This is the first of an occasional series on where to go for train watching in the greater Portland Metropolitan Area.
Wilsonville is a community about fifteen miles southwest of Portland. It is the south end of TriMet’s rail WES (Westside Express Service) route, and on the Portland and Western rail line between Albany and points south leading to multiple destinations in the Portland area. Why this spot makes the list, let alone the leadoff post, is unique. It’s because there’s a train you can count on. The West is big, and terrain and weather gang up on BNSF and the Union Pacific to scramble the schedules. For train watchers this means bring a book. The trains will come — sooner or later. Except at Wilsonville. With WES using the tracks during the morning commute between Wilsonville and Beaverton with stops along the way, the freight service waits. When the last WES train clears the tracks, the freight moves north. That would be 10 am. Here’s my phone video.
My very fine, legal, comfortable, and great view place for train watching in Wilsonville is south of Wilsonville Rd off Boones Ferry Road. If you’re coming from the north, exit I-5 at Wilsonville Rd. Take the first left at the signal and stay in the curb lane. At Fifth St. turn right and park. If you’d like a more rustic and sylvan scene stop further south at the park. The tracks will be up the hill with a shot through scattered trees. For more effort and creativity, the Willamette River bridge is there but the good shot is more challenging and potentially dangerous. Use common sense.
My trips for train watching have been rewarded with long P & W manifest freights hauling everything from wood products (standing trackside you can smell the fresh lumber) to tank cars for distribution to Class I railroad terminals for trans-shipment. The freight rides behind four diesel units working hard as they climb the short grade before the long run north continues.
Amenities near-at-hand abound. There’s a Starbucks two blocks away. Not a fan? There’s a Peets in the Fred Meyer across the street. Hungry? Eat at McMenamins across the parking lot from Fred Meyer. Breakfast-kind of hungry? There’s a Biscuits Café just north of McMenamins. While you’re warm sipping coffee and licking frosting off your fingers, hold the thought. There are few spots as welcoming as this for train viewing in the Portland area.