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Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Steam Trip 7/10/2005

by Chris Guenzler

With the NRHS 2005 Convention finished, Chris Parker decided to fly home this morning and Bob Riskie was off to Amtrak to take a Thruway Bus to Eugene to see his cousin before heading home via the Starlight and San Joaquin. I had my plans already made so on a mostly cloudy morning with scattered showers I drove north to Chehalis, Washington to take a ride on the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad. I pulled the rental car into their parking lot and found the steam train waiting for its first run of this Sunday morning.

Some History of the Railroad.

The Chehalis Western purchased trackage from Milwaukee Road on a portion from Chehalis to Raymond line in 1936 and operated it as non-common carrier Chehalis Western Railroad. The line bought was 18 miles from Chehalis to Dryad. This line was not needed any more by the Milwaukee Road as it operated over a nearby Northern Pacific branch line. The Chehalis Western used only the first nine miles of this trackage from Chehalis to Ruth. A new line was built south from Ruth to Camp McDonald to where timber was ready to be cut. The logs would be taken from Camp McDonald to a log dump at South Bay near Olympia. In late 1975 the line was cutback to Curtis where a log reload was built. This truncated railroad was reorganized into the Curtis, Millburn and Eastern on December 1st, 1975. The logs were now taken from Curtis to Chehalis where they were handed over to the Milwaukee Road. When the Milwaukee Road abandoned all of its trackage west of Miles City, Montana the Curtis, Millburn & Eastern Railroad was absorbed into a new Chehalis Western. The former Milwaukee Road route to South Bay was taken over by the new Chehalis Western. The Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Association was formed in 1986 as a nonprofit corporation. The founders were a group of local citizens whose goal was to restore a 1916 logging locomotive that had been placed in a Chehalis park thirty years earlier. Early the following year, the restoration was begun and over the next two years, several railroad cars were acquired. With restoration completed, scheduled operations began in the summer of 1989 over a section of former Milwaukee Road track in the Chehalis-Centralia area. The Chehalis Western then shut down in 1992. The entire line was sold to the City of Tacoma in 1995 and renamed the Tacoma Eastern Railroad. It lasted just three years when in 1998 the railroad was taken over by Tacoma Rail.

The Train

Cowlitz, Chehalis & Cascade #15 Builders # 44106 Baldwin Locomotive Works.

Open Car 801 Mount St. Helens

Coach 602 ex-Union Pacific City of Centralia.

The Shop Building

Backup Loco ex-Puget Sound Naval Shipyard #9

On display was Milwaukee Road Box Car 33283. I was invited up into the cab of the 15 where I met our engine crew for the trip. My next order of business was to buy a ticket for my trip at the ex Union Pacific caboose ticket office. There I also bought a T-shirt and some post cards.

Chehalis-Centralia Railroad Steam Trip 7/10/2005

I boarded the Coach 602 and took a rear facing seat with an open window so I could take pictures. I bought a Mug Root Beer and a Three Musketeer to enjoy until our 1:00 PM departure time from Chehalis. The engine crew blew the whistle five times to signal five minutes until we leave. With a toot of the whistle we were off to Millburn and a start of a trip over a new route for me.

Our trip started by passing the old station and the shops.

We traveled by a well groomed back yard and by some trees.

The train crossed the Newakum River on a nice wooden trestle.

Most passengers enjoyed the open car right behind the engine.

Our route passed tree lined fields and here is a view looking south.

The view to the north side of the train.

A view looking back from where we had been. The train crossed Washington State Highway 603 and a little later Stearns Creek.

Another view looking back.

The train passing through Joy.

Interesting trees in a field.

A barn out in the beautiful countryside.

The train crossed a rural crossing.

The engine pulled our train around another curve.

The view after we crossed another small creek on another small trestle.

The train rolled by a pond with Lilly Pads on the south side.

Lilly Pads abound to our rear.

A nice rural scene on our route to Millburn.

Another rural grade crossing this time in the trees.

The train took another curve as we neared Millburn.

The train crossed a grade crossing and starts the turn into Millburn.

Our train has reached the set out track at Millburn before we arrived there.

We stopped on the mainline at Millburn and the engine cut off to run around our train.

Here came the engine backing by us.

The engine backed by us down to the switch.

Next the engine ran to our train and would pull us backwards to Chehalis.

I walked to the rear of the open car for the return trip to Chehalis. Here I met members of the 73082 Camelot Locomotive Society from England who were here visiting various western USA steam railroad operations. Now sit back and enjoy the trip back from the rear of the train with only a few comments by us as we returned to Chehalis.

Here is where the Northern Pacific used to cross this line.

Note the Deer as we crossed the Newakum River.

Crossing the Newakum River before we returned to Chehalis.

Here the engine had to run around the train to be ready for the afternoon trip.

The engine backing up to the train.