Oregon Rail Heritage Center

Oregon Rail Heritage Center

The Oregon Rail Heritage Center in 2016
Location in Portland, across the river from downtown
Established 2012
Location Portland, Oregon, U.S.
Coordinates 45°30′26″N 122°39′42″W / 45.507306°N 122.661722°W / 45.507306; -122.661722Coordinates: 45°30′26″N 122°39′42″W / 45.507306°N 122.661722°W / 45.507306; -122.661722
Type Railway museum
Owner Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation
Public transit access
Website www.orhf.org

The Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) is a railway museum in Portland, Oregon. Along with other rolling stock, the museum houses three steam locomotives owned by the City of Portland: Southern Pacific 4449, Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700, and Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. 197,[1] the first two of which are restored and operable.[2] The center opened to the public on September 22, 2012.[3] The project to establish the center was led by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF), a non-profit organization established in 2002.


The Brooklyn Roundhouse in August 2012, just before its demolition

ORHF was tasked with finding a new home for the three city-owned locomotives, after planned changes by Union Pacific Railroad (UP) made it apparent that the locomotives would need to be moved out of their longtime home in the UP's (formerly Southern Pacific's) Brooklyn Roundhouse (45°29′30″N 122°38′43″W / 45.4916°N 122.6454°W / 45.4916; -122.6454 (Brooklyn Roundhouse)), a 1941-built[4] roundhouse in Southeast Portland's Brooklyn neighborhood. ORHF comprises several entities, including railway preservation and railfan groups as well as the city's Bureau of Parks & Recreation.[5]

Proposals to construct a new enginehouse to house the historic locomotives were expanded to encompass a visitor center and eventually an interpretive center. After considering other potential sites for an enginehouse, ORHF reached agreement in 2009 on a site near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI),[6] encompassing about 3 acres (1.2 ha).[1]


Interior view of the new enginehouse in January 2013 with the three steam locomotives on public view

Ground-breaking for the 20,000-square-foot (1,900 m2)[4] enginehouse took place in October 2011.[7] The three steam locomotives were moved to the site from the Brooklyn Roundhouse on June 26, 2012,[8] and were temporarily placed outdoors, awaiting completion of the enginehouse. With the house fully enclosed (though not completed), the locomotives were moved inside on July 28.[9] Several vintage rail passenger coaches have also been moved to the site from the Brooklyn Yard (surrounding the roundhouse), where they had been outdoors, and they will continue to be kept outdoors at the new center. The budget for the initial phase of construction is $5.9 million, and funding has come mainly from donations, but with the City of Portland loaning $1 million.[8] The Brooklyn Roundhouse was demolished in early September 2012, but its turntable was removed and placed in storage, and ORHF plans to install it at the new center in a later phase.

The Oregon Rail Heritage Center opened to the public on September 22, 2012.[3] It is open for visitors Thursday through Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.,[10] and for the time being, admission is free.[8]


Southern Pacific 4449 leading a 2006 excursion

The centerpieces of ORHC's collection are the three steam locomotives: Southern Pacific 4449, Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700, and Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. 197. All were donated to the City of Portland in 1958 and were on static display at Oaks Amusement Park until the mid-1970s[11] or later. No. 4449 was moved to the Burlington Northern Hoyt Street Roundhouse in 1974 for restoration and proceeded to become famous nationwide, when it hauled the American Freedom Train throughout the country during the United States Bicentennial celebrations of 1975–76.[2][12] It was thereafter stored and maintained at the Brooklyn Roundhouse between excursions. SP&S 700 moved to the roundhouse from Oaks Park in 1986, and OR&N 197 followed in 1996.[2] SP&S 700 is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[13]

Several pieces of privately owned rolling stock also reside at the new center, including a diesel switcher, other locomotives and several vintage passenger and freight cars.[8] One of the locomotives is Nickel Plate Road 190.

Public facilities at the new enginehouse are expected to be minimal initially, consisting of a few exhibits and an area where restoration work on the locomotives and other equipment can be observed, but ORHF plans to install a full interpretive center later,[14] on the building's second floor.[8]

The operational steam locomotives are occasionally used on excursion trips, including an annual Holiday Express,[12] and the new enginehouse was sited and designed in such a way as to enable these trips to continue. Union Pacific Railroad's north–south main line runs past the building, and is connected to the Heritage Center's tracks, allowing the locomotives and other rail cars to be moved onto or off of the mainline tracks. The rail cars also have access to Oregon Pacific Railroad (OPR) tracks at the new location.[15]

Location and access

The museum site is in Southeast Portland, at 2250 S.E. Water Avenue, adjacent to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) and to Union Pacific's north–south main line. The center is open Thursday through Sunday, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.[10]

Public transit service is provided by TriMet's MAX Orange Line light rail, TriMet bus routes 9 and 17, and the Portland Streetcar system's Loop Service. The Portland Streetcar system opened its CL Line on the same day as the museum, September 22, 2012, terminating one block from the ORHC.[16] This provided the only transit service to the center until September 2015, when the opening of the nearby Tilikum Crossing and the Orange Line added light rail and bus service to the area,[17] and the CL Line was replaced by the Loop Service (clockwise A Loop and counterclockwise B Loop) at that time. The nearest MAX, bus and streetcar stops are one block west of the center.

See also


  1. 1 2 Tims, Dana (September 21, 2012). "Oregon Rail Heritage Center ready for grand opening Saturday, Sunday". The Oregonian. p. B1. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 Redden, Jim (December 28, 2007). "Running out of steam? Three locomotives chug toward homelessness, unless new site is OK'd". Portland Tribune. Retrieved July 6, 2013.
  3. 1 2 "Oregon Rail Heritage Center opens its doors". Official blog of Portland city commissioner Nick Fish. September 24, 2012. Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  4. 1 2 Wrinn, Jim (May 10, 2012). "In Portland, the Daylight & Co. are packing their bags". Trains magazine website. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  5. "About ORHF". Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  6. Larrabee, Mark (November 1, 2009). "Portland's locomotives will get new $3.5 million home". The Sunday Oregonian. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  7. Beaven, Steve (October 21, 2011). "Commissioner Nick Fish breaks ground for Enginehouse & Rail Heritage Center in Southeast Portland". The Oregonian. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 Redden, Jim (July 12, 2012). "Rail history center: full steam ahead". Portland Tribune. p. A10. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  9. "Friends of SP 4449 Official Facebook Page". July 28, 2012. Retrieved January 19, 2013.
  10. 1 2 ORHF Home page Retrieved September 28, 2012.
  11. Siemers, Erik (March 25, 2011). "Oregon Rail Heritage group gets more funding for historic-trains center". Portland Business Journal. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  12. 1 2 Ruud, Candice (November 26, 2010). "Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation steams up to raise funds for Portland's historic locomotives". The Oregonian. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  13. "Oregon National Register List" (PDF). Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. June 6, 2011. p. 40. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  14. Webber, Angela (July 26, 2011). "Historic locomotive house gets OK from Portland City Council". Daily Journal of Commerce. Retrieved August 9, 2012.
  15. "Why there?". Oregon Rail Heritage Center. ORHF. Archived from the original on March 15, 2012. Retrieved September 16, 2015.
  16. Redden, Jim (September 22, 2012). "East side streetcar service begins". Portland Tribune. Retrieved January 24, 2013.
  17. Njus, Elliot (September 12, 2015). "The wait's over: TriMet's Orange Line, Tilikum Crossing up and running". The Oregonian. Retrieved September 12, 2015.

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