Northern Pacific Terminal Co. – Portland Terminal Railroad Co.

Sharing some love’

I am sure you never saw this coming, but with all these great passenger trains being made, we need a ‘Terminal’ switcher right? Many of you are familiar with the Terminal Railroad of St Louis, but what about this line of similar purpose in the Northwest?

Over twenty five years ago I started sharing my love for the Spokane Portland & Seattle Railroad by producing special runs of that line in N scale. Now it’s time to share some more love. This time, for the terminal railroad that served such a vital role in my hometown. I even got to ride along several times as a long time family friend was the number #1 seniority engineer for the line in 1970. Those are great memories. 

The NPTCo. was formed way back in 1882 and backed by Henry Villard.  Villard was building his rail empire in the northwest with the Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Co, and later took over the Northern Pacific Railroad.

The NPTCo. was always a local railroad serving the industries in Northwest Portland and Portland’s very busy Union Station. 

Union Station served passenger trains for every railroad in and out of Portland. They were: Northern Pacific, Great Northern, Union Pacific, Southern Pacific and Spokane, Portland & Seattle railroads. These NPTCo (later PTRRCo) switchers also worked the Coast Pool Trains, the Portland sections of the North Coast Limited and Empire Builder as well as the NP’s Mainstreeter and GN’s Western Star. Those two trains were known as ‘secondary trains’ as they had the slower schedule with more stops then the primary trains Empire Builder and North Coast Limited.

The freight operations were centered at Guild’s Lake Yard located north of Union Station.  It was simply called ‘Lake Yard’.  The coach yard that was located at Lake Yard from back in the heyday has been replaced with intermodal yard, and is still a very busy place.

By 1965 times were changing for railroads. The Hill lines, NP, GN, SP&S & CB&Q were talking merger and NPTCo changed it’s name to Portland Terminal Railway to better suit all railroads. The Hill Lines did merge finally in 1970 and the Portland Terminal Railroad continued on into the 80’s at which point most of the Alco switchers were retired. Now today, the UP and BNSF provide power to share the duties of moving freight at the yard. While most of the street tracks in NW Portland have been pulled up, you will still find steel rails laying in some parts of the cobblestone to this day.

I am confident that this special run will only be done this one time as it is a small railroad. And even if it turns out to be popular, the run quantities are set, and it will not be rerun.

I am sure that all of our SP&S friends and fans of these other lines will enjoy, this taste of Northwest railroading!

Lowell Smith

A native of Portland, Oregon, Lowell Smith married his church choir sweetheart Barb in 1978. After a lifetime of rail-fanning, Lowell and Barb ventured out in 1992 to launch a new business in Portland, Oregon. Read more

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