Orenco Area History

Oregon Nursery

Photo of Oregon Electric Railway train at Orenco station The Oregon Electric Railway Co.’s Orenco Station had to be big enough to accommodate waiting passengers, luggage and cargo, since there were only nine trains a day one way and eight the other at the peak of the electric service.

The Oregon Nursery Co. moved to a 1,200-acre site in the Tualatin Valley in 1906, after its Salem facility burned to the ground. In 1909, the nursery constructed an office and a two-acre packing shed just north of the rails and the town. The shed was so large it housed the Washington County Fair for a number of years. The town of Orenco was incorporated in 1913 with a population of 500 people, mostly employees of the company. Many of the original workers were immigrants from Hungary.


The Oregon Electric Railway began service to Forest Grove from Portland in 1908, with a station at Orenco. The Oregon Electric station sat two blocks east of the present MAX station. It took about 45 minutes to get to Portland, and about 8 to get to Hillsboro. According to railway records, the Orenco station averaged about 1,000 passengers a month in 1913.

Modern convenience

During the height of its expansion, Orenco offered its residents the modern benefits of electric power and street lighting, running water and sewer services, a police department, a fire department, an elementary school, paved roads, a post office, a direct rail link to the biggest city in the state, employment for all at the nursery, and the inherent advantages of living in the fertile soils and mild climate of the Tualatin Valley.

Part of Hillsboro

At the end of the 1920s, financial troubles and mismanagement finally caught up with the Oregon Nursery Co. It closed down just before the Great Depression. A number of subsidiary companies spun off from it. Those that exist today include A. McGill & Sons, Motz & Son, Pacific Coast Nursery and Rich & Sons.

Tired of dealing with the bureaucratic rigors of running a town, the citizens of Orenco voted to disincorporate in 1938. The town became part of Hillsboro. By this time, the electric passenger service had been absent from the town’s railway station for more than five years. In 1998, electric passenger service was once again provided to Orenco by MAX light rail.