The rails and ties have been pulled up but the old railroad beds from the early 1900s have forever carved their story into Garden Home. The junction of the Garden Home Rail Station was just east of what is now the Old Market Pub on SW Multnomah Boulevard. At this Station, the first Oregon Electric trains came through Garden Home in 1908. By 1916 the single track via the Maplewood trestle was abandoned in favor of a double track from Multnomah and Portland which continued the track going west and another branch leading south through Garden Home. The west rail section is visible on the aerial views and is now known as the Fanno Creek Trail.
This story concerns the Oregon Electric railroad that separated at the junction and took a southerly route to Metzger, Tigard and eventually down the valley to Eugene. The abandoned bed for these rails is visible on our aerial maps and can be seen at SW 71st Ave where a sign cautions that this is now private property.
In 2012, Luke and Michelle Middlebrooks purchased their property at the east end of Stewart Street for their young family. This property includes about 1/8 mile of the old railroad bed. Luke and Michelle were raised in the Portland area. Michelle grew up in the John’s Landing area of SW Portland, and Luke grew up in SE Portland. They purchased their home in 2012 from the Forsman family, who had lived in it since the 1950’s. When the abandoned rail properties were parceled and sold to surrounding home owners in 1977, the Forsman family purchased a stretch and extended two of their tax lots, and created a third tax lot (the rail bed off 71st). The Middlebrooks family purchased all three lots from the Forsmans in 2012 and endeavor to eradicate the invasive blackberry and ivy.
The tax parcel boundaries are documented on the 11/23/1977 survey that was commissioned by former owner Frank Forsman and plots out the monuments/markers that are the perimeter of the railroad section, and describes how they are in relation to the larger lots the Middlebrooks also own. This portion of the railroad bed is private property and is taxed accordingly.
Early photos of the home show a typical bungalow look from the front and an enlarged windowed porch in the back where a former owner raised plants.
The railroad bed visible from SW 71st up to the residence area functions as play area for the children and a wildlife corridor. It is about 20 feet wide covered with grass, with ivy up the many trees, and the occasional apple, pear, and plum trees. The railroad bed is elevated about 10-15 feet from the properties on either side as was necessary to keep the railroad at less than a 2% incline. The Oregon Electric Railroad ceased passenger service in 1933 and continued with freight business until 1944 when the rails and ties were pulled up and rail business through Garden Home ceased.
The Middlebrooks home was built in 1938 in a section platted as Blosick Acres, as noted in the attractive sign Michelle painted for their garage. The Blosick family is believed to have lived in Multnomah and were good friends with the Roshak family as noted in these 1937 snapshots from Deanne Roshak Eng.
Michelle Middlebrooks remembers that her great grandparents were married on January 1, 1917 in Lebanon, Oregon. They took the train to the Albany station where they transferred and rode from Albany to Portland. She believes that they must have been on the Oregon Electric Railway that traveled through her front yard! “So incredible to think they passed right through here!”
Story by Elaine Shreve and Michelle Middlebrooks with railroad consultation by Harold Gjerman.
To read more about the demise of the Oregon Electric Railway, see Development of SW Multnomah Boulevard.