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Print PageLewis & Clark Explorer Train Rolls to an End

Explorer Train Ends 3-Year Run

The final day of the Lewis & Clark Explorer Train was October 3, 2005. On that day, 120 Astoria 3rd graders met the train, brandishing welcome signs to passengers on the last westbound run.

It was a sad day for many, including Astorians who were proud to host the train, metro-area folks who appreciated this coastal travel option, and for those who resided near the 90-mile route, who enjoyed its friendly crossing whistle twice-daily, four-days per week during the summer.

This excursion train operated the 2003-2005 summer seasons, running between Portland and Astoria, Oregon, providing passengers with a leisurely ride through L&C historic sites, bald eagle sanctuaries, and other points of visual and historic interest. Committed train and concession staff was a vital part of the positive passenger experience.

In addition to a host of volunteers and financial contributors, the L&C Explorer Train would not have been possible without the effort of Oregon State Senator Betsy Johnson, who was instrumental in securing state funding for the railcars. Additionally, with the assistance of U.S. Representative David Wu, $2 million in federal funding was appropriated for the rehabilitation of the western 40 miles of the Astoria line, much of which had not received any use for eight years and had fallen into disrepair.

It Took a Village to Run a Train

The L.C. Explorer Train was operated by Portland & Western Railroad, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Genesee & Wyoming Inc. P&W made a 3-year commitment to operate the train on an ODOT Rail Division contract. Dedicated employees of both P&W and ODOT Rail worked tirelessly to insure the safe and efficient operation of the train, often giving up weekends and evenings to assist with operations or repair and maintenance work.

Astoria-end volunteers included greeters who turned out daily to welcome the train and provide area information, (Buckskin Dan was a favorite!) and a bevy of bridge turners who dutifully turned the hand-cranked bridge spans closed to allow safe train passage.

Staff resources provided by the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce, City of Astoria, and Port of Astoria assisted in many ways, and a dedicated train committee worked through local operations logistics and helped raise funds.

A host of other volunteers assisted with wheel chair lift operation, mechanical trouble-shooting, and brochure distribution. A labeling party, coordinated by the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce to correct a visitor guide misprint about the train, attracted over 90 volunteers one evening.

In addition to volunteer support, financial support for marketing and local operations was provided by organizations and businesses throughout the region.

It took a village ... so thank you to all who contributed to the success of the Lewis & Clark Explorer Train.

Train May 2005

Frequently Asked Questions
About the L&C Train:

Q. Why can’t the train operate through the November 11, 2005 Lewis & Clark Signature Event to be held in Astoria?

A. Two reasons: Daylight hours are limited now, so both boarding and disembarking safety is compromised. Also, Portland & Western Railroad, the train’s operator, is carrying special insurance to run passenger service on the line, and an extension of the insured time period is cost prohibitive.

Q. WHY is the train ceasing operations after October 3, 2005?

A: In honor of the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commemoration, ODOT Rail made a 3-year commitment to operate this train. The agency satisfied this commitment, and could not continue subsidizing train operations beyond this time frame.

Q. What will happen to the three RDC Budd cars that comprised the Lewis & Clark Explorer Train?

A. The State of Oregon provided the funds for the purchase of these rail cars, with the requirement that the money be paid back at the end of the three-year run. Therefore, ODOT Rail will sell the cars, and the proceeds will be used to satisfy this requirement. If you have an interest in purchasing these rail cars, please contact Keith Ayers of ODOT in Salem at (503) 986-2835.

Q. Are there efforts underway by another entity to continue operation of train service between Portland and Astoria?

A. Many people have voiced a desire to see continued excursion or passenger rail service between the metropolitan area and Astoria. To this end, some Astoria area citizens are researching the viability of a for-profit business operation. Others are discussing the option of a short, round trip excursion ride departing out of Astoria to perhaps Clatskanie or Rainier, a move that keeps the rail line in good working condition, and offers the best views of the Columbia River. No formal plans have been announced for either venture.

Q. Who should I contact if I am interested in operating passenger/excursion rail service on this line?

A. Portland & Western Railroad operates the rail line between Portland’s Linnton boarding area and Astoria. Contact Paul Zalec, Vice President, Passenger Operations at (503) 365-7717 X 111 or email pzalec@gwrr.com

Astoria

For a current event calendar in the Astoria area, contact the Astoria-Warrenton Chamber of Commerce at (800) 875-6807 or go to their web site at www.oldoregon.com

Lost and Found

Personal items left behind on the train will be stored through October 31, 2005. Unclaimed items will be donated to Goodwill Industries. For information about items lost on the train, please contact Bob Melbo at ODOT Rail, Monday thru Friday. (503) 986-4137 or Robert.I.MELBO@odot.state.or.us.

Links to Other Sites of Interest

  • Astoria Railroad Preservation Association: www.astoriarr.org
  • Pacific NW Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society: www.pnwc-nrhs.org
  • American Association of Railroaders: www.aar-therailroaders.org
  • American Railway Caboose Historical Educational Society: www.arches.org
  • For Rail Aficionados: Train Specifications
    The Lewis & Clark Explorer train was comprised of three Budd RDC cars, B.C. Railway heritage. The L.C.Explorer Train was operated by Portland & Western Railroad on an ODOT Rail Division contract.

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