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2011 NRHS Convention -- Southern Pacific 4449 Portland to Tacoma 6/21/2011

by Chris Guenzler

I was up early and after showering and checking the Internet, I went to the Days Inn lobby for breakfast and watched ESPN Sports Center before checking out. I walked over to the MAX station, bought my ticket then boarded a Blue Line train at the time of the Green Line train and took it to Hollywood where I switched to a Green Line train for Portland Union Station. I then walked the two blocks to one of my favorite stations in America.

Portland Union Station, built in 1896 and rebuilt in 1996, was undergoing tile replacement. The initial design for the station was created in 1882 by McKim, Mead & White. Had the original plan been built, the station would have been the largest train station in the world. A smaller plan was introduced by architects Van Brunt & Howe, and accepted in 1885. Construction of the station began in 1890. It was built by Northern Pacific Terminal Company at a cost of $300,000 and opened on February 14, 1896. The signature piece of the structure is the 150-foot-tall Romanesque Revival clock tower.

In the years prior to Amtrak's assuming passenger operations on May 1, 1971, the Union Pacific's City of Portland ran to Portland from Chicago via Utah. Amtrak ran a successor train, the Pioneer, on a similar route to Portland until 1997.

Neon signs were added to the tower in 1948 which read "Go by Train" on the northeast and southwest sides and "Union Station" on the northwest and southeast sides. They went dark in March 1971 because the railroads using it, Union Pacific, Burlington Northern and Southern Pacific, were preparing to transfer all of their remaining passenger services to Amtrak. For that reason, the station's then-owner, the Portland Terminal Railroad (itself jointly owned by those three railroads), decided to discontinue operation of the signs. In 1985, two local non-profit groups, the National Railway Historical Society (Pacific Northwest chapter) and the Oregon Association of Railway Passengers, led a fundraising campaign for public donations to enable the signs to be restored to operation. New neon tubes, in place of the old, were installed in July and the signs were switched back on and returned to regular use in September 1985. The "Union Station" signs remain illuminated continuously, while the "Go by Train" signs flash on and off, in a sequence of "Go", then "Go by", then all three words, then off and on and repeat.

In 1987, ownership of the station and surrounding land was transferred from Portland Terminal Railroad to the Portland Development Commission (now Prosper Portland) as part of the Downtown/Waterfront urban-renewal district. Shortly afterwards, Union Station underwent a renovation and was rededicated in 1996.

The station was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

I went inside and found some people I knew who would watch my luggage while I went to take pictures of our Southern Pacific 4449 train which would be travelling to Tacoma later this morning. I walked out to the street and down the sidewalk to a construction zone to get pictures of the steam engine.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 at rest in Portland.

Southern Pacific 4449 and its train, after which I walked down to the grade crossing and came back to the station platform.

The front of this famous streamliner.

The rear of our train today whose consist was Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449, Auxiliary Tender DLMX 4219, Amtrak P42DC 202, baggage/concession DLMX 5659, Amfleet coaches 82540, 82720, 82510, cafe/business class 58107, Amfleet coaches 82560 and 82620, San Luis and Rio Grande full dome 511 "Nenana" 800124, Santa Fe short dome "Plaza Santa Fe" 503 800392, California Zephyr "Silver Lariat" 800190 and California Zephyr dome/observation CZ10 "Silver Solarium" 800038.

I returned to the station and not too much later, the Pacific Northwest Chapter committee arrived and I was first to get my ticket, signing a release then going to the another counter to pick up the ticket and route guide. About 9:50 AM, they allowed us to board the train; I was in Car A, 82540, and took a left hand large window seat then went up inside the baggage car and bought a new Daylight hat. I worked on the story until departure time.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 - A Brief History

Southern Pacific 4449 is the only surviving example of Southern Pacific Railroad's (SP) GS-4 class of steam locomotives. The GS-4 is a streamlined 4-8-4 (Northern) type steam locomotive. GS stands for "Golden State", a nickname for California (where the locomotive was operated in regular service), or "General Service." The locomotive was built by Lima Locomotive Works in Lima, Ohio, for SP in May 1941; it received the red-and-orange "Daylight" paint scheme for the passenger trains of the same name which it hauled for most of its service career. No. 4449 was retired from revenue service in 1957 and put into storage. In 1958 it was donated, by the railroad, to the City of Portland who then put it on static display in Oaks Park, where it remained until 1974. It was restored to operation for use in the second American Freedom Train, which toured the 48 contiguous United States for the American Bicentennial celebrations. Since then, 4449 has been operated in excursion service throughout the continental US; its operations are currently based at the Brooklyn roundhouse in Portland, where it is maintained by a group of dedicated volunteers called Friends of SP 4449. In 1983, a poll of Trains magazine readers chose the 4449 as the most popular locomotive in the nation.

Revenue Years: 4449 was the last engine manufactured in Southern Pacific's first order of GS-4 (Golden State/General Service) locomotives. 4449 was placed into service on May 30, 1941, and spent its early career assigned to the Coast Daylight, SP's premier passenger train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, California, but it also pulled many other of the SP's named passenger trains. After the arrival of newer GS-4s and GS-5s, 4449 was assigned to Golden State Route and Sunset Route passenger trains. 4449 was re-assigned to the Coast Division in the early 1950s. One of 4449's career highlights happened on October 17, 1954, when 4449 and sister 4447 pulled a special 10-car train for the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society from Los Angeles to Owenyo, California, and return. In 1955, after being one of the last few Daylight steam engines in Daylight livery, 4449 was painted black and silver and its side skirting (a streamlining feature of the Daylight steam engines) was removed due to dieselization of the Coast Daylight in January of that year. 4449 was then assigned to Southern Pacific's San Joaquin Valley line, occasionally pulling passenger trains such as the San Joaquin Daylight between Oakland and Bakersfield as well as fast freight and helper service. 4449 was semi-retired from service on September 24, 1956, and was kept as an emergency back-up locomotive until it was officially retired on October 2, 1957, and was placed in storage along with several other GS-class engines near Southern Pacific's Bakersfield roundhouse.

On Display: In 1958, when most of the GS class engines had already been scrapped, a then black-and-silver painted 4449 was removed from storage and donated to the city of Portland, Oregon, on April 24, 1958, where it was placed on outdoor public display in Oaks Park. Since the equipment was considered obsolete, 4449 was not actively chosen for static display. It was picked simply because it was the first in the dead line and could be removed with the least number of switching moves. During its time on display, 4449 was repeatedly vandalized and had many of its parts stolen, including its builder's plates and whistle. The locomotive quickly deteriorated due to neglect. It was evaluated for restoration in 1974 after becoming a candidate to pull the American Freedom Train. Its size, power, and graceful lines made it a good fit for the Bicentennial train. After finding that 4449's bearings and rods were in good shape, it was chosen.

American Freedom Train: 4449 was removed from display on December 14, 1974, and restored at Burlington Northern's Hoyt Street roundhouse in Portland and returned to operation April 21, 1975, wearing a special paint scheme of red, white, and blue. As part of the American Freedom Train, the engine pulled a display train around the most of the United States. Afterwards, 4449 pulled an Amtrak special, the Amtrak Transcontinental Steam Excursion. After nearly two years on the road, 4449 was returned to storage in Portland, this time under protective cover and not exposed to the elements.

Present Day: In 1981, SP 4449 was returned to its original "Daylight" colors for the first Railfair at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, California. In 1984, 4449 pulled an all Daylight-painted train from Portland to New Orleans, Louisiana and back, to publicize the World's Fair. The 7,477-mile round trip was the longest steam train excursion in US history. In 1986, 4449 went to Hollywood to appear in "Tough Guys" and pulled business trains for the Southern Pacific. No. 4449 had another famous moment in 1989 when 4449 and Union Pacific 844 (another famous 4-8-4 steam engine) made a side-by-side entrance into the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal in 1989 for the station's 50th anniversary celebrations. No. 4449 returned to Railfair in Sacramento in 1991 and again in 1999. In 2000, 4449 was repainted black and silver for a Burlington Northern Santa Fe employee appreciation special, then was repainted into the American Freedom Train colors again in early 2002 after the events of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In 2004, the locomotive was returned to Daylight colors again, this time in its "as delivered" appearance.

In 2005 at the Portland, Oregon Go by Train NRHS Convention" she double-headed to Wishram with SP&S 700. In 2009, SP 4449 went from Portland, Oregon to Owosso, Michigan for Train Festival 2009. The Tacoma NRHS Convention will be SP 4449's 4th NRHS convention she has been at since her return to service.

The Trip

We left Portland at 10:45 AM and started the trip to Tacoma.

The view leaving Portland Union Station. I walked back from the baggage car back to the vestibule of coach 58107 for a few more open air pictures.

Southern Pacific 4449 looked beautiful in the late morning light.

The train passed through Lake Yard.

Southern Pacific 4449 passed Amtrak Cascades 501 as it took the big curve to cross the Willamette River, after which I returned to my seat.

The crossing of the Columbia River as we crossed into Vancouver, our only other passenger stop to pick up the rest of our NRHS passengers who took the Amtrak Cascades 501 from Tacoma to get here.

Passengers waiting to board in Vancouver included Bart Jennings, in the orange shirt, next year's Iowa Convention Chairman.

Southern Pacific 4449 at rest at Vancouver.

Passengers still boarding.

The rear of the train. We departed at 11:27 AM and made our way to Tacoma.

One of the branches of the Columbia River north of Vancouver.

A pond along our route. Being in the car behind the open door baggage car enabled one to have great sounds of the steam engine's whistle.

Farming on the floodplain of the Columbia River.

The Columbia River on the way to Kelso-Longview .

The Cowlitz River as we approached Kelso-Longview.

The old Columbia & Cowlitz Railroad bridge and wooden trestle built in 1925 at Rocky Point.

The interchange track with the former Columbia & Cowlitz Railroad. The southbound Coast Starlight passed us going south as we headed north.

Local color on the way to Vader. The train ran by the ash piles that were dredged out of the Toutle River after Mount St. Helens blew its top in 1984 then climbed Vader Hill.

The passengers enjoying the baggage car's open door and the sounds of Southern Pacific 4449 climbing Vader Hill. At Vader we crested the hill and started down the north side of it.

Mount St. Helens before we ran through Chehalis and Centralia then proceeded through Olympia/Lacey before reaching Puget Sound.

Scenes along Puget Sound.

Southern Pacific 4449 paralleling the Sound on a beautiful summer's day.

The Olympic Mountains across Puget Sound.

The view ahead.

The Olympic Mountains.

The Tacoma Narrows bridge as we continued along Puget Sound.

Two views before the mile-long Nelson Bennett Tunnel after which we ran along Commencement Bay before arriving in Tacoma.

The Temco grain elevator.

Temco SW1200 175, ex. Continental Grain 175, exx. Burlington Northern 175, nee Northern Pacific 175 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1958.

Temco GP9 1611, ex. BNSF 1611:1, exx. Burlington Northern 1816, nee Great Northern 664 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1954.

Temco SW1200 185, ex. Continental Grain 185, exx. Burlington Northern 185, nee Northern Pacific 126:2 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1955.Southern Pacific 4449 pulled the train the rest of the way to the Tacoma Amtrak station, arriving at 2:17 PM, ending a great way to get the 2011 NRHS convention in Tacoma.

Tacoma 6/21/2011

I checked my suitcase in with the Amtrak agent for three dollars, then boarded a school bus for the trip to the Hotel Murano and went upstairs to the registration room for Cascade Rails 2011 Convention and Ed Graham checked me in, handing me my tickets and goodie bag. I walked to the Tacoma Light Rail and north to the end of the line and two miniutes later, the train arrived which I boarded for the 1.5 mile trip back to Freighthouse Square.

The former Tacoma Union Station. Tacoma's reputation as the "City of Destiny" began when it was chosen by the Northern Pacific Company in 1873 as the western terminus of the northern route of the transcontinental railroad, then under construction. Construction of Union Station began in 1909 and was completed on May 1, 1911.

On May 1, 1971, Amtrak took over national passenger services from private railroads, including several operated by the Burlington Northern Railroad (the successor to Northern Pacific) that stopped at Union Station. The Tacoma offices relocated to Seattle and Amtrak built a new Tacoma station on Puyallup Avenue east of Freighthouse Square.

The last passenger train left Union Station on June 14, 1984 and the abandoned building soon fell into disrepair. In 1987, Congress authorized the U.S. General Services Administration to lease Union Station for thirty years years to provide space for the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington. After three years of work, the historic building was completely renovated and restored and a three-story addition was constructed. The federal courts began occupancy in 1992 and were deemed a successful adaptive use of the landmark train station.

Tacoma Light Rail at the Freighthouse Square station. I went inside and bought a hamburger for an early dinner then walked back to the Amtrak station but made a side trip for a few pictures of some Canadian friends.

The motive power consist.

Canadian Pacific ES44AC 8842.

Canadian Pacific ES44AC 8837. I went back to the station, picked up my suitcase from storage and finished the story to this point.

That took me almost until Amtrak Cascades 516 arrived and I boarded for Edmonds, getting online and was able to upload this story after a final picture.

Mount Rainier. Even with the long layover in Seattle, it was a very enjoyable trip to Edmonds where I detrained, meeting Bob and Elizabeth, with whom I would be staying during the convention. It had been a great day of riding behind Southern Pacific 4449. At the Edmonds Amtrak station, we visited Swamp Creek & Western Model Railroad, which has a fantastic layout in the south end of the station then went to their house in Lynnwood.