Electric Trolleys to SW Portland Cemeteries in the 1890-1930's

The Trolley Project Home Page

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 two 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. The following year, the route was extended to 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. Both the railroads in the area eventually followed suit: the Oregon & California / Southern Pacific Railroad on what is now Barbur Boulevard and the Portland Willamette Valley Railroad along the Willamette both electrified in 1914, becoming the more passenger-friendly Red Electric interurbans.

These web pages focus on the F Line and the N-S Line, and are the result of months of 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 research — we invite your input into this evolving project.

Enjoy the ride!

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

The sections of our website are summarized and linked to below. Links to all sections are also listed together near the top of this page for easier navigation.

The F Line: Fulton Park, Greenwood Hills, and Upper River View Cemetery

The main object of our research was this short-lived trolley that ran through the heart of our neighborhood. The F Line originated on 2nd Street downtown as an urban trolley, but once it left the city limits on Corbett it depended on trestles and cuts to traverse the hilly terrain on its way to the Fulton Park powerhouse and the cemeteries beyond.

F Line Trolley Page [LINK]

The 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, even reflected today in a modern bus line.

N-S Line Trolley Page [LINK]

About the Trolley Project (itself)

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. Read about the Trolley Project [HERE]

Our Helpers, below, and their many emails are also part of the story!

The Trolley Era — Before & After

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.

Historical Context for the SW Portland Trolleys: [LINK]

Special Features

This page has interesting bits and pieces tangential to the main stories, such as the mysterious Corbett Ramp.

Special Features [LINK]

Collection of (Re)Sources

Various images / Bibliography / Documents and Maps / List of Websites / Needs Much Work!

Collection of Resources [LINK]

Self Guided Walking Tour (A Future Project)

Here we describe self-guided tour of the F and N-S Lines, pointing out sites and sights along the way, with longer and shorter options. Currently only lists points along the way, narration will be compiled ASAP. There will be a Big Map prepared.

Self Guided Walking Tour, with Options [W.I.P.]

Other Future Projects

Here we describe additional work that can be done to commemorate the Fulton Park Trolley Line, with serious interpretive signage, local culture, presentations, litter cleanup, and so on.

Future Projects [W.I.P.]

Project Leaders and Helpers

This project is the work of several people.

  • John Miller, research, writing, website, maps
  • Cynthia Stowell, research, writing, editing
  • Stephen Dudley, associated with River View Cemetery, Railway Volunteer
  • Lee Rogers, River View Cemetery
  • Richard Thompson, via his books and emails.
  • John T Labbe, via his book Fares, Please!. Labbe is buried in River View Cemetery!
  • Tony Paolucci, Map Collector
  • Erik Goetze, Art of Geography
  • Matthew Hampton, Cartographic Jedi
  • Ken Mead, for his Newsletter article citing Labbe, that got this all started.
  • Sonya Kazen, author of River View, Greenwood Hills and G.A.R Cemeteries — Portland Hill's Historic Preserves
  • Doris Graham
  • and others, to be named...

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