|Last Update: August 2, 2008
|The Westport tunnel is one of the oldest surviving railroad tunnels in the Pacific Northwest. The exact date it was constructed is not clear, but
it appears to date to around the 1880s. It was built by John West sometime before he died in 1887. John West is who the nearby town of
Westport is named after. Oxen was the original motive power to haul logs from the woods, through this tunnel and to the Columbia River,
over a skid road.
The tunnel was not an absolute necessity. Instead, it was chosen to build the tunnel, rather than an addition 1/2 mile skid road around the
hill to the log dump. Had this been a railroad, the additional 1/2 mile would have been the easier choice. But when hauling logs by ox, every
few hundred feet of additional road is significant. The tunnel was relatively short, making the choice to dig that much easier.
The skid road was built south to a place called Hungry Hollow Logging Camp.
In 1907, ox teams were replaced by steam locomotives. The tunnel which was built just large enough for ox teams was significantly widened
It's not clear which companies actually used the tunnel after West died, but we do know the following logging companies operated out of
Westport and some built railroads, presumably, using this tunnel.
The W.W. Johnson Lumber Company operated approximately 3 miles of standard gauge track using a single geared locomotive between
1908-1910. They almost certainly used the tunnel. The McDougal-Nickey Logging Company operated between 1907-1909, but I’m not sure
if they used this railroad.
In approximately 1911-12, the Westport Lumber Company began to operate and apparently extended the 3 mile line to about 5 miles. This
lasted until approximately 1915 when the logs were depleted. The railroad was apparently abandoned and the tracks pulled up. The tunnel
has remained abandoned ever since..some 91 years.
Highway 30, then a dirt road, was completed through Westport at the time the tunnel and railroad was abandoned. Highway construction
obliterated much of the grade north of the tunnel and required that the tunnel be partly backfilled to prevent West Creek from washing away
the highway during flood seasons. The part of highway 30 in front of the tunnel was later bypassed and other than broken pavement of a
little used 2 lane road, the scene in front of the tunnel looks almost as it did when the tunnel was abandoned in 1915.
A reader who lived in the area as a child pointed out to me that a rumor existed at that time that a locomotive was abandoned in the canyons
southwest of Westport. It would not be an implausible possibility considering that the line was abandoned in 1915 and it would have been
very difficult to get equipment in to retrieved a locomotive that might have falling down into the canyon. However, for now, it's just a rumor.
In December 2007, a major storm swelled up West Creek, which then overflowed into the tunnel and changed the make up of the tunnel
somewhat. See new pictures below.
While exploring the tunnel in March, 2008, we noticed for the first time that the sandy appearance of the tunnel walls is actually some kind of
spray that was probably applied to strengthen the tunnel walls. What this is, when it was applied and why is unknown, but it appears to have
been sprayed above the fill, which means the spray was probably applied after it was partly filled in and rather than fill the whole tunnel, it was
sprayed to help preserve its integrity...which has worked quite well.
|Map of the location of the tunnel. The location of the tunnel is certain, but the route of the railroad is only a guess. However, it's almost certain that it followed
West Creek, eventually for at least 7 miles. Although I didn't mark it on this map, the railroad would have exited the north portal and dumped out in the slough, but
the exact route is not clear.
|The tunnel is rather easy to get to. It's actually located right off of the old Hwy 30. Today, this little road goes by another name since the highway bypass was
constructed many years ago, but when heading west along Hwy 30, take the first left, just prior to crossing the bridge and entering Westport and you'd be on the
right road. Travel less than a 1/4 mile and look to your left. In these photos the tunnel is to the left. The last photo is looking back at the truck from the tunnel's
north portal. One interesting thing that I noted was that the the tunnel was obviously about half filled in, but even so, the fill was level with the old highway,
indicating to me that it was filled in to this level as recently as the 1930s or 40s. Photos: September, 2005
|These views were taken the second time I was able to visit the tunnel. This time in the daytime. When looking at the tunnel we can see that its obviously about
1/3 or 1/2 filled in. Secondly, we notice that the tunnel is rather short. And finally, we notice it's not a hard rock tunnel, which makes it that much more surprising
that it has lasted more than 115 years. Possibly as much as 79 years as an abandoned tunnel. The south portal is most collasped today. I haven't had a chance
to explore beyond the south portal, but it the area appears to be heavily overgrown. Photos: September, 2005
|I took these pictures when I first discovered the tunnel in March, 2005. Having heard about it in a book, I set out to find it when I was in the area. But I didn't have
any idea where it was. By the time I asked the locals and found it, it was dark. Turns out it's much easier to find than I originally suspected once I knew where it
was. Photos: March, 2005
|Visiting the tunnel again in the winter. With Frank Calia standing next the tunnel the size is larger than it first appears in the other photos.
|In February, 2006, I step through the opening to see the other side. To my surprise, the back porch of a house bordered the once very remote railroad just behind
the tunnel. The town of Westport has encroached on the tunnel site. The area behind the tunnel was once a deep cut. But now it's mostly filled in over time.
What little remains of the grade is now heavily overgrown.
|This historic photo was taken sometime in the late 1800s or very 1900s when the tunnel was used for logging by ox, it's original purpose. It would later be widened
and used by a railroad until approximately 1915. Photo appears to be of the north portal of the tunnel. Photo courtesy of Scott Carson. Note this photo is possibly
from the book: "Glory Days of Logging" book by Ralph W. Andrews
"In Search of Western Oregon" by Ralph Friedman - 1990
"Logging Railroads of the West" by Kramer Adams
(Possibly) "Glory Days of Logging" book by Ralph W. Andrews
|If anyone has any further information or pictures related to this article and railroad, please
let me know. You can Email me anytime. Thanks.
|Copyright © 2005-2008 Brian McCamish, All Rights Reserved
Note about the photos on this site:
Most photos were taken by me, except for those that are otherwise indicated. I usually allow people to use my photos for personal use or
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you see any photos which belong to you and that I don't have permission to use, I apologize. If you send me an Email, I will remove the
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|Between Dec 1-2, 2007, a major storm hit the Oregon Coast Range. This caused major flooding, which affected most creeks and rivers
throughout the region. West Creek, which is located just south of the tunnel was no exception. The tunnel was partly backfilled around 1915
to prevent any overflow the creek from damaging the new Highway 30. The highway was since relocated and the tunnel mostly forgotten.
Most of the backfilled survived several major storms, including 1964 and 1996. But the 2007 would do the most damage to the back fill and
reveal some a little more of the tunnel.
|This is looking to the south end of the tunnel where the fill used to exist, but much of which was washed away. What is now left is a sheer wall about 8 feet high.
An old pipe was also found exposed. Probably remains of the railroad that used this tunnel that was pushed into the fill when it was backfilled in 1915.
|This is looking at the tunnel north entrance. The northern fill has been partly washed away. Our vehicles are parked on the 1915 highway that was built after the
tunnel was abandoned and is now abandoned itself, having little use and a nearby bridge washed out during previous storms.