Deschutes Steam Special, 4449

The View From the Plaza Santa Fe

October 20-21, 2012


Southern Pacific GS-4 Daylight 4449 is due for her 1472 day/15 year FRA mandated overhaul in 2013. The Friends of the 4449 scheduled and organized a "last hurrah" trip from Portland, OR, to Bend, OR, and return.

I know I have raved about other steam trips on this website, but this one was just about the best ever. I arrived in Portland on Friday and visited the new engine house. 4449 had already left to retreive cars and make up the train for Saturday's departure. I went to Union Station and met "railrunner" from TrainOrders, and we watched as 4449 arrived. Took some photos and retired for the night.

Jack Wheelihan was firing during the train makeup, with a steam 4-8-4 doing the switching, once again.

Saturday morning the usual chaos occurred as passengers collected within Portland Union Station to trade their tickets for boarding passes.

Everything worked out and all passengers boarded. We smoothly departed Union Station at 0840, five minutes behind the scheduled, as dispatchers let an Amtrak depart ahead of us. We crossed the Willamette and the Columbia rivers and picked up a few more passengers in Vancouver, WA. Then it was highball out through the Columbia River gorge on the Fallbridge sub. It was raining, but spirits were high. Al and Judy Hall were in the Plaza Santa Fe dome car, Al riding and Judy as car hostess.

Here are some of my travelling mates, old friend Christopher from Los Angeles, new friends Lance from Toronto and Mark from Portland, Maine.

The infamous "Durango" dropped by to visit with Arlen.

Here's Teresa filming a meet, actually passing, a BNSF freight.

At the end of our trip on the Fallbridge, we crossed the Columbia into Oregon, and I tried to be artful and capture 4449 framed not only in the window of the Plaza Santa Fe but also the bridge structure.

Scenes like this were plentiful as we ran south on the Oregon Trunk line, with many curves and great geological formations, along the Deschutes River. Steam plume was visible all day.

Another meet, ominous sky.

A photo runby at South Junction.

Doyle McCormack must have run the Fallbridge, as he appeared in our car as we ran the Trunk. Al, Judy, Laurie, Doyle, Arlen, and Teresa trading rail lore.

Judy went back to car hosting duties and Teresa went to shoot photos. Al, Laurie, Doyle and Arlen continued to discuss rail matters.

After spending the night in Bend, all 500 passengers and crew reboarded for the return trip on Sunday, October 21. 4449 was lurking.

BNSF was so good to us that they put most of their freights in the hole for us. Here is a meet at Opal City, and the BNSF hogger was filming us as we ran past his train.

A photo runby was scheduled at Madras, the Willow Creek Trestle. I had messed up the last time we did this, so got into a very good position to obtain this shot, which made the entire trip worthwhile!

Further down the line, Mark and Lance shooting photos of the wildlife, including railfans chasing us.

Ed Immel, who had been associated with 4449 since 1974, visited all of us in the Plaza. That's Michael on the right.

People often ask why a diesel is in the consist. This was quite a downhill run and the Amtrak 51 provided needed dynamic braking, not to mention Head End Power for all of the Amtrak compatible cars. As we reached the bottom of the Trunk, we crossed the Columbia at old Celilo, again, and I got this shot framed by one of Plaza Santa Fe's great flat paned windows as we turned west on the Wishram wye.

And just beyond that, through that same window.

Doyle ran at track speed down the Fallbridge sub into Vancouver and Portland, where we again encountered rain and darkness. As we pulled into Union Station all old and new friends bid each other goodbye until the next trip. It was great to finally meet many internet friends in person on this trip. Thanks to BNSF, Amtrak, the Friends of the 4449, all the volunteers and passengers.

Continue to the grand opening of the new engine house

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