The Springwater railroad line, once an extension of the electric trolley lines in Portland, Oregon to the city of Estacada, Oregon, dates back to 1903. Today, the part of the line closest to Gresham and Portland, which was finally completely abandoned by 1990, is now a paved bike trail. The section between Boring, and the Cazadero Dam, near Estacada is not part the paved bike trail and still retains some of the remote and interesting character of the old railroad. The history on this railroad, the Portland Water and Light Railroad was formed and built several "electric railroads" from the city of Portland, which extended the trolley car system from Portland to outlining areas. The rail line in question, commonly called the "Springwater line" began in Sellwood, a community now part of Portland, Oregon, and was completed to Gresham, Oregon in 1903. By 1904, the line was completed to the brand new Cazadero dam construction site, just south of Estacada, Oregon, bringing the total length of the Springwater line to 34 miles of standard gauge track. The Cazadero bridge, a massive span railroad and truck bridge was built, crossing the Clackamas river to the dam site. Once the dam was completed in 1907, the short railroad spur from the Springwater line to the dam was abandoned and only vehicle traffic crossed the bridge. Today, 100 years later, that same massive steel bridge is used to serve access to the dam. Two other major trestles were built along this line between Gresham and Estacada. The Eagle Creek Trestle between Barton and Estacada and the Deep Creek trestle between Boring and Barton.
The entire line from Sellwood to Estacada and beyond was electrified. This meant that electric trolleys could run the entire line. Electricity was provided by the new Cazadero power plant. The line served both freight and passenger service, but half of the line (Boring to Estacada) was abandoned by the late 1930s, apparently after the wooden trestles at Deep Creek burned down. Freight and Passenger traffic would continue to be served on the line from Sellwood to Boring until 1958, when passenger service was dropped and only freight was carried. The remainder of the line was sold that year to Union Pacific and Southern Pacific jointly and operated exclusively as a freight line run by diesel locomotives. Despite being essentially a trolley line, it was originally built to heavy steam locomotive specifications, so it could easily handle the diesel locomotive freight traffic. By the 1970s and 1980s, freight traffic was light and very infrequent. The line served only a few companies, including a brick factory just outside the city of Gresham and a few businesses in Boring. In 1990, the remaining section of the line, Sellwood to Boring, was abandoned and sold by Southern Pacific (now part of Union Pacific) to the city of Portland and local governments, which turned it into a bike trail. The remaining tracks were removed in 1990. By 1996, the bike trail on the section of the line from Sellwood to Gresham was completed and opened to the public. An unpaved section of the grade continues to Boring and is commonly used as a bike trail as well.
The largest intact original section of railroad grade from Boring to Estacada, that has not be developed, consists of a 3 mile stretch of non-maintained dirt trail located deep in a wooded creek gorge between Boring and Barton. The remainder of the old railroad grade between Barton and Estacada only exists in very short sections as local farmers and land owners have all but destroyed the original grade. The grade right of way from Gresham to Estacada is easily located via a set of power lines that still exist along the entire old right of way. Hwy 223 now covers where the grade used to run south of Estacada.
Thanks to Brian Edwards for contributing information about this route.