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Restored trains plan holiday run

by: COURTESY OF CHRIS L. FUSSELL - The Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700 will be dressed up and ready to go for this weekend's Holiday Express rides.
The public will have a rare opportunity to ride in train cars pulled by antique steam locomotives during the next three weekends.

For the eighth year, the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation’s Holiday Express will offer several 40-minute trips a day from Oaks Park. They will be pulled by two of three steam locomotives owned by the city of Portland.

From Nov. 30 to Dec. 2, the train cars will be pulled by the restored Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700, which was built in 1938. The next two weekends, the train cars will be pulled by the world-famous Southern Pacific 4449, which was built in 1947 and restored in time to pull the Bicentennial Train across the country in 1976, where it was seen by millions of people. The trips will take place from Dec. 7 to 9 and from Dec. 14 to 16.

All proceeds benefit the ORHF, which recently moved the trains into the new Oregon Rail Heritage Center just east of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It is open free to the public from 1 to 5 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. It also houses the city’s third steam locomotive, the Oregon Railroad & Navigation 197, which was built in 1905 and is being restored.

The Holiday Express trips provide a glimpse into what travel was like at the height of the great rail passenger systems. Since December 2005, the annual trips along the Willamette River on the Oregon Pacific Railroad in Southeast Portland have attracted more than 40,000 people. Passengers in vintage cars view Oaks Bottom, the Willamette River and the West Hills. Each car is strung with lights and decorated inside with a holiday theme. Santa visits each car on every trip, spreading holiday cheer.

The trains leave from the Oaks Station at Oaks Amusement Park in Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood. Tickets are available at the station or through TicketsWest.com. Prices range from $11 to $17.

Fred Meyer Inc. is the event’s corporate sponsor. The Holiday Express is also made possible through partnerships with the Oregon Pacific Railroad, Oaks Amusement Park and Portland Parks & Recreation.