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Oregon Rail Heritage Centre Grand Opening ~ September 22nd, 2012

by Elizabeth Guenzler

The opening of the Oregon Rail Heritage Centre was a natural to attend and it coincided with the opening of the Portland Streetcar Central Loop line. Since the Amtrak Cascades schedule did not fit with the event schedule, this trip to Portland was a driving one, although of course, MAX and the Streetcar would be ridden. Bob and I parked near Union Station and rode the Yellow and Red Line MAX to SE Water Street and the Oregon Rail Heritage Centre.

Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation Background

The ORHF oversees the preservation of three City of Portland-owned steam engines: Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449, Spokane, Portland & Seattle 4-8-4 700 and Oregon Railroad & Navigation 4-6-2 197. All three engines were donated to the City in 1958 and displayed in Oaks Park in southeast Portland until restored to operation (the 197's restoration is a work in progress). Each engine has its own cadre of volunteers dedicated to its upkeep. They also give Portland the distinction of being the only city in the United States to own operating mainline steam locomotives. In addition to these engines, several vintage passenger cars, formerly owned and operated by the Great Northern Railway and the Southern Pacific Railroad, are owned and maintained by Northwest Rail Museum and the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

Oregon Rail Heritage Centre Background

The ORHF was tasked with finding a new home for the three locomotives, after planned changes by the Union Pacific Railroad made it apparent that the locomotives would need to be moved out of their longtime home in the formerly Southern Pacific Brooklyn Roundhouse, a 1941-built roundhouse. The ORHF comprises several entities, including railway preservation and railfan groups as well as the City's Bureau of Parks & Recreation.

Proposals to construct a new enginehouse to house the historic steam engines were expanded to encompass a visitor center and eventually an interpretive center. After considering other potential sites for an enginehouse, ORHF reached agreement in 2009 on a site near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, encompassing about three acres. Ground-breaking for the 20,000 square foot enginehouse took place in October 2011. The three engines were moved to the site from the Brooklyn Roundhouse on June 26th, 2012 and were temporarily placed outdoors, awaiting completion of the enginehouse. With the house fully enclosed, the locomotives were moved inside on July 28th. The budget for the initial phase of construction was $5.9 million and funding came mainly from donations, but with the City of Portland loaning $1 million.

A newly-laid piece of cement commemorating the Grand Opening of the Portland Streetcar Loop.

The first run of the Central Loop line at SE OMSI station. OMSI is the abbreviation for Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

The Central Loop train leaving the station.

The new Oregon Rail Heritage Centre before the festivities.

Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 always draws crowds.

The sponsor board.

What's Ahead poster.

All Aboard! We're Almost There capital campaign poster.

Inside is a wall board listing the "All Aboard" campaign supporters.

Essential Rail Heritage Volunteers (Doyle McCormack, Gordon Zimmerman, Laurel Lyon, Kim Knox).

Back outside, a five-piece brass band entertained throughout the day.

Phil Sellinger, head of the ORHF, speaks at the opening ceremony. We recorded all the speeches and unveiling for "Let's Talk Trains", the Internet radio show, and played it in its entirety on a subsequent episode.

A City of Portland councillor and his son and friend take their turn to speak.

Portland City councillors and (the late) Gordon Zimmerman, a large contributor to the ORHF.

The newly-unveiled Doyle L. McCormack Enginehouse at the Oregon Rail Heritage Centre.

Doyle McCormack and other ORHF volunteers beside his steam engine underneath the newly-named enginehouse.

People waiting to look into the cab of Southern Pacific 4449.

One of the plaques commemorating the original set of Brooklyn Roundhouse doors which were restored, replicated and re-installed by Phil Barney.

History board about the Brooklyn roundhouse and Portland's steam engines.

Spokane, Portland and Seattle 4-8-4 700 on display.

Side views of SP&S 700.

The array of knobs, levers and gauges inside the cab of SP&S 700.

This historical photograph was in front of Oregon Railroad and Navigation 4-6-2 197.

Oregon Railroad and Navigation 4-6-2 197 in its new home.

The Portland Lego Users Group had a large display including Portland Union Station.

Models of Union Pacific's heritage units were part of the Lego display.

Unioin Pacific 1989 in Rio Grande heritage livery.

Model trains of any type and size appeal to young and old alike.

Returning outside, the queue was long to see the cab of Southern Pacific 4449.

Nickel Plate PA-1 190 (ex. Delaware and Hudson 18, nee Santa Fe 62L).

Explanatory plaque about this locomotive.

Doyle McCormack's Nickel Plate Road-liveried RSD5 (nee Utah Railway 306).

Explanatory plaque about this locomotive.

A Union Pacific stack train passes by the Oregon Rail Heritage Centre.

I went inside the James H. Gilmore observation car and found a Southern Pacific logo.

The baggage and concession car "Gordon Zimmerman" (ex. Friends of SP 4449 "Better Idea", exx. Union Pacific 904227, exxx. Union Pacific 24427, nee Union Pacific 5659 1954) that I had had the opportunity to ride in a couple of times during excursions.

Pacific Northwest Chapter NRHS sleeping car 600 "Mount Hood" (ex. Burlington Northern 1205 1970, nee Spokane, Portland and Seattle 600 "Mount Hood").

Oregon Pacific GMD1 1413 (ex. Canadian National 1413, nee Canadian National 1045).

Union Pacific caboose 25198. We next rode the Portland Streetcar on its new route.

The Portland Streetcar arriving at the SE OMSI station.

Oregon Rail Heritage Centre as seen from the streetcar as we cross the bridge.

Sign for the grand opening of the Portland Streetcar loop inside the train.

The complete Portland Streetcar route map.

The Central Loop line streetcar we rode at Rose Quarter station.

A MAX Blue Line train arrived.

Train arrival board at the Rose Quarter station. We walked back to the car, stopped for a meal then drove home.

It had been a momentous occasion and the culmination of years of work, fundraising and public awareness for all involved with this project. I was very glad to be able to have been at the opening.