Grants move ‘Rail Heritage Center’ projects forward

Here’s why their turntable installation and locomotive restoration will soon make forward strides …

In front of the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, faint red paint markings outline of where the railroad turntable will be installed.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Two projects at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center (OHRC) – installing a railroad turntable, and refurbishing a steam locomotive – will soon get underway, thanks to grants received by the Center’s foundation.

That’s what Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (OHRF) Executive Director Greg Fitzgerald revealed during a recent visit.

These massive rollers, gears, and motors will support, engage and drive the railroad turntable formerly in use in the Brooklyn Railyard, says OHRF Executive Director Greg Fitzgerald.

“ORHF received an $8,000 award from the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) toward the restoration and installation of a 102-foot continuous turntable, the last remaining historic element of the former Southern Pacific Brooklyn roundhouse,” Fitzgerald told East Portland News.

It looks like a pile of scrap metal now; but soon, the pieces will be reassembled into a 102’ long moving railroad turntable.

The NRHS grant for the turntable is matched by a $4,000 donation from the Murdock Trust. “In December 2018, the Murdock Trust provided a cash award of $250,000, and has also pledged to match one dollar for every two additional dollars raised for the Turntable Project through the end of this year,” Fitzgerald said.

The Turntable Project will complete the Design Review process by summer.

Next to the SP&S #700 locomotive that’s under renovation inside the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, volunteers talk with guests.

And, the Pacific Railroad Preservation Society (PRPA), a non-profit, all-volunteer organization collocated at the Rail Heritage Center that’s dedicated to restoring, maintaining, and operating the former Seattle, Portland & Spokane steam locomotive #700, housed at the rail center, also received $8,000 from the NRHS.

This grant was given to help the PRPA crew finance the rebuilding of two air pumps used in the #700’s locomotive braking system.

ORHF Treasurer Dale Birkholz sets up one of the machines he uses to fabricate parts for the SP&S #700 locomotive.

“I’m currently working on the SP&S #700 air pump overhaul project,” said ORHF Treasurer Dale Birkholz. “Most all the parts for all of our locomotives and rail cars here can’t be purchased; we must make them here in our machine shop, using post-World War II, heavy-duty machines,” he said.

The SP&S #700 is expected to be back in active service early next year, resulting in three operating historic steam locomotives, led by the famous Southern Pacific 4449, which ceremonially toured the country in 1976. All three are owned by the City of Portland.

The Oregon Rail Heritage Center, at 2250 SE Water Street (under the MLK/Grand Avenue Viaduct) is open to the public Thursdays through Sunday afternoons; and it’s free to visit. They also run rail excursions on Saturdays. For more information, see their website: CLICK HERE.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™

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