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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):