Text and Photos by Ken Byers
On September 20th at the Doyle McCormack Enginehouse, the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation celebrated its fifth birthday with food and praise. In attendance were Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish, present and past city commissioners for Parks and Recreation respectively, as well as many of the key volunteers that make ORHF possible. Fish was instrumental in encouraging the City of Portland to sign off on ORHF’s plans for a permanent home as a place to house, restore, and operate the city’s three vintage steam engines. ORHF’s mission includes a significant role in educating kids and adults as to the role steam engines played in the city’s past.
Doubt from many went hand in hand with ORHF as they raised the necessary money to construct their building and meet the needs for their basic necessities. After generous donations and widespread support, the building at 2250 SE Water St. now stands tall. Greg Fitzgerald, ORHF’s executive director, opened his remarks at the gala saying, “ORHF at five is debt free, with money in the bank, and three hundred employees who work for nothing.” Cheers from the members in attendance revealed the pride of those who work on the trains and welcome visitors.
The evening also revealed artists’ renderings of the expansion of ORHF’s next steps. These projects include the installation and operation of the 102 foot diameter round table from the Brooklyn Yard that is currently in storage. Making it ready to turn the engines is a big engineering and construction project. It serves a purpose beyond nostalgia. Currently the engines must travel to North Portland before turning around. With the turntable they can turn in our front yard. A capital campaign to fund the project is currently underway.
The other big project is the construction of the mezzanine (see photo) inside the enginehouse to display exhibits and serve as the education center. The mezzanine was part of the original plan for the building. The next time you visit the enginehouse the renderings are on display.
As long as you’re at ORHF enjoy our new exhibit about the World War I era harvesting of Oregon Sitka spruce to make airplanes for the war effort. This is a largely forgotten part of our state’s heritage. The exhibit will be up into 2018. The Center is open 1 to 5 Thursday and Friday, and noon to 5 on the weekend.