Page:History of Willamette Railroad.djvu/3

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of the

Oregon Historical Society

Volume XX
Number 2
JUNE 1919

Copyright, 1919, by the Oregon Historical Society
The Quarterly disavows responsibility for the positions taken by contributors to its pages.


By Leslie M. Scott

Forty years ago the Willamette Valley was eager for railroads, just as now for automobile highways. The navigable river which drains the valley was an easy avenue of transportation, but wagon roads leading to the river were difficult, and, in much of the productive area, were impassable in winter and impossible in summer. Two lines of railroad reached southward from Portland, the one forty-eight miles to Saint Joseph, on Yamhill River[2], the other, two hundred miles to Roseburg[3], in the valley of Umpqua River. Wagon road approaches to these steel highways were difficult, like those to the river. In short, agricultural growth was held back by poor means of hauling to market. The best remedy then known was construction of iron railroads. And the cheapest railroad to build and operate was the narrow-gauge.[4]

  1. The writer is indebted, for matter of this article, to Charles N. Scott, who as receiver of the narrow gauge railroad, was its manager in 1885–90; to Richard Koehler, who was foremost in management of the property after its acquisition by the Southern Pacific in 1890; to F. E. Beach, who was manager in 1878 in initial stages of the railroad; to Joseph Gaston's Centennial History of Oregon, the author of which promoted, financed and built the first twenty miles in 1878; and, specially to the files of The Oregonian, the consecutive reading of which has afforded the working materials of is article. See history of narrow gauge in The Oregonian, January 1, 1889; also March 6, 1889, by Wiliam Reid.
  2. Built in 1870–72; the Oregon Central Railroad.
  3. Built in 1868–72; the Oregon and California Railroad.
  4. The rails of the narrow gauge were three feet apart; of standard gauge, four feet and one-half inches.