When I visited Oregon, one of my most memorable experiences was getting lost down the abandoned railroads and logging trails. It was beautiful, but I don’t want to romanticize getting lost in the woods. With no service, in a two seater rental coup I wish I had a decent resource to help me navigate.
Below is a map of the abandoned railroads in Oregon, as well as a few tips you can use when visiting and some back story of abandoned railway trails. Hiking these railways can be very dangerous if you’re not careful, please prepare accordingly.
Salmonberry Abandoned Railroad Trail
One of longest and most popular set of tracks you can explore, run along the Salmonberry River, hence it’s nickname the Salmonberry Trail.
It’s not officially a trail, but if you follow the old Tillamook Railroad south-west out of Timber, it will take you to some of the most isolated and breathtaking parts of Oregon.
Following the track you’ll eventually come to a large railway bridge about 5.5 miles in your hike. While the Tillamook Railroad Bridge is in pretty decent condition, it can still be very dangerous.
The bridge is suspended over 50 feet in the air above the canyon. Missteps and carelessness can be fatal here. Over the bridge and roughly 6 miles further west, you’ll continue through dense greenery and eventually come to another bridge, just over Wolf Creek.
If you hike another couple miles you’ll reach the abandoned mining down of Enright. Not much is left in Enright, but there are a few rusty water tanks and logging train carts left behind on the tracks.
There are dozens of bridges, tunnels, and relics from the past to be discovered, so I won’t spoil them all. If you’re truly a crazy person you can walk the entirety of the Salmonberry Trail. If you do, you’ll end up reaching the town of Tillamook. The trail ends just past the Tillamook Air Museum.
A group is taking charge and working on restoring parts of the Salmonberry Trail, you can read about their efforts on their website.
Tillamook Railroad History
The Tillamook Railroad is one of the longest abandoned railroads in Oregon. Built between 1906 and 1911, the railroad stretches 101 miles across the center of Oregon, all the way to the west coast, terminating in in Tillamook.
In it’s prime, the railway was used to transport lumber, fish, and other agricultural products between the coast and Portland. It was a reliable source of transportation until major sections of the track were destroyed by a series of storms.
Battered By Storms
The old Tillamook Railroad was strong, but not strong enough. The first storm to shut her down was in 1990 after landslides caused over 1.3 million dollars in damages. Although this caused a major outage, it was still recoverable.
Again in 1996 another massive storm would devastate nearly 7 miles of the Tillamook line. When the Salmonberry River flooded, it washed out two bridges and hurled rocks as large as cars across the track. The cost to repair the Tillamook Railroad was $5 million dollars. So many industries relied on the railway, and without much of a choice they rebuilt again.
The final straw was in the winter of 2007 when the Great Coastal Gale swept it’s way across Oregon, causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to the state. Once again flooding and erosion had pounded the track, but this time it was just too much.
Entire trestles were knocked out, swaths of land had collapsed, and tunnels were heavily damaged. After everything was properly assessed the cost to fully restore the Tillamook Railroad was $57 million dollars.
For the Port Of Tillamook Bay, this price was too steep. They opted not to repair the Tillamook Railroad, and abandoned the line entirely. Since 2007 the railroad has been slowly overtaken by the surrounding wilderness.
Salmonberry Trail Today
Now in 2020, much of the Salmonberry Trail is still traversable, but some think it won’t be for much longer. Unprotected from the elements, the Tillamook Railroad is starting to show signs that it’s giving up.
Trestles will eventually collapse, and tunnels will cave in completely. The trail may soon become impassible, so make the journey today if you can.
Deschutes Abandoned Railroad Trail
Today, the tracks on the western side of the river are still in use and operate frequently. The entire east side of the railroad remains abandoned. Starting at the mouth of the Deschutes River, you can follow the Deschutes trail on the east end and find remnants of the Great Railroad War.
Along the trail you’ll find old water tanks, abandoned cars, as well as an abandoned railway station near mile marker 12. Inside the station time stands still. Ice boxes, stoves, and other furniture were all just left behind.
Along the banks of the Deschutes River, two competing railroads waged all out war with each other. And this war was actually fought with bullets and bombs. Ultimately this battle left one of the railroads abandoned.
Deschutes Railroad War
Around 1906, the Oregon Trunk Company conducted surveys along the west bank of the river and concluded that it was the best route to transport their goods south.
But almost at the same time The Deschute Railroad Company was also surveying the river, and they decided they wanted their railroad on the east side of the Deschutes River.
Having two competing railroads so close to each other, and at times sharing the same tracks caused a lot of tension between the two companies. Soon, expensive legal battles over the Deschutes river canyon property would be taken to court.
But the battles didn’t stop in the courtroom. The two competing companies raced along the river, trying to out build one another. This led to the construction crews sabotaging each others progress.
Blood On The Rails
The two companies would detonate black powered charges, destroying each other’s tracks. Other times they would dump massive boulders across the rails that could take hours to clear. The feud even led to all out gun battles, ending in arrests and even death.
There’s an old cemetery on a hillside near one of the most sought after pieces of railroad. It’s unknown if any of the railway workers were buried here, but no other towns or ranches existed in this area. Over 1200 men worked on the railroad, with the most labor intensive part of the project being the tunnel.
After all the black powder and bloodshed, both rails were completed in 1910. Each company had their own tracks and documents were signed stating they would share the usage rights to the single line at the north and south junction.
Abandoning The Railway
The tracks operated smoothly for decades until 1921 when the Oregon Trunk abandoned their line between Metolius and South Junction. It opted to use an alternative route to move cargo into Madras and Bend.
In 1935 the entire Deschutes Railroad on the east bank was abandoned. The Oregon Trunk allowed the Deschutes Railroad Company to use it’s more efficient lines on the west bank of the river. After all the fighting, both companies ended up using the same single railroad. A bit ironic, but probably for the better.
As you can see, there are tons of abandoned railroads in Oregon. My personal favorite and I believe the most well preserved would have to be the Tillamook Railroad along the Salmonberry Trail.
There are hundreds of miles of abandoned railroads, trestles, and old service paths that have been long forgotten all across Oregon. They’re just waiting for someone to rediscover them.
If want to find more abandoned places near you, be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide To Finding Abandoned Places.