Trolley time: Take a ride on a Portland-area classic

Trolley conductors, including general manager David Harold (above), take turns driving the vintage Willamette Shore Trolley on a scenic ride between downtown Lake Oswego to SW Bancroft Street, near the waterfront in Portland.

The Willamette Shore Trolley may be one of Oregon’s best-kept secrets, and a real gem for those who make the time for a ride.

It’s only a mile and a half, but there’s so much to see and hear, it can take up to an hour and a half.

When general manager David Harold talks about the vintage trolley in his rat-a-tat conversational speed, you can feel his passion for the historic trolley that runs between downtown Lake Oswego to SW Bancroft Street, near the Old Spaghetti Factory, near the waterfront in Portland.

It’s a scenic ride, to be sure, passing by million-dollar homes, a row of condos along the water, and a Tesla dealership. But wildlife sightings are not unusual either.

Harold talks about a doe and her fauns taking a walk with a dozen ducklings, a few of which could not get over a trestle to cross the rail, so the motorman and a few passengers helped lift their little feet while the mama duck squawked anxiously.

Harold says unusual happenings are “too many, I could talk about that all day.”

He mentions that part of the ride goes through a tunnel, and the motormen turn off the lights so it’s totally dark. It’s a short part of the ride, but it often sets off wails from young children – who, fortunately, can’t see the bats hanging from the ceiling.

Visit wst.oregontrolley... for information on fares, schedules and location.

Another yarn Harold tells is of six Oregon turkeys sunbathing with their six-foot wingspans spread out just like people. There are plenty of squirrels, and people biking, walking and running near the line.

The trolley is not for someone in a hurry. “We get there when we get there,” he says. “It’s for fun. Sometimes we wait for latecomers before we begin. We don’t worry about starting on the dot of time.” He says they never leave early.

There are kiddie rides when Santa comes on board, fireworks run by Waverly Country Club, Christmas ship runs and just about any “adventure” that comes to mind because of yearly special events and chartered events. There are even excursions for seniors. It has been said that this is the only trolley running through residential areas.

Willamette Shore Trolley was established in 1987 and is currently operated by about 30 volunteer motormen, including Harold, who served in the U.S. Air Force for 30 years and owns a computer company.

Other volunteers include a retired dentist, a pilot and a retired mechanic from Tri-Met. One electrical engineer drives in from eastern Oregon to volunteer for the week. Most motormen are retired.

The trolley, which seats 36, operates from early spring through early October, depending on weather. There is a second trolley awaiting a generator, and then it will be up and running, Harold says.

It’s part of the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society, founded in 1957 as an Oregon nonprofit public benefit corporation. The museum is located in Brooks.

In 1995, the OERHS signed an agreement with Lake Oswego to operate the trolley. It is a volunteer organization and is membership driven.

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