Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson has worked as an archivist, historical museum director, librarian and streetcar coordinator. His collection of photographs and memorabilia has served as a resource for six books, including Portland’s Streetcars (2006), Willamette Valley Railways (2008), Portland’s Streetcar Lines (2010), Portland’s Interurban Railway (2012) Slabtown Streetcars (2015), and Lost Oregon Streetcars (2017). He has also contributed more than a dozen entries to the online Oregon Encyclopedia and has appeared in documentaries including Oregon Public Broadcasting’s “Streetcar City,” and Portland Streetcar’s “Concept to Reality: The Making of the Modern Streetcar.” He is a descendent of Willamette Valley millwrights and holds a Master’s Degree in history from the University of Oregon. Richard has been writing about Oregon’s railway history since 1979. Now semi-retired, he enjoys writing, research and foreign travel.

Author's Entries

  • Albany streetcar system

    The Albany Street Railway Company began operation on August 30, 1889, with a one-mile horse-car line that ran from the Southern Pacific depot to downtown by way of Lyon Street and First Avenue, terminating at Second and Washington. Car No. 1 was manufactured locally by A.J. Anslyn and the Albany …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Astoria streetcar system

    The Astoria Street Railway Company began horsecar operations on May 9, 1888. Five cars provided service over three miles of track along Commercial Street. By 1892, the threat of competition from proposed electric lines, a steam motor line, and a cable-car system had inspired the railway to convert to an electric operation. …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Baker City streetcar system

    The Baker City Street Railway Company began operation on June 4, 1890, with two cars and six horses. The enterprise was initially headed by John Geiser, whose family owned the largest gold mine in the Northwest. For a decade, horse-drawn streetcars provided transportation between the train stations and downtown hotels, …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Cherry Grove streetcar and railroad

    In 1911, the purchase of the first battery-powered streetcar in the West catapulted the little Washington County town of Cherry Grove into the vanguard of cities using a new technology. The innovative streetcar operation was part of a short-line steam railroad whose primary purpose was to haul wood products from …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Corvallis streetcar system

    On December 17, 1889, a group of real estate developers, led by Zephen Job and Miles Wilkins, incorporated the Corvallis Street Railway Company. Within about six months, on June 19, 1890, a horsecar named Daisy began running north from Northwest Second Street and Madison Avenue, west on Northwest Monroe Avenue, …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Eugene streetcar system

    The first street railway in Eugene was a mule-powered system that began operating between the train depot and the University of Oregon on June 26, 1891. The Eugene & College Hill Street Railway ran along Willamette Street and 11th Avenue for over a decade, and construction was started on two …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Forest Grove streetcar system

    In 1906, E. W. Haines, an Oregon state senator and banker, led the Forest Grove Transportation Company’s efforts to construct a streetcar line between downtown Forest Grove and the train station, located a mile south of town. An 1872 land donation had prompted the Oregon & California Railroad to build its …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Klamath Falls streetcar system

    In 1906, two companies were granted street railway franchises in Klamath Falls. The Klamath Canal Company wanted to build a line to its Buena Vista Addition along the west side of Upper Klamath Lake, while the Klamath Development Company intended to serve the Hot Springs Addition on the east side …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Medford-Jacksonville streetcar system

    Spencer S. Bullis organized the Southern Oregon Traction Company (SOTC) on July 15, 1913, to operate streetcars in the city of Medford. Three years later, the SOTC incorporated the Rogue River Valley Railway's (RRVR) line (founded in 1891) between Medford and Jacksonville. Though even the expanded SOTC did not achieve …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Oregon Electric Railway

    Talk of building a long-distance electric interurban railway south from Portland along the west bank of the Willamette River began in the 1890s. The proposed route would parallel the Southern Pacific Railroad’s tracks through the Willamette Valley. The short-lived Oregon Traction Company began grading for such a line in …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Portland streetcar system

    The majority of Portland’s oldest neighborhoods owe their location and growth to the development of street railways. The pattern displayed on modern maps still reflects the pioneering streetcar lines radiating from downtown; Portland's Irvington Neighborhood is renowned for being an exemplar of a classic early twentieth century "streetcar …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Salem streetcar system

    The first streetcars in Salem were horsecars that began running between the downtown business district and the train depot on January 15, 1889. Later that year, the Salem Street Railway stretched five miles, with extensions to the fairgrounds and East School. During 1889-1891, future U.S. President Herbert Hoover—who lived …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Southern Pacific Red Electric Lines

    Oregon gained a distinction in 1912 when the Southern Pacific Railroad became one of the few railroads in the nation to convert branch steam railroad lines into an electric interurban network. Growing competition from the Oregon Electric Railway provided motivation, as did successful experience with electric railroad operation in California. …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Union streetcar system

    On March 27, 1890, the Union Electric Light and Power Company was incorporated to build what may have been Oregon’s shortest short-line railroad. The goal was to build a line linking Union, in northeastern Oregon, with the Oregon Railway and Navigation Company mainline, which had bypassed the town in …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • Walla Walla Valley Railway

    In 1907, the Walla Walla Valley Railway built a fourteen-mile electric railway from its terminal on 6th Street in downtown Walla Walla, Washington, to Milton-Freewater, Oregon. The company, which also operated the city streetcar system in Walla Walla, had joined a national frenzy of interurban railway construction. The city …

    Oregon Encyclopedia

  • West Linn streetcar system

    The Willamette Falls Railway was built by the Portland General Electric Company (PGE) in 1893 to carry employees from the town of Willamette to its West Linn power station. The original three-mile route, from a point near the Tualatin River to West Linn, opened in February 1894 using a streetcar …

    Oregon Encyclopedia