SP 4449 - Deschutes Steam Special - Romancing a Train
Once voted the most popular train in the nation, there’s no denying the romance of the Southern Pacific 4449 - especially during a recent excursion called the Deschutes Steam Special. My husband and I are returning home from a trip to Bend, Oregon when we spot a plume of steam in the distance.
It’s a clear October morning and our intended destination is a simple trip up over Mount Hood back to Portland ( actually, Camas, Washington). Our conversation ambles between NPR topics on the radio, and speculation about dinner. We are caught off guard by a sudden impulse that immerses us in Old West history.
Climbing a slight elevation in the road, we first see the faint remnants of steam appear on the eastern horizon. The dusty sagebrush hills are a natural backdrop for the bright, white clouds hanging in the air. Anxious to find the source, we speed up a bit and get our first glance at the one of the most famous trains in modern rail history.
We cruise along together for awhile and marvel at the awesome size and power of the machine. Pulling several passenger cars, some also historic, the steam engine sprints through the scenic landscape on its way home to Portland, OR. Passengers have paid a premium to be on-board for this two day journey.
Just after Terrebonne, the road suddenly rises up an overpass and the engine crosses back under the road and splits off, away from our view. All that remains are huge plumes of steam hanging in the air - a haunting mist. It’s a reminder that the men of the railroad - much like cowboys, are a dying breed.
The romantic lure of the SP 4449 provokes an impulsive stop.
We’re not done. The exhilaration of seeing such a powerful sight, plus a desire to stay away from the true “train chasers,” takes us on an impulsive side trip to a spot where we suspect the train will intersect. Serendipity, plus an untimely delay on the tracks rewards us with a spectacular experience.
Train loving locals, retired railroad men, and a representative from Southern Pacific are lined up at the crossing near the small town of Culver. We enjoy listening to their old war stories as we wait 45 minutes for the train to arrive. As the SP 4449 - Deschutes Steam Special roars by and quickly moves out of sight, for some reason, I catch myself crying.
Thanks for watching. You can always find me at exploringclarkcounty.com