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The Southern Pacific (SP) rail line from Beaverton to St. Joe was originally projected by Joseph Gaston as the route for his Oregon Central Railroad. However, it was the Oregon and California Railroad under the direction of Ben Holiday that actually built the line. The train was given the name "Westside" because its route was on the west side of the Willamette River as opposed to a competing railroad that was built on the east side of the river and given the name "Eastside." The Westside train was opened from Portland to Hillsboro on December 23, 1871; to Cornelius on January 29, 1872; to Gaston on September 29, 1872; and finally to St. Joseph on November 2, 1872.

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In the early 1870's, Wilson Carl traveled to Portland to see if Westside Railroad officials would place a stop to benefit the farmers in the area south of Gaston and north of St. Joe. The railroad first agreed to try a flag stop in what was then just farmland, and in 1875 a station was established. The railroad gave it the name "Carlton" in honor of Mr. Carl. The stop in Gaston was named for Mr. Joseph Gaston, the man who originally conceived of a railroad on the west side of the Willamette River. Ultimately, there were four stops between Hillsboro and St. Joe; Seghers, Patton, Gaston and Carlton.

The Southern Pacific (SP) Company acquired control of the "Westsider" as part of its acquisition of the Oregon and California Railroad in May 1887. In addition to the freight and logging trains that operated on the Westside rail line in the early 1900's, there were two or three passenger trains traveling every day in each direction. On Sunday mornings groups would gather at the station waiting for the early morning train from Portland to deliver the Sunday paper and mail. Locals found it quite entertaining to wile away a Sunday afternoon at the depot, eager to see who would step off the train and who might board.


The SP Company, a rival to Portland-based companies, electrified its lines to Oswego and McMinnville and eventually Corvallis. Electric interurban service started on the Westside line to McMinnville in 1914, and service extended to Corvallis in 1917.  Iconic Pullman cars painted red with large porthole windows in front became known as the Red Electrics. But, before long, a new competitor for commuter traffic appeared in the form of motor buses, and SP saw a decline in trolley business. In 1924 they discontinued their Sunday trains out of Portland and by 1929 only two trolleys operated between McMinnville and Portland. In 1930 SP ceased all trolley services in the area and sent the remaining cars to Los Angeles.


The rail line continued to support the logging, agriculture, and commercial businesses in the area until 1980, when there was a dramatic decrease in the number of "on-line" industries using the "Westsider." At this time, SP used the track between Seghers and St. Joe to store surplus cars, and in 1985 this section was removed from the SP timetable and the tracks were pulled up. The section between Seghers and Hillsboro is currently being used a few days a week to carry lumber products from Stimson Lumber Mill, located 2.4 miles west of Segher.


At the time that Europeans first came to the area where the trail is being built the people living there were called the Yamhelas. They were a band of the Northern Kalapuya Tribe and closely associated with the Tualati, sometimes called the Wapato Lake Band.


In 1866 Joseph P. Gaston began organizing the Oregon Central Railroad to be built along the west side of the Willamette Valley from Beaverton to McMinnville. Shortly after, in 1868, Ben Holladay began building the Oregon and California railroad along the Willamette River on the east side of the valley. The two were in competition with each other becoming unofficially known as the Eastsider and Westsider Railroads. The Oregon Central Railroad was sold to Ben Holladay in 1870 and completed in 1872.


The trail’s name, Yamhelas Westsider Trail, was chosen to reflect this history. The Tualati Westsider Trail might have been an option, but over 12 miles of the 17 total miles of abandoned railroad is in Yamhill County and passes through the town of Yamhill both of which derive their names from the Yamhelas.


In 1880 Ben Holladay sold Oregon Central to Southern Pacific Railroad who in 1998 sold it to Union Pacific.


The Yamhill County Commissioners briefly considered purchasing the section of the right-of-way between Carlton and Yamhill in 1984 when the first 12 miles was abandoned. In 1991, when the remainder of the right-of-way was abandoned, Southern Pacific was contacted by a small local group and talks began regarding the acquisition and conversion to a trail. This effort was highly motivated by the death of a student riding his bicycle to school on highway 47. This effort was halted after about a year when Southern Pacific went into negotiations with Union Pacific which was not completed until 1998. It was at this time that another group was formed under the name The Yamhelas Westsider Trail Coalition. They were briefly successful communicating with the Union Pacific Railroad regarding the purchase of the right-of-way. The effort was halted with a moratorium of all negotiations of newly acquired Southern Pacific property until they could get a better understanding of what they had purchased from Southern Pacific.


The current organization, Friends of Yamhelas Westsider Trail, had its beginning in the spring of 2012 when an “over the fence” appraisal reduced the Union Pacific perceived price for the right-of-way from over $9 million to $2.4, making the acquisition a possibility. The subsequent community and governmental support, along with the grants that came with it, allowed Yamhill County to acquire the property in 2016.     

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