Thursday, April 9, 2015

If this is Thursday it must be postcards, 189

 Sumpter Valley Railroad

Walter W. Klages took the photographs on this Signature Series, “Keep Scapes” postcard found it at the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center Museum in Baker City, Oregon. 

The Sumpter Valley Railroad was incorporated in 1890 for the purpose of hauling logs to a sawmill owned by the Grande Ronde Lumber Company of Perry, Oregon.  As a sort of interesting side note, the railway was financed by Mormons in Utah.   The narrow gauge railway began offering passenger and freight service a year later in 1891.  To reach the uncut forests further west the company extended the line in stages.  Sumpter was reached in 1896, later it continued on to Whitney, Tipton, Austin and Bates.  By 1910 the train could travel as far as to a ranching and mining community called Prairie City in Grant County. 

Automobiles and trucks began causing the railway to lose business and by 1933 the 20 miles of track between Prairie City and Bates were abandoned.  Passenger service on the remaining line ended in 1937.  In 1947 it ceased all operations except for 1.5 miles of track in the Oregon Lumber Company yard in South Baker City.  The last section was removed in 1961. 

A group of volunteers set out to rebuild the Sumpter Valley Railway in 1971.  The first locomotive, No. 3, a 1915 Heisler-type steam locomotive was restored and operational by 4 July 1976 on a track of less than one mile.  Over the next 15 years 6 miles of track were reinstalled by hand to connect the station at McEwen, Oregon with Sumpter, Oregon.  A second locomotive, SVR No. 19, a type 2-8-2 steam locomotive originally built in 1920, pictured on the postcard above, was restored and operational by 1996.

 Every summer since 2007 the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has operated a number of steam locomotives along the narrow gauge logging railroad line.  Also, in Prairie City the Sumpter Valley Railway Passenger station has been renovated by the Sumpter Valley Depot Restoration Committee.  It houses the DeWitt Museum with a collection of lanterns, lights, other railway artifacts, and photographs of the history of life along the rail line including train wrecks. 

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