Greetings from Portland, Oregon where I await the departure of the Empire Builder en-route to Minnesota. My time here as been quite busy, but not all that social. This is because of just trying to get Tri-Met Max done which is quite large but the main issue is the 15 minute headways on its branches (most with lots of stations). Along with a quick overnight trip down to Eugene to photograph the four southern Cascades Stations, it was quite an eventful time in Portland.
Here is a day-to-day rundown:
I spent Sunday, my one actual full day in Portland with one goal in mind, photographing every light rail station in fareless square and I also decided to due most of the streetcar stations. I did buy a day pass and also did the high service stops between Washington Park (the stop in the Robertson Tunnel and deepest transit station in the Western Hemisphere) and the Gateway Transit Center.
Monday was when I discovered just how infrequent MAX really is. I started off by walking a bit more of the streetcar which was my first mistake. Next I did the three stops on the Airport Branch this was relatively efficient. I was able to walk between the middle two of them before entering the airport. Next came a trip back to the Gateway Transit Center that was really slow to start on the Gresham Branch of the Blue Line. I took it to the end of the line and walked between the four stations actually inside Gresham getting my photo essays of them. My next step was to hop on a train to Ruby Junction where I had terrible luck with trains passing me and ended up walking all the way to 172nd Street stopping for cheep Mexican food. At that time it was already 2:30 and I needed to hop a train and did all the way crosstown to Beaverton needing the first WES Commuter rail trip of the PM rush. I got there early at about 3:40 and went out to Millikan Way before doubling back to the Beaverton Transit Center and photographing my two unique Colorado Railcar DMUs (whose engines are really loud) going down the middle of Lombard Avenue entering. I took the 4:05 trip down to Wilsonville passing their two other trains in operation, a single DMU running by itself and a set of RDCs from 1953 that were purchased from the Alaska Railroad.
At Wilsonville next I was on the 5:05 Cherriots Express Bus 1X down to Salem where I did my photo essay of the station before departing at 6:45 on another Amtrak thruway connection bus (with a multi-city Amtrak ticket after immense confusion since Albany is unstaffed at the hour and my tickets were pre-printed in Portland and put on that train, it was all fine the friendly Salem ticket agent helping me printing me new tickets, and reimbursing himself with my old ones. I got to Albany at 7:27 and getting a decent share of night photos of the well-lit transit center. Next I was on the on time Cascades Train #507 that left at 7:50 down to its final stop in Eugene eating the okay (but better than anything in a regular Amtrak café car) Mac and Cheese in the Bistro for dinner. We got to Eugene a bit early, at 8:36 and I walked the 20 minutes to my tiny youth hostel for the night.
The next morning I just was moving slowly and got to the station at 8:50 so fewer photos than I would have liked for my 9:00 train, This was an uneventful short ride up to Oregon City where I got off at 10:32 and took the MAX bus (putting $5 into the fare box on board for my day pass) which was slow up to Clackimas Town Center Station. From there I did the green line station-to-station, doubling back making fairly good time. After that it was a nightmere just trying to get my last four blue line stations. It took me far too long with a good 25 minutes between trains at one point and I finally get to Beaverton Transit Center to finish WES for only the 5:30 departure (just missing the 5:00), this was on the same trainset I road yesterday. I took it down to Tualatin where I doubled back and got the Alaska Railroad RDCs which are in amazing shape and feel like your riding through a history book with old lights and nicely cushioned seats. There is even a bit of a railfan window through the doors into the front cabs. They have been modified so you don’t board through the original vestibules but via wider doors that are ADA compliant with many of the middle seats removed. These doors must be controlled manually so the conductors (all WES trains have at least) open and close them at each high platform stop.
I took the RDCs just one stop to Tigard for a half-hour photo stop before I got back on the two car Colorado Railcar DMU train one stop to Hall/Nimbus. From there it was an easy bus ride back to Beaverton T.C, where I took MAX downtown picked up my luggage and went to stay in a much smaller and nicer youth hostel in the Hawthorne District.
On Wednesday, my final day in Portland, I had to finish MAX. My first stop was Union Station to drop off my luggage for just $3 and pick up my Amtrak ticket, where I was told the train was not due until 2pm and that it would take about three hours to turn the train around so expect it to be an hour late. I then hopped on the Blue Line out to Hillsboro and walked between the four stations within downtown. Next I had amazing doubling-back luck (never missed a connection) and finished the branch. The final leg of max was finshing the Yellow Line or Interstate MAX. I transferred in Downtown Portland to it and rode it up to Expo Center and got the six remaining stations I needed to visit.
With that it was around 3:00pm and as my yellow line MAX train went over the steel bridge I saw two regular P42 Locomotives facing south pulling Superliner Cars. Both the southbound Empire Builder had just arrived and the Coast Starlight was making its regularly scheduled stop. I walked over to get some photos but the Starlight started leaving before I got into a decent position. I did photograph the just arrived late Builder going across the steel bridge on its way to the train yard to be serviced, cleaned and reversed. Then I took a final walk through downtown (was thinking about riding the tramway but streetcar service down there has been busituted for two weeks while they tie in another new branch) before getting back to the station at about 5:00pm finding out the Builder was going to leave a bit late after its late arrival.