The Original Pacific and Eastern
A Brief History
The Pacific & Eastern began as the Medford & Crater Lake Railroad in December of 1904. The official groundbreaking was in April 1905. The railroad reached Eagle Point in the spring of 1907 and due to higher than expected costs ceased operation in May 1907.
In May 1907 James A. Hill, who was also involved in the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad, purchased the line and renamed it the Pacific & Eastern Railway. It was Hill’s goal to use the railroad as part of a bigger plan to reach California. Construction of the railroad was restarted, progressed smoothly and reached Butte Falls on April 1, 1911. An economic downturn in 1918 doomed this attempt to complete the line and operations ceased in January, 1919.
The rails lay dormant until August 1920 when James N. Brownlee and Millard D. Olds pooled their resources to form the Brownlee-Olds Lumber Company. Brownlee also bought the Pacific & Eastern Railway and all rolling stock. Their goal was to use the line to move timber from the nearby mountains to a new mill in Medford.
In 1923 Brownlee sold his shared to Olds and in May of 1924 Olds sold everything to John S. Owen. Owen and his backers and formed the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company. The Medford Logging Railroad Company was incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary.
In the late 1920s serious thought was given to extend the line from Butte Falls to Klamath Falls. It was the hope of the planners that the railroad would give shippers a second route for products moving out of the Rogue Valley. The financial collapse of 1929 ended the dream as funds became unavailable to finance the project.
In 1932 Owen-Oregon went to receivership. During the same year a group of Chicago based bondholders reorganized the property as the Medford Corporation, later known as MEDCO.
The line eventually reached as far as Medco Ponds, about halfway between Butte Falls and Prospect with another branch stopping just past Willow Lake.
The railroad continued hauling logs into the 1950’s when it was determined that the logs could be better moved by truck. Operations ceased in 1962 with equipment being sold to other operations.
Our Version of History
The Medford Corporation ran on the rails of the former Pacific & Eastern through the 1930’s. Eventually Medco and other lumber and business interests in the Rogue Valley became frustrated with the iron grip the Southern Pacific had on freight traffic in the area. These companies began to reconsider a rail line over the Cascades tying in with the Great Northern. When the Great Northern got wind of these plans, it took another look at completing the Pacific & Eastern and offered financial assistance in exchange for preferred interchange in Klamath Falls.
It came as little surprise that Weyerhaeuser Timber Company’s West Block Lines, radiating out of Keno toward Buck Lake, came within thirty miles of Medco’s lines heading southeast out of Butte Falls. Weyerhaeuser was contacted and it was agreed that the Great Northern and Rogue Valley interests would form a common carrier railroad and take over certain Weyerhaeuser lines in exchange for handling Weyerhaeuser log trains to Keno and Klamath Falls. By 1940, money had been raised, a route surveyed and construction begun. As the United States entered World War II, the Pacific & Eastern entered Klamath Falls.
Over the years improvements were made. Grades and curves, acceptable on a logging line had to be eased for the P&E. Heavier rail and additional ballast was installed. The railroad was rebuilt to allow 25 mph freight service and 35 mph passenger trains. In the winter of 1942, a slide took out 450 feet of main line on a cut west of Summit and a westbound freight was unable to stop, the engineer and fireman perishing. The following year, a heavy eastbound failed to stop on the grade into Keno and collided head-on with a fast westbound, again with tragic loss of life. A decision was made to install Automatic Block Signals in the mountainous part of the P&E in order to detect slides, other trains and track defects.
1989 was the last full year that Medco operated its plywood and sawmills in Medford and is the year we’ve chosen to set our model of the Pacific & Eastern. Business is good, there’s lots of timber and lumber moving as well as other freight. The Great Northern has become the Burlington Northern and the P&E interchanges with them as well as the Southern Pacific. P&E shippers enjoy a choice of routes out of Klamath Falls: BN’s Inside Gateway to Stockton, CA. and points south; BN’s Oregon Trunk to Wishram, WA. with connections east and west; and SP’s Modoc Line to Nevada and points east. In Medford, the P&E interchanges with the SP’s Siskiyou Line with some traffic to and from the California and Oregon Coast in Grants Pass.
(The California and Oregon Coast was once envisioned to connect Grants Pass, OR with Crescent City, CA. While it actually only made it as far as Waters Creek, just west of Wilderville, OR, in our scenario, it was completed to Crescent City, which has become a secondary west coast port.)
Our Pacific and Eastern
How and why we built it as we did.
The railroad you are about to view is set in the fall of 1989. This year was chosen since it was the last full year of the Medford Corporation’s plywood and saw mill operations. Mill structures and equipment were mostly gone from the scene by the fall of 1992.
The railroad model you see is a compilation of some of the areas the railroad traversed. As with any such model some liberties were necessitated to be able to fit the layout into the available space. The railroad we are portraying is one that survived the downturn of 1929, was able to upgrade the roadbed and track age and in turn complete the goal of reaching Klamath Falls and Interchange with the Great Northern (Burlington Northern).
In many scenes we’ve modeled actual buildings as closely as possible to those which were once part of a particular complex. Medco, for example, was modeled from historical pictures obtained through the Southern Oregon Historical Society and pictures in Jeff LaLande’s book, Medford Corporation: A History . One lady visiting the club several years ago recognized the loading shed at Medco and comment, “My husband’s first job was loading lumber out of that shed in the 1940’s.” People recognize structures and places when we take the time and effort to research and construct them realistically.
The North Pacific Hwy. crossing is based on historical and aerial photos and built as if the railroad were still in operations . We pass through Crater Yard which would be located between the new Lithia dealership off Crater Lake Highway and the airport. We then cross the Agate Desert to reach White City. White City features several real mills and industries, somewhat rearranged and compressed to fit the space. As we leave White City our railroad drops down to cross Little Butte Creek, crossed Nick Young Road and proceeds east along Young Mountain to Eagle Point. Eagle Point had few industries but here again we moved some that were in the area closer to the tracks so we could include them in the layout. While we created a scene that would not have happened in the prototype between Eagle Point and Butte Falls, we were able to construct a scene close to Butte Falls, which better represents the area. The McNeil Creek Trestle and surrounding land forms are based on historic and aerial photos. At Butte Falls all the mills were gone by 1940, however, we built a more modern mill on the south side of town that still operated in 1989.
The line going over the Cascades is loosely based on the survey taken to connect the tracks east of Butte Falls with the Weyerhaeuser logging line working west out of Keno. The grades of the Cascades would have been similar to those encountered by the SP crossing of the Siskiyous. From there we proceed east through Keno, across the flats arriving at the White Yard. This facility is our major terminal and interchange connections with the Burlington Northern and the Southern Pacific Railroads. The majority of the cars entering and leaving the P&E pass through the former GN (current BN) White Yard, known on our railroad as Pelican Yard.
The area representing Klamath Falls has also been modeled using aerial and other photographs as well as field trips to the region by club members. We were fortunate to be able to model the trackage realistically as the prototype actually makes a complete curve across Lake Ewauna, Crews working on one side of the lake could see with the other crews were doing just across the lake.
The engine house is based on the facility once used by the Great Northern and later the Burlington Northern at their main yard in Klamath Falls. This building was razed in 1990. Photos from the internet and friends have made is possible to model this structure and other industrial building from the Klamath Falls area as they appeared in 1989.
As you have walked around the railroad you may have noticed a working signal system. This system is based in the Automatic Block Signals used by the Southern Pacific on the Siskiyou Line that ran from Butte Butte, near Weed, California, through the Rogue Valley to the Springfield Junction near Eugene, Oregon. This system does not control trains or give engineers the authority to move. It is to let crews know the condition of the track in front of the train regarding occupancy by another train, improperly aligned turnouts and other defects. “Repeaters” on the backdrop above Medford and White City show track conditions in hidden areas. Only the tracks between White City and Klamath Falls are protected. Other trackage is within Yard Limits which required all trains to be on the lookout for obstructions and other problems.
Kudos to Ron Harten and his wife Paula for putting together a set of usable, interactive track diagrams in PDF format.
Click on names inside the green boxes (or scroll down) for detailed diagrams.