Historic Portland steam locomotive marks 45th restoration anniversary
Rail enthusiasts will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the saving of Portland's most famous historic steam locomotive on Saturday, Dec. 14.
The Southern Pacific 4449 had been unused and rusting in Oaks Park until Dec. 14, 1974, when it was moved to the Hoyt Street Roundhouse in downtown Portland for restoration. Four months later, in April 1975, it began pulling the American Freedom Train to cities and towns all over the country to celebrate America's bicentennial.
Now the fully-restored SP 4449 is the centerpiece of the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, where the city's two other historic steam locomotives are also housed near OMSI at 2250 S.E. Water Ave.
The SP 4449 is also one of the two working locomotive at the center that have participated in the annual Holiday Express for the past 15 years, including this year. For three weekends starting on Nov. 29, it has led the hourly excursions to Oaks Park and back. Trips are scheduled on the anniversary day, Saturday, Dec. 14.
"It's quite a change from being towed dead out of the park to running under steam with passengers back to the park," said rail historian Martin Hansen of Bend.
The Holiday Express is Portland's only holiday train pulled by a mainline steam engine, and the Northwest's only specialty train ride in the heart of a city. Proceeds benefit the center, a working museum opened in 2012 to provide a permanent home for the SP 4449, the Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700, and the Oregon Railroad & Navigation 197. All three were donated by their respective railroads to the City of Portland more than 70 years ago.
Restoration of the 4449 and its American Bicentennial excursions were led by Doyle McCormack, a founding leader of the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, which owns and operates the center. The enginehouse there is named for McCormack and includes a museum open and free to the public in the afternoon, Thursday through Sunday.
Museum admission is free, although donations are requested.
You can learn more at orhf.org.
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