Wednesday, January 7, 2015

History of the Logan & San Miguel Railroad

I originally posted the fictional history of my model railroad on my website when I started it in November 2002, and last updated it on June 19, 2005.

The Beginning

The story of the Logan & San Miguel Railroad begins in 1871.  In that year, the Oregon & California Railroad (later part of the Southern Pacific) arrived in Eugene.  In 1872, a railroad called the Eugene & Eastern was chartered to build a railroad connecting Eugene and Bend, and eventually extend into eastern Oregon.  The Eugene & Eastern built east from Eugene up the McKenzie River into the Cascade Mountains.  Crossing the Cascades would prove to be formidable challenge, and the Eugene & Eastern would fall into receivership in 1877, with construction ending at what would become known as Belknap Springs.  The existing railroad was purchased by the Oregon & California Railroad, which initially hoped to finish the route to Bend, however, construction on the surveyed route would never resume.

The town of Logan lay just north of Belknap Springs.  When the Eugene & Eastern was chartered, the town had been hopeful that the railroad would come to their town, but the surveyed route bypassed them.  With construction stopped at Belknap Springs, and the Eugene & Eastern in receivership, Logan business interests chartered the Logan Railway in 1878 to connect Logan to Belknap Springs.  The original route was completed in 1879, beginning Logan's role as a railroad town.

The business interests that had originally funded the Logan Railway had originally hoped that the Oregon & California Railroad would lease the track between Belknap Springs & Logan, but the Oregon & California refused to serve beyond the Eugene & Eastern's original construction, resulting in the construction of an interchange yard being built in Belknap Springs, where the L&SM would interchange cars with the Oregon & California.  This arrangement would continue for over 100 years, ensuring Logan's significance as a terminal for the L&SM as the base of operations for this connection.  Later, after the Oregon & California became part of the Southern Pacific, passenger trains from Eugene would enter Logan, however, the local freight from Eugene would always terminate at the yard in Belknap Springs.

During the line’s construction, the people of San Miguel, at the time an unincorporated farming community north of Logan made up primarily of Mexican immigrants who had come to America during the Gold Rush and failed to strike gold, convinced Logan Railway Superintendent (and Logan mayor) Oroville Langley to expand the railroad to San Miguel to allow their crops to be shipped by the railroad.  Upon completion of the track to San Miguel in 1880, the railroad was renamed the Logan and San Miguel Railway.

A Time of Expansion

In 1890, an independent railroad called the Oregon Pacific reached Idanha, within 20 miles of the summit of the Cascades, from the Willamette Valley following a route up the North Santiam River.  The route was intended to eventually cross the Cascades, however the line’s finances had run out.  Oroville Langley, who had not intended to build beyond San Miguel, was fascinated by this new nearby railroad and in 1892 and 1893, the L&SM built north over San Miguel Summit to Idanha and Detroit to connect to the Oregon Pacific line. 

Having brought the railroad so far north already, Oroville Langley decided to continue onward.  From Detroit, the railroad followed the Breitenbush River northeast to the headwaters of the Clackamas River, which the railroad would follow toward Portland.  In 1896, the L&SM had reached Gresham, and made arrangements with the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company to connect at Fairview, and use OR&N track to access Portland, including the new Union Station and the OR&N’s Albina Yard.  This arrangement would continue with the Union Pacific to the present.

The Race to Eastern Oregon

In 1909, E. H. Harriman’s Union Pacific and James J. Hill’s Spokane Portland & Seattle began building from the Columbia River down the Deschutes River Canyon toward Bend.  The city of Bend had been trying for years to convince a railroad to come to the city, and much of the focus had been on the L&SM.  While the closest railroad to Bend, in order to reach the city the L&SM would have to cross the Cascades: an expensive proposition.  The L&SM had previously considered such a venture too risky, but with Hill and Harriman showing interest, the L&SM’s Board of Directors decided they couldn’t risk not to try to capture some of the Bend market, especially considering that the L&SM could provide a shorter route than the Deschutes River route. 

In 1910, the L&SM began building east across Santiam Pass, and another construction team built northwest from Bend.  Though the L&SM route was shorter, the L&SM had less finances then the competition, and also had a major mountain crossing to contend with.  As a result, the SP&S’s Oregon Trunk Line would beat the L&SM to Bend, arriving in October 1911.  The L&SM’s construction teams would meet a few months later in the spring of 1912, near Black Butte.

While the construction opened new possibilities for the railroad, it also put a strain on the road’s finances, and the railroad would be forced into bankruptcy a few years later. The railroad was put under the control of a parent company, called The Logan, San Miguel and Northern Railroad Company, which had been formed for that specific purpose, and was partially owned by the Union Pacific.  The executives of the parent company planned to rename the railroad to match the parent company to more correctly reflect the line, but the residents of the towns along the line heard the news and protested the change and the railroad was simply renamed the Logan and San Miguel Railroad.  Some locals say that the name change would have happened despite the protests, but the executives discovered that the longer name would not fit on the locomotive tenders.

The Steam Era

With the Union Pacific’s partial ownership of the L&SM, it became a major influence.  This led to the use of many Harriman designs on the L&SM, particularly in depots.  The line was profitable and continued up to the formation of the USRA, with its limited number of aging locomotives and rolling stock.  The start of World War I and the creation of the USRA brought change to the L&SM, providing it with locomotives of standard USRA designs during the war.  Locomotive purchases continued through the mid-1920s, increasing the number of trains and making the railroad a major player in the northwest.  The older locomotives remained on the roster, although they were typically assigned to local or switching duties, or stored for increases in traffic. 

The opening of the Great Northern and Western Pacific’s Inside Gateway in 1931 would significantly affect traffic patterns on the L&SM; with most of the Inside Gateway’s Portland business routed over the L&SM, the railroad would build new yards and shops in Santiam, leading to Santiam overshadowing Logan as the L&SM’s base of operation.  In 1932, the Oregon Electric opened a new branch from the Southern Pacific at Lebanon through Sweet Home to Foster, and the L&SM considered building a branch to connect to the Oregon Electric, though this would not happen for some time. 

Though the Western Pacific’s access to the Inside Gateway was initially limited to its own trackage, the WP later gained access up the Great Northern to Klamath Falls and eventually to Bend and a connection with the L&SM.  Shortly thereafter, due largely to the efforts of the Union Pacific, a jointly-operated passenger train called the Nevadan was initiated between Seattle, Washington and Reno, Nevada.  The train followed the Union Pacific from Seattle to Portland, the L&SM from Portland to Bend, and the Western Pacific from Bend to Reno.  The Nevadan operated with a pool of head-end cars and coaches from the three roads, with sleeping cars provided from the Pullman Company’s general pool.  Unlike the rest of the L&SM’s passenger cars, which were painted maroon, all cars assigned to the Nevadan pool were painted dark green to match the Pullman cars.

The road struggled through the Great Depression, and received some additional equipment during World War II.  Also, the Union Pacific’s ownership in the parent company began to diminish as the years went on, giving the L&SM more control over its own operations, though the Union Pacific presence was still very obvious.  In 1945, the Oregon Electric converted to steam & diesel operations, and in 1947 and 1948 the L&SM built a branch line to Foster over Tombstone Summit and along the South Santiam River, and this line would bring Spokane, Portland & Seattle through trains between Bend and Foster.  In 1950, construction of the Detroit Dam necessitated realigning the Southern Pacific (former Oregon Pacific) branch to Idanha.  The SP line was nearly cut back to Mill City, but the connection to the L&SM was deemed significant enough to maintain. 

The L&SM saw little change during the 1950s, although as the parent company gained more independence, it began to diversify, expanding into trucking and motor-coach services.  The parent company also changed its name to The Logan, San Miguel and Northern Transportation Corporation to reflect its expanded interests.  The Nevadan was streamlined in the early 1950s.  At the insistence of the Union Pacific, the train would be painted in Union Pacific’s Armour Yellow and Harbor Mist Gray, to the annoyance of the Western Pacific.  The end result was that all equipment for the Nevadan, except motive power on the Western Pacific section, was provided by Union Pacific.  The L&SM and WP “leased” equipment from the Union Pacific for their shares of the pool to maintain a unified appearance for the train, though since all cars came from the Union Pacific’s pool, there were never any specific cars assigned in the lease.  Union Pacific diesels pulled the Nevadan between Seattle and Bend, as the L&SM had yet to purchase diesels of its own.  Western Pacific motive power was used between Bend and Reno.  In the mid-1950s, Union Pacific assigned dome coaches and dome observations to the Nevadan.

Dieselization and Innovation

The L&SM was among the last American railroads of any kind to dieselize, primarily because the road could not justify the cost of new diesel locomotives with such a well maintained steam roster and revenues down.  Dieselization did not begin until 1958 with the acquisition of former Chicago & Northwestern F3s and Missouri-Kansas-Texas PA-2s (with dynamic brakes added), which were quickly painted in a medium blue (called Pacific Ocean Blue by the L&SM), silver and gray scheme reminiscent of one used on early Union Pacific passenger cars.  This scheme gave the L&SM’s motive power a very different look than that of the other northwest roads.  The PA-2s were purchased to power the Nevadan on the L&SM, though at times the PA-2s would be pressed into freight service and Union Pacific locomotives would power the Nevadan to Bend rather than lay over in Portland.

Even though the L&SM had no diesel locomotives of its own before 1958, they were still common on the railroad throughout the 1950s.  The L&SM leased a number of diesels from other roads, especially Union Pacific, into the 1970s, and made extensive use of demonstrator locomotives from the builders.  Also, many through trains on the L&SM from other roads were often powered by locomotives of the road the train came from of was going to, resulting in diesels from Union Pacific, Great Northern, Spokane Portland & Seattle, Southern Pacific & Western Pacific all being commonly seen on the L&SM. 

In 1963, the L&SM purchased F3 diesels with steam generators to displace the PA-2s in passenger service on the Nevadan, however the L&SM preferred to use these locomotives on freight trains, so the PA-2-s or Union Pacific E8s and E9s were common on the Nevadan until the late 1960s. By then, the Union Pacific began expressing interest in ending the Seattle-Portland section of the Nevadan.  The L&SM wanted to maintain the service and Western Pacific was largely indifferent in the matter.  A connection to Seattle would remain via Union Pacific’s remaining Portland-Seattle passenger service, but there would no longer be through car service.  The L&SM and WP began purchasing secondhand streamlined passenger cars for the Nevadan; the L&SM provided the coaches and diner while the Western Pacific provided sleepers.  All Nevadan cars were stainless steel.  The L&SM-owned cars had a Pacific Ocean Blue letterboard; the WP cars were bare stainless.  Head-end cars were older cars from the two roads.  Most of the L&SM’s heavyweight passenger cars continued in service on other passenger trains and remained in their maroon paint, though a few used smooth-sided streamlined coaches were acquired and painted to match the diesel locomotives. 

Second-hand diesels would complete dieselization by 1966, and steam locomotives would be gone by the end of 1969, except for retained steam locomotives #282 and #462, which would operate in sporadic excursion service.  Used locomotives and passenger cars were purchased not simply because the L&SM could not afford new equipment, but rather because the railroad saw better uses for its profits.  One of these uses was the L&SM’s extensive use of speeders.  Maintenance crews were transported by speeder almost exclusively, even if roads were convenient, and the L&SM eventually had a sizable fleet of fully-enclosed, double-ended speeders.

Another innovation was the late 1960s creation of the modern woodchip gondola.  The construction of the Santiam Paper mill in Santiam, where there is no significant river access, meant that woodchips could only reach the mill in any quantity by rail.  The L&SM was never impressed with the plywood woodchip cars used by most railroads, choosing instead to extend the sides of older open steel hoppers.  Some of these were even draw-barred into two car sets called ChipMovers, but the cars were simply inadequate.  The L&SM worked with Santiam Paper and Gunderson to design a steel 60-foot woodchip gondola.  Beginning in 1966, the L&SM as well as Santiam Paper itself purchased large quantities of the cars, with other railroads following suit. 

The L&SM also purchased many other new freight cars, such as boxcars and covered hoppers, many of which received Pacific Ocean Blue paint and the newly coined slogan “The Northwest Connection,” and purchased and rebuilt some used cars from other railroads.  These included former Union Pacific Airslide covered hoppers, and former Pacific Fruit Express ice-bunker reefers that were eventually rebuilt into insulated box cars.  Even the ChipMovers were eventually split up and rebuilt for use as covered hoppers.  Many of the former Union Pacific CA-1 cabooses acquired in the early and mid 1960s were replaced in the late 60s and early 70s by new extended-vision and later bay-window cabooses. 

In 1967, the locomotive paint scheme was simplified with the omission of the silver and an italicized “L&SM” replacing the formerly spelled-out road name.  Most locomotives in the original paint scheme would remain in it without repainting until retirement, with only a few exceptions.  It is unknown if the simplified paint scheme was ever intended to be used on cab units, as none were repainted after 1967.  As a result, the old scheme could be seen on the aging cab units until 1980.

After the Western Pacific’s portion of the California Zephyr was abandoned, the WP’s California Zephyr cars, including dome cars, appeared on the Nevadan for a short time.  The cars retained their California Zephyr lettering and were only used until Western Pacific found buyers for them.  Not long after that, Amtrak was formed and took over operation of the Nevadan, restoring the service to Seattle.  The rest of the L&SM’s regular passenger service ended with Amtrak’s formation on May 1, 1971, though some of the passenger cars were used in excursion service behind the L&SM’s retained steam locomotive #462.  Locomotive #282 was sold to the short line Oregon Central & Pacific in 1972.  Amtrak’s Nevadan service was not very successful and ended after a couple of years.  The steam excursions, however, were very popular and would continue year after year. (The parent company’s motor-coach service was sold shortly after Amtrak’s creation, and the service was drastically cut back by the new owners.)

Mergers Bring New Opportunities and Challenges

The Burlington Northern merger of 1970 did not initially seem to affect the L&SM significantly.  The Milwaukee Road however, obtained a number of concessions from the ICC as part of the merger.  One of these concessions was access to Portland beginning in 1972.  With access to the L&SM at Portland, the Milwaukee also gained access to the Western Pacific through the Inside Gateway, and conversely, the Western Pacific gained access to Seattle.  These connections greatly increased the amount of traffic over the L&SM. 

Milwaukee Road and Western Pacific motive power began to run through over the L&SM regularly.  In addition, the increasing traffic led to the L&SM purchasing new locomotives in the early 1970s.  These new locomotives featured a further modification to the standard paint scheme; the italicized initials on the locomotive sides grew to billboard-sized, and the Northwest Connection herald appeared on front of the short hood.  Used locomotives acquired in the late 1970’s would still receive the earlier simplified pain scheme. 

The increased traffic from the Milwaukee Road would not last, however.  In 1980, the Milwaukee Road would abandon all of its western lines.  The L&SM, in an attempt to maintain at least some of the traffic, purchased some of the Milwaukee Road’s lines in western Washington, including the trackage rights giving access to Portland from Seattle.  The former Milwaukee routes were maintained as a separate company within the Logan & San Miguel Transportation Corporation. 

The L&SM also purchased some of the Milwaukee Road’s surplus locomotives to modernize its fleet.  Many of these were painted to match the locomotives bought new in the early 1970s, while some of the older locomotives would remain in Milwaukee colors.  The older locomotives that were not repainted were generally confined to the former Milwaukee lines, while the others roamed the entire L&SM. 

The Western Pacific’s access to Seattle was maintained after 1980, however in 1982, the Union Pacific absorbed the Western Pacific, making the L&SM’s access to Seattle largely irrelevant.  In April 1985, the L&SM spun off the former Milwaukee lines into the Longview, Kelso & Rainier Railroad, maintaining only limited interests in the new company.

In 1989, the Southern Pacific sold the original Eugene & Eastern line between Eugene and Belknap Springs to the L&SM.  This gave the L&SM direct access to Eugene, but also eliminated the use of the interchange yard at Belknap Springs, and significantly reduced Logan's role as a terminal, as L&SM trains could now run from Bend or Santiam into Eugene.

The Modern L&SM & the WestRail System

In 1995, in order to provide better service throughout the Pacific Northwest, the L&SM, the LK&R and the new Central Oregon & Pacific formed what became known as the WestRail System.  This is an alliance of fully independent northwest railroads that work together to provide service that is not only better than that of the Class Ones, but also rivals the local trucking lines. 

In 1996, in response to the merger of the Union Pacific and the Southern Pacific, the WestRail partners, with the State of California, acquired and rebuilt the former Northwestern Pacific along the northern California coast.  Additionally, a new connection was built from the north end of the Northwestern Pacific at Eureka to the south end of the Central Oregon & Pacific at Weed.  Opened in 1998, this new connection provides seamless WestRail service from Seattle to Oakland.  This new route has proven highly profitable as an alternative to the Union Pacific in northern California.  In addition to traffic generated by the WestRail partners themselves, the NWP-CORP-LSM route is also used by BNSF to connect the former Santa Fe lines in California to the former Burlington Northern at Portland.

Also in 1998, the Albany & Eastern Railroad, already the operator of the Idnaha branch and other former Southern Pacific branch lines in the Willamette Valley, purchased the former Oregon Electric Foster branch, and joined the WestRail system.

In 2001, the L&SM and the LK&R have both purchased former Union Pacific SD50s.  These high-horsepower locomotives will strengthen the WestRail System’s share of freight in the Pacific Northwest, and ensure the continued prosperity of all the WestRail member railroads.

See the Next Post for maps of the Logan & San Miguel Railroad.

Continue to Logan & San Miguel Railroad Maps

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