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Long a dream for railroad fans, the ORHC Rail Museum near OMSI is a reality -- and it's now ten years old

ERIC NORBERG - Three of the enormous, working steam locomotives cared for by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation in their museum are visible in this photo - as well as a small model locomotive at far right that kids are invited to sit in. Two sets of rails set in the floor allow locomotives to enter, drive through, and leave the museum as needed.The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation's rail history museum, just east of OMSI under the McLoughlin viaduct, was ten years old on Saturday, September 24th — so it threw its doors open, and invited the public to come celebrate.

The Rail Heritage museum, just a few steps north of a station on the Orange MAX light rail line, contains several historic steam locomotives — including possibly the most famous operating locomotive in the world, the Southern Pacific #4449 — which led the official U.S. Bicentennial Train around all 48 contiguous states in 1976, after being rescued, refurbished, and restored after spending time rusting on a siding at Oaks Amusement Park.

ERIC NORBERG - A special feature of the tenth anniversary of the museum was this elaborate Lego construction by an adult Lego group called Great Northern Lego Railway operating all day at the entrance during the celebration. The layout was twenty by thirty feet, and all the trains on it were running. As part of the celebration, an excursion train departed and returned to the museum several times during the day on the round trip to Oaks Park which is also the route of the annual "Holiday Express" fundraising train rides which the museum has been running on weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year. Kids and adults of all ages roamed the museum that day, standing in awe by enormous steam locomotives that dwarfed them, watching a 20 by 30 foot complex handmade Lego train display send miniature trains around the edges all day, and stepping outside to visit food carts and to visit Southern Pacific #4449 outside in the sun, "steamed up".

ERIC NORBERG - Outside the north door of the museum, idling in the sunshine and steamed up, was the famous and historic Southern Pacific #4449 - which toured the 48 contiguous United States in 1976 pulling the Bicentennial Train, and which powers the Holiday Express rides between the museum and Oaks Park on weekends in December each year. Visitors also passed a large excavated circle of earth near the front entrance which is part of the in-progress installation of the restored "Brooklyn Yard Locomotive Turntable" featured in past BEE articles. The anniversary celebration was just that weekend, but the rail museum is regularly open to the public for visits — and memberships are available as well. For more information, go online — — or call 503/233-1156. The official address is 2250 S.E. Water Avenue. ERIC NORBERG - A train of passenger cars heads south from the rail museum, full of visitors at the anniversary celebration, enroute by rail to Oaks Amusement Park and then back again — similar to the Holiday Express excursions coming up on weekends in early December, but this time without Santa Claus.

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