Oregon City to Mount Angel

(Forwarded from the Clackamas Southern Railway)

Note: The photos on this page were taken near Oregon City along the Abernethy Creek.

Showing of

In 1911, the Clackamas Southern Railway was formed. The organizers projected an electric railway line south from Oregon City to Molalla and Silverton. Some grading south of Oregon City was accomplished, and some operation with steam locomotives between Oregon City and Beaver Creek might have occurred under this name. The process of obtaining franchises to operate into Oregon City and Portland were time consuming. For a while, the line was used by Stephen Carver as a way of gaining franchises for his proposed Clackamas Southern.

In 1914 the Willamette Valley Southern was incorporated to take over the line and the franchises into the cities. The Portland Railway Light & Power (at the time, operator of the majority of the streetcar and interurban lines out of Portland) took over this company as a subsidiary. Carver did not want to associate with PRL&P, and left the company completely.

In October of 1915, the line was declared complete, including electrification, and was opened to traffic between Oregon City and Mt. Angel. Trains actually operated all the way into Portland over the PRL&P line between Oregon City and Portland. (That line is abandoned now too) The line may have also operated trains over a short distance of Southern Pacific track in Oregon City. A unique crossing existed on a trestle where the two lines crossed in Oregon City.

For nearly 12 years, the line remained nearly unchanged. The line survived on a little passenger traffic as well as some local agricultural shipments, but Molalla and Mt. Angel were also being served by the Southern Pacific. Both Southern Pacific and the Spokane Portland & Seattle considered purchasing the line and adding it to their respective electric railroad systems in the Willamette Valley. SP was particularly annoyed at the WVS / PRL&P habit of sending loaded freight cars over its own lines to and from Mt. Angel or Liberal before exchanging them with the SP, forcing the SP to move the empty car for the entire return trip.

The automobile brought on problems, and traffic on the line was never substantial to begin with. In the late 1920's the line appeared to be on its last legs.

In 1927, new hope appeared for the line. The Eastern & Western Lumber Company opened up timber operations near Molalla, and built a logging railroad that connected to the line at Kaylor, on the south side of Molalla. Also, the Silver Falls Timber Company was extending its railroad towards Mt. Angel. During this period of optimism, a group formed a company called the Willamette Valley Railway and purchased the line for $250,000 at a sheriff's auction.

A 1929 forest fire in the Eastern & Western timber stands, as well as a world wide economic decline, eliminated future hope for the line, but Eastern & Western operated some clean-up timber operations as late as 1937.

In 1930, with the Silver Falls Timber Company successful in forcing concessions from the Southern Pacific, operations of the Willamette Valley were cut back to Kaylor.

It is not clear how much longer the line continued to exist after the forest fire. The rails may have still been down in 1939, when Ostrander Timber Company considered rebuilding the line for logging service. They determined it was more economical to use trucks over a privately built logging road between Molalla and Canby, and dump the logs into the river there, rather than run trains to Oregon City. Southern Pacific in Oregon reports the line abandoned in 1933, and the rails removed in 1938. Only a few pieces of this railroad remain visible. In Oregon City, there was about a 1/4 mile part that was untouched until the flood of 1996 washed out the hillside. Elsewhere, southwest of Molalla some bridge approaches still exist but the line has been tilled over for agriculture.

Towns on the line from Oregon City were Beaver Creek, Ingram, Spangler, Mulino, North Liberal, Liberal, Molalla, Kaylor, Yoder, Monitor and into Mt. Angel.

Thanks to Brian Edwards for contributing information about this route.

I live out in Buckner Cr. canyon which is in between Mulino and beavercreek, and on my neighbor's is the old main line. But on my other neighbor's property I have found (with a metal detector) some old remnants of a sawmill and some rail track but the track and spikes I have found are smaller than the normal sized track which are sticking out into buckner cr. and I was wondering if you knew what the smaller line could have been used for? The line does seem to be heading up to the old main line which is about 300 yards away from where I found the smaller tracks. I can send pics if your interested. also if you know any thing about the old saw mill or logging operations in the buckner CR. area I have been trying to figure out the name or year that the sawmill had been in operation. Thanks.

Michael Cooper
Buckner Creek, OR
1/5/2011

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I walked part of the old railway grade today on a friends property on Buckner Cr. Rod. If you look on google maps and zoom in far enough in the Map mode (not sattelite), you can see the current property lines, some of which show evidence of the old railway right-of-ways. S. Alder Creek Road in fact is the old rail bed. From there you can trace evidence of the old line to Oregon City and also between Molalla, Yoder, and Mt. Angel. It would be cool if someone made a google map with a trace running along the old line.

Devin Bailly
Portland, OR
1/24/2011

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I recently found a stock certificate issued in 1914 for the Willamette Valley Southern Railroad. It is certificate 28. They were issuing 1,000,000 in Capital Stock. Thanks for the history. It was fun to read.

John Edwards
Junction City, OR
11/22/2011

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If you go to the Clackamas County mapping website (http://www.clackamas.us/gis/disclaimer.htm) and type in parcel number 32E22A 01000 and view the taxmap, you will see part of this railroad in the western portion of taxlot 1000. You can also trace the rail line using some of the tax lots.

Dave
Oregon City, OR
4/4/2012

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The Buckner Creek trestle was the biggest one on the line, second largest was the one over Newell Creek leaving Oregon City. Many nice traces of the line are still evident.

Kenn
Clackamas, OR
5/21/2012

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The twin substations, Beaver Creek and Monitor, were connected to the actual station buildings. The foundations remain at Beaver Creek, but I have found nothing at Monitor.

Kenn
Clackamas, OR
5/21/2012

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The cars ran on to Portland on the PRL&P from the connection at Oregon City. This Y at 15th and Main was one block from the WVS/SP diamond which was on trestle.

Kenn
Clackamas, OR
5/21/2012

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There is a good stretch of roadbed you can walk on the grounds of Clackamas Community College. It is in the woods east of the main loop, accesible by the Metro composting demo project area. You can pick it up again by the arts center, but it now serves as a creekbed by the old Smuckers buildings. It crosses Beavercreek road by Thayer road. There is a great stretch in the woods North of Henrici Road, but it is private property. South of Henricic the old roadbed is a long driveway. There is fill and then some excavated roadbed, before it disappears in the subdivision. Google Maps satellite view clearly shows how the lots are aligned with it as the roadbed crossed Glen Oak Rd, and goes across the Oregon City HS practice fields. There are still sections of trees where the roadbed went as it aims north to CCC. I have walked this area alot as my son and I discovered the old roadbed in the woods while exploring them after moving in a long time ago. I would like to be able to trace it down the hill from thayer to Abernathy creek, should be quite a grade.

Scott Johnson
Oregon City, OR
9/11/2012

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Some years ago I went to the library and dug up some old property maps from the 1920s, and found a clearly outlined route for the WVS route. Based on this, I've created a Google Map that shows (at my best guess) where the line and stop placements were.

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msid=204753153259280024330.0004cbea92508c144792c&msa=0&ll=45.26353,-122.594719&spn=0.169394,0.394821

Feedback appreciated. Enjoy!

Chris Fussell
Portland, OR
10/13/2012

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I copied the link into Google, no map found. Any ideas?

Scott Johnson
Oregon City
10/17/2012

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Scott-- I checked the link and it works for me. Settings are also set to "public". Try again?

Chris Fussell
Portland, OR
3/18/2013

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Hello All,

I am curious if any of you (Scott you seem quite knowledgeable) would be interested in suggesting a few locations of this old track that are located near a gravel road, and or field. I am in need of a location that is is similar to where I grew up - alongside an abandoned track. - for a film I will be shooting over the summer.

Rene' Graves
Portland, OR
6/25/2013

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Rene', I can't think of any spot that screams "abandoned railroad." There's no ballast anymore anywhere I've walked. The best spot I can think of is in the woods at CCC south of the metro composting area. It's evident it was a rail line to our eyes, but maybe not the general public. Check it out.

Scott

Scott Johnson
Oregon City
8/3/2013

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Scott, you are correct. There really isn't any evidence of a railroad right of way anywhere.

Seems I've taken on this railroad; and the one crossing the Clackamas at Carver; as a pet project. Call it something to occupy the mind other than work, etc.

The only place I cannot identify exactly is the place where this line would have crossed Abernathy Creek.

I suspect looking at satellite view / tree lines, terrain maps, etc. that it crossed east of the existing Ogden Middle School, then headed Northwest to a point where the largest trestle on this line was located. I have never found any pictures of this trestle.

One day I'd like to locate it. (Go down the hill on Anchor Way - there was a cut made in the "fill" for the rail line that is quite visible. A shed is on the West side of this cut) One could walk the line from that point to see where it crossed Abernathy Creek - just thinking this would be the most logical step. Ends of the trestle supports could still possibly be out there somewhere.

Side note: This area could also be the final resting place for the Indians convicted of the Whitman massacre. They were buried "on the third loop of Abernathy Creek" according to something I read in an old book.

If anyone would like to get together at the Clack Co. Museum - Tumwater St. - they have a historical library.

Also, would like to plan a hike in the Abernathy Creek area this spring before the foliage take hold.

Bob Ripp
Oregon City, OR
11/19/2013

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Went looking for the remains (foundation) of the Beaver Creek substation and depot. Can anyone here describe where it is or was? North or south of Leland Road?

TIA.

Sheldon

Sheldon Perry
Lake Grove, OR
3/3/2014

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Lived on Bean ct. east of Hospital in OC. Our backyard was a greenway to hwy 213. There was a grade as to a train or old road was. Followed it south to a gulch area and no sign of trestle or bridge of any sort. I have been trying to find out more bout this also but now live in molalla where I am now looking up the molalla abandoned railroad. Hope this helps.

Kenneth Szela
Molalla, OR
4/23/2014

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I just came across this website, because I just read a letter that my Great Grandfather wrote to his mother in 1914 while he was helping build the Southern Railroad in Oregon. So, I Googled the Southern Railroad and found this site. The letter describes harsh labor conditions and building bridges, etc. It references the "Jack Bertchtolds" Hotel in Mt. Angel as a place that they stayed a few nights. The letter goes into great detail about the railroad's construction in 1914...very interesting. If anyone is super interested, I can scan the letter and email it.

Christopher Hulse
Gilroy, CA, CA
2/7/2015

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There is a railroad grade cut in back yard which is just south of Ogden Middle School which my neighbor tells me has been there for ever. He even told me there was an old tool shed on their property when he was young.

Mike Carpenter
Oregon City
4/13/2015

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Bob, the RR did not cross Abernethy Creek, it followed down Newell Creek from CCC, still seen behind Ogden Junior high, and down the hill side behind the county shops. Before the bypass was constructed I had walked the entire line and it was very remote. The largest trestle was at Buckner creek and the second crossed Newell Creek up hill from the county shops.

If you are still interested in the Carver line I have written up papers of how to follow it from Portland to the end of the SP at Fellows road/Swift.

Kenn Lantz
Clackamas, OR
9/27/2015

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Sheldon, to get to Beavercreek substation- South from Oregon City on Beavercreek road to the Beavercreek store, west down the hill, and north before crossing the creek. You will see the foundation of the substation/depot and can then drive north on the grade. I have pictures of this and the Monotor substations, they are twins and both have depots attached.

Kenn Lantz
Clackamas, OR
9/27/2015

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I am interested in seeing a map. My childhood home is in MT. ANgel, and included in the property is an easement of land where, according to my parents' story, there used to be a railway that went through it. Very curious if this is the same railway.

margaret plumb
elmira, OR
10/16/2015

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Chris Fussell, thank you for your map! I found that this is, indeed, the same railway that went through my childhood home property in Mt. Angel. Christopher Hulse, I am interested in that letter you mentioned. My email is margaret.plumb @gmail.com.

margaret plumb
elmira, OR
10/16/2015

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Kenn,

You're absolutely correct. Not Abernathy, I meant Newell.

If one walks W/NW from the most westerly building at Ogden Middle School, you can step out on the built up rail bed leading to where that trestle was. It is fairly brush covered, but not too bad of a walk.

I've figured out with satellite imagery, terrain imagery, right of way boundaries on maps and walking, where this track has gone in it's entirety.

I had a neighbor up to a few years ago, that rode this line up to the present CCC buildings off Inskeep Dr. He said there were fruit orchard warehouses at that location. He would have been quite young at the time.

I also have an Uncle that lives off Needy Road, who says there are still concrete footings in place where it crossed Rock Creek.

If you stop at Yoder Store, they will share information and photos of this rail line as well. - If anyone does go, don't forget to spend a little money for their trouble, though they would seem happy to talk with anyone regardless, I'm certain.

I've been at the end of the line in Mt. Angel. Parking for the Oktoberfest is in a field next to the old right of way. The tall power poles are still in place, indicating the right of way. I've stood, looking at the old photo of the loop; aligning houses, figuring out exactly where things were.

My mother lived in Mt. Angel through High School and recalls talk of this railroad as they lived off E. College St., near where it crossed.

I would like to walk the Dunton Farms place, just for fun.

bob.ripp@gmail.com

Bob Ripp
Oregon City, OR
10/20/2015

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I used to play in the gully apparently formed by the old railway. It went through the middle of the blocks from E. College, near Bucheit, through to Leo St. and beyond. In the 60's, the gully was full of swampland, reeds and marshes, frogs, cattails. A child's delight. Never knew till much later that it was an old railway site.

margaret plumb
elmira, OR
10/23/2015

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Margaret,

I'm emailing you a scanned copy of the 6 page letter. The pages are too long for my scanner,so most are cut off at the bottom; I did my best without damaging the paper. It's 100 years old. Let me know if you recognize anything that he writes about. I'm curious. Thanks!

Chris

Chris Hulse
Gilroy, CA
10/24/2015

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