• Portland - Seattle Line

  • Discussion relating to the BN, and its predecessors GN, NP, CB&Q, SP&S, SL-SF, and their subsidiaries. Visit the Friends of the Burlington Northern for more information.
Discussion relating to the BN, and its predecessors GN, NP, CB&Q, SP&S, SL-SF, and their subsidiaries. Visit the Friends of the Burlington Northern for more information.
  by bdawe
 
I've been wondering,

Why is there only one line between Portland and Seattle? Near as I can tell, this has always been the case. It seems odd to me that two cities of such age, size, and proximity have only ever been connected directly by the one line, especially given the shear number of railroads operating in either or both cities (NP, GN, UP, MILW, SP, SPS).
  by mtuandrew
 
bdawe wrote:I've been wondering,

Why is there only one line between Portland and Seattle? Near as I can tell, this has always been the case. It seems odd to me that two cities of such age, size, and proximity have only ever been connected directly by the one line, especially given the shear number of railroads operating in either or both cities (NP, GN, UP, MILW, SP, SPS).
A few reasons:
-Only one really suitable route exists, through the Cowlitz River valley.
-NP was the original builder, but it was entangled with the UP through the OR&N company.
-UP's entanglement meant that they were able to keep a trackage rights foothold over the Seattle-Portland line. Also, their main interchange with the Canadian lines was through Spokane, so Seattle was always their terminus.
-When GN gained control over the NP, they got themselves trackage rights over the existing line. I think their rights had something to do with building the bridge between Portland and Vancouver, WA, completing a connection between Vancouver and Longview, and eliminating the Longview ferry.
-The MILW did build south to Chehalis, WA, but the Cowlitz Valley was pretty well blocked by the UP and GN/NP. Besides, the Milwaukee was bankrupted by the Pacific Coast Extension, so they had to settle for trackage rights to the Port of Longview, WA. It took until the BN merger for them to get rights to either Portland or Canada.
-SP&S was always a wholly-owned subsidiary of GN and NP, and couldn't/wouldn't compete with them.
-SP was controlled through the early 1900s by the same group that led the UP. When the Federal government finally broke that trust, there really weren't any good routes left north of Portland. Rather than fight through UP and GN/NP-controlled territory to Seattle for a somewhat minimal interchange with the MILW and undercut its own business at the Portland ports, I guess that SP decided to leave it alone.
  by bdawe
 
Thanks, that does make a lot of sense, I suppose a lot of the development of the area happened after the cut-throat era of running parallel lines everywhere as well.
  by theseaandalifesaver
 
Isn't there currently two different lines for the UP and BNSF from Seattle to Portland?
  by bdawe
 
Nope. UP and BNSF have separate lines in Seattle and Portland, but betwixt them there only runs a single line
  by NorthWest
 
UP has a separate line from north Tacoma to south Seattle which was originally built by the Milwaukee Road. It was purchased when the PCE was abandoned to better anchor UP in the Seattle metropolitan area. UP still relies on trackage rights between north Tacoma and west Portland.
  by AgentSkelly
 
I seem to remember that there was one RR that was going to build another line Portland-Seattle, but I can't remember the name of whoever was going to do it. I know there was some nutty investor that wanted to build a line from the Oregon Trunk to Yakima....
  by bdawe
 
Isn't there a nutty investor planning a railroad between any two noticeable city pairs? Opening up a map of Seattle from the David Rumsey Collection on Google Earth i notice a few lines, some of which were marked as if they exist: http://rumsey.geogarage.com/maps/g4653000.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

notably, running along the shoreline south from West Seattle a "Portland & Puget Sound or Union Pacific", and a "Seattle & Southern (Proposed)" running south of West Seattle on the west side of the Duwamish River
  by wigwagfan
 
NorthWest wrote: Sun Aug 09, 2015 10:31 am UP still relies on trackage rights between north Tacoma and west Portland.
Reservation and NORTH Portland.
  by wigwagfan
 
bdawe wrote: Tue May 26, 2015 1:33 pm Why is there only one line between Portland and Seattle? Near as I can tell, this has always been the case. It seems odd to me that two cities of such age, size, and proximity have only ever been connected directly by the one line, especially given the shear number of railroads operating in either or both cities (NP, GN, UP, MILW, SP, SPS).
There were multiple areas where you had paralleling lines, but for a variety of factors these parallel lines didn't amount to mainlines and the Northern Pacific granted trackage rights to both Great Northern and Union Pacific, resulting in a relatively well-built double-track mainline that exists to this day and is the busiest railroad mainline anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. Not bad for foresight.

On the north end you had the Milwaukee Road (the Seattle-Reservation portion now owned and operated by Union Pacific), the NP's own Prairie Line from Tacoma to Tenino as well as the Nisqually line (now referred to as the Lakewood Subdivision) through Fort Lewis. Further south the Milwaukee had its line to Chehalis; the Longview, Portland & Northern Railroad had its common-carrier logging railroad from Kelso north to Vader, and then the Spokane, Portland & Seattle's Astoria line between Portland and Rainier - which was NP's original mainline (connected by a car ferry across the Columbia River) until the Columbia River drawbridge at Vancouver was built.

The Great Northern only went into Portland by way of NP trackage rights or by the jointly owned Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway. The SP did run through-sleepers to Seattle and certainly plenty of interchange freight traffic, but never its own trains north of Portland.

The value of having multiple lines might be a bit overstated; Portland-Eugene had at one time four separate rail lines and three of them for the most part exist today. But two of them are barely a one-train-a-day operation (both operated by the same regional, Portland & Western Railroad). And UP's single-track mainline is well below capacity running just a handful of trains each day. North of Seattle the Great Northern, Northern Pacific and Milwaukee Road had lines to the Canadian border, but only the ex-Great Northern line exists in whole today (segments of the ex-NP line survive but not the entire route.)