Mt Rainier station...

John Barnhill Oct 3, 2006

  1. John Barnhill

    John Barnhill TrainBoard Member

    Rainier Railroad Opens New Station
    ELBE, WA -- Gayle Adams sat behind the steering wheel and rocked his backhoe back and forth, trying to uproot an old flagpole along Mountain Highway in Elbe.
    He’d just been called in for the assignment, one of Thursday’s last-minute tasks to get the new Elbe rail station ready for today’s grand opening.
    “I just called him this morning because we want to put a sign up there,” said Steve Sadtler, general manager of the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad. “It’s that kind of a place.”
    Elbe is best known as a point 13 miles from the Paradise entrance to Mount Rainier National Park. But the scenic railroad has run steam locomotive-powered passenger trains for 25 years between Elbe and Mineral.
    Celebrating the quarter-century mark, the nonprofit railroad – mostly run by volunteers – has built a 1,450-square-feet station, modeled on the original Milwaukee Railroad station.
    The building is meant to last. And so is the scenic railroad. In fact, the organization is looking to grow.
    Tom Murray, chairman of the board at Murray Pacific Corp., a Tacoma-based timber company, started the passenger railroad as part of the Western Forest Industries Museum. Formed in 1960, the museum also operates Camp Six at Point Defiance.
    The railroad uses the line owned by Tacoma Rail. The 1-1/2-hour, 14-mile round-trip offers views of Mount Rainier and Mineral Lake that drivers can’t get from the road. Near the lake is the train yard, formerly a timber loading yard for Murray Pacific. Murray’s father, L.T. Murray, started the company under the name West Fork in 1911.
    The railroad wants to turn the train yard into a museum. But the tracks leading to the yard don’t currently meet federal standards for passenger trains.
    “We are not about a trip up the hill and back again,” Sadtler said. “We are about the history of timber industry. We want to show what we have.”
    At first glance, the train yard seems like a junkyard for old passenger cars and locomotives. But two newer buildings hold several locomotives, some of which are collector’s items. A Willamette locomotive is the last one remaining of the 34 produced by Willamette Iron & Steel Works in Portland, said Brian Wise, the scenic railroad’s operations manager.
    Wise has spent hours fixing the locomotives. An avid reader and train enthusiast, the California native can talk about the history of Puget Sound-area railroads like he was born here.
    “I grew up with trains,” said Wise, sporting a black bandana around his head like a biker. “When I was 5, my dad joined a train museum, and, every Saturday, I spent time there.”
    Three full-time employees – Sadtler, Wise and Perry Cox, a jack-of-all-trades – are supported by about 125 volunteers. Next year, they said they’ll start bringing passengers to the train yard.
    The railroad is also reaching out to new partners. For instance, Gary Johnson and Jim Koutney bought the old Mineral Lake Grade School, which closed in 2002, and turned it into an events center.
    In October, the railroad will run a Johnny Cash tribute train, and passengers can enjoy a show by a Cash impersonator at the center.
    “We are only 1-1/2 hours away from 5 million people,” Johnson said. “We need to find a niche to bring them up here.” - Eijiro Kawada, The Tacoma News Tribune
    To view a nice photo gallery of the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, click on the following link:

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