In June, 2011 I had the opportunity visit the Chehalis-Centralia Railway & Museum during travel to the Pacific Northwest to get video footage of places and events surrounding the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) annual convention. The convention was held in Tacoma, WA and events were planned at several railroad operations, including the The Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum.
About the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum
The Chehalis-Centralia is a not for profit organization located in Chehalis, Washington. The all-volunteer group restores historic railroad equipment and operates over 10 miles of former Milwaukee Road tracks, now owned by the Port of Chehalis.
The first task of the group, formed in 1986, was to restore a steam locomotive which had been on display since 1956 in a local park. After two years of restoration and the acquisition of passenger cars, regular passenger operation began. The 2-8-2 Mikado was built in 1916 by Baldwin Locomotive Works. It began its life as number 200 with the Puget Sound & Cascade Railway. About ten years later it was renumbered 15 and sold to Cowlitz, Chehalis & Cascade Railway.
Trips on the Chehalis-Centralia begin at the small depot in Chehalis. The depot began its life as a structure on the Milwaukee Road. It was purchased and moved to its present location in the 1990’s.
The railroad line was built by a predecessor railroad and absorbed by the Milwaukee Road as a branch line. The route was taken over by the Weyerhaueser Company to support their timber industry in the 1930’s. In the 1990’s, ownership of the line transferred to the Port of Chehalis.
The Chehalis-Centralia passes through rolling farmland and woodlands. Most of the Chehalis-Centralia trains go about six miles to Milburn, where there is a siding used to run the engine around the train. Milburn is also the former junction of the Milwaukee Road and Northern Pacific.
Longer trips go past Milburn and on to the Newaukum River Bridge near Ruth. The long span was built by Weyerhaueser and is one of the last laminated wood-beam bridges still in use in the United States. The train lingers on the bridge to allow passengers to take in the view before backing to Ruth, where the engine runs around the train. When we we there we noticed an eagle nest near the top of a very tall tree near the bridge.
Our visits to Chehalis-Centralia
We visited twice, first to see regular operations and the second with the NRHS 2011 national convention excursion. Our first visit, during regular operations was on a wet afternoon and evening. The Mikado was fun to watch
as it moved around the small yard putting its train at the station. After the first trip, two more cars were added to accommodate a larger crowd for the longer trip to Ruth.
Shortly after leaving the station, the train crosses a trestle that is accessible from the back yard of a nice couple who invited us in to set up our cameras. Thanks!
Further down the line we found some wonderful vistas among the farms to watch the train pass.
The day of the NRHS excursion was much nicer, and I was joined by my wife Jan. There were two wonderful runbys at Milburn. Jan took one of the video cameras down the track toward Ruth and well past the crowd and captured both runbys from that point. I got behind the photo line for the first one and knelt down on the ground in the photo line for the second. Once the passengers were re-boarded, the train continued on to the bridge. The late day sun illuminated the whole scene and is one of the prettiest images in our video documentary.
The Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum Needs You!
The Chehalis-Centralia volunteers have done an outstanding job in restoring, maintaining, and operating number 15 and other historic equipment. From the looks of it, they were all having a great time on our two visits.
To find out more about visiting, volunteering, or contributing, please visit the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad website.
See Chehalis-Centralia on DVD
Our 23 minute video program about the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad is complete and available on the Steamin’ Through The Seasons DVD. Also included on Steamin’ Through the Seasons are chapters about the three NRHS Convention trips with SP 4449, historic Milwaukee Road 261 Fall Color Trips, and a story about today’s steam commuter operations in Poland (including options for you to drive the train!). You will want to own this DVD!
Thanks, Steve Mitchell, Yard Goat Images