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2005 NRHS Convention -- Western Star Steam Excursion ~ July 6th, 2005

by Elizabeth Guenzler

I was really looking forward to this day's excursion since I would be riding behind two steam engines that were new to me - Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 and Spokane, Portland and Seattle 4-8-4 700. Both are owned by the City of Portland.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 History

Southern Pacific 4449 is the only surviving example of Southern Pacific's GS-4 class of steam locomotives. GS stands for "Golden State", a nickname for California (where the locomotive was operated in regular service), or "General Service." The locomotive was built by Lima Locomotive Works in May 1941; it received the red-and-orange "Daylight" paint scheme for the passenger trains of the same name which it hauled for most of its service career. No. 4449 was retired from revenue service in 1957 and put into storage. In 1958 it was donated, by the railroad, to the City of Portland who then put it on static display in Oaks Park, where it remained until 1974. It was restored to operation for use in the second American Freedom Train, which toured the 48 contiguous United States for the American Bicentennial celebrations. Since then, 4449 has been operated in excursion service throughout the continental U.S.

4449 was the last engine manufactured in Southern Pacific's first order of GS-4 locomotives. 4449 was placed into service on May 30th, 1941, and spent its early career assigned to the Coast Daylight, SP's premier passenger train between San Francisco and Los Angeles, but it also pulled many other of the SP's named passenger trains. After the arrival of newer GS-4s and GS-5s, 4449 was assigned to Golden State Route and Sunset Route passenger trains. 4449 was re-assigned to the Coast Division in the early 1950s. One of 4449's career highlights happened on October 17, 1954, when 4449 and sister 4447 pulled a special 10-car train for the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society from Los Angeles to Owenyo, California, and return. In 1955, after being one of the last few Daylight steam engines in Daylight livery, 4449 was painted black and silver and its side skirting (a streamlining feature of the Daylight steam engines) was removed due to dieselization of the Coast Daylight in January of that year. 4449 was then assigned to Southern Pacific's San Joaquin Valley line, occasionally pulling passenger trains such as the San Joaquin Daylight between Oakland and Bakersfield as well as fast freight and helper service. 4449 was officially retired on October 2nd, 1957, and was placed in storage along with several other GS-class engines near Southern Pacific's Bakersfield roundhouse.

In 1958, when most of the GS class engines had already been scrapped, a then black-and-silver painted 4449 was removed from storage and donated to the city of Portland, Oregon, on April 24th , 1958, where it was placed on outdoor public display in Oaks Park. Since the equipment was considered obsolete, 4449 was not actively chosen for static display. It was picked simply because it was the first in the dead line and could be removed with the least number of switching moves. It was evaluated for restoration in 1974 after becoming a candidate to pull the American Freedom Train.

4449 was removed from display on December 14th, 1974 and restored at Burlington Northern's Hoyt Street roundhouse in Portland and returned to operation April 21st, 1975, wearing a special paint scheme of red, white and blue. As part of the American Freedom Train, the engine pulled a display train around the most of the United States. Afterwards, 4449 pulled an Amtrak special, the Amtrak Transcontinental Steam Excursion. After nearly two years on the road, 4449 was returned to storage in Portland, this time under protective cover and not exposed to the elements.

In 1981, SP 4449 was returned to its original "Daylight" colours for the first Railfair at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. In 1984, 4449 pulled an all Daylight-painted train from Portland to New Orleans, Louisiana and back, to publicize the World's Fair. The 7,477-mile round trip was the longest steam train excursion in American history. In 1986, 4449 went to Hollywood to appear in "Tough Guys" and pulled business trains for the Southern Pacific. No. 4449 had another famous moment in 1989 when 4449 and Union Pacific 4-8-4 844 made a side-by-side entrance into Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal for the station's 50th anniversary celebrations. No. 4449 returned to Railfair in Sacramento in 1991 and again in 1999. In 2000, 4449 was repainted black and silver for a Burlington Northern Santa Fe employee appreciation special, then was repainted into the American Freedom Train colours again in early 2002 after the events of the September 11th terrorist attacks. In 2004, the locomotive was returned to Daylight colors again, this time in its "as delivered" appearance.

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

In 1937, the SP&S purchased its first new locomotives, three 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. 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 1956, the steam engine 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, it was placed on the scrap line with other SP&S locomotives. 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, SP&S volunteered No. 700. The two locomotives were placed in the park in 1958, and were shortly followed by Southern Pacific 4449. They sat together for nearly two decades. In 1977, Chris McLarney started working on SP&S 700, cleaning and oiling various parts. He also started the Pacific Railroad Preservation Association provide support for the SP&S 700 restoration work. The restoration of SP&S 700 lasted until 1990 when it ran its first test runs. Since 1990, 700 has carried thousands of passengers to destinations all over the Pacific Northwest.

The Trip

Today's trip would be a 212.2 mile round-trip from Portland, Oregon to Wishram, Washington. It was another early start and we took MAX to the Doubletree for breakfast and waited for the buses to take us to Union Station.

My ticket for the excursion and we would be in the "Mount Vernon" having upgraded ourselves the previous day.

Upon our arrival at Portland Union Station, Bob and I were surprised to see Santa Fe sleeping car "Vista Canyon"(PPCX 800507) owned by the Arizona Railway Museum. While not part of the excursion train's consist, the owner had brought one of his cars up to Portland for the duration.

The Arizona Railway Museum drumhead on "Vista Canyon".

MKT 1202R lounge/sleeper "J. Pinckney Henderson". PPCX 800046. (Ex. AMTK 7200, exx. NP 527, nee MKT 1202R). Built 1954 as 72-seat coach for Texas Special and currently owned by the Lancaster and Chester Railway. It was not part of the convention consist but was at Portland Union Station for the duration of the event.

We all boarded with SP&S 700 in the lead for the eastbound trip. 4449 would lead on the return. Our steam excursion departed on time and crossed the Interstate Railroad Bridge, turning right to pass the Vancouver, Washington station. While I took several photographs along the route, Chris Guenzler let me use a few of his to augment mine.

We met the waters of the Columbia River which we would follow all the way to Wishram.

There were plenty of railfans chasing our train as well as eager conventioneers in the vestibules and baggage car getting their photographs.

Passing the Bonneville Dam.

Nearing the Bridge of the Gods.

The Bridge of the Gods, a natural dam created by the Bonneville Slide, a major slide that dammed the Columbia River near present-day Cascade Locks.

The cool morning temperature made for some impressive steam.

A two-car Union Pacific freight was seen on the western side of the Columbia River.

The double-headed steam excursion rounding a curve along the route.

Curving alongside the Columbia River as the train makes its way to Wishram.

We take a siding at Bingen, Washington to let a BNSF freight train through.

Passing a green light on the way to Wishram. During the trip, we visited the Pony Express, not only to take photographs and enjoy the sounds, but also to buy some souvenirs from the 4449 and 700 groups.

Looking back to the rear of the train.

The train passes Horsethief Lake. We arrived in Wishram and went to the barbecue lunch which was all laid out and waiting for us. The chicken was delicious and after that, I went and photographed the train returning from wyeing.

The steam train switching on the wye at Wishram.

The rear of the steam train still on the bridge across the Columbia River.

A three-unit eastbound BNSF train splits the signals as it passes through Wishram.

The train returning from the wye. Following are pictures of most of the consist of the Western Star, some of which were taken by Bob and others by me.

Milwaukee Road Skytop observation 186 "Cedar Rapids" (PPCX 800040) proudly bringing up the rear of the train.

California Zephyr dome-coach "Silver Lariat" (ex. AMTK 9452 "Silver Lariat", exx. BN 7418 "Silver Lariat", nee CB&Q 4718 "Silver Lariat"). PPCX 800190.

Pennsylvania Railroad business car 7149 "Colonial Crafts" (ex. PRR 7149, nee PRR 8412). PPCX 800061.

Milwaukee Road 53 "Super Dome" (ex. NCDOT 400301 "Mount Mitchell" '96, exx. UPRR for OLS and excursion use 1995, exxx. C&NW 421 "Powder River" 1985, exxxx. Rail Travel Assoc. 53 1983 (rebuilt), retired 1982 to Great Western Tours, exxxxx. VIA 2701 1978, exxxxxx. CN 2701 1974, exxxxxxx. CN 2401 "Athabasca", nee MILW 53. PPCX 800862.

Friends of 261 lounge car "Wisconsin Valley" (ex. AMTK 3103 "Le Pub" for Montrealer, exx. AMTK 3403 cafe/diner/lounge, nee USAX hospital car 89553). PPCX 800787.

Southern Pacific lounge "Overland Trail" (ex. AMTK bar-lounge 3500, nee SP 2981). PPCX 800663.

"Pony Express" baggage car (nee Canadian Pacific baggage/express 4210). PPCX 800320.

Friends of 261 coach "St. Paul Pass" (ex. AMTK 7613, exx. AMTK 7424, exxx. PC 1594, nee PRR 1594) and coach "Arizona" (ex. AMTK 7615 "Glens Falls", exx. AMTK 7426, exxx. PC 1596, nee PRR 1596). PPCX 800861.

Union Pacific sleeper-lounge "Mount Vernon" (ex. Sleeper Line "Pacific Island" 1999, exx. AMTK 2917 "Pacific Island" 1995, exxx. AMTK 2617 "Pacific Island" 1971). PPCX 800708.

Virginia Rail Investment Corporation "Kitchi Gammi Club" (ex. N&W Wreck Diner-Bunk Car 521417 1989, exx. NKP Business Car 7 1967, exxx. Pullman sleeper-solarium "Kitchi Gammi Club" 1953, nee Pullman Sleeper-Obs "Mountain View" 1937). PPCX 800705. Also pictured is Milwaukee Road open-end observation/ business car "Montana" (ex. Wisconsin Central "Prairie Rose", nee MILW tap/lounge 162). PPCX 800197.

New York Central business car 3 (ex. Conrail 1, exx. PC 4 1968, nee NYC 3). PPCX 800834.

Southern Pacific baggage/dorm 3105 (ex. SP 3105, exx. AMTK 1624 1997, exxx. AMTK 1532 1980, nee SP 3105 1971). PPCX 800701.

The steam engines reversing by our position.

SP&S 4-8-4 700 at Wishram.

SP&S 4-8-4 700 by itself during its layover. They decided to have Southern Pacific 4449 lead the double-header back to Portland.

A rear view of SP&S 700 as it switches with SP 4449.

More views of SP&S 700 waiting for 4449 to be added to its consist.

The engine crew of SP&S 700.

Southern Pacific 4449 reversing onto SP&S 700 at Wishram.

Members of the NRHS enjoying the two engines on the point of our train.

A front view of Southern Pacific 4449.

Doyle McCormack at the helm of Southern Pacific 4449 at Wishram.

BNSF GP39E 2907 (ex. BN 2907, exx. BN 2531 nee CB&Q 985) leads an eastbound freight through Wishram before the steam train can depart.

I did not expect to see leased motive power at Wishram.

First Union Rail (FURX) SD40-2 3027 (ex. EMDX 6431, exx. CR 804, exxx. CR 6247, nee PC 6247).

National Railway Equipment (NREX) SD40T-2 8865 (ex. UP 8865, exx. UP 4596, nee SP 8570).

BNSF C44-9W 1036 during the layover.

BNSF C44-9W 4855 leads a five-unit freight train with SW1000 3611 in the consist.

More stored motive power before the train started its return journey to Portland.

The Fallbridge Railway bridge across the Columbia River as we leave Wishram.

The highway bridge to the Dalles with the Dalles Dam behind.

Looking over to the Oregon side of the Columbia River at The Dalles.

What a beautiful day for a double-headed steam train ride.

Our train approaching Cooks.

Taking a curve on the return trip to Portland.

The steam train chasers pace the train.

The Columbia River as seen from the observation platform of "Montana".

The Columbia River and Oregon as viewed from the Washington side. I enjoyed the rest of the trip back to Portland.

Southern Pacific 4449 and SP&S 700 with Portland Union Station's "Go By Train" sign lit in the early evening.

The end of a fantastic excursion as Southern Pacific 4449 rests at Portland Union Station.

The famous clock tower of Portland Union Station behind two of the City of Portland's famous steam engines.

We stayed for a while as the engines prepared to return to Brooklyn Roundhouse then went for a late dinner.

The Western Star excursion was everything that I expected it to be and I was a tired but very happy train rider. What a fantastic day this had been.