Installation begins of the Brooklyn Turntable at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center

SEE VIDEO OF THIS EVENT | You’ve seen the creation of this unique rail museum, from conception to construction. Here’s the ‘next chapter’ that’s taking place, right now …

Supporters gather at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center for the groundbreaking for installing the historic Brooklyn Rail Yard Turntable.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Over the years, it’s been quite a journey for members and supporters of the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (OHRF). First, the idea of creating the Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) to house and repair Portland’s historic locomotives; then building it on swampy land; then its grand opening. But that’s not the end of the story!

Last year, the organization took another step toward completing their plans for the ORHC by rescuing and restoring the historic Brooklyn Rail Yard Turntable. [CLICK HERE to read about it, see a video, and find links back to previous stories.]

Folks gather in front of the ORHC, as the groundbreaking is about to commence.

Continuing to raise funds to install the turntable, the group finally reached the point where construction of the “pit” in which it was to be be installed was celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony on May 16.

Before that official event, ORHF Past President Doyle McCormack, and still a loyal crew member of the historic SP 4449 locomotive, spoke with East Portland News.

McCormack began by describing the significance of the turntable apparatus. “This device was used by railroads to turn locomotives around in their yards, and place them on different tracks. In the days of steam locomotives, they generally ran in only one direction – forward! So, a turntable was essential in every major railyard.

Telling about the significance of turntable is ORHF Past President Doyle McCormack.

“This turntable – we moved it out of the Brooklyn Yard more than ten years ago, in pieces – is almost 100 years old, making it an historic artifact in its own right,” McCormack observed.

One of the reasons they’ve had to raise about $3.2 million for this project – so far – is that the pit in which the turntable sits must be excavated and lined with 74 steel pilings up to 110 feet long.

Rick Franklin, Vice President of the ORHF Board, and owner/operator of the Albany & Eastern Railroad, prepares to the get the program underway.

“As you’ll recall, if we hadn’t sunk all of those steel pilings before we built the ORHC, it would have sunk deep down into what was discarded sawdust originally used to fill the area,” McCormack pointed out. “Now that the construction is underway, it’s going be happening pretty quickly; it’s likely that it will be completed by December of this year.”

Ceremonially breaking the ground are Rick Franklin, Mike Lindberg, Doyle McCormack, Don Russell, and ORHF Executive Director Renée Devereaux.

The program’s moderator, ORHF VP Rick Franklin, recognized Doyle McCormack for his years of service, before introduced the other dignitaries. Former Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg and developer John Russell spoke at the event.

Utilizing their gold-painted shovels, officials symbolically dug into a pile of dirt.

The historic Brooklyn Rail Yard Turntable bridge again rolls through the ORHC enginehouse.

Until the base is constructed, the Brooklyn Rail Yard Turntable bridge will remain here, in a side yard at the ORHC.

Because the restored turntable bridge sat in the “front yard” of the ORHC for the past year – directly over where it will be installed – the ceremony was completed by having a locomotive move it back, through the enginehouse, and into a side yard until it can be hoisted into place.

Watch our video of this occasion, including the turntable bridge being backed through the enginehouse, and parked in the side yard.

Oregon Rail Heritage Center is open to visitors at 2250 SE Water Avenue, 97214. For hours and days, check their website: CLICK HERE.

The dashed lines on the gravel indicate the place where the Brooklyn Rail Yard Turntable will be installed.

© 2022 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™



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