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Nostalgia & History > A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...


Date: 10/24/09 19:28
A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: E25

Here are two views of Portland, Oregon’s historic “Hoyt Street Yard” area — the first image was taken from the Fremont Bridge in 1978 and the second in 2009.

At first, one’s impression is that a vibrant and active rail line and yard facility has simply vanished over time, with nothing remaining but memories and old photos. Happily, that is not entirely the case here.

In the first photo, some of the things we see include:

• An urban rail facility which includes an active multi-tracked Union Station facility (...the red-roofed structure at the top of the photo) and Amtrak passenger service;

• A bustling freight classification and storage yard which served customers of the Burlington Northern and The Milwaukee Road and provided interchange service with the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific railroads;

• Locomotives manufactured by EMD (15) and ALCO (8) (...and none from GE);

• A jumble of industrial leads and spurs crossing Front Avenue to serve marine warehouses and businesses located along the Willamette River, out-of-view on the left; and

• A fully operational roundhouse facility with turntable and adjacent car repair shops where the now-famous-but-then-rusting SP #4449 was resurrected and restored for service with the 1976 American Freedom Train.

Historically, through to the ‘Fifties and ‘Sixties, the Hoyt Street Yard and Portland Union Station facilities have served the Spokane, Portland & Seattle, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Southern Pacific, Union Pacific and Portland Terminal railroads and eventually became the furthest terminus of The Milwaukee Road’s “Western Extension” upon the creation of the Burlington Northern during the early ‘Seventies.

In the second view, virtually every trace of the former “Hoyt Street Yard” has disappeared (...including the old ALCO’s), leaving only a double-track main for trains plying the current BNSF Railway lines to or from Union Station, [Guilds] Lake Yard, Willbridge Yard or Vancouver, and connections with the Union Pacific and Portland and Western railroads.

But, unlike so many “past and present” comparisons around the country where abandonment is the theme, Portland’s railroad infrastructure remains as a vital and integral part of the metropolitan area and has actually seen a considerable expansion over the years:

• Portland Union Station (...now hiding behind the 14-story “glass palace” in the background of the second photo), which once served as a terminus for such named passenger trains as the Shasta Daylight, Portland Rose, Cascade, Empire Builder, Rogue River, North Coast Limited, City of Portland and the Klamath, as well as the un-named Portland — Seattle “pool trains,” still survives as a functioning “historic landmark.” In addition to long-haul Amtrak trains — including the Coast Starlight and the Empire Builder connector — one of the most successful Amtrak operations has been the inauguration of the speedy Talgo-equipped Cascades inter-city trains which now offer four daily round-trips between Portland and Seattle, with connecting service between Portland and Eugene and between Seattle and Bellingham, Washington. In addition, the route now includes a daily round-trip between Seattle and Vancouver, British Columbia;

• The small Union Station storage yard and several of the former passenger platforms have been replaced with condos and lofts and Front Avenue is now a tree-and-condo-lined boulevard, re-named “NW Naito Parkway.” And, yes, the quaint industrial spurs radiating out through Northwest Portland along city streets to warehouse loading docks and into the waterfront marine cargo loading facilities are all gone for good... but in their place has sprung a vibrant urban residential and commercial neighborhood known as the “Pearl District.” And serving the Pearl District is a first-class light-rail service that even operates 1:1 scale “trolley cars;”

• The old SP&S roundhouse is likewise missing from the second scene, but its turntable is still in daily operation... just across the Columbia River at BNSF’s Vancouver, Washington freight yard;

• And what about all of those freight cars? Well, of course “intermodal” transportation has replaced much of the traditional “box car” traffic from, to and through Portland, but railroad freight-handling facilities have grown significantly in the years since the first photo was taken. In fact, it comes to mind that the Hoyt Street Yard is the only major Portland-area rail yard facility from prior years that does not still exist today.

Union Pacific, which was merged with the Southern Pacific in 1996, has at least three large yards — including Albina, Brooklyn and Barnes — which are still evolving and growing with the region. Burlington Northern Santa Fe, which combined the former BN and AT&SF lines, today operates three freight yards, including Willbridge Yard, Rivergate Yard and the Vancouver (Washington) Yard. And Union Pacific and BNSF both run trains in and out of [Guilds] Lake Yard which is operated by jointly-owned Portland Terminal Railroad Company.

In essence, then, Hoyt Street Yard was never “abandoned” in the traditional sense. Rather, it was “recycled” to more efficient infrastructure uses within the Portland metropolitan area.

So, here’s a salute to all of the great memories of the Hoyt Street Yard operations and to the railroads and railroad personnel who served and continue to serve their community.

– Greg






Date: 10/24/09 19:35
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: cozephyr

Well done - thanks for the background info.



Date: 10/24/09 19:36
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: photobob

Thats a major change.



Date: 10/24/09 19:41
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: Notch16

Beautifully done post! We love Portland...



Date: 10/24/09 20:38
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: tomstp

Man that is not just a major change, that's a wipeout.



Date: 10/24/09 21:11
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: Milwaukee

Thanks for posting the photos of my former hometown. Remember it well including a visit to the Hoyt Street roundhouse when they were working on the 4449. I do wonder if the 1978 date is off as I thought the last Great Northern (F unit in the photo) and NP (RS11 in the photo) units had been repainted by that date. Could the photo be from a couple years earlier?



Date: 10/24/09 21:52
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: rob_l

Wonderful shots, Greg. But the first is not a 1978 shot. I think it's a 1975 shot. IIRC, the last BN repaints were completed in 1977. I believe the 636s went into storage in late 1975 or early 1976, then come back out of storage in spring of 1977.

In the first photo, I believe that is the Vancouver Transfer getting ready to follow #14 out of town. Note the loaded Milw chip racks right behind the power; they are probably are being ferried over to Willbridge Yard to connect with the Linnton Tramp which will take the chips to the GP export chip terminal. That transfer run was probably the only place where one could see Milw chip racks moving behind BN power.

I am very glad I have not returned to that scene. I prefer to remember it the way it was.

Best regards,

Rob L.



Date: 10/24/09 22:01
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: ATSF100WEST

I've been there back in the day, but didn't really think about it until I saw your older image. Was that a "stub end" yard?

Bob

ATSF100WEST......Out



Date: 10/24/09 22:24
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: billmeeker

Fantastic. The winner in my opinion. And look at that transfer consist. If I'm not mistaken, it is GP38-2 / C636 / GP__ / C425 / GP9 / C636 / C636 / GP9 / GP9 / SW1000 ! And are my eyes deceiving me or is that a DRGW F unit lurking in the background? And is that an NP Geep over on the left? Funky funky stuff Greg...



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/24/09 22:26 by billmeeker.



Date: 10/24/09 22:26
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: up833

Yes it was a stub end yard. Some tracks ended in team tracks for loading lumber and other stuff I suppose depending on the era. Also tracks split off from the west side of the yard into the industrial district. Most major retail stores had large buildings in that area with trackside service.
Roger Beckett



Date: 10/24/09 22:50
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: rob_l

billmeeker Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And are my eyes deceiving me
> or is that a DRGW F unit lurking in the
> background?

Deceiving you. GN-painted F unit.


> And is that an NP Geep over on the
> left?

NP yes, but not a Geep, it's an RS-11.

Best regards,

Rob L.



Date: 10/24/09 23:04
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: billmeeker

If that's the case I'll agree with Rob that this is probably older than 1978...



Date: 10/24/09 23:15
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: E25

Thanks for your kind comments, guys. As for the date of the first shot, I'm happy to go with the consensus as to the year it was most likely taken as I don't have an independent recollection of that detail... just the date on the slide itself. I didn't usually keep film in the camera that long before developing it, but it's quite possible that I may have misplaced that particular roll for a while and had it processed later when I finally discovered it again.

Come to think of it, now that I mention it, I can recall several instances where I would throw exposed canisters into the trunk of my car on the fly and temporarily "loose" them until I cleaned them out later on. Sometimes I would forget what I had taken certain shots of and was "stunned" when I would finally get the roll processed and re-discover some really great stuff on it. (I don't suppose that ever happened to any of you guys???)

There were so many photo opportunities with the early BN in the 'Seventies and early 'Eighties that I was just going nuts trying to keep up with all of the old ALCO's and F's, etc. I probably averaged about 4 to 6 rolls a day during some periods. A "couple of nice old guys" were kind enough to give me a BN power line-up every day for the Gorge and the Seattle Sub, so I was like the proverbial "kid in the candy shop!"

Rob, you are correct -- in the first shot, it was the Vancouver - Portland - Vancouver Transfer just about to follow #14 out of town. That was one of my favorite trains to keep an eye on because of the variety of power on it. It always left vancouver about 9:00 a.m. in nice morning light and then departed Hoyt Street about 3:00 p.m. for the return trip, in nice afternoon light. I'll post some shots of it in the coming months.

Best regards,

-- Greg



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 10/26/09 18:40 by Greg.



Date: 10/25/09 00:11
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: DNRY122

And now there's trolley power at Union Station--the Green and Yellow light rail lines curve around in front of the depot on their way to Steel Bridge. San Diego comes to mind as a place with comparable "traction action".



Date: 10/25/09 11:04
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: 1372

Way, WAY cool! Dig that assemblage of power. And notice how light it is for northbound 14; the train was habitually late back then, but not near the extent it has been the last ten-plus years. Wonder how long the photo had to hang out on the windy bridge for the train to show. Thanks! Kurt.



Date: 10/25/09 11:35
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: rob_l

1372 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> And
> notice how light it is for northbound 14; the
> train was habitually late back then, but not near
> the extent it has been the last ten-plus years.

No. In 1975 #14 was habitually on time. (As was #11.) They ran via the West Valley at the time, so #14s arrival into Portland was much earrlier than it was after the rerouting. And the SDP40Fs were not suspect at the time.

The onset of troubles for the Starlight's timekeeping occurred later.

Best regards,

Rob L.



Date: 10/26/09 05:20
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: gobbl3gook

Great pics.

Any particular procedure for getting a photo from the Fremont Bridge? I figure if your car made a funny sound you could pull over for a minute to make sure it wasn't going to stall in the driving lane ;^)

Ted in OR



Date: 10/26/09 19:06
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: E25

Hi Ted -- I have sent you a private message regarding the location and particular circumstances of obtaining my photos. I can't really recommend "hanging out" on the Fremont Bridge, both from a legal and safety perspective.

Best regards,

-- Greg



Date: 11/19/23 17:37
Re: A Past and Present with a (mostly) happy ending...
Author: wp1801

Thanks.



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