Rail Heritage Center coming to site near OMSI
A new, permanent home for Portland’s heritage steam engines is steaming ahead. The first phase of Portland’s new Engine House and Rail Heritage Center could be completed within a year according to a schedule approved by the Portland City Council.
Portland is unique as America’s only city that owns two operating steam locomotives – the Southern Pacific 4449 and the Spokane Portland Seattle 700; along with a third – Oregon Railway & Navigation 197 – currently under restoration.
Portland Parks and Recreation owns the three steam engines, secured by donation in 1958. Beginning in 1980, each moved for restoration to the Brooklyn Roundhouse in southeast Portland. It took three decades and thousands of volunteer hours to restore two of them into operating condition. The Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation has been instrumental in working on the steam engines.
Thanks to the July 27 city council vote, in less than a year the historic trains will move out of the Brooklyn Roundhouse into a new home near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI). The permanent maintenance and display facility will provide space for locomotive maintenance and restoration, as well as direct public access.
A new Portland-Milwaukie light rail bridge across the Willamette River will deliver streetcars, light rail, cyclists and pedestrians right to the center’s front door.
The city is not required to invest much money in the operation. The city council has agreed to extend the terms of an existing $978,598 loan to the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to help maintain the locomotives.