A ride on the Holiday Express, 19 December 2021

This past Sunday, myself, Emee, and her kids took a ride on the Holiday Express, the holiday special train run by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF). It’s an excursion train run on the tracks of the Oregon Pacific Railroad, a shortline that branches from the old SP/current Union Pacific mainline just south of the Hawthorne Bridge and runs to Milwaukie. (The section here parallels the Sprigwater Corridor multi-use path.)

Every year this excursion train is pulled by one of the steam locomotives that are maintained and operated by the OHRF. 1 I’ve definitely seen the train in operation before (reports from 2012 and 2014) but this would be the first time to actually ride it. This season the Holiday Express would be pulled by the very photogenic Southern Pacific 4449 “Daylight” steam engine. This locomotive was used on SP’s Coast Daylight service between San Francisco to Los Angeles from 1941 to 1956. The engine was donated to the city of Portland in 1958 and restored to operating service in 1974.

Of course I wanted to get some good photos of the train on film, but it was a very wet weekend. I thought about using the Olympus XA2 since I could easily put it in a pocket when not in use, but I decided to go all “dad” and bring the most appropriate camera: my Minolta SR-T 101 with the MC Rokkor PG 50mm f/1.4 lens 2 , kept in its ever-ready case. In a rare move I used some Portra 400 (picked up because Blue Moon just got some back in). The combo of fast lens and fast film was definitely helpful on this very grey day, especially inside the train.

It was an enjoyable ride. And it’s always great to see–and hear–a fully steamed up locomotive. The 4449 was built at the very end of the steam era, when diesel was making inroads, and represents the technology at its peak. (Heck, I can make a comparison of film photography to steam trains, as both fell probably faster than expected, even though they were both still good technologies at the time.)

My only grumble is the location for boarding/unboarding the train: Oaks Park. We would have really liked to take public transit, but ended up driving. 3 It’s at least a mile to the nearest bus stop, and we would have had to get up pretty early to get there on time, with all the bus connections and dearth of service on a Sunday. 4 They could have set up the start/end at the north end of the line, at the ORHF museum, which not only has ample parking, but one can get there very easily by bus, Streetcar, or MAX light rail. 5 Oh well.

Please enjoy the photos from this excursion below, or click here. This will be my last post before the holiday, so: Merry Christmas!

Southern Pacific 4449 steam engine, Holiday Express. Portland OR, 19 Dec 2021
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1 Technically the City of Portland owns these engines.

2 I did also bring the Rokkor 28-85 zoom lens, but never used it.

3 There’s no way we would have gotten Emee’s daughter to ride a bike on such a wet day.

4 We also needed to get Emee’s kids from their dad’s house and go somewhere for brunch, which added more complication.

5 Not only that, it’d be easier to bike to, and there would be ample bike parking. Taking the train to the train would have been cool, but it was not to be this time. Maybe next time?

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