22 thoughts on “SW 4th Avenue, 1932

  1. I wonder why they decided in this case to remove the rail and ties before they put down a road where in so many other cases throughout Portland they just paved right over the tracks. It’s too bad they didn’t do this throughout the city since those buried tracks cause a lot of problems.

  2. On the “related” post “SW 4th Avenue, 1932” (which looks like more of today’s “road”)
    https://vintageportland.wordpress.com/2020/09/10/sw-4th-avenue-1932-2/
    Bob Melbo said that the VP photo in that post was “…incorrectly labeled a “streetcar line” is actually the abandoned roadbed of Southern Pacific’s former West Side Branch which ran down 4th Street in Portland before entering upon private right of way….” Would that pertain, here?

  3. The Chinese laborers who graded and built this rail bed in the 1860s had probably never heard of a streetcar line, because it was built for the Oregon and California Railroad. The gauge and weight capacity of this line were substantially more robust that streetcar lines. Heavy freight cars on this line as it made its way down Fourth Ave into the city were the source of many complaints when the Southern Pacific owned the right-of-way.

  4. It’s too bad we can’t get an exact location from each of these pictures instead of just “S.W. 4th Avenue, 1932”

  5. The amount of discarded debris scattered around isn’t surprising by today’s standards but I found it somewhat unexpected here. So many lots “out in the country” can become resting places for scattered piles of discarded equipment, rusted vehicles, and dilapidated old buildings.

  6. wploulorenziprince ~ Here, in North Dakota, ‘scattered piles of discarded equipment, rusted vehicles, & dilapidated old buildings’ is a pretty accurate description of a lot of old family farms not yet absorbed by corporate farming methods. I guess in those days, folks didn’t have the equipment to haul off rusted & discarded implements. I don’t know how people got as much done as they did in those days. I can’t keep up on our place with all the modern conveniences. Only the indigenous people seemed to have left little or no ‘footprint’.

  7. As a location follow-up. There is a photo in the same Efiles container (possibly soon to come to VP) labeled 10862-34 (https://efiles.portlandoregon.gov/Record/5204715/) of (probably) the same bridge seen in today’s photo. It appears long enough and the gorge underneath deep enough to be the one I linked to above. Unfortunately, per PortlandMaps.com, there are no existing houses in this area built before 1932 to help confirm it.

  8. I recognize the house at the right in this photo. Its on Barbur Blvd. just south of SW Woods St., looking south. The house is still there, with Barbur right at its doorstep.

  9. Adding support is the construction date of the house (1912). In addition there is an old creek that shows up on Google TOPO view to the south of this house that would explain the railroad bridge seen in today’s photo.

  10. The bridge in the distance was replaced with a big full starting just past Sheridan Street and the beginning of Barbur Blvd. Definitely not a streetcar line, but rather the northern end of the old Western Oregon RR that eventually became part of the Southern Pacific and then was electrified as an interurban. Abandonment came about as other lines were built rendering this line unneeded plus the likely need for the franchise renewal not being granted by the city to operate down 4th.

  11. Here is a screenshot of that Train on downtown SW 4th. This is taken from Don Nelson book – Portland: Weird, Wonderful, Bizarre.

    “The above photo from 1911 shows a Southern Pacific passenger train heading south on SW 4th Avenue near Morrison Street.
    “The Oregon Central Railroad started installing railroad tracks in SW 4th Avenue beginning in the early 1870s when this downtown area was residential. The Southern Pacific later took it over in the 1880s.
    “This rail line was electrified for use by the Southern Pacific Red Electrics which began operating in 1914. It was discontinued in 1929. The railroad right of way was donated to the city of Portland in December 1930. The rails were paved over in 1931.“

  12. Mike, regarding why they removed the tracks & ties here but left them elsewhere: most of the streetcars were franchised to operate within existing City right of way. Barbur was a railway embankment that was converted to a roadway so it was widened and re-graded, It would have been hard to build the roadway without disturbing the tracks. Streetcar lines were largely built in existing roadways so no regrading was needed. When the streetcar lines went broke or were abandoned no one was wiling to pay to have the tracks removed.

  13. That’s a great picture of train No. 39, the PR&N Passenger (Portland Railway & Navigation Co.) scheduled to depart Union Station at 8:45 a.m. en route to Hillsboro and the start of the PR&N line toward Tillamook. After climbing up the east face of the West Hills (today’s Barbur Boulevard) the railway turned northwest and passed through Bertha (on what is today Bertha Boulevard). Bertha was a flag stop at 9:14 a.m. The railroad then swung more westward passing through Shattuck, Raleigh and Beaverton. The Capitol Highway overcrossing of Bertha Boulevard in Burlingame originally spanned this rail line and the Bertha depot was just north of the overpass. There was a stairway from Capitol Highway down to the track level. Let’s keep in mind that the electrified interurban era only lasted about 14 years and came at the end of this line’s existence. For its first 44 years it was a steam-powered heavy duty railroad and references to it as a “streetcar” operation don’t do it justice. There are a number of Oregon cities that still host heavy-duty mainline railroads in their streets, among them Hillsboro, Rainier, Salem, Albany, Harrisburg, Junction City and Coos Bay. After eight people were killed in a head-on collision between two interurban trains in May 1920, the line was equipped with block signals from Sheridan Street in Portland to Beaverton.

  14. From the Oregonian November 15, 1930 Page 1

    Railroad Offers 4th Street Gift
    The Southern Pacific railroad yesterday offered to donate to the city its $200,000 right of way from Sheridan street to Bertha for a highway that is 3.1 miles long and will make Fourth street one on the important arteries of the city, tapping the Capitol highway and highways to the beaches.

    Five Bridges Involved
    The right of way owned by the company starts on Fourth street at Sheridan street, and is 80 feet wide in some places. Most of the way it is 60 feet wide, and there is a short space where it is 30 feet. It has five bridges which also would be taken over by the city. City Engineer Laurgaard estimated on June 29, 1929, that the right of way itself was worth $96,850, the five bridges $86,000 and the cost of taking out the tracks and paving the street on Fourth street would be $17,500, a total cost of $200,000.

    Barbur Blvd dedication story in the Oregonian was published October 26, 1934

  15. Oregonian December 21, 1930 Page 15

    This is a portion of a story from this date
    Commissioner Barbur has contended that the city should widen the right of way to 100 feet now when land is cheap and when the earth taken from one part of the right of way can be used to fill another. There are five trestles along the way, some of which will be replaces by fills.
    Barbur Blvd. was named after commissioner A. L. Barbur

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