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Old locomotives find a home near OMSI, new streetcar line

by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT/TRIBUNE PHOTO - A security guard stands between two of several historic locomotives parked near the coming Oregon Rail Heritage Center and Enginehouse, seen in the background.

The Oregon Rail Heritage Center is on track to open on Sept. 22 — the same day the Portland East Side Streetcar Loop begins operating just a block away.

The rail center includes an enginehouse to hold the three historic locomotives owned by the city of Portland and maintained by dedicated volunteer railroad fans. Its large steel frame building is nearing completion east of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry in Southeast Portland.

The three locomotives were pulled to the site on June 26 by a privately owned diesel-powered switcher locomotive that also plans to make a home there, along with a number of privately owned locomotives, passenger cars and freight cars.

The city’s locomotives are the 1938 Spokane Portland & Seattle 700, the Southern Pacific 4449 and the Oregon Railroad and Navigation 197. They had to move from their longtime home in Union Pacific’s Brooklyn Yard because of the railroad company’s expansion plans.

The aging roundhouse where the locomotives had been based will be demolished, although the large turntable to rotate the locomotives and several other artifacts from the old building will move to the new center.

The completed center will be in a hub of rail activity. It will be surrounded by active rail lines, including the Union Pacific and Oregon Pacific railroads, the Portland Streetcar and the new Orange Line Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail project.

Stations for both streetcars and MAX trains will be a short walk away.

The eastside streetcar loop kicks off with opening ceremonies on the weekend of Sept. 22 and 23, including activities planned between OMSI and the Oregon Rail Heritage Center.

The current phase of the rail center is budgeted at $5.9 million, of which $4.9 million already has been raised, including a $1 million loan from the city.

Future phases include moving the roundhouse turntable to the center, constructing a second-story interpretive center and viewing area in the building and adding a movable crane.

Each phase is estimated to cost about $1 million.

Admission to the center will be free through at least the first few construction phases. The center is a project of the nonprofit Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation.

For more information, including how to contribute, visit the organization’s website,

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