West Linn's Railroad:

Willamette Falls Railway

Willamette Falls Railway Station at the Willamette Falls. This depot also housed City Hall when West Linn incorporated in 1913. The new City Hall and former Police Station was built in 1936 just to the east of this building. Photo courtesy of the Clackamas County Historical Society.
By Roger ShepherdMarch 2015

One of the most obscure railway lines in Oregon was the Willamette Falls Railway. This electric trolley carried logs and passengers through today’s West Linn from Willamette to Oswego from 1894 to 1933.

The first segment of tracks to be constructed beginning in 1893 ran from the community of Willamette, at the confluence of the Tualatin River and the Willamette River, to the Willamette Falls powerhouse in Linn City. The Willamette Falls Electric Line provided transportation for employees of the Willamette Falls Electric Company, which would later become Portland General Electric Company. In April 1894, a locally built electric locomotive began hauling trainloads of cordwood cut along the Tualatin River to the large paper mill at the falls. In 1900 the freight line was extended across the Tualatin River to keep up with the demand for wood.

In 1906 a group of Eastern investors gained control of PGE and merged it with the Portland Railway Company and the Oregon Water Power and Railway Company, thus bringing together electrical generating and distribution facilities with all of the diverse electric trolley and interurban companies that had sprung up in and around Portland. This new conglomerate was called Portland Railway Electric Light & Power Company (PREL&P). The Willamette Falls Railway became a subsidiary of PREL&P.

Magone’s Park was located just south of Mary S. Young Park on the Willamette River. It had rental cottages, a bathing pool and rowboats for midnight cruises. The park was a popular dancing destination, featuring a dance barge, the Bluebird, anchored at the river’s edge. Among the food concessions were soda pop and wienies. In 1911, tracks and passenger service were extended north to the Magone’s Station.

On November 8, 1912 the Portland, Eugene and Eastern bought the line as one segment of a projected electric line planned by Southern Pacific between Oswego and Salem. They soon extended the railway line north to Walling just south of Oswego Creek in today’s George Roger Park. They also added an extension from a point called Junction to a log dump above the Willamette Falls. Log rafts from as far away as points on the Columbia River were floated through Portland on the Willamette River to a crane at Walling to be loaded onto the trolley log cars and transported to the paper mill at the falls. These log cars ran through today’s Mary S. Young, where a display interprets the Willamette Falls Railway along a trail built on the former railway right-of-way.

1925 passenger schedule of the Willamette Falls Railway from the Tualatin River to Magones when it was owned by Southern Pacific

In 1915, all of Portland, Eugene and Eastern's holdings, including the Willamette Falls Railway, were made part of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Passenger service was provided from 6:00 am until midnight, making 62 trips a day. Ridership was discontinued in 1930. Southern Pacific continued operating the unique electric logging operation serving the paper mill in West Linn until 1933. A plan to connect with their interurban network in Oswego never was implemented.

The isolated Willamette Falls Railway was one of Oregon's more unique electric railways. At the height of its operation it totaled 5.7 miles of track, with streetcars operating over some 3.9 miles on the southern portion of the line. The log cars ran on the northern end and both operations shared a portion in the middle. Today, little evidence remains of the railway.