Vintage trolley may soon roll on LO rail line

Consortium will lease a vintage trolley car

The Willamette Shore Line, which has been out of service since mid 2010, could begin rolling again, this time with a vintage trolley car from Portland.

The historic line connects Lake Oswego with Portland's South Waterfront, but it hasn't been used since its one and only trolley car became inoperable.

Now, the consortium that funds the line - based in the Foothills district - has reached an agreement to lease a vintage trolley car from Portland. The leased car is the least expensive option of those proposed by TriMet and will ensure the tourist attraction will be up and running as soon as possible.

TriMet reported that the 'vintage trolley is the recommended option for immediate restoration of service of the short leg.'

A historic line

The consortium of local and regional governments, which includes the cities of Lake Oswego and Portland, Oregon's Department of Transportation, TriMet, Metro and Clackamas County, bought the historic rail right of way in 1987. Since then, the Oregon Electric Heritage Railroad Society has operated the trolley service on the line.

Each year, consortium members pay $80,000 in dues to cover maintenance, with fees going for such things as trestle and tunnel inspections and repair, and track work and landscaping maintenance done by railroad society.

When the trolley car broke down, the consortium was faced with the dilemma of what to do with the line.

Streetcar vs. Trolley

Extension of Portland's streetcar into Lake Oswego will go to a vote in Lake Oswego early next year. If it is approved, the trolley service could be considered unnecessary becasue both trains would use the rail line. However, the future of the extension is still uncertain, which is why TriMet is considering several options for the rail line.

'If the streetcar happens, then the trolley would then cease to exist, since the streetcar would be running on the right of way,' said Brant Williams, Lake Oswego's director of economic and capital development.

Williams said the consortium has decided to lease a trolley from Portland in order to get the service up and running again, but legal issues remain. Before service is reestablished, changes have to be made to the operating agreement.

'The city of Lake Oswego has to revise the operating agreement with OEHRS to take into account the new trolley we leased from Portland,' Williams said.

Repairs needed

If the consortium wants to extend the service further, there would have to be significant repairs to the trestles and tunnel on the line. Right now, consortium revenues are not able to keep pace with the needs for a new trolley vehicle and proper maintenance of the rights of way and rail line.

The budget allows for immediate restoration of service to the 'short leg' between downtown Lake Oswego and the south end of the long trestle.

However, the full alignment requires significant drainage repair in the Powers Marine Park area, which could cost about $185,000.

'If we were to go with the long leg, which goes through Marine Park, the drainage issues would have to be dealt with. That is not in our budget right now,' said Williams.

But they are in the streetcar extension budget.

'All of the issues concerning the trolley service are dealt with in the streetcar budget,' Williams said.

The city of Lake Oswego and other consortium members feel as though the trolley provides a public service by educating area residents about this local source of history and pride. The streetcar would also do this, but the decision on that will come in 2012.

'Many people would like to see the streetcar extended, but it depends on the advisory vote to the council in May,' Williams said.