Transportation: Wilsonville to Beaverton Commuter Rail. Washington County. Retrieved July 1, 2008.
  14. ^ a b "A New Name for Washington County Commuter Rail". City of Tigard. November 21, 2007. Archived from the original on September 7, 2008. Retrieved February 5, 2016. 
  15. ^ a b Tyler Graf (October 9, 2008). "TriMet's WES is delayed". Daily Journal of Commerce. 
  16. ^ Colorado Railcar Goes Out Of Business
  17. ^ Les Zaitz (December 14, 2008). "Westside Express Deal Cost TriMet Millions". The Oregonian. 
  18. ^ a b TriMet FY 2016 Ridership Report (PDF), Tri Met, September 26, 2016 
  19. ^ a b "Partnership brings Oregon's first commuter rail line closer to reality" (PDF). TriMet. May 2007. Retrieved August 17, 2008. 
  20. ^ a b c d e "WES Commuter Rail Cars" (pdf). TriMet. August 2008. Retrieved September 14, 2008. 
  21. ^ a b c d "Making Tracks: P811 Construction Summary" (pdf). Washington County Commuter Rail Project. 2006. Retrieved September 25, 2008. 
  22. ^ WES Station Locations. TriMet. Retrieved March 13, 2009.
  23. ^ http://www.ridesmart.com/Index.aspx?page=72 SMART History
  24. ^ WES Fares, Route/Station Map and Schedule. TriMet. Retrieved August 18, 2008.
  25. ^ Tims, Dana (June 28, 2001). "Shaping Wilsonville's center". The Oregonian. 
  26. ^ Tims, Dana (August 2, 2001). "Commute rail line closer". The Oregonian. 
  27. ^ a b c Foyston, John (August 21, 2008). "It's training day for TriMet". The Oregonian. p. Metro West Neighbors, 10. 
  28. ^ "WES Commuter Rail cars" (PDF). TriMet. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  29. ^ Foyston, John (June 20, 2008). "Thumbs-up on new railcars". The Oregonian. 
  30. ^ Christensen, Nick (October 3, 2008). "Train problems delays launch of Westside Express". The Hillsboro Argus. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  31. ^ Fetsch, Mary (May 27, 2015). "TriMet adopts budget that expands service, improves system reliability and adds 77 new buses". TriMet. Retrieved 31 May 2015. 
  32. ^ "Construction Scope and Road Closures". TriMet. Retrieved 2008-10-13. 
  33. ^ a b c d "TriMet takes another run at turning down the WES horn". Portland Tribune. July 9, 2009. Retrieved January 2, 2017. 
  34. ^ Schmidt, Brad (April 7, 2010). "Feds cite safety as they deny quieter horns for WES". The Oregonian. Retrieved 2010-07-05. 
  35. ^ a b c d e "Oregon commuters get first ride on historic RDCs". Trains magazine. January 24, 2011. Retrieved February 1, 2011. 
  36. ^ a b c d e f g h Craghead, Alexander (March 2011). "Time Travel in Oregon? TriMet Turns to the Venerable Budd RDC". Railfan & Railroad. Retrieved 2014-11-21. 
  37. ^ "Trimet Resolution 17-03-26" (PDF). 
  38. ^ Interview with TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane. Retrieved February 23, 2017.

External links[edit]

Route map: Google

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