Steam train plans weekend trips

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Vancouver — One of Portland’s oft-photographed steam locomotives will be back in action Saturday and Sunday, and can be seen in Clark County on four occasions.

The SP4449 will pull a train of 12 vintage passenger cars from Portland to Wishram, 100 miles east of Vancouver in the Columbia River Gorge, and back on both Saturday and Sunday. The private Independence Day Special will also celebrate the locomotive’s 70th anniversary.

The train departs Portland each day at 9 a.m. and should arrive in Vancouver by 9:30 a.m. and turn east along the north bank of the Columbia River to Wishram, where it is scheduled to arrive at noon. After the passengers picnic in Wishram Railroad Park, which is home to a vintage Great Northern Railroad steam locomotive, the 4449 will depart at 2 p.m., arriving in Vancouver about 4:45 p.m. and in Portland at 5:15.

Gus Melonas, a spokesman for the BNSF Railway, which owns the tracks, said he’s received calls from steam train enthusiasts as far away as Canada who plan to drive to the area to photograph the trip. He cautioned fans to stay well away from the tracks; the locomotive will reach speeds of 60 mph as it makes its way along the river.

The locomotive, originally used by the Southern Pacific Railroad to pull passenger cars along the Pacific Coast, was recently spotted in Clark County on its way to and from a railroad enthusiasts’ convention in Tacoma. With its distinctive red-and-orange streamlining, it’s one of the nation’s largest and best-looking operating steam locomotives.