Riding the rails with Mom

Scenic tour on Chelatchie Prairie Railroad train a fun Mother's Day treat

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor



Volunteers welcome

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad is in need of volunteers for a wide variety of tasks, including running the gift shop, maintaining trains and tracks, providing tours and even working as a member of a train's crew. Training is provided. For more information, visit the group's website at www.bycx.com or call 360-686-3559.

YACOLT — At first, Michael Back planned to take his mother, Shirley Back, to see the new "Spider-Man" movie on Sunday, but the warm weather changed his mind.

Instead of seeing a movie, the two Vancouver residents celebrated Mother's Day by taking a scenic, outdoors adventure along the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad in Yacolt. As the diesel train chugged along at a leisurely pace, Shirley Back, 76, passed a field with cows and llamas, went through a pitch-black 300-foot tunnel and traveled high above the greenish-blue Lewis River.

"You see all different sights," she said, including a short train stop that allowed passengers to walk to Yacolt Falls. She stepped up to an overlook of the falls while her son trekked down to a bridge over the river and snapped pictures.

"It's too nice of a day to be in a movie theater," Michael Back, 54, said. And he wasn't the only one taking his mom on the journey.

Several families sat along both sides of the train's open-air car. Just before the train took off from the Yacolt station, Chelatchie Prairie Railroad president Randy Williams had a treat for the mothers in the group.

"Mommies? We've got mommies?" Williams asked as he carried a bucket of roses through the train car. "Pick one you like."

Just a few minutes later, the train blasted its horn three times, and its 64 passengers and six volunteers started south. Some passengers saw ducks flying from a pond, a salamander and gnawed vegetation, which is evidence of a beaver living in the area, Williams said.

As the train crossed a road, passengers waved excitedly to vehicles stopped in traffic. Then the train slowly crossed the river.

"The Lewis River is big right now (with) a lot of water in there because of the rain," Williams said. "It's beautiful."

As young children began to squirm on their parents' laps, it was clear many mothers came prepared. They broke out various snacks, including animal crackers, graham crackers and Cheetos.

Stacy Nurmi of Battle Ground was on the train Sunday with her husband, two sons and her father. Although it was Mother's Day, it was also a big day for her dad, she said.

"It's my dad's birthday weekend too, so we came out for both," Numri said, adding it was the family's first time on the Chelatchie Railroad. "We want to come back and maybe do the wine tour."

Year-round events

A wine tour is one of the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad organization's many events that take place in North Clark County. On Memorial Day weekend, the train stops for drinks at the Moulton Falls Winery.

Later in the summer, the railroad organization hosts train rides with dinner. In December, rides come with the opportunity to purchase a Christmas tree. In October, they have a Headless Horseman theme. The group also provides rides that simulate an old-fashioned train robbery.

The railroad line, used for decades by loggers, was built around the turn of the 20th century. Over time, much of the line deteriorated. In the late 1990s, a group of volunteers formed the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad organization to preserve parts of the railroad and provide tours.