In General



In General

Location / Name:
Downtown Portland OR, Multnomah County

What's Here:
Union Station - Amtrak station code PDX
MAX Light Rail
Union Pacific and BNSF
the Steel Bridge

GPS Coordinates: 45.529139, -122.676861 (Union Station)
ZIP: 97209
A/C: 503

Access by train/transit:
Trimet MAX Light Rail Green/Yellow/Orange lines have two stops a block away
Amtrak has three trains that stop here: the Cascades, the Empire Builder, the Coast Starlight

The Scoop:


Rick Holm

Websites and other additional information sources of interest for the area:

Aerial shots were taken from either Google Maps or as noted.  Screen captures are made with Snagit, a Techsmith product... a great tool if you have never used it! 




   Amtrak's Union Station

GPS Coordinates: 45.529139, -122.676861

From Wikipedia: The initial design for the station was created in 1882 by McKim, Mead, and White.  Had the original plan been built, the station would have been the largest train station in the world.  A smaller plan was introduced by architects Van Brunt & Howe, and accepted in 1885.  Construction of the station began in 1890.  It was built by Northern Pacific Terminal Company at a cost of $300,000, and opened on February 14, 1896.  The signature piece of the structure is the 150 ft. tall Romanesque Revival clock tower.  The neon signs were added to it in 1948.  The signs read "Go by Train" on the northeast and southwest sides and "Union Station" on the northwest and southeast sides.

The station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The neon signs on the tower went dark in March 1971, because the railroads using it, Union Pacific, Burlington Northern and Southern Pacific, were preparing to transfer all of their remaining passenger services to Amtrak.  For that reason, the station's then-owner, the Portland Terminal Railroad (itself jointly owned by those three railroads), decided to discontinue operation of the signs.  In 1985, two local non-profit groups, the National Railway Historical Society (Pacific Northwest chapter) and the Oregon Association of Railway Passengers, led a fundraising campaign for public donations to enable the signs to be restored to operation.  New neon tubes, in place of the old, were installed in July, and the signs were switched back on and returned to regular use in September 1985. The "Union Station" signs remain illuminated continuously, while the "Go by Train" signs flash on and off, in a sequence of "Go", then "Go by", then all three words, then off and on and repeat.

In 1987, ownership of the station and surrounding land was transferred from Portland Terminal Railroad to the Portland Development Commission as part of the Downtown/Waterfront urban renewal district.  Shortly afterwards, Union Station underwent a renovation. It was rededicated in 1996.

In 2004, the roadway in front of the station was reconfigured, providing a new connection to the northwest and a forecourt.  In addition, the area is being redeveloped, including new housing where railroad tracks once were.

Above: A photo by Rick Holm from July 2nd, 2011... one of many railfan trips run out of Union Station... thanks Rick!


???   1950


   the Steel Bridge

GPS Coordinates: 45.527587, -122.669114

I don't normally make a big deal out of bridges, but this lift bridge deserves a special mention because of it's design and what it carries on it.  Three modes utilize the bridge: vehicular traffic, the MAX Light Rail system, and trains.  Trains use the lower deck, and the bridge is double tracked.  One of the best shots I have in Portland is of 4449 coming across the bridge from the eastern side - I gotta see if I can find it......  I'm sure there are more examples of double deck lift bridges, but the only other one I know of is inNewark NJ.

   Light Rail Wye/Junction

GPS Coordinates: 45.529691, -122.666781

This wye is a double track junction between all of the lines and allows the yellow line to head north.  Although it is technically a wye, it is not used as such as in conventional railroading, it just allows trains to go from any branch to any other.  BTW, under my banner in the upper left hand corner are some signals, easy to get to from the station.

    East end of the Steel Bridge

GPS Coordinates: 45.528158, -122.667795

The east end of the Steel Bridge offers the railfan a number of interesting things to spend your time chasing down:  the cool short curved bridge, the MAX wye, the peace sign, the wye coming off the Steel bridge, and signals.

   Cool Bridge

GPS Coordinates: 
the coordinates from the site above will suffice since they are that close

A close-up of the little curved bridge, perfect for finding a place for it on your model pike!


I love trains, and I love signals.  I am not an expert.  I do these pages because I love spending my time doing them - although I do a reasonable amount of research to make sure the information presented is accurate! :-)  :-)

Please Note:  Since the main focus of my two websites is railroad signals, the railfan guides are oriented towards the signal fan being able to locate them.  For those of you into the modeling aspect of our hobby, my indexa page has a list of almost everything railroad oriented I can think of to provide you with at least a few pictures to help you detail your pike.

If this is a railfan page, every effort has been made to make sure that the information contained on this map and in this railfan guide is correct.  Once in a while, an error may creep in, oooooooops, oh well! :-)  

My philosophy: Pictures and maps are worth a thousand words, especially for railfanning.  Text descriptions only get you so far, especially if you get lost or disoriented.  Take along good maps.... a GPS is OK to get somewhere, but maps are still better if you get lost!  I belong to AAA, which allows you to get local maps for free when you visit the local branches.  ADC puts out a nice series of county maps for the Washington DC area, but their state maps do not have the railroads on them.  If you can find em, I like the National Geographic map book of the U.S..... good, clear, and concise graphics, and they do a really good job of showing you where tourist type attractions are, although they too lack the railroads.  Other notes about specific areas will show up on that page if known.

BTW, floobydust is a term I picked up 30-40 years ago from a National Semiconductor data book, and means miscellaneous and/or other stuff.

Pictures and additional information is always needed if anyone feels inclined to take 'em, send 'em, and share 'em, or if you have something to add or correct.... credit is always given! BE NICE!!! Contact info is here

Beware: If used as a source, ANYTHING from Wikipedia must be treated as being possibly being inaccurate, wrong, or not true.


New 10/21/2011
last Modified: 21 Feb 2017