Banks to Keasey

The United Railways

Broken Trestle, the starting point for the trail. The trestle abruptly ends about 100 feet into the picture.

David C. Eccles and his Oregon American Lumber Company had purchased significant timber land to the northwest of Banks. However, there were no railroad lines nearby and the only economical way to get logs to market in those days was to have one. Construction on a line was started, but was halted due to financial troubles in the Eccles interests, and eventually the United Railways took over the construction of the line In 1920. Then sometime around 1920, the Nehalem Boom Company became part of the United Railways. A complicated arrangement was worked out during the last several months of 1921. Construction was completed in 1922. The finished line went north from Wilkesboro through Banks, Manning, Buxton and Vernonia. At this location, the line turned west, eventually reaching the town of Keasey, and continued on to the county line between Clatsop and Columbia Counties. The first passenger train arrived in Vernonia on September 9, 1922, but regular passenger service to Keasey would have to wait until 1923. The first load of logs made its way over the entire line from the county line all the way through to Linnton was on October 16, 1922.

Several other logging companies started operation in the area, and used the United Railways to some extent. However, Oregon American traffic continued to be the largest user of the line.

In 1931, the interchange of traffic at the Nehalem Boom Company property was changed. 2.78 miles of track were abandoned and 0.47 miles of new track were built to allow for better interchange of traffic and flow of freight from Cornelius Pass to Rafton.

The Great Depression caused most of operations to cease, and consideration was given to abandoning the United Railways line between Rafton and Keasey. Full abandonment was never completed, but the line between Keasey and Vernonia was shut down. Considerable damage to the logging economy in the area was also the result of the 1933 Tillamook Burn forest fire.

By approximately 1936, operations had returned. A loan from the Reconstruction Finance Corporation helped a great deal in getting things back to working.

In 1939 and 1945, there were additional Tillamook Burn forest fires, but the company continued to operate one the salvage of some of the burned timber, plus unburned areas.

In 1944, the United Railways was dissolved and taken over completely by the Spokane Portland & Seattle Railway.

In 1953, the line was sold to Long Bell Lumber, and in 1956 Long Bell was sold to International Paper. International Paper had different plans for the region, and by September of 1957 the traffic was gone. The line from Vernonia westward was abandoned in 1958.

In 1964, a steam powered excursion service was operated between Banks and Vernonia. This non-profit group was known as the Vernonia, South Park & Sunset Steam Railroad, Inc. and used a former International Paper Company ( previously owned by the logging operation) as power, and passenger cars included ex-Oregon Electric interurban cars that had been converted to coaches. Financial problems caused the group to shut down at the end of 1969. The locomotive operated on the Oregon Pacific & Eastern line in Cottage Grove until the mid 1980's, and was later sold to an operation in California. The old Oregon Electric cars wound up working for the Black Hills Central in South Dakota.

In 1970, the Spokane Portland & Seattle, the Great Northern, the Northern Pacific, and the Chicago Burlington & Quincy were merged to form the Burlington Northern.

Another section of the United Railway extended from along the Willamette River in Portland through the Cornelius Pass Tunnel to Bowers Junction and on to Wilkesboro. The section from Portland through the tunnel to Bowers Junction was abandoned at one point. However, the Portland & Western Railway has reactivated the line from Bowers Junction through the Cornelius Pass Tunnel to United Junction near the river. Now a gravel train operates daily through the tunnel, which was re-opened 3 years ago.

Towns on the abandoned line from Banks:

  • Davies
  • Thornburg
  • Carstens
  • Manning
  • Tophill
  • Braun
  • Vernonia
  • Zan
  • Keasey

Thanks to Brian Edwards for contributing information about this route.

Nice job with the history. I was born in Vernonia in 1936. My dad Joe Doyle worked for Oregon American from 1924-1948 when he and Dave Rogers went into jipo loging for OA. I have my dad diarys covering al those early years at camp McGregor


Bernie Doyle
Camp McGregor Keasey,OR.


Nice precise information, well done.

Gerald Wildish,

International Railway Master Index

Gerald Wildish
Lytham St Annes, England


Bernie, stumbled across your comments. I spent a good deal of time in Vernonia when I was a kid in the early 1960's

My Aunt was the long time Secretary for OA and helped put toghether the "Ain't No More" book. She passed in 2000 and I treasure the photos and ephemera she left me. I would love to see your Dad's diary and pick your brain a bit.

I have a group of Keasey / McGregor photos to share as well.

Thanks JC

Thanks JC

Columbia County, OR


I'm an avid railfan, and an explorer of abandoned/any rails. I'm trying hard to find the broken trestle via Maps, but the pinpoint on here is smack dab in a thicket of Doug Firs. Can anyone help with a guide as to where to start?

Thanks, keep it rail.


St. Johns, OR


I volunteer for the Columbia County Museum in St. Helens. We would love to have copies of diaries and photos from the early days around Vernonia. Right now there are two railroad and logging industry historians who also volunteer for the museum and write for our biannual publication. They would like to hear from you for sure.

Call 971 225-3971 or email

Our website:

C. R. Smith
Warren, OR


Substation buildings remain north of Hillsboro and near Rafton from the electric operations between Portland and Wilkesboro.

Kenn Lantz
Clackamas, OR


Shortened Link:

Do you have any pictures or information about The United Railways? Please . You will get credit for anything you contribute.