Another NW tourist train closes, but several remain

North Pend Oreille Valley Lions Excursion trainAnother one of Washington’s excursion railroads is chugging into history.

After 35 years of creating memories, the North Pend Oreille Valley Lions Excursion train will travel the tracks north of Spokane for the last time Oct. 23. Don’t bother trying to get tickets – they’ve been sold out for months.

The seven-car train carries around 11,000 people each fall between Ione and Metaline Falls, flanking the scenic Pend Oreille River. But commercial freight no longer travels the track, and mandatory trestle inspections have become cost prohibitive. The train’s operators have determined the Lions Excursion can’t shoulder the costs of maintaining the line.

It’s too bad for local residents, because $40,000 in ticket proceeds from the train have been donated to nearby schools, the fire department, and a local theater.

Seattle-area residents lost a similar treasure when the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train shut down in 2007. For years, riders boarded its red passenger cars in Renton and rumbled 44 round-trip miles to Woodinville and back, passing over the 975-foot-long Wilburton Trestle. Previously the train had run for seven years between Yakima and Ellensburg.

My wife and I rode the Spirit of Washington on Valentine’s Day in 2007. Having grown up on the Eastside, this was fun for me because the train’s route was very familiar. Over the years I often heard trains pass nearby while I was in classes at Hyak Junior High. I waited in traffic for them at Bellevue’s Midlakes crossing, and I watched them rumble past my wife’s Kirkland backyard during our dating years.

Train aficionados still can ride the rails on these tourist lines in Washington and Oregon:

  • Chehalis-Centralia Railroad & Museum

  • Chelatchie Prairie Railroad, Yacolt

  • Lake Whatcom Railway, east of Bellingham

  • Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad, near Eatonville

  • Spirit of Washington trainNorthwest Railway Museum, Snoqualmie

  • Eagle Cap Excursion Train, Elgin

  • Mount Hood Railroad, Hood River

  • Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad, Tillamook

  • Sumpter Valley Railroad, near Baker City

by  Jon Osterberg

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