‘Train Day’: Locomotive SP&F 700’s 80th Birthday

Look, and you’ll see why thousands of people came to this year’s “Portland Train Day” at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center …

“America’s Freedom Train”, the historic Southern Pacific 4449 locomotive, is the sight greeting visitors to Portland Train Day.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) hosted its 3rd annual Portland Train Day on May 19; the centerpiece of the celebration was the 80th “birthday” of the Spokane Portland and Seattle #700 steam locomotive, lodged in a service bay for its latest 15-year boiler renovation.

“Portland Train Day” joined other similar celebrations around the nation, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, said Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation Executive Director Greg Fitzgerald.

Many with tickets in hand, people line up to enter this year’s Portland Train Day celebration.

“Instead operating model railroads, we come here and work on the real thing,” says Randy Woehl, a crewmember from the Spokane Portland and Seattle #700 locomotive team.

Although it was a ticketed event this year, thousands of people still made their way to the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, situated under the SE MLK Jr. Viaduct, just east of OMSI.

“We expect to have about 5,000 people here today to look at our working locomotives, to be amazed by the model train layouts running, to go on train rides, to enjoy live music, to dine at food carts, and to make a day of it,” Fitzgerald grinned.

Showing off their commemorative T-shirts are Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation Executive Director Greg Fitzgerald, and event organizer Erin Riddle of Quick Concepts.

Examining at the train layout are Katherine Beard, holding Camden, and dad Nick Beard, visiting from Vancouver, Washington.

“The purpose of the ORHC is not only to take care of and operate the steam locomotives housed here, but also to educate people about how rail has affected the history of the Pacific Northwest,” Fitzgerald told East Portland News.

The organization does not just look at the past, but it’s also about the future of rail transportation, he said. “Here, we’re situated between three rail lines – the Union Pacific, the Oregon Pacific, and the TriMet MAX Light Rail Line,” Fitzgerald pointed out.

Another excursion on the short-line Oregon Pacific Railroad rolls south to Oaks Amusement Park.

Participating organizations present information about railroading’s past, present, and future, inside the ORHC.

About 50 volunteers were on hand, including the crews who work on the locomotives. “The best part of this for me is seeing all the kids come through here and enjoying the trains,” Fitzgerald said.

Other than on “Train Day”, visiting the ORHC occurs year ’round, is free, and it’s open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. To learn more, see their website: CLICK HERE.

This young engineer, Henry Fischer, powers and drives his own locomotive during Portland Train Day.

© 2018 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News™


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