Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation

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The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF) is a registered non-profit organization based in Portland, Oregon, United States. Composed of several all-volunteer groups dedicated to maintaining vintage railroad equipment, the ORHF is committed "to secure a permanent home for the City of Portland’s steam locomotives, preserve the Brooklyn Roundhouse, and establish a Rail and Industrial Heritage Museum.”[1]

At present, the ORHF is constructing a new restoration shop for the city's steam locomotives, the first of a multi-phase project aimed at housing them permanently. When the new Oregon Rail Heritage Center is completed, this will permit the ORHF to continue operating steam-powered excursions while openly displaying the locomotives to the public. Access to the locomotives is currently limited as the equipment is stored on the private property of the Union Pacific Railroad, out of visitors' reach. The ORHF is tasked with completing the construction of the engine house and moving the locomotives before UP razes its current roundhouse in mid-2012.[2]


The ORHF oversees the preservation of three city-owned steam locomotives: Southern Pacific 4449 (SP 4449), Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700 (SP&S 700), and Oregon Railroad & Navigation 197 (OR&N 197). All three engines were donated to the city in 1958 and displayed in Oaks Park in Southeast Portland until restored to operation (the 197's restoration is a work in progress).[3] Each engine has its own cadre of volunteers dedicated to its upkeep. They also give Portland the distinction of being the only city in the United States to own operating mainline steam locomotives.[4]

In addition to these engines, several vintage passenger cars, formerly owned and operated by the Great Northern Railway and the Southern Pacific Railroad, are owned and maintained by Northwest Rail Museum and the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society.

The steam locomotives are stored in the Brooklyn Roundhouse (located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Southeast Portland), in the middle of a former Southern Pacific yard now owned by Union Pacific. The roundhouse is in the midst of a needed expansion by UP on its intermodal facilities, necessitating the movement of the locomotives to a permanent location and the eventual demolition of the roundhouse. UP has stipulated that the roundhouse must be vacated by the end of June 2012, underscoring the ORHF's determination to build a new facility.[2]


Special excursions[edit]

The ORHF and its member groups are constantly working to organize an excursion train or special appearance by one of the steam locomotives, usually originating in Portland and running distances of up to 2,000 or more miles over the course of several days, weeks, or even months. Excursions are often planned months or years in advance in accordance with the destination, and dependent upon the approval of the host railroad(s).[5] An excursion may be as brief as never leaving the Portland city limits, or as long as the SP 4449's journey to Owosso, Michigan for TrainFestival 2009, hosted by the Steam Railroading Institute.[6]

The SP 4449 has also frequently appeared at the classic automobile show "Cruisin' Sherwood" in Sherwood Old Town, Ore., while the SP&S 700 often participates in the annual Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) holiday celebration in Vancouver, Washington. Both engines teamed up in July 2005 to doublehead the National Railway Historical Society "Western Star" from Portland to Wishram, Washington. Each engine has also taken a turn on "Montana by Steam", a round trip between Portland and Billings, Montana, during the past decade. The 700 pulled a number of short excursions on the Oregon Pacific Railroad (OPR) in 2006 and 2007, along with appearances at the Salem Safety Faire in Salem, Oregon. In the summer of 2011, the SP 4449 hauled two excursions: one to Tacoma and Stampede Pass for the NRHS annual convention, and another up the Columbia River Gorge to Wishram to celebrate its 70th anniversary and help to raise funds for an upcoming 15-year boiler certification.[6][7]

Holiday Express[edit]

The holiday season is perhaps the most popular time for both viewing and riding, as the ORHF operates "Holiday Express" excursion trains pulled by the 4449 and/or 700 on weekends in December. The Holiday Express has enjoyed enormous success to date with as many as 10,000 passengers each year; it has, in fact, recently become something of a tradition for many Portland-area families. Holiday Express trains run along the Oregon Pacific main line near the bank of the Willamette River, while children on board are greeted by Santa Claus and company.[8]

Over its seven years of operation, the Holiday Express has been instrumental in raising the needed capital for construction of the rail heritage museum. In 2011, the Holiday Express operated on the first two weekends of December, raising almost $75,000.[9]


ORHF president Doyle McCormack

The ORHF consists of the following groups:

    • Friends of SP 4449 Inc.
    • Friends of OR&N 197
    • Pacific Railroad Preservation Association (dedicated to SP&S 700)
    • Northwest Rail Museum
    • Pacific Northwest Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society
    • City of Portland Parks & Recreation
    • Hosford-Abernethy Neighborhood Development (HAND)

Retired SP/UP locomotive engineer Doyle McCormack serves as the ORHF's president; he has been the engineer and chief mechanical officer of the SP 4449 since its restoration in 1975.[10] Former State of Oregon rail planner Ed Immel, who founded the Northwest Rail Museum in 1986, serves as vice-president.[11] The volunteer members of the restoration groups spend several hundred hours each week doing mechanical or cosmetic work on the locomotives and rolling stock. The estimated value and quantity of volunteer labor comes to $2.5 million over 115,000 hours since 1975,[12] and it has been often stated that every hour of operation is the result of 100 volunteer hours of work.[13]

About 150 people volunteer for the ORHF itself every year, mainly with the Holiday Express, National Train Day celebrations, and mainline excursion trains. While the ORHF on its own has no active part in equipment maintenance, it serves as a single point of contact with the City of Portland regarding the steam locomotives.

Other partners supportive of ORHF's mission are Union Pacific and its Foundation, the Oregon Pacific Railroad, the Portland & Western Railroad, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, the Oregon Cultural Trust, the City of Portland, TriMet, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Collins Foundation, BNSF Foundation, Candelaria Fund, Fred Meyer Corporation, Swindells Charitable Trust, Lamb Baldwin Foundation, and individual donors who have contributed over $1.23 million to date.


The ORHF was formed in 1998 as the "Roundhouse Task Force"[14] following UP's desire to expand its recently acquired Portland intermodal facilities, putting the future of the Brooklyn Roundhouse and its tenants at stake. Faced with the grim possibility of the locomotives being returned to non-operational outdoor display exposed to weather and vandalism, the foundation set about searching for a new piece of property upon which to construct a new engine house and visitors' center. The ORHF was granted 501(c)3 status in 2002 and began actively raising awareness of its mission at various public events, in addition to operating a number of excursions with the SP 4449 and SP&S 700.[15]

2003 saw many meetings and dialogues with parties concerned, including Portland city planners, community leaders, UP, and the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). Also in 2003, the ORHF partnered with Portland development firm Shiels-Obletz-Johnsen to examine the desired properties and develop a master plan for construction.[16] The ORHF began work on its business plan, including an inventory of all equipment at the Brooklyn Roundhouse, in 2004.[17] 2005 was the first year for the annual Holiday Express trains, operated over the OPR main line between Oaks Park and OMSI on December weekends; it was an immediate success with 5,200 passengers.[18]

When the locomotives started moving to the Brooklyn Roundhouse for restoration in 1984, Southern Pacific Railroad owned the yard. SP made an agreement with the City of Portland to allow the locomotives to reside there in the vacant roundhouse. Stipulations included that the City of Portland would pay $1.00 per year for the lease, and the railroad could issue a 30-day notice to vacate the property. The agreement’s terms applied to the Union Pacific Railroad when it purchased the SP in 1996. However, the ongoing nationwide rise in intermodal transportation obliged UP to redevelop that area in more recent years. It became inevitable that the Brooklyn Roundhouse would have to be razed and the engines would lose their protective roof, thus the need for a newer, sturdier and more permanent structure to shelter them from the elements.[19]

When a land prospect near Portland's Union Station fell through,[19] the ORHF finally struck a deal for a piece of property adjacent to OMSI in 2009. The foundation then was approached by the Portland public-transit agency TriMet to trade this location (Site 1) for a second, larger site (Site 2) that they owned.[20] Site 2 is bordered by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard viaduct, between the main lines of UP and OPR, and in the midst of a thriving Portland cultural district. When completed, the new Eastside Streetcar and Portland–Milwaukie light rail lines will flank its north and south borders.[21] The established priority was to construct the new Enginehouse and relocate the locomotives in time to meet UP's deadline, then fill out the remainder of the site with a rail heritage interpretive center and museum.

At first it was hoped that the roundhouse could be dismantled and reassembled on the new site, but it has since been learned that a full preservation of the roundhouse will not be possible.[22] However, the turntable – vital to the locomotives' operation – was slated to be moved to the new engine house.[23] When the Portland City Council approved a loan of nearly $1 million for the purchase of the site on October 28, 2009, the ORHF hired the architectural services of Hennebery Eddy to design the new facilities.[24] Portland Parks & Recreation then joined hands with the ORHF, with Lorentz Bruun Construction being hired as the engine house contractor.[25]

On October 22, 2010, ORHF President McCormack broke ground on Site 1 across the street from OMSI, for a new track to be laid for temporary storage of the Holiday Express train consist of vintage rail passenger cars.[26] One year later, on October 21, 2011, Parks Commissioner Nick Fish, alongside McCormack and other Portland dignitaries, held a groundbreaking ceremony on Site 2 for the engine house itself with about 200 people in attendance.[27]

Capital campaign[edit]

Since UP's decree to vacate the roundhouse, the ORHF has been actively seeking the support of the City of Portland, the general population, and rail enthusiasts worldwide to raise over $5 million for the new heritage center. A donation of the land from UP could not be agreed upon,[28][14] prompting the ORHF to commence its "All Aboard" fundraising campaign in June 2009. Response has been greatly positive thus far, with the City of Portland providing a substantial loan and an anonymous donor giving $1 million to the campaign. Other foundations, grants, corporations and individuals have contributed thousands more.[2]

ORHF display inside Union Station in 2012

The result of the campaign will be the Oregon Enginehouse & Rail Heritage Center, to be completed in three phases. The first and most critical phase will be the Enginehouse, to ensure that the locomotives are safely indoors before the Brooklyn Roundhouse is disposed of. The second phase will lay out an external area at the southeast end of the engine house for the turntable to be installed, plus tracks for other equipment to be stored and maintained; connections to the UP and OPR lines will be laid here as well. The third and final phase will be the build-out of an interpretive center in the Enginehouse where visitors can explore the engines' past lives, along with the history of rail transportation and its part in the development of Portland.[29]

On July 27, 2011, the Portland City Council voted unanimously to extend the repayment of its loan through 2016 and approve new leases for property and parking.[30] As of mid-October 2011, the ORHF is within $1 million of its goal for the first phase, and is making a big push for tax-deductible donations from the community, railroad foundations across the nation, and other individuals to close the gap. Donations are accepted through the ORHF website, www.ORHF.org.[31]

The engine house[edit]

As of June 2012, the construction of the engine house has progressed steadily with foundation work, the pouring of the concrete floor, and in most recent weeks, the erection of the frame.[32] The member groups are in the process of moving lighter equipment out of the Brooklyn Roundhouse and preparing to move the locomotives themselves by the end of the month. UP initially intended to close the roundhouse in January, but extended the deadline to June 30 to allow more time for the new house to be completed.[33] When construction and move-in have been completed over the summer, the grand opening of the Oregon Rail Heritage Center is anticipated for early fall 2012.[34] The center opened to the public on September 22, 2012.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Who We Are". ORHF.org. 20 September 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "ORHF Capital Campaign". ORHF.org. 24 September 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  3. ^ "Friends of OR&N 197". orn197.org. 17 February 2009. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  4. ^ "Fall '10 Newsletter" (PDF). ORHF.org. 27 November 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  5. ^ "Frequently Asked Questions". Friends of the 4449. 24 September 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Trips and Excursions". Friends of the 4449. 24 September 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  7. ^ "Excursions & Public Displays of the SP&S 700". Pacific Railroad Preservation Association. 11 October 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  8. ^ David F. Ashton (26 December 2008). "Holiday Express evokes nostalgic sights and sounds of steam age" (PDF). The Bee. Pamplin Media Group. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  9. ^ "Capital Campaign". ORHF.org. 13 December 2011. Retrieved 31 December 2011.
  10. ^ Larrabee, Mark (1 November 2009). "Portland's locomotives will get new $3.5 million home". The Sunday Oregonian. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Fall '06 Newsletter" (PDF). ORHF.org. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  12. ^ Portland Parks & Recreation (21 October 2011). "Portland Parks & Recreation, ORHF Mark the Start of Construction for New Enginehouse & Rail Heritage Center". PortlandOnline.com. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  13. ^ Ruud, Candice (26 November 2010). "Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation steams up to raise funds for Portland's historic locomotives". The Oregonian. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  14. ^ a b "Spring '07 Newsletter" (PDF). ORHF.org. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  15. ^ "2002 Annual Report" (PDF). ORHF.org. 27 January 2003. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  16. ^ "2003 Annual Report" (PDF). ORHF.org. 14 January 2004. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  17. ^ "2004 Annual Report" (PDF). ORHF.org. 1 March 2005. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  18. ^ "2005 Annual Report" (PDF). ORHF.org. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  19. ^ a b Redden, Jim (December 28, 2007). "Running out of steam? Three locomotives chug toward homelessness, unless new site is OK'd". Portland Tribune. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  20. ^ Larrabee, Mark (1 November 2009). "Portland's locomotives will get new $3.5 million home". The Sunday Oregonian. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  21. ^ "Fall '10 Newsletter" (PDF). ORHF.org. 27 November 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  22. ^ "Capital Campaign Video and a Note". ORHF.org. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  23. ^ "A Historic Spin on the Turntable" (PDF). ORHF.org. Spring 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  24. ^ "ORHF to Purchase Property" (PDF). ORHF.org. Fall 2009. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  25. ^ "Spring '10 Newsletter" (PDF). ORHF.org. Spring 2010. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  26. ^ "Rapid Progress". ORHF.org. 22 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  27. ^ Beaven, Steve (21 October 2011). "Commissioner Nick Fish breaks ground for Enginehouse & Rail Heritage Center in Southeast Portland". The Oregonian. Retrieved 24 October 2011.
  28. ^ "Spring '06 Newsletter" (PDF). ORHF.org. Retrieved 11 October 2011.
  29. ^ "Spring '11 Newsletter" (PDF). ORHF.org. April 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  30. ^ Redden, Jim (July 28, 2011). "City land deal fuels new locomotive museum". Portland Tribune. Retrieved August 21, 2012.
  31. ^ "All Aboard!". ORHF.org. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 8 October 2011.
  32. ^ "Enginehouse Updates". ORHF.org. 4 June 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  33. ^ Jim Wrinn (10 May 2012). "In Portland, the Daylight & Co. are packing their bags". Trains magazine. Retrieved 5 June 2012. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)
  34. ^ "Friends of SP 4449 Official Facebook Page". Friends of SP 4449. 27 May 2012. Retrieved 5 June 2012.

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