When a locomotive turns 80, it's time to break out the balloons and party favors

DAVID F. ASHTON  - Instead operating model railroads, we come here and work on the real thing, says Randy Woehl, a crewmember from the Spokane Portland and Seattle #700s locomotive team - standing in from of the birthday guest of honor on this day. Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) hosted its 3rd annual "Portland Train Day" on Saturday, May 19. The centerpiece was celebrating the 80th "birthday" of the Spokane Portland and Seattle #700 steam locomotive, which was lodged in a service bay for its latest 15-year boiler renovation.

"Portland Train Day" joined other similar celebrations around the nation, commemorating the completion of the first transcontinental railroad at Promontory Summit, Utah, on May 10, 1869, said Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation Executive Director Greg Fitzgerald.

Although it was a ticketed event this year, thousands of people still made their way to the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, situated under the S.E. MLK Jr. Viaduct, just east of OMSI.

"We expect to have about 5,000 people here today to look at our working locomotives, to be amazed by the model train layouts running, to go on train rides, to enjoy live music, to dine at food carts, and to make a day of it," Fitzgerald grinned.

"The purpose of the ORHC is not only to take care of and operate the steam locomotives housed here, but also to educate people about how rail has affected the history of the Pacific Northwest," Fitzgerald told THE BEE.

The organization does not just look at the past, but it's also about the future of rail transportation, he said. "Here, we're situated between three rail lines – the Union Pacific, the Oregon Pacific, and the TriMet MAX Light Rail Line," Fitzgerald pointed out.

About 50 volunteers were on hand, including the crews who work on the locomotives. "The best part of this for me is seeing all the kids come through here and enjoying the trains," Fitzgerald said.

Other than on "Train Day", visiting the ORHC occurs year 'round, is free, and it's open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. To learn more, see their website at

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