Railroad through Canemah


Oregon City, Feb 23

The Oregon City and Southern Railway Company today filed a suit against the Oregon and California Railroad Company and the Southern Pacific Company for condemnation of the right of way at grade over two crossing in Canemah. The court is asked to make an order granting said right of way over the tracks of the Southern Pacific, and to determine the remuneration to be paid by the Oregon City & Southern. The track of the Oregon City & Southern is completed to the city limits of Oregon City at the southern extremity, and would likely be of use ot the Portland & Oregon City to run its cars down past the flouring mills.  


The Sunday Oregonian, February 24, 1901


Object of Trolley Line to Canemah Landing


Southern Pacific Opposes the Move to Order to Protect Its Business in the Willamette Valley – Fight on Grade Crossing

Two reasons are given for the opposition of the Southern Pacific Company to the Oregon City & Southern, the projected extension of the present Oregon City trolley link. One is that the proposed extension of the trolley line would bring into operation a fierce strife for traffic along the river. The other is that it would open the way to further extension in the Willamette Valley, into a field that is now exclusively Southern Pacific. It is not supposed that there is anything in the rumor that the O. R. & N. is behind the trolley line’s efforts to get entrance to the Willamette Valley; circumstances are against this theory.

River competition already forces many Southern Pacific charges below what Pacific Coast roads beyond the influence of water ordinarily levy. Water transportation now reaches Salem, Albany, Corvallis, Independence, McMinnville, Dayton and innumerable smaller places; in fact, comparatively little of the traffic of the Willamette Valley is beyond the influence of river competition. All the traffic coming out of the Willamette Valley by river is subject to the lockage of 50 cents a ton, or a per capita charge for passage through the locks at Oregon City. By transferring to rails at Canemah, at a cost estimated not to exceed 5 cents per ton, the river charge would be cut 45 cents per ton below present rates, which reduction the Southern Pacific would have to meet in order to do business. This is the situation with reference to outward-bound traffic, and the same cause would operate as well on business destined up the Valley. Roughly, it may be said that the lockage is 25 to 33 percent of the total charge for taking freight up or down the Willamette River. A reduction of so great a percent would mean much to the Southern Pacific, while the steamboats would still be as well off as under present conditions, such reduction not coming from their pockets at all, but from the Portland General Electric Company, which owns and operates the locks.


The O. R. & N. has steamers on the Willamette River, and is thus a competitor with the Southern Pacific in that field. It is not improbable that it might make traffic arrangements with the trolley line. But, the same privilege would be open to the other steamer lines on the river.

The present project of the Oregon City & Southern is to get a river landing in the upper part of Canemah. To reach that point the route is along the county road, which in the first place had but a narrow resting place between the bluff and the river’s edge, and part of that was taken by the Southern Pacific track. Now the trolley line is forced out to the brink and even at that teams must travel upon it in places in order to use the county road, therefore the requirements that the track be planked. At the lower edge of Canemah the trolley route crosses the railroad to follow the county thoroughfare and a few blocks further south the trolley route recrosses the railroad in order to reach the river landing. Those two crossings are what the railfoad company is fighting against just now. The lay of the land is such that any other than grade crossing there would not be impracticable.

It is not absolutely necessary that the trolley line should follow that route in Canemah. To continue along the river bank to the landing is said to be practicable, though a much more expensive route to build on.

It is said that the Oregon City & Southern has plans for building further up the Valley, tapping the rich Molalla and adjacent prairies and going even to the Silverton country. This would introduce new competition at points not affected by the river.

As the matter now stands the Oregon City & Southern has its track laid to the southern boundary of Oregon City, about 1700 feet beyond the end of the Portland City & Oregon track. Proceedings to condemn the crossings have been commenced in the Clackamas County Circuit Court and further construction operations will, it is said, await the issue of these proceedings. Haste was necessary within the city in order to prevent the franchise there from lapsing, but outside the city delays on account of legal obstacles are not permitted to run against the franchise.


To the vigilance of W. C. Ganong, who for 40 years has lived on his pleasant farm on the east bank of the Willamette, is due the fact that a wagon road along the river is preserved, giving entrance to Oregon City from that direction without climbing a 400-foot hill. He fought the Oregon & California Railroad when it threatened to occupy the wagon road, and he fought appropriation of the county thoroughfare by the new Oregon City & Southern trolley line. In both cases he won his contention and preserved his road to the county seat. Now he complacently watches the track builders and is heartily in favor of encouraging the new road.

“We want this trolley line, we want railroads,” said Mr. Ganong yesterday, “but we also want and must have our wagon road to the county seat. I am not willing to have the wagon road wholly occupied by railroads in a situation like this, between Oregon City and Canemah. Let the others come, but let them build in such a way that they will not block the wagon road. We can’t afford to climb over a mountain to get to Oregon City.”

When the Oregon & California got a franchise in the county road between Oregon City and Canemah in 1870 Mr. Ganong was instrumental in having the terms closely defined. The wagon road was not to be encroached upon except where it could not be avoided, and the railroad company was bound to maintain the wagon road in good repair. He interfered at various stages of the work to insist upon protection of the wagon road, and he still holds the pass.


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