Train Travel: Railroads and Rail History in Portland

One of my favorite ways to experience Portland is to visit via train. A 3.5-hour Amtrak ride from Edmonds to Portland and we have a weekend getaway without the hassle or cost of driving in crazy traffic and fighting to find parking in a city that’s completely walkable/trolley-able!

On our last trip to Portland we experienced a few delays getting started—that’s the beauty of Amtrak running on tracks owned by the railway companies that (rightfully so) prioritize their cargo trains over the passenger trains renting their tracks.

Once we were finally on our way, we grabbed lunch from the dining car (Ivar’s clam chowder for the win!), enjoyed an uneventful ride, and hopped off in Portland by early afternoon for a weekend of new adventures.

For those interested in trains and train travel, I wanted to share a couple of new railroad-related activities we discovered this trip.



Oregon Rail Heritage Center
After checking out the Aerial Tram we walked several blocks to the Oregon Rail Heritage Center, which is a free museum, open Thursday-Sunday, that runs on donations and volunteers.

The building is expansive and while the immediate area when you walk in has a few traditional displays and a gift shop area, what I loved about this museum is that it is filled with actual trains, not just train paraphernalia! In fact, several people were actively working on one of the engines while we were there walking around!




While there were several impressive engines, the one I was most taken by was the Daylight Southern Pacific, which was built in 1941, retired in 1958, but then restored in order to pull the 1976 Bicentennial Freedom Train, which traveled across the country and was viewed by more than 30 million people as part of the celebration!

There was also a special exhibit about the American Freedom Train that explained more about the private citizen effort to mark the bicentennial with a 26-car train, carrying more than 500 historical artifacts from U.S. history across the country. The train would make stops and people could walk through the cars viewing the items through showcase windows. So cool!



We were able to climb aboard a couple of the engines and play with some of the controller equipment that lined the building—Brian confirmed that while not functional, the exhibits were certainly interactive.







Because we were there on a Saturday, there was also an opportunity to catch a ride on the Oregon Pacific Railroad passenger train on the tracks just outside the center. The next one wasn’t for a while and we were already getting to ride the train on our actual commute to and from Portland to Seattle so we opted out of the ride. Maybe next time!

Mt. Hood Brewing Company
It was mid-afternoon by the time we finished at the museum and we were ready for lunch! We decided to check out Mt. Hood Brewing Company, which we found directly across the street from the museum. I had never heard of it before, but apparently there are multiple locations around Portland—the one we visited was the Tilikum Station location.

In keeping with our train theme, we entered the brewery through a caboose equipped with tables and chairs. In the main space there was also a small seating area with some stools along the open windows facing the museum and train tracks.

We ordered a pizza and a tasting flight of some of their beers and grabbed some stools. Everything was great, and we were able to relax and enjoy our late lunch while experiencing several trains going by and blasting their horns at the crossing!







There’s always something new to discover in Portland—our railway day allowed us to uncover lesser known sights that I would definitely encourage others to consider!

One thought on “Train Travel: Railroads and Rail History in Portland

  1. Pingback: Places to Eat and Drink in Portland – Heather's Compass

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