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Port of Tillamook Bay Autumn Colours Excursion October 28th, 2001

by Elizabeth Guenzler

This trip has the distinction of being my first train trip in the United States. It had been advertised on the Altamont Press website and was an Autumn Colours excursion from Buxton to Rockaway Beach, Oregon on the freight-only Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad, a former Southern Pacific line in northwest Oregon. My friend Bob Alkire was going to do the trip as well and while he flew from Phoenix to Portland, rented a car and drove to Tillamook, I drove from Victoria to Tillamook.

October 27th

I took the MV Coho ferry from Victoria to Port Angeles and after a stop at Pacific Rim Hobby Shop to buy a couple of railway magazines, I was on Highway 101 heading south to Tillamook where I checked into the Shilo Inn then had dinner and relaxed the rest of the evening.

October 28th

It was an early start to the day as Bob and I carpooled the hour's drive to Buxton with the operator of this trip, Jody Moore, of Sunset Coast Excursions. It was a typical Northwest autumn day - cool, damp and showery so it was nice to get inside the warm train. Railfans from as far away as Wisconsin and Kentucky were aboard for this unique trip.

The consist for the Autumn Colours Excursion was POTB GP9 3771, POTB SD9 4405, WPRR open gondola, DLMX 5659 (former UP baggage car), GN coach "Red River" 1147 - now PNWC NRHS 6800), PNWC 6200 and GN coach "Plum River. We departed at 09:10 and we were off on this special and rare excursion.

We started to cross the Coast Range on this cool and damp Saturday morning.

Rear views of our train rounding a curve en route to Enright.

The locomotives are working hard as we climb the grade.

An old Southern Pacific boxcar along the route near Enright.

The Salmonberry River. We then arrived at Enright and detrained for the photo runby.

Passengers detraining and walking to get into the photo line.

The reverse move for the photo runby.

The first photo runby at Enright, MP 811.

Canadian National speeder 176-16 then performed a runby of its own.

The speeder has disappeared into the tunnel at Enright. Everyone re-boarded the train and continued the journey to Garibaldi.

I spent the rest of the trip in the open car.

The Salmonberry River wound its way next to the tracks and Pacific Northwest autumn colours were prevalent.

The locomotives switched ends at Garibaldi and we continued on to Rockaway Beach.

The end of the trip at Rockaway Beach with the speeder in front of the train.

POTB SD9 4405, ex. SP 4405 1975, exx. SP 3899 1965, nee SP 5421 at Rockaway Beach.

POTB GP9 3771, ex. SP 3771 1974, exx. SP 3568 1965, nee T&NO 446 at Rockaway Beach.

PNWC 6800 "Red River", a former Southern Pacific coach.

Great Northern coach 1210 "Plum River".

Bob and I were driven back to Tillamook, had dinner then returned to the hotel.

October 29th

After breakfast, we checked out and Bob followed me to the blimp hangar in Tillamook and I also showed him the old station. After a visit to the Cheese Factory, we drove to Garibaldi then Astoria where we rode the Astoria Riverfront Trolley.

This is a 3-mile heritage streetcar line, using former freight railroad tracks along or near the south bank of the Columbia River, with no overhead line. The service began operating in 1999, using a 1913-built streetcar from San Antonio, Texas. The line's operation is seasonal, normally during spring break and from May through September. Volunteers from the non-profit Astoria Riverfront Trolley Association (ARTA) operate the service and maintain the streetcar and tracks, but the city of Astoria has provided some funds for certain purchases, including a new carbarn in 2001 and a contribution to the cost of purchasing the streetcar. The car was on loan from San Antonio for the first seven years, but was purchased by ARTA in August 2005.

The Astoria Riverfront Trolley. Photo by Chris Guenzler in 2003 since I did not take any photographs of this operation in 2001.

No visit to Astoria is complete without driving up to Coxcomb Hill to the Astoria Column. Built in 1926, it is part of a 30 acre city park. The 125 foot column has a 164 step spiral staircase ascending to an observation deck at the top. It was built with financing by the Great Northern Railway and Vincent Astor, the great-grandson of John Jacob Astor, in commemoration of the city's role in the family's business history. Patterned after the Trajan Column in Rome (and Place Vendome Column in Paris), the Astoria Column was dedicated on July 22, 1926. In 1974, the column was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The murals that make up the column were refurbished in 1995 and a granite plaza was added in 2004. The column was one of a series of monuments erected by Great Northern Railway in 1925 and 1926.

The Astoria Column in its entirety and a closer-up view of the artwork.

From here, we parted ways and Bob drove back to Portland for his flight back to Phoenix. I drove across the Astoria-Megler Highway 101 bridge to Warrenton where I spent the night, then returned to Port Angeles and took the MV Coho Ferry back to Victoria.

It was a most enjoyable weekend and I had a fabulous time on this excursion in the United States.