A Zoo Railroad

Saw milling

Saw milling in the Davis Hollow two miles south of Prospect, Penna., Spring of 1911. l. to r. Perry Davis, John Croft, Allen Blinn, Bill Minteer, logger and Henry Taylor, sawyer and owner. All dead except Allen Blinn.

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This article taken from the Canton Repository, Sept. 10, 1961, and sent to us by the courtesy of Kenneth Ross, Waynesburg, Ohio. There was an interesting picture in the paper but we cannot copy. The article was originally in a Portland, Oregon paper.

It is rare, indeed, that a new railroad is established, and rarer, still, that it makes a profit. But a new one here is doing a brisk, profitable business.

Its name is the Portland Zoo Railway, and its trains glide and chug through the woods and around the animal dens of the zoo.

Last year, the railroad carried a quarter of a million passengers. This year it is doing even better.

The railway has two main trains. One, a streamliner pulled by a Diesel locomotive, carries passengers a mile and a half through the woods to a point overlooking the city. The other, a brass-trimmed, pot-bellied steam locomotive with a flaring smokestack and an 1870 flavor, hauls four excursion-style cars around the edge of the zoo.

The first run over the narrow-gauge tracks was made June 8, 1958. The line has been growing steadily since with more track, more rolling stock.

There is a trolley for Very Important People that zips along on special trips.

A fire-train - this is edge-of-the forest country - races by, its siren screaming, its red 800-gallon tank car glinting brightly in the sun. It was built as a gift by a timber company.

A work train that carries tools and workman for maintenance and repairs also was a gift.

But this is a regular railroad operation, scaled down in size for 30 in. rails instead of the standard 56. The passenger cars are five feet wide and 40 feet long. The diesel engine weighs 6 tons, the steam engine - with tender filled - nearly 12 tons.

The railway has a special dignity, too: A $l-a-year contract with the United States government to carry the mail. Letters dropped into slots in sides of the locomotive get the official postmark, 'Portland Zoo Railway, Orgeon.'

All of this started when Portlanders voted $4 million for a new zoo. One of the directors, Edward Miller, an idea man and newspaper executive, suggested a railroad as an extra attraction. The board gave him $25,000 and told him to go ahead.

Miller enlisted John H. Jones manager of the Northern- Pacific Terminal Co. and the two set out to build a railroad. Before they got the first train moving some 25,000 people had contributed in one way or another.

Youngsters in Central Oregon scooped up lava rock for the roadbed and got a railroad and a trucking firm to haul it free. A marine contractor turned his designer loose to help with the streamliner.

Railway executives, trainmasters, clerks and road foremen of the area's major railroads turned up and joined local business men on their days off in using pickaxes and shovels and mauls.

The schools sprouted stock salesmen. (One share of stock and a ride for a dollar.)

An auction held in cooperation with the adjacent Oregon Museum of Science and Industry sold such things as a $4,000 diamond brooch, a Bavarian beer dinner for 75, a luncheon date with Miss America, a dinner with the governor and his wife, an Australian wallaby. All were donated and profits bordered on 100 per cent. The auction is repeated each year.

Profits alone won't do it unless growth costs are held down. Right now directors are looking for some two-axle truck assemblies those things that hold the wheels together - which normally cost $3,000 and more.

They say that somewhere in the United States there must be junked narrow-gauge cars with truck assemblies they can get for salvage prices. Searches like this are part of of the zoo train's happy growth.

That is why the Portland Zoo Railway's ledger sheet shows a value of nearly $600,000 and a few debts.

Operationally it is doing well too.

There is an astonishing large roll of unpaid workers who keep the trains running. Among them are a retired pharmacist, an Interstate Commerce Commission inspector, an electrical contractor, and naturally, a retired railroader.

Gross revenues last year were $80,209 and net profit after depreciation $8,824.