|BNSF switcher in northwest Portland's Guilds Lake industrial district.|
Guilds Lake in northwest Portland is the best remaining example of the city's once-numerous switching districts: highly industrialized areas served by a dense rail network. Another local photographer, Alexander Craghead, is working on a photography project to document the remnants. As industry has declined around downtown Portland, most of these switching districts have been abandoned or disappeared altogether. Guilds Lake manages to hang on, but just barely. Rail service is down to once-a-week (more or less), with only one major customer, the Holman Distribution warehouse on Luzon Street. Two other customers receive semi-regular shipments, Industrial Export (INDEX), a steel distributor on St. Helens Road, and Chemical Distributors, Inc. (CDI) on Industrial Street.
In three attempts to photograph this operation in 2010, I got skunked once and twice found the train switching at Holman, but never the other two customers. Today, the BNSF switch job had work at all three main customers, including this unusually busy (for 2011) move at INDEX, where they brought in two gondola loads of steel and picked up two empties.
Thanks to Kyle Weismann-Yee, another local photographer and the guru of current rail switching operations in Portland, without whose on-the-scene research efforts I never would have been able to photograph any part of this operation.