Installation of 'Brooklyn Turntable' begins at Oregon rail museum
Over the years, it's been quite a journey for the members and supporters of the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (OHRF).
First, simply the idea of creating the Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) to house and repair Portland's historic locomotives. Then raising the money and building it on swampy land; then its grand opening. But that's not the end of the story!
Last year, the organization took another step toward completing their plans for the ORHC by rescuing and restoring the historic "Brooklyn Rail Yard Turntable".
Continuing to raise funds to install the turntable, the group has finally reached the point where construction of the "pit" in which it's to be be installed could be celebrated with a groundbreaking ceremony on May 16.
There, ORHF Past President Doyle McCormack — still a loyal crew member of the historic SP 4449 locomotive — spoke with THE BEE.
McCormack began by explaining the significance of the turntable apparatus. "This device was used by railroads to turn locomotives around in their yards, and place them on different tracks. In the days of steam locomotives, they generally ran in only one direction — forward! So, a turntable was essential in every major railyard.
"This turntable — we moved it out of the Brooklyn Yard more than ten years ago, in pieces — is almost 100 years old, making it an historic artifact in its own right," McCormack observed.
One of the reasons they've had to raise $3.2 million for this project — so far — is that the pit in which the turntable sits must be dug out, and then lined with 74 steel pilings up to 110 feet long.
"As you'll recall, if we hadn't sunk all of those steel pilings before we built the ORHC, it would have sunk deep down into what was actually discarded sawdust originally used to fill the area," McCormack pointed out. "Now that the construction is underway, the installation is going be happening pretty quickly; it's likely that it will be completed by December of this year."
The program's moderator, ORHF VP Rick Franklin, first recognized Doyle McCormack for his years of service before introducing the other dignitaries. Former Portland City Commissioner Mike Lindberg and developer John Russell spoke at the groundbreaking. Then, using gold-painted shovels, the officials symbolically dug into a pile of dirt.
Because the restored turntable bridge sat in the "front yard" of the ORHC for the past year — directly over where it now will be installed — the ceremony was completed by having a locomotive move it back, through the enginehouse and into a side yard, until it can be hoisted into place.
The Oregon Rail Heritage Center and museum is open to visitors at 2250 S.E. Water Avenue just east of OMSI. For the open hours and days, go online — orhf.org
Now, watch our video of this groundbreaking — which includes the sight of the turntable bridge being backed right through the enginehouse, and being parked in the side yard — youtu.be/LSoK-evfR9s
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