Construction on Chelatchie Prairie Railroad could begin on new building this spring

YACOLT — After holding a groundbreaking ceremony this past October, members of the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association Board of Directors are looking forward to construction beginning on a new building this spring that will enable them to better repair, maintain and store the locomotive cars and coaches.

 

This new building is being made possible by a $500,000 Washington state capital improvement grant that the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association was able to secure with the help of State Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas.

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad hopes to begin building a new building this spring that will act as an area to repair, maintain and store locomotive cars. The building is a result of a $500,000 state grant.
The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad steam engine is shown here decorated for one of several Christmas excursions that the engine sets out on during the month of December each year. Photo from the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Facebook page

“A while back, we (the railroad) participated in a benefit with the Clark County Skills Center where we offered a train ride up to the (Moulton Falls) winery,” said Randy Williams, president of the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association. “I had never met Liz Pike and she was there that day, and I was conductor that day. We talked about the railroad and I told her about the goals and aspirations of the railroad, and that we really wanted to get off the ground eventually with a railroad museum.”


Video courtesy Chelatchie Prairie Railroad

With the sponsorship of Rep. Pike, the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association was able to secure the grant and will use it to build a car maintenance building out in Yacolt.

 

“We have a big piece of land there, and right now we take our cars up to Chelatchie for maintenance,” Williams said. “Having a covered place to work in Yacolt will be really helpful and will give us a place to store the cars and equipment away from threats of the weather, vandalism, etc. This will give us a place to park equipment.”

 

Doug Auburg, treasurer and building construction manager for the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association, said they plan to begin construction on the new building this spring, perhaps in April. He said they should have this first phase finished by midsummer.

 

“It’s a steel version of a pole building, so it’s all pre-engineered and relatively quick to put up,” Auburg said. “We don’t have enough funds yet to do all that we need to do, it’s (the building) very bare bones, it’ll have a concrete floor, it won’t have any heat yet, it won’t have bathrooms yet, we won’t have any of those things until we round up the funds. This first building will be used to restore and maintain our fleet of historic railroad cars, then eventually we hope to have a focal point for a small railroad museum.”

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad hopes to begin building a new building this spring that will act as an area to repair, maintain and store locomotive cars. The building is a result of a $500,000 state grant.
During the recent bout of cold weather in the north Clark County area, the normally flowing small waterfalls near this tunnel that the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad steam engine passes through instead created a frozen landscape. Photo from the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Facebook page

In addition to the funds necessary to start discussions of having a railroad museum, Williams said the association is also hoping to be able to secure some funding to repair some areas of the track and to lengthen the track in some areas so that the engine can do runs to a few more areas. Currently, everything involved with the railroad is maintained by volunteers and is made possible through the help of donors.

 

“We have to be able to meet certain facility needs,” Williams said. “Depending on the grant funds, we would eventually like to be able to put a ticket office in the new building. The way we’re building it, we can grow it. There’s money out there for restoring equipment, etc.”

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad hopes to begin building a new building this spring that will act as an area to repair, maintain and store locomotive cars. The building is a result of a $500,000 state grant.
This Chelatchie Prairie Railroad caboose was freshly painted last year and was easy to spot with its new bright red color. Photo from the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Facebook page

Williams said the railroad association is passionate about helping their partners in Yacolt and they aim to try and bring a few more people up to Yacolt for day trips. He said they try to coordinate with the businesses in Yacolt, like the two restaurants and the winery, to offer discounts to people at those businesses if they go on a train excursion, etc.

 

“We advertise mainly on Facebook,” Williams said. “So, people are encouraged to check our Facebook page for when the different themed train rides are and different information on the railroad.”

 

The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad offers different train excursions beginning Mother’s Day Weekend and continuing through Christmas each year. The 2017 schedule will be available soon at www.bycx.com. For additional information, visit the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Facebook page.

 

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About The Author

Joanna Nicole Yorke is a 2010 graduate of the Edward R. Murrow School of Communication at Washington State University in Pullman. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in political science. Yorke is a Clark County native, growing up on her family's 12-acre farm in La Center where her family still resides today. She was previously a reporter at The Reflector Newspaper, covering the city of Battle Ground, the Battle Ground School District and a variety of other areas and topics.

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