Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday: Holiday Express 2009

Former Southern Pacific #4449 led the final run of the 2009 Holiday Express along the Oregon Pacific Railroad in Portland, Oregon on 13-December-2009

PORTLAND, OREGON - Despite my loose affiliation with its preservation efforts, I had not managed to ever ride the annual fundraiser for the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF), the Holiday Express. This year, as the ORHF moves forward building a permanent home for the three steam locomotives owned by the city of Portland, Oregon, I decided it was time to climb aboard.

Temperatures barely above freezing led to a great display of steam from the Holiday Express during a morning run at the Ross Island Bridge in Portland, Oregon on 13-December-2009

The weather forecast looked a bit scary for the final of six days of runs today, but freezing rain and snow did not materialize, and the near-freezing temperatures just made the steam locomotive look all the more impressive as it handled the train single-handedly. The sun even came out during a morning run, highlighting the bright paint scheme of former Southern Pacific "Daylight" #4449 which handled this weekend's trains. Last weekend's trains were handled by former Spokane, Portland and Seattle #700.

On board a mid-afternoon run of the Holiday Express, children and their parents enjoyed the scenic views as they awaited a visit from Santa Claus on 13-December-2009

Both inside and outside, the train was decorated for the holidays with strings of multi-colored LED's. On board, though, there was little need to be encouraged to be in a seasonal mood. Everyone knew that Santa would be coming around, giving out candy canes and posing for pictures with children of all ages. While waiting, there was plenty to see out the windows of the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge and the Willamette River, and a deer--not quite a reindeer but as close as one will get in Oregon--even made an appearance as the train approached.

Not quite a reindeer, but a deer did stand on the tracks as the Holiday Express approached on the Oregon Pacific tracks near Oaks Park in Portland, Oregon on 13-December-2009

While the views were pretty during the day, what really sets this train apart is the experience at night, with the lights lining the train as it plied the Oregon Pacific Railroad tracks in the Springwater Corridor. There's something special about hearing a steam whistle at night, and watching multi-colored lights illuminate steam from the locomotive and escaping from the train's steam heating system.

The six cars of the Holiday Express disappeared into the distance on its final run for the year on 13-December-2009

While the last Holiday Express may have run in 2009, the ORHF is always actively seeking support for its efforts, and we can rest assured that the Holiday Express will be back in December 2010.

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