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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Getting There: Vintage rail cars link up for tour

A restored steam locomotive and train of vintage rail cars will swing through the Inland Northwest on July 3 and 4 in a special excursion that’s hoping to connect with a lingering romance with the rails.

Day-trip tickets are still available for the tour on the historic Southern Pacific Daylight No. 4449.

The train will depart from Portland on July 3, and will run on BNSF Railway tracks to the former Northern Pacific Railway depot in downtown Spokane by early evening.

The train will leave the depot at First Avenue and Bernard Street at 8 a.m. on July 4 for Whitefish, Mont.

Promoter Jason Johnson said the public can view the train as it moves along the BNSF main line through the Columbia Basin, Spokane Valley, North Idaho and northwestern Montana.

It is heading east for Train Festival 2009 in Owosso, Mich., from July 23 through 26.

The return trip to Portland will come back through Spokane on Oct. 19 and 20.

The train will have a Global Positioning System linked to the Train Festival Web site to allow train chasers and fans to track the train in real time and see it at various crossings and vistas, Johnson said.

“Basically, we are rail fanning in the 21st century,” Johnson said, who described the event as “a big deal for people to go out to see.”

Other steam excursions over the years have drawn crowds in the Inland Northwest.

This event is not cheap. A single ticket for the eight-day excursion from Portland to Minneapolis is $4,999. Single-day tickets are $379.

Johnson said the high cost comes from the intricate arrangements among Amtrak, BNSF, private rail groups and the association that operates the 4449.

“It’s the unfortunate side effect of the cost of doing these things,” Johnson said of the prices.

Constructed in 1941 in Lima, Ohio, by the Lima Locomotive Works, the GS-4 locomotive served on the Southern Pacific during its working years and then pulled the American Freedom Train for the national bicentennial in 1975 and 1976. It came through Spokane in 2000 as part of a BNSF excursion for employees. It is operated by longtime engineer Doyle McCormack out of Portland.

For more information, check out the festival Web site at

Opening set for north-south freeway leg

The first leg of the North Spokane Corridor will open to the public Aug. 22, eight years to the day after a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the long-awaited roadway.

Drivers will be able to use two lanes of the highway between Farwell Road and Freya Street near Francis Avenue, a distance of more than three miles.

A walking event and opening ceremony will take place before the lanes are opened to traffic.

Extra patrols planned in Bonner County

Aggressive driving in North Idaho will get attention from law enforcement with additional patrols beginning Friday and running through June 21, according to the Bonner County Sheriff’s Department. Officers will target speeding, tailgating, abrupt lane changes and running traffic signals.

Segment of North Side arterial reopens

Alberta and Cochran streets from Garland to Wellesley avenues have reopened after two months of work to rebuild the arterial route between Northwest Boulevard and Francis Avenue. Work is continuing on the remainder of the project.