World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway

Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway
EMD F3 #801 departing Union Station in Portland, Oregon, 1970
Reporting mark SPS
Locale Oregon
Dates of operation 1905–1970
Successor Burlington Northern Railroad
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge
Length 922 miles (1,484 kilometres)
Headquarters Portland, Oregon
Preserved SP&S "Northern" locomotive (2008)

The Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway (SP&S) (reporting mark SPS) was a United States-based railroad incorporated in 1905. It was a joint venture by the Great Northern Railway and the Northern Pacific Railway to build a railroad along the north bank of the Columbia River. Remnants of the line are currently operated by BNSF Railway.


  • History 1
  • Passenger trains 2
  • See also 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


The railroad was chartered in 1905 by James J. Hill to connect the two transcontinental railroads owned by him, the Northern Pacific (NP) and Great Northern (GN), to Portland, Oregon from Spokane, Washington,[1] to gain a portion of the lumber trade in Oregon, a business then dominated by E.H. Harriman's Union Pacific and Southern Pacific railroads. Construction began in 1906[2] under the name Portland & Seattle Railway,[2][3] proceeding eastward from Vancouver, Washington.[4] 1906 also saw the start of construction of the line between Vancouver and Portland, including work on three major new bridges, crossing the Columbia River, the Oregon Slough and the Willamette River.[2] The northernmost of these was the first bridge of any kind to be built across the lower Columbia River.[5]

Despite legal challenges from Harriman, within a year the line had been built as far as Pasco, Washington along the Columbia River, where it connected with NP. The first section to open was from Pasco west to Cliffs (near Maryhill), a length of 112 miles (180 km), on December 15, 1907.[6] Operation was extended west to Lyle, another 145 miles (233 km), on January 15, 1908, as construction continued on the 221-mile (356 km) section from there to Vancouver.[6]

SP&S also operated the Ocean Shore Limited, shown here at Seaside, Oregon

In January 1908 "Spokane" was added to the railroad's name, making it the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway.[7] SP&S freight and passenger service (from Pasco) to Portland was inaugurated in November 1908.[8] By 1909 the railroad had completed construction of its line up to Spokane along the Snake River. In 1910 SP&S gained control of the Oregon Electric interurban railway, which the Great Northern had acquired two years before. Under the control of the SP&S the railroad was extended southward to Eugene, Oregon by 1912. SP&S also operated a second subsidiary railroad in western Oregon, the Oregon Traction Company,[4] which owned a route to Seaside, Oregon.[3] A third route on which the SP&S operated extended southward from Wishram, Washington to Bend, Oregon was the Oregon Trunk Railroad. Edward Harriman's Oregon & Washington Railway & Navigation Company also was building a railroad south from the Columbia River to Bend resulting in a railroad war in which each railroad attempted to sabotage the other. In the end, the railroad opened using mostly the track of the Oregon Trunk, with a short portion of the Oregon & Washington Railway & Navigation Company track, and both railroads used the route (an arrangement that still exists with BNSF owning the majority of the line and UP having trackage rights).[4]

During World War II the SP&S carried war materials to the Pacific Theatre; new industries located along the Columbia River, taking advantage of cheap electricity from hydroelectric dams on the river. New industries served by the SP&S included aluminum plants, sawmills, chemical factories and grain elevators.[9]

In 1954 an SP&S train derailed after hitting a rockslide on the route to Bend, Oregon. Part of the train landed in the Deschutes River, including a boxcar, which landed in a rapid that was later named "Boxcar Rapids" after the incident, which killed all crew members.[10]

Passenger trains

Dining car of the North Bank Limited

The SP&S's passenger operations mostly involved hosting connections with parents' trains, such as the Empire Builder and North Coast Limited, which were combined to form the Streamliner (#1/#2). Oriental Limited, Mainstreeter, and Western Star connected with (#3/#4). However, some of these SP&S trains were named. The Inland Empire Express (daytime) and North Bank Limited (overnight) provided daily, through service between Portland (Union Station) and Spokane.[11] The Columbia River Express (#5/#6) operated between Portland and Pasco, connecting at Pasco with Northern Pacific #5/#6 for service to/from Spokane.

See also


  1. ^ The history of bnsf: A legacy for the 21st century. Railway: The employee magazine of burlington northern sante fe corporation, 27. Retrieved from
  2. ^ a b c "Greatest Year for Railroad Construction: Building in Territory Tributary to Portland During 1906 Breaks All Records—City Now Strategic Point in Struggle of Giants". (January 1, 1907). The Morning Oregonian" (Portland), section 2, p. 20.
  3. ^ a b "The Northwest’s Own Railway"The Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway, . Retrieved 25 April 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c Schafer, Mike (2003). Classic American Railroads, Volume III. Saint Paul, MN: MBI.  
  5. ^ "Finish Bridge Over Columbia; Steel Structure of the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad [sic] Completed—Last Bolt In Yesterday". (June 26, 1908). The Morning Oregonian (Portland), p. 11.
  6. ^ a b "History of North Bank Road". (November 6, 1908). The Morning Oregonian, p. 12.
  7. ^ "Important Articles Filed: North Bank Changes Name [from Portland & Seattle Railway Company to Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway Company], Increases Capital and Will Extend". (January 30, 1908). The Morning Oregonian (Portland), p. 11.
  8. ^ "First Train on Hill Road: Regular Passenger Service Inaugurated From Local Terminus". (November 18, 1908). The Morning Oregonian, p. 11.
  9. ^ "HISTORY". SP&S Railway Historical Society Railroad. 2004. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  10. ^ "S.P.&S. Engine wrecked near Maupin". Wasco County History Site. Retrieved 27 April 2010. 
  11. ^ "Mountain, River and Canyon Scenery to Spokane" (SP&S advertisement). (February 28, 1922). The Morning Oregonian (Portland), p. 7.

Further reading

Gaertner, John T. (1990). North Bank Road.

  • Spokane Portland and Seattle Railway Historical Society

External links


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.