Wauna to Astoria, OR

This abandoned railway was initially opened by the Spokane, Portland & Seattle in the early 1900s. It followed the south bank of the Columbia River, and eventually extended past Astoria south along the Pacific coast to Seaside and Holladay. The freight hauled was primarily forest products and canned fish/seafood. The line became part of the Burlington Northern in 1970, and was later sold to shortline Portland & Western.

The segment between Wauna and Astoria closed after a landslide occurred in the mid-1990s. The line was reopened in 2003 or 2004 for summer weekend passenger service, when the Lewis & Clark Explorer Train began operations between Linnton (northwest Portland) and Astoria. The passenger service used former BC Rail (British Columbia Ry) RDCs which had been sold after BC Rail discontinued passenger operations; Portland & Western crews ran the trains. The passenger bookings were below expectations, so the service was ultimately discontinued, and the RDCs moved on to another scenic route in northeast Oregon.

In Astoria, a section of the riverside rail line remains somewhat intact, and a battery powered trolley provides rides for a dollar. Some grade crossing signals remain, partially dismantled, and the crossing bells do not ring anymore.

Freight service was never re-established on the western end of the line.

Brownsmead station (not in service), in the process of being ref...
Brownsmead station (not in service), in the process of being refurbished. Photo by Mike Palmer, June 2005.
Astoria station, showing the RDCs on layover.  The track in the ...
Astoria station, showing the RDCs on layover. The track in the foreground is used by the trolley. Photo by Mike Palmer, June 2005.
The Astoria Trolley.
The Astoria Trolley. Photo by Mike Palmer, June 2005.
Remnant of track in Astoria, facing west, with the US 101 bridge...
Remnant of track in Astoria, facing west, with the US 101 bridge over the Columbia River in the background. Photo by Mike Palmer, June 2005.

—  User Comments  —

As of summer 2009 it appears all the track from Astoria to the active portion of the line is still intact. The trolley is powered by a diesel generator on a trailer.

Richard Reid
Springfield, OR

This line was the Astoria and Columbia River Railroad which started service in 1898.

Scott Pirie
Albany, OR

did P&W actully run through the city of astoria or the outskirts?

Jordan, Cox
bend, OR

A Portland & Western Railroad locomotive did reach Astoria when one of the washouts was finally repaired. And the P&W did run the Lewis & Clark Excursion Train into Astoria.

But no revenue freight trains operated into Astoria by the P&W, as all of the freight shippers along Astoria's waterfront are long, long gone. Downtown Astoria is now gentrified, making it a near certainty that freight traffic will never exist into Astoria again. Thus, the most recent washout was never repaired.

Erik H.
Tigard, OR

It is not correct that the "passenger bookings were below expectations". In fact, load factors regularly exceeded 80%, well above expectations. The service was discontinued because the special legislative appropriation which funded the operations, motivated by the bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, only covered three years of operations. At the end of that period, the 3 Budd cars had to be sold as part of the state funding arrangements, and no additional funding was provided by the State.

Many parties explored possible extension of service, however, the biggest obstacle was that it was never felt that the immense amount of volunteer service required for the operation's success could be sustained indefinitely -- especially as it was required for the numerous hand-cranked drawbridges along the route, no railroad personnel being available for these jobs.

Jim Heuer
Portland, OR

I was just in Astoria and drove along the route. Has the P&W officially abandoned the line past a certain point to Astoria? Is there any discussion of a rails to trails conversion? It would be a very scenic hike and bike trail, although it seems as if drawbridges would still be the hurdle to realizing a practical, continuous trail.

Kent B
Austin, TX

The unused turntable remained long after the rails to it were removed, it could still be turned by one person.

Kenn Lantz
Clackamas, OR

The track all though the city is intact for the trolly. Once outside of that it vanishes fast into the blackberry's. Most of the track besides a few washouts is all there. As for the turn bridges I actually have access to the keys for them and they do still work.

Ryder Dopp
Astoria, OR