Medford to Butte Falls

In 1904, the Medford & Crater Lake Railroad was incorporated and started construction of a railroad between those points in 1905. Crater Lake has always been a scenic landmark in the southern Oregon Cascades. The line ran into financial problems, and despite repeated attempts to reorganize construction, money to complete the line was never found. There were only a little over 20,000 people in all of Jackson County at the time, and therefore economic justification for a passenger railroad was very difficult.

The Pacific & Eastern was incorporated in 1907 to construct a line from a point in California to Crater Lake, as well as operate telephone and telegraph lines. The backers of the line were supposedly Portland business interests. Construction of this line was never started. However, due to the financial problems of the Medford & Crater Lake construction, the company wound up as owners of the M&CL.

The area did have significant timber resources, but a railroad would have to be built to get them to a market. In 1908, business interests with timber land ownership in the Butte Falls area purchased the Pacific & Eastern.

The Spokane Portland & Seattle purchased control of the Pacific & Eastern in 1909.

At the time, the Pacific & Eastern was projected as a key railroad in the Great Northern - Northern Pacific - Spokane Portland & Seattle - Oregon Electric - Oregon Trunk railroad system, as that family of companies did not have a way of getting trains into California. The line was to be extended northeast to Bend and connect with the Oregon Trunk. At the time, the Southern Pacific line between Eugene and Klamath Falls did not exist, and therefore there was no obstruction, other than the Cascade Mountains, to such a line. At the very least, the line was to provide a link to the valuable fruit orchards of the Rogue River Valley in Southern Oregon, as well as valuable timber land around Butte Falls. There were still various proposals for related railroad lines to extend into California, some using the Pacific & Eastern as a stepping stone into that state.

In 1911, the line was completed all the way to Butte Falls, about halfway to Crater Lake.

By 1919, plans for the connection at Bend has fallen through, and the line was determined to be unnecessary for the SP&S system. It was sold to logging operations of the Brownlee-Olds Lumber Company. In 1924, the P&E became the Medford Logging Railroad. It eventually extended some 70 miles into the woods. Several of these lines are now logging roads, but with an old-school map, one can drive on a few pieces of what was once part of the line.

In 1959, the line was cut back again to Butte Falls, and the entire line was abandoned in 1962 due to the development of better trucks and the exhaustion of timber resources in the region. At some point this became part of the Medford Corporation. Towns on the line from Medford were Davis, Agate, White City, Table Rock, Eagle Point, Mountain View, School House Gap, Darby, Edsalls and Butte Falls.

Thanks to Brian Edwards for contributing information about this route.

along some of the old rail right of ways there are markers consisting of rr rails drove into the ground with a piece welded at the top forming a "t" they are all painted bright yellow and if i remember right have a plaque attached telling a brief discription of the medco rr. not sure what group installed them but i remember seeing them years ago when i used to deer hunt in the butte falls area.

Kraig cochran
medford, OR
11/16/2010

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any chance at getting GPS coordinates, or directions for driving there?

Mike
Medford, OR
8/16/2011

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Here are a few more things that may interest you.

1. Medford & Crater Lake Railroad (Dec. 29, 1904 to May 10, 1907)

2. Pacific & Eastern Railway (May 27, 1907 to Jan 30,1919. Operated until March 1921)

3. Brownlee-Olds Lumber Co (Aug. 20. 1920-1924) Sold to Owen-Oregon in May 1924.

4. Owen-Oregon (May 1924-1932). Reorganized in 1932 to become the Medford Corporation [MEDCO].

5. Medford Logging Railroad (MEDCO) Nov. 14, 1932 to Feb 11, 1962.)

The site of old MEDCO Camp 4 is in the woods near the Medco Pond. Metal historical sign there.

It was Owen-Oregon that extended the rails some 70 miles into the woods. P&E was out of the picture by that time.

Of the eight locomotives that comprised the entire MEDCO roster; four are still around today - two of which are operational.

Southern Pacific once seriously considered the impact of the Pacific & Eastern's plan (threat), and in 1929 the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company's plan to extend eastward and connect with Weyerhaeuser' system of logging spurs in the Spencer Creek drainage. Nash did the survey, and after you read the report, SP had little to worry about.

Tony Johnson

Southern Oregon Chapter, NRHS

Tony Johnson
Oregon
5/17/2012

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I have noticed that many railroad ties have been piled up by the Grange Silo in Central point. I have need of some of those ties, and would like to know if a permit is needed to be able to pick up some of the R/R ties Thank You

Marvin Vieira
Central Point, OR
7/11/2012

[Hey Marvin, the ties are still considered property of the railroad, so taking them equates to stealing.  —Greg Harrison]

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I realize that the ties are still property of the Railroad, and I have NO intentions of taking any of the ties with out approval. All I need to know is who can I contact to get permission to be able to get a small load of ties.

Thank You

Marvin Vieira
Central Point, OR
7/13/2012

[Sorry Marvin, I misunderstood; the SP&S is now owned by BNSF, so they are probably responsible for that right-of-way unless anybody knows otherwise.  —Greg Harrison]

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I have a series of pictures of the road to Butte Falls, including the falls

Marvin Vieira
Central Point, OR
7/17/2012

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I was just at a tressel off obenchain today, the timbers are still there,no actual rail though, there are quite a few all around the area. Some of the logging camps are signed with only a foot squared white sign name and date which the railroad past by or went through, I have a couple of actual maps that show all the lines that came off the main line that came through butte falls and up to prospect and so forth.

Smokeybear
Butte Falls, OR
1/3/2013

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Smokeybear- I'd lke to get a copy of the RR map for the line. Can you point me towards a source for one?

Just spent the weekend camping and MEDCO Camp 4, northeast of Butte Falls. Historics sign there along with a large concrete pad with multiple rails inset (presumably from the original line).

All rail lines currently running through Central Point are property of Genessee & Wyoming shortlne system and are operated by the Central Oregon & Pacific RR.

SP4301
Central Point, OR
5/20/2013

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Just thought I'd share some historical information and in turn, would like to receive anything you or your contacts could provide. My Grandfather, Glenn O. Pruett began working on the railroad in the early 20's as a Fireman on the locomotives. He eventually became the Engineer on MEDCO #4. I'm searching for additional photos of MEDCO #4 with my Grandfather at the controls. There are quite a few on the walls of the Butte Falls City Hall. They have offered me the opportunity to remove and copy them. Glenn Pruett, while working on the train and often stopping in Butte Falls, met Viola Hughes, my Grandmother. She was the daughter of John P.(Perry) Hughes and Clara Hughes. They had built and operated the J.P. Hughes & Co. Dry Goods Store in Butte Falls on the corner of Broad and Fir Streets. J.P. Hughes built a restaurant adjacent to the store. The address is 407 Broad Street... the family started the Butte Falls Tavern on the same location in the 30's and sold the property many years later. Glenn had a heart attack and could no longer engineer the train, so he and Viola purchased the old Midway Store on Butte Falls Hwy. My father, Dean W. Pruett and his identical twin brother, my Uncle Dale H.(Hughes) Pruett were raised there until their teenage years. I remember very well being a small child and playing in the store and under the driveway bridge in the creek chasing water skippers. I would greatly appreciate any additional information you may have relating to Glenn O. Pruett, Engineer, MEDCO #4... A display that I played on a great deal in Jackson Park as a child.

John Pruett
Medford, OR
7/25/2013

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Has there been any interest in turning this old rail line into a Rails to Trails recreational use trail?

Warren Norberg
Rogue River, OR
1/4/2014

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Hello Tony- it's your cousin Mary Louise. Please send me your email I have some information for you.

mary louise labrucherie
chino, CA
4/7/2014

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I was exploring this line today and found a cement bridge with the rails, and guard rails still intact. I was quite surprised to find it. The bridge is adjacent to an abandoned log pond that I remeber was in use when I was a kid.

The bridge has the remains of what I think was a water tower. The foundation looks like it held a three legged wood structure. Can anyone tell me anything about the bridge and adjacent structure? It is in north Medford, south of Vilas Rd. I will try to return an get photos but is littered with trash from several nearby homeless camps.

SP4301
Central Point, OR
10/4/2014

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Do you have any maps showing the location(s) of the line from Butte Falls to Medford? Please let me know

Norm Andresen
Eagle Point, OR
5/12/2015

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The passenger depot was at Main Street in Medford next to the Bear Creek bridge. The fill between Main and Jackson was still evident in 1940 along the creek through what is now a park. I remember an old passenger coach in the brush just upstream from the Jackson Street bridge.

Kenn Lantz
Clackamas, OR
9/27/2015

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