Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby AgentSkelly » Fri Oct 16, 2009 11:12 pm

Well, separate stations would work; I know it has worked in other similar regions where passengers were not interchanging between routes in droves. the NICID of Indiana comes to mind.

After more careful thinking about this, I now have the impression that both the UP and old OE lines just were never built for frequent service in intercity or commuter service. It almost sounds like there should be a 3rd railroad built to handle passenger service as either route is mostly geared for freight.

As for Yamhill County, I remember reading someone's memoirs about how he would commute to McMinnvile on a bus and found that even in the 1960s, that part of the region was considered to be an "Intercity Route". Never thought of it that way, but I can sort of see why.
New Westminster to Amtrak 516, whats up with the extra 4 axles, over?
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby UH60L » Sat Oct 17, 2009 6:47 am

Concerning jsut the last section of your post about the Geere line, it actually runs from the willamette valley railroad that you mention, all the way to Cordon road. uit used to run all the way across town and connect with the SP, now UP, line, thus connecting Salem with Stayton, Mt angel and Silverton. I think that would have been a great future commuter rail system, had it not been thrown away because they didn't want to dig the tunnel wider when they widenned I-5 in the 80's and 90's.

Thus, the Geere line does, or did, serve something. Could have been great, now we'll never know.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Sun Oct 18, 2009 8:28 pm

AgentSkelly wrote:After more careful thinking about this, I now have the impression that both the UP and old OE lines just were never built for frequent service in intercity or commuter service. It almost sounds like there should be a 3rd railroad built to handle passenger service as either route is mostly geared for freight.

The OE was built as an interurban, plain and simple. The problem is that "interurban" standards of the 1900s/1910s are far different than what is necessary today. The SP's Westside Branch was upgraded to an interurban from a freight line. Both routes handled quite a bit of traffic - I don't have my Red Electric timetable handy but there were quite a few trains between Portland and McMinnville daily; and even "commute" service from Portland to Lake Oswego even pre-dating Red Electric days.

However, once the Red Electrics ceased operations in October 1929, only a "doodlebug" maintained passenger service and only for a few years - after which the service was taken over by buses. The remant of the bus service was Greyhound's Portland-San Francisco route via U.S. 101, which was terminated just a few years ago and in the last days had two trips per day. Today: only one intercity bus serves McMinnville, and it's a convoluted route from Newport to Corvallis and Albany, then to Salem, then to McMinnville and finally to Portland with only one round-trip per day, serving McMinnville at 6:15 PM (northbound) and 9:50 PM (southbound).

When the Red Electrics and Oregon Electric was going strong in the late 1910s - it was SP's intention to build a new electric mainline which would parallel the existing UP Valley Main between Portland and Eugene - so that there would have been two "passenger" and one "freight" lines. However, the new electric main was never built - most passenger service was gone by the mid-1930s save for the SP mainline, the mixed train service on the Tillamook Branch which lasted into the late '40s or early '50s, and the SP&S train to Astoria which lasted until the 1950s or 1960s. I believe there was also a train on the Coos Bay Branch which lasted until the '40s or '50s...but all of these were very local services.

When the OE stopped running passenger trains in the mid-1930s (just a few years after the SP) it's line was an afterthought for many years. In BN days, the line was orphaned, and it's actually a surprise BN kept the route for as long as it did until leased out to P&W.[/quote]
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Sun Oct 18, 2009 8:58 pm

UH60L wrote:Concerning jsut the last section of your post about the Geere line, it actually runs from the willamette valley railroad that you mention, all the way to Cordon road. uit used to run all the way across town and connect with the SP, now UP, line, thus connecting Salem with Stayton, Mt angel and Silverton. I think that would have been a great future commuter rail system, had it not been thrown away because they didn't want to dig the tunnel wider when they widenned I-5 in the 80's and 90's.

Thus, the Geere line does, or did, serve something. Could have been great, now we'll never know.


Not quite...

The Geer Branch was originally the Penitentiary Spur for that it served, well, the prison. It was eventually extended east. I do not believe from my books that it ever had regular passenger service; if so it was very minor and incidental service, and did not last long.

SP had actually embargoed the line several times before it was leased to the Willamette Valley Railroad; it too found no use for the spur and it was abandoned. When I-5 was widened through East Salem - I-5 was built up on a fill which was actually raised to clear the railroad. Since the railroad was abandoned (and had no shippers on the route itself), ODOT found no reason to rebuild the bridge (not tunnel) over the route. And so the freeway was built without a new overpass - and it lowered the elevation of the freeway to eliminate the "hump" necessary to clear the railroad. Meanwhile, the City of Salem had plans for the land west of Hawthorne which included the right-of-way; the prison probably did not want a railroad running through the middle of it; State Forestry reclaimed the ROW through its property and so did Willamette University - and numerous other businesses, residents, developers...

But the biggest problem with your theory is not the Geer Branch itself, but the West Stayton (a.k.a. the Woodburn-Springfield) Branch to the south of Geer. Looking at this map:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source= ... 77162&z=14

As you can see the route is extremely sharp and windy north of Aumsville. This by itself would preclude the line from being a serious contender for market share; whereas a bus running on Highway 22 would have a fast, direct straight-shot into Salem. The entire route from Geer to West Stayton is - and has been - in poor condition for many years, and today still sees relatively little freight traffic - mainly out of the sawmill in Stayton, and a few seasonal agricultural shippers. In Stayton, the line itself only enters an industrial area of the town and doesn't serve the city center - so finding a suitable location for a station would be difficult. Finally - Stayton's population is only 7,815. Hardly enough to warrant millions upon millions in investment for a train. Even if you add Sublimity (2,285) and Aumsville (3,535) - you still have a combined population less than 15,000.

If you look at ODOT traffic counts for Highway 22 (it should be noted that ODOT's internal highway number for Highway 22 is Highway 162 - making it a secondary highway in ODOT's system) there are 55,000 vehicles per day west of I-5, 41,700 between I-5 and Lancaster Drive, and 24,400 east of Lancaster Drive. By the time you make it to Highway 214 your ADT count drops to 18,400, and you're down to 12,000 in Stayton at Golf Club Road. Given that ODOT widened the highway to freeway standards between Lancaster Drive and Stayton (mostly due to the weekend camper/recreation traffic, rather than daily commute traffic) this highway is seldom ever near capacity - the biggest problem is that the I-5 interchange is not a full interchange and includes two traffic signals which stops traffic before Highway 22 becomes a Salem city arterial (and even then, is hardly a traffic problem when compared when Lancaster Drive!)

So while it would have been nice to retain the route as a possible commuter rail route, the need just does not exist and even so, would require much work to realign the route near Shaw and Aumsville (not to mention fix that pesky at-grade railroad crossing over Highway 22 which is a freeway at that crossing:

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source= ... 4,,0,14.51 - image of the on-ramp onto westbound Highway 22

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&source= ... 6,,0,-3.81 - view of eastbound Highway 22 approaching the Aumsville exit - with the railroad crossing right before the exit)

Now...a DMU type operation from Woodburn to Mt. Angel to Silverton and possibly returning to Salem via the Geer Branch is interesting, however it would only work by using the SP/UP Valley Main as the passenger route through the two cities. The Geer Branch did end right at the Salem depot, and the West Stayton Branch ends right in downtown Woodburn. However - you still run into issues with very low population, high cost to upgrade the tracks for passenger service, and restoring the Geer Branch which I believe is reasonably irreversible. Running a Woodburn-Mt. Angel-Silverton train (about 10 miles) might be feasible if you are willing to forego high speeds (i.e. top speed of 49 MPH to avoid having to pay for signalling systems) and making do with low-cost rail vehicles (think: used RDCs) and very inexpensive stations (i.e. nothing more than a concrete slab, an ordinary/non-decorative area light, park-style benches and very minimal informational signs.) If one could somehow get a waiver from the FRA and run the train with just a single-man (like Ottawa's O-Train) the idea becomes more realistic.

Likewise, a service from Salem (Riverfront Park) to Dallas is doable but requires rebuilding the track from downtown Salem, across the bridge (newly refurbished as a pedestrian bridge) and to Gerlinger, but the ROW is mostly intact.

Keep in mind...in another thread, I posted comparisons of Amtrak station ridership versus population, and Salem ranked as one of the lowest stations in the entire PNWC corridor... And Salem's voters have been very critical of public transit funding for Cherriots - I can't recall a single mass transit ballot measure that passed, and thanks to that Salem has eliminated all Saturday/Holiday service and has never had Sunday service. Somehow, Cherriots found a way to purchase new buses in the last few years plus a new downtown transit center...
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby UH60L » Mon Oct 19, 2009 10:38 am

Ok, so when you say "not quite" are you implying that the Geere line never connected to the SP line? If that is the case, I have pictures to prove it if need be.

Also, I did not mention running amtrak on the Geere line. I was thinking more like a commuter, rdc, MAX type line, and we're talking the future, thus after neede improvments had been made, to include "straitenning a few curves" as the Dukes of Hazzard would say.

The fact is, once the ROW is gone, it usually doesn't come back. (at least not in Oregon, from what I'm told) The Geere line ROW is now driveways, parking lots, included in teh state motorpool grounds etc. The SESNA, South East Salem Neighborhood Association pushed and pushed until finally the state and city removed the last remaining tracks from the east west end of the line over by 17th st. I have pictures of what was left about 8 or 9 years ago.

If a rail commuter system has any chance in the future in Salem, they will have to bulldoze some land/homes/businesses etc, to make a right of way, otherwise it won't serve anything the the outside eddges of the city.

I have no doubt that amtrak will never run on the geere line. But a commuter system culd have been built on that ROW. Now, not so much.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Tue Oct 20, 2009 9:05 pm

UH60L wrote:Ok, so when you say "not quite" are you implying that the Geere line never connected to the SP line? If that is the case, I have pictures to prove it if need be.

That's not what I said. Your comment was:
UH60L wrote:Thus, the Geere line does, or did, serve something. Could have been great, now we'll never know.
to which I replied
wigwagfan wrote:Not quite...
and then elaborated on what the Geer Branch (Geer: named after Oregon's 10th Governor, Theodore Thurston Geer) served - specifically, the state prison, and not much else.
I'm well aware of the junction with the Geer Branch with the SP Valley Main right across from the current Amtrak station; in fact I even stated as much in my last post:
wigwagfan wrote:The Geer Branch did end right at the Salem depot


UH60L wrote:Also, I did not mention running amtrak on the Geere line. I was thinking more like a commuter, rdc, MAX type line, and we're talking the future, thus after neede improvments had been made, to include "straitenning a few curves" as the Dukes of Hazzard would say.
Likewise:
wigwagfan wrote:Now...a DMU type operation from Woodburn to Mt. Angel to Silverton and possibly returning to Salem via the Geer Branch is interesting
However the population density just doesn't support running a "MAX type line" - light rail. There's a reason that MAX doesn't serve Troutdale, Forest Grove, Cornelius, Tualatin, Wilsonville, Oregon City, etc. There IS a reason that MAX connects Gresham, Beaverton and Hillsboro (all cities with populations over 90,000, and Gresham is over 100,000) and Portland (population nearly 600,000). And there is a reason the next big push is to Vancouver (population 162,400).

Keep in mind: WES is less than 15 miles long (14.7 to be exact) and cost $160M to build, in a relatively dense area. That's $10.8 million per mile. Can you imagine Stayton coming up with that kind of money? Especially when the city's total 2008 budget was only $8M, and the city's transportation budget was only $1.5 million? And Aumsville's budget is even smaller. I can't expect Salem to cover the majority of costs, nor would Marion County (which is one of the largest recipients of state donor dollars...Marion County isn't going to pay for anything that the State doesn't give it first.) And if you took the money away from Portland area projects, you can bet that you'll hear a lot of "trains to nowhere" arguments.

UH60L wrote:The fact is, once the ROW is gone, it usually doesn't come back. (at least not in Oregon, from what I'm told) The Geere line ROW is now driveways, parking lots, included in teh state motorpool grounds etc. The SESNA, South East Salem Neighborhood Association pushed and pushed until finally the state and city removed the last remaining tracks from the east west end of the line over by 17th st. I have pictures of what was left about 8 or 9 years ago.
So do I, I have taken quite a few photographs over the last few years as bits and pieces of trackage remained until it was finally ripped up. But just because a railroad once existed, doesn't justify its continued existence. The fact is that the Southern Pacific had no use for it and embargoed it. A shortline - the supposed savior of low-density railroad lines - took over, and after a few years had no use for it. There were no shippers on the line to cover the basic costs. As a commuter rail line, even if you just used the trackage within Salem alone as a trolley track (i.e. similar to the Seattle Waterfront Trolley, or the Astoria Trolley, or the Willamette Shores Trolley) you do not have sufficient ridership potential. And let's face it, the neighborhoods the line passes through aren't exactly pleasant, nor are there any destinations along the line (major employment centers, major housing centers). Except, of course, the prison.

As for "the motor pool", the State Motor Pool lot is on Airport Road SE and Ryan Drive. The Geer Branch was located a full half mile north of the Motor Pool lot. You might be referring to the Department of Forestry facility just off of State Street. However, if push came to shove - we're only talking about 24 - yes, 24 - parking spaces that would have to be removed. I'm sure room could be found on the north side of State Street (the DOC property).

In fact, there is exactly ONE structure that is more-or-less permanent that was built on the ROW - an office building located at 17th & Oak Streets SE. Beyond that, the ROW is accessible. (Parking lots and baseball fields can be easily removed.) That, and the aforementioned I-5 berm (and that is not as difficult as an obstacle as it appears.) So I wouldn't say the ROW is gone forever - at least not now. The question is - is it needed? As the push is for dense urban communities rather than bedroom communities, does it make more sense to invest in projects that only facilitate more sprawl to smaller outlying communities - especially communities which are not very large right now?
UH60L wrote:If a rail commuter system has any chance in the future in Salem, they will have to bulldoze some land/homes/businesses etc, to make a right of way, otherwise it won't serve anything the the outside eddges of the city. I have no doubt that amtrak will never run on the geere line. But a commuter system culd have been built on that ROW. Now, not so much.
Not at all. I've advocated for commuter rail between Salem and Portland, using the UP Valley Main for many years. I still think it's a good idea. It uses existing, passenger-ready rails. It uses existing stations. And it connects Portland with Salem - two cities where there is demonstrated commuter traffic, in high volumes (80,000 ADT on I-5 between Wilsonville and Salem), and in a market not reasonably served with public transit (aside from the paltry SMART/Cherriots 1X bus, which only runs from Salem to Wilsonville and provides luckluster connections to Portland.) Such a system, using the UP Valley Main, would have the downtown station (the current Amtrak station), plus possible stations at the Fairgrounds and another one possibly located on the Chemawa Indian School grounds (a park-and-ride facility mostly geared towards North Salem and Keizer residents). And possibly a South Salem facility located north of Kuebler Boulevard, where 32nd Avenue dead-ends - and just off of I-5. Running right through the central core of Salem is hardly "outlying" especially when the current Amtrak station is virtually in the geographic center of the Salem/Keizer area.

Further I've never advocated for Amtrak on the branches. In fact, in reviewing my thread that you commented on, the word "Amtrak" appears exactly ZERO times, but I mentioned a DMU type operation which would likely be a local transit agency.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby UH60L » Tue Oct 20, 2009 10:08 pm

My appologies if I offended you. Since the topic of this thread is about moving Amtrak trains to the old OE line, when you mentioned problems with tight curves, aka speed restricitions, on the Willamette Valley line (can you say horseshoe curve next to highway 22?) I thought you were referring to running an Amtrak on the Geere and Willamett Valley lines. That is why I specified what I did.

Also, I notice a couple typos in my reply, sorry it was late at night here and I meant the west end of the line not the east west end.

You seem to have alot of knowleadge/info on this stuff. Are you just a huge railfan or do you work in the industry?

Speaking of knowleadge, what do you know about the old station on Waconda Road, specifically, who actually owns it? The reason I ask is that a few years ago, after many years of watching it get worse every time I visited my parents, I couldn't stand it any longer. I went out with an extended paint roller and a can of gray paint, and painted over most of the grafitti on the exterier and some of the interier to.

If I knew there wouldn't be a problem, I'd like to go clean up around the building, put down some barkdust, plant a few plants, and maybe put up a plack explaining the history of the station. I'd love to see it get restored.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Wed Oct 21, 2009 7:13 pm

UH60L wrote:My appologies if I offended you. Since the topic of this thread is about moving Amtrak trains to the old OE line, when you mentioned problems with tight curves, aka speed restricitions, on the Willamette Valley line (can you say horseshoe curve next to highway 22?) I thought you were referring to running an Amtrak on the Geere and Willamett Valley lines. That is why I specified what I did


No worries. The horseshoe curve next to Highway 22 would be a specific concern about running trains from Salem to Stayton. The OE (Oregon Electric, Portland & Western) line running from Beaverton to Eugene through Salem and Albany also has some curvature issues within Salem (from Front Avenue east to Broadway and to Cherry Avenue), but north of Salem it is a nice, straight line (although outside of any towns).

So the question is running Amtrak on the OE line (instead of the UP route it takes today)...no, Amtrak wouldn't use the Geer line, it would have no reason to.

UH60L wrote:You seem to have alot of knowleadge/info on this stuff. Are you just a huge railfan or do you work in the industry?


Born and raised in the area :-) I had a number of friends who worked on the SP, and later the P&W. Most of them have moved on.

[quote="UH60L"Speaking of knowleadge, what do you know about the old station on Waconda Road, specifically, who actually owns it? The reason I ask is that a few years ago, after many years of watching it get worse every time I visited my parents, I couldn't stand it any longer. I went out with an extended paint roller and a can of gray paint, and painted over most of the grafitti on the exterier and some of the interier to.

If I knew there wouldn't be a problem, I'd like to go clean up around the building, put down some barkdust, plant a few plants, and maybe put up a plack explaining the history of the station. I'd love to see it get restored.[/quote]

It's an old OE substation building. I am not sure if it served as a "station" but I believe a small portion of the building did; the rest was used for electrical equipment. There is another such structure in Donald which is owned by a historical society and they are working to preserve it, but not much news on that front. And there is another one in Tonquin (between Tualatin and Wilsonville) that WES passes by each day, it's in even worse condition than the one that you are referring to at Waconda.

I don't know who owns it. I've walked around it and it's in pretty sad shape...I wouldn't recommend walking around unless you've got someone with you - never know who is hanging out there...

I don't know of any remaining OE substation structures south of there still in existance, but the old OE stations in Albany and Eugene still remain - both as restaurants. On the old Red Electric lines - there are three remaining substation buildings (Lake Oswego, now an apartment building, Dundee - boarded up and abandoned, and McCoy - abandoned in in about the same condition as the OE Waconda structure). There are three Red Electric depots remaining (Forest Grove, now an office; McMinnville, still used by the P&W, and Corvallis, now a restaurant and relocated from its original location.)

As for old OE/Red Electric equipment - there's a few cars remaining - and they are all in California at the Orange Empire Railway Museum. There are no OE, or Red Electric, equipment remaining in Oregon. (Ironically, the "Oregon Electric Railway Museum" does not own any original OE Ry. equipment)

If I can recommend one thing to you - the Salem Public LIbrary (and most libraries in the area) have a book called "The Southern Pacific in Oregon". I strongly, STRONGLY recommend you check out and read this book - it's the most comprehensive history of railroads in western Oregon. There are a few other books, "The Red Electrics - SP's Oregon Interurban" (by the same authors), and "The Northwest's Own Railway - Volume 2" covers the Oregon Electric and the other SP&S Oregon subsidiaries. (Volume 1 covers the SP&S railroad proper in Washington.)
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby UH60L » Thu Oct 22, 2009 10:02 am

Thanks for the info. I grew up directly across from the station on Waconda, brown house with a sign that said Davis Flowers (that's my mom). I still know a few people out there, but I agree, you never know who is hanging out there. I usually pack a .357 when I go out to mom's just in case, and never go near the station alone.

Now, when I was a kid, my frend and I use to play in the station. It served at some times, as our fort. (we're probably lucky we weren't kidnapped or that the roof didn't fall in on us!)

When I left for the Army in 1989, I spray painted an American Flag on the building. It lasted for a number of years before being painted over with gang signs and male genitals.

My oldest brother worked for 25 years at the fertilizer plant at Hopmere, the next road crossing south of Waconda, so I got to watch the BN, and later the W&P/P&W switching at that location numerous times.

I used to race the W&P/P&W trains on my dirtbike along the orchard to the south of the station. I grew up in a great place to love trains.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby wigwagfan » Thu Oct 22, 2009 1:16 pm

UH60L wrote:Thanks for the info. I grew up directly across from the station on Waconda, brown house with a sign that said Davis Flowers (that's my mom). I still know a few people out there, but I agree, you never know who is hanging out there. I usually pack a .357 when I go out to mom's just in case, and never go near the station alone.

Now, when I was a kid, my frend and I use to play in the station. It served at some times, as our fort. (we're probably lucky we weren't kidnapped or that the roof didn't fall in on us!)


It's a shame that the building is just falling to the vandals. Unfortunately it just isn't a good preservation candidate - it's out of the way and surrounded by other private property owners. Nor is there a whopping interest in electric traction substation equipment, and there's several other substations that are better preservation candidates (Donald would be first, followed by Dundee.) Frankly I think it'd be neat to buy it and convert it into a house, but convincing the wife to go along might be a long-shot (not to mention we both work in Portland, but her mother-in-law would sure love us to be closer!)

Each time I am in Salem I try to check out the rail happenings just to see what's going on...unfortunately I get bored pretty quickly since there just isn't much action. The P&W can be interesting if you catch them at the right time, but they don't run a set schedule. The UP is usually quiet. The branches and spurs are virtually all gone around town. Occassionally I'll head east to the Willamette Valley but they don't run on the weekends; or to the Westside Line and see if P&W is running a train to McMinnville or not. Independence used to be interesting - there was always something odd around the old V&S enginehouse but not anymore. Albany seems to be the "hot spot" for railfanning in the valley...but anymore I don't bother going south, I head to Vancouver or out the Gorge.
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Re: Moving Cascades trains to the OE line

Postby Vincent » Fri May 14, 2010 8:35 am

ODOT is hosting a series of open houses about building HSR between Portland and Eugene. One of the options presented is upgrading the OE line, the other is upgrading the UP line. Information is on this page: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/RAIL/Passenger_Rail.shtml. There's also a link to a drawing of the new OR Talgo trainsets: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/RAIL/docs/Pa ... Trains.pdf. Other than the new Bistro design and room for 15 bikes in the baggage car, these trains will be very similar to the existing trains.
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