The Deschutes River Railroad War

Maupin, Oregon may be known for whitewater rafting, but it was a ferry that gave Maupin its name. Howard Maupin was one of several ferry operators in the late 19th century. One ferry owner was Mr. Hunt, therefore the unincorporated town was called Hunts Ferry.  A few years later, town founder, William H. Staats, changed the name to Maupin Ferry, then ultimately shortened it to Maupin.  Right after Maupin was plotted, there was a major battle over the rights for train passage through the Deschutes River Canyon.

In 1908, two competing railroad companies laid down tracks along the Deschutes River. One was the Deschutes Railroad, which ran along the East bank, and the other was the Oregon Trunk Railroad, which ran along the West. Unfortunately, due to necessary crossings, there were many places where the two lines needed the same land. This caused a rather violent dispute between the Deschutes Railroad Company and the SP&S Railroad Company. In fact, construction crews actually went so far as to blow up each others' supplies to prevent them from laying track.

Railroad wars like these were actually common in the 1800s. Railroad companies were buying up land as fast as they could build tracks, so the best routes were essentially taken by whoever got their tracks there first. By the early 1900s though, most major lines had been established, so the battles were less common. The battle over the Deschutes River Canyon passage was actually one of the last to occur.

At one point in particular, the two companies built tunnels right next to each other on the same side of the river. This caused the dispute to come to a head, and many people were actually killed or injured on the site. The local Sheriff eventually got involved and stopped the fighting with arrests and court orders. Both companies continued to build, despite the other, and after a few years, they both had trains running through the canyon.

By the 1920s, the two companies finally put aside their differences. The Oregon Trunk abandoned part of its line between South Junction and Metolius and instead used the Deschutes Railroad track from South Junction to Madras. The Oregon Trunk also agreed to share a section of its line farther North as long as maintenance costs were shared as well.

This merging of lines left a few sections abandoned. The Deschutes River Access Road now travels along the railbed of the Eastside tracks. The depot for this part of the Deschutes River Railroad has been preserved and now serves as a residence for the local BLM rep. The Oregon Trunk is still alive and running, and you can watch the trains of today cross the Deschutes River at Maupin just as they did back in 1911.

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment

You must be Logged in to post a comment.