The 1964 Flood


In this section of the webpage, a brief history of the 1964 flood is covered. This dramatic event was one of the worst disasters to plague the hill.


This Union Pacific boxcar along with a Northern Pacific boxcar rest below Shady Creek Bridge between tunnels 7 and 8. These cars found their way in to the canyon in the spring of 1965 after a derailment not associated with the 1964flood. This spot is often confused with Noisy Creek Bridge, which was also damaged during the flood. All that remains at the bottom of Noisy Creek Canyon is a section of the original bridge, which was washed out.

One week before Christmas in 1964, severe weather moved into the Pacific Northwest creating violent storms. For 21 days heavy rains along with unseasonable melting of snow in the higher elevations caused widespread havoc.

The SP had record damage in Oregon, and Northern California exceeding 5 million dollars. The most extensive damage was between Cascade Summit and Oakridge. All train operations between San Francisco and Portland were ceased for 18 days.

Early in the morning on December 22, a 68 car westbound train at Frazier was derailed by an avalanche of rock, mud, and snow. Five cars were carried to the bottom of the canyon. Shortly after that, another slide wiped out 100 feet of mainline. Several locations along the right-of-way were wiped out by mud and water. Just above Salmon Creek, a mud slide covered 700 feet of track.

At Noisy Creek, another mudslide destroyed 130 feet of Noisy Creek Bridge. Two 50' spans and one 30' span with a tower slid down the hillside. The raging waters of Salt Creek undermined HWY 58 and the bridge supports of Salt Creek Bridge. Water was diverted at the bridge to prevent it's collapse.

Quick dispatching of work trains to known trouble spots left personnel scattered all over the mountain. The mainline between Albany and Eugene had been washed out except for the westside branch which was being used to evacuate Albany.

The floods completely isolated Oakridge from the outside world except by rail. Food and supplies were transported to Oakridge via the SP.

SP's Sacramento General Shops were putting together three replacement spans for Noisy Creek Bridge. 3,800 manhours over a period of three days completed the task. Bridge girders were on hand before the emergency, and had to be cut and tied together with criss-cross bracing requiring over 70 bolts. Many hours of detailed design work were required to complete the bridge, since it is on a slight curve.

On December 24th, the spans were loaded on to flat cars and headed north to Noisy Creek. 65 men were on duty to replace the damaged spans. Of these 65 were, boilermakers, blacksmiths, machinists, sheetmetal workers, carmen, painters, electricians, draftsmen, laborers, and surveyors. Many worked 12 hour shifts staying on the job site. V.R. Cooledge and R.S. Bennett were called out of retirement for the job.

Superintendent of the mechanical department, W.O. Brown, said, "it was quite an undertaking, requiring cooperation of men from all the various crafts. It was one of the finest examples of teamwork I've ever seen."

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© Joel Ashcroft