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Go by Train 2005 NRHS Convention Portland

Western Star Mainline Steam Trip to Wishram 7/6/2005

by Chris Guenzler

The first convention trip I choose to take was the Western Star Mainline Steam Trip to Wishram on July 6th, 2005. I was up early with Bob Riskie, Chris Parker and I going to Elmers for a great breakfast to start a great day of train riding. We all then took the Max, Portland's excellent light rail from our Days Inn at 82nd Street to the Lloyd Center where the convention headquarters was at the Doubletree Hotel. We waited out front for the buses to take us to Portland Union Station where we would start the trip from. Bob and I took the first bus with Chris getting on another bus. It took no time to get to Union Station and soon we were all in the Waiting Room then walking out to the train. I put my stuff on a seat in the St Paul Pass and walked into the Pony Express staking out a baggage door location. I bought T shirts from both the Friends of the Southern Pacific 4449 and SP&S 700 people. With that done I waited for departure.

We had to wait for Cascade Talgo 500 to arrive and depart before we could put together our train. Now for some history on both our steam engines.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 A Brief History

In 1941 the Southern Pacific took delivery of engine 4449 from the Lima Locomotive Works pulling the World Famous Coast Daylight between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The 4449 pulled the final steam powered "Daylight" train on January 7th, 1947. The Southern Pacific 4449 saw commuter service during World War Two before running in freight service to end its service career on October 2, 1957 in Bakersfield, CA. The Southern Pacific 4449 was donated to the City of Portland and placed in Oaks Park for the nearly two decades. On December 14, 1974 the Southern Pacific 4449 was selected to pull the American Freedom Train in the western, midwest and southern parts of our nation during the American Bicentennial. On April 21st, 1975 the Southern Pacific 4449 was steamed up for the first time in 17 years and on May 8 made its first test run to Skamania, Washington with a trip to Wishram a week later on the 14th. On June 20th the Southern Pacific 4449 left Portland to join the American Freedom Train. On December 20th, 1976 the Southern Pacific 4449 completed an 18-month, 35,000-mile trip in Florida operating over 27 different railroads in its journey. The Southern Pacific 4449 ran a few Southern Railway Steam Fan Trips while in Birmingham waiting to return to Portland. On April 13, 1977 the Southern Pacific 4449 left Birmingham on an Amtrak Steam Excursion home to Portland arriving there on May 1st, 1977. It was repainted into SP Daylight colors for its trip to Railfair 1981 and a side trip to Los Angeles for Bicentennial Celebration there. In 1984 it pulled a round trip Portland to New Orleans called the World Fair Daylight. This 7,171-mile excursion was the longest in United States History. I rode the two day Phoenix to Los Angeles segment. The Southern Pacific 4449 in 1986 ran to Los Angeles and the Eagle Mountain Railroad for the making of the movie "Tough Guys". In 1989 the Southern Pacific 4449 returned to Los Angeles for their 50th Anniversary of Los Angeles Union Station that included the side by side running with the UP 8444 into LAUPT. It also did the side by side up Cajon Pass before heading to Oakland for the Jazz Train to Sacramento before returning to Portland.

The Southern Pacific 4449 ran to Railfair 1991 and 1999 besides other excursions all throughout the Pacific Northwest. The engine was painted black for the BNSF Shippers Special over their railroad. After 9/11 the Southern Pacific 4449 was repainted into the colors it wore during its Freedom Train Days. In 2004 the Southern Pacific 4449 was repainted back once more into "Daylight" colors.

Spokane, Portland and Seattle 4-8-4 700 A Brief History

In 1937 the SP&S purchased its first new locomotives: three Northerns (4-8-4s), mainly for passenger service. Baldwin Locomotive Works delivered the SP&S 700, 701, and 702 in 1938. After showing the SP&S 700 off to communities along the line, the SP&S quickly put them to work hauling passenger trains between Spokane and Vancouver, Washington. The SP&S 700 and 702 would be used in overnight train service between the two cities. In 1947, the Great Northern streamlined its premiere train, the Empire Builder, and started using Diesels for all its transcontinental passenger trains. The SP&S also purchased Diesels, but they arrived after the streamlined cars so for a few months the SP&S 700 was used to pull the Portland section of the Empire Builder. The SP&S 700 was then used on secondary passenger service into the early 1950's before being displaced by diesels. The SP&S 700 was then used in freight service until 1955. In May of 1956 the SP&S 700 was spruced up for the "Farewell to Steam" run with 21 cars carrying 1,400 passengers on a Portland to Wishram round trip.

After the trip, the SP&S 700 was placed on the scrap line with other SP&S locomotives. The Union Pacific had offered to donate a steam locomotive to the city of Portland for display in a park. Not to be outdone by its competitor, the SP&S volunteered the SP&S 700. The two locomotives were placed in the park in 1958, and were shortly followed by the Southern Pacific 4449. They sat together for nearly two decades. In 1977, Chris McLarney started working on the SP&S 700 cleaning and oiling various parts. He also started the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association to provide support for the SP&S 700 restoration work. The restoration of the SP&S 700 lasted until 1990 when it ran its first test runs. Since 1990, the SP&S 700 has carried thousands of passengers to destinations all over the Pacific Northwest. This will be my first ride behind her but I had been in her cab once during a private Brooklyn Roundhouse Tour.

The Trip

Before we arrived at Union Station Keith Schmidt caught the SP&S 700 and SP 4449 backing onto the train before this trip started.

Our train consist was SP&S 700, Southern Pacific 4449, 4449 auxiliary tender, Amtrak P42DC 136, SP 3105 Baggage, NYC-3, Montana, Kitchi Gama Club, Mt Vernon, Silver Rapids, Echo Canyon, Tolani, Arizona, St Paul Pass, Pony Express, Overland Trail, Wisconsin Valley, Super Dome, Colonial Crafts, Silver Lariat and the Cedar Rapids Sky Top bringing up the rear. Once all the Talgo detraining passengers and well wishers had gone into the station, they backed our front section to couple onto the rest of our train.

We departed Portland Union Station long after the Talgo was long gone and ran below the Interstate 405 Bridge. Photographers were everywhere to start the trip and that would be the case all day long.

Keith Schmidt then set up to chase. Next he caught the SP&S 700 and Southern Pacific 4449 picking up speed about a mile out of Portland Union Station.

The train curved slightly off to the right.

A look back at the rear of our train as we passed through Willbridge.

We climbed the grade and made the turn to prepare to cross the Willamette River.

Our train about to cross the Willamette River Bridge.

A Union Pacific train waited for a clear to enter the joint BNSF/UP mainline to Washington at North Portland Junction. UP has trackage rights from here to Tacoma. Minutes later we crossed the Columbia River into Washington.

The Columbia River looking east with the Interstate 5 Bridge in this scene.

Our train rolled off the Interstate Railroad Bridge and turned right passing the Amtrak Vancouver, Washington station on the left. A few moments later, we passed "The Crossing", a local restaurant, made out of passenger cars before we ran below the Interstate 5 Bridge.

The Portland Chapter of the NRHS had a van that was chasing our train as we headed east along Highway 14 and the Columbia River.

A company at Evans had this small switcher working their plant. From here our train picked up speed and headed towards Camas.

Keith Schmidt next caught SP&S 700 and Southern Pacific 4449 steamed through Camas, WA. We came to a hot detector the first of the trip which went crazy when our two steam engines went by. Since this was the first detector, our train had to be inspected.

Our train ran by Washougal siding.

We met the waters of the Columbia River to start the most beautiful part of our trip to Wishram.

Shore running along the Columbia River east of Washougal.

Passing the Bonnerville Dam.

Nearing the Bridge of the Gods.

Bridge of the Gods.

What a beautiful scene. It does not get any better than this. The Pony Express was the perfect location to view the train and the Columbia River Gorge.


The cool weather made for some beautiful steam.

Our train approaching the first of the twin railroad and highway tunnels in the Columbia River Gorge.

More river running.

Approaching the highway bridge from Hood River.

Rolling east through Cooks.

What beautiful scenery our train passed by on the way to Wishram. I got an idea. Why not get my hair cut on this trip like I did riding behind Santa Fe 3751 coming back from the Grand Canyon Convention. I went to the Overland Trail and asked Sandy the Barber if she could cut my hair. As she cut my hair the train came to a stop and she did the whole hair cutting in a state of no motion. People walking by all had to stop and look and several passengers took pictures of me getting my hair cut aboard the Western Star Steam Special. How many people can say that they got the hair cut when riding behind a steam engine? I now have behind the Santa Fe 3751, SP&S 700 and Southern Pacific 4449. Sandy, thanks for a great hair cut. After I paid Sandy, I returned to the Pony Express just as the train started moving. The train then passed through Avery before closing in on Wishram.

Our NRHS Steam Special passed the bridge which is the north end of the Inside Gateway and is the wye where our train will turn after lunch. We arrived into Wishram and knowing how NRHS BBQ's worked I headed straight to the food line getting my Barbecue Chicken and meeting Bob at a table. After eating quickly, I took my Coca-Cola with me waiting for the back up move to the wye.

The rear end of the Western Star Steam Special, my old friend, the Milwaukee Road Cedar Rapids.

The train then slowly began backing to the wye.

The Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449.

The Spokane Portland and Seattle 4-8-4 700.

The train backed to the wye

The railroad kept moving while we were in Wishram.

Our train is now ready to pull forward off the bridge before backing into Wishram.

An eastbound BNSF freight came through Wishram before our steam special backed in.

A few minutes later our train backed into Wishram. With that all passengers had to return to the station side of the tracks while the engines switched position to put the Southern Pacific 4449 on the point for the return trip to Portland.

The SP&S 700 came off the train and pulled forward before backing into a siding.

Next the Southern Pacific 4449 came off the train and then switched onto a different track. The SP&S 700 then returned to the train followed by the Southern Pacific 4449 now on the point of our train.

The 4449/700 now were ready to be serviced. I visited the bar in Wishram for the last four cans of Coca-Cola. I returned to the train saying hello to Doyle McCormick Engineer of the SP 4449 and then meet a reader of my web site the engineer of the SP&S 700 Jim Abney.

I was caught on film in Wishram by Jim Fitzgerald wearing one of my shirts.

The herald of the Spokane Portland and Seattle Railroad. Once servicing was completed, we all reboarded our train with me returning to the Pony Express. We departed Wishram at 4:10 PM.

Our train near Avery rolling west.

More of the beautiful Columbia River Gorge.

Keith Schmidt caught the SP 4449 now leading the train westbound through a cut west of North Dalles, WA.

Just west of North Dalles.

Just a train load of happy steam train riders heading west on a special day.

The SP 4449 takes a big turn at speed.

Our train nearing Cooks.

Another view along the beautiful Columbia River.

Keith Schmidt next nabbed the Southern Pacific 4449 and SP&S 700 passing the old lumber mill at Hood, WA.

Our train nearing the Bridge of the Gods. At Skamania we went into the siding for an eastbound BNSF freight.

From the Highway bridge west of North Bonnerville, WA Keith Schmidt took his next photo of 4449/700. We jumped forward to the next siding at Washougal to meet the eastbound Amtrak Empire Builder{Portland Section}.

Keith Schmidt took his final shot along with about 100 others west of Prindle, WA. Our train then continued to roll west through Camas and into Vancouver. We crossed the Columbia River back in Oregon.

We crossed the Willamette River before we returned to Portland Union Station. We all detrained and I said goodbye to all my new friends.

We decided to take Max to Lloyd Center to get dinner. Walking south towards the Chinatown Max Stop allowed a final view of our double headed steam train. Thank you SP 4449 and SP&S 700 for an incredible day of train riding in the Columbia River Gorge. I had Arby's for dinner before Chris, Bob and I returned to the Days Inn for the night.