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The Mount Hood Railroad Morning Excursion Train 7/5/2005

plus a driving trip to the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge

by Chris Guenzler

Chris Parker met Bob Riskie and I for a continental breakfast before we left the Days Inn. One reason I choose the Days Inn was because it was located on the Trimet Light Rail known locally as "MAX". We walked over to the Max 82nd Street Station and I purchased ten ride all zone tickets. Each one had to be validated before use. The three of us went down the stairs and after a short wait a trolley for the Portland Airport came. Fifteen minutes later we were at the airport and found the Hertz Rental Car office. After some confusion in finding the car, an attendant went and found a Chevrolet Cavalier LS 2005. From the airport we drove straight out Interstate 84 to Hood River for our trip on the Mount Hood Railroad. Two buses of NRHS people would be riding this morning in the open observation car. The reason they were here was that their trip on the Lewis and Clark Explorer had lost one of the RDC's they use on the trip as it had failed two weeks ago. The Mount Hood Railroad would be used as a substitute. At least they came on the most beautiful day I have ever seen in the Pacific Northwest. Chris and Bob went to get the tickets while I parked the car.

As I walked to the station, I passed a Thomas the Tank Engine sitting on a flat bed truck.

I found the guys at the ticket window in the depot and a few minutes later we walked out the door to the train. We had the Mount Hood GP-38 02, 1056 Lookout Mountain open air observation car, 1068 Odell Coach, 1067 Parkdale Coach, 1080 Timberline Lounge, 1070 Katherine and Caboose 1040. We were assigned to the Parkdale for our round trip to Parkdale.

Mount Hood Railroad History

The origins of the Mount Hood Railroad can be traced to the Lost Lake Lumber Company who built a mill in Hood River after 1900. The Lost Lake's business plan called for logs to be bought down the Hood River to the mill. Unfortunately, the logs could not be driven down the river and quickly ran into financial problems. To keep going they borrowed money from David Ecceles and his Oregon Lumber Company. Ecceles was responsible for the building of the Sumpter Valley Railroad. Ecceles moved in quickly to make the operations happen. He announced a plan to build a dam above town and to build a railroad to bring the logs from the forest down to the mill. In 1906 a Supervisor from the Ecceles helped Sumpter Valley Railroad and a crew of Japanese workers were brought in from the sugar beet fields near La Grande to lay the rail south from Hood River. In February the rails were laid to Odell and by March all the way to Dee where the Lost Lake Sawmill was located. The railroad carried fruit, lumber as well as passengers. In 1910 the rails were extended to Parkdale. Passengers were handled on mixed trains from 1906 to 1916 and after that motor cars from White and then Mack were used. After 1935, passengers were carried in the caboose on the regular freight train. In 1950 an Alco S-3 and in 1954 an Alco HH1000 replaced the steam locomotives that handled service on the line until October 16th, 1968. On that date the Mount Hood Railroad Company a subsidiary of the Union Pacific purchased the line and assumed operations. The railroad's diesels were used up to about 1970 when regular UP power started to be used on the line. Traffic remained lumber and fruit. In 1984 the Diamond Fruit Growers consolidated its operations in the Hood River Valley to Odell and closed the Parkdale plant. Also in 1984, the Champion International Corporation closed their sawmill in Dee. Two local residents Jack Mills and Don McGraw fearing the line would be abandoned started meeting with the UP to save the line. The local UP managers were then convinced not to pull up the rails on the Dee-Parkdale segment. The UP in Omaha said that if they wanted the Dee-Parkdale segment saved, they would have to buy the entire 22 miles of the railroad for $2.8 million. After the Governor of Oregon intervened and some more discussions the price dropped to $800,000. During the winter of 1986-1987 UP placed the Mount Hood Railway on a list of 87 branch lines that were to be sold as soon as possible. A total of six bids were received. The new Mount Hood Railroad's bid was the lowest of the six, but UP selected the local company anyway because it presented the most comprehensive business plan of any of the bidders. The Mount Hood Railroad offered $650,000 for the railroad and the Hood River depot, with an additional $600,000 to be raised to purchase locomotives and rolling stock and to start doing maintenance. Negotiations began in June 1987 but quickly broke down because UP was not offering the Mount Hood enough money for each carload of freight delivered to Hood River to make the operation profitable. Negotiations were at an impasse, and finally in August 1987 UP broke off negotiations. The deal appeared to be dead. That was until the new UP CEO and Chairman who was from Portland intervened bringing the UP back to the table. New freight rates were granted to make the line's future viable. The new Mt Hood Railroad took over operation of the line on November 2nd, 1987. The new Mount Hood quickly got back into the passenger excursion business in addition to the freight business that it already had which grew steadily. A big blow to the new railroads success came when the Dee Forest Products plant in Dee burned to the ground. To make up for this lost, the Spirit of Oregon Dinner Train set which had run on the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad out of Banks up until August 1996 was purchased. The dinner train was leased for a one-year trial after it was purchased. With the dinner train plus its excursion trains and freight service has allowed the line to remain profitable with freight traffic of fruit, lumber and general commodities.

The Trip on the Mount Hood Railroad 7/5/2005

We departed Hood River Depot right at 10:00 AM with the GP-38 02 pushing our train out of town. The engine would push the train to the Switchback then pull the train to Parkdale. Coming back it will pull the train to the Switchback then back the train into the depot. We passed the Mount Hood Dinner Train as we left town.

We turned south away from the Union Pacific mainline and crossed the Hood River.

Next we run below a water tower at a former lumber mill site.

We would start a steep climb up to the Switchback following the east canyon wall along the Hood River

Our train continued to climb passing Powerdale.

We approached the Switchback as the upper level track came into view.

The station sign at Switchback.

Looking forward you can see the upper level track taking off ahead.

We traveled up as the lower level track was now in view.

Our train curved over the trestle across Oregon Highway 35.

Our train passed through Pine Grove.

Passing through Pine Grove Mount Adams in Washington came into view behind of our train.

Between Pine Grove and Mohr a view of Mount Hood off to the forward right.

Mount Hood can be seen most of the time from the train on any clear day. We were blessed with a beautiful clear day for this trip.

An interesting tree passed on the way to Mohr.

Our train rolled through Mohr, Oregon.

Mount Adams seen behind our caboose.

Lentz, Oregon.

A few minutes later we passed through Odell, Oregon.

Mount Adams off to our north in Washington.

The grade crossing at Dukes Valley.

Another view of Mount Adams.

We reached Summit as we now drop a little to get back to the Hood River Canyon.

The view northwest after Summit.

We turned south again and here came Mount Hood into view.

We returned to the ever beautiful Oregon forest.

Between the trees Mount Hood ahead of the train.

Mount Hood viewed across the old mill site at Dee, Oregon.

The water tower at Dee.

Mount Hood seen over the trees south of Dee.

One last view of the Hood River.

Our train crossing Trout Creek.

The station sign at Trout Creek.

Now in the same valley as Parkdale our train passed through orchards.

Mount Hood as we neared Parkdale.

Running by more orchards.

Another view of Mount Hood as we got closer to it and Parkdale.

At Parkdale the engine ran around our train before pushing us to the platform at the end of the line.

Our engine at rest at Parkdale as we laid over for an hour. Passengers went to the museum, stores or just explored Parkdale.

The Mack Rail Bus that used to provide service for the railroad.

The rear of our train with Mount Adams in the background.

The open air car Lookout Mountain with Mount Hood standing guard over Parkdale. With my picture taking done I visited one store for Coca-Cola and some candy then went to another for post cards. I went back to the train and worked on the story for a while. Chris came back first telling me of his adventures in Parkdale and a while later Bob returned with his tale. The train left at 12:30 PM for the trip back to Hood River. I relaxed for about thirty minutes just watching the beautiful world pass by the train's windows. I then decided to see who was here from the NRHS and spent the rest of the trip back socializing in the Lookout Mountain. When we got back to the Hood River Bridge I returned to my seat to clean up. At Hood River I detrained into the station to purchase a Mount Hood Railroad T-shirt. I then walked back to the car taking pictures along the way.

Mount Hood GP-38 02 with our excursion train now being ready for the afternoon run to Parkdale.

Mount Hood GP-9 89.

Mount Hood GP-9 88.

After my last photograph I drove down to pick up Chris and Bob. We went to a Safeway for an ATM for Chris. I called Keith Schmidt from Milwaukee to set up having dinner at Elmers at 7:00 PM. Keith flew out from Milwaukee to photograph the SP&S 700 and SP 4449 doubleheader tomorrow and was scouting out locations today in the Columbia River Gorge. Keith is an excellent videographer. The three of us then crossed the Columbia River on the toll bridge at Hood River to railfan the Columbia River Gorge for the first time. We headed east on Washington Highway 14 heading for Wishram. At Cooks we found an eastbound green signal and we decided to wait. On a rock we found two other local Railfans also out scouting photo locations for tomorrow.

CP Rail 8628 East was the first train we caught providing us with coming and Going views. We decided to wait in hope of a westbound but while we were watching the wind surfers out on the Columbia River, a one car eastbound local snuck by us. It was sure quiet! We headed east on Highway 14 and east of The Dalles we came upon a major brush fire that stopped the highway traffic briefly. Once on the move again we made our way to Avery.

At Avery I caught the BNSF 2747 West.

The train headed west towards the smoke drifting across the Colombia River.

Spokane, Portland and Seattle 4-8-2 2507 on display in a city park in Wishram. Here we met Keith Schmidt.

In the Wishram yard FURX 3027 awaits its next assignment.

View of the Wishram Yard.

Next a Highline Train with BNSF 4667 West heading to Bend and beyond left Wishram.

We bid goodbye to Keith and started back to Portland catching that one car local at Avery with the smoke from the fire still drifting across the Columbia River Gorge.

On the drive back we ran into the BNSF 5032 East just east of Bingen and beat him back to this location getting coming and going pictures. Now beginning to run out of time, we took Highway 14 west to the Bridge of the Gods and crossed back into Oregon to take Interstate 84 back to Portland. We met Keith at Elmers and had a great dinner. Tomorrow we would be on the SP&S 700/Southern Pacific 4449 doubleheader and Keith would be out chasing us getting video and stills. We returned to the Days Inn for a good night of rest.