This Space for Rent

Oh, bother

The plan was good. Amtrak has a page that you can use to check for realtime (more or less) train arrivals and departures, so I was using it to watch train 507's traditionally late trip down towards Portland. When the train arrived at Vancouver, WA, it was running about 15 minutes late and the train status said it would be departing Portland Union Station at 5:35, so I scampered out the door at work and headed across the river on the #17 bus. When I arrived at Haig and 17th, a small problem presented itself -- there was a train switching on the yard lead and the northbound main, which (aside from one or two strategically placed flatcars), completely blocked the southbound main (where I was certain that #507 would comes sailing down in just a few minutes.)


This was not a catastrophic problem, because this *is* in the middle of Portland, Oregon, and there are ways to get around to the other side of the track without trespassing or otherwise endangering yourself. The most convenient crossing is a pedestrian overpass at Lafayette St (it's not the most reassuring bridge; it's mainly wood, and would be better located on the mainline of the Toonerville Trolley than as an overpass over one of the big N/S railroad lines on the west coast of the American Imperium) which is also conveniently a good place to (gingerly) stand and take photos. So, as the switchers pushed the (very long train) back and forth in the yard, I trotted over to this bridge and climbed up to the top to wait for the next F69 to come by.

As I waited, the string of cars pushed back into the yard, were attached to another dozen or so cars, and then pulled out of the yard, where they abruptly stopped, conveniently blocking the northbound main. Well, it was about 5:50 by now, so the Amtrak train was sure to arrive ANY TIME NOW, and since the southbound main wasn't occupied the yellow menace would certainly want to clear the Amtrak train out of the way so they could work around this inconveniently located switch job.

Imagine my surprise when I heard the muttering of diesel engines behind me and turned to see a train pulled by a C44AC and a couple of ob-SD40-2s running northbound up the previously-unoccupied southbound main.

This isn't good.

The situation got even more exciting when this train came to a complete stop, paused for about 10 minutes, then slowly crept off to the north.

At 6:20, I gave up the ghost and walked down to the bus stop, where I got the first pleasant surprise of the trainspotting day. Our car had been lightly crunched by somebody in a pickup truck, and had been in the shop getting a new hood, front bumper cover, and headlights (the insurance company got us a Pontiac Waterbuffalo as a temporary car, and you know, a pure internal combustion vehicle just isn't as zippy as something with a 30 shaft horsepower electric motor.) When I'd left for work that morning, we still had the Waterbuffalo, but as I sat there and waited for the bus I saw a little electric-blue Prius pop around the corner and come driving towards me, and as it got closer I realized that it was our electric-blue Prius with the best and the bears riding in it. I leapt up and down appropriately, hopped into the car, and instead of going home we all went up to Russell Street BBQ to celebrate having a proper automobile again.

And the Amtrak train I wanted to photograph? Well, according to the realtime departure page, it finally got out of Portland Union Station at 6:29PM, which was about the time I was hopping into the car for a nice round of smoked herbivore flesh.


There’s just something interesting about the juxtaposition of you discussing your little hybrid Prius and then talking about eating smoked herbivore flesh.

Aaron B. Hockley Fri Jun 23 07:41:39 2006

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