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My Albany & Eastern Excursion Train 3/17/2017

by Chris Guenzler

The three of us checked out of the Shanico Inn in Lebanon, Oregon and drove down the highway to the golden arches of MacDonald's for breakfast. There I had my usual hotcakes and sausages so I was a happy camper. From here we drove to the Lebanon station and since I did not have to worry about anyone else being there, I took a couple of very early morning photographs.

The pre-dawn light pictures of the Lebanon Southern Pacific station. I then waited in the car mainly for warmth until cars arrived, then proceeded to go outside and introduce myself to each driver or in some cases, parties of passengers, to the trip. Several people immediately thanked me for running this trip. As more people came, I became busier but soon some of my rare mileage friends showed up and other riders who still needed to pay me for tickets. Several people then would walk up and ask if I had any tickets left, and I said yes, they paid me and I gave them tickets so I had more passengers for the excursion.

The schedule I was told would have the train at the station at 8:15. But later I learned the train would not there until 8:45 AM because the railroad had had a conference and decided not to block the streets so early in the morning as buses would be needing to get children to school. While I understood this from working in a school, why was I not informed prior about this prior to this morning? We had made our photo lines and were all set for the train to arrive at the right time when Mother Nature threw a curveball at us with a small rainstorm. That sent people underneath the eaves of the depot and inside the depot which was now open by this time. After a few minutes inside, and beginning to feel claustrophobic, I went back across the street and we assembled the photo line, where I was joined by many of the photographers. About 8:40 AM, we started hearing the horns and when I heard the horns in rapid succession, I knew the train was on its way to all of us waiting at the station.

Our photo runby of the train arriving at the depot with the engineer using the Mars headlight. An experienced photographer would time as I did so when the Mars light was shining at you, you waited to take the picture until it went away. That way you only got the train in the picture, not the blinding light. At this point, Elizabeth and I walked over to the crossing where the crew was about to start loading the train. I put Elizabeth across from me at which time I yelled that famous line I love to say -- All Aboard! People immediately started to form a line to board the train. As it was raining, I told everyone to get on the train and Elizabeth would check their tickets later when we got underway. This way I would not have a train of wet passengers, although some people chose to do that later on. At the top of the vestibule, Bob Alkire passed out the trip guides I had made especially for this trip to all passengers and those crew who wanted one. The train got underway at 9:00 and I was off on new mileage but not drinking any Coca-Cola at this point. I made my way out to the open car for a few minutes for some fresh air and to start taking photographs. But first, I decided to walk the train to make sure everyone was comfortable in their seats or at tables.

Elizabeth the Zephyrette checking off people's tickets which enabled me to enjoy myself. She also punched all the tickets.

The interiors of each of the cars the passengers were riding in. If you wondered what the consist of this train was, it is as follows: SP GP9R 5399, WPRX 1402 generator car, GN 1099 coach, now table car, WPRX 1241 GN Ranch Car "Running Crane Lake", RFRX baggage car 1003, former UP 5742, AERC 1802 open car, SP caboose 4716, AERC GP35 2501.

The train took the first curve east from the depot.

A look back to where we had started this wonderful trip from.

The train finished the first curve and then crossed both branches of Highway 20 before it came to the junction with the line that goes to Mill City that is still owned by the Union Pacific, but operated by the Albany and Eastern Railroad.

The train took the curve that takes it on a more southerly direction for the next few miles on its way out of Lebanon.

Three tracks of stored cars at Weldwood.

The old water tower at Weldwood.

Cheadle Lake which once was a log sorting lake for Georgia Pacific.

An old barn.

We went by Milepost 18 on our way to Sweethome.

This large Weyerhaeuser's Santiam Lumber mill plant is the largest customer on this section of the railroad.

The clouds playing hide and seek with the mountain range to the north.

A flooded field along our route.

A nice pastoral view.

The clouds are actively playing hide and seek with the mountains and are winning this game.

Trees that escaped the cutting of the lumbermen.

We take another curve on a very wet morning.

This industry makes wood chips as you can see the stacks in the lower picture ready to be picked up, although today it will be soggy wood chips.

An interesting piece of property.

More logs create even more wood chips.

The train passes through "The Narrows" as it is called on this railroad on the final miles into our destination of Sweethome.

Taking the final curve into the community of Sweethome, Oregon.

Passing through the community of Sweethome to our final destination of 18th Street where the exempt track begins which no passenger train is allowed to cross.

The train's final eastward point was 18th Street in Sweethome. Here our engineer detrained, walked to the south of the train to the other end, climbed into the locomotive and did his standing air test before we departed Sweethome for Lebanon. With that done, I could now relax, talk with my fellow passengers and catch up on things as the train headed back to Lebanon. Once we were within about three miles of Lebanon, I walked through the train and thanked all the people who came on the trip, which in turn they thanked me back, sometimes with clapping and other times with verbal statements. All of these things made me feel very good about all the things I had done to make this trip happen.

As we were nearing Lebanon, Bob came through the train announcing a photo opportunity for the passengers that he discussed with the excellent A&E train crew. The plan would be spot the train at the street crossing and open both vestibules on both sides of the train there. People who did not want to take any more photographs were free to detrain and leave. The rest of us with cameras would detrain on the west side of the train and line up for the spotting of our Black Widow SD9 with the BN Lebanon station sign as a prop. Once everyone was off the train, and I had told the conductor what to do, we spotted the train in perfect position for still photography. All the passengers who wanted to would then have another opportunity to take more pictures of the train. I detrained first and walked down to shoot a few more pictures of the train before everyone else.

Southern Pacific SD9 5399 in Black Widow scheme.

The views from the other photo line of the train arriving this morning. I was not able to be in two spots at the same time but managed to get down to that spot before anyone else. I walked to where I knew the engine would be lined up with the sign and they backed the train into perfect position and I took my pictures.

The posed photo of our train with the BN signpost in Lebanon. I then decided to show you all the cars in our train that we used on our trip today.

WPRX generator car 1402 built by Pullman in 1926 as sleeper "Point Richards". In 1948, it became Southern Railway 2433 and was re-built in 1952 to steam generator (battery charger) BC2, later renumbered to 960605, then Norfolk Southern 26. In 1990, this car was sold to the New Georgia Railroad as NGRX 1402, sold at the New Georgia auction in 1995 to Lou Steplock-Wyoming & Pacific as WPRX 1402. Steplock was one of the partners in the Montana Daylight operation before it was bought out by AOE and rebranded Montana Rockies Rail Tours. It was later acquired by the Albany and Eastern.

Albany and Eastern 1099 was built in 1947 by the Pullman Company. It was originally a 56-seat coach car with an eight-seat smoking section on one end. The car was built for the Chicago and North Western Railroad as CNW 841. It was sold to the Great Northern Railroad and renumbered GN 1099 then stored with AERC for many years until they purchased it from private hands. It is currently in the process of being turned into a dining car.

WPRX Great Northern ranch car 1241 "Running Crane Lake" built by American Car and Foundry in 1951. It later became Amtrak 8150 and was retired in/1981 then went to the Nicolet Badger Northern in Laona, Wisconsin, followed by the Golden State Limited-Silver Iris in Verdi, Nevada before being purchased by Dr. Louis Steplock as WPRX 1241 for lease service on the Willamette & Pacific Railroad.

RFRX baggage car 1003 built by American Car and Foundry in 1957 as Union Pacific postal storage car 5743.

AERC open car 1002, open-air coach rebuilt from Union Pacific flat car converted to maintenance-of-way service.

Southern Pacific caboose 4716 built in 1980 by Pacific Car and Foundry.

Albany and Eastern GP35 2501, originally Southern 7412.

Both views of both sides of the train at Lebanon. I walked back down to the depot but not finding anyone at the car, I decided to take one more photograph of the train as it was pulling out of the yard to go back home.

My final shot of this very unique train that I chartered for all my passengers' enjoyment as a pre-Winterail excursion train. After the months of planning, making trip guides, tickets, putting up announcements on all kinds of Internet sites and selling tickets, I could not believe that this trip was over. It had been a very good trip, everyone had a great time and it made for some life-long memories. We met at the car and drove on to Junction City, but that will be the next part of this story.