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Portland and Western Railroad

The Portland and Western Railroad is a Class II railroad serving the U.S. state of Oregon, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of shortline and regional railroad holding company Genesee & Wyoming, Inc. ().

PNWR's tracks lie entirely within Oregon, extending from Astoria to Portland along the Columbia River, from Portland to Eugene through the Willamette Valley, and along several spurs through the Northern Oregon Coast Range.

Founding

The Portland & Western's roots are in sister company Willamette & Pacific Railroad (AAR reporting marks WPRR), founded in 1993. This company was created to take over operations on many branchlines of the Southern Pacific, a class one railroad. These branches included the "Toledo Line" running from Albany, Oregon to Toledo, Oregon, serving a large Georgia Pacific kraft paper mill; the north-south "Westside Line" from Corvallis, Oregon to Newberg, Oregon, serving many agriculture, steel, and forest products industries; and three lesser branchlines serving primarily forest products industries.

PNWR was created in 1995 to take over operations of the remainder of the SP's branchlines in the state, primarily the "Tillamook District" in the southwest suburbs of Portland, Oregon, and the "Rex Hill" segment of the Westside line, which served as WPRR's outside connection to the SP mainline in Portland. Shortly after startup in fall of 1995, class one railroad Burlington Northern "spun off" part of its Oregon Electric Railway branchlines north of Salem to the new carrier.

According to former WPRR/PNWR General Manager Robert I. Melbo, the Portland & Western was created to take over the new lines, rather than just extending the WPRR, due to regulatory issues then in force.

Most of the former SP branches are operated via a lease agreement, which in the wake of the 1996 Union Pacific-Southern Pacific merger, are now held by UP. The operations on the former BN branches are mixed between leases and outright ownership.

Relationship with WPRR

Originally, the Portland & Western has been operated as a "paper corporation". Its officers were the same as those of the sister WPRR, with which its lines are contiguous. WPRR locomotives and other equipment were used to operate the line, although two locomotives were painted and lettered for the PNWR as a publicity move. Operating crews were divided between the two companies, but in practice, crews of PNWR or WPRR would be used anywhere they were needed on the system.

The late 1990s brought changes to the relationship. System additions which brought with them more operations in Portland led the company to move its headquarters north from Albany to Salem, Oregon. With an increasing profile in the metro area, the Portland & Western became the predominant corporate image in December 2000. Everything from locomotives to letterheads began to bear the brand Portland & Western. In effect, the situation of 1995 has been reversed, and WPRR is now the paper corporation.

System expansions

The combined PNWR/WPRR system has expanded rapidly. In 1997, PNWR acquired the "Astoria Line", running from Northwest Portland through to the deepwater port of Astoria, Oregon, from Burlington Northern. At nearly 92 miles in length, the line brought a significant number of paper, lumber, and chemical customers onto the system. In 2002, PNWR acquired a long term lease of the remaining Burlington Northern branches in the state, giving the company access to Salem and Eugene via its own tracks. The acquisition of the former allowed PNWR to make through movements from its Portland area lines to its central yard at Albany without routing over the steep and curvy Rex Hill.

Traffic base

PNWR has a diverse traffic base based on carload commodities. Woodchips, paper, agricultural goods, and aggregates are all major sources of traffic. Primary amongst the road's over 135 customers are Georgia Pacific, Stimpson/Forrestex, Cascade Steel Rolling Mills, and Hampton Lumber Sales. PNWR handles over 90,000 carloads annually.

Two other shortlines which interchange with PNWR are of note. The first is the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad (AAR reporting marks POTB), which interchanges with PNWR solely. This line carries a significant number of carloads, primarily lumber, from Tillamook, Oregon, over the coast range via 100 miles of winding mountain railway. The POTB line was severely damaged by a major storm in 2007, and is out of service indefinitely.

The other is the Central Oregon & Pacific, (AAR reporting marks CORP), a subsidiary of GWI's competitor holding company, RailAmerica. Although CORP and PNWR cross each other in Eugene, Oregon, operating agreements with Union Pacific prevented the two railroads from interchanging traffic directly. Congestion problems experienced by UP in 2004 resulted in a new agreement allowing direct interchange, creating a new traffic flow on PNWR. Today, PNWR handles a great deal of log traffic from a log import-export firm on its lines in Rainier, Oregon, clear across the entire system to an interchange with CORP at Eugene.

Operations

PNWR operates between 20 and 30 trains per day over its system. PNWRs main yard, shops complex, and dispatcher are all located at Albany. Additional crew bases in St. Helens, Oregon, St. Marys (Beaverton, Oregon), McMinnville, Oregon, and Eugene, Oregon. Executive offices are maintained in Salem, with A. Bruce Carswell President and General Manager, replacing Larry Phipps, who retired in November 2005.

Primary trains on the system are the "Harbor Turn/Albany Turn" pair, which runs from Portland through to Albany; the "Toledo Hauler", running from Albany over the Coast Range to Toledo; the "Eugene Hauler", from Albany to a Eugene interchange with UP over UP trackage rights; the "Westsider" running from Albany to McMinnville; and the Albany Hauler from Albany to a CORP interchange at Eugene, via the PNWR's leased BN trackage. In 2006, PNWR took over operation of the 663/664 train pair from BNSF Railway. These trains run between Vancouver, WA and Albany (663 is the southbound train, 664 goes north) and are PNWR's first to regularly operate outside of Oregon. They alternately use the Oregon Electric District out of Portland and a nearby Union Pacific line between Portland and Salem under an inherited trackage rights agreement. As of September 2008, PNWR was operating run-through unit grain trains from the BNSF to and from the Port Westward on the Astoria Line west of Rainier. These trains currently run with BNSF locomotives.

Locomotive fleet

The locomotive fleet of the PNWR/WPRR primarily consists of used "second generation" products of General Motors' Electro-Motive Division. Notable exceptions in the fleet include a handful of SD9 locomotives which are now 50 years old and still in regular service. PNWR also operates a few unique locomotives, including one of the last remaining SDP40Fs, DLMX 644, and an SD40-3MR, PNWR 3300.

Locomotive Fleet (as of February, 2008):


Leased Locomotive Fleet (as of February, 2008):


Rolling stock

Most of the company's rolling stock is marked for WPRR, but some stock carries the PNWR mark. There are a number of WPRR woodchip gondolas for woodchip service and centerbeam flatcars for lumber. Three of the railroad's woodchip cars have special paint schemes. One is in green and yellow to honor the University of Oregon, and includes the school's "duck" logo. Another is in orange and black, honoring Oregon State University, and includes that school's "beaver" emblem. And the third is painted black with the red "DARE" logo to promote the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program. In 2007, WPRR added 200 log flats that were purchased from BCOL, and are now marked WPRR 62001 through 62200.

Commuter rail

Portions of the PNWR system in Washington County, Oregon, (in the Portland metropolitan area) are currently being constructed for conversion to commuter rail operations by area transit operator, TriMet. Significant upgrades, including the installation of centralized traffic control signals, will be made to the lines used. The line, known as the Westside Express Service (formerly Washington County Commuter Rail), will run from Beaverton at TriMet's Beaverton Transit Center to Wilsonville at SMART's Wilsonville Station. Construction began on October 23 2006, with an estimated opening date in September 2008. It is anticipated that the system will employ Colorado Railcar's Diesel-Multiple Unit (DMU.) These trains will be operated by Portland and Western Railroad, though fares, livery and reporting marks are those of TriMet.

Trackage

Although a young railroad, the Portland & Western operates over some of the oldest trackage in the state of Oregon. Segments of PNWR include portions of railroads of the following heritages:

References

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