Portland’s first interurban line, the Portland Sellwood and Milwaukie Railway, was constructed in 1890 and it was the first of several interurban lines that would serve Portland and the Willamette Valley. After consolidation in 1906, Portland Railway Light & Power Company served Portland, Oregon City, Gresham, Bull Run, Estacada and Troutdale.
The Harriman Group, which owned Southern Pacific operated the Red Electrics from Portland as far south as Corvallis. And the Oregon Electric Railway, which was owned by Jim Hill of the Great Northern Railway, operated from Portland to Eugene.
Jim Hill began service from Portland to Eugene on his Oregon Electric Railway in 1912. Not wanting to be left out, Southern Pacific began electrifying some of its steam lines in 1912.
A long-standing rivalry developed between the Harriman’s and the powerful Jim Hill. The rivalry intensified when Oregon Electric lines went to the University of Oregon in Eugene and the Red Electrics carried their rivals to OAC (Oregon Agricultural College – now Oregon State University) in Corvallis.