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Oregon Electric Railway Museum 6/26/2011

by Chris Guenzler

After the National Railway Historical Society convention trip from Tacoma to Portland, I went inside Portland Union Station's first class Lounge and used my Select Plus Guest Reward card so I could upload that story. Bob and Elizabeth came in and after I was finished, we left Portland for Brooks and the Oregon Electric Railway Museum.

Oregon Electric Railway Museum History

The Oregon Electric Railway Museum is an operating trolley museum, featuring trolleys and other electric railway equipment from the West Coast as well as from around the world. Our railway equipment collection dates from the 1890's through 1977. The Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society was founded in 1957 and first established a trolley museum (Trolley Park) in Glenwood, about 40 miles west of Portland, along Highway 6 in 1959. The first operation of streetcars occurred in 1963 and regular oprations in 1966. It was built on the site of a former steam logging railroad and the OERHS re-equipped the former sawmill building of the Consolidated Timber Company as a four-track carbarn. The museum property occupied about twenty-six acres and trolley cars were able to operate on a 1.7-mile line. Operation at the Glenwood site ended in autumn 1995 when the museum moved to the grounds of Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks in 1995 and opened there a year later. The museum consists of about one mile of mainline track with overhead wire with a four-track carbarn to store the international collection of streetcars.

We went inside the grounds and found the office where we paid for our ride on the trolley.

We boarded open car 1187 built by the Meadowbrook Car Company in 1912 for Sydney, Australia. The crossbench seating with both open and enclosed sections can fit 80 passengers. They were affectionately known as "toastracks". Car 1187 was shipped to the museum from Australia in 1959 via boat. It has been one of the museum's main operating cars since its arrival and was the first streetcar to operate in Brooks.

The Trip

After a brief talk about safety, we started down the rails.

We left the station boarding area.

The trolley then came to the first curve.

Passing a sawmill.

A replica Southern Pacific station under construction.

The shop lead takes off to the left.

Two small diesels off on a stub track.

There are two electric freight engines outside the car barn which we would see later.

An interurban outside the shop.

A PCC car behind the shop.

Railroad equipment on display.

Looking back at the car barn area.

The trolley started down the northern tangent track.

The railroad display that we would explore later.

Looking forward.

The trolley would take this curve.

A steam tractor.

Looking down the western tangent track.

We are nearing the end of the track.

The end of the track. The trolley pole was reversed and soon we were on our wayback to the car barn.

Heading back north on the western tangent track.

At the northwest curve, Mount Hood was visible.

Looking down the north tangent track.

Looking down the east tangent track. At the car barn, we detrolleyed and started our tour.

Anaconda Copper Company 35 ton freight motor L351, ex. Montana Power Company 3, nee Missoula Street Railway built by General Electric in 1903.

Anaconda Copper 40 ton freight motor 401, nee Timber Butte Milling Company 1 built by Baldwin-Westinghouse in 1912. In 1891 the Boston and Montana Consolidated Copper and Silver Mining Company broke ground for copper reduction works on the banks of the Missouri river across from the City of Great Falls. An electrolytic copper refinery and a furnace refinery were built the next year, which made possible the treatment of ore to commercial products. In 1910 the Anaconda Copper Mining Company took over the properties, designating them as the Great Falls Reduction Department. The operation gradually changed from copper concentrating and smelting to refining, wire and cable manufacture, and electrolytic zinc and cadmium production. An electric railway system moved materials between the various departments. Nine miles of standard gauge track was supplied power by third rail carrying 550-volt direct current.

Pacific Gas and Electric flume train speeder, which can only travel at six miles per hour. For almost 100 years, a wooden flume carried water from the Little Sandy River to the Bull Run Powerhouse to provide power to the city of Portland. The story begins in 1906, when the Mount Hood Company began building a dam on the Little Sandy River to divert water into a wooden flume that would carry that water to a powerhouse. Except for concrete footings and metal hardware, the flume was otherwise made entirely of wood, lined with replaceable fir wear boards due to the sediment of the river, and was built by hand, with as many as 315 laborers on the project at one time. Measuring 14 feet wide and 9 feet deep, the flume had a capacity for moving 900 cubic feet of water per second. The flume led the water to the artificial Roslyn Lake over three miles away, created in 1911 as a reservoir for the new Bull Run Powerhouse. The Powerhouse was completed and opened in 1912, the same year that the Mount Hood Company was purchased by the Portland Railway Light & Power Company, which would eventually become Portland General Electric. In 1913, the Marmot Dam was built on the Big Sandy River to divert more water into the flume.

On top of the flume, rails were laid for a light railway to allow workers to transport materials and equipment for making repairs to the flume. The railway used speeders as locomotives to pull small freight cars. The speeders were originally powered by Ford Model T engines and transmissions but were eventually rebuilt with diesel engines with automatic transmissions and aluminum-sided bodies that could seat six workers. There were two trains, each typically consisting of a powered speeder, an electric crane car and two flat cars. One train also included a lunch car with a restroom. There were also a couple of boxcar-like cars.

The Bull Run Powerhouse, which had four turbines producing a total of 110,000 megawatt-hours every year, was closed in 2007. The Marmot Dam was removed in the summer of 2007 and the Little Sandy Dam was removed in the summer of 2008. The flume was dismantled in November 2008. Without the water from the flume, Roslyn Lake disappeared. After they were used in the initial dismantling of the flume, Portland General Electric donated the work trains to the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society in October 2008.

Samtrak 25 ton switcher 2501, ex. Samuels Steel, exx. Portland Public Docks LDE-1, nee U.S. Maritime Commission L-060-3 built by General Electric in 1942. Richard Samuels purchased it in 1992 for use on SamTrak tourist train. When that ended, he donated the locomotive to Oregon Electric Railway Museum in 2005. It has the name of "Little Toot". Much later, in 2018, it was purchased by the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad.

Salmon Bay Steel 25 ton switcher, ex. Northwest Steel Rolling Mill 27501, exx. Schnitzer Steel 1872 1961, nee United States Army 7769 in Fort Richardson, Alaska built by General Electric in 1944. In September 2022, this moved to the Oregon Coast Scenic Railway in Garibaldi, Oregon.

Scene outside the car barn.

Looking out of the car barn.

San Francisco Light Rail Vehicle (LRV) 1213 built by Boeing-Vertrol, the helicopter division of Boeing, in 1971. These cars turned out to be overly complicated for a streetcar which led to their early retirement in 2001. These LRV's replaced the MUNI PCCs. 1213 was originally built as 1221 for demonstration purposes and is one of only two Boeing LRVs to ever have trolley poles. In regular service, it used pantographs.

Anaconda Copper 25 ton steeple cab switcher 254 built by General Electric in 1915. It was equipped with third rail shoes for use at the copper mines as a trolley wire a pole would have been in the way. It was assigned to the Great Falls Reduction Department at Anaconda Copper Mining.

Portland Railway, Light and Power Company snow sweeper 1455 in 1906, ex. Oregon Water Power and Railway 102 in 1902, nee East Side Railway built by the McGuire Car Company built in 1898.

Streetcar companies were required by their franchise agreements with cities to clear the street of snow and dust. Often, this was necessary for the streetcars to operate anyway. On a snowy day, 1455 would go out in the morning ahead of the first streetcar to clear the tracks, and if it was snowing during the day, it might have to go out to rescue a stuck streetcar.

The snow sweeper was not retired until the end of interurban service in 1958, but snow is relatively rare in Portland, and the last time it was used to clear snow was in 1954. After retirement, the snow sweeper was put on display at Oaks Amusement Park for a time before being donated to the OERHS.

Portland Street Railway Council Crest streetcar 503 built by J.G. Brill in 1904. The street railways of Portland ran on narrow gauge tracks and this car currently has standard gauge trucks, a necessity for it to run at the museum. This car operated in San Francisco during the 1980's the streetcar festivals while the cable cars were shut down.

Blackpool British double-decker 48 built by Blackpool Tramways in 1928. It is the only city in England that never stopped operating trams. This car is notable as it was the last tram to operate out of the Morton Depot in 1960. In 1962, the tram was shipped to the United States and trucked to their former museum at Glenwood. It operated for several years on the Willamette Shore Trolley until 2004 when it was moved to Brooks.

Portland Railway Light & Power wooden interurban 1067 built by the company in 1907. It is unique in that the company had its origins in one of the very first "true" interurban built anywhere in the country; the line to Oregon City constructed in 1893. It was used by the company from 1908 to 1924, then became Portland Electric Power 1067 from 1924 to 1945. Retired that year, it and a sister interurban were stripped for use as cabins at Cannon Beach in 1946 before being donated to the museum in 1981.

Portland Street Railway Council Crest Streetcar 506 built by the J.G. Brill in 1904. It retains its narrow gauge running gear. This class car was unique in that it has electric brakes instead of air brakes for it to negotiate the hilly terrain of its route. 506 will be preserved on its original running gear which means it will not operate at the museum unless narrow gauge track is laid.

Los Angeles Railway narrow gauge streetcar 1318 built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1923, one of the first all-steel streetcars in Los Angeles. The layout of this car, with open-air seating at the ends and enclosed seating in the center, was common in California, leading to cars of this style being referred to as "California Cars." The streetcars of the Los Angeles Railway were called "Yellow Cars" in contrast to the interurban of the Pacific Electric Railway, which were called "Red Cars".

The Los Angeles Railway was renamed as the Los Angeles Transit Lines in 1944. This car was retired in 1956. By 1963, all Los Angeles streetcar lines, once the largest system in the world, had been shut down.

Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway caboose 713 built by the Great Northern Railroad's McCloud shops in 1910 using parts from a Great Northern four-wheel car. It was sold to SP&S that year.

Hong Kong narrow gauge double-decker tram 12 built by Hong Kong Tramways in 1952 which ran on Victoria Island in Hong Kong. Trams first operated in 1904 as single-deck trams and they quickly proved popular, so the system changed to double-decker trams for more capacity. Double-deck trams still operate in Hong Kong with very frequent service. This tram was brought over to Oregon by the late Bill Naito as a project to start a vintage trolley service in Portland's Old Town. The project eventually became Vintage Trolley and ran on the MAX lines for several years. Sadly 12 never operated, it had been stored in Montgomery Park.

San Francisco Muni PCC car 1159, nee St. Louis Public Service 1726 built by St. Louis Car Company in 1946.

Car Barn scene, after which I went outside.

Seattle Transit trolley bus 604 built by Twin Cities Coach Company in 1940.

Seattle Transit trolley bus 648 built by the Pullman Company in 1944.

BC Transit trolley bus 2411 built by Canadian Car and Foundry and J.G. Brill in 1954.

Mount Hood Railway Interurban Express 1191 built by the Kuhlman Company in 1911.

San Francisco Muni PCC car 1118 built by the St. Louis Car Company in 1946.

A Rail crane.

A narrow gauge work car.

Burlington Northern maintenance-of-way bunk car 968398 built from a box car.

Oeser Company 6-40T 10 ton switcher, nee Saginaw Bay Southern built by Davenport Locomotive Works of Davenport, Iowa. Oeser Company is a manufacturer of wood poles.

Southern Pacific 160 ton crane 680 built by Bucyrus-Erie in 1928, currently numbered 7020.

Southern Pacific Jordan Spreader 4057 built by the company in 1925. Its last assignment for the Southern Pacific was working out of Ashland, Oregon on the Siskiyou Route, until it was retired and donated to the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. It currently carries the reporting marks of the Willamette and Pacific Railroad, as it was on loan to them for a time. Its last use was to clear debris from the Portland & Western Railroad's Astoria Line in 1999.

Southern Pacific flanger 328 built by the company in 1945. Retired in 1981, it was donated to the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and may be the last wood-bodied flanger in existence.

Port Townsend Railroad Incorporated S2 36, ex. Relco 36, exx. Portland Terminal Railroad 36, nee Northern Pacific Terminal Company 36 built by American Locomotive Company in 1943. It was donated to the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in 1993.

There are also two flat cars in the collection. I started the walk back to the boarding area.

A wag-wig signal on the property.

An unepxected trolley photo runby.

The Brooks Southern Pacific station, formerly Oregon and California, built in 1877.

I rejoined Bob and Elizabeth then said goodbye to our hosts before we left the wonderful Oregon Electric Railway Museum. We departed Brooks and drove back to Portland, stopping at Elmer's for dinner where I had a Flat Iron steak which was excellent. I changed into my getting through airport security clothes before we drove to Portland International Airport where they dropped me off and I said goodbye to two of my dearest friends on planet earth.

I went through security which was no problem, changed back into my shorts and made my way to the gate, accessed the Internet and upload this morning's Southern Pacific 4449 trip story. I worked and finished this story then uploaded it so Winston could proof it while I listened to Let's Talk Trains. My Alaska Airlines flight for home boarded, it was a fine flight and took me back to Santa Ana on time, where my mother picked me up, ending a fine series of trips around the National Railway Historical Society convention in Tacoma.