Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad
When the Port of Tillamook Bay acquired the Tillamook Naval Air Station, it also acquired the Navy’s 5.5-mile railroad spur, which connected with the Southern Pacific Railroad in downtown Tillamook.
The Southern Pacific line over the Coast range had been built between 1906 and 1911. But as Southern Pacific began to step away from that line in later years, the Port began operating it from Tillamook to Batterson in 1983. When Southern Pacific decided to abandon the operation in 1990, the Port purchased the entire line to Schefflin, with help from the state lottery.
It stretched 95 miles from Tillamook, up the coast to Wheeler, then east through the Coast Range to the Portland area. It hugged the mountainsides along the Salmonberry River and included river crossings and wooden trestles – some 200 feet high.
The Port continued operating the railroad until December of 2007, when flood waters from a major storm destroyed large sections of the roadbed in the mountainous area of the Salmonberry River Canyon. Prior to the storm, the railroad had hauled freight six days a week, carrying lumber and feed grains.
The Port still owns extensive rail rights of way varying in width from 50 to 200 feet. The rail line is 101 miles in length, of which roughly 88 miles are main line and the other 13 miles are spurs and sidings.
The Port’s facilities in Banks serve a lumber mill in the Banks yard. And the Port continues to maintain its coastal track, which serves Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad.
Because of the extraordinary expense that would be entailed in rebuilding the damaged rail bed over the mountains, POTB has, instead, opted to use Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to expand and enhance the port’s industrial park and airport facilities. For more information, go to our FEMA section.