|Portola Railroad Museum|
Fairbanks-Morse H12-44 switcher # 1857 develops 1200 horsepower from its 6-cylinder, 2-cycle opposed-piston engine. The locomotive was built in early 1953, one of 20 built for the U.S.Army. It was acquired by the museum in April of 1993 after being declared surplus, and is now lettered for the museum's road, the Feather River and Western.
Here's my lovely wife, Anita, at the controls of # 1857. Our host/instructer, Skip Englert, is keeping a wary eye on the novice "hogger" and making sure he has quick access to the brakes.
My mother, Harriet Kohlin, was with us on this trip and took her turn maneuvering the big Switcher around the museum's track. Reluctant at first to give it a try, her mind was changed when Skip told us that his 90-year young mother had done so.
One hour sure is a short time when you're having so much fun!
Our trip to Portola began after my sisters wedding in San Jose. We loaded the car and the three of us; my mother, Anita and I, headed off up the freeway. Thanks to a lot of helpful responses to a request on the misc.transport.rail.americas newsgroup, we had our route all mapped out. Leaving SJ, we went up through Livermore, Stockton, Sacramento, Marysville, to Oroville. We spent a little time there enjoying the view of Lake Oroville from Kelly Ridge, then started up Highway 70 into the fabled Feather River Canyon. The beauty of this route is beyond description; you have to go there yourself. It is MAGNIFICENT!
We stopped often to take pictures. It would have been better for our photography had we not been traveling so late in the day; the contrast between the brilliant sun and the shadows of the mountains was beyond the capabilities of our cameras. Needless to say, we tried to elevate the value of Kodak stock all by ourselves. We stopped at Williams Loop and Keddy Wye to view those historic sites, and finally arrived in Portola shortly before sunset.
Next day, I got up early to watch the action at Union Pacific's Portola Yard. There is a road bridge conveniently placed at the east end of the yard, and numerous photo ops presented themselves. At a reasonable hour we called to see whether we could rent the locomotive; YES! After a great breakfast at the Good & Plenty restaurant (241 Commercial St., ph. 832-5795, tell 'em Ron sent ya), we were at the gate to the museum as it opened. We met our host and the resident Locomotive Engineer, Skip Englert, who got us all fixed up. A most enjoyable hour was spent running the 1857 (which we now consider "OUR Locomotive") around the grounds of the museum. All too soon it was over.
We spent another couple of hours leisurely touring through the rest of the museum before taking leave of the wonderful little city of Portola. Heading south, we were on our way to Lake Tahoe, Carson City, and Reno. But that's another story, for another time.
The Portola Railroad Museum is located 5,000 feet up in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, near the headwaters of the Feather River. The museum is a 39-acre former locomotive service facility in use by the Western Pacific Railroad from 1954 to 1974. The museum is operated by the Feather River Rail Society.
Call (916) 832-4532 to make your appointment to "operate the Diesel"!
The Feather River Rail Society
Portola, California 96122
phone (916) 832-4131
For all the information on the Portola Railroad Museum you'll ever need, visit CyborgSam's Portola Railroad Museum web site. Directions, Lodging, teasers, it's all there! Thanks for your help, Sam!
Also visit Frank Brehm's Western Pacific Railroad web site.
Photos were taken April 30, 1996.
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