United Railways Company (Oregon)
United Railways Company (Oregon)
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United Railways Company
February 20, 1919
10 3/4" (w) by 8 1/2" (h)
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In 1906, the United Railways was incorporated to build an interurban electric railroad from Portland, Oregon to Hillsboro and down the Willamette Valley, eventually to San Fransico. But, it’s ultimate fate would be entirely different.
Construction began in 1907 in Portland. The intention was to hook up with an existing electric line in Hillsboro and Forest Grove. The Oregon-Electric was already constructing a line between Portland and Forest Grove, via Garden Home and the Tualatin Valley. So, to attract different customers, the United Railways built their line over the Tualatin Hills, via Cornelius Pass. However, this would necessitate several very large and expensive trestles as well as 4105-foot long tunnel at the Cornelius Pass summit.
By 1909, the Northern Pacific and Great Northern Railroads purchased the United Railways via the Spokane, Portland and Seattle. Although the UR retained it’s name and was operated as a separated corporation, it was essentially owned by the SP&S.
By 1910, the Cornelius Pass tunnel construction was begun and finished about a year later. Grand dreams were to drive the line all the way to Tillamook. Never mind that the PR&N was already building a railroad to Tillamook via the Salmonberry Canyon. In 1911, the UR had reached Banks, OR where construction had temporarily ceased. The UR decided not to extend the line to Forest Grove, since the Oregon-Electric already served that city. The parent company had decided that they would wait for major harbor development to be completed, before they continued on to Tillamook and the Oregon Coast. In the end, the line would never attempt to built to Tillamook.
In 1919, The Eccles Interests of Utah, purchased large tracks of timber land near Vernonia, Oregon and incorporated the Portland, Astoria and Pacific Railroad. Plans were to continue where the UR ended at Banks, north to the town of Vernonia, where a sawmill was planned to be built. The plan was for the PA&P to finish the line to Vernonia, then purchase the UR from the SP&S and operate the entire line.
The period between 1919 and 1921 was one of economic hardship for the Portland, Astoria and Pacific and construction was slow. Eccles was unable to finance the line and ended up selling portions of his land. Eventually, most of the land was sold to Charles S Keith and the Central Coal and Coke Company of Kansas City, in 1921. This would begin the birth of the Oregon-American Company and sawmill. By 1922, the line was completed through Vernonia and to Keasey, but control of the PA&P portion of the railroad reverted back the UR, since Keith wanted nothing to do with a railroad. The UR’s parent company only agreed to take over the entire line provided that the Keith would build the huge saw mill that he promised.
By 1924, the Oregon-American sawmill opened for business. The Portland Astoria and Pacific name and corporation was dropped and the United Railway operated the entire line from Portland over Cornelius Pass, through Banks, through Vernonia to the sawmill, to several miles west of Keasey.
By 1930, the Great Depression began to take its toll on the UR and O-A sawmill. The mill closed down and the railroad severely cut back traffic. A few small timber companies operated and continued to ship logs to the Willamette River. But many of the bridges on the UR were in desperate need of repair. In 1935, the O-A mill reorganized and reopened. This allowed the UR to invest money into the line and repair many of the trestles by 1936.
Business really picked up during the late 1930s and World War II. The O-A began to extend its lines well into the mountains west of Keasey and continued to ship logs back to the mill in Vernonia. The UR would run as far as Keasey as late as the 1940s, to interchange other Logging roads that branched out of there. Otherwise it continued to haul finished lumber from the O-A mill in Vernonia to Portland.
By 1944, the United Railway name was dropped and the parent company, Spokane, Portland and Seattle, was officially adopted. The line had already been using SP&S equipment, so the changeover was barely noticeable.
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