City and West Portland Park Railway
About 1890 hopeful speculators started to carve up southwest Portland into lots. The first serious development was West Portland Park in 1889.
Thomas Alexander Wood formed the Portland City Real Estate Association to buy and develop land for sub-dividing. He purchased 538 acres in the southwest area that he named West Portland. He also purchased another 480 acres that would become the first addition to West Portland Park. As an incentive to get people to buy his lots, he stated that when he sold 600 lots he would bring a railroad out to West Portland to give his buyers easy access to Portland.
Wood and partners laid out West Portland Park, and on April 4, 1889, filed articles of Incorporation for the railroad, the City and West Portland Park Motor Company, to connect the development with Portland.
The plan was to clear the land of trees, selling the wood in Portland, and selling the cleared lots for residential development. They might have made some money on the trees, but as evidenced by the lack of 1890s houses in West Portland Park, the real estate development was a bust.
The Oregonian’s handbook of the Pacific Northwest, published in 1894, describes the railroad.
“The City & West Portland Park Motor Company was incorporated in April, 1889, with a capital of $100,000. This company operates a motor line seven miles in length, running from Hamilton street, in South Portland, through the attractive additions of Bertha, Hillsdale and South Portland Park, to the beautiful tract of land known as West Portland Park. This lies on the uplands back of Oswego. This line is equipped with two steam-motors, two coaches and 11 freight cars. The total cost of construction and equipping this road was $150,000.“
The railway operated sporadically, and shut down completely by 1900.
In an oral history interview Margaret Graf remembered
“That little coal powered engine that chugged through Hillsdale through the fields across the dusty road on its own track, set out for South Portland via what is now Cheltenham St. through the brush and around the hills and set fire to a house. The high wooden bridge above the Southern Pacific track near Bertha Station stood a number of years.”
Part of the shops survived until abut ten years ago, when they were razed for a housing development. A trace of the right of way can still be seen just west of SW Capitol Hill Rd., just south of 6875 SW Capitol Hill Rd.