Sumpter Valley Ry
The Sumpter Valley Railway
Version française
Steam locomotives

Photos along the line

Rolling stock

McEwen station

© Benoit Poulin, 2002-16

Heisler #3 in McEwen
    Nowadays the Sumpter Valley is a tourist railroad located in the mountains of eastern Oregon, in northwestern USA. It operates on a portion of the old Sumpter Valley Railway, a narrow gauge (3ft between the rails) logging railroad developped from Baker City, Oregon, to an extent of about 80 miles. The railroad carried the products of the lumbering industry from the forests of the area but also other merchandise (for instance ore and gold mining equipment) and passengers. The Sumpter Valley Railway greatly contributed to the development of this remote area of Oregon.

    The Sumpter Valley was founded by a group of businessmen from Utah who where interested in the ressources of the Oregon Blue Mountains and had just established the Oregon Lumber Company in Baker City. The president of the Sumpter Valley Railway was David Eccles, a Utah Mormon of Scottish origin. He bought a few pieces of rolling stock and some track equipment second-hand from the Utah & Northern, a company that was rebuilding its mainline to standard gauge at that time. The construction started immediately from Baker City where the Oregon Lumber Company had just built a large sawmill, toward Sumpter and its surrounding forests.

A freight train on the mainline

    The village of Sumpter, then booming following the recent discovery of gold in the valley, was reached by the railroad in 1896. The railroad quickly flourished and its activity was soon extended to the transport of general merchandise in addition to the products of the lumber industry. Passenger service was also established between Baker City and Sumpter. The Sumpter Valley continued its development south-west through the mountains over three passes, eventually to reach Prairie City in 1910, 80 miles away from Baker City. Several lumber camps and towns depending on the lumbering industry were founded along the Sumpter Valley mainline.

    The railroad reached its maximum development in the twenties but then, like for many other narrow gauge railroads, traffic started to decline and a segment of the railroad had to be abandoned in 1933. Then, regular passenger service was discontinued in 1937. Finally, all operations on the Sumpter Valley cessed in 1947 and the line was scrapped right away, with the exception of a few tracks in the yard of the Oregon Lumber Company in Baker city, where a narrow gauge switcher operated until 1961.

    In 1971, a non-profit organization of volunteers, the Sumpter Valley Railroad Restoration Inc., started to revive a portion of the old Sumpter Valley mainline. Narrow gauge equipment was brought back and restored. The section of track between McEwen and Sumpter was progressively rebuilt and today is used to run excursion trains.