Friday, September 07, 2012


Sat Sept 1st 2012
After a hectic week chasing schematics, design drawings and new parts for the new cars we are building at United Streetcar I felt like I could do with a change of pace. So on Saturday morning Pat and myself set off  southbound on the I5 freeway from Portland to exit 263, to the Oregon Electric Railway Historical society’s museum premises about 30 miles from where we are staying in Portland. The museum is buried in a large complex of various historical oil engine and tractor related stuff, with about 1 and a half miles of track and a “car barn”. 

When we arrived we saw bits of engines and tractors all over the place, and a depot of sorts, some rather dusty track with some overhead that looked a bit wonky, but no sign of a car. The group of engine enthusiasts in one of the sheds told us it would be back soon, so we hung around hoping for something to appear. Eventually we heard a clanging noise as the one car in service came trundling across a rather odd road crossing on a street corner, triggering off the railroad crossing bells and lights.
We made our way over to the  end of the track where the car had stopped and realized we were looking at a rather weather-beaten but interesting car from Sydney NSW. It was Sydney 1187, a classic open sided car.  There were  a couple of passengers on the car, and the driver was a man wearing a uniform with a hat labelled “Motorman”.  He was at least five years older than me (I am 68) but as sharp as a pin. He told me all about the car, and knew all about Crich and Blackpool 48 and 49, and graciously accepted my offer to help him swapping trolley poles over. That must be the first time I handled a trolley pole in at least 32 years!

We followed the driver into the building where he unlocked the cash register, took our $10 and gave us some tickets which he punched with his official Southern Pacific ticket punch and then climbed up on 1187, and lumbered off down the track with the driver, Bill, who turned out to be the society treasurer, telling us all about just about everything we passed. He was an absolute mine of information!  We passed the barn, over a couple of points, including one which Bill had a great delight in telling us about its broken frog, and round a couple of fairly sharp curves to the other end of the track. There were a few scary places on the track, but it was a delightful ride, and we had picked up a man with a  camera on the way there, and a couple of small children climbed on the end of the line.  I helped swapping the trolley poles over again. We made our way back to a stop near the barn, where we all got off for a tour of the cars in the barn.  Some were quite a sad state of disrepair, but Blackpool 48 looked fairly presentable albeit painted in a somewhat incorrect colour scheme.  

After we boarded 1187 again we went back to the start of the line, going through the trolley turning routine again, and Bill sold some tickets to two more passengers.We thought we would see him off again on  the next trip, and started to say farewell, but he said to us “do you have to rush off somewhere?”  “No, I said, not really”. “OK”, he said, “then it is your turn to drive!”   This took me back a bit, but he handed me the reverser and air brake keys, and off we went. It is the first time I have driven a tram for about 36 years, although I have driven a few heavy rail cars from time to time as part of my job. It was a real thrill, and really made the day memorable. However, some of the track is so rough, and the overhead is so loose that I feel I really need to go back and help them work on it. Since I am supposed to be here until we deliver some new cars I should be able to go help them out.

The next day Pat was feeling rather tired so I made a trip into Portland on my own I walked from our hotel where we are lodging for a while over to the TRIMAX terminus and caught a Siemens LRV into Portland city centre. Once there I found the new (2001) streetcar loop, with some Skoda cars running on it.  I rode a couple of the cars, then on may way back to the hotel I caught a glimpse  ofd one of the four replica heritage cars Portland had built. It was quite a thrill to see it but too late for me to get a ride that day.

When our new “made in America” cars that we are working on are complete they will be used to supplement the Skoda cars, and they will also run on a new loop around the city due to open September 22nd  later this year.

The complete Portland system is quite intricate and extensive, all lines connected together and all on the same voltage. It reminds me of Glasgow for some reason, a really nice system to tour.
I am sorry this is such a long ramble but I had such a  nice two days of electric traction I thought some people might be interested.
P.S.  Since I am over 60 I rode all day around Portland for just $2.00 or about one pound 28p

Photos from Bob in next blog

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