The Oregon Pony

First Locomotive in the Pacific Northwest

The Oregon Pony
The Oregon Pony, designed and built in 1861 by the Vulcan Iron Works in San Francisco, was the first locomotive built on the west coast and the first locomotive to operate in the Pacific Northwest. On May 10, 1862, the Oregon Portage Railroad first began operating the Oregon Pony along the south side of the Columbia River on a 4½-mile strap-rail portage between river traffic above and below the Cascade Rapids. Later that same year, the Oregon Portage Railroad was purchased by the Oregon Steam Navigation Company. The plaque on the side of the cab states the following information. “The first locomotive on the Pacific Coast, donated to the Oregon Historical Society in trust for the State of Oregon by David Hewes of San Francisco, California”. The other plaque, in the foreground, states the following information. “The Oregon Pony, First Locomotive in the Pacific Northwest. This engine operated in 1862 and 1863 in freight and passenger service on the first Oregon railroad, on the southern bank of the Columbia River between Bonneville and Cascade Locks”. When the above scene was photographed about 1942, the Oregon Pony was on display at Union Station in Portland, Oregon. The Oregon Pony is now on display inside a weatherproof glassed enclosure by the Cascade Locks Historical Museum.

Andrew Craig Magnuson
Forks, Washington
March 20, 2008

Footnote (November 1, 2015):
Looking back into the obscure beginnings of railroading in the Pacific Northwest it appears that an earlier passenger railroad, the Stitchas Railroad, may have possibly existed by about February 1853 near Olympia and ran between Budd Inlet and the Hays, Ward & Company sawmill at Tumwater. Details are rather vague, but the February 26, 1853 edition of the Olympia, Oregon Territory, newspaper The Columbian (Vol. 1, No. 25) advertised on page 3 that first class cars have been placed upon the above road (just completed) and will have double engine power, with boilers that are wire wound. The advertisement says that the cars will run from the head of Budd's Inlet to Hays, Ward & Co.'s sawmill at the tum-water of Shute's River—leaving each and every hour in the day (Sunday's excepted). The Stitchas Railroad conductor is noted in the advertisement as Jacob Barnhart, from Whiteside County, Illinois. Less than two years later Jacob Barnhart and his wife Catherine obtained a nearby donation land claim by the head of Eld Inlet, which comprised the east half of Section 24, T18N, R3W. Stitchas is a Whulshootseed word for “place that has bears.” Back, in times forgotten, in old Oregon territorial days there may have possibly been an even earlier railroad that has also been lost from history. Adding to the mystery and intrigue, the February 1853 advertisement proclaims the Stitchas Railroad to be the “Second Railroad North of the Columbia River!!”