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Portland's Roundhouse Relics


  It was in a quiet corner of a small railroad yard on the edge of the Brooklyn neighborhood in southeast Portland, Ore. It was only a four-stall annex on the site of a long-gone, larger roundhouse. But where else in the U.S. could you find such a collection of classic rolling stock?

Big steam, cab unit diesels, historic passenger cars -- it was here. Throw in what is gradually becoming the first operational ALCO PA in 40 years, and...

Here's that famous face -- originally Santa Fe #62L, then D&H #18, now under restoration as NKP #190 -- on July 5, 2005, getting its paint touched up for the 2005 National Railway Historical Society convention. It didn't have a roof yet, but there's an honest-to-goodness 251 engine in the carbody and an enthusiastic corps of volunteers determined to get it back onto the high iron.

The building was constructed next to the original SP roundhouse in 1942. Although the original structure was torn down years ago, its little brother survived until 2012, as busy as ever...and the turntable out back still worked!


  The brightest stars in the Brooklyn galaxy were the big steam locomotives that called it home. They survived years of display and exposure to the elements on a weed-grown siding next to the city's Oaks Park, and made the trek across town to the cozy confines of the roundhouse.

Here's former Southern Pacific GS4 Daylight 4-8-4 #4449, which made it out of the park in December 1974 to prepare for the role that made it famous -- the 1975-1976 American Freedom Train. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks of 2001, it again wore the bright red, white and blue color scheme that took it across the U.S. This July 2002 photo shows the 1941-vintage Lima on display in its AFT colors in nearby Hillsboro, Ore., during a visit by the USA ArtTrain.


4-8-4 #700, a 1938 Baldwin product originally built for the Spokane, Portland & Seattle, looks more workaday in its basic black, but is no less famous than its colorful neighbor.

The 700 made it over to the Brooklyn Roundhouse in 1987 after a 30-year slumber in Oaks Park. Three years of dedicated volunteer work enabled it to highball again in 1990, and since then it has logged hundreds of miles in Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana.

Here's the 700 on July 6, 2005, thundering through Stevenson, Wash. en route to Wishram at the head with the Western Star excursion, one of the main highlights of the NRHS national convention. And what's that behind? That's right -- the 4449, the first time ever Portland's own big steam stars doubleheaded on an excursion. The locomotives swapped places in Wishram, allowing the 4449 to lead on the return trip.


  Even Amtrak was represented. #231, parked at the back of the turntable pit on July 5, 2005, is just an ordinary F40PH, one of more than 200 rostered by the company since the mid-1970s. That is, until you look at its "nose art". This locomotive was the only Amtrak F40 to carry Operation Lifesaver markings.

It was this distinction, plus others, that led Portland-area railfan Chris Fussell to visit Amtrak's Beech Grove, Ind. shops near Indianapolis and purchase the unit as it sat in the dead line awaiting a rehab that, pre-empted by budget cuts, would never happen.

Chris raised more than $20,000 to get the 231 from Indiana to Portland, where it became one of the more recent but still noteworthy additions to the roundhouse collection. The unit has since moved on to Boulder City, Nevada for further restoration.


  The PA is the current diesel star of the roster, but EMD was also represented in the cab unit category. Former Great Northern Railway F7A #274 proudly wears its classic orange and green in this July 5, 2005 image.

The 274 has worn several color schemes in its lifetime. Besides its classic colors, it's also sported Burlington Northern green (as its #610) and the green and yellow of short line Seattle & North Coast (as its #101), where it ran along an area of ex-MILW trackage on Washington state's Olympic Peninsula.

Doyle McCormack restored it to its classic color scheme and took it out on the road, including a memorable round trip to and from Vancouver, B.C. to deliver the rebuilt boiler for CPR Hudson #2816. When its old 567 engine failed, Doyle and his volunteers acquired another out of the hulk of wreck-damaged Port of Tillamook Bay RR SD9 #4381.

The 274 was stranded out on the Oregon coast in December 2007 when a winter storm severed the POTB line through the Coast Range. Rather than retrieve it and bring it back to Portland, it was left in place and later acquired by the Oregon Coast Scenic RR, which runs it on excursion trains on the former POTB line out of Garibaldi.


  There was another ALCO cab at Brooklyn along with PA #190. This is former SP&S FA2 #866, looking a bit shopworn in grey primer and the remains of its old color scheme, but still intact in the 21st Century, more than 50 years after its birth.
  Retired Oregon DOT Rail Divison employee Ed Immel owns the 866, which was the last SP&S FA2 cab built. He acquired it from the Long Island RR, which had used it as an unpowered "cab car" for many years on its network of non-electrified commuter routes.


  Ed Immel also owned former Amtrak SDP40F #644, still wearing the Maersk Sealand color scheme applied by BNSF in 2002 for the opening of the intermodal shipper's new L.A.-area facility. AT&SF acquired the unit with 17 others in a 1984 swap that sent 18 SSB1200s and 18 CF7s to Amtrak.

Santa Fe redesignated these units as SDF40-2s, and modified the nose ends to add a front platform. This unit, renumbered as #5266, passed into BNSF service in the 1995 merger, where it became #6976, and remained on the roster into 2003 before its retirement. It recently returned to service under lease to the Portland & Western.

Here's the 644 leading a trio of P&W units on the Harbor Turn in Beaverton, Ore. June 24, 2007. The train is waiting for a highball at the south end of a new two-main-track segment installed for the new Westside Express Service (WES) regional passenger rail. The 644 is also now in Boulder City, Nevada for restoration.


  This power car looks like any other piece of rolling stock in the Union Pacific business car fleet, but it has an interesting distinction. In the mid-1970s, it spent nearly two years being pulled around the U.S. by another Brooklyn Roundhouse resident.

If you visited the American Freedom Train during its 1975-1976 tour, you walked through this car. It served as the exit from the display cars and also provided onboard power to the train. It was originally an AC&F-built baggage car for the New York Central, as were the train's showcase and display cars.

The Pacific Railroad Preservation Association, which maintains SP&S #700, acquired it in 2004 from the Museum of America's Freedom Trains. Numbered 111 for the AFT, it subsequently became UP #206 and served in the railroad's business car fleet until 2001. The car serves as a machine shop for working on the 700 and the 4449.



You might find this piece of equipment working at industrial sites and in railroad venues where larger locomotives can't go.

It's a trackmobile, designed to run on its flanged railroad wheels or on paved roadways using its rubber tires.


This July 5, 2005 photo shows it working as the "shop switcher" for the Brooklyn Roundhouse, where its small size makes it useful for moving larger pieces of rolling stock around.

Here, it has pulled PA1 #190 out of the roundhouse and onto an adjacent track so that shop volunteers can touch up its paint for the NRHS convention visitors. One crew member is spray painting the locomotive's rear truck.

Potential redevelopment of the roundhouse site threatened the building and its residents. Several of the organizations that maintain them established the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, which sought to relocate the entire roundhouse and its collection to a site near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

ORHF and its partner organizations held a series of sold-out excursions behind the 4449 and the 700 Dec. 9-10 and 14-18, 2005 along the adjacent Oregon Pacific RR line from OMSI along the east bank of the Willamette River to Oaks Park. The first weekend's trips were partially cancelled when a broken rail derailed both steam locomotives. A team of railroad repair crews and volunteers rerailed the units and repaired the track in time to maintain the second weekend's schedules, including extra runs to make up for those cancelled by the derailment.

The fundraiser coincided with OMSI's presentation of the movie Polar Express in its wide-screen IMAX theater. ORHF has repeated the event in December each year since, starting at Oaks Park. OHRF also helped sponsor excursions between Tacoma and Everett, Wash. May 18-19, 2007 that featured the 4449 doubleheading with famed Union Pacific 4-8-4 #844.

ORHF took title on a section of property adjacent to OMSI in November 2009 and began moving rolling stock and other equipment into storage there in December 2010 after constructing a storage track on the site. Other rolling stock is stored at other secure locations in the Portland area.

The Oregon Rail Heritage Center is the new centerpiece of the ORHF activities. Opened on Sep. 22, 2012, it is a modern restoration facility and also an interpretive center that allows the public to view the organization's rolling stock and learn about its history.

The initial phase of the project included the main center building and some storage tracks. Planned follow-on phases will include expanding the track layout and re-installing the turntable from the old roundhouse, which was removed and stored before the roundhouse was razed.

The new center is adjacent to the OMSI stop of the Portland Streetcar, whose A Loop and B Loop routes connect the east and west banks of the Willamette River using the new Tilikum Crossing transit bridge. The OMSI/SE Water Avenue stop of the new TriMet MAX Orange Line light rail service is directly across the street.

For more information about these eclectic offerings, you can visit these web sites: (Pacific Railroad Preservation Association) (Friends of SP 4449) (Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation) (Nickel Plate Road 190) (OR&N 197)


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