Portland’s ‘Holiday Express’ returns; new historic engine expected in 2024

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland’s annual “Holiday Express” train rides with Santa on the Oregon Pacific Railroad resume Nov. 24, the Oregon Rail Heritage Center announced.

The 45-minute, round-trip excursions cruise the Willamette River in a historic Polson #2 locomotive decorated for the holiday season. The trip includes seats in heated box cars and a surprise visit from Santa Claus.

“‘Tis the season for the Ho! Ho! Holiday Express!” the Oregon Rail Heritage Center announced.

Engine 4449
Fiel photo of Portland’s Holiday Express when it pulled by Engine 4449. (KOIN)

Multiple train rides will be offered every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from November 24 to December 17. Tickets are available on the Oregon Rail Heritage Center website.

ORHF spokesperson Carolyn Meeker told KOIN 6 News that this year’s Holiday Express may be the last on the Polson #2, which is on loan to the museum from the Albany & Eastern Railroad Company. The museum hopes to have its newly acquired, 102-year-old steam engine “Mount Emily Shay” in operation for all of its seasonal train rides by the summer of 2024.

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The train was previously on loan to the City of Prineville from the Oregon Historical Society for roughly 30 years, where it served as a seasonal attraction. However, the city recently ended its loan agreement with the historical society when the train showed signs of breaking down.

<em>“All aboard!” The Mount Emily Shay comes to Portland. | Photos provided by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation.</em>
“All aboard!” The Mount Emily Shay comes to Portland. | Photos provided by the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation.

Luckily, the ORHC was in need of a new engine, and in September of 2022, the museum announced an agreement that would bring the Mount Emily Shay to Portland. After more than a year of completing repairs and planning for the train’s arrival, Meeker said the train is weeks away from pulling into Portland.

“It’s in a shop where they’ve been able to do some work on it,” she said. “We have to make room from it in the [museum], but we’re finally ready.”

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