Holiday Express again rumbles through East Portland

There’s still time to book a ride on a holiday-decked train, pulled by ‘The most popular locomotive in the nation’ …

After pulling out of engine house at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center in southeast Portland, the Southern Pacific 4449 switches on to the Oregon Pacific Railroad track, heading for historic Oaks Amusement Park.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Braving all kinds of weather, more than 100 volunteers with the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF) are again taking guests on a sentimental journey back in time – to ride the “Holiday Express” excursion train in southeast Portland.

“We’re having another great year of the Holiday Express,” ORHF Board President Doyle McCormack shouted to East Portland News from the doorway of the cab of the mighty Southern Pacific 4449 locomotive, as it was “steaming up” for another run.

The Southern Pacific 4449 locomotive stops next to the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, waiting for a yard locomotive to bring up the passenger cars.

Fireman Pat Tracy and Engineer Doyle McCormack get ready to take the Southern Pacific 4449 locomotive on another run of the Holiday Express.

This locomotive was pulled “America’s Freedom Train” through all 48 continental states during the 1976 Bicentennial of the country; and Trains magazine readers chose the 4449 as the most popular locomotive in the nation.

As in past years, the locomotive and train are decked out in festive holiday lights, and the interior of passenger cars are decorated with garlands, ornaments, and lights.

Volunteers watch as the passenger cars are about to be coupled to the 4449.

The trip starts at the Oaks Park Station, at the entrance of the historic amusement park. The round trip takes visitors on a 45-minute journey north, through Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and along the Willamette River north to the vicinity of OMSI, and back.

But what’s new this year, is that the locomotive and cars make their way to and from the new Oregon Rail Heritage Center, located two blocks east of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

> See our article about the grand opening of this fascinating new “working museum”: CLICK HERE.

This train is ready to delight more Holiday Express riders.

“The Holiday Express excursions are our major fundraiser each year,” McCormack said. “And this year, we’re offering excursions on three weekends, through December 16.”

With the cars coupled to the locomotive, McCormack throttled up the locomotive, and it chugged toward Oaks Bottom, for its first run of the day. The occasional blasts of its mournful steam whistle could be heard miles away.

© 2012 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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