City and West Portland Park Railway

City and West Portland Park Railway, ca. 1893.

City and West Portland Park Railway, ca. 1893.

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.

City and West Portland Park Railway Map

City and West Portland Park Railway Map

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.

City and West Portland Park Railway Right of Way, November, 2012.

City and West Portland Park Railway Right of Way, November, 2012.

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1 Response

  1. Richard Brainard says:

    A portion of the City & West Portland Park Railway r-o-w is still obvious through a portion of Hospice House in the Hillsdale area. There are two houses still standing which fronted the rail line just north of Hospice House. One is a two-story residence just north of where Dewitt intersects Cheltenham St.; the other is the house behind the two new adjacent rowhouses fronting Cheltenham St. at Dewitt. This house, which fronted the r-o-w was moved and turned around in the 1990’s to accommodate the rowhouses construction. I know this from living almost 40 years in an apartment on Dewitt across from the Hillsdale Fire Station. Other of my information came from Mabel Feland Ferguson who once lived in the house on the southwest corner of Cheltenham & Dewitt (her house once was located on the dairy property which is now school district property across Capitol Hwy.) Mabel & her husband purchased the house shortly after it was moved to its current location. About the year 2000, Mabel, in her 90’s, moved back to Bismark, N. Dakota to be near relatives. She had no children. The other person who seemed to have knowledge of the rail r-o-w was the elderly gentleman who lived in the house which was later moved to accommodate the rowhouses construction. I recall watching him walk to the then new liquor store in Hillsdale to purchase his weekly bottle of libation. Also, the two Ward brothers who owned most of the block in which I lived, told me that there was once a rail r-o-w across a corner of their property at Cheltenham & Capitol Hwy. They also said there was once a “Midget Motel” complex of tourist cabins located on the northwest corner of Cheltenham & Capitol. Exactly where the rail r-o-w ran from Cheltenham & Capitol over to Terwilliger Bl., is unknown. All traces of the r-o-w have been erased by later subdivision development along Cheltenham over to Terwilliger Bl. at the Charthouse Restaurant. In the southwest direction, I assume the r-o-w ran through a portion of the current row of shops along the south side of Capitol Hwy. There is a small remaining curved r-o-w on an old Sanborn Map next to what is now a freestanding pizza shop that connects to the cutoff from Bertha up to Capitol. The r-o-w likely crossed Bertha on a trestle over the interurban line and then followed, or paralleled Capitol Hill Rd. for some distance. After that, who knows?

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