There aren’t many couples who volunteer together at the Center. We are fortunate to have Neil and Betty Ferris as one of those couples. Their involvement at ORHC began in August of 2012, about one month before the Center opened. Always interested in trains of all types and sizes, they received an email from a friend about steam locomotives in Portland. That led them to answering phones during the OPB special raising money for the Enginehouse. Their first order of business was sitting outside the newly constructed building standing guard with Ed Immel. The fencing had not been built yet, so they began the 24-hour watch to protect the precious locomotives already at home inside.

Neil began volunteering in the gift shop. He continued to show up on Thursday work days and finally earned a spot on the engine crew a year later. He has served as fireman for Holiday Express since 2016 and has been heavily involved in all aspects of the crew’s work since that time. Besides his obvious love of steam locomotives, Neil credits ORHC with getting him out of the house during his retirement.

Betty is helpful all around the Enginehouse. She regularly volunteers in the gift shop and works with Renee and Carolyn in the office when they have big projects and need extra hands. She cheerfully assists with Will Call during Holiday Express and our Saturday train excursions. Betty loves greeting guests and learning their nationalities, marveling at how many people around the world know about ORHC.

Neil and Betty first met during the summer before Betty’s ninth grade year. After dating for six years, they married in 1976. They have two adult children and five grandchildren. Originally from Staten Island, New York, Neil and Betty moved to Oregon in March of 1979. Their extended family is split, with Betty’s mom and two brothers still in New York and Neil’s brother and sister living close by them here in Oregon.

Neil worked as an X-ray technician in interventional radiology which included angiograms and stent placement. His work evolved from general diagnostic service into actual repairs at Veterans Administration hospitals in Brooklyn and, later, Portland. Betty worked at Intel after staying home to raise their children.

Neil has a greenhouse and loves to garden on his 1/3-acre lot. He enjoys tending his fruits, vegetables and an assortment of flowers. Betty loves puzzles and has at least one going all the time. They enjoy camping throughout Oregon in their 5th wheel. If they could travel anywhere, Neil and Betty said they would like to visit Ireland and England. Their travel wish list includes a visit to Hobbit Land in Matamata, New Zealand, and a train trip throughout Canada.

A couple in perfect sync, Betty loves vanilla ice cream to Neil’s chocolate. They both enjoy particularly visual movies like the Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings (hence Hobbit Land) and Marvel movies. What do they have on their ultimate bucket list? Firing up the OR&N 197 for Holiday Express someday soon!