Southern Pacific Railroad Natron Cutoff, Tunnel 23, Milepost 584.5, Westfir, Lane County, OR
Photo Caption Pages
Milepost 584.5, Westfir vicinity, OR
Find maps of Westfir, OR
Documentation compiled after 1968.
Survey number HAER OR-95
Significance: The Southern Pacific Railroad Cascade Route, built as the Natron Cutoff between Black Butte, California and Natron, Oregon was one of a series of major rebuildings and realignments of the original Central Pacific Railroad. Begun in 1905 under railroad magnate E.H. Harriman to replace the original Central Pacific route over the Siskiyou Mountains into Oregon, the Natron Cutoff had to overcome both natural and political obstacles. Stalled by government anti-trust lawsuits against Harriman, by World War I and the ensuing federal takeover of the nation's railroads, the Natron Cutoff finally overcame the rugged Cascade Mountains of Oregon to reach completion in 1927, at an ultimate cost of nearly $40 million. For the purpose of the current project, the Natron Cutoff was found likely to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places at the state level of significance under Criterion A for its significance in engineering, transportation history, and the economic history of central Oregon, and in the development of the West, and under criterion B for its association with E.H. Harriamn. The Natron Cutoff's period of significance is 1905 to 1945, from the beginning of construction in 1905, through the years of its role in the economic development of the central Oregon, to the conclusion of the railroad's achievements in World War II. Built in 1910, Tunnel 23 is a contributive element of this property.
Historic American Engineering Record (Library of Congress)
1. West portal of Tunnel 23, contextual view to the west-northwest, 380mm lens. Tunnel 22 pierces the toe of Lookout Point. Note that the tracks have been realigned toward the Willamette River to bypass Tunnel 23.
2. West portal of Tunnel 23, view to the west-northwest, 135mm lens. Note the use of concrete face and wingwalls, with dressed stone voussoirs, wingwall coping, concrete parapet with stone belt course and coping, and rubble masonry slope protection flanking the portal. Built for the Oregon Eastern, this Southern Pacific Common Standard tunnel is contemporary with those built by different contractors for the California Northeastern at the south end of the Natron Cutoff (see Tunnel 17, HAER CA-218, and Tunnel 18, HAER CA-219).
3. East portal of Tunnel 23, view to the east-southeast, 135mm lens with electronic flash fill.
4. East portal of Tunnel 22, view to the east-southeast, 135mm lens with electronic flash fill. Note the depth of water within the tunnel, a sympton of the spring-laden slope above the tunnel that led to its eventual abandonment.
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