Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

Riders glimpse Holiday Express steam train on Springwater Trail

Posted by on December 6th, 2010 at 9:22 am

Riders on Cycle Wild’s weekend bike camping trip out to Champoeg State Park over the weekend got a special treat as they rolled out via the Springwater Corridor Trail…

The “Holiday Express” historic steam locomotive on the Springwater Corridor Trail this weekend. The Ross Island Bridge is in the background.
(Photo © Russ Roca/PathLessPedaled.com)

The train is an historic steam locomotive operated just two weekends a year by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation. If you missed it this weekend, you’ve got one more chance. Matt Picio, Director of Cycle Wild (old train buff) will lead a ride to see the train in all its fully-lit, nighttime glory. Meet at Union Station this Saturday at 3:30 pm. Learn more about the train at ORHF.org.

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  • h December 6, 2010 at 9:28 am

    it was much prettier with lights at night…

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    • matt picio December 6, 2010 at 9:43 am

      and colder, I’d bet.

      The holiday train is operated 2 weekends a year, and is usually pulled by the SP4449 (sp4449.org) or the SP&S700 (sps700.org), 2 of the 3 steam locomotives owned by the City of Portland and operated and maintained by volunteers. The 4449 and 700 are Northern-type locomotives (4-8-4, where the numbers refer to the wheel arrangement) – they weigh about a half-million pounds each and were built in the 1930s. Both operated in and around Portland in their heyday, and the 4449 pulled the American Freedom Train during the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration. Both locomotives operate at various events during the year. They are relics of a vanished era, and if you get a chance to see them, you should. For those who’d like to know more about the locomotives and local railroad history, I’ll be leading a ride this Saturday from Union Station at 3:30pm. Dress warm and bring lights, we’ll end after sunset.

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      • matt picio December 6, 2010 at 11:34 am

        Sorry, the 4449 URL should read http://www.4449.com/

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      • Bill December 6, 2010 at 4:23 pm

        Hi Matt, I ended up taking the Springwater back from OC on Saturday hitting Oaks Park area a bit after sunset. The engine was south of Oaks Park solo while the volunteers looked it over, an impressive site! Later on the cars were all lit up too!

        Should be a good show!

        (though beware that some of those little maintenance engine cars maybe going down the track with extra bright headlights as well.)

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  • Ethan December 6, 2010 at 9:40 am

    I heart 4449

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  • Jim Lee December 6, 2010 at 9:42 am

    Wish I could have been riding by on my orange, black, silver Wabi “Lightning!”

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  • A.K. December 6, 2010 at 10:06 am

    Wow, that is so cool! In all my riding along the Springwater I’ve never once seen a train use those tracks.

    How fast does it go along there? It would have been fun to try to race it!

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    • adventure! December 6, 2010 at 10:25 am

      I’ve seen a train a few times on the “Springwater” line. There are still a few rail customers at the end of the line by the Goodwill Bins on the Portland/Milwaukie city line. The train would shuttle a few boxcars (usually refrigerated cars) between the Bins area and the UP mainline (junction by OMSI). Usually done around 4-5pm. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen this happen, though.

      Several years ago there was an excursion train, “Samtrak” that went from OMSI to Oaks Park on weekends. They stopped it within a year or two of the Springwater-OMSI trail opening.

      (Matt, fact check this one for me!)

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      • matt picio December 6, 2010 at 11:37 am

        You are correct. The line is a shortline called the Oregon Pacific Railroad and is owned by Dick Samuels. It has customers next to the bins and the frozen warehouse next to OLCC. Trains run on the line a few times per week. OPRR also has a section of track from Canby to the sawmill at Liberal. Samuels bought both lines from the Southern Pacific Railroad shortly before Union Pacific acquired SP.

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  • matt picio December 6, 2010 at 10:34 am

    A.K. – 5-10mph. They will sometimes hit 15, but they take it pretty slow to maintain a 40 minute trip time for the kids (the train runs from Oaks Park to 4th & Ivon and back)

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  • Paulie December 6, 2010 at 10:36 am

    Do any of the steam locomotives come in Duck colors?

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    • PdxPhoenix December 7, 2010 at 3:59 pm

      Thankfully no.
      700 is black (last I saw it).
      4449 is typically in the Daylight livery (or after the Sept attacks briefly repainted in the Freedom Train’s RW&B livery).
      the third still in restoration is also probably (going to be) black.

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  • Susan Hayden December 6, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Thanks, Jonathan and Matt. It’s a spectacular site to see one of these engines under steam, at night outlined in lights. More information on the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation and the Holiday Express at
    They have to find a new home for these superb engines.

    Susan, cyclist and train fan

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  • Jim Lee December 6, 2010 at 10:53 am

    4449 is a fixie too.

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    • matt picio December 6, 2010 at 11:38 am

      Yes, and the 4449 is unparalleled at trackstanding.

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    • rigormrtis December 6, 2010 at 12:59 pm

      But it makes all of the legal stops.

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  • matt picio December 6, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    For those who are interested – our ride report from our trip this weekend is here:

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  • GlowBoy December 6, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    I live close enough to Oaks Bottom to hear the steam whistles from my house. Sends a chill up my spine every time. Seeing these behemoths — nearly as tall as 2-story houses — in person and under steam is always a fantastic experience.

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    • scoot December 6, 2010 at 5:19 pm

      I can hear them, too, and kept wondering, what in the world are all the big ships doing and why do they keep blowing their horns in the same place? Heh.

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  • craig December 6, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Where the heck do they turn the thing around?

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    • joe December 6, 2010 at 12:47 pm

      it runs backwards. i saw it running backwards on friday night. it was lit up and very pretty. i was confused nonetheless.

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      • matt picio December 6, 2010 at 3:49 pm

        The rearmost car has a curved observation window. An FRA-certified volunteer with a radio sits back there in communication with the engineer at all times, and lets the engineer know when to stop or whether there are any obstructions / dangers on the tracks.

        Under other conditions, a locomotive would “turn” on a turntable or a wye. There are a few of those in the Portland area, but I’m not sure which one(s) the 4449 uses for these trips other than the one at the Brooklyn roundhouse.

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  • Bob_M December 6, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    Matt Picio
    Sir you are to be corrected. The beautiful and awesome 4449 is unparalled at parallel track standing.

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    • matt picio December 6, 2010 at 3:46 pm

      I (track)stand corrected.

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  • Carlsson December 6, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    I live between Multnomah Village and Garden Home and clearly heard it’s whistle this weekend! I attribute it partly to the east wind & atmospheric conditions. Pretty cool!

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  • Jim Lee December 6, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    Thanks for all the info, Matt.

    First time I saw 4449 was at the dedication for the “Freedom Train” in 1976: a sleek gigantic beast slithering across the yard at Union Station.

    These things are alive!

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  • Duncan December 7, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    I hate to be the one bitching here, but when I attempted to stop to take a picture of it on my bike I was faced right away with someone waving a “stop” hand sign inches from my face and yelling at me to slow down. I was pretty much stopped getting my camera out! Feeling pretty unwelcome I made my way (walking pace) through the crowd and their volunteers kept yelling at me “slow down”. If they are going to be jerks then dont be surprised if they get the same back.

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    • Jeremy December 7, 2010 at 3:05 pm

      I concur. The old man who stopped me was excruciatingly rude. I would have preferred encountering him as a fellow community member in a shared space, but he was all “GET OFF MY LAWN”.

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  • Bill December 7, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    It was the opposite for me, the volunteers were very polite when I went slowly through at night (passed about seven of volunteers), and during the day a train engineer even blew the horn for the group pictured above as we rode along side the train.

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  • CaptainKarma December 7, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    The volunteer I chatted with was also uber-nice. Maybe the one dude needs to go back to volunteer-community interface training. hah.

    I could not get a toot, though, and felt maligned over that for awhile. But then I figured maybe they have to limit their toots per hour or something. Whatever. It was totally awesome anyway, and their group is looking to add younger volunteers. Just sayin.

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  • jim December 7, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    I like the cattle catcher on the front. They should have these on the max trains for the idiots that insist on sharing the tracks

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  • Duncan December 8, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Jim- sometimes you make a good point, but I think you went a little wide on that turn.

    On track- I am glad not everyone had the experience I had I was really excited to get that photo and check out the train (I am a steam geek) and the dude pretty much made me feel I better get my bicycle-shorts covered ass on down the road ASAP. I could have been an interested person, hell sometimes I decide to donate to odd causes that amuse me… but that interaction pretty much let me know I was not welcome there.

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  • Bill December 8, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Just as a general reminder, on the path, we are the large vehicles and there are many young kids at the train stop eager to get a better look. Slowing down is important, but so is focusing on our surroundings at the same time (this means waiting to fully stop to get a camera out or marveling at the train, etc.). It is not fun if a little one gets hurt.

    Thank you for being respectful and courteous multi-purpose trail users.

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    • Duncan December 8, 2010 at 8:57 am

      You weren’t there Bill, I was being polite and the other guy was being rude. Lost my support pretty much for good.

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    • Duncan December 8, 2010 at 9:01 am

      And I will say a younger and less polite me would have had words with the man, not nice words and certainly not the words one should use around kids. He should be lucky he didnt try that act with a 20 year old version of me. I showed restraint by simply leaving instead of telling him what he could do with his yelling, loud mouthed ass and little red sign.

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  • Bill December 8, 2010 at 9:09 am

    I was there twice and all my comments accurately reflect what I experienced. Yes you had one unpleasant experience, but as in life, one experience does equal the whole.

    Not sure why you are calling me out since my general reminder was something we can (and should) all keep in mind. It’s the holidays, I prefer to be festive.

    Happy celebrations and I hope many of you get to enjoy the train both at night and during the day!

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    • Duncan December 8, 2010 at 9:56 am

      you werent there when the dude was yelling at me.

      Hell I am glad your experience wasnt mine- mine was pretty unpleasant and the guy downright combative. Your reference about “stopping to get cameras out: seemed like a typical BS passive agressive portland response to my comment.. and I am replying to it.

      You try and be festive when some dude is waving a stop sign in your face and yelling at you. I dare you.

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  • Bill December 8, 2010 at 10:14 am

    …I am here now and you are getting pretty aggressive for no apparent reason with me. In a non-passive way your last post reflects pretty poorly on you.

    My comment about the camera again was from my own experience, check out the above picture a bit more closely. The guy in grey is not waving at the train, but rather as filming the train while riding in the left lane. I tensed each time another trail user approached.

    As for your last comment, while I probably will not comment again, I still enjoy this site even though you are being an obnoxious commenter. There are bad applies everywhere.

    Please do not try and spoil the fun for the rest of us. I truly hope you let this one go.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) December 8, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Bill and Duncan, I’d really rather not host personal back-and-forth discussions like this in the comments. I’m going to close this thread. Thanks for your contributions.

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