A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

On passing P&W trains, watch for city names

Written January 27th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

I’m not sure who put that barrier there, but it’s a handy place to park the bike while watching a passing train.

Here’s the thing about Albany: It’s a railroad town, and cruising around town on a bike inevitably means you’re going to see trains.

First, of course, you hear them. And being a railroad nut, when I hear the horn of an approaching train, I usually stop to watch it go by. Which is what happened, again, on Friday afternoon:

Years ago the Portland & Western decided to name some of its locomotives for the towns where the roilroad operated. I think this happened when it was still called the Willamette & Pacific, in the late 1990s.

On Friday, the train coming across the river had engines named Independence, Clatskanie, Philomath and Adair Village.

I can’t remember seeing an engine named Albany lately, but according to a list I found online, there used to be one, and maybe it’s still in service.

The list seemed to date from 2006, and it showed 18 locomotives with city names, from Albany and Corvallis to Toledo and Willamina.

The list of locomotive names included Forest Grove and Hillsboro. Ironically, the Portland & Western has just filed a notice of intent to abandon the line between those two points in Washington County.

The line is 5.6 miles long. In a filing with the federal Surface Transportation Board, the railroad said there had been no traffic on the line since November 2015.

Judging by the regular rail traffic through Albany, local lines are not likely to be abandoned. There’s no reason to fear that around here train horns and crossing bells will fall silent any time soon. (hh)

One of the named locomotives pulling the train I watched Friday.

8 responses to “On passing P&W trains, watch for city names”

  1. North Albany Guy says:

    At approximately 5:53+ in the video, between the ladder rungs of a yellow box car, is a simple line drawing. It is of a squinty-eyed person wearing a hat and smoking a pipe. It is an act of vandalism. It is also a famous railroad moniker done on numerous cars over the years and is known as the “Colossus of Roads”.

    Monikers on trains are a folk tradition going back a hundred years in the USA. Russell Butler, a brakeman in Arkansas, and the artist of the “Colossus of Roads”, is retired from both the job and monikers, so his marks are now pretty rare. Thanks for sharing. That was exciting.


  2. Stephen Brown says:

    Thanks for the interesting info Hasso. I had no idea that engines were named. Makes me want to go set up my old O Guage Lionel!

  3. CHEZZ says:

    Great reporting! Love those trains! I am in Fir Grove, 5 miles from Albany. I can always hear the freight and Amtrak horns out here. One of these days, I’ll rush on down and jump on the Amtrak Cascades and ride on! It’s only a ride…

    PS: Check out the very cool mural on the side of a barn – around 5.5 miles on NW Springhill. On the right side. It is a class act!

  4. Larry says:

    Heartwarming story to wake-up to on a Saturday. Or Ning!

  5. Alyx Wijers says:

    PNWR 2316 (Albany) has photos on RR Picture Archives from as late as 2019

  6. Susan says:

    I loved every minute of your exciting video Hasso! Now that I’m retired, a train doesn’t make me late for much of anything. I just call it the travelling art show. Now I will look for the names on the engines next time!

  7. Jeff S. says:

    When the Willamette & Pacific was formed in 1993 out of former Southern Pacific branch lines, they purchased 17 GP39-2 locomotives from the Santa Fe railroad – some of which are still painted in blue and yellow Santa Fe colors and are not named. Of the repainted locomotives, numbers 2301 (Sheridan), 2302 (Adair Village), 2304 (Corvallis), 2305 (Dallas), 2307 (Independence), 2309 (Philomath), 2310 (Monroe), 2313 (Lake Oswego), 2314 (McMinnville), 2315 (Willamina), 2316 Albany), and 2317 (Tigard) are most of the ones that are named. Several other locomotives were named that I can find – 1551 (Toledo), 1804 (Eugene), 1851 (Hillsboro), 1853 (Forest Grove), 1854 (Beaverson), and 3300 (Salem). The 15xx and 18xx locomotives are either out of service or will be very soon, and the 3300 was apparently a persistent maintenance problem and was sold. More recent acquisitions have not been named.

    • Abe Cee says:

      Much like the city of Salem, the 3300 being a persistent maintenance problem seems appropriately named.


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