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Oregon California & Eastern Railroad/Weyerhaeuser Woods Railroad History

Oregon California & Eastern Railroad
History Page 4- Decline and Abandonment, 1985-1993

An eastbound OC&E freight with several log loads probably bound for the Bly mill. C.G. Heimerdinger Jr. photo.

Carloadings handled by the OC&E finally stabilized at around 8,000 loads a year. Carload totals for 1989 showed a total of 8,303 loads handled by the railroad, consisting of three carloads of potatoes, eight carloads of scrap, 678 carloads of asphalt switched into WITCO in Klamath Falls, and 7,614 loads of logs. Operations saw a similar decline, with the railroad making only three runs a week to the Bly in the last years of operation. Employment likewise dropped, from 38 in 1982 down to 18 in the late 1980s. Motive power needs also dropped, and as a result all but one of the eight Baldwin diesels owned by the OC&E and the Woods Line were gone by the mid-1980s.

By the late 1980s Weyerhaeuser had basically achieved the beginnings of the even-age management that the company was looking for, but with the result that most of the company's forests were now very young and had years to go before they would be ready to harvest. Facing a shortage of timber on company owned lands, Weyerhaeuser started bidding for U.S. Forest Service timber sales, but lost out to Roseburg on a couple of large sales that lay adjacent to the east side unit. By the spring of 1990 Weyerhaeuser decided to scale back operations at Klamath Falls to adjust to the new realities. A full thirty percent of the workforce at the Klamath Falls mill were laid off, followed closely by a decision to eliminate the OC&E and the Woods Railroad.

The last train on the Woods Railroad ran on 2 February 1990, and the last OC&E log train to Bly ran on Sunday, 29 April 1990. The following day the last logs brought out were delivered to the Klamath Falls sawmill, and on Tuesday 1 May a clean up run was made to return all empty log cars from the last run, plus all log cars stored in sidings along the line, and some other equipment into storage at Sycan. A number of other cars remained in storage at Bly. Two locomotives made the return trip to Klamath Falls, and Oregon's last log hauling railroad fell silent.

Weyerhaeuser hired a consultant to evaluate its options with the railroad. WITCO still had to be switched, and during the spring and summer months the railroad fired up one of the two locomotives stored in Klamath Falls a couple times a week to shuttle the tank cars between WITCO and the interchanges with the BN and SP. Meanwhile, some local groups, led by the Great Western Railroad Museum, started efforts to preserve the railroad as a potential tourist attraction for the area. The museum submitted three bids to Weyerhaeuser for all or part of the OC&E, and all three bids were rejected by Weyerhaeuser by March 1991. After the bids were rejected the museum appealed all the way to the very top of Weyerhaeuser, with no avail.

Weyerhaeuser finally elected to liquidate the railroad in mid-1991. Three ex-BN GP-9 type locomotives and three cabooses were moved north to the large Weyerhaeuser operations out of Longview, Washington. The rest of the equipment on the railroad, consisting of the five M-K diesels, the two M-K slugs, two ex-SP cabooses, 311 log cars, two wooden snowplows, six fire service tank cars, eleven ballast hoppers, and other miscellaneous equipment were all placed up for sale, with bids due by 30 September. The railroad was re-activated for one last time, and between 5 September and 25 September a total of ten trains were run to bring all equipment down into Klamath Falls. The first trains run moved all the cars stored in Bly to Sycan, and then 45-car trains were built in Sycan for the trip to Klamath Falls. Trains were kept at that length to avoid having to double the trains through the switchbacks. The final OC&E train over the old mainline ran on 25 September 1991 when the last of the cars from Sycan, a total of 79 log cars riding on friction bearing trucks, were taken down to Klamath Falls, and the OC&E was done for. An application to abandon the railroad was filed with the Interstate Commerce Commission at about this time.

Buyers were found for the M-K locomotives, and they were shipped off to new owners. An initial deal to sell the log cars to the Kiamichi Railroad in Oklahoma fell through, and in the end the bulk of the log cars, along with most of the other railroad equipment, was cut up for scrap in Klamath Falls. The OC&E also had a fleet of 150 boxcars leased from BRAE corp, and after the demise of the railroad these cars were transferred to other Weyerhaeuser railroads.

Permission to abandon the railroad was received in December 1991, and the Weyerhaeuser auctioned the railroad off early the following year. Southern Pacific got the contract to scrap the railroad, and scrapping operations commenced in August 1992. Work on removing the railroad started at the very ends of the system at Bly and 500 transfer, and work progressed until snows shut the project down that winter. The rest of the railroad was scrapped during the spring and summer of 1993.

The great mill in Klamath Falls that was fed by the OC&E and Weyerhaeuser's network of private logging railroads finally closed in May 1992, and in 1996 Weyerhaeuser exited Klamath Falls altogether after selling all timberlands in the area to U.S. Timberlands and the remaining operations of the Klamath Falls plant (particleboard, plywood, and hardboard) to Collins Products Company. The OC&E grade was eventually taken over by Oregon State Parks, and it has been made into a bike trail. Much of the Woods Railroad grade remains intact and part of the trail system as well. A few pieces of equipment from the operation reside in Klamath Falls, mostly privately owned. Some of the locomotives and the three cabooses sent north to Longview are still in existence today. A chapter in Oregon Railroad History has been closed.

Bly trailhead of the OC&E/Woods Line state trail.