Southern Pacific SP4449 in Celilo

The Southern Pacific SP 4449 steam locomotive was returning to Portland, Ore., from Bend, Ore., on June 25, 2017. My initial plan was to capture a few photos of the vintage black, red, and orange steam locomotive heading northbound through the Deschutes River canyon. I hiked two miles into the canyon to find a good photo shoot location.

One problem developed during my hike into the canyon: the canyon started heating up. The temperature was climbing to about 115°F as the sun beamed from directly above. I had no shade and there were no trees anywhere in sight.

The time was about 1:45 p.m. Cell signal was absent, so any details about SP4449 was just a waiting game on estimation. Anyone who has taken the train before know that the schedule for passenger is unpredictable. This route was no conventional passenger route either.

After waiting about fifteen minutes, I grew more concern about the heat and my safety. It was time to go. I packed up and started hiking back north to the trailhead.

The heat was intense that my hike turned into a struggle. There was this one tree along the trail. I threw down my camera pack and crashed onto the ground under the shade from the lone tree. Thirty minutes later, I loaded up my bag onto back and finished the remaining half-mile hike. The time that I got to my car, it was nearly 3:00 p.m.

I’m dying of thirst. I make a drink stop in Biggs Junction. I check Twitter and no new report of the train’s status. I made the call to start heading back to Portland. I’m heading westbound on I-84 and pull off at The Dalles for another drink stop. I check Twitter again and there was a status update: train was in Moody.

Moody is near the mouth of the Deschutes River and the trailhead where I parked. That is relatively close enough to where I decided to head back east on I-84 to Celilo. The tracks are right along Ore. 206. I park along the gravel shoulder along Ore. 206 and set up the camera. It’s another waiting game, but this time in an air-conditioned car. Meanwhile, across the Columbia River, a grass fire broke out along State Route 14. 

The sound of huffing and puffing could be heard. The vintage locomotive sped around the curve towards Celilo, towing a modern diesel locomotive (used as a power source) and the vintage passenger cars. The sound of the speeding steamer amazed me, a sound that was unfamiliar compared to the slow excursions typical in Portland.

This may not have been my planned shot, but as this one turns out, it was well worth the adventure.

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