Note: Some of the information on this page is excerpted from and is based on Brian McCamish's web page on this line.
In 1901, the Oregon and Southeastern Railroad built a line from Cottage Grove, OR, to the east in order to reach remote logging camps with vast timbered forests and to serve several mills and mines owned by the Bohemia Lumber Company. (Originally, two branch lines were constructed, a north branch and a south branch, but over time, only the north branch would remain.) As mining declined in the 1920s, the line was cut back to Culp Creek. At some point, the O&SE was changed to the Oregon Pacific and Eastern Railroad.
In 1970, Willis Kyle purchased the OP&E and started the Blue Goose steam excursion train, which ran from 1971 through 1988. (Some sources say that a round-trip excursion train did run until just before the line was abandoned.) It was pulled by a diesel on weekdays and a Baldwin 2-8-2 steam locomotive on weekends.
In the 1980s, Bohemia purchased part ownership of the line, and began running its own freight along the line, while Kyle continued operating the Blue Goose. Bohemia used the line to transport lumber and chemicals from the line's connection with the Southern Pacific line (now Union Pacific) at Cottage Grove. Freight business steadily declined, however, to just three trains a week, pulled by either an Alco S2 or an EMD SW8. Prospects for the line took a turn for the worse when Willamette Industries purchased the Bohemia Lumber Company. This proved fatal to the OP&E for two reasons: 1) Willamette preferred to load its freight in Eugene, OR, over their existing tracks rather than by the now-extraneous OP&E, and 2) the purchase of Bohemia Lumber Company by Willamette did not sit well with Willis Kyle, who sold to Willamette his stake in the line as well in 1987; Willamette was not interested in continuing his excursion train, thereby bringing the Blue Goose to an end.
Willamette let the line slowly die until they traded the line and right-of-way to the Federal Government for erasing past timber debts with them. The line was then entirely abandoned in 1994 and the OP&E dissolved. A few years later the railroad shops were auctioned off and part of the railroad was eventually turned into a paved bike path.
Not much of the line other than the bike path remains today. In Cottage Grove, the old rail yard, or the remains of it, and one of the engine shops still exist. An old caboose sits on display on the last remaining section of track that intersected the OP&E and the Union Pacific mainline. Much of the track in the rail yard has been removed, but some does remain. The last standing engine building appears to have turned into a private storage shop. Tracks run nearby, but the tracks that ran into the building have been removed. A small bridge used by the line that crossed the Row River still exists and now allows bike travel. There was also a branch from Walden to Abrams.
On a side note, three major movies were filmed along this line: The General in 1926, Emporer of the North in 1972, and Stand By Me in 1986.
Thanks to Brian Edwards for contributing information.
Since this has been posted, (I didn't see a date on this post).
I have lived in Cottage Grove since 1993. I was just a kid when I moved here. I never saw OP&E operate. But I remember when I moved to town the yard had become kind of a throw away yard for SP. They had some Autoracks just sitting in the yard.
For a short time Central Oregon Railroad and Pacific CORP used the engine shed to repair until UP sold them the Eugene Locomotive shop.
Since about 2002-2004 the engine shed has been torn out and it is now becoming a park.
I rode the blue goose when I was a kid. I believe the engine is still running a train in Yereka Ca just south of the Oregon border next to I5.
The Blue Goose was leased from Yreka Western for the CG excursion business. That is why it went to CA when the CG excursions stopped. Sadly the Yreka Western is now also a thing of the past.
The most famous locomotive on the line is 2-8-2 Baldwin 90 ton logging mikado #19. #19 is nicknamed "Pancho" due to its time spent in Mexico in the 1920s and possible squabble with the Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. #19 has starred in many movies, the two most famous being "Emperor of the North" and "Stand By Me". She was built in 1915 by Baldwin for the Caddow River Lumber Company in Arkansas.
The locomotive went up for auction in Siskiyou County, CA and the entire Yreka Western road is pulled up and gone. I can't find a final dispo on the 19.
I am doing research on the production of Buster Keaton's film "The General." Keaton said in interviews that the railway line was narrow-gauge and all of the film books repeat that claim. None of the historical railway research I have been able to find, however, identifies the track as narrow-gauge. I don't want to assume that it is then standard gauge, but all evidence suggests that it is the case. Can anyone confirm that the OP&E lines that ran through Cottage Grove were indeed standard gauge?
I rode the line when I was a kid and it was standard gauge during the time of the excursion trains in the 1970s. It could mean that at the time keaton used the line for the film it was narrow gauge as a lot of logging rail lines were narrow gauge.