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Abandoned and Historical Railroads in the Northwest
|Last Update: April 15, 2004
|The Clackamas and Eastern railroad was built in 1913 to the city of Carver, but over the next few decades
the railroad would be met with financial failure after financial failure. Hardly used, the railroad was finally
completed another 20 miles into the woods south of Carver and almost to the town of Colton, Oregon.
During it's short lifespan it served several mills, but today almost no trace of it exists.
I knew I would likely find little of this railroad when I set out to explore the old route, but because it was
so close to home I had to try. Also, I had a very cool old picture of the Carver RR bridge that crossed
the Clackamas River and I had to see what if any remains existed of that bridge.
In 1913, Stephen Carver incorporated the Portland and Oregon City Railroad. The original line was built
from East Portland (3rd and Hawthorne through the town of Clackamas and ended at Carver several
miles east of Clackamas. Carver was a town that was originally laid out by Stephen Carver and the line
was supposed to be an electric passenger railroad, as was common in those days and provide service
between Portland and the new community of Carver. The railroad ran out of money sometime after
construction. It's not clear if it was ever put to use in it's early years. In 1923, the railroad was renamed
the Portland Southern Railroad and the line between Portland and Clackamas was abandoned. But the
line from Clackamas to Carver was reactivated. Having given up on operating it as a passenger
railroad, Carver decide to operate as a logging railroad to the foothills south of Carver. The largest
construction expense on the line was building a massive bridge across the Clackamas river and this
held up construction until the late 1920s. Again running out of money, the railroad went into
foreclosure. Around 1930, the railroad was purchased by the Clackamas and Eastern Railroad on
behalf of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Having not been used for several years, the line was rebuilt by
Southern Pacific crews and reopened in June, 1930. While rebuilding the lines, another 4 miles was
added to the town of Swift, 11 rail miles south of Carver, thus joining up with the existing Molalla
Lumber Company Railroad.
The line was run using two Southern Pacific 4-6-0 steam locomotives, and Clackamas and Eastern crews.
The line only used one locomotive at a time, usually trading off month to month. For month, one
locomotive would remain in the Southern Pacific Brooklyn yard in Portland while other would run the
line. It's safe to say the use of the line was rather minimal compared to other short lines. One unique
aspect of this line was the steepness of the grade between the Elliot Junction (which connected to a
one mile line to the Elliot mill) and Swift. It was over 4 percent, the steepest grade of any Southern
The line serviced several mills in the area, of which at least one still exists. The Fisher's Mill is an
extremely old and interesting mill along Clear Creek in the very small town of the same name, Fisher's
Mill. The mill building even appears to still be in use, but today is used as a small store and service
location for the local agriculture community.
Servicing mostly lumber mills and transporting logs out of the forest, the line was abandoned when the
trees ran out in 1939. The original grade travels though what is today, mostly private farm land and it's
very difficult to reach the grade sites. One interesting section is the old mile long spur from the old C
and E line at Elliot Junction and the Elliot saw mill. This line was later turned into a dirt road and today
is on gated privately owned timber land. Several years ago, John and I rode our mountain bikes and
explored this area, but this was before I had any idea that a railroad ran though there. I found the Elliot
mill site. The only remains was a large concrete structure, but unfortunately I didn't take any pictures.
Mark Reed, who lives in the area, pointed out that several trestle remains do exist, but are collasped. I
hope to explore and photograph those sites in the future.
The only significant structure I was able to find besides the Fishers mill and Elliot Mill was the remains
of the Carver railroad bridge across the Clackamas river. The wood structure of the bridge is long
gone, but I did find the large concrete footings. They are the only hint that the railroad ever existed in
that area. In the below old picture, you'll notice a covered road bridge existed there in the 1930s. This
bridge is also long gone. Replaced by a structure that appears to be fairly old in itself, probably dating
to just after World War Two. I noticed another concrete footing next to the C and E bridge footing and
deduced that this must have been the covered bridge footing as the new bridge was likely built along
side the covered bridge instead of directly over it so that vehicles could continue to cross the
Clackamas during construction.
Sometime in the 1980s a spur line was reconstructioned on the old C and E grade from the Union Pacific
mainline in Clackamas, extending eastward about 2 miles. This spur is most likely used to store rail cars
Update: I explored that rebuilt spur. It actually is much shorter than two miles and serves a couple of local
mills. I don't think it's actually built on originally C and E grade as I first reported.
|A map of the
Clackamas and Eastern
RR from the book
Southern Pacific in
|The picture of the same area today, taken in
January, 2004. The bridge you see today was built
in 1930, pretty much at the same time the C&E
bridge was built and was constructed just to the
right of the old covered highway bridge and
railroad bridge. No trace of either exists today
except for the concrete footings.
|The Carver C & E RR bridge and covered bridge
over the Clackmas. Picture taken around 1930
when the RR bridge construction was being
|These three pictures were added in July, 2004. On the far left, the build plate of the highway bridge
showing that it was built in 1930 at the exact same time as the C&E logging RR bridge. Middle: C&E
bridge went right over the top of me where I'm standing and photographing. At the bottom of the
picture you can see the concrete footing of the C&E bridge, but no other sign that it used to exist here.
Far right: Another view of the highway bridge. The bridge, by the way, is slated to be replaced in
2005. Apparently a brand new bridge will be built up river.
|The highway bridge at Carver used today, replaced the
covered bridge that is shown in the above C&E bridge
construction photo. If you look to the right in the
picture, you can see the covered bridge's concrete
footing still remains today. Where I'm standing to take
the picture is exactly where the old C and E railroad
bridge used to cross the river.
|The concrete footings of the C & E railroad bridge.
Abandoned in 1939, it was likely torn down not long
afterward. Picture taken by me January, 2004.
|The community south of Carver is largely agriculture
today. It was heavily forested prior to the 1930s. Many of
the houses in the area today are newer as residences of
Portland have moved into this rural area. It is close to
Portland, but offers many positive aspects of a remote
farming community. However some very old homesteads
exist out here and some remains like these old wagons
can be found abandoned in the farmer's fields. The Barlow
trail/road ran thorough here only a few miles away in the
mid 1840s and a few homesteads out here are nearly that
|Fishers Mill located along Clear Creek. This mill was once
served by the C & E in the 1930s. The mill appears to be
very old but it's construction date is unknown. Certainly
sometime prior to the 1930s. Today the small town of
Fisher's Mill is little more than a very small old store dating
back to the 1930s and an agriculture machine repair shop
that serves the local rural community.
|No. 2172 was one of only two steam 4-6-0 locomotives that ran the C and
E. The other was No 2161. Both were owned by the Southern Pacfic, but
leased to the Clackamas and Eastern in the 1930s. Both No. 2172 and
No. 2161 were built in the late 1880s by Schenectady (later Alco) as two
of a Southern Pacific order for 20 class T-9 units -- the "T" referring to the
"Ten wheel" 4-6-0 configuration. These locomotives had 18" x 24"
cylinders, 55" drivers, tractive effort of 18,550 lb. and a weight of 83,100
lb. By the time they started service on the C and E they were both 42
years old. This probably explains why only one was used at a time while
the other rested and was maintained in Portland. By the time the railroad
was abandoned they would have been well over 50 years old and were
almost certainly scrapped shortly after the line closed. Many, if not most
of the original 20 class T-9 units were scrapped by the 1930s. These
were probably among the last two.
Picture courtesy: Robert Lloyd
|The same picture as
above, this was taken
construction of the C and
E bridge across the
Clackamas river at the
town of Carver, Oregon.
Picture courtesy: Robert
|Picture of the logging crews on the C&E somewhere
between the Elliot Mill Junction and Swift (see map above)
Picture courtesy of Mark Reed.
|If anyone has any further information or pictures abou tthe Clackamas and Eastern, please let me know. Any pictures and
info would be appreciated. You can Email me anytime. Thanks.
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|Copyright © 2004 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
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|Abandoned Railroads Series