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Steam train and Santa Claus bring Christmas delight

Chelatchie Prairie Railroad train excursions conclude with special appearance of steam locomotive

YACOLT — The haunting sound of a steam train’s whistle echoed along the Lewis River near Yacolt over the weekend, as the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad concluded its holiday schedule with steam train excursions on Saturday and Sunday.

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s steam train crosses the wooden trestle over the Lewis River during a Christmas excursion on Saturday. The engine was decorated with Christmas ornamentation to help celebrate the upcoming holiday. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s steam train crosses the wooden trestle over the Lewis River during a Christmas excursion on Saturday. The engine was decorated with Christmas ornamentation to help celebrate the upcoming holiday. Photo by Mike Schultz

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s restored steam engine crosses the railroad bridge over the East Fork of the Lewis River during a Christmas tourist excursion on Saturday. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s restored steam engine crosses the railroad bridge over the East Fork of the Lewis River during a Christmas tourist excursion on Saturday. Photo by Mike Schultz

Throughout November and December, the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad hosted excursion train rides from its station in Yacolt, and the holiday trains ended over the weekend with a train pulled by the railroad’s historic ALCO steam engine.

The train departed from the station in Yacolt and traveled south along the Lewis River, crossing the East Fork of the Lewis River on the wooden railroad trestle. The train then turned north and stopped at a train station near Moulton Falls before returning to Yacolt.

At the Moulton Falls station, passengers got off the train for refreshments and the chance to greet Santa Claus. Children and families could have their picture taken with Santa, played by Randy Williams, and the children were able to pick out a stuffed animal to take home with them.

Trevis and Sheri Guin of La Center rode the train on Saturday with their two children, Ashlyn and Westyn. The family has ridden the train for three years during the holiday season, and said that they initially found out about the excursion train online. For the children, the best part of the train ride was getting to meet Santa Claus.

For the first three weekends of the excursion train schedule, passengers could buy a Christmas tree at the Moulton Falls station. On the last weekend however, most of the trees had been sold. Nearly 650 trees were sold over the first three weekends. In addition, the first three weekends averaged 500 to 600 passengers each weekend on the train.

Passengers on the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s steam excursion train had the opportunity to ride in enclosed passenger cars or experience the open air in an open flatcar. Photo by Mike Schutlz
Passengers on the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s steam excursion train had the opportunity to ride in enclosed passenger cars or experience the open air in an open flatcar. Photo by Mike Schutlz

According to Chelatchie Prairie Railroad volunteer Will Pickering, the railroad has run tourist excursions since 1982, and Pickering began working with the railroad about a month afterwards.

The railroad’s tank engine, built by ALCO in 1929, wears the livery of its first user, Oregon logging company Crossett Western Company, according to the railroad’s Facebook page. The locomotive was used in Oregon before spending time in California and Shelton, Wa., before being acquired by the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad in 2002. After several years of restoration, the engine was pressed into operational use in 2006.

Passengers on the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s steam train disembarked at a station near Moulton Falls to get hot beverages and give children a chance to meet with Santa Claus. Photo by Mike Schultz
Passengers on the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s steam train disembarked at a station near Moulton Falls to get hot beverages and give children a chance to meet with Santa Claus. Photo by Mike Schultz

Pickering said that operating the tank engine requires extensive maintenance. For every hour of operation, 8 to 10 hours of maintenance is required. All of the work is done by volunteers. According to Pickering, the work is “a nice break” from his regular job, as he can “come out and work with big heavy tools.” He said that the best part of volunteering on the railroad is getting to share the experience with younger riders.

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad schedule will resume in the spring. For more information, visit bycx.org.

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s restored steam train ran from Yacolt to Moulton Falls and back to Yacolt for a Christmas excursion over the weekend. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s restored steam train ran from Yacolt to Moulton Falls and back to Yacolt for a Christmas excursion over the weekend. Photo by Mike Schultz
Onlookers watch in excitement and anticipation as the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s restored steam train pulls into Yacolt’s train station on Saturday during the last weekend of it’s holiday excursions. Photo by Mike Schultz
Onlookers watch in excitement and anticipation as the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s restored steam train pulls into Yacolt’s train station on Saturday during the last weekend of it’s holiday excursions. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s restored steam train was built by ALCO in 1929 and is painted to represent its first operator, Oregon logging company Crossett Western Company. The engine has been operated by the railroad since 2006. Photo by Mike Schultz
The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad’s restored steam train was built by ALCO in 1929 and is painted to represent its first operator, Oregon logging company Crossett Western Company. The engine has been operated by the railroad since 2006. Photo by Mike Schultz
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About The Author

Alex Peru

Alex Peru is a 2017 graduate of Washington State University Vancouver. He has a bachelor’s degree in History and a double minor in Political Science and Business Administration. Peru grew up in Battle Ground, and graduated from CAM Academy in 2013. He worked for The VanCougar, WSU Vancouver’s campus newspaper, for three years, including one year as the editor-in-chief. When not working, Peru enjoys reading books about history, working on cars and enjoying the outdoors in Clark County’s beautiful rivers, lakes and forests.

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