Welcome to the Trolley Project

Researching Electric Trolleys to SW Portland Cemeteries, 1890 to 1930s

A collage of images you will come to know...


It’s a surprise to many Portlanders that electric trolleys served the southwest area at the turn of the 20th century. In fact several trolley lines braved timbered hills and ravines beyond the city limits to take residents to new destinations — beautiful rural cemeteries and real estate opportunities.

The Fulton Park line of the Metropolitan Railway Company was launched in 1890, just months after the first electrified trolley in Portland crossed the Willamette to Albina. Initially this “F Line” traveled from downtown only as far as Fulton Park, where a powerhouse was built to provide electricity and to shelter cars and workers. The following year, the route was extended to Beth Israel, Greenwood Hills and River View cemeteries, making the F Line Portland’s longest electric trolley line at six miles. Its life was short, though, with service ending in 1900.

When the F Line ceased operation, the City & Suburban Railway Company extended its "N-S Line" south on Corbett Avenue, through the Town of Fulton, and partway up Taylors Ferry Road to access a lower section of River View Cemetery. The N-S electric trolley ran until 1937, but service on that route continued by trolley coach and later motor coach on into the 1950s.

Steam trains had passed through SW Portland since the 1870s, but they were primarily for freight. What the F and N-S Lines brought to the area was faster, more frequent, and more local service for passengers. Soon, electric interurbans extended riders’ reach beyond Portland. In 1907, the Oregon Electric started running through SW Portland on some of the F Line right of way and deep into the Willamette Valley. The Southern Pacific Railroad embraced electrification in 1914 by launching their two Red Electric lines, one along what is now Barbur Boulevard and the other following the Willamette River, to points west and south.

These web pages focus on the F Line and the N-S Line, and are the result of several years’ research. We’ve attempted to trace the development of our neighborhood trolleys, describe their routes, and place them in the context of Portland’s bold and busy streetcar era. There’s plenty of room left for further study — we invite your input into this evolving project.

Enjoy the ride!

John Miller and Cynthia Stowell, Collins View Neighborhood, Southwest Portland.

The Trolley Project at a Glance

The following are the main sections of our website, with brief descriptions and quick links.

Metropolitan Railway Company (F Line): From Portland to Fulton Park and Three SW Cemeteries

The main object of our research, this trolley ran through the heart of our neighborhood on a six-mile route, making it the longest in Portland for a time. The Fulton Park line originated on 2nd Street downtown as an urban trolley, but once it left the city limits on Corbett Street it depended on trestles and cuts to traverse the hilly terrain on its way to the Fulton Park powerhouse and the cemeteries beyond. We use the term “F Line” as shorthand for the numerous names and owners it had during its ten-year run.

F Line | Brier Place Trench | Fulton Park Power House | Fulton Park Real Estate Development

City & Suburban Railway (N-S Line): From Portland to Lower River View Cemetery

The North-South Line of the City & Suburban Railway provided a simpler trolley route to River View Cemetery via surface streets beginning in 1900. It’s better known than the F Line because of its visibility on Corbett Avenue and its longevity, as a trolley bus, motor bus, and TriMet route.

N-S Line | The Corbett Ramp Myth

About the Trolley Project

Here we tell the story of how the Trolley Project got started, and about some adventures we've had so far examining hidden parts of our now urban landscape: [Origin Story]

Our many helpers and correspondents are also part of the story, and we list them here: [Helpers]

Historical Context: Before and After the Trolley Era

For a few decades in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, electric trolleys reigned in Portland. But what led to their development and why did they disappear? It’s a story driven by electricity, commerce, suburban development, and the internal combustion engine.

Before and After the Trolley Era

Trolley Project Resource Collection

We invite you to take a deep-dive into the photos, maps, drawings, documents, books, websites, and ephemera that enlightened (or misguided) us along the way. You'll find an index at the top, once you get there.

Resource Collection

Pages in Progress

Future Projects, Dream Projects

No More "Special Feature Page"...

The Special Features page has been deprecated. Its contents are being distributed, or made in to new pages. The Dwindling Remains are on line for reference through 2024, as we work on this.

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Please Honor our Creative Commons License

Whereas we've worked hard to gather the information presented here; and we've added value with our original writing; we are placing this page under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license [CC BY-NC-SA 4.0].

All we ask is notification and attribution of any re-use. Please send notifications to trolley @ Dialectrix.com — Thank You!

The Trolley Project, Portland, Oregon.