POVAPend Oreille Valley Railroad

     Port History

The original rail line between Metaline Falls and Newport, Washington was constructed during the years 1909 to 1911 by Fredrick Blackwell and was named the Idaho and Washington Northern (I&WN). In 1913, when Mr. Blackwell was unable to make the interest payments on his construction bonds due to a continued slump in the lumber market and a four-month delay in getting the cement plant operational, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad took over operating the I&WN for a period of two years. On January 25, 1916 the I&WN was sold at auction to the Milwaukee Road. The Milwaukee Road ran the railroad until 1979 when it declared it was no longer economically feasible to keep the line in operation.

Rather than abandoning the line, the citizens of Pend Oreille County joined together and voted to create the Port of Pend Oreille to operate the Pend Oreille Valley Railroad (POVA). The Port of Pend Oreille was voted in without taxing authority. The sole purpose of the Port was to save the railroad and the two mills that were dependent upon it for rail service on the northern end of the line. These two companies were Lehigh Portland Cement Company at Metaline Falls and Louisiana Pacific Corporation at Ione, Washington. From 1979 until October 1984, the Port leased the rail line to Kyle Railways. In October 1984, the Port began operating the railroad five days per week from Metaline Falls to Newport and return.

Economic times have since virtually closed the cement facility at Metaline Falls, on rare occasions the facility receives cement to store in its large capacity silos. The lumber plant at Ione (sold to Vaagen Brothers Lumber) battled its own economic struggles for many years and Vaagen Brothers also closed its doors and completely dismantled the lumber mill. The remaining shipper on the line between Metaline Falls and Newport is located at Usk. Ponderay Newsprint Company ships newsprint, and recycle paper and a few loads of chemicals per year by rail.

Knowing that more shippers were needed for the railroad to survive, and being given an opportunity to add a small section of Burlington Northern Santa Fe track to its operations, the Port signed a 20-year lease agreement with Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad in 1998 which took this small Port District’s railroad operations into the State of Idaho.

POVA currently employs 13 full time employees, plus additional summer help for track maintenance as needed. POVA track crews provide all the track maintenance for the line. In the POVA shop, in addition to day-to-day railroad operations, crews rebuild locomotives not only for our own business but does so on a contract basis as well.

The Port of Pend Oreille is one of only a few Port District’s within Washington that does not collect a property tax. The main source of revenue for the Port is the operation of the railroad.

An on-going function of the Port is to try to get more businesses to locate in Pend Oreille County. To accomplish this Commissioners Steve Kiss, John Harkness and Bob Shanklin and Port staff work with Pend Oreille County Economic Development Council (EDC) personnel in attempting to find businesses to locate in our rural, natural resource based county.


Port Information:   History -- Location -- Commissioners -- Staff
Services:   Railroad Operations -- Shop Services -- Car Storage -- Land Available
Public Documents:   Meeting Times -- Minutes -- Forms and Applications