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The engine that drew the Bicentennial Train around the U.S. in 1976 now pulls this Christmas train

DAVID F. ASHTON - A steam blow off partially shrouded the SP 4449 steam locomotive as it chugged away from the station, taking off on another Holiday Express journey. Around the region, several historic railroad groups run Holiday train pleasure trips this time of year.

But none of the other excursion trains are pulled by the mighty Southern Pacific 4449 steam locomotive, which drew the Bicentennial Train around the United States in 1976 – nor are they located right here, in Inner Southeast Portland – other than the "Holiday Express", operated by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF).

DAVID F. ASHTON - Aboard, and enjoying their Holiday Express ride, were these Woodstock neighbors, the Turners - Kristin, Dillon, and Patrick. Saturdays and Sundays through December 15, the powerful #4449 "steamed up" at the station at historic Oaks Amusement Park, and clickety-clacked early Twentieth Century railroad carriages filled with Holiday-spirited riders up the tracks of the Oregon Pacific Railroad Company, along the Willamette River, to the Ross Island Bridge and OMSI, and then back.

"This is our 15th season of running the 'Holiday Express' between Thanksgiving and Christmas," remarked ORHF President Roy Hemmingway on the opening day, Friday, November 29.

DAVID F. ASHTON - Santas helpers, Caitlyn and Greta, with baskets of candy canes in tow, help jolly St. Nick bring Holiday cheer to everyone on the train. "Because of Thanksgiving being so late in the calendar, we've only three weekends this year," Hemmingway told THE BEE. "We added one extra passenger car this year, so, in total, we can accommodate as many guests as we have in the past."

Some 240 guests on each train got a great Willamette River view in the daytime, and saw Portland's downtown lights at night – and Santa Claus and his helpers came by to visit everyone and hand out candy canes.

DAVID F. ASHTON - Seen from atop Oaks Bottom Bluff along S.E. 13th, another Holiday Express outing passes beyond of the Oaks Bottom Lagoon, its image reflected in the water - with the West Hills providing the backdrop, beyond the Willamette River. In total, about 300 volunteers rotated through shifts during this Holiday event that is also a fundraiser for the nonprofit ORHF and the Portland Rail Center and Museum, Hemmingway pointed out.

"Whether they've come to ride the 'Holiday Express', or just watch as the 4449 departs the station, this gives us the opportunity to meet people, and introduce them to our historic railroad equipment, live and in person!" Hemmingway grinned.

Through the evening of December 15, Inner Southeast Portland residents near and far were hearing, each weekend, the lonesome steam whistle blowing on "Holiday Express" rides along the Oaks Bottom tracks – taking riders on each nostalgic ride up beside the Willamette River, and back.


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