Vintage Streetcars in Oregon

From nycsubway.org


Portland "Council Crest" replica car on the Willamette Shore Trolley in Lake Oswego, OR. Photo by David Pirmann, July 2023.

(This page incorprates text and photos from the former "Portland Vintage Trolley", "Willamette Shore Trolley", and "Astoria Riverfront Trolley" pages.)

Portland Vintage Trolley

(This section has been condensed from a longer description, due to the cessation of vintage trolley service in Portland.)

Beginning in 1991, Portland's Vintage Trolley service continued the traditions of Portland's once-extensive streetcar system. Vintage trolleys shared the tracks of the MAX light rail lines between Lloyd Center and downtown Portland. A special siding was built off of the MAX tracks near the Lloyd Center for the Vintage Trolley's eastern terminus station. A small trolley barn provided a space for overnight storage at Rose Quarter Transit Center, underneath the I-5 viaduct. The vintage trolleys used were reproductions of Portland's 1904 Brill-built cars, which became known as the "Council Crest" streetcars in the 1920s. Four replicas were built, numbered 511 to 514.

Recessionary budget concerns caused reduction of service in 2011, and finally discontinuation of service in July 2014. The four replica streetcars were sold. 513 and 514 went to the Willamette Shore Trolley (see below). 511 and 512 were sold to St. Louis, MO for a startup trolley line known as the Delmar Loop Trolley, which ran its first service in 2018. Prior to the startup of the modern Portland Streetcar system, the vintage trolleys were used to test the Portland Streetcar line. For a period, two of the vintage trolleys were used as spares on the modern streetcar line.

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Willamette Shore Trolley

The Willamette Shore Trolley is operated by the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society, based in Brooks, Oregon. The history of this line is quite interesting.

The route of the Willamette Shore Trolley is that of the old Southern Pacific Jefferson Branch. The right-of-way of the Willamette Shore Trolley was first established in 1885-1887 as the Portland and Willamette Valley Railroad, which began operation in July, 1887. It was later purchased by the Southern Pacific Railroad, which converted the line to electric traction in 1914.

The railroad had a major impact on the development of southwest Portland. Initially 14 trains operated between Portland and "Oswego" (as it then was known) and became the main transportation link for developing residential communities along the route. Following electrification in 1914, passenger traffic hit its peak in 1920 with SP running 64 "Red Electrics" to and from Portland and Oswego daily. Passenger service ended on October 5, 1929, and many of the Red Electric interurban MU cars went to sister operation Pacific Electric in the Los Angeles area, where they became known as "Portland Twelves".

SP continued to operate steam and diesel freight service until 1983. In August of 1984, the Interstate Commerce Commission granted Southern Pacific permission to abandon the line. In November of that year the Portland Friends of the Willamette River Greenway, a non-profit corporation, was asked to assist seven government entities in their efforts to acquire the line, to guarantee the preservation of the right-of-way for future mass transit.

From September through December 1987, the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society operated a streetcar on the line to determine the feasibility of such a service there. Negotiations between Southern Pacific and the governmental entities continued until the six-mile line was purchased in the fall of 1988. Trolley service began on a long term basis in July 1990, with operations given by local trolley entrepreneur Paul Class using an ex-San Antonio, Texas Brill car, now currently situated in Astoria, OR.

Since then, the line has been extended from its original southern terminus, one half mile south to downtown Lake Oswego. In 1995 the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society again became the operator of the Trolley Service, in cooperation with the Cities of Lake Oswego and Portland, Clackamas and Multnomah Counties and Metro (a tri-county government agency). Currently, the right-of-way is owned by TriMet as a potential light rail route, which is not likely to happen any time soon.

The original north terminus of the line was at Riverplace, a location just south of downtown Portland. But in 2003 the route was cut back to SW Bancroft and Moody Streets, ending operation on some of the industrial streets of southeast Portland. A resumption of service to Bancroft Street in 2017 has had a further setback; the Riverwood Trestle along the Willamette River north of Riverwood Road is out of service, preventing access to the northern 3.5 miles of route. A round trip along the full route, when operating, takes about 2 hours.

The route is extremely scenic and passes through some of Portland's most exclusive riverfront homes and communities. Two spectacular features of the route are the 686-foot Riverwood Trestle and the 1,396-foot Elk Rock Tunnel, which was built tall enough to handle electric interurbans.

The two cars on the property are Gomaco replicas of Portland Council Crest streetcars (formerly operating the Portland Vintage Streetcar service), numbers 513 and 514. A towed/pushed diesel generator provides the 600-volt DC power to the traction motors. Cars formerly used, Blackpool double-deck car 48 and Portland Brill Master Unit 813, have been moved to the Oregon Electric Railway Museum in Brooks (see below).

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Oregon Electric Railway Museum

Operated by the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society, this small operation on the grounds of the Powerland Heritage Park in Brooks, OR, consists of a single track around 3/4ths of the perimeter of Powerland Heritage Park. The collection consists of several operating cars, including an ex-Blackpool, England double-deck car (#48) and a tram from Sydney, Australia. Also in the collection are a double-deck car from Hong Kong, two San Francisco MUNI PCCs, a MUNI Boeing LRV, and a collection of ex-Brussels, Belgium trams including a Belgian PCC.

The Powerland Heritage Park is dedicated to anything with an engine or motor. More than a dozen museum collections display antique steam tractors, cars, trucks, streetcars, model railways, and even "live steam" miniature trains.

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Astoria Riverfront Trolley

The Astoria Riverfront Trolley is a heritage line along the Columbia Riverfront. Service is provided by a single restored former San Antonio Trolley, "Old 300". No overhead catenary exists, so power is provided by a tag-along generator. The route has 8 sheltered stops. The track passes through Astoria's waterfront, including views of docks, condominiums, active canneries, and the old pilings of long-gone buildings out in the river, ending at the old Astoria rail station (now shuttered).

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Willamette Shore Trolley - Official Site

Oregon Electric Railway Museum - Official Site

Astoria Riverfront Trolley - Official Site

Portland Vintage Trolley - Wikipedia

Willamette Shore Trolley - Wikipedia

Powerland Heritage Park

Portland Vintage Trolley. Maps and history of Portland's trolley operations.

Page Credits

By Peter Ehrlich and Adam J. Benjamin.

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