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News / Clark County News

Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Christmas trains return this weekend

By Jake Thomas, Columbian political reporter
Published: December 12, 2018, 1:37pm

The popular Christmas-themed train ride offered by a north Clark County nonprofit will resume this weekend after having to suspend the excursions because of a dispute with the county and the company that operates the railroad.

Doug Auburg, the treasurer and crew scheduler for the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, said that the nonprofit will offer its four scheduled Christmas-themed train rides this weekend. Last week, the volunteer group canceled the holiday jaunts after the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad, the primary leaseholder for the county-owned railroad, blocked them from using the track.

In recent weeks, questions have been raised on whether the lease the company uses to operate the railroad is valid. Eric Temple, the company’s president, said that if the lease is invalid it would open him to extreme liability should an accident happen on the segment of the railroad the county uses near Yacolt for the rides. As a result, he told the nonprofit they’d have to cancel the rides that have become a holiday tradition for many households.

But Auburg told The Columbian on Wednesday that the nonprofit was able to cover the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad under its insurance, allowing the rides to resume. In an email, Temple said that his company was happy that the Christmas train rides will be running again and thanked the nonprofit for its efforts.

“I want to thank Eric Temple and his team at PVJR for his thoughtfulness and timely help getting this resolved,” said Randy Williams, the group’s president, in an email to the county council and others.

On Tuesday, the Clark County Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad for preventing the nonprofit from using the railroad. Williams wrote in his email that the insurance issue was with the nonprofit and that Temple’s “actions were correct and justified.”

Upwards of a thousand people had their scheduled train rides canceled last weekend because of the dispute between Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad and the county said Auburg. He said that his group will have its regularly scheduled rides for this weekend and will have two more for the following weekend for customers who had their excursions canceled. The group will also be able to offer its special rides for disadvantaged children and BNSF employees.

But he said that the group lost out on about $12,000 from people who requested full or partial refunds. The development comes just in time. Auburg said that the steam engine needs to be warmed up Thursday in order to be ready to go by Saturday.

Columbian political reporter