Facebook Page

My Albany & Eastern Excursion Train 3/17/2017

by Chris Guenzler

We checked out of the Shanico Inn in Lebanon, Oregon and drove down the highway to the golden arches of McDonalds for breakfast. There I had my usual hotcakes and sausages so I was a happy camper. From here we drove down to the Lebanon train station and not having to worry about anyone else being there, I took a walk and took a couple of night photographs of the depot.

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 here at the station at 8:15. But later I learned the train would not be at the station until 8:45 AM. They said 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 wasn't I informed prior to this morning about it? We had made our photo lines and we were all set to 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 it like 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. With it 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 for this story. 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 takes the first curve east from the depot.

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

The train finishes the first curve and then crosses both branches of Highway 20 before it comes 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 takes 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 for this trip this morning.

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 had up with the excellent A&E train crew. The plan would be spot the train at the street crossing, open both vestibules on both sides of the train there. People who did 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.

SP 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 I managed to get before everyone else got down to that spot. I walked down to where I know the engine would be linedup with the sign and they backed the train into perfect position and took my pictures which are below.

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.

GN coach, now table car, 1099.

WPRX GN ranch car 1241 "Running Crane Lake".

RFRX baggage car 1003.

AERC open car 1802.

SP caboose 4716.

Albany and Eastern GP35 2501.

Both views of both sides of the train at Lebanon. I walked back down to the depot. 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 all the months of planning, making trip guides, tickets, putting up announcements on all kinds of Internet sites, 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.