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2005 NRHS Convention -- Mount Hood Railroad Excursion ~ July 5th, 2005

by Elizabeth Guenzler

I was overjoyed when I learnt the 2005 National Railway Historical Society convention was going to be held in Portland, Oregon. Living in Victoria, British Columbia, it was an easy trip to Portland and the planned events sounded excellent and would all be firsts for me.

To get to Portland, I first took B.C. Ferries to Tsawwassen, then the Pacific Coach Lines bus to Pacific Central Terminal where I boarded Amtrak Cascades 507 for Seattle where Bob picked me up. Two days later, we rode Amtrak Cascades 513 to Seattle then 507 to Portland. The obligatory visit to Powell's Books, riding MAX light rail, visiting Union Station and watching the city's fireworks to celebrate Independence Day filled July 3rd and 4th. We stayed at the Shilo Inn by the convention centre and took MAX Red Line to and from the Double Tree Hotel (convention hotel) during the week.

We had signed up to ride the Lewis and Clark Explorer train but one of the former British Columbia Railway RDCs had developed some problems and the train was sold out. Since we had ridden this in 2004, this was not a large disappointment. The convention organizers, the Pacific Northwest Chapter, organized for us to be bussed to the Mount Hood Railroad in Hood River instead. In reviewing my records to write this and the other convention week travelogues, I only now realize that the Mount Hood Railroad was not a convention activity and the committee must have worked wonders to accommodate the several dozen people on the Mount Hood Railroad and the accompanying bus trip. They (still) deserve a lot of credit for everything that went into the whole event.

One of the very useful items in the "goodie bag" was a Rail Events Trip Guide which gave an overview of the history of each of the railway lines and a mileage guide.

Mount Hood Railroad

In the early to mid 2000's, Mount Hood Railroad was a privately-owned passenger excursion railroad that ran along 22 miles of track between the city of Hood River, Oregon and Parkdale, Oregon. This shortline used to serve several large mills and local industry and interchange with the Union Pacific mainline in Hood River, but that changed when some of the mills closed down and freight service dramatically decreased. This almost 100-year-old railroad, now is used almost exclusively as a passenger tourist line, although it has the capacity to continue to serve as a reliable freight short line to the UP mainline, if any customers so desired.

The history of the Mount Hood Railroad dates as far back as the 1880s. That is when the Oregon- Washington Railroad and Navigation Company built the mainline from Wallula, Washington, west to Portland, Oregon, passing through Hood River. It was then that the first depot in Hood River was built. But in about 1905, it was decided that a railroad would be built south, out of Hood River into the interior and mountains to serve as a logging railroad. The line was incorporated as the Mount Hood Railroad. To make the steep climb from the Columbia River to the mountains, the railroad built a switchback which is still used today. This was a common feature on logging railroads of old, but virtually unheard of on existing railroads today.

In 1911, the original depot in Hood River was torn down and the current depot, which still exists today, was built. That depot was meant serve both the Mount Hood Railroad and the Union Pacific mainline and was located right at the interchange. There was also a depot located in Parkdale.

In 1968, Union Pacific acquired the short line, but it retained the Mount Hood name and equipment. In 1987, a private local group purchased the line from Union Pacific and has been running it ever since. If not for this private investment, it's very likely that the line would have gone the same way as the other Union Pacific shortlines that ran into the interior, east of here, and been abandoned and torn up. In 2002, the Federal Railroad Administration, loaned 2.07 million dollars to the Mount Hood Railroad, mostly for track rehabilitation.

It was an early start to the day and we went to the Doubletree Hotel for a buffet breakfast before the buses arrived to take us to Hood River. Upon arrival at 09:20, I look around the gift shop while Bob finds the city hall and is successful in getting me a City of Hood River municipal lapel pin. Once we boarded the train, each person was given this informative booklet about the Mount Hood Railroad which included a mileage guide.

The route of the Mount Hood Railroad.

The ticket for today's trip.

The Mount Hood Railroad station and gift shop at Hood River. It is a replica of the one built by the Oregon-Washington Railroad and Navigation Company in 1911 and replaced the original depot built in 1882. Everyone boarded the train and I was ready to enjoy my first time on this railway in the open car.

We departed on time and turned south away from the Union Pacific mainline and crossed Hood River. For some reason that I do not remember, I did not take any pictures during the trip, so this and most of the other photographs in this travelogue are by Chris Guenzler.

Passing a water tower at a former lumber mill site.

Starting the steep climb up to the switchback following the east canyon wall along the Hood River.

Approaching the switchback at MP 2.5 as the upper level track came into view.

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

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

Our train curved over the trestle across Oregon Highway 35.

Passing through Pine Grove, MP 5.6.

Mount Adams in Washington came into view behind our train as we went through Pine Grove.

Mount Hood could often be seen from the train for the rest of the trip.

Going through Mohr, MP 6.8, named for a pioneer family of the 1880s.

A view to the rear of the train with Mount Adams in view.

The excursion train reached MP 10.5, Summit.

We turned south and Mount Hood came back into view.

A last view of the Hood River on this beautiful summer's day.

Passing through orchards as we near Parkdale. We all detrained at 11:30 and I took photographs of the consist before finding some lunch.

Mount Hood Railroad GP38 02 with Mount Hood in the background.

MHRR GP38 02 (ex. PCN 16, exx. Conrail 7796, nee Penn Central 7796).

MHRR caboose 1040 (nee Union Pacific 25249).

MHRR coach 1070 "Katherine" (ex. Union Pacific MoW 911436, exxx. Union Pacific bunk car, nee Oregon Short Line 706).

MHRR coach 1080 "Timberline" (ex. Union Pacific MoW 904386, exx. Union Pacific roadway diner 904268, nee Oregon Short Line 682).

MHRR coach 1067 "Parkdale" (nee Southern 1670).

MHRR coach 1068 "Odell" (ex. Southern 1068, nee Southern 1640).

MHRR open car "Lookout Mountain" (nee Southern 1595).

Mack railbus, built 1921. Built for the Willamina & Grande Ronde Railroad, where it operated in passenger service up until 1928. Sold to Condon, Kinzua and Southern, where it hauled passengers, mail and express from then until 1951. It was re-built with a new body in the late 1940's. Nicknamed "The Goose" while in service on the CK&S. It was then part of Trolleyland Electric Railway Museum in Olympia Washington, sometime after 1951, with the car placed on display in Fossil, Oregon, for the town's 75th anniversay celebrations. It was displayed in front of the Wheeler County Courthouse in Fossil for many years before ownership ended up in the hands of the Mt. Hood Railroad. Car passed through the Mt. Rainier Scenic Railroad before being placed on display by the Mt. Hood at Parkdale, under the mistaken belief that the car had once worked on that railroad. It has since moved to Willamina.

A Parkdale view.

Mount Hood.

The motive power for today's trip.

We reboarded the train and the engine ran around for the return journey back to Hood River. It was here that we met Chris Guenzler, who would become a good friend and with whom we would share many railway adventures in the years to come.

That evening, we decided to ride the Portland Spirit Dinner Cruise on the Columbia River. It was a lovely summer's evening and a very enjoyable experience, one that I would like to do again.

It had been an excellent excursion aboard the Mount Hood Railroad and a very good start to the 2005 NRHS Convention.