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  • Writer's picturedawnelle

Willamette Valley Southern Railway

While researching maps online for hours (a rather glassy-eyed endeavor) I saw something on the county plot I hadn't noticed before. Curious, I scrambled to compare the map to the topography maps and the arial maps. Dozens of tabs were open on my computer by evening, and the battery was almost drained. But I had learned a lot about the area, and more specifically about a railway I didn't even know existed.

Willamette Valley Southern Railway, which in the early 1900's was an active (and new) railway system, traveled right along the edge of the property. If I was standing on the land 100 years ago, I could have seen it chugging by each day, en route to Oregon City, carrying products and delivering mail to the newly settled areas.

In 1914 the Willamette Valley Southern Railway (WVS) company was established, taking over the line from the Clackamas Southern Railway, a small company which had been struggling since 1911. On October 23, 1915, WVS offered service from Oregon City to Mt. Angel, through Molalla. Their route covered just over 31 miles.

However, the railway struggled. There just wasn't enough business in these lesser populated areas to allow large profits. The railway transported agricultural products (meat, poultry, eggs, cream, potatoes), and carried mail. Apples were a lucrative product for a time, until a cold snap in 1919 killed most of the apple orchards, abruptly stopping those shipments.

A big boost came to the railway in 1927 (the year Poppy was born!), when the Eastern and Western Lumber Co. of Portland began shipping large quantities of logs- which many thought would save WVS. The profits picked up, the railroad reorganized again into Willamette Valley Railway Company, and things were looking brighter. Sadly, in September of 1927, a fire burned through the timberlands owned by the Eastern and Western Lumber Co. And so, Eastern and Western Lumber Co. stopped logging and closed. And so did the Willamette Valley Railway company.

I cannot tell you how thrilling it is to me, that this history is tucked up right into the corner of the property. My brother and I are going to hike through soon, to see if we can spot any evidence of these railroad tracks that have been hidden for almost a century.




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