World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company

Article Id: WHEBN0008461679
Reproduction Date:

Title: Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: SS Columbia (1880), Thomas Edison, Kiona, Washington, North Bank Depot Buildings, Hassalo (sternwheeler 1880)
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company

Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company
Former type Subsidiary of the Union Pacific Railroad
Industry Railroad and Shipping
Successors Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company
Union Pacific Railroad
Founded 1879 (1879) (Origins trace back to 1860 (1860))
Defunct 1910 (1910) (O.R. & N)
1936 (1936) (O.W.R. & N)
Headquarters United States
Area served United States
Key people Henry Villard
Parent Union Pacific Railroad Company
Southern Pacific's Shasta Limited on the OWR & N.

The Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company (OR&N) was a railroad that operated a rail network of 1,143 miles (1,839 km) of track running east from Portland, Oregon, United States to northeastern Oregon, northeastern Washington, and northern Idaho. The railroad operated from 1896 as a consolidation of several smaller railroads.

OR&N was initially operated as an independent carrier, but Union Pacific (UP) purchased a majority stake of the line in 1898.[1] The line became a subsidiary of UP titled the Oregon–Washington Railroad and Navigation Company in 1910.[1] In 1936, Union Pacific formally absorbed the system, which became UP's gateway to the Pacific Northwest.


The OR&N was made up of several railroads:

  • Oregon Railway and Navigation Company traces its roots back as far as 1860. It was incorporated in 1879 in Portland, Oregon and operated between Portland and eastern Washington and Oregon until 1896, when it was reorganized into the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company. The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company was the core 643 miles (1,035 km) of the OR&N. Its route eventually became the backbone of Union Pacific Railroad's mainline from Utah to the Pacific Northwest.
  • Columbia and Palouse Railroad was incorporated in 1882 and built 145 miles (233 km) of track. The track ran from Connell, Washington, where it interchanged with the Northern Pacific Railway and ran east through Hooper, La Crosse, Winona and Colfax. At Colfax, one line ran northeast to Farmington, Washington, located on the Idaho state line. The other line ran southeast from Colfax to Moscow, Idaho. The railroad was a non-operating subsidiary of the OR&N in 1888 and was eventually sold to the OR&N in 1910.
  • Walla Walla and Columbia River Railroad was a wood-railed[1] narrow-gauge railroad incorporated in 1868 at Walla Walla, Washington and built 46 miles (74 km) of track from Wallula, Washington. The track went east from Wallula to Touchet, Frenchtown and Whitman. At Whitman, the line continued east to Walla Walla and a branch that was built in 1879 went south to Blue Mountain, Oregon via Barrett (Milton). The first 33 miles took 6 years to build.[1] In 1881 the railroad came under the control of the OR&N and the narrow-gauge was converted to standard gauge. In 1910, the Walla Walla and Columbia River Railroad was consolidated into the OR&N.
  • Mill Creek Flume and Manufacturing was incorporated in 1880 as a narrow gauge lumber carrier operating 13 miles (21 km) of track between Walla Walla and Dixie. In 1903 the Mill Creek Flume and Manufacturing Company was purchased by the OR&N and renamed the Mill Creek Railroad. The track was standardized in 1905. After the track was standardized, the OR&N sold the Mill Creek Railroad and it was merged into the Washington and Columbia River Railway which became part of the Northern Pacific Railway in 1907.
  • Oregon Railway Extensions Company was incorporated in 1888 at Portland and built 69 miles (111 km) of track with two branches. One branch ran from La Grande, Oregon where it interchanged with the OR&N and then ran northeast to Elgin. The other branch ran from Winona, Washington to Seltice via St. John, Sunset, Thornton and Oakesdale. The railroad was a non-operating subsidiary of the OR&N. In 1896 it was sold at foreclosure to the OR&N.
  • Washington and Idaho Railroad was incorporated in 1886 and was also sold at foreclosure to the OR&N in 1896. The Washington and Idaho Railroad operated 154 miles (248 km) of track.

Development of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company

The Oregon Railway and Navigation Company's purchase of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company in 1880 gave it a partial route on the south (Oregon) side of the Columbia River. The company then pursued expansion of its Columbia River route, surveying from where the Oregon Steam Navigation tracks ended at Celilo and continuing east to Wallula. By 1882 the route along the Columbia River was complete.

Starting in 1880, one of the competitors of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company was the Shaver Transportation Company.

Blue Mountain route

The company purchased right-of-way in 1882 from Alfred B. Meacham and John Harvey Meacham, along their Meacham Road through the Blue Mountains.[1] The Meacham road, built in 1862, had a lower pass (4,185 feet (1,276 m)) than competing roads, and was a corduroy road, allowing it to hold up in poor weather conditions.[1] The railroad was laid in 1884.[1]


Before 1879, the Oregon Steamship Company provided passenger service onboard coastal steamships from Oregon were included in the purchase.[2]


Main article: SS Columbia (1880)
The innovative and ill-fated Columbia.

In 1880, the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company accepted delivery of the steamship Columbia from John Roach & Sons in Chester, Pennsylvania. Columbia was innovative for her time as she featured a dynamo which powered electric lightbulbs instead of oil-based lanterns. Columbia mainly served on the San Francisco, California to Portland, Oregon run in her career. Columbia remained with the company after the Union Pacific takeover in 1898. The shipping faction of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company that operated Columbia was renamed the San Francisco and Portland Steamship Company in 1904. Columbia was lost on July 20, 1907, following a collision with the schooner San Pedro.[3]

George W. Elder

Main article: SS George W. Elder
An undated photograph of the George W. Elder in Sitka, Alaska.

The George W. Elder was another steamship operated by the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company. Originally an east coast steamer built by [5]

Other ships

The house flag of the O.R. & N's shipping division.
1899 advertisement for the steamboat Hassalo.

The 1899 Annual Report of Directors for the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company lists 26 to 27 other ships besides the Columbia and George W. Elder between June 30, 1898 and June 30, 1899. The fleet listing from June 30, 1898 to June 30, 1899 goes as follows[6]


River Steamers

  • T.J. Potter
  • R.R. Thompson
  • Harvest Queen
  • D.S. Baker
  • Sehome
  • Almota
  • Emma Hayward
  • Hassalo (Original) - Removed from service between 1898 and 1899. Reasoning given says Hassalo was "worn out".
  • Modoc
  • Oklahoma
  • Elmore
  • Ruth
  • Gypsy
  • Lewiston
  • Spokane - Constructed between 1898 and 1899.
  • Hassalo (Later) - Constructed between 1898 and 1899.

Tug boats

  • Escort
  • Wallula - Constructed between 1898 and 1899.


  • Columbia's Chief
  • Atlas
  • Wyatchie
  • Autocrat
  • Siwash

Predecessors of the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company

OWR&N car #84 being restored to its 1922 appearance in 2012 at the South Bay Historical Railroad Society in California.
  • Oregon Steam Navigation Company was incorporated in 1862 in Portland. It operated steamships between San Francisco and ports along the Columbia River at Astoria, Portland, and The Dalles, serving the lumber and salmon fishing industries. The company built the railroad to serve the steamship operation. The Oregon Steam Navigation Company was sold to Oregon Railway and Navigation in 1880.
  • Oregon Steam Navigation Company (of Washington) was incorporated in 1860 to operate via land along a portion of the Columbia River that was unnavigable by steamship because of the rapids. The railroad operated from The Dalles to Celilo Falls.
  • Oregon Portage Railroad operated 4.5 miles (7.2 km) of track between Bonneville (on the Columbia River) and Cascade (Cascade Locks, Oregon) from 1858 to 1863. The railroad hauled primarily military and immigrant traffic. In 1862 the railroad was sold to the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company for $155,000.
  • Ilwaco Railway and Navigation Company ran a narrow gauge rail line on the Long Beach Peninsula from Ilwaco in the south, to Nahcotta in the north, with steamboat connections at both ends. In 1900, the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company bought a controlling interest in the company.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Deumling, Dietrich (May 1972). The roles of the railroad in the development of the Grande Ronde Valley (masters thesis).  
  2. ^ "The Railway World, Volume 5". Reprinted. United States Railroad and Mining Register Company. 1879. p. 734. Retrieved 13 September 2013. 
  3. ^ Belyk, Robert C. Great Shipwrecks of the Pacific Coast. New York: Wiley, 2001. Print.ISBN 0-471-38420-8
  4. ^ "George W. Elder (steamer) - Magellan - The Ships Navigator". Magellan - The Ships Navigator. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  5. ^ Grover, David H. (31 March 2008). "The George W. Elder Defied the Skeptics". Bay Ledger News Zone. Retrieved 23 July 2013. 
  6. ^ Annual Report of the Board of Directors of the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company, to the Stockholders, Volume 3. Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company. 1899. p. 24. 
  • Robertson, Donald B. (1995). Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History - Volume III - Oregon & Washington. Caldwell, ID: The Caxton Printers.  
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.