Portland's Old Streetcar Trax

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Aaron 'Katt' O'Donnell

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Apr 25, 2003, 5:05:59 AM4/25/03
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I noticed on that the roadwork on the Broadway Bridge has uncovered
what appears to be some old streetcar tracks. Ditto for the work (if
you can call it "work" just yet...) on SE Milwaukie in patches between
Powell and about Holgate or so. Could be more further south, but I
turned at Holgate and didn't get a chance to go look again.

I've been looking for some old maps or route schedules or stuff that
shows the old streetcar network around town. Have found some good info
about the system in general but no specific maps just yet... Anyone
got any good info?

With the talk of extending the downtown Streetcar to the eastside the
recent test of it on the MAX rails over the Steel Bridge, I'd like to
compare the "then and now" and see if there's any overlap in the
plans. And it gives me an excuse to go drive around and take pictures
of interesting buildings that popped up due to the old streetcar era.
--

http://www.aaroncity.com

Baxter

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Apr 25, 2003, 10:36:52 AM4/25/03
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Don't know about maps, but a streetcar line used to go down Killingsworth
(and up Greeley). The building at Killingsworth and Greeley has a rounded
front to accomodate the streetcars turning at that corner.

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"Aaron 'Katt' O'Donnell" <pdx...@surfbest.net> wrote in message
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Garey Fouts

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Apr 25, 2003, 12:23:47 PM4/25/03
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The best source of info on Portland Streetcars and Trolleys is John T.
Labbe's "Fares, Please! Those Portland Trolley Years".

It's full of facts, old photos and maps.

ISBN 0-87004-278-5, Copyright 1980.


"Aaron 'Katt' O'Donnell" <pdx...@surfbest.net> wrote in message
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David Barts

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Apr 25, 2003, 2:26:58 PM4/25/03
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Aaron 'Katt' O'Donnell <pdx...@surfbest.net> wrote in message news:<ukthavcdd3nl4d62g...@4ax.com>...

> I've been looking for some old maps or route schedules or stuff that


> shows the old streetcar network around town. Have found some good info
> about the system in general but no specific maps just yet... Anyone
> got any good info?

Not really, but last year repaving work briefly exposed the tracks on
Council Crest Drive, up near the summit where the park is. Even
though they're covered by asphalt, cracking patterns in aging pavement
clearly reveal the presence of old tracks on NW 24th and/or 25th
Avenues and Thurman, where the old "23" streetcar used to turn around.
There's also spots on Trendy-Third where one can see evidence of old
tracks of this line under the pavement. Interestingly, the short-run
version of the present-day #15 bus uses that same block to turn around
around after coming up 23rd from Burnside. I wonder how many other
present-day bus routes closely mirror old streetcar lines. Wouldn't
be surprised if it's quite a few.

--
David Barts
Portland, OR

Russell Senior

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Apr 25, 2003, 4:13:25 PM4/25/03
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>>>>> "David" == David Barts <dav...@scn.org> writes:

David> Not really, but last year repaving work briefly exposed the
David> tracks on Council Crest Drive, up near the summit where the
David> park is.

There ought to be a pdx-trackwatch mailing list. Some repaving work
on NE 42nd, below Alameda Ridge has exposed some old track and
associated brickwork. I also recently saw the SE Milwaukie Ave tracks
(between Powell and Holgate) mentioned earlier. And then, oh 5 or
more years ago when they were reconfiguring the SE Milwaukie and Bybee
intersection they had fully exposed the old track there.


--
Russell Senior ``I've seen every kind of critter God ever made,
sen...@aracnet.com and I ain't never seen a meaner, lower, more
stinkin' yellow hypocrite than you!''
-- Burl Ives as Rufus Hennessy

gatt

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Apr 25, 2003, 8:07:23 PM4/25/03
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"Aaron 'Katt' O'Donnell" <pdx...@surfbest.net> wrote in message

> I've been looking for some old maps or route schedules or stuff that


> shows the old streetcar network around town. Have found some good info
> about the system in general but no specific maps just yet... Anyone
> got any good info?

Try the library downtown. Second floor, I believe, probably the northeast
corner but I could be off totally if they moved it around. Lots of old
books and directories, and the librarian might be able to help you.

The Oregon Historical Society museum is closed but it has a good bookstore.

>And it gives me an excuse to go drive around and take pictures of

interesting buildings that popped up ?>due to the old streetcar era.

Indeed. There are building around Orenco and just west of OMSI in the close
southwest that show where tracks once existed. Also you can see the two
giant holes where the huge gas tanks used to be. Many years ago you could
see the railroad roundhouse in what is now the Pearl District. Too bad
they couldn't have preserved it and turned it into a brewery or something.


-c


gatt

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Apr 25, 2003, 8:10:20 PM4/25/03
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> Don't know about maps, but a streetcar line used to go down Killingsworth
> (and up Greeley). The building at Killingsworth and Greeley has a rounded
> front to accomodate the streetcars turning at that corner.

Yes! Didn't it used to be a militaria store? That guy had a killer gas mask
collection.

There's another building just like it over in Orenco somewhere and the
tracks are still on the street.

-c


bras...@despammed.com

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Apr 25, 2003, 1:33:03 PM4/25/03
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In article <ukthavcdd3nl4d62g...@4ax.com>, Aaron 'Katt'
O'Donnell <pdx...@surfbest.net> wrote:

> With the talk of extending the downtown Streetcar to the eastside the
> recent test of it on the MAX rails over the Steel Bridge, I'd like to
> compare the "then and now" and see if there's any overlap in the
> plans. And it gives me an excuse to go drive around and take pictures
> of interesting buildings that popped up due to the old streetcar era.

There is a fair amount of overlap. Biggest difference between the plans
then and now is that today there isn't any planning for through service,
except on bus lines. Interurban trains and streetcars were, at the time,
separate systems and streetcars were used for local service and interurban
trains were used to go from city to city. The idea of catching a
Gresham-bound interurban train and then stopping once every two blocks,
the way MAX does, would not have been considered at the time - the local
service would have been done almost entirely with streetcars.

Also, currently there isn't any freight interchange or at-grade crossing
with mainline freight railroads, except for the brief (less than 100 feet)
section of Portland & Western owned track that is used only for loading
and unloading MAX cars.

One improvement, though perhaps somewhat unintentional, is the use of
standard guage track throughout the system. Gauge is the distance between
the rails on a railroad line, and it can be a major pain if two systems
don't use the same gauge. Standard gauge is 4 feet, 8.5 inches, set by
act of British government in the 1840s or so, due to the horrific mess
created in England with every railroad company in the country using a
different gauge. It became standard in many parts of the world because
that was the primary gauge early locomotives were available for. Using
standard gauge means that a MAX car is unloaded from a flatcar in
Beaverton onto Portland & Western freight tracks, and pushed a few feet
onto the MAX line, which also carries Central City Streetcars that are
undergoing heavy maintenance at the same shop facility - the systems are
mostly compatible electrically and gauge wise, though there are width
restrictions on the Central City Streetcar. Because the original Portland
streetcar and interurban railway system was made of several different
companies, there were at various times some five completely incompatible
systems in the streets of Portland. There were: a three foot gauge steam
street railway, several three and a half foot gauge steam steam street
railway, horsecar, cable car, and electric lines, standard gauge streetcar
and interurban lines (anything crossing the Hawthorne Bridge was standard
guage), and railroad company owned interurban lines operating over a
longer distance, but using higher voltage power and therefore incompatible
with other electric lines. Southern Pacific owned interurban trains used
the pantograph style electrification (similar to MAX), while Oregon
Electric/United Railways used trolley poles, so even the long distance
interurban railways that used standard railroad equipment could not
operate on the same lines. The lines that lasted the longest were the
streetcars (1950) and short distance interurban (January 1958), after the
various other lines had abandonments, conversions to freight only
operations, and conversion of the three foot gauge line to three foot six
inch electric. This does not include the incline railway operating to
what is now OHSU, which never finished construction. I think that might
have been some odd gauge, such as 3 foot 3 3/4 inches or something like
that.

In any event, one significant difference between the old and new streetcar
/ interurban maps is that there is no need for the transfer stations
approximately where I-205 is, where the standard gauge lines going further
east transferred passengers to the narrow gauge city lines.

Another difference you will notice is that when the streetcar lines were
built, Portland mostly lacked a one-way street grid. Therefore, most of
the lines downtown operated both directions on many streets.

Many, many lines had only a single track in the center of the street with
passing sections of two track in places, similar to what was originally
placed on the MAX Gresham line between Ruby Junction and Cleveland Avenue.

The bus to Estacada goes through Milwaukie and Clackamas today, while the
original interurban line went through the very northern part of Milwaukie,
then Gresham and Boring.

There is no bus service over Cornelius Pass, but originally United
Railways offered passenger service there. There was a big problem with
people in Linnton wanting to ride an interurban railway distance at the
city of Portland regulated $0.05 per ticket price for street railways, and
since the company could not serve Linnton at that price passenger service
was dropped rather than try to meet city of Portland requirements for a
$0.05 ticket price. The line still sees regular freight traffic.

Terminal 4 in St. Johns had no bus service until very recently, but when
it was originally built a streetcar line served it.

No streetcar or interurban operated over the Sellwood Bridge, Ross Island
Bridge or the St. Johns Bridge, but today there are buses on all three.

Although they were not really interurban or streetcars, the local Southern
Pacific trains operated over the same distances using steam power. They
operated Oregon City - Clackamas - upper Milwaukie (near the hospital and
bowling alley, not downtown) and then into Portland, with an eastside
station approximately at SE Belmont as well as Union Station. There is no
bus route that operates over this exact route today, but local trains
served a station in the upper Milwaukie area for a brief period in 1981,
and the new Oregon City train station will put any Portland bound
passengers on the same route - though it is unlikely that Amtrak long
distance prices will appeal to most local commuters.

Similarities? They are too numerous to mention all of them, really.
Vancouver cars operated over the same Interstate Bridge that I-5 and bus
route 5 uses today. The northwest Portland streetcar line operated to the
end of Thurman, across the bridge in McLeay Park just as the bus 15 does
now. Hawthorne's bus 14 ends where it does because, in 1915, it was
necessary to transfer passengers from the street cars to interurban trains
going east at that location - the entire route from Hawthorne bridge to
52nd to Foster Road is basically unchanged. A loop of track through
downtown Portland was configured almost the same as the transit mall is
today, for the exact same purpose. Barbur Blvd./Beaverton Hillsdale
Highway buses operate over the old Southern Pacific "Red Electric" line to
Forest Grove and Beaverton. Bus 96 to Wilsonville operates over the old
Oregon Electric line into Portland (converted to Interstate 5), except
that it doesn't go all the way to Eugene, and doesn't have sleeping car
service or parlor/observation cars, and of course can not operate on those
areas where the line remains active as a freight line. Route 15 on
Belmont is basically the same - right down to the current termination at a
transfer station to trains going further east - just as the streetcar line
did, though if you look at the tracks at the corner of the graveyard at SE
26th & Morrison it is obvious that some street and housing changes have
been made to turn Belmont into the main throughfare in that area. The
line to the summit at Council Crest operated over a very similar route to
today's bus #51, including the Vista Bridge. The Portland to Lake Oswego
and Tualatin bus 37 follows the old Southern Pacific "Red Electric"
interurban line, except that it stops in Tualatin rather than going all
the way to Corvallis. Route 33 to Oregon City is very similar to the
interurban line to Oregon City, except south of there route 33 goes to
Clackamas Community College (in the 1980's all the way to Molalla), while
the interurban line served Canemah. The big Center Street garage and
TriMet office building on SE 17th is the same property that has been in
the Portland streetcar and interurban railway company history for several
generations of companies, though no original structures remain. To the
north of there is a large Portland General Electric facility, that has
been in that company's history since the electric utility and electric
streetcar companies were separated. The basic Wilsonville - Tigard -
Beaverton commuter railroad route was served by trains from both the
Oregon Electric and Southern Pacific, but Southern Pacific went from
Tigard to Cook Junction (western Lake Oswego, near I-5) to Sherwood and
Corvallis, rather than Wilsonville and Eugene.

Really, virtually all communities in the Portland area were built by
railroad and streetcar, ever since Portland to Oregon City, Canemah and
New Era were connected in 1869. The basic transportation routes and needs
remain about the same once the communities are established.

--
-Glenn Laubaugh
Personal Web Site: http://users.easystreet.com/glennl

Baxter

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Apr 26, 2003, 11:51:47 AM4/26/03
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"gatt" <ga...@juggFUerbot.com> wrote in message
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>
>
> > Don't know about maps, but a streetcar line used to go down
Killingsworth
> > (and up Greeley). The building at Killingsworth and Greeley has a
rounded
> > front to accomodate the streetcars turning at that corner.
>
> Yes! Didn't it used to be a militaria store? That guy had a killer gas
mask
> collection.
>

Don't know about that. It's been a bar & restaurant for the ~15 years I've
known about it.


Milhouse Van Houten

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Apr 27, 2003, 4:16:00 PM4/27/03
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I was amazed to see some exposed track on NW MacLeay Blvd up in the Hillside
area, right near the road that leads up to the back (closed-off) entrance to
Pittock Mansion. I can't imagine one of those old streetcars chugging up and
down those hills, but obviously they did.

Unrelated to this, but I have a question for anyone who happens to know. On
the Wildwood Trail between NW Thurman and NW Cornell there's what appears to
be a very old stone shell of a house or some kind of building. Anyone know
what it was and what it's doing there?


bras...@despammed.com

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Apr 27, 2003, 8:56:28 AM4/27/03
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In article <4UWqa.666836$S_4.717124@rwcrnsc53>, "Milhouse Van Houten"
<bt...@myrealbox.com> wrote:

> I was amazed to see some exposed track on NW MacLeay Blvd up in the Hillside
> area, right near the road that leads up to the back (closed-off) entrance to
> Pittock Mansion. I can't imagine one of those old streetcars chugging up and
> down those hills, but obviously they did.


That would have been the United Railways line to connect Portland with the
Mt. Calvary cemetary, as well as the lower area around the Pittock
Mansion. Due to wealthy population that could afford automobiles, it was
one of the first lines to go. In those days motor vehicles were
considerably less used, and there were several streetcars fitted
specifically for hauling caskets and funeral parties, for buriel services
at the cemetaries. Only the newest of the cemetaries never had streetcar
service and funeral car service.


> Unrelated to this, but I have a question for anyone who happens to know. On
> the Wildwood Trail between NW Thurman and NW Cornell there's what appears to
> be a very old stone shell of a house or some kind of building. Anyone know
> what it was and what it's doing there?


At the junction to the lower McLeay Park? It was a restroom facility for
the park. There used to be several Portland parks buildings that looked
like that, but I think that is the only one left with sone walls. It was
closed and scavanged for fittings due to vandalism problems.

Milhouse Van Houten

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Apr 27, 2003, 6:32:48 PM4/27/03
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<bras...@despammed.com> wrote in message
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> That would have been the United Railways line to connect Portland with the
> Mt. Calvary cemetary, as well as the lower area around the Pittock
> Mansion. Due to wealthy population that could afford automobiles, it was
> one of the first lines to go.

Great stuff, thanks.

> > Unrelated to this, but I have a question for anyone who happens to know.
On
> > the Wildwood Trail between NW Thurman and NW Cornell there's what
appears to
> > be a very old stone shell of a house or some kind of building. Anyone
know
> > what it was and what it's doing there?
>
> At the junction to the lower McLeay Park? It was a restroom facility for
> the park. There used to be several Portland parks buildings that looked
> like that, but I think that is the only one left with sone walls. It was
> closed and scavanged for fittings due to vandalism problems.

I'm not sure what you mean by junction in this case (trail to park? If so,
no), but let's say you started at Lower MacLeay Park and walked south on the
Wildwood Trail for perhaps 10 minutes. That's where it's located, in the
middle of nowhere, right along the brook or stream that runs along that
whole stretch of the trail. If you walked another 15 minutes or so you'd be
at MacLeay Park. I wouldn't have thought of it, but now that you mention it
I could see how it could have been a restroom, though a large one, and it is
a bit vandalized at this point. There's also some stairs for whatever reason
leading up to another level, which is a little odd, at least by what you'd
see today.

BTW, I think your system clock might be several hours behind.


bras...@despammed.com

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Apr 27, 2003, 4:00:55 PM4/27/03
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In article <kUYqa.113922$gK.2...@rwcrnsc52.ops.asp.att.net>, "Milhouse
Van Houten" <bt...@myrealbox.com> wrote:

> I'm not sure what you mean by junction in this case (trail to park? If so,
> no), but let's say you started at Lower MacLeay Park and walked south on the
> Wildwood Trail for perhaps 10 minutes. That's where it's located, in the
> middle of nowhere, right along the brook or stream that runs along that
> whole stretch of the trail.


When you next visit the area again, look real close. The Wildwood Trail
comes from the Pittock Mansion, crosses Cornell, goes through what they
now call "Upper McLeay Park", past this structure, and then on up the hill
into the upper reaches of Forest Park. Very near that location, there is
a junction (I don't know the name of the trail, but it is not part of the
Wildwood Trail) where, if you continue down the hill, will come out in
what they are now calling "Lower McLeay Park" and the parking and picnic
area below the Thurman bridge. This other trail ends at that spot.
Possibly, this junction in the trail is why they chose that location for
the restrooms.

gatt

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Apr 29, 2003, 12:47:55 AM4/29/03
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"Milhouse Van Houten" <bt...@myrealbox.com> wrote in message
news:kUYqa.113922

>I wouldn't have thought of it, but now that you mention it
> I could see how it could have been a restroom, though a large one, and it
is
> a bit vandalized at this point. There's also some stairs for whatever
reason
> leading up to another level, which is a little odd, at least by what you'd
> see today.

I read somewhere that it was originally a stone house. Can't remember the
details but I imagine the concrete was part of later usage.

Unfortunately, it's still frequently used as a restroom.

-c


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