Free event celebrates rail history with rides, displays for all ages

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JAIME VALDEZ - The Oregon Rail Heritage Center, which features the Southern Pacific 4449, will host Portland Train Day on Saturday, May 6.Train lovers and history buffs can celebrate the 148th anniversary of the completion of American's first transcontinental railroad at the Oregon Rail Heritage Center from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, May 6. Admission is free.

The city-owned historic Southern Pacific 4449 steam locomotive will be "steamed up" for the center's second annual Portland Train Day. It commemorates the pounding of the Golden Spike that connected the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads at Promontory Summit in Utah on May 10, 1869.

The city's two other historic steam locomotives — the Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700 and the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. 197 — also will be on display at the center, which is located at 2250 S.E. Water Ave., near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry at the east end of Tilikum Crossing. Other activities at the family-friendly event include music, food carts, train trips from the center to Oaks Park and back by the locally owned and operated Oregon Pacific Railroad, and an appearance by the child-size Thomas the Tank Engine owned by the model Rose City Garden Railway Association.

"Last year, Portland Train Day brought over 4,000 people to our museum," says ORHF event coordinator, Jeff Knapp. "We are spreading the word all over the city of Portland to come join us on this spectacular day of fun for the whole family."

National Train Day events historically had been sponsored across the country by Amtrak until budget cuts forced them to be canceled two years ago. The nonprofit ORHF sponsored last year's event as part of its mission to promote an appreciation of the rail history of the country and the region.

Portland is the only city in the United States to own two operating steam locomotives. The SP 4449 and the SP&S 700 take turns pulling cars for the annual Holiday Express trips between the center and Oaks Park.

The OR&N 197 currently is being restored. They are maintained and operated by volunteers at the center, which opened in September 2012. It houses many other historic railroad artifacts, too.

"Having the SP 4449 under pressure is a spectacle you do not want to dare miss. When they are under fire they come alive and senses tingle from the sight, sound and smell of a live working steam locomotive," Knapp says.

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