Text and photo by Ken Byers
Slowly gliding over a 19th-century right-of-way from Elbe (pronounced El∙Bee) to Mineral, the Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum carries passengers through forests, and over bridges and trestles, on the mountain’s southwest shoulder.
The slightly more than three-mile trip lasts thirty-five minutes, followed an hour and a quarter stop at the fascinating logging museum at Mineral. Admission to the museum is included in the ticket for the ride.
Besides the look into the logging past of the region, the railroad also calls Mineral home to their railroad shops and maintenance facilities.
The railroad owns three serviceable steam locomotives, and six more for display purposes. The engines keep a full-time staff of craftspeople busy fabricating and maintaining their steam fleet. On our visit, the steam engines were down for maintenance. A beautiful orange and red diesel electric supplied power for our trip.
At the end of the self-guided look around the Mineral museum, the whistle blows for the return trip to Elbe.
The railroad hopes to extend their route next year to Eatonville, adding approximately twelve miles to the trip.
The railroad operates through the summer and features special trains through the fall before their special Polar Express train rides between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Information and pricing are available online at mtrainierrailroad.com.
Elbe is about two hours north and east of Portland over Interstate 5, and then Highway 12 east to Morton, before north again on Highway 7. It is on the route to the Nisqually (southwest) entrance to Mt. Rainier National Park.
We stayed at the nearby Copper Creek Inn while touring the area by car after our train ride. The drive up to the Paradise Visitor’s Center was wonderful with great views.
The Mt. Rainier Railroad and Logging Museum is a Northwest railroad ride not to be missed. The people are friendly, handicap access to the train is available, and the ride is a look into a rapidly disappearing past.