The Pacific & Eastern began as the Medford & Crater Lake Railroad in Dec. 1904. Official ground breaking was in April 1905. The railroad reached Eagle Point in spring of 1907 and due to higher than expected costs ceased operation in May 1907.
In May 1907 James A. Hill, who was also involved in the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad purchased the line, renaming the railroad the Pacific & Eastern Railway. It was Hill’s goal to use the line as part of a bigger plan of reaching California.
Construction was restarted to Butte Falls and progressed smoothly. The line to Butte Falls was finished on April 1, 1911. An economic downturn in 1918 doomed the line with operations ceasing in Jan. 1919.
The rails lay dormant until Aug. 1920 when James N. Brownlee and Millard D. Olds pooled their resources into the Brownlee-Olds Lumber Company. Brownlee also bought the Pacific & Eastern Railway and all rolling stock. Their goal was to use the line to move timber from the nearby mountains to a new mill in Medford.
In 1923 Brownlee sold his shares to Olds. In May of 1924 Olds sold everything to John S. Owen. Owen and his backers formed the Owen-Oregon Lumber Company. The Medford Logging Railroad Company was incorporated as a wholly owned subsidiary.
In the late 1920’s serious thought was given to extending the line from Butte Falls to Klamath Falls. It was the hope of the planners that the line would give shippers a second route for product moving out of the valley. The financial collapse of 1929 ended the dream as funds became unavailable to finance the project.
In 1932 Owen-Oregon went into receivership. During the same year a group of Chicago based bondholders reorganized the property as the Medford Corporation, later known as MEDCO.
The line eventually reached as far as the Medco Ponds, about half way between Butte Falls and Prospect, and to just east of Willow Lake.The railroad continued into the early 60’s when it was determined that the logs could be better moved by truck. Operations ceased in 1962 with equipment being sold to other operators
The Medford Corporation ran on the rails of the former Pacific & Eastern through the 1930's. Eventually Medco and other lumber and business interests in the Rogue Valley became frustrated with the iron grip the Southern Pacific had on freight traffic in the area.These companies began to reconsider a rail line over the Cascades tying in with the Great Northern. When the Great Northern got wind of these plans, it took another look at completing the Pacific & Eastern and offered financial assistance in exchange for preferred interchange in Klamath Falls.
It came as little surprise that Weyerhaeuser Timber Company's West Block Lines, radiating out of Keno toward Buck Lake, came within thirty miles of Medco's lines heading southeast out of Butte Falls. Weyerhaeuser was contacted and it was agreed that the Great Northern and Rogue Valley interests would form a common carrier railroad and take over certain Weyerhaeuser lines in exchange for handling Weyerhaeuser log trains to Keno and
Klamath Falls. By 1940, money had been raised, a route surveyed and construction begun. As the United States entered World War II, the Pacific & Eastern entered Klamath Falls.
Over the years improvements were made. Grades and curves, acceptable on a logging line had to be eased for the P&E. Heavier rail and additional ballast was installed. The railroad was rebuilt to allow 25 mph freight service and 35 mph passenger trains. In the winter of 1942, a slide took out 450 feet of main line on a cut west of Summit and a westbound freight was unable to stop, the engineer and fireman perishing. The following year, a heavy eastbound failed to stop on the grade into Keno and collided head-on with a fast westbound, again with tragic loss of life. A decision was made to install Automatic Block Signals in the mountainous part of the P&E in order to detect slides, other trains and track defects.
1989 was the last full year that Medco operated its plywood and sawmills in Medford and is the year we've chosen to set our model of the Pacific & Eastern. Business is good, there's lots of timber and lumber moving as well as other freight. The Great Northern has become the Burlington Northern and the P&E interchanges with them as well as the Southern Pacific. P&E shippers enjoy a choice of routes out of Klamath Falls: BN's Inside Gateway to Stockton, CA. and points south; BN's Oregon Trunk to Wishram, WA. with connections east and west; and SP's Modoc Line to Nevada and points east. In Medford, the P&E interchanges with the SP's Siskiyou Line with some traffic to and from the California and Oregon Coast in Grants Pass.
(The California and Oregon Coast was once envisioned to connect Grants Pass, OR with Crescent City, CA. While it actually only made it as far as Waters Creek, just west of Wilderville, OR, in our scenario, it was completed to Crescent City, which has become a secondary west coast port.)
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799 Berrydale Avenue, Medford, Oregon 97501