Portland to Swift

(Forwarded from the Portland & Oregon City Railroad)

Note: Some of he information on this page is excerpted from and is based on Brian McCamish's web page on this line.

The Clackamas and Eastern railroad was built in 1913 to the city of Carver, but over the next few decades the railroad would be met with financial failure after financial failure. Hardly used, the railroad was finally completed another 20 miles into the woods south of Carver and almost to the town of Colton, Oregon. During it's short lifespan it served several mills, but today almost no trace of it exists.

In 1913, Stephen Carver incorporated the Portland and Oregon City Railroad. The original line was built from East Portland (3rd and Hawthorne) through the town of Clackamas and ended at Carver several miles east of Clackamas. Carver was a town that was originally laid out by Stephen Carver and the line was supposed to be an electric passenger railroad, as was common in those days and provide service between Portland and the new community of Carver. The railroad ran out of money sometime after construction. It's not clear if it was ever put to use in it's early years. In 1923, the railroad was renamed the Portland Southern Railroad and the line between Portland and Clackamas was abandoned. But the line from Clackamas to Carver was reactivated. Having given up on operating it as a passenger railroad, Carver decide to operate as a logging railroad to the foothills south of Carver. The largest construction expense on the line was building a massive bridge across the Clackamas river and this held up construction until the late 1920s, finally being mostly completed around 1930. Again running out of money, the railroad went into foreclosure. Around 1930, the railroad was purchased by the Clackamas and Eastern Railroad on behalf of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Having not been used for several years, the line was rebuilt by Southern Pacific crews and reopened in June, 1930. While rebuilding the lines, another 4 miles was added to the town of Swift, 11 rail miles south of Carver, thus joining up with the existing Molalla Lumber company.

The line was run using two Southern Pacific 4-6-0 steam locomotives, and Clackamas and Eastern crews. The line only used one locomotive at a time, usually trading off month to month. For month, one locomotive would remain in the Southern Pacific Brooklyn yard in Portland while other would run the line. It's safe to say the use of the line was rather minimal compared to other short lines. One unique aspect of this line was the steepness of the grade between the Elliot Junction (which connected to a one mile line to the Elliot mill) and Swift. It was over 4 percent, the steepest grade of any Southern Pacific line.

The line serviced several mills in the area, of which at least one still exists. The Fisher's Mill is an extremely old and interesting mill along Clear Creek in the very small town of the same name, Fisher's Mill. The mill building even appears to still be in use, but today is used as a small store and service location for the local agriculture community.

Servicing mostly lumber mills and transporting logs out of the forest, the line was abandoned when the trees ran out in 1939. The tracks were later removed and today almost no trace of the grade exists. The original grade travel though what is today, mostly private farm land and it's very difficult to reach the grade sites, but the USGS maps indicate almost no grade exists at all, except for a very short several mile long section. It is safe to say that the grade was taken over by local land owners in some areas and washed away by the creek that it followed in other areas. In the one area that the USGS maps do indicate a grade, a recent housing development has all but obliterated any remains. One potentially interesting section is the old mile long spur from the old C and E line at Elliot Junction and the Elliot saw mill. This line was later turned into a dirt road and today is on what appears to be gated off privately owned timber land. The potential for some remains, including that of the mill exist, because the land in this area was never developed.

The only significant structure along the old line besides the Fishers mill is the remains of the Carver railroad bridge across the Clackamas river. The wood structure of the bridge is very much long gone, but the large concrete footings still exist in the brush. They are the only hint that the railroad ever existed in that area.

Sometime in the 1980s a spur line was reconstructed on the old C and E grade from the Union Pacific mainline in Clackamas, extending eastward about 2 miles. This spur is used to store rail cars as it has no destination, though there are a few businesses along the line.

Thanks to Brian Edwards for contributing information about this route.

Concerning the last paragraph, the extension from Clackamas east is not on the old Carver line. The Carver turned east at the SP depot. The Lumbermans spur is on the old grade and lines up perfectly with the grade east on the south side of highway 212. I have been on all the old line from Portland to Swift, have written it up, and lived on the line on Aldercrest Court which is Railroad Ave on my 1948 map.

Kenn Lantz
Clackamas , OR
9/27/2015

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