The shrill of a train whistle pierces the air. All aboard! Huge white clouds of steam billow out from the coal black engine as it sits, hissing, on the tracks. The whistle sounds again; the engine starts moving. Clanking noisily as it picks up speed, the train rolls through the middle of Rockaway Beach. Tourists and shopkeepers wave to the passengers as they pass by. And the passengers? More than a few are grinning and waving back like little kids on a carnival ride.
The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad makes regular runs between the small coastal towns of Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach. The two towns are as different as night and day. Rockaway Beach is crowded with tourist shops and has a nice stretch of beach while Garibaldi boasts a cozy little marina, a fisherman’s wharf, and a logging/antique railroad equipment museum. Passengers can board at either end of the line for a round trip excursion that lasts about 1-1/2 hours.
The vintage train chugs along the Oregon Coast at 10-12 mph, offering incredible views that you just don’t see when whizzing along a two lane highway (US-101) in a car, truck, or SUV. Lily ponds and steep forested slopes give way to sea stacks and the glint of sunshine off the waters of Tillamook Bay. Seagulls cry and a line of pelicans skims over the waves. (look a little closer and you might even spot an eagle or a blue heron) And in the distance, a wispy bank of fog rolls over the spit.
The big black engine with the number 25 painted proudly on its side was built in 1925. Instead of wood or coal, it runs on recycled motor oil which is used to heat water inside the engine. The boiling water turns to steam and the steam moves down into the cylinders that power the train. Engine #25 currently pulls a fully restored Pullman Coach, a covered gondola car, and an open air passenger car with a classic caboose bringing up the rear.
There is a half hour layover, give or take a few minutes, at each end of the run. Not enough time for any serious sightseeing, but certainly long enough to get out, take a stroll, do some window shopping, or grab an ice cream cone.
The Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad is reminiscent of a time when “riding the rails” was the only really cool way to travel. It’s a fun ride for history buffs, as well as kids of all ages. In addition to their regular coastal excursions, the OCSR offers Sunset Dinner Trains, a Moonlight Special, a Fall Splendor run, and a couple of holiday trains later in the year. Prices vary depending on the event. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 855-842-7972 or visit www.ocsr.net.
Special Note: There are no assigned seats, so it’s best to board early. Especially if you’re part of a group that really wants to sit together. And bring a jacket! The breeze off the water can be chilly, even on a bright summer day.