Railfan opportunities

Portland is currently served by BNSF, Union Pacific, and Amtrak, but has a rich railroad history that includes GN, NP, SP&S, Milwaukee, SP, and UP. Most of these former railroads have been taken over by either the BNSF or UP, but others survive under new ownership as short lines, such as the Willamette and Pacific. There is still lots of diversity to be seen around the city. The historic downtown Union Station has been renovated and still serves many Amtrak trains each day.

There is an online Railfan Guide that has information for many places, including the Portland area. We are in no way associated with that site, but you might find it useful.

There are many good places to catch rail action in and around the Portland area. Here are a few shots to give you an idea of what you can see.

Portland Union Station and nearby Broadway Bridge, Amtrak passenger trains, freight transfers to/from Lake Yard, Union Pacific's Albina Yard on east side of Willamette River.

Portland Union Station from Broadway Bridge

Willamette and Pacific freight transfer coming off Steel Bridge (in background). On this day in 1997 equipment is positioning for start of Portland & Western operations on the Astoria Line.

Steel Bridge, opened in 1912, with freight transfer from Albina. View from East side. Downtown Portland to the left. Union Station to the right beyond bridge. MAX and highway traffic on top deck. The Steel Bridge is owned by the UP Railroad and is unique in that the rail deck can be lifted without affecting the upper car deck for all but the largest vessels. Both are raised to clear taller ships.

Vancouver, Washington. Probably the best rail fan location in the metro area. Amtrak passenger trains, BNSF and Union Pacific freight trains.
Here the Eastbound Empire Builder is loading, as a Southbound Cascades Corridor train is departing for Portland.

Vancouver Yard, looking South from Fourth Plain Boulevard Bridge. Watch yard switching and trains of Amtrak, BNSF and UP on the double-track main line between Portland and Seattle.

Columbia River Gorge (Eastward view from Vista House). BNSF and Amtrak travel along the North Bank beside Highway 14, while Union Pacific is along the South Bank beside Interstate Highway 84. This will be part of a guided railfan convention tour through the Gorge.

BNSF grain train, westbound in the Columbia River Gorge.

UP train, eastbound near Deschutes River in Columbia River Gorge.