2012 articles About Offbeat Oregon 2012 articles 2011 articles 2010 articles 2008-2009 articles About me Store (the Finn J.D. John Centre for Crass Commercialism and Filthy Lucre)
Link to Web site for Wicked Portland: The Wild and Lusty Underworld of a Frontier Seaport Town z
The Trail:

The City of Cottage Grove has an excellent Web site for the Row River Trail, into which the "Blue Goose" was turned in the 1980s.

Here's the National Recreation Trails site, which has better pictures.

then and now:

On Brian McCamish's amazing Website of active and abandoned Northwest railways, you'll find photos of the Blue Goose crossing the bridge at Brice Creek (above) -- and a pic of the bridge today (below).

The rivers:

The Center for Columbia River History has an excellent on-line historical research site titled "Cottage Grove and the Willamette River."

Movies:

These are a few of the movies shot along the train tracks the Blue Goose used to ply. Click a poster to see a synopsis from IMDb.

you just might ALSO
enjoy ...

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Whale explodes: Details at 11.

The highway department guy didn't know how much dynamite to use, and said so on camera. But he still thinks the operation was a success. Check out the story of Florence's famous exploding whale ...

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Far-out guru "enlightens" Central Oregon.

What happens when a colony of acolytes of an East Indian guru move in, then try to take over Wasco County? Check out the four-part story of the rise and fall of Rajneeshpuram ...

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this oregon youth went on to save half a billion lives...guess who?

A local Willamette Valley teen-ager named Bert Hoover, an orphan sent from Iowa to live with his uncle, went on to save millions of lives and become a singularly ill-starred U.S. president.

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oregon's most spectacular shipwreck ever.

The steam schooner J. Marhoffer was almost brand-new when, burning fiercely from stem to stern, it piled onto the rocks near Depoe Bay. It's the remains of this fiery shipwreck that gave Boiler Bay its name ...

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the gallant rescue of portland's floating brothel.

Maritime madam Nancy Boggs kept her bordello on a barge floating in the river, until a police raid cut it loose. But the captain and crew of a sternwheeler came to save the day. Here's the story.

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take off to the province of oregon, eh?

Few people know how close Oregon came to officially becoming a British possession under the treaty that ended the War of 1812. Only the presence of a handful of scattered, starving survivors from Astor's fur enterprise prevented it. Here's how.

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timberline lodge could have been a glass skyscraper

Calling the plan a "profit-making eyesore," a Forest Service manager nixed 1920s plan for a modern steel-and-glass structure with an aerial tramway. You can read about it right here.

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pixieland: an edgy, vanished amusement park

Built in the late 1960s as a "fairy-tale history of Oregon," the amusement park lasted just a few years before slipping into receivership. Today, all that's left of this odd and uniquely Oregonian story is a dilapidated guardshack.


Offbeat Oregon History: Album cover art

Steam excursion train line is now a new bike path

Until the 1980s, you could ride the "Blue Goose" up the Row River past where "Stand By Me" was shot, near Cottage Grove.. Today, it's a 15.6-mile bike trail.

At the east end of Cottage Grove there’s a little park by Mosby Creek. From this park, a magnificent bike path – a ten-foot-wide strip of high-quality asphalt – heads out of town to the southeast to Culp Creek, 15.6 miles up the Row River from town.

Twenty-five years ago, a steam-powered passenger excursion train known as the “Blue Goose” chuffed up this bike path on a set of rails first laid in 1901.

Why did they get rid of the train?

The switch from passenger-carrying railroad to bike path still draws grim looks from many Cottage Grove residents, especially those with experience in tourism-related enterprises. The potential draw of a 31-mile steam-train ride leaving from just off Interstate 5 and passing through the scenes of three major Hollywood movies – “Stand By Me,” “Emperor of the North Pole” and “The General” – seems obvious.

But to take advantage of something like that, capital is required, and in the late 1980s this little timber-products town was on the ropes. The Bureau of Land Management’s rails-to-trails project was a bird in the hand, and any plan to preserve the Goose was very much in the bush. And so the Oregon Pacific and Eastern railroad spur ended a nearly 90-year run by becoming an exceptionally long, scenic and gently graded bike path.

Tracks laid to serve miners, lumber mills

The railroad did not start out with any idea of hauling passengers. When it was first built, the original plan for the line – then called the “Oregon and Southeastern,” nicknamed “Old Slow and Easy” -- was to service the Bohemia Mining District, even farther up the Row River. By the time it was built, the mines were playing out, but the hills around it were thick with old-growth timber, so there was no danger of the line going idle. Mills, lumber camps and communities sprang up along the line.

Even at the best of times, timber has always been an unreliable economic base. Even minor recessions can halt the housing market and send a flurry of pink slips flying out of front offices. So locals were probably pleased when Willis Kyle, in 1970, joined with a local mill operator, Bohemia Inc. (now defunct; here's a link to Mike Thoele's 1998 book about the company), to buy the line. Kyle was an experienced excursion-train operator, and had owned the Yreka Western line in California since 1956.

This was the start of the Blue Goose excursions. On weekends, with the line to themselves, passengers got pulled by a Baldwin 2-8-2 steam engine — Engine No. 19, on loan from Kyle's Yreka Western operation. On weekdays, the diesel locomotives were used.

End of the line

But toward the end of the 1980s, Bohemia sold out to Willamette Industries, and Willamette found it more cost-effective to truck all its wood to a central staging point in Eugene before loading it on rail cars. Left to carry the full burden of the line, Kyle sold his share to Willamette as well, in 1987 – and that was the beginning of the end for the Blue Goose.

It's Willamette Industries, a much-loved and lamented Oregon timber empire recently absorbed in a hostile takeover by Weyerhaeuser, that must shoulder the lion's share of responsibility for the death of the Blue Goose. After buying the line, it pulled up the tracks and traded the right-of-way to the Bureau of Land Management in lieu of a payment on a timber sale.

The BLM was left with a graded path, but no rails and no rolling stock.

Even if a deal could have been made with the BLM to bring the Goose back, it would have taken an enormous amount of capital to bring the Blue Goose back from that point. And with the timber-based local economy in a slump that looked alarmingly terminal, there wasn’t much capital to go around.

So after a deal was made with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the old line became the new Row River Trail.

By the way, the Oregon Pacific and Eastern still exists; the name was bought when the line was decommissioned. The current OP&E runs a narrow-gauge line at Wildlife Safari, a sort of free-range drive-through zoo just south of Roseburg, in Winston.

(Sources: Bureau of Land Management; www.cottagegrove.org/trail;  www.abandonedrailroads.com; Sullivan, Bill. Hiking Oregon’s History. Eugene: Navillus, 2006)

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