Independence to Siletz

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  • States: Oregon   
  • Railroads: V&S   

The Valley and Siletz Railroad

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The caption reads: "Thick smoke rolls into sky from Valsetz veneer mill, which was burned by Boise Cascade Corp. on March 26, 1984." Photo by Brian Edwards.

The Valley and Siletz Railroad was incorporated in 1912 by the Cobbs & Mitchell Lumber Company, and construction started 1913. The line was opened all the way to Valsetz by 1920, where the line purchased about 2 miles of track from the Siletz Lumber & Logging Co. The total length of the line was about 40 miles. The primary goal of the railroad was to move forest products, but there was some other traffic generated from agriculture along side the line. The line connected with the Southern Pacific at Independence, and crossed the Dallas to Airlie branch of the Southern Pacific near Simpson. Originally this was the line's connection to the rest of the railroad network, but the Southern Pacific abandoned that section of line in 1927. The V&S then moved their connection to Independence by constructing about a mile of track.

There was a log dump spur which went to the south of the town of Independence and then ran along the Willamette River. The V&S abandoned this spur around 1958.

The community of Valsetz was a lumber company town, and the name of the community was simply a contraction of the railroad company that served it. In addition to logs, the company also provided passenger and mail service to Valsetz, which was otherwise rather isolated, until 1952.

The company shops and headquarters was located as Hoskins. In the course of its history, the line owned 8 steam locomotives. The line appears to have converted to diesel power in the late 1950's. All of the diesels were various sizes of General Electric small industrial locomotives. The line also owned three self-propelled gasoline powered passenger cars. A passenger timetable from 1918 shows a daily except Sunday train leaving Valsetz and 10:55 a.m., and arriving at Independence at 2:40 p.m.

In 1930, an attempts was made by the Oregon Electric Railway to purchase the railroad and construct an extension over the Willamette River to their main line to Eugene. The Cobbs & Mitchell company, as well as other shippers, communities and other parties supported this proposal. However, since the Southern Pacific had a monopoly on business from the line, they protested the move. The Interstate Commerce Commission ruled that if any company should purchase the line it should be the SP. According to the SP, they had a monopoly on traffic from that railroad, and they had no interest in actually purchasing it. According to Austin and Dill, the SP did actually take control of the V&S, but this take-over was ruled illegal in 1931 by the ICC. During the ICC hearings, testimony revealed that there was enough lumber along the line to last another 35 or 40 years.

After several changes in ownership of the parent company, Boise Cascade wound up being the owner of the line.

In the late 1970s, Boise Cascade determined that the line (and the entire town of Valsetz) was surplus to their needs, and the line was abandoned in segments: Operation from Pedee to Valsetz was eliminated in early 1979, and by the end of 1979 only three miles of track were in operation at Independence. Soon only 1.8 miles of track were in operation.

The remains of the line was purchased in late 1984 or early 1985 to the Willamette Valley Railroad Company. This company continued to operate the line to the Mountain Fir Lumber Company until this lumber facility closed in May of 1992. The railroad is now dormant.

Thanks to Brian Edwards for contributing information about this route.

Demolition of the track began in 1978 with the hiring of local monmouth and corvallis college student. Most of the demolition was completed by 1982 with only a few miles of track just south of Independece left after 1982. Tyke Dunn was the superitendent at the time with Sam Weaver as the Enigineer In charge of the college student. Some of the College students names involved in the demolishion were Skip Dierdorff, Mike Caligure, Tom Karren ,Rodney Williams, Shane McShane, Steve Busby and others that have escaped my memory at this time. Photographs of the students and crew members dismatiling the short line could be found at the former Fort Tavern in Hoskins Oregon. Where those Photographs are today only Audry the proprieter knows.

Michael J Caligure
Monmouth, OR
11/27/2010

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My grandfather, Charlie Corrigan, used to take me to the log dump in Independence when I was 3-4 years old. It seems we had to access the dump area by going east on a short street just north of the River Road bridge, and then turn south and go under the bridge to get to where the dump was. Grandpa also took me in his car to Valsetz once but, for some reason, I thought we went from Siletz to Valsetz and not from Monmouth. I've heard the only road to Valsetz was out of Monmouth so my memory may not be that good in this respect. I do recall the steam donkey, steam engines, and seeing the logs roll off of their rail carriers (don't remember if they were flat cars or trucks) into the river. Grandpa even took me several times onto some logs that had been rafted up (he would say, "...don't tell your mother about this or she won't let you come out here again...!". I believe I still see remnants of the old log dump from the River Road bridge. Grandpa worked that area from 1943 (came in from Saginaw Logging Company near the Grays Harbor area in WA to Western Logging Company - it was the same outfit, same ownership, under a new name) and stayed until around 1956, when my grandparents moved to Toledo and Grandpa went to work for Georgia-Pacific as their railroads and waterways supervisor. My thanks to Brian for posting this info as I never knew exactly where the logs came from that got dumped in Independence!

Randy Corrigan

Randy Corrigan
Olympia, WA
6/3/2011

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I rode by Valsetz on a trip up to the Valley of the Giants a couple of years ago. Boise Cascade had all manner of threatening signs banning traffic through Valsetz proper. It must be bypassed via a loop around the old now-dry lake. We took the "Valsetz Road" west from Falls City. There is an alternate (but longer) route that follows the Luckiamute and the old RR grade, but a bridge over the Luckiamute a few miles above Hoskins was out back then.

Mike
Clemson, SC
8/14/2011

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Some of the rail and hardware from the Valley and Siletz line are still in use at the Oregon Electric Railway Museum in Brooks, Oregon.

During the scrapping operation, several truckloads of rail as well as dump truck loads of spikes, tie plates and joint bars were delivered to the museum at the Trolley Park site on highway 6 at the old Consolidated Lumber (GC&WRRy) camp. Some of the rail and hardware was used to replace sections of the line there but the majority lay in stacks in the weeds until moved to the new museum site at Brooks in the mid-nineties. The rail was used initially to build track to store the equipment being moved from the Trolley Park site. Much of the rail was used to build the track in operation today including the yard and car barn. Two sizes of rail are in use from the Valley & Siletz material, 65 lb. used on a section of the mainline and 56 lb. used in the yard and car barn tracks.

Greg Bonn, Museum Director, Oregon Electric Railway Museum

Greg Bonn
Brooks, OR
1/9/2012

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What a great summer job, while going to college. A few more names to add to the college kids that Dee Bridges hired. Kirk Jolma, John Heiser, Cary Green and Dick Williams. There were more, but, not only has time past so has my memory of all of there names.

Dick Williams
Sheridan, OR
4/12/2012

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I am an antiques dealer and I have a client who has a few railroad memorabilia pieces they would like to find a home for. I found your site and thought I would explore the possibilities here. I'm not sure if this is appropriate so please notify me if it is not. One of the items would be specific to this interest group and that is a bell from a train that ran on the Valtsetz-Independence line. I have no other information about it other than the info put on the bell by the man who owned it(he has passed). I have a photo I could forward if there is any interest. Thanks.

Steve Broderick
Hillsboro, OR
3/7/2014

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