My wife said to me yesterday, “Do you realize you and Haley have seen a steam engine every weekend in December so far?”. I had to stop and think. Sure enough… 12/2 SP&S 700, 12/9 SP 4449, 12/15 SP&S 700, 12/16 SP 4449. I could also visit Mt. Rainier Scenic and see one of theirs on 12/22 if I didn’t have plans. We are darn lucky here in the Northwest to have such wonderful groups working on historic preservation!
After bringing Santa Claus to a community celebration at BNSF’s Vancouver, Wa. Yard, the Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700 returns back to the Oregon Rail Heritage Center in Portland, Or. This has become somewhat of an annual event sponsored by BNSF and the PRPA. Families from all over Vancouver get to see Santa and in addition are given cab tours of the 700 and a BNSF diesel locomotive.
Our family has an annual holiday tradition. Each year we ride the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation’s Holiday Express train. It is a simple but enjoyable ride that gets all of us on a train at least once a year.
The Southern Pacific 4449 leads the first Holiday Express train of the day away from the Oaks Park Station. The trill of steam operation continues in Portland.
Our tradition doesn’t end with the ride and associated shopping trip at the tent. My daughter and I use Sunday’s on HE weekends to view the power and thrill of steam operations up close and personal. We head down to Oaks Park station and choose a variety of locations to watch the train. Our favorite by far is to stand between Oaks Park station and Spokane St. On this short segment the train leaves Oaks Park station and climbs a small grade up to Spokane St. On the cool and damp December mornings steam clouds hang in the air seemingly for minutes after the train passes. Even better the sounds of locomotive exhaust and whistle bounce off the hillsides around the Willamette River giving more than one chance to hear these fabulous machines.
Yesterday while we stood on the Springwater trail (the paved trail next to the fence) one passerby commented “There is nothing like the sound of a steam engine is there?”. I agreed. The fact we can experience one at least once a year in Portland is a real privilege. We are lucky to have the hard working volunteers who put in countless hours and contribute countless dollars to make these excursions happen. We are lucky to have Dick Samuels and the Oregon Pacific to make sure these locomotives have a well maintained place to operate right in town. And finally we are lucky to have the passengers who flock to the trains every year. We are lucky we have such a fabulous annual family tradition.
Saturday and Sunday last weekend the Daylight made a round trip between Portland and Bend. I, along with many other railfans, spent the day searching for great photos of this beautiful locomotive and passenger train. Knowing the train would move quickly up the Columbia River gorge I planned my first couple of photo locations carefully. My first location would be as the train crossed the Willamette River draw bridge. From there I would have to cross the Columbia River and get ahead of the train with enough time to get set up. My second planned photo was 80 miles later between Bingen and Lyle. I arrived with about 10 minutes to spare.
After that I headed into the Deschutes River canyon where I knew I’d have plenty of time to scope out my photo, enjoy my lunch, and wait for the train to arrive. After much driving around and looking at various spots between Shearar’s bridge and Maupin I settled on this location at the White River. My plan worked well as the passing clouds opened up just prior to the train’s arrival. Luck maybe?
From there I moved on to a location between Paxton and Madras. I’ve not spent much time in this location so I wanted to arrive early enough to have an opportunity to scope out the situation. Knowing the train had to traverse the canyon between Cambrai and Gateway plus make two train meets at Dixon and Kaskela, I would have plenty of time to scope things out. Once I scoped out my position I heard the train setting up for a photo runby. I was bummed because the light on my location was perfect. Between the setting sun and the increasing clouds I was concerned what the 30-45 minute delay would do. In the end the delay helped. Had the train arrived when I originally thought it would a cloud obscured the sun. When it actually arrived the sun was out!
I made this trip with my 15 year old Daylight loving daughter. She was thrilled to spend the day with me out chasing the Daylight. For her seeing it, hearing it, and smelling the exhaust were the highlights. I enjoyed watching her and hearing the thrill in her voice as she talked about it after each time it went past. It is nice that 71 years later the 4449 can still bring so much joy to so many folks!