Railfan Sites in Oregon
A self-guiding railfan tour
Railfan, railfan--where do you see trains in Oregon?
Mapwork: If you're going to be looking for railfan locations, you'll need an industrial strength map resource. I definitely recommend you get a DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, study it before your trip, and copy pertinent pages for your field work. You can find information here about Railfan Maps that are available.
Cities And Sites
If you start your exploration of the UP (ex-SP) Cascade crossing at Oakridge, you'll end up in Cascade Summit. I don't know how many people live there-- it's on the Rand McNally 1998 map, but no population figures are given. In my latest State of Oregon map (from 1972, and I'm not kidding), the hamlet doesn't even show up. Be that as it may, it's a place on the railroad map, and that's what counts. Geographically, it's on the south bank of Odell Lake, and is reached from OR-58, by driving south on primary forest road #5810. Obviously, I'd want to have a darned good map in hand before I went zooming around here. Also, I don't think I'd want to do it in a creampuff 1957 Chevy -- bring a 4x4 vehicle, a real big cooler, and enjoy yourself. This is a place for some wonderful train pix.
According to Jeff Pape, from whom all of the following information comes, you have to remember that there are basically 2 seasons: Summer and Snow. In the summer, any car can go to the siding at the summit as the road from OR-58 is paved. In the winter a car with tire chains can usually do it. Shelter Cove Marina keeps the road plowed, but it usually is packed snow or ice in a cut in the snow as much as 10 feet deep! Due to the hills, chains on a car would be required to get back up to the highway. A 4x4 with self-clearing deeper treads does fine.
This entire area is part of the Willamette National Forest. The US Forest Service enforces trailhead parking and use fees. The access road to the track is a trailhead. To avoid paying fees, park at the marina store, buy some snacks and stuff from them. Introduce yourself, and ask if you can park in their lot for a few hours. Unless the marina is very busy, you'll probably be successful. It's only a 200 yard walk to the tracks, but UP has put up a gate to keep vehicles away from its property.
The marina has a variety of cabins for rent, and would seem to form the point of departure for a Cascade railfan vacation. There is also a Forest Service camp, Trapper Creek, very close to Cascade Summit, and some of the campsites are right on the lake and are magnificent.
Cell phone service varies from good to poor, and can so vary in as little as 100 feet.
From the Webmaster: The May, 1996 issue of TRAINS Magazine has a map of the entire Cascade crossing area, as well as some suggested photo locations. Get the mag, do some planning and plotting, and go up there and enjoy yourself!
Along the majorly important Union Pacific mainline following the Columbia River in Oregon, there are some famous railroad names: Hinkle, Oregon Trunk Junction and Hood River(?). Well, maybe the latter is a stretch, but it's sure worth a visit. Here, the freight and passenger train operator Mt. Hood Railroad has its headquarters. This shortline goes up the Hood River valley to the town of Parkdale.
Hood River is a tourist town today. There are restaurants, hotels/motels, gift shops, etc. Bring the family and have some fun. Watch Uncle Pete's mighty parade; take a dinner train thru the magnificent scenery of the Hood River Valley, and if all that's too fast for you, watch the barges on the Columbia River. With less than 5,000 souls in town, it's easy to find the tracks. Take the 2nd Street exit (either exit 63 or 64) from I-84 into town, and go south over the UP and Hood River Railroad tracks. Turn west onto US-30, take your first right, and drive along Industrial Street to see what's going on.
Your friendly Webmaster would like to thank Ryan Dais for this information.
The August, 1997, issue of TRAINS Magazine*, has a great picture of the LaGrande yard and station area on page 36. This photo is all you need to plan your photography and train-watching in LaGrande. Essentially, there is a major, two-story station, with the UP mainline tracks directly in front of it. Take pix from anywhere off-railroad property here, and you'll get some good pix without worrying about trespassing. Plan ahead for sun angles.
*[Note: This material was adapted from info provided by TRAINS Magazine in August of 1997. If you don't subscribe to TRAINS, well, you should. It's an excellent publication. Get on its web site here. ]
Oakridge is not a big town, by most yardsticks, but at 3100 souls, is the most populous town for more than a few miles. If you wish to scout out the UP (ex-SP) Cascade crossing, this is your point of departure. Reached via OR-58 from Eugene, Oakridge is pretty much the gateway to the big show in the mountains. You can't really "do" Oakridge to Cascade Summit in a day or even two, so you might want to research the internet to see if there are lodgings or a B&B in the Oakridge area. Please let me know what you find out, so I can include it here. There is a good picture, in the May, 1996, issue of TRAINS Magazine* of an Amtrak train passing a largely deserted yard in Oakridge, ca 1996, which shows obvious off-railroad areas for photography.
Joel Ashcroft contributes the following information: Train frequency is about 25 trains per 24-hour period. Oakridge is frequently used for adding helpers, and is the headquarters for the maintenance crews in the area. Snow fighting equipment and work trains are also based at Oakridge.
*[Note: This material was adapted from info provided by TRAINS Magazine in May of 1996. If you don't subscribe to TRAINS, well, you should. It's an excellent publication. Get on its web site here. ]