Steam engine again transports ‘Holiday Express’ revelers

Discover why this is more than just a train ride! Check it out; the ‘Holiday Express’ excursions run only for two more weekends …

Seen from the Oaks Bottom Bluff, another “Holiday Express” outing departs from the Oaks Amusement Park Station.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Around the region, several historic railroad groups run Holiday train pleasure trips this time of year.

But none of the other excursion trains are pulled by the mighty Southern Pacific 4449 steam locomotive, which drew the Bicentennial Train around the United States in 1976 – nor are they located right here, in inner East Portland – other than the “Holiday Express”, operated by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF).

The historic and powerful Southern Pacific 4449 steam locomotive arrives back at the station.

Saturdays and Sundays through December 15, the powerful 4449 “steams up” at the station at historic Oaks Amusement Park, and clickety-clacks Twentieth Century railroad carriages filled with Holiday-spirited riders up the tracks of Oregon Pacific Railroad Company, along the Willamette River, to the Ross Island Bridge, and back.

“This is our 15th season of running the ‘Holiday Express’ between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” remarked ORHF President Roy Hemmingway on the opening day, Friday, November 29.

In the “Holiday Express” train station, ORHF President Roy Hemmingway is on hand to welcome new passengers.

“Because of Thanksgiving being so late in the calendar, we’ve only three weekends this year,” Hemmingway told East Portland News. “We added one extra passenger car this year, so, in total, we can accommodate as many guests as we have in the past.”

Santa’s helpers, Caitlyn and Greta, with baskets of candy canes in tow, help jolly St. Nick bring Holiday cheer to everyone on the train.

Having made the trip up from Medford, members of the Spilde family say they’re glad to be taking a ride on the “Holiday Express”.

Some 240 guests on each train get a great Willamette River view during the daytime, and Portland’s downtown lights at night – and Santa Claus and his helpers come by to visit everyone and hand out candy canes.

In total, about 300 volunteers rotate through shifts during a Holiday event that is also a fundraiser for the nonprofit ORHF and the Portland Rail Center and Museum, Hemmingway pointed out.

A steam “blow off” partially shrouds the SP 4449 steam locomotive as it chugs forward, taking off on another “Holiday Express” journey.

“Whether they’ve come to ride the ‘Holiday Express’, or just watch as the 4449 departs the station, this gives us the opportunity to meet people, and introduce them to our historic railroad equipment, live and in person!” Hemmingway said with a knowing smile.

“Holiday Express” excursions run Saturdays and Sundays through December 15. For more information – and to buy any remaining tickets online – see their official website: CLICK HERE.

© 2019 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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