AERC: Long History, Bright Future

The Albany and Eastern Railroad (under it’s current ownership) is privately and locally owned.  The current owners acquired the railroad in 2007 and quickly set about re-vamping the company and its aging infrastructure.  The goal of our ownership is to revitalize the railroad business to offer a faster more efficient means for our customers to move their goods to and from markets.

The AERC began its long history in 1880 as the Albany-Lebanon Railroad, connecting the communities of Albany and Lebanon, OR with approximately 11 miles of track.  Within just a few months of it’s completion, ownership was transferred to  the Oregon and California Railroad.  Much as it is today, the line served the timber and agriculture industries, moving logs, lumber and Ag goods to communities throughout the Willamette Valley and beyond.  The railroad again changed hands in 1887 when the Southern Pacific Railroad took over the O&C.  The SP would later expand the reach of the line by constructing a series of branch lines.  Though much of the original hardware has been replaced over the years, the AERC still operates on the original Albany-Lebanon line to it’s interchange point at the Albany, OR. rail yard.

As demand for lumber grew, the Southern Pacific began construction of a new branch line connecting Lebanon, OR. with the booming lumber town of Mill City, OR.  The line was completed in 1910 and shipments of finished lumber and logs began to flow out of Mill City destined for Albany and on to the rest of the developing west.  The line is 36 miles long winding through rural Linn county running through the towns of Crabtree, Scio, Lyons and Mill City.  Control of this line shifted to the Union Pacific after their takeover of the Southern Pacific in the mid 1990’s before becoming part of the AERC network.

The Sweet Home branch line was originally constructed in 1930 by the Oregon Electric Company.  This line was constructed to connect the communities of Foster and Sweet Home with the then SP Railroad to Albany.  The line was subsequently acquired by the BNSF Railway before becoming part of the AERC.  The Sweet Home branch too carried predominantly forest products as it still does today.  The line is approximately 17 miles long.

Since the 2007 purchase of the AERC, the owners have invested heavily in the refurbishment and upgrades of all of the lines.  Work on the Mill City branch was completed in 2010 which incorporated crossing improvements, tie replacement, ballast replacement as well as up sizing much of the existing rail to larger welded rail.  This project was completed on time and under budget.

The Lebanon to Albany mainline and the Sweet Home branch line will be rebuilt beginning in 2011.  Funding from the Connect Oregon III program will help upgrade these sections.  Upgrades will include new ties, ballast and some rail improvements.  The long term goal of the AERC with respect to these improvements is to improve safety while reducing travel times which will help move our customers’ freight more efficiently.