Oregon Railway & Navigation Co. (ORy&N)
Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. (ORR&N)
Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Co. (O-WRR&N)

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Throughout the 1880s, control of railroads and railroading in the Pacific Northwest was a much contested issue. Henry Villard had assembled the original Oregon Railway & Navigation in 1880 from several small railroad and steam ship navigation companies that were providing freight and passenger services along the Columbia River. In late 1883, his dreams of greatness came crashing down due to astounding levels of debt, causing him to flee to Europe. He left behind 219 miles of ORy&N rail line along the south bank of the Columbia River between Portland, Oregon and Wallula, Washington where it connected with Northern Pacific's line south from Spokane.

Through a parent company called Oregon & Transcontinental that controlled both ORy&N and NP, Villard had also been president of Northern Pacific. NP completed its transcontinental line from St. Paul to a connection with ORy&N at Wallula, Oregon in early September 1883, giving NP access to the Portland trade via its ORy&N connection along the south bank of the Columbia River.

(Read the Wikipedia article about Henry Villard)

Union Pacific completed its Oregon Short Line across Idaho to Huntington, Oregon in early November 1884, and by the end of the month, ORy&N had completed its own line across the Blue Mountains to Huntington, driving the last spike on November 25, 1884. Through service for UP between Omaha and Portland officially began on December 1, 1884. Immediately, UP sought to control its access to Portland using ORy&N and negotiations soon commenced. A lease of ORy&N by OSL was the result two years later.

After Villard gave up his control of both ORy&N and NP in 1883, NP continued building its route, and in July 1887, in accordance with its land grant charter, completed its line across Washington from Spokane to Tacoma, on Puget Sound. This gave NP direct access to Pacific ports in the Seattle/Tacoma area in direct competition to UP's access to Portland via ORy&N.

(Read the Wikipedia article about Northern Pacific, Jay Cooke, and Henry Villard)

Union Pacific controlled Oregon Short Line, and OSL's lease of ORy&N gave UP a direct line to Portland. OSL's lease of ORy&N took effect on January 1, 1887. In September 1889 UP through its OSL subsidiary bought Oregon & Transcontinental's 50 percent interest in ORy&N, giving UP control of this important link to the Pacific ports.

ORy&N operated its own road from March 1880 to April 1887. From April 1887 to July 1889, ORy&N was leased to OSL. In July 1889 OSL merged with Utah & Northern, forming the Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway, which continued OSL's lease of ORy&N. With OSL's purchase of ORy&N stock from Oregon & Transcontinental in November 1889, ORy&N became the Pacific Division of Union Pacific, and in 1890 ORy&N's equipment was renumbered into the 1885 UP numbering scheme.

OSL&UN continued the lease of ORy&N until October 1893 when UP and OSL&UN both entered receivership. ORy&N was assigned its own receiver in July 1894, at which time ORy&N regained control of its operations. This explains the 1894 renumbering of ORy&N equipment.

The Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company was incorporated on July 16, 1896 as a reorganization of Oregon Railway & Navigation Company, which had been in receivership since 1893. ORR&N took possession of ORy&N on August 17, 1896. (OWRR&N Corporate History, for ICC, June 30, 1916)

In August 1896 ORy&N was reorganized as ORR&N with majority of stock still owned by the Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway, itself reorganized as the Oregon Short Line Railroad (OSL) in 1897.

As part of the financial settlement that reorganized the railroad, ORR&N was equally controlled by GN, NP and UP so that none of the three competing railroads controlled access to Portland. By July 1899, UP had gained full control of ORR&N through its newly reorganized OSL subsidiary.

By late 1899, E. H. Harriman's control of UP (and its OSL subsidiary) was in place, and OSL control of ORR&N brought ORR&N back under UP control.

O-WRR&N was incorporated in November 1910 as a consolidation of Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. and 14 other companies in the states of Oregon and Washington.

OWRR&N Corporate History

Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Co. coprorate history as of June 30, 1916 (PDF; 163 pages; 60.1MB)


Oregon Railway & Navigation Company

June 13, 1879
Oregon Railway & Navigation Company was incorporated in Oregon to purchase the interests of the Oregon Steam Navigation Company.

(Read more about the Oregon Steam Navigation Company and its three portage railroads)

March 31, 1880
Oregon Railway & Navigation Company purchased the portage railroads and steamships of Oregon Steam Navigation Company

October 1880 to April 1881
ORy&N completed its new standard gauge railroad between Celilo (at the eastern end of the 13.8-mile portage railroad between The Dalles and Celilo) and Wallula, Washington, a distance of 113.3 miles.

June 1881
Henry Villard organized the Oregon & Transcontinental Company to purchase control of both Northern Pacific Railway and the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company. ORy&N and NP had signed an agreement in October 1880 that would give NP direct access to Portland over ORy&N tracks. Villard feared that after Northern Pacific completed its transcontinental line from St. Paul, the new railroad would soon take control of ORy&N. (Memoirs of Henry Villard, pages 295, 299)

General timeline for route completion (eastward from Portland to Huntington):

May 1882
ORy&N completed a standard gauge connection between the two portages on the Oregon side of the Columbia River, between The Dalles and Bonneville, 46.2 miles down-river.

November 1882
ORy&N completed a standard gauge railroad between Portland and Bonneville (40.7 miles) making for an all-railroad connection between Portland and Wallula (163.6 miles).

February 23, 1883
ORy&N and UP signed an agreement that set the connecting point between the roads at Huntington, Oregon. (Asay, page 39)

September 1883
NP completed its transcontinental line between St. Paul and Wallula, Oregon, connecting with ORy&N. Both NP and ORy&N were controlled by Villard's Oregon & Transcontinental Company.

December 17, 1883
Henry Villard resigned as president of ORy&N, NP, and the Oregon & Transcontinental holding company, and moved (some say "fled") back to Berlin, Germany. Apparently his creative financial promotions had caught up with him.

November 11, 1884
ORy&N was completed to Huntington, Oregon, and a connection with UP's Oregon Short Line Railway. (Asay, page 42)

November 20, 1884
OSLRy was completed to Huntington, Oregon. (OSL corporate history for ICC, page 25)

November 25, 1884
Last spike ceremony for OSLRy and ORy&N at Huntington, Oregon was on November 25, 1884. Present were officials of both OSL and ORy&N, along with members of the press and local citizens. (Salt Lake Tribune, November 30, 1884).

December 1, 1884
The connection of OSLRy and ORy&N at Huntington, Oregon was officially opened for traffic. (OWRR&N Corporate History, 1916)

January 1, 1887
ORy&N was leased to UP through its OSLRy subsidiary, giving UP direct access to Portland.

July 1887
NP completed to Tacoma, Washington by building northwest from Wallula (and its connection with ORy&N) to Yakima, then over Stampede Pass to Tacoma.

(Remember that NP and ORy&N were both still owned and controlled by Oregon & Transcontinental Company, whose officers, directors and shareholders were now focused on expansion of Northern Pacific. O&T was organized by Villard in 1881, but he was no longer associated with either of the two railroads, or the parent holding company.)

July 27, 1889
The lease of OWRy&N to OSLRy (dated January 1, 1887) continued after the consolidation that formed Oregon Short Line & Utah Northern Railway.

September 1889
OSL&UN (UP) purchased fifty percent ownership (and control) of ORy&N, at a cost of $12 million, by direct purchase from Henry Villard's Oregon & Transcontinental Company. (Memoirs of Henry Villard, page 332) This was to prevent Northern Pacific from taking the same action to control ORy&N. (Trottman, History of the UP, page 237)

November 17, 1889
ORy&N was reorganized as Pacific Division of Union Pacific System (Asay, page 63)

Edwin McNeill, formerly General Manager of St. Joseph & Grand Island Railroad, was named as General Superintendent of ORy&N, with headquarters in Portland. McNeill quit in July 1891, but returned in July 1894 as ORy&N's receiver. (Asay, pages 63, 67)

October 13, 1893
UP entered receivership, along with all of its leased and controlled subsidiaries, including OSL&UN and ORy&N

July 3, 1894
ORy&N was assigned its own receiver (ORy&N was controlled by UP through stock ownership, leased for operation to OSLRy, and after 1889, the OSL&UN). The OSL&UN lease in effect until the date of its "a certain unknown date in 1894".

Edwin McNeill was named as ORy&N receiver in July 1894. He had previously been ORy&N General Superintendent from 1890 to July 1891. McNeill held the receiver position until ORy&N was sold to ORR&N on August 17, 1896. (Asay, pages 67, 70) McNeill became ORR&N president, but was replaced in July 1897 by A. L. Mohler, who was voted in by James J. Hill's three board members. (Asay, page 74; New York Times, May 19, 1897)

Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company

August 17, 1896
Oregon Railroad & Navigation Company (ORR&N) purchased ORy&N and its subsidiary and leased companies

July 1897
ORR&N and its access to Portland became a battleground between GN, NP, and UP for control of Pacific Northwest rail traffic. As a settlement, each road purchased equal parts of a special block of preferred stock that was to control the road for ten years, or until the road paid four percent dividend for five consecutive years. In July 1897 Edwin McNeill was replaced as president by A. L. Mohler, a man selected by James J. Hill, who controlled GN and NP. (Klein, Rebirth, page 73)

ORy&N was independent from UP from July 1894 to August 1896, and its successor ORR&N was independent but controlled by UP, GN, and NP from August 1896 to July 1899.

November 1, 1897
Union Pacific Railway was sold to Union Pacific Railroad, incorporated for that purpose in Utah on July 1, 1897; UPRR took possession of UPRy on January 31, 1898 (Trottman, pages 268, 269)

July 1899
For a period of two years, between July 1897 and July 1899, ORR&N was operated in the joint interest of UP, GN, and NP, three railroads that were in competition with each other for Pacific Northwest traffic. In July 1899, UP lawyers were able to settle with GN and NP to break their partial control of ORR&N, by buying out their interests and dissolving the special block of preferred stock. This gave UP control by its ownership of two-thirds of ORR&N's common stock by UP subsidiary Oregon Short Line. (Klein, Rebirth, pages 73, 78)

September 1899
At the annual meeting of ORR&N shareholders in September 1899, the three NP directors were replaced by three UP directors, and E. H. Harriman became ORR&N's Chairman of the Board. (Klein, Rebirth, page 78)

May 12, 1906
Oregon & Washington Railroad incorporated in Oregon to build between Portland and Seattle

(The portion jointly owned with Milwaukee Road was acquired by OWRR&N on December 30, 1980, after Milwaukee Road abandoned its western operations.)

September 9, 1909
Edward H. Harriman died. (See also: Trottman, p. 362) On Sunday September 12, 1909, at the same time as Mr. Harriman's funeral in Arden, New York, all trains on the Harriman system of railroads were stopped for one minute in his honor. (Deseret News, September 10, 1909)

(Read the Wikipedia article about E. H. Harriman)

Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company

December 23, 1910
Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation purchased the following companies:

November 1911
OWRR&N began operating over the Des Chutes Railroad in central Oregon.

Article about the Argo roundhouse and yard in Railway Age, Volume 52, Number 3, January 19, 1912, pages 106,107

March 21, 1918
The United States Railway Administration (USRA) took over the operation of America’s railroads (including UP and its OWRR&N subsidiary) on March 21, 1918 to improve the efficiency of America’s railroads during World War I. It continued to operate and “administer” the railroads until March 1, 1920. One review has stated that over 100,000 freight cars and over 1,900 steam locomotives were built for the USRA, at a cost to the government of $380 million.

March 1, 1920
The United States Railway Administration (USRA) returned control of the nation's railroads (including UP and its OWRR&N subsidiary), from government control due to World War I, back to the railroad companies. Included in the enabling Esch–Cummins Act was a provision to allow the ICC to control the railroads profits and rate of return for investments.

(Read more about the USRA and Utah Railroads, and the period of control from March 1918 through March 1920)

January 1, 1936
Union Pacific leased the Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Company for operation, along with the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, and the Oregon Short Line Railroad. ("Union Pacific Unification", ICC Finance Docket 9422, dated July 26, 1935, in 207 ICC 543.)

"LEASE OF PROPERTIES OF SUBSIDIARY RAILROAD COMPANIES --- For many years the properties of the Union Pacific Railroad Company and those of the Oregon Short Line Railroad Company, Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company, Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad Company and The St. Joseph and Grand Island Railway Company have been operated under one control and management but the operations of the properties of each company were for its account and it was necessary to keep accounts and statistics and make separate reports to regulatory commissions and others for each company. Effective January 1, 1936, the properties of the other companies were leased to and are being operated by the Union Pacific Railroad This made possible the centralization at Omaha of all accounting and treasury work in connection with the railroad operations and the discontinuance of the separate Accounting and Treasury Departments which had been maintained by the lessor companies at Salt Lake City, Portland, Los Angeles and St. Joseph, with a resultant saving in expense (after the first year) estimated at $472,000 annually." (Union Pacific Annual Report for 1936)

The visible evidence of the 1936 merger was that Union Pacific lettering was placed on the sides of the tenders, while ownership initials were placed on the rear of the tenders and in smaller letters on the cab side below the locomotive numbers.

One of the measures that helped Union Pacific survive the 1930s was a consolidation of UP with its subsidiary roads, which was first proposed by the road's Chairman, Judge Lovett who had controlled the company since Harriman's death in 1909. Lovett's proposal for consolidation was presented to the Interstate Commerce Commission just before his death in June 1932, but was not approved until July 1935, and took effect on January 1, 1936.

This consolidation brought together Union Pacific Railroad, Oregon Short Line Railroad, Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation Company, and Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad, along with several smaller railroad companies. Because of a wide variety of collateral and bonding arrangements, the component companies remained as separate corporations, and leased their railroads to Union Pacific for their operation thereby allowing much needed economies of scale that cut costs and helped the railroad's bottom line ($472,000 in the first year alone).

(Read more about Union Pacific's lease in 1936 of its OSL, OWRR&N and LA&SL subsidiaries)

December 29, 1987
The Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company, and the Des Chutes Railroad in Oregon, were both merged into the Oregon Short Line Railroad.

December 30, 1987
The Oregon Short Line Railroad was merged into the Union Pacific Railroad.


ORy&N - ORR&N - OWRR&N Locomotives


Asay, Jeff. Union Pacific Northwest (Pacific Fast Mail, 1991)

Klein, Maury. Union Pacific, Birth of a Railroad, 1862-1893 (Doubleday & Company, 1987)

Klein, Maury. Union Pacific, The Rebirth, 1894-1969 (Doubleday, 1989)

Trottman, Nelson. History of the Union Pacific (Augustus M. Kelley, 1923, reprinted 1966)

Oregon-Washington Railroad & Navigation Company. Report to the Interstate Commerce Commission, Corporate History, As Required By Valuation Order No. 20, June 30, 1916

Oregon Short Line Railroad Company. Corporate History of Oregon Short Line Railroad Company, As of June 30th, 1916

More Information

Wikipedia article about Oregon Railroad and Navigation Co.