A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

For rail buffs, this Albany track is a gift

Written July 30th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

Albany’s Water Avenue is a gift for rail fans like me. The old Oregon Electric track runs down the middle of the street for seven blocks, and right next to it for 14 more, giving us a close look at train operations. And sometimes a different sort of rig.

For residents on Water this is nothing new. For passersby like me –usually on my bike  — it’s a matter of being there when something interesting goes down the track. On Monday, I managed to free my phone barely in time to record the passing of this machine:

[youtube video=”qKic2-pCYmQ”]

The Portland & Western leases the track from BNSF and uses it for daily freights to and from Eugene. Which reminds me: How about the occasional excursion train for paying passengers interested in seeing the hinterlands of the mid-valley from the window of a passing train?

The Albany & Eastern Railroad, based in Lebanon, does that sort of excursion, running between Lebanon and Sweet Home. Judging from the accounts and photos that appear on social media, it’s always a great success, a memorable occasion for those who take part.

Portland & Western was not opposed to that kind of thing when it was still based in Albany and operating as the Willamette & Pacific. In 1993 the railroad took people on a one-time excursion from Albany to Toledo and back. In 1996, if memory serves, it briefly ferried people to and from North Albany during the winter flood.

As a working railroad that’s part of a big international concern (Connecticut-based Genesee & Wyoming Inc.), the PNWR’s first obligation is to run a successful business. But a little extra, such as connecting with the public by means of occasional passenger runs, would not come amiss.

Especially in Albany, where a segment of the track runs down the middle of the street in one of the original parts of town, such a project would truly be a gift. (hh)

6 responses to “For rail buffs, this Albany track is a gift”

  1. Jim Schulte says:

    That, when it was Willamette & Pacific, was when the railroad actually had a President of the line that cared about the railroad and the public image. That was Robert Melbo. I don’t know who they have now, but ever since Bob left, this line has become a very unfriendly public image.
    The old saying still goes, “you reap what you sow,” and the Genesee & Wyoming top leadership have truly shown their hand! I have no mercy or words of praise for them. I grew up one block from the Old OE, the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Ry. My Mother, Grandmother and my Aunt traveled up and down the entire valley on the old OE. It is a far cry now from what it was then. I watched and recorded trains of all kinds on Water Avenue in Albany for years, even riding on trains from Albany to Eugene and back (freight) and from Albany to Sweet Home and back. Things are certainly different now.

  2. Paul B says:

    Amtrak Cascades goes almost the same route as the PNWR to Eugene, I feel an excursion train would be a little redundant

    • Taylor says:

      Yes, but Amtrak Cascades is on a very undersirable line (UPRR) away from the city centers. As well as a lack of interest from ODOT. Amtrak Cascades is going downhill fast with maintainance issues, not running on time, and poor ridership in Oregon. An excursion train on the OE would be great and draw attention and interest to the communities along the OE.

      • Paul B says:

        I would say The Brooklyn Subdivision goes through more towns than PNWR: Jefferson, Woodburn, Gervais, Aurora. Cascades has been relatively on time. 511 has been an average of 3 min late to Eugene the last 60 days, and 505 has been an average of 20. I’m thinking we need to enjoy the service we have now, not plan new trains.

  3. Doug Klinkebiel says:

    I still miss hearing, growing up in Shedd, the symphony of steel on its approach. Or, on sleepless nights, the gentle hum and vibration through my bed when one of the behemoths would take the side rail and idle endlessly. Dreamland was not far off.

    And for all things railroad with the coolest shirts and everything else under the sun, check out http://www.daylightsales.com. You’ll be hooked.

  4. J. Jacobson says:

    Bob Dylan said it best:

    “Big-time negotiators, false healers and woman haters
    Masters of the bluff and masters of the proposition
    But the enemy I see
    Wears a cloak of decency
    All nonbelievers and men stealers talking in the name of religion
    And there’s a slow, slow train coming up around the bend”


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