2002 Portland GNRHS Convention
(and some railfanning afterwards)
by Lindsay Korst
Saturday, July 13, 2002
I started out early, leaving my home in Redmond, WA
and punching down I-5 for Kelso and a gas & breakfast
stop. Then it was across the Columbia River at Longview
and thence on 50 miles of deserted, timbered backroads
through the coast range to Elsie, OR and the "Camp 18 Logging
Museum". These guys were supposed to have one of the old
GN "slant" cabooses, X-29 from the X-1 to X-30 series.
I had been drooling to see a gen-uine GN slant caboose
Hmmm...I see an SP caboose and a logging caboose and
there's an SP&S caboose all on display tracks. Where is
the X-29? I wander around some more. I come upon another
display track, nicely ballasted with a set of trucks and
a metal frame. The trucks say "GN RY", so this must be
it. The entire body of the caboose is GONE. Hmpf. I
take a picture OF THE FRAME and later post it on my
website. Curses! Curses!
Next stop was the NP/SP&S convention's swap meet at
the Holiday Inn out by the Portland airport.
The first person I run into is John Strauss at a table
selling copies of his new GN Pictorial, Volume 6 - Freight
Operations. We chat a while and then Max Ulver
grabs me to talk about the database he's put together
on museums, historical societies. I later add THAT
to the GNRHS website once I get it in a format I
can read (thanks, Cliff!). BTW, Max did a super
job on that. Check it out at:
Jim Larson, president of GNRHS says hello and asks
me to take pictures of the award winners at tomorrow's
Board meeting. I agree. I see Scott and Jan
Tanner at a table selling stuff. Over there is
Walt Grecula with his cornucopia of old GN stuff
at bargain-basement prices. As I'm purchasing stuff
for my GN website, it becomes apparent there are more
GN people here than NP people! (probably just my
imagination). I see Gary Klouda and Bruce Barsness
who say hello. I say, "Hi" to Cliff Salmon and Dave
Thorsett who've just arrived off a two-hour-late
Next, I head over to the hotel to check in. I just
love these older hotels with the tiny, dingy rooms
and the creaky elevators with the cool, circular
orange glow buttons for the floors.
I adjourn to the lobby bar and start in on some
draft Hefeweizen's (thank you Cliff, Jim and John!).
All my attempts to buy beers for people are thwarted
as the above three keep buying rounds! Awfully
nice of them! Time for dinner.
We head over to the Portland Brewing Company, located
in an unlikely warehouse district well west of
downtown. I feel like I've been given wrong
directions and have been sent into an ambush.
But...sure enough, there's the brewpub with
hundreds of people inside. I snort as the
Midwesterners among us attempt to order "Miller"
and "Bud Light". Imagine! When there's good,
on-tap, cloudy Hefeweizen to be consumed! Jim
tells me it looks like my beer has gone bad! Oh,
if only he knew what he was missing...
I manage to buy Cliff's dinner and drinks. Cliff
had done some things for me in the past GN-related
I'm not at liberty to discuss, but it was MOST
appreciated and I am very grateful for his assistance.
I discovered at the dinner that my old Vivitar
flash had bit the dust. Curses! For all indoor
shots, I would have to switch to my portable
camera with the built-in flash. Fuzzy pictures
comin' up! ;p
Sunday, July 14, 2002
An easy start this morning as the Board of Directors
meeting doesn't start until 9 am. As the meeting
progressed, I worked my way around the table getting
"candids" of the "GNRHS Staff" I don't have for
the GNRHS website. Sure enough awards were awarded and
luckily all those pictures turned out. The candids
were trickier as everyone was half asleep and/or
jet-lagged. The meeting itself was interesting
as you find out what REALLY goes on behind the
scenes. One nice little perk is these guys and
myself were "pre-registered" for the convention
which meant not having to stand in line.
Still by 11:45, I was getting sleepy and restless
when they broke for lunch. After being assured
all awards had been presented, I headed off in
the truck for Albany, Oregon.
Arriving 90 minutes later, I headed for downtown
Albany and the Portland & Western yard near the
old SP depot. There it is! A genuine Great
Northern X-40 caboose resplendent in Vermillion
Red! I figured the best plan of attack would be
get in quick, get out faster. It was a drowsy Sunday
afternoon and it didn't look like anyone was
around. You have to catch this caboose on weekends
because during the week, the railroad uses it on
various freight jobs.
I rolled down the access road and alongside X-40.
Jump out of truck. Snap snap, but dammit, this
was on the "dark" side. Did I dare risk it? Into
truck, swerve around over plank crossing. WOW!
X-40 bathed in sunlight! Leap out of truck. Take
photos from both ends. Nice shots. I look around
and realize I am practically in the car shop.
Better get out of here before the special agent has
me for lunch. Roar out of the yard. Head to the
nearest Wendy's to have lunch and celebrate.
Next stop is up the freeway to Brooks, OR just
north of Salem. At the Oregon Electric Railway
Museum there is rumored to be a GN caboose. I
pull in and pay my $2 and ask the parking attendant
where the caboose is? He says over by the car barn
waaaaay over in that field (about a mile away). But,
bless his heart, he says I can DRIVE over there.
I roll up to the car barn and park. I walk up to the
building, but it is closed and locked. With nothing
better to do, I walk around the entire building
looking over their interesting collection of streetcars
and interurbans. As I come around the other side,
I notice another pickup slowly making it's way
towards me. An elderly gentleman gets out and asks
if I would like to look inside the car barn. Why
thank you, yes I would! He is Jack Norton and
tells me they've been getting quite a few NP and GN
fans down there on juice-hunting expeditions.
Jack unlocks the door and snaps on the lights.
Over on track 3 is the old GN caboose. I can't get
a number off the car, but the trucks do say "GN RY"
Jack even opens the big doors so I can get better
light for my pictures. We have a nice chat about
their collection and the progress they're making
laying track and wire around the grounds. If
you're a juice fan, OERM is definitely worth
visiting. Thank you, Jack Norton!
Back into my truck and on to Portland. I got back
to the hotel just as the registration and swap
meet were starting. I dash into the swap meet
to pick up more GN stuff for the website. The
joke going around is that all the GN artifacts
were picked over already at Saturday's NP meet!
(these are the same vendors). Still, I pick up
some nice items like Father Dale Peterka's book
on "Scratchbuilding GN structures".
At the meet, I run into Ben Ringnalda, webmaster
of the GN Empire website. Later on, we head over
to Red Robin for some burgers and brewskis. Ben
tells me about life as a Dutch pilot flying for
an airline in Spain!
Monday, July 15, 2002
Early start today. We are all downstairs at 7 am
ready to go. No buses. Finally about 7:45, they
trundle in. Off we go to our first stop, the Portland
Streetcar carbarn. We got an extended tour...of their
lunchroom. I think we kind of surprised them. They
were getting ready for a 10 o'clock media circus to
introduce the press to the two new Skoda streetcars
they had just put into service. They weren't quite ready
for 150 foamers. Finally, they got us sorted out into
smaller groups and gave us a tour of their maintenance
facility and a ride on one of their trolleys. A
very nice system they have. The Portland Streetcar
runs perpendicular (north-south) to the Portland MAX
Next stop was the former SP Brooklyn Yard roundhouse,
home of the SP 4449, SP&S 700 and a beautifully-painted
GN F unit #274. It was my first look at the orange-
green-yellow stripe scheme up close in the sunlight
in quite a while. Magnificent. GN 274 was out-of-service,
but they did run their Nickel Plate Alco RS-something or
other up and down the ready track for us, blasting
smoke from its stack and demonstrating why Alcos are
called "the honorary steam locomotive".
Inside the roundhouse, SP 4449 was looking very snappy
in its red, white and blue Freedom Train livery alongside
the SP&S 700. Also inside was a stripped-to-the-frame
Alco PA rescued by Doyle McCormick from Mexico.
I asked Bob Downing, former GN Executive to pose
beside the GN 274. Two GN icons side-by-side.
Back into the buses and east along I-84 we went to
Cascade Locks. Here we boarded an old sternwheeler
for a buffet lunch cruise up and down the Columbia
River. Like 4449, "Columbia Gorge" was decked out
in red, white and blue bunting looking for all the
world like a Mississippi steamboat on the 4th of July.
As if on cue, upon approaching the northern shore,
BNSF delivered a westbound freight to photograph
from the water. Train hype! The vessel listed
noticeably to port as dozens of camera-laden
railfans scurried outside on deck.
Back into the buses and back to the hotel for
afternoon presentations (they kept us running
from dawn to dusk). At the dinner break, Ben,
Gary Dennis and I headed to Tony Roma's for some ribs.
More presentations after supper and then off to
Tuesday, July 16, 2002
Train ride day. Originally the plan was to run
a special train from Portland to Vancouver, WA
and then on the SP&S to Wishram and back with
barbecue in Wishram. Not a chance. Insurance
rates skyrocketed after 9/11 to make the trip
cost impossible for our organization.
Thanks to some last-minute scrambling by our
heroic convention planners, GNRHS bought 123
tickets for a round-trip excursion to Seattle
and back on the Amtrak Cascades.
The shuttle bus had us over at the depot early
on a beautiful sunny day. Scott, Ben and I
trotted over the newly-constructed overhead
footbridge for some dazzling early-morning-
light shots of Portland Union Station.
A quick call to "Julie" at Amtrak's automated
train status line said that the northbound
Cascades was on time out of Eugene. Uh-Uh.
Julie lied to me. Amtrak 750 rolled in
a good 40 minutes down.
Off to Vancouver we rolled, up to the Willamette
draw and....stopped. Boat going through. First
time in dozens of Seattle-Portland train trips
I've been stopped at a drawbridge! We cool our
heels for another 10 minutes and then we're off.
Once north of Vancouver, our engineer takes off,
determined to slice into 750's tardiness. Unfortunately,
the Amtrak Cascades schedule is razor thin of
pad and to make matters worse at Tacoma, they
switch us onto the southward main. Tacoma to
Seattle is currently block-signaled in one
direction only. The northward track is all torn
up as they re-signal the line and add a 3rd track?
for the Sounder commuter train service.
Thus, we amble north wrong main at a sedate 30 mph
arriving an hour late into King Street.
Hmm, I guess I won't be leading the Lines East
boys over to Uwajimaya's for some yummy sushi.
Since we have only a half hour before
our southbound 753 leaves, Amtrak has thoughtfully
set up our box lunches on a baggage cart next to the
train. Each of us grab a box and get on the
southbound. We depart on time.
The return trip south is uneventful. Except for
the restricted speed running Black River to
Tacoma, we get back to Portland only about a
half hour late. Ben, Alan, Tom and I are some
of the first ones off (man, we've been riding
that train FOREVER) and head straight out to
the parking lot. No bus. Uh-oh.
The 4 of us decide to split the cost of a taxi
ride ($2.50 each) back to the hotel. Ben and
I headed off for dinner. We came back to the
hotel and plop down for yet another brewski
with Dave and Cliff. It turns out these guys
WALKED back to the hotel.
The tour group STILL wasn't back yet. It turns
out the shuttle bus BROKE DOWN on the way over.
The reserve bus got stuck in traffic. Thus,
the tour group stood for an HOUR before a bus
came along to pick them up. Mighty stoic people,
these GNRHS members!
Not to be undaunted, the GNRHS Business Meeting
started just a tad late at 6:45 or so,
followed by the Rocky's Rails discussion later on.
I skipped the discussion and went upstairs to relax.
Another looooong day tomorrow.
Wednesday, July 17, 2002
Another early start. We're off to the Columbia
Gorge Model RR for a continental breakfast and
a tour of their fabulous model layout.
We spent a good two hours checking out their
pike from top to bottom. The interesting part
for me was checking out UNDERNEATH the layout
with the miles of wire and cabling. Very
impressive set up, no matter how you slice it.
We reboard our bus....and it won't start. Dead.
Whatever the name of this bus line is, they've
got the most cantankerous fleet in the business.
We pour onto another bus and head to our next
stop. We get a very interesting, narrated
walking tour of the Steel Bridge, the double
deck lift bridge (road on top, rail below),
formerly SP, over the Willamette River.
UP kindly sent a transfer run over the bridge
just as we were walking across. Photo line!
We even got to step over a few winos on our
way back to the depot. Ah, city life.
Back at the depot, we got another full walking
tour of the Union Depot including a look at the
2nd and 3rd floors. Unfortunately, those who
chose to use the antique elevator to reach the
upper levels discovered just how rustic an
historic structure can be. They were trapped
between floors for half an hour.
Lunch time! It's off to the Portland Zoo
(hmmm...fresh meat!) via our rickety motor
coach for a buffet lunch....at the furthest
picnic area from the main gate (where IS this
place?). Anyway, got a full tour of the zoo and
an always-fun ride on the miniature zoo train
up to the Rose Gardens and back.
This time our bus company got smart and left
the buses running. We came back to the hotel
for a quick nap and change into slacks and
Our Wednesday evening banquet aboard the "Port of
Tillamook Bay" dinner train was kind of a challenge.
Normally, we have a banquet in the hotel's ballroom.
We eat, speeches are made, awards are handed out,
prizes are awarded, etc.
As our group of 150 stood trackside in the simmering
heat of Banks, Oregon, I was wondering how they were
going to pull the above off with us distributed between
5 cars. PA system? Ah! Yonder comes the train. Hmmm.
Couple of back to back orange U-boats and 4 coaches with
a baggage car in the middle of the consist.
One of the train crew announced they were going to load
half of our group onto the first two coaches then pull
forward and load the rest on the last two cars. You
could hear the twittering in the crowd, "wwwwWOW!
double spot!, double spot! heh heh heh...".
I got on the first two cars and it was like stepping
into an oven. Shades of Minnesota Summer 2001. We found
out later the regular dining car consist was in the
shop being worked on. What they had done was rounded
up some old coaches, turned the seats so they were
back to back and crammed tiny round tables between
the seats with these to-the-floor tablecloths making
it almost impossible to move once you've sat down.
Did I mention it was hot? The 50 year old air conditioning
system was valiantly keeping the ends of the cars cool,
but not in the main seating area.
After about 5 minutes of this, I announced I was going
to forage for a cooler spot. I went to the first car
in the train and it was definitely cooler, but not much.
I came back and Dan, Ben and myself decided to move
Now trapped in our seats as the remainder of our group
boarded, we started to move. The catering people came
into our car and announced they would shortly be serving
hors d'oeuvres. "Also, we will NOT be serving drinks this
evening, but the railroad is providing water, pop, beer
wine and iced tea in the baggage car". Huh? That's
right. We had to fetch our own water. We complained
to the catering person to no avail. Ben offered to get
the first round. He stumbled up, taking half the
tablecloth with him. He came back in 5 minutes with
3 iced teas from the baggage car. He said the line
for the pop and beer was so long, he didn't bother.
After we drank our iced tea, I volunteered to go get some
soda. Walking back through the train, it got hotter
and hotter the further you went to the rear. At the
line for the pop, the heat was excruciating. After
simmering for about 15 minutes, I finally got my
precious drinks and brought them back to our table
in triumph. Shoulda worn my Hawaiian shirt and jams.
We found out later that the fourth car on the train
got so hot it was "uninhabitable" and everyone had
moved elsewhere to eat their dinner as best they
Anyway, they finally let us off near the summit of
the Cascade Range and the mountain air was blessedly
cooler. We were in a picnic area and it was here
that we had the speeches and door prizes awarded.
Soon, it was time to reboard the "rolling sauna"
for the return trip. Even though the sun had set some
two hours ago, the train effectively trapped every
ounce of heat. We were so warm, we were giddy,
giggling at everything when we finally got back
to Banks at 10pm. End of a long day!
This concludes the GNRHS convention part of my
essay. Following is my 3 day trip to Southern
Oregon foraging for GN and SP&S artifacts.
Thursday, July 18, 2002
With the convention over, I checked out,
got an early start and headed out with
Ben to hunt for the GN-painted "Mount Hood"
sleeper, rumored to be somewhere in a yard
near Durham, OR, southwest of Portland.
After about 2 hours of fruitless searching
in rush hour traffic, we gave up and adjourned
to a local pancake house for some breakfast.
We set off on our separate ways. Today was
a long trek for me. All the way down to
Klamath Falls, OR near the California border.
I headed straight down I-5 to Eugene and then
turned east on Hwy 58 towards Chemult. This
highway roughly parallels the SP's mainline to
California. I say "roughly" because, for the
most part, the railroad is buried deep in a
carpet of evergreens and not readily seen or
accessible from the main road. As I got
closer to Hwy 97, the sky got very hazy. It
smelled like burning leaves and turned out to
be a forest fire burning miles away.
Arriving in Chemult, I decided to head over to
the tracks to see if anything was happening.
Upon catching sight of the Amshed in town, I could
see a half dozen people up on the platform.
I quickly checked my timetable and figured that
would make the Coast Starlight about 3 hours
late. I walked down to a large signal bridge
where the BNSF line from Bend joins the UP and
sure enough, here comes the passenger. Got some
nice shots of him wide angle under the bridge.
Back into the car and headed south on US 97.
Southern Oregon (Bend to Klamath Falls) was
not what I expected. Instead of the open
desert I though I would see, there was a
continual forest of 100' high pine trees the
entire way. The speed limit on the two lane
road was 55, but nearly everyone was doing 65 mph.
Not much to see, but a broad swath of the
highway (presumably as a fire break) with trees
on either side and the railroad out of sight
well to the east. Scenic Crater Lake is just
to the west, but I won't be visiting there
on this trip.
Next stop was Chiloquin, home of "Train Mountain"
a huge 7 1/2" gauge live steam outdoor layout.
They had quite a few cabooses on display which was
good for a shot or two, but this day they were
closed to the public. On to Klamath Falls.
About 15 miles north of K-falls, the forest opens
up and Hwy 97 parallels Upper Klamath Lake all the
way into town. AFAIK, there is no Klamath "Falls",
just a couple of very large lakes. Driving along, I
saw what looked like yellow/green dust clouds everywhere.
It turned out to be swarms of these little, chartreuse
bugs. They were everywhere! Along the lake, the
road parallels the railroad, but I didn't see any
I was headed for more historical matters. Talking
with Alan and Tom on Tuesday's train ride, they said
they had spotted what they thought was GN 1246, an F-8
class 2-8-0 steam locomotive south of Merrill, OR.
This engine was part of Fred Keppner's steam locomotive
collection. It was supposed to be out near Chiloquin,
but Ben told me when he visited earlier in the week,
the only thing left were a few loose staybolts. All
the engines were gone.
As the clouds rolled in, I headed down close to the
California border. Coming into Merrill, I came to
the town's only red blinker light, and turned south.
Ahead was the SP Modoc line and the silver buildings
Alan and Tom had described. Reaching the crossing,
I looked to my left (east). There, just past a couple
businesses was the "missing" steam locomotive
collection. Uh-oh, this looked like private property.
I guess I'll have to do the get-in, get-out-quick
thing again. I rolled along the gravel road and found
GN 1246 next to another crossing of the SP about a
half mile ahead.
The smokebox front and smokestack were both missing,
but the boiler and cab were back on the frame and
driving wheels. The vanderbilt tender was a little
ways off with the GN logo still plainly visible.
The olive green boiler had faded quite a bit, but
was still noticeable. A sad end for what was a
beautifully-displayed locomotive from Seattle's
Woodland Park. I doubt it will run or be displayed again.
I quickly took pictures from all sides and then just
as quickly left.
I went back to K-falls and checked in. Then it was
out to do a little train spotting. The BNSF line
from K-falls to Bieber was closed due to a maintenance
blitz so everything was running on the SP line. BNSF
was still using their yard to set up trains then
backing them onto the SP to go north or south. I shot
some CP power leading a train parked (engines shut down)
near the Klamath Falls depot.
Friday, July 19, 2002
Slept in this morning and it's a good thing I did. The
northbound Coast Starlight I was planning to follow as
far as Chemult was an hour late. I headed north out
of town and found a southbound UP parked in a siding.
Meet shot! Train hype! I waited. As I sat waiting,
I noticed hundreds of those chartreuse bugs from
yesterday start to coat the outside of my truck. It was
like something out of a crummy horror movie. Was I to be
mistaken for the local asparagus crop and devoured?
The scanner crackled that Amtrak was leaving the depot.
Braving the mini-locusts, I stepped out of the truck
as #14 came into view and got my meet shot. Jump back
in the truck none the worse for wear and tear off
after #14. Wow, is he moving! I am doing 70 and he is
easily pulling ahead of me. Soon, he is completely out
of sight. Coming up to a dandy SP-style signal bridge,
I spot a southbound BNSF train parked in the siding.
I stop for a few shots and then he punches his headlight
to bright and roars out southward. It is a long long
merchandise train with two DPU units mid-train. Those
orange Heritage II units are very eye-catching.
Now it's a long drive north to Bend, my next overnight
stop. Once again, I pull over at Chemult and check
the platform. I don't believe it. People on the
platform again? I head north to the signal bridge up
there and sure enough, here comes #14. This time he
is two hours late. Must be some trackwork over in
the pines to slow him down that much.
From Chemult north, I am following the old Great
Northern line to Bend. Well, it is over there in
the woods and I am over here on the highway. Not
much to see but pine forest. Soon, I arrive in Bend.
I follow Ben's directions and locate the old Oregon
Trunk/GN depot which has been moved to the other side
of the Deschutes river and is now used as an art studio.
Since it is still early afternoon, I head further north
and check out the Redmond, OR depot and 3 interesting
ex-Milwaukee Road passenger cars (love those circular
windows!) which comprises the City of Prineville
dinner train (it might be called the Crooked River
dinner train...not sure).
As I check into my hotel, the clerk notices my BNSF
T-shirt and asks if I work for the railroad. I tell
her that, no, I'm just a fan. She tells me the crews
all stay at this hotel (Red Lion South...whoa!).
Saturday, July 17, 2002
A long drive today, but lots to see. Up very early to
photograph the Bend depot in low light. Then north
to Redmond and Terrabonne for similar OT depot pictures.
At Bend, the pines have given way to high desert so
it is much easier to spot the nearby OT line.
North of Terrabonne is the famous Crooked River bridge
over a 300' gorge built by the OT and now BNSF. I stop
and take a few pictures. Near Culver, I take a side
road which parallels the OT and I find a very nice
depot at Metolius with the train order semaphore still
in place. Nearby is a Big Sky Blue GN wood chip
car which is worth a frame.
Coming into Madras, I notice a high, curved trestle to
the west of town. I take US 26 high up out of town
where there is still a boonie old depot left over from
OT days. Now I'm north again on US 97.
A headlight! Orange Heritage II units in the distance!
Hot damn. I pull a u-turn on US 97 and scream back
to Madras and out to the big trestle. Minutes later,
the southbound appears in the early morning light.
Nice shot! Estimating distances, I punch back onto
US 97 and head south. I hear the southbound setting
off detectors. I rocket back to the Crooked River
bridge and hustle over to the old highway bridge.
Wow, he's moving fast! There are constant-lit
block signals on this line and he is doing about 50.
I take vertical shots and simply hold the shutter
release down as the Heritage II's motor by. Outside
of seeing GN 1246, and the F, those were the
photos of the trip.
Back north again. I skip the area around Gateway
where I understand the OT has some spectacular tunnels
and bridges. I branch off US 97 to US 197. At Maupin,
the highway descends into this beautifully-lit blue
water canyon. From on high, the OT looks like a model
layout. Very boonie! Arriving in Maupin, the place
is crawling with white water rafters. Thousands of
tents and boat trailers. Portland is about a 3 hour
drive from here and it is a gorgeous spot. There is
a paved road which follows the OT for about 15 miles.
I don't see any trains, but I definitely want to
come back and spend a day here.
On towards the Columbia River, US 197 meets I-84 just
east of The Dalles and I head east. Across from
Wishram, I pull over for a head-on shot of the OT
lift bridge over the Columbia. Eastward I go, crossing
the river at Maryhill and on to Goldendale, WA.
Rumor has it there is an old GN caboose in town,
but both it and the tracks are long gone. I have
lunch at the local McDonald's and head to Wishram.
From the east, there is a spectacular shot of the
yard. Once down below, there's not a whole lot to
see. Prefab building and a merchandise train parked
alongside a string of autorack cars. No one around.
Westward toward home I go, stopping at Stevenson
to photograph the F unit and SP&S caboose at the
nearby museum. The F unit is gutted, is painted
mineral red and labeled for rotary plow service.
No trains to see either direction along the
At Cascade Locks, I cross over to the Oregon side
for a faster drive home on I-84, I-205, I-5 and
I-405 (got that?). Home around 8pm. Whew, what
a trip! Got some great photos and ready to do
it all over again next year (North Dakota,
here I come!).