Contract for construction had been let in April, 1878, and the track between Dayton and Sheridan opened for traffic October 24, 1878. The track was poorly constructed and not ballasted. Speed did not exceed twelve or fifteen miles an hour. The equipment consisted of two Baldwin locomotives, not heavier than ten tons each, and a number of flatcars, from which passenger coaches were improvised. The rails weighed twenty eight pounds to the yard.
At this juncture, the Pacific Northwest was just opening upon a progressive period of railroad construction. and beginning to receive great funds of outside capital. In the years 1880–83 Henry Villard expended $150,000,000 upon the lines of the Northern Pacific railroad and its allied properties. His German capitalists of the Oregon and California Railroad extended in 1878–79 the Portland-Saint Joseph line fifty miles to Corvallis, and the Portland-Roseburg line in 1881–84, one hundred and fifty miles to Ashland. His Eastern investors in 1879 acquired properties of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company and the Walla Walla-Wallula Railroad, and in 1880–84, built the lines of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company from Portland to Huntington and to points north of Walla Walla. The Northern Pacific connected with the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company, at the mouth of Snake River, by building lines, in 1879–83, through the Spokane country and the Clark's Fork region. The Pacific Northwest was electrified with the spirit of financial venture. And the Willamette Valley was an inviting field for the investment of Scotch savings. Although the money returns were poor to the thrifty folk of Scotland, yet who will deny that the stimulus afforded to the farmers of Oregon may have strengthened the sons of Oregon to aid the "kilties" on the late battlefields of France?
- Villard gained control of the Northern Pacific Railroad in June 1881.
- Opened, Portland to Saint Joseph, late in 1872 by Ben Holladay; Saint Joseph to Corvallis, January 25, 1879, by Henry Villard.
- Opened, Portland to Roseburg, November 2, 1872, by Holladay: Roseburg to Ashland, by Villard, May 4. 1884. Villard took the management of the Holladay lines (Oregon and California Railroad) April 18, 1876.
- Villard organized the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company in June–July, 1879.