Your Trainiac’s Favorite Day of the Year

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When can you and your junior conductors tour an SP&S 700 live steam locomotive these days? Wander through a retired historic north coast lounge car and reminisce about the good old days? Or get hands-on inside a–never used anymore but still a fave among the traintastics–red caboose from Union Pacific? Not very often! And what if you could do all three for free at this awesome day of family-friendly trainatic joy? Now that’s a unique and special day. Full steam ahead, if you’re loco for locos!

Here Come the Trains Again
So how do you and your little engineers get amongst this fabulous choo-choo-viest day? Chug on down to Union Station on Saturday, May 11th for the sixth annual  National Train Day and check it all out. There will be train enthusiast displays, live music, clowns from the Rose Festival Character Clown Corp and plenty of activities for the mini clickers and clackers.  Amtrak is offering up the first public peek at one of Oregon’s newest and grooviest Talgo train sets and Mayor Charlie Hales may just stop on by.

If you haven’t been inside Union Station it is a gorgeous, smaller train station, like a much younger sibling to Grand Central in NYC. Still in use daily, mostly by Amtrak, you can’t help but want to climb aboard and hit the rails to a new destination. Union Station was built from 1890-1896 and the neon Go By Train and Train Station signs have been in use since 1948.  The clock tower is iconic to Portland’s Old Town/Chinatown and the Broadway Bridge’s burnt orange paint color was chosen specifically to coordinate with Union Station.

Fizzing Like Fireboxes
Portlanders love trains and National Train Day is as you might imagine, extremely well-attended. Long lines and waits can be a bummer for littler iron horse enthusiasts, so plan accordingly (bring snacks!). Traffic and parking around the station can also be hectic so allow for extra time and take Max if you can. Union Station is located just across the railroad tracks from the river, and is a 10-15 minute walk to the Oregon Maritime Museum and Portland Saturday Market. If you’re going to commit to a day of logistics, you might as well stay and hang!


If you want to enjoy some train glee while avoiding the crowds at Union Station, make your own holiday by visiting Oregon Rail Heritage Center, open 1:00 – 5:00 on Saturday the 11th. Or ride the zoo train or take the Max around town for your trainatic fix. Still another option is to hit one of our scenic train rides, like Mt. Hood or the Coast. Or last but not least, take your little trainiacs to chuff and chug at a train table at one of the many available around town: Portland Children’s Museum, Kidopolis, ORHC, Play Boutiques and many area retailers like Barnes & Noble and toy stores such as Finnegan’s and A Child’s Play rock them. Clang clang! All aboard!

National Train Day
Saturday, May 11th from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Union Station
800 NW 6th Ave
Portland, OR 97209

–Liz Overson

Thank you for the photos,, Liz Overson and Brian Ross.