The huge black steam engine is hissing and chuffing as it waits on the tracks overlooking Boise’s skyline.
Then a metal bell on the front starts clanging, its heavy clapper swinging back and forth.
Black smoke and a spout of steam shoot up, and the world’s largest operating steam locomotive lumbers ahead.
As it goes by, train fans with children on their shoulders and video cameras record its trip. The whistle sounds, and orange flame glints through an opening in the boiler.
The locomotive, pulling the vintage Union Pacific Streamliner “City of Portland” passenger train, is headed to Spokane and to Bonners Ferry, Idaho, on an anniversary trip. Folks will get a chance to see the train when it pulls into Spokane between 4 and 6 p.m. Saturday and to take a round-trip ride to Bonners Ferry on Sunday.
The train also will be on display in Spokane on Monday before it leaves for Wallula, Wash., on Tuesday.
“This is part of Union Pacific’s heritage,” said Terrence Holdeman, a volunteer from Nevada who worked with a group of railroad history buffs to organize the trip. The group, Pacific Limited, is a non-profit consortium of four railroad historical societies.
“Basically we’re just a bunch of train nuts,” Holdeman said.
The Challenger No. 3985 steam locomotive, built in 1943, comes out only about once a year for special rides. The passenger cars it’s pulling date from the 1940s and early 1950s and include high, domed cars that give riders a 360-degree view of the passing scenery.
This trip, from Denver to Portland via a circuitous route is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the “City of Portland” train, which was “one of the hot crack passenger trains back when passenger service was the only way to travel,” Holdeman said.
About 350 people are riding along. The train holds 550.
The 22 passenger cars have names like the Portland Rose, the Sunshine Special and the Colorado Eagle.
Tickets for the Spokane-to-Bonners Ferry round trip are $149 for coach seats, $179 for seats in a dome car, and $209 for the “deluxe” package, which includes a buffet lunch, snacks and drinks.
The other tickets include a box lunch.
The train will chug out of Spokane at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, arrive in Bonners Ferry via Sandpoint by midday, and be back in Spokane by late afternoon.
Tickets also are available for later legs of the trip.
, DataTimes MEMO: For tickets, call Pacific Limited at (800) 444-3985.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.