Today, a freight train rolling over a rural feeder track on its way to or from a western Oregon railroad town is almost an anachronism. Routes may host only one train a day, or two trains a week, but still provide an economic lifeline for a number of businesses. These evolving branchlines and shortlines are taken out of service, sold or leased to new owners, and sometimes abandoned. Many are endangered, and once gone will be gone forever.
Originally published in 1994, and now updated with new content and additional images, Backwoods Railroads is an engaging description of contemporary branchline and shortline railroad operations in western Oregon. This unique photojournalistic account focuses on the Willamette Valley and its bordering mountain chains—the Coast Range, the Cascades, and the Siskiyous. As the state’s economic heart, the area’s intricate railroad network is the closest Oregon comes to the trackage density found in many eastern and midwestern states. Small companies took on much of the railway construction, hoping to profit by hauling passengers and agricultural products, and by providing an outlet for logging operations in the foothills and mountains
D. C. Jesse Burkhardt retired in 2017 after a 23-year career as editor, reporter, and photographer for four different community newspapers in the Northwest. Over the years, he has published several photojournalistic books on railroad history and operations. Backwoods Railroads was his first book.