The narrow gauge or "Yamhill" railroad, initiated in 1877 between Dayton and Sheridan, in Yamhill County, with a branch to Dallas in Polk County, grew in 1879-81 to be an ambitious system, embracing the length of the Willamette Valley, from Portland to Airlie 80 miles on the west side, and to Coburg, 123 miles on the east side, a total trackage of 183 miles, with proposed extensions to Winnemucca on the Central Pacific in Nevada, and to Astoria at the mouth of the Columbia River, and with proposed connections with Yaquina Bay, the whole system to contain nearly one thousand miles of track, seaports at Astoria, Portland and Yaquina, and transcontinental rail connections with the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads. The scheme ended in 1881 when the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company leased the railroad in order to rid Henry Villard's system of its rivalry.
The narrow gauge exercised important competitive effects upon other railroad lines in Oregon. It forced extensions of the Oregon and California Railroad. It influenced the policies of Henry Villard, who was then in command of the Northern Pacific, the Columbia River rail route of the present Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company, and the present east side and west side lines of the Southern Pacific in Oregon. But the narrow gauge was only partly built; the bridge across the Willamette River near Dundee, to connect the two main branches, was not constructed; tracks, rolling stock and bridges fell into disrepair under Villard; the extension to Portland did not reach completion until a later time, and then under its Southern Pacific owners, who discarded the large scheme, and used the tracks merely as "feeders" to other lines. The tracks of the narrow gauge, broadened to "standard," now are components of the Southern Pacific, some of them electrified.
The history of the narrow gauge makes an important narrative in the progress of Oregon, a narrative which the writer has had in mind during several years, and to which he finds