Folks make tracks to Portland Train Day

See the huge turnout that showed that this Oregon Rail Heritage Center event was a big hit …

Crowds attending Portland Train Day are funneled between the Nickel Plate Road #190 and SP&S #700, inside the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

The promotional information from the Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) heralded this party as “Trains, trains, trains!” Hundreds of people saw exactly that, during “Portland Train Day 2016”.

Parking was scarce in the ORHC lot near OMSI, under the Oregon Highway 99E viaduct on Saturday, May 14, as old and young came to see and touch railroading history at the Center.

After a complete boiler rebuild, the historic engine Southern Pacific #4449 steams up, during Portland Train Day at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.

“National Train Day” was started by Amtrak in 2008 as a way to promote railway travel and preserve railroad history. It’s held each year on the Saturday closest to May 10, the anniversary of the pounding-in of the Golden Spike in Promontory, Utah, to mark the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. Amtrak, however, discontinued the event earlier this year, blaming “financial challenges”. So the local organization stepped up to keep it going – in Portland, at least.

“We’re resurrecting Portland’s celebration of trains with the first annual Portland Train Day,” smiled ORHC Executive Director Colleen O’Dell, as guests swirled around her at the entrance of this unique working rail museum.

Visiting from China, with his parents, Bohyi Li rings the antique locomotive bell donated to ORHC by Union Pacific.

“Today, we’re joining other organizations as they hold independent ‘Train Day’ celebrations across the country,” O’Dell told East Portland News.

Portland has a long and substantial history as a rail town, O’Dell pointed out. “And, here at the museum, we have three of Portland’s steam locomotives. The City of Portland is one of the very few cities that own steam locomotives that have been restored, or are in the restoration process by scores of volunteers.”

Visitors marvel at a model railroad layout constructed of Legos, during the Portland Train Day event.

Kevin Novak, owner of a 1986 Fairmont Motor Company MT14-M “speeder”, takes Portland Train Day visitors for a ride.

Families were amazed by massive Lego model train railroad displays, gawked at the huge, authentic locomotives inside the museum, and marveled at the once-again- operating SP 4449 locomotive as it steamed-up in the yard.

One of many excursions that day on Richard Samuels’ Oregon Pacific Railroad Company line leaves for Oaks Bottom and Oaks Amusement Park.

“We’re keeping count, and a little over 2,000 people have come through our doors since opening at 10 a.m.,” O’Dell said. “We’re so happy to be able to show off this beautiful building, and showcase our volunteers and these amazing of these locomotives, of which we are the caretakers.”

Find out more about the ORHC by visiting their website: CLICK HERE,

>> On our Front Page: As other kids look on, Janna Lehrfeld rings the locomotive bell – on display in front of Portland’s Oregon Rail Heritage Center.

© 2016 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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