Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad
Coos Bay Line
Reedsport, Oregon

        For those of us living near or zooming up and down the I-5 corridor of Oregon, the Coos Bay line of the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad is often overlooked.  We concentrate our rail fanning on the Siskiyou Line with its longer, more frequent haulers, semaphores and steep grades.  But, how much we are missing by not paying a visit over to the coast for a look at the "other" CORP?

        The trip started out as a quest to find and photographs the 7th Wig Wag on CORP.  Dan Furtado has done an excellent job on his site, Dan's Wig Wag Site,  but, neither he, nor I nor other  assorted Wig-Wag enthusiasts had ever found the lone signal on the Coos Bay line.  Even CORP Signal Maintainer Rick Perry didn't know exactly where it was, only that it was protecting Thornton Oar Road.  But he made a quick phone call to CORP and received information that it is at milepost 743.1.  Between an old SP timetable and a Siuslaw National Forest map, we pinpointed it's location and I was on my way.

Wig Wag near Reedsport, OR From Reedsport, I took a short drive east on Oregon 38 to Scholfield Creek Road.  A couple miles through some nice country brought me to Thornton Oar Lane and a hundred yards down that gravel road sits the subject of the adventure.  The first thing that struck me was how well maintained it appeared: it had just been painted.  Another thing that quickly became apparent is the fact that, unlike Wig-Wag installations in the Rogue Valley, there is no STOP sign at this grade crossing. 
Thornton Oar Lane Wig Wag backside A look at the backside of the signal from across the tracks.  Time has stood still here on the Coos Bay Line.   A Black Widow SD-9 or even an old Hog would seem more proper in this scene than a red and gray CORP Geep.

A few more shots of this "lost" Wig-Wag for Dan's site and I was on my way back to Reedsport.  Something had caught my eye back there that needed investigating.

CORP RR bridge over Umpqua River The Coos Bay Line has to cross several rivers as it wanders down the Oregon coast and this span across the Umpqua River is one such crossing.  At this point, the Umpqua is more like a part of the Pacific Ocean than a river flowing out of the Coast Range.  And this swing bridge allows for coastal shipping and movement of log booms.
Swing Span over Umpqua River A telephoto view of the swing span of the Umpqua River bridge.  Incidentally, this is not the bridge that is crumbling and in need of replacement -- that bridge is farther south near Coos Bay.
Fixed Span at south end of Umpqua River bridge The single fixed span on the south end of the bridge.
Umpqua River bridge as seen from track. This view of the bridge taken from the center of the main line is a study in symmetry.  Since this line only sees a few trains each week, the swing span is left open to river traffic.

At one time the SP maintained a train order office on this draw span.

Home signal for bridge. The Coos Bay Line is dark (unsignaled) except for interlocking signals protecting the swing bridges along the way.  This is the home signal -- note the lack of a number plate.  (When a home signal displays red or is unlit, a train is required to stop and may not proceed, unless "talked past" by a dispatcher, until the aspect changes to yellow or green.)   It is interlocked to the draw (swing) span with built in delays to prevent any movement when the bridge is not properly aligned and locked for railroad traffic.
Approach signal to Umpqua Bridge Of course if there is a home signal for this interlocking, there also must be an approach signal and here it is, a few hundred feet south, on the opposite side of the rails.  From the looks of the steel base, this appears to be a newer installation than the home signal.  The number plate determines this to be a permissive signal -- when red or unlit, a train must stop but may proceed at restricted speed prepared to stop short of any obstruction or red signal.

Like most interlocking signals this one is constantly lit.  CORP made the home signal approach lit since it was burning up a lot of bulbs and an unlit home signal makes for operational headaches.

Thus ends my first encounter with the Coos Bay Line.  From what I saw on the way up from Coos Bay and from looking at maps and SP timetables, I know I'll be back to explore the railroad as it passes through coastal mountains and tunnels and runs along lakes and sand dunes.  With a little luck, next time the pictures will include some trains.

All photos and captions copyright © 1999 by Larry Tuttle

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This consist built on October 16, 1999
And last switched on March 3, 2002