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Home > Blog > Exhibit Train Blog, 2011-2012 > Pacific Northwest - Seattle, Oct. 22 - 23 and Portland, Oct. 29 - 30

Pacific Northwest - Seattle, Oct. 22 - 23 and Portland, Oct. 29 - 30

Posted by Emily Howard at Nov 09, 2011 10:35 AM |
Although the skies may have been overcast, the warmth of our station teams and our visitors more than brightened our visit to the majestic Pacific Northwest.
Exhibit Train arrives in Seattle
Rails and Trails exhibit in Seattle
Artist J. Craig Thorpe signing his work on the Exhibit Train

Exhibit Train arrives in Seattle

Rails and Trails exhibit in Seattle

Artist J. Craig Thorpe signing his work on the Exhibit Train

Exhibit Train arrives in Portlande
A big crowd in Portland!
The Talgo display impresses

Exhibit Train arrives in Portland

A big crowd in Portland!

The Talgo display impresses

Leaving Milwaukee, we set a course for the West Coast where we spent two wonderful weekends: the first in Seattle and the second in Portland. Seattle’s King Street station is currently undergoing a multi-year restoration effort that will bring back the grandeur of its early 20th century appearance. Amid the tall columns of a hall decorated with ornate plasterwork and green and gold mosaics, our exhibitors set up their tables. On hand were representatives of organizations such as All Aboard Washington, the Northwest Railway Museum, and the Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park. The Northwest Railway Museum is based out of Snoqualmie, Wash., and is housed in an 1890 rail depot. The collection encompasses everything from rolling stock to dining car china, lanterns, and a 3,000 volume research library dedicated to railroad history and technology.

In Portland, the Exhibit Train was parked within sight of the famed “Go By Train” sign that crowns the station’s soaring tower. Filled with more than a dozen exhibitors, the South Hall attracted large crowds interested in learning more about groups such as the Pacific Rail Passenger Association, the Willow Creek Scale Railroad, and the Association of Oregon Rail and Transit Advocates.

This last organization, which has its office in Union Station, was formed in 1976 to “encourage the development of a balanced and integrated system of transportation…and to educate the public about the need for sustainable, fiscally responsible, environmentally sound transportation.” Many AORTA members came out to help us staff the Exhibit Train and welcome the hundreds of visitors. Another popular table belonged to Talgo, a Spanish rail company that designed the sleek trainsets used on the popular Amtrak Cascades service connecting Vancouver, British Columbia with Seattle, Portland, and other cities. The trains are especially well known for their bold color scheme of green, cream, and maroon, as well as the “fins” that transition the eye from the locomotives to the passenger cars.

If you follow the screams of delight at any of the Exhibit Train events, they are sure to lead you to the Chuggington Kids’ Depot play area. Children of all ages scampered about Union Station in blue Junior Conductor hats and politely waited their turns to direct the path of one of the popular Chuggington characters. The toy train tables buzz with activity, and the sprightly locomotives—Koko, Brewster, and Wilson—seem equally sought after by their young fans. Through their imaginations, kids are transported to the town of Chuggington where they might run into Mayor Pullman or Eddie the depot handyman.

Aficionados of railroad art were in for a big treat at both stops, as artist J. Craig Thorpe occupied a table in the Exhibit Train’s 40th Anniversary Store. He happily chatted with visitors and signed prints of his popular painting that depicts forty years of Amtrak service. The full size work stands near the entrance to the displays, and people love to stand next to it and take photos. It features a map of the United States with red lines tracing Amtrak routes; from the center, six Amtrak trains—representing the various locomotives, cars, and paint schemes used by the company—race towards the viewer, almost as if they were going to jump off of the canvas!

True rail buffs—and I’ve seen kids as young as 5 or 6—can identify each of the locomotives, from the GG1 to the FP40. To the far left, a Talgo trainset holds a place of honor. Around the periphery of the composition, vignettes show daily activities across the Amtrak system: passengers buying tickets, waiting on the platform as the train arrives, eating a great meal in the Dining car, seeing the natural wonders of America through the wrap-around windows of a Superliner Lounge car, and reuniting with loved ones at journey’s end.

Thorpe has spent a lifetime admiring and documenting America’s trains, starting at a young age when his grandfather would take him for rides on trains and trolleys around Pittsburgh. Amtrak has had a special relationship with the artist since it featured his painting of the new Olympia, Wash., station on our 1993 corporate calendar. Many of his works hang in the Amtrak offices in Washington, D.C., and one of the most popular there is definitely the large scale work commissioned to mark the centennial of Washington Union Station. Its fine detail always draws the eye, and you could look at it 100 times and still notice something new.

It seems like our time in the Northwest went by too quickly, but as they say, the railroad never stops. We’re heading south to spend the late fall and early winter in sunny California. Hope to see you this coming weekend at the fantastic California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento!

--PK