Let's turn our clocks back to the end of the first decade
of the 20th century.
The run from Portland to Salem, and possibly even Eugene--and
back, along the route of the new Oregon Electric Railway,
was one of the symbols of the new economic explosion that
has hit Oregon.
Excitement still was in the Oregon air from the Lewis and
Clark Exposition in Portland in 1905 that triggered these
We hear about how the 21st century, will be the "Century
of the Pacific." The economies of the Pacific Rim countries
are booming and Oregon is sharing in that upsurge.
At the beginning of the 20th century, our forefathers were
convinced that the century now ending would be "America's
Pacific Century." They had good reason to think so. With
the Panama Canal nearly completed, with Hawaii and the Philippines
in our sphere of influence, the United States was becoming
a Pacific power. The "Open Door to China" policy
promised to create a market for our goods.
It was in the euphoria of these times that leaders in the
City of Portland, still shaking itself free from its pioneer
and frontier image, decided to launch the most ambitious project
in the State's history, an international exposition centered
around the 100th anniversary of the Lewis and Clark Expedition
of 1804-1806. I ts theme was "Westward The Course of
Empire Takes Its Way."
President Theodore Roosevelt tapped a golden telegraph key
in the White House on June 1, 1905 to set off chimes in the
U. S. Government Pavilion to officially open the fair. Predictions
of a million visitors to the fair were exceeded by more than
half. The fair brought more than money and people to Oregon,
it brought a change of attitude in the people who lived here.
Preparations for the fair required long-range planning. Design
of the Exposition site was done by the firm that created Central
Park in New York City. Portlanders approved bond issues to
launch a master plan of parks for the city.
A surge of hotel and office building accompanied the Exposition.
In the aftermath of the fair, Portland doubled its population
to 200,000 and predictions of a million or more were common.
The boom opened Eastside Portland to spreading subdivisions.
In the 40 years prior to the fair, street and sewer expansion
in Portland cost $8,000,000. In the 10 years after the fair,
it totaled $28,000,000.
It is in this atmosphere, then, that you stamp your feet impatiently
at the Oregon Electric station at 10th and Hoyt in downtown
Portland, just up the street from the magnificent Union Railway
Station, ready to begin your run south, up the Willamette
Valley. Good luck!
Compiled and written by Wes Sullivan, 1998
The following are the principal sources from which the
information was gathered:
Oregon Geographic Names, by Lewis A. McArthur, Fifth Edition
Oregon, End of the Trail, by WPA workers, compiled in 1940.
In search of Western Oregon, by Ralph Friedman Railroading
in the Lower Willamette Valley, Robert Lowry et al Portland,
Gateway to the Northwest, by Carl Abbott. The Great Extravaganza,
by Carl Abbott. The Story of Eugene, by Lucia Moore et al.
The primary source of information about the Oregon Electric
Railroad and Oregon railroading in general was Edwin D. Culp
of Salem. Ed Culp's book, "Stations West, the Story of
the Oregon Railways," has a fine chapter on the Oregon
Electric. The book led to Ed himself and to his treasure house
of information and memorabilia about Oregon railroads. The
photographs, the original tickets, the advertisements all
helped to provide a clearer, more colorful picture of the
Oregon Electric and its times.
Also, my thanks to my former colleague at the Statesman Journal
in Salem, Al Jones, for his counsel.