The Columbia River Gorge

Today’s postcards all depict the streamliner City of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge east of Portland. Although the City of Los Angeles was technically Union Pacific’s premiere train, and no doubt carried more passengers, the railroad featured the Portland train in more of its scenic photos, possibly because the Columbia River Gorge was much more photogenic than the desert traversed by the Los Angles route.

Click image to download a 348-KB PDF of this postcard.

This postcard wasn’t issued by the railroad, but it is so attractive I included it anyway. It is also a puzzle, as the elevated-cab locomotive shown was found only on the M-10003 to M-10006 trains, and Utah rails says these locomotives were never used on the City of Portland. The M-10004 train set was used on the Portland train between 1941 and 1947, but with E-3 locomotives in place of the elevated cabs. There may have been exceptions, as the elevated cabs survived until 1953, but this may also be a figment of the illustrator’s imagination.

Click image to download a 483-KB PDF of this postcard.

This card shows the same scene as the previous one but with a train in the 1950s or possibly 1960s. The card doesn’t identify it as the City of Portland, so it is possible that it was the Portland Rose. The lighting suggests this is an afternoon photo, and in 1951, at least, the City of Portland passed Multnomah Falls a little before 6 pm, while the Portland Rose went by well after 10 pm, so the train in the picture is probably the City of Portland. Since the card, which credits Portland photographer Ray Atkeson, doesn’t mention domes, it was probably issued before 1955.

Click image to download a 283-KB PDF of this postcard.

We’ve seen this image on a menu, a brochure cover, and a magazine ad. It is easy to see why UP would use it so frequently as it provides an excellent impression of what it must have been like to pass through the gorge in a dome car. Although this card was issued by the railroad, I also have a version (324-KB) issued by Portland postcard company Smith Western, that doesn’t even credit the UP for the photograph.

Click image to download a 168-KB PDF of this postcard.

This photograph pales in comparison to the previous one. The busy tops of the locomotives bely the term “streamliner,” and the poorly lit, downward view focuses mostly on the train and not the scenery. The domes are barely visible and anyone not familiar with the train would probably miss them. The caption on the back mentions that the train goes through Denver, meaning the card was issued after the City of Portland was combined with the City of Denver in 1959.

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