Portland Oregon locomotive heritage center in final fundraising stages

An article from Oregon Live:

Portland locomotive heritage center in final fundraising stages

Published: Thursday, April 21, 2011
By Matt Buxton, The Oregonian




A trio of steam locomotives — the Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700, the Southern Pacific 4449 and the Oregon Railway & Navigation 197 — call Portland home, relics of the city’s early rail days. But few Portlanders probably know it, since they’re kept behind locked doors in the bustling Brooklyn Rail Yard, far from the public eye.

Dedicated volunteers, under the umbrella of the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, want to bring those trains to the public and they are in the final fundraising stages to build a permanent, public site for the trains near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry that would serve as a rail heritage center and restoration facility.

The clock, though, is ticking. The trains and equipment need to be out of the Brooklyn Yard by the end of January 2012 to make room for Union Pacific Railroad’s planned yard modernization.

“It’s coming down the stretch,” said Bill Failing, head of the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation’s capital campaign. “We have to get a shovel in the ground by August.”

The project has a $4.6 million price tag and has enjoyed strong support so far, with large fundraising efforts such as a $500,000 grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable trust, which puts fundraising efforts within $435,000 of the goal.

The city, which was given the trains in 1958, has helped with the effort. In 2009, the City Council gave ORHF a $1 million loan to buy the property and formed a management agreement with the group to operate and manage the locomotives, which are under the stewardship of the Bureau of Parks & Recreation.

“We couldn’t take care of them if it wasn’t for these groups of volunteers,” said Emily Hicks, an adviser to Commissioner Nick Fish, who’s office oversees Parks & Rec.

Groups under ORHF have restored two trains to working order — the Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700 and the Southern Pacific 4449.

The planned heritage center will include space to restore and maintain all the locomotives with windowed viewing platforms along with historic information about how rail helped shape the West.

“We have a lot of unique things in Portland like the Hoyt Arboretum, the Lan Su Chinese Garden and the Community Music Center,” she said. “These are all pretty unique public assets that are managed by friends groups or other entities, which started as parks property and became something more.”

For the volunteers, it’s a way to keep their love of locomotives alive and healthy for generations to come.

“It’s a huge part of our heritage,” Failing said, adding that he’s optimistic about raising the final dollars.

“It’s like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” he said. “We’ve just got to get to the end of the rainbow.”


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