Friday, May 30, 2014

Steam on the Chelatchie Prairie

I originally posted Steam on the Chelatchie Prairie on my website on July 22, 2007, and last updated it on October 8, 2008.
Steam on the Chelatchie Prairie
Crossett Western Company Alco 2-8-2T #10 on the
Chelatchie Prairie Railroad
(NOTE: This website is NOT affiliated with the Chelatchie Prairie RR; visit for current info)
On Memorial Day Weekend in 2007, the Battle Ground, Yacolt & Chelatchie Prairie Railroad ran excursions on the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad out of Yacolt behind  their newly restored steam locomotive. This was the first announced public excursion since the locomotive returned to service in December (though it had made a number of "surprise" appearances) and so on May 27, I went to ride and photograph the train.
The Chelatchie Prairie Railroad was originally built as part of a proposed line from Vancouver to Yakima, Washington, and was surveyed in 1886 by Vancouver businessman L.M. Hidden. The Vancouver, Klickitat & Yakima Railroad was incorporated in 1887 and began operation in 1888. The railroad was built as far as Brush Prairie before being sold in 1897. The new owners renamed the railroad as the Portland, Vancouver & Yakima Railroad, and was completed through Battle Ground to Yacolt by 1903, with the goal of being extended to Chelatchie Prairie. Also in 1903, the line was acquired by the Northern Pacific Railway.
In 1929, the line's major customer, Weyerhaeuser, closed down its logging operations in the area. Passenger service ended and freight service to Yacolt was reduced to a single train a day by the 1940s. In 1948, Harbor Plywood completed the line from Yacolt to Chelatchie Prairie. Harbor Plywood was acquired by International Paper, and the line railroad became part of IP's Longview, Portland & Northern Railway. Eventually, the LP&N took over the entire branch line. IP built a large lumber and plywood mill at Chelatchie Prairie in 1960. This mill closed in 1979 and the line was put up for sale.
In March 1981, three Vancouver businessmen purchased the line and named it the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, operating both freight trains and passenger excursions, but in January 1984, the owners filed to abandon the railroad. Clark County, Washington purchased the railroad to keep it from being abandoned. In 1987, the railroad was leased to the Lewis & Clark Railroad, which took over freight service to Battle Ground and brought back passenger excursions on the rest of the line during the summer until a 1993 flood damaged the line beyond Battle Ground.
In 1998, a group of volunteers formed the Battle Ground, Yacolt & Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association, with the goal of restoring the entire line to operation for passenger excursion service. The association used the reporting marks BYCX, however they refer to the excursion train's route as the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, and use the herald (shown at the top of the page) used by the earlier Chelatchie Prairie Railroad in the early 1980s.
On May 26, 2001, diesel-powered excursion service was restored between Yacolt and Moulton Falls, with line operable to Chelatchie Prairie, where the association's equipment is stored and maintained. Today, the excursion train's route has been extended to Lucia, so that it now includes the line's only tunnel and largest bridge, and work is continuing on the middle section of the line to eventually restore excursion service to Battle Ground. As for the freight section of the line, in 2003, the Lewis & Clark's contract expired, and Clark County chose to lease the line to the Temple family, operators of the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train, the Columbia Basin Railroad, the Central Washington Railroad, and the former Washington Central Railroad (which they sold to BNSF in 1996), who operate it as the Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad. Though the PVJR leases the entire route, it only uses the route between Vancouver Junction (also called Rye Junction) and Battle Ground, about half of the 33 mile line, and allows the BYCX volunteers to use the rest of the line for excursion service.
Here is a map of the entire branch line. The inset showing a detailed map of the excursion route can be found in a later post.

Here is a list of the following posts about this event:

The Locomotive
The Excursion Train
BYCX Open Car #1797
BYCX Passenger Car #60
BYCX Caboose #10559
BYCX Caboose #10652
The Route
The Route (Continued)
The Return Trip
Moulton Falls Station
Yacolt Falls


I would like to thank the Battle Ground, Yacolt & Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Association. Also, I would like to acknowledge Brian McCamish's Portland Vancouver Junction Railroad - Chelatchie Prairie Railroad page and as additional references I used for this page.
Chelatchie Prairie Railroad Links:
Continue to The Locomotive

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