Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation's Train Museum
Train museum near OMSI nearer reality, after City loan commitment
The Bee, Nov 25, 2009
On Wednesday, October 28th, the Portland City Council approved three agreements that will enable the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF) to move forward with its plans for a “train museum” just east of the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, which will include a new facility for the restoration and management of three historic steam locomotives owned by the City of Portland.
The agreements include approval of a loan of up to $1 million to assist ORHF in the purchase of land in the OMSI district of Inner Southeast Portland for the new facility, as well as a management agreement with ORHF to operate and manage the city locomotives, and a formal memorandum of understanding which ensures the public benefit of the locomotives. The closing on the property to be purchased from Union Pacific was expected by Thanksgiving.
Portland is the only city in the country that owns two operating steam locomotives — the Spokane, Portland & Seattle 700, and the Southern Pacific 4449. A third locomotive owned by the City, the Oregon Railway & Navigation 197, is currently being restored. All three locomotives are under the stewardship of Portland Parks & Recreation.
As an umbrella organization, the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation serves the interests of the locomotive groups and other local rail organizations. ORHF and its member organizations have dedicated themselves for the past 30 years to the restoration and preservation of the three locomotives, and to locating a permanent home for them.
Given to the city in 1958, the three locomotives first sat unprotected from the weather at Oaks Amusement Park for decades. Starting in 1974, they each moved to the Brooklyn Roundhouse for restoration. Union Pacific Railroad, owner of the Brooklyn Yard, has development plans that require that the locomotives, equipment, and roundhouse be removed by February of 2012.
“Since the locomotives were donated to the city, it has taken over 50 years to acquire a permanent home,” said Doyle McCormack, ORHF President. “This is a major step forward that will make them accessible to the public for generations to come.”
When the land purchase became known, the OMSI District property owners invited ORHF to join their group. These property owners, in the area surrounding the OMSI, help coordinate their future plans in conjunction with a master plan OMSI is developing. The plan envisions a pedestrian plaza that connects area tourist attractions with proposed retail and educational facilities.
A major transit center will connect the district to the rest of the metropolitan area. Stations for the future Milwaukie-Portland Light Rail line, the Eastside Streetcar, stops for bus lines, and a proposed parking garage will all converge in the middle of the district. With the addition of the ORHF restoration facility, the district will represent over 100 years of rail travel.
These agreements move the City closer to having a rail heritage museum in this industrial corridor, as well as provide a economic boost to the eastside industrial area.