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The Trivia Track


When did you first become fascinated with railroads? For me, it was watching Reading Company trains, including the occasional Iron Horse Ramble steam excursion, on the old Perkiomen Branch through my hometown in Pennsylvania. I spent a lot of after-school hours hanging around the old depot, learning about the peculiarities of ALCO RS3s and EMD GP7s, and marveling at my first view of a brand-new RDG GP30 in the road's bright new green and yellow.

The Trivia Track is a part of that fascination, as you challenge yourself to learn various and sundry facts about trains. Just click on your answer (no, you don't have to click three times and say "There's no place like the train station...") to get an immediate response, and tell yourself, as did the Little Engine that Could, "I think I can, I think I can...". All aboard!


  What was considered the most beautiful rail passenger car ever built?

The Virginia City, the private car of Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg.
The Pioneer, one of the first Pullman sleeping cars.
The parlor-observation car used on the Coast Daylight streamliner.


Who was John Luther Jones?

A naval hero of the American Revolution.
An engineer on the Illinois Central Railroad.
A generic name for the average citizen.


What do you do when you "go in the hole"?

Follow Alice through the looking glass.
Lose money at gambling.
Take a siding with a train


Where is the "Rathole"?

On the Norfolk Southern Railway.
On the Burlington Northern Santa Fe.
On the island of Sodor.


Speaking of Thomas, who portrayed the Conductor on "Shining Time Station", the long-running children's television program that introduced him?

Richard Starkey.
George Carlin.
Alec Baldwin.


What was the "Royal Gorge War"?

A conflict between early settlers and Native American tribes in New England.
A conflict between the British and tribal groups in India.
A sometimes violent confrontation between the Denver and Rio Grande and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe.


The creation of the MAX light rail network, the Portland Streetcar, and the WES commuter rail line have enabled the residents of the Portland metropolitan area to ponder their streetcar and interurban past. Much of that past is chronicled in the book "Fares, Please! -- Those Portland Trolley Years" by the late John T. Labbe.

There are still many parts of the Portland metropolitan area that today host light rail, streetcar, excursion or freight trains over portions of right-of-way found in Mr. Labbe's book. These include:

  • The original TriMet MAX line to Gresham covers the right-of-way of the Mount Hood Railway & Power Co. interurban line between NE 99th Avenue and Burnside Streets in Portland, to the Cleveland Avenue terminal in Gresham. This line once ran between the city's Montavilla neighborhood all the way to Bull Run, east of Sandy. Although the stretch west of Ruby Junction was pulled up in the late 1920s, the line east of there still saw interurban service as late as the 1950s. Diesel freight service continued on this portion into Gresham until the 1980s, when it was converted into the MAX right-of-way. The City of Gresham is constructing a multi-use recreational path alongside this line from the Rockwood neighborhood into downtown Gresham.

  • The Ruby Junction light rail yard in Gresham includes a portion of the right-of-way for the Troutdale branch of the Portland Railway Light and Power Co., which also operated the Cazadero line to Estacada, much of which is now the popular Springwater Trail recreational path. Portions of this line, which saw its last passenger service in 1927, were still in service as late as the 1980s with diesel freight service operated by the East Portland Traction Co. This line was also used to deliver the first MAX cars to Ruby Junction in the early 1980s. The City of Gresham has converted portions of the old right-of-way into a recreational trail that connects with the Springwater Trail at the site of the old Linneman Junction station.

  • The west side of the MAX Blue Line, from downtown Beaverton to downtown Hillsboro, follows the right-of-way of the Forest Grove line of the Oregon Electric interurban, which was part of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle family. The opening of MAX service on this line in 1998 brought passenger service to Beaverton and Hillsboro for the first time since 1933.

  • The MAX trackage on First Avenue from Glisan to Morrison Streets in downtown Portland follows the alignment of the city's original streetcar route, the 1872 Portland Street Railway Co. horsecar line.

  • Portions of the downtown MAX route on Morrison and Yamhill Streets also include former streetcar paths. Most of the downtown streetcar trackage was built as narrow gauge (42"), with some later lines and the electric interurban routes being built to standard gauge (56.5").

  • The MAX right-of-way up Jefferson Street and Canyon Road between the Goose Hollow neighborhood and the Robertson Tunnels follows that of the Portland Cable Railway Co., the first of the city's short-lived cable car lines.

  • The MAX tracks across the Steel Bridge and up Holladay Street through the Lloyd District follow the right-of-way of the city's first electric streetcar line -- the Willamette Bridge Railway Co. of 1889. A portion of the MAX line along Interstate Avenue also retraces one of this company's first electric routes.

  • Portions of the Portland Streetcar route include past city streetcar rights-of-way on 11th Avenue and on Northrup Street, while its 10th Avenue trackage traces part of the former path of the Oregon Electric line between Portland and Eugene.

  • The Willamette Shore Trolley excursion line between Portland and Lake Oswego follows the former Jefferson Street branch of the Southern Pacific Railroad, which operated Red Electric interurbans on the route from 1915 to 1929. One of the old streetcars that operated on this route, #813, was a 1930s-vintage Brill Master Unit streamlined car built for Portland's 42" gauge Broadway streetcar line. After leaving this service in 1950, it was converted to standard gauge and used on the interurban service to Bellrose and Oregon City until 1958.

  • A section of the old SP right-of-way, from SW Sheridan to Lowell, is now part of the Portland Streetcar network, and transit planners would like to eventually extend the route all the way to Lake Oswego.

  • Oregon Pacific Railroad freight trains between Portland and Milwaukie follow the route of the Portland & Oregon City Railway, which dates back to the early 1900s. This line, in 1958, hosted the last streetcar or interurban service in the Portland area until the opening of MAX in 1986. An extension of the Springwater Trail, paralleling this route between the city's Sellwood neighborhood and OMSI, opened in 2002.

  • Another trail segment opened in November 2006 along the old Portland Railway Light and Power Co. right-of-way where it crosses Johnson Creek, McLoughlin Blvd. and the Union Pacific (ex-SP) Portland-Eugene main line. The "Three Bridges" project included new overpasses built around the old railroad abutments.

  • The former SP portions of the new Westside Express Service or WES route, from Beaverton to Tigard, were part of the extensive Red Electric interurban network that operated from 1915 to 1929. The former BN portions, from Tigard to Wilsonville, were part of the Oregon Electric interurban system that operated until 1933.

  • The new MAX Orange Line between downtown Portland and the Lake Grove district of Milwaukie includes portions of both the old Portland streetcar system and the former Portland & Oregon City Railway. The ROW along SE 17th Avenue passes the site of the old Center Street streetcar shops, while the segment between SE River Road and SE Park Avenue in Milwaukie is part of the old Oregon City interurban line This segment also includes the Trolley Trail, a multi-use trail that follows the old interurban ROW from Milwaukie to Gladstone.

  • The proposed MAX line between Portland and Tigard/Tualatin is projected to use a portion of the P&W, ex-SP Tillamook Branch right-of-way from Tigard to Tualatin.


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