by Carrie Uffindell | Photo © Ken Manske
Celebrate and explore Oregon’s railway history at the new Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) in Portland, OR. Completed in 2012, the ORHC is both a railway museum and engine house, offering a fun and interactive experience for train enthusiasts, history buffs and families.
The center sits at the hub of four railway lines: the Union Pacific Railroad, the Oregon Pacific Railroad, the streetcar and the soon-to-be-completed Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail.
When you arrive, explore the railcars and rail memorabilia in the center’s open-air front yard. Then head inside to see the mammoth locomotives. At 19,200 sq. ft., the structure
has two sets of tracks and can hold up to four engines inside. There are also bays for equipment, offices, an interpretive area, a gift shop and a sitting area.
The ORHC is home to the City of Portland’s three historic steam locomotives: the SP 4449, the SP&S 700 and the OR&N 197. The center also currently houses two privately-owned diesel engines, the NP 190 and the NP 324, both built in the late 1940s and 1950s.
The oldest engine at the center is the black and silver OR&N 197, a steam locomotive manufactured in the early 1900s for the Oregon Railroad & Navigation Co. Used in Portland’s 1905 Lewis & Clark Exposition, the 197 then served northwest railways for over 50 years. Hollowed out over the decades, volunteer engineers are working to rebuild this historic locomotive.
Built in 1938 for the Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway, the black SP&S 700 is an excellent example of steam locomotive technology. At 111 ft. long and almost 17 ft. tall, this impressive engine can exceed 80 mph. The 700 served passengers from Portland to Spokane until it was retired in 1956. More growth is in the works for the center, including a turntable and a second floor interpretive area, giving generations of rail enthusiasts a fun, dynamic destination for years to come.
>> The ORHC is accessible via streetcar. From downtown Portland, catch the Central Loop line to OMSI. Disembark at OMSI and walk one block south to SE Caruthers St. Turn left and walk one block east. The center will be on your left.