Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company


Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company

The Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company (OR&N) was a railroad that operated a rail network of 1,143 miles (1,839 km) of track running east from Portland, Oregon, United States to northeastern Oregon, northeastern Washington, and northern Idaho. The railroad operated from 1896 as a consolidation of several smaller railroads.

OR&N was initially operated as an independent carrier, but Union Pacific (UP) purchased a majority stake of the line in 1898.[1] The line became a subsidiary of UP titled the Oregon–Washington Railroad and Navigation Company in 1910.[1] In 1936, Union Pacific formally absorbed the system, which became UP's gateway to the Pacific Northwest.

Contents

Predecessor railroads of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company

The OR&N was made up of several railroads:

  • Oregon Railway and Navigation Company traces its roots back as far as 1860. It was incorporated in 1879 in Portland, Oregon and operated between Portland and eastern Washington and Oregon until 1896, when it was reorganized into the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company. The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company was the core 643 miles (1,035 km) of the OR&N. Its route eventually became the backbone of Union Pacific Railroad's mainline from Utah to the Pacific Northwest.
  • Columbia and Palouse Railroad was incorporated in 1882 and built 145 miles (233 km) of track. The track ran from Connell, Washington, where it interchanged with the Northern Pacific Railway and ran east through Hooper, La Crosse, Winona and Colfax. At Colfax, one line ran northeast to Farmington, Washington, located on the Idaho state line. The other line ran southeast from Colfax to Moscow, Idaho. The railroad was a non-operating subsidiary of the OR&N in 1888 and was eventually sold to the OR&N in 1910.
  • Walla Walla and Columbia River Railroad was a wood-railed[1] narrow-gauge railroad incorporated in 1868 at Walla Walla, Washington and built 46 miles (74 km) of track from Wallula, Washington. The track went east from Wallula to Touchet, Frenchtown and Whitman. At Whitman, the line continued east to Walla Walla and a branch that was built in 1879 went south to Blue Mountain, Oregon via Barrett (Milton). The first 33 miles took 6 years to build.[1] In 1881 the railroad came under the control of the OR&N and the narrow-gauge was converted to standard gauge. In 1910, the Walla Walla and Columbia River Railroad was consolidated into the OR&N.
  • Mill Creek Flume and Manufacturing was incorporated in 1880 as a narrow gauge lumber carrier operating 13 miles (21 km) of track between Walla Walla and Dixie. In 1903 the Mill Creek Flume and Manufacturing Company was purchased by the OR&N and renamed the Mill Creek Railroad. The track was standardized in 1905. After the track was standardized, the OR&N sold the Mill Creek Railroad and it was merged into the Washington and Columbia River Railway which became part of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1907.
  • Oregon Railway Extensions Company was incorporated in 1888 at Portland and built 69 miles (111 km) of track with two branches. One branch ran from La Grande, Oregon where it interchanged with the OR&N and then ran northeast to Elgin. The other branch ran from Winona, Washington to Seltice via St. John, Sunset, Thornton and Oakesdale. The railroad was a non-operating subsidiary of the OR&N. In 1896 it was sold at foreclosure to the OR&N.
  • Washington and Idaho Railroad was incorporated in 1886 and was also sold at foreclosure to the OR&N in 1896. The Washington and Idaho Railroad operated 154 miles (248 km) of track.

Development of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company

The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company's purchase of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company in 1880 gave it a partial route on the south (Oregon) side of the Columbia River. The company then pursued expansion of its Columbia River route, surveying from where the Oregon Steam Navigation tracks ended at Celilo and continuing east to Wallula. By 1882 the route along the Columbia River was complete.

Starting in 1880, one of the competitors of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company was the Shaver Transportation Company.

Blue Mountain route

The company purchased right-of-way in 1882 from Alfred B. Meacham and John Harvey Meacham, along their Meacham Road through the Blue Mountains.[1] The Meacham road, built in 1862, had a lower pass (4,185 feet (1,276 m)) than competing roads, and was a corduroy road, allowing it to hold up in poor weather conditions.[1] The railroad was laid in 1884.[1]

Predecessors of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company

  • Oregon Steam Navigation Company was incorporated in 1862 in Portland. It operated steamships between San Francisco and ports along the Columbia River at Astoria, Portland, and The Dalles, serving the lumber and salmon fishing industries. The company built the railroad[clarification needed] to serve the steamship operation. The Oregon Steam Navigation Company was sold to Oregon Railway and Navigation in 1880.
  • Oregon Steam Navigation Company (of Washington) was incorporated in 1860 to operate via land along a portion of the Columbia River that was unnavigable by steamship because of the rapids. The railroad operated from The Dalles to Celilo Falls.[clarification needed]
  • Oregon Portage Railroad operated 4.5 miles (7.2 km) of track between Bonneville (on the Columbia River) and Cascade (Cascade Locks, Oregon) from 1858 to 1863. The railroad hauled primarily military and immigrant traffic. In 1862 the railroad was sold to the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company for $155,000.
  • Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company ran a narrow gauge rail line on the Long Beach Peninsula from Ilwaco in the south, to Nahcotta in the north, with steamboat connections at both ends. In 1900, the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company bought a controlling interest in the company.

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Deumling, Dietrich (1972-05). The roles of the railroad in the development of the Grande Ronde Valley (masters thesis). Flagstaff, Arizona: Northern Arizona University. OCLC 4383986. 
  • Robertson, Donald B. (1995). Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History - Volume III - Oregon & Washington. Caldwell, ID: The Caxton Printers. ISBN 0-87004-366-8. 

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