Back in October of 2014, there were a series of Lerro Productions charters in and around Portland, OR, which also lined up with the Sumpter Valley’s fall trip the next weekend. I decided it would be a great opportunity to see lines and steam engines that I hadn’t seen before, and I could use a week off railfanning. While I couldn’t make all of the trips due to prior commitments, I joined up with the group for a 1-day run on the Chelatchie Prairie out of Yacolt, WA.
A Brief History of the Line
I know, my brief histories turn into term papers half the time. This time I’m going to let the railroad’s own website tell the story of how the line came to be.
Our locomotive for the day, Crossett Western 2-8-2T #10, was built by Alco in 1929 for the Crossett Western Lumber Company out of Wauna, OR. In 1943, it was moved to the Hammond & Little River Redwood Company (later part of Georgia-Pacific) out of Samoa, CA. Upon retirement in 1964, the engine was purchased by the Fortuna Kiwanis Club and placed in Rohner Park. The engine remained there for a decade before it was sold in 1974 due to insurance issues. Pete Replenger purchased it and moved it to Shelton, WA, where the engine was once again made operational. It ran once or twice a year until 1997. In 2003, it was sold to a group of individuals associated with the Chelatchie Prairie , who again restored it to operation by late 2007. It ran for a year, but developed bearing issues on one of the drivers and needed brake rigging work. Then a dispute broke out amongst the owners, and 10 sat idle and partially disassembled until the legal issues were resolved. The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad itself purchased the engine from the individuals in 2012, and completed repairs in time for the 2013 season.
Today, the engine is sidelined again, in need of its 15 year FRA boiler work. The Chelatchie Prairie is working on raising funds to get the job done, but certainly the lack of a 2020 season hasn’t helped that goal.
The October 12-13 Charter
The 2014 charter was basically a one day trip (Monday, Oct 13), with a few night shots on Sunday evening. That’s mostly because the operating section of the line is short – only five miles from Yacolt to Lucia Falls. The line north from Yacolt to the shops at Chelatchie is operable but excepted track, so no passengers allowed. Plus, most of that section of the line is just a tree tunnel, so there wouldn’t be many photo angles to work with anyway. For the morning, we had the engine facing east/north towards Yacolt, and about mid-day we returned, wyed the train, and then took advantage of afternoon light and a westward-facing train.
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