You can tell a lot about a community’s holiday spirit by the celebrations they hold onto — and the Tillamook Coast’s port village, Garibaldi, has a dandy!
The Candy Cane Express (owned and operated by the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad) takes on passengers for a 90-minute round-trip ride along a stunning section of coastline. Three trains leave the Garibaldi Depot on Saturday and Sunday (10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.) in the weeks before Christmas.
Passengers get giddy as the Prairie 2-6-2 steam engine roars to life in billowy clouds of steam. Railroad engineer Tim Thompson says, “When one of these steam locomotives is hot, they really attract a crowd.”
The engine, built in 1925, burns recycled motor oil and is rated to pull 29,000 pounds. “It’s like a big industrial furnace,” says Thompson. “The firebox is surrounded by a water jacket and as it boils, the steam rises and moves through super heater units and then down into the cylinders to move the train.”
The steam engine pulls three passenger cars, plus the caboose. That’s where you’ll find Oregon Coast Scenic railroad conductor Dennis Murphy. He says the rail ride is “big, noisy and bounces around,” but it’s also “every kid’s dream!”
“It’s one thing to read about a railroad in a book or see them in a museum, but quite a different experience to see them come alive with the steam billowing out of the auxiliary systems and pistons,” he exclaims. “When you see that, you never forget it!”
The Candy Cane Express rolls along a 3-mile stretch of track from Garibaldi to Rockaway Beach. At ten miles an hour, it is a pleasant cruise.
“We go right along the water,” says Murphy. “We keep moving north, and we go across a lake with water on both sides of the rail, and of course we roll right into downtown Rockaway Beach. It’s just good fun.”
Inside the passenger cars, the holiday lights and wreaths mark the season. A Christmas tree, heavy with ornaments, stands in the corner.
Suddenly, a jolly old man greets young and old with a huge smile.
“Oh, there’s somebody I need to see,” proclaims the man in a bright red suit, who says the Candy Cane Express isn’t so much about him but rather the people he meets along the way. “If I can get a smile out of a child, well, that’s all the reward anyone could ask for.”
Nine-year-old Keegan Ragan loves to ride on trains because the slowpoke, ten-miles-an-hour ride lets him see more of the coastline. He says, “When our family travels, it’s always by car and cars are small. Aboard the train, I don’t have to sit in one seat, ’cause there are many to choose from. And with trains you don’t have a seat belt. You can get up and move around, and I just like that!”
His parents, Martha and Brad Ragan, agree that just like many other youngsters, their son has been absolutely hooked on train travel, saying, “Oh yeah, Keegan has lots of Thomas Trains, model trains, electric trains, LEGO trains. It’s his thing, something he’s always been interested in and it hasn’t faded at all the time either. So, this is a perfect trip for our family.”
The experience warms the soul in more ways than one. “Passengers enjoy hot cocoa, Christmas cookies in a nice warm spot that’s out of the rain and wind that we sometimes get here this time of year,” notes Murphy.
Thompson adds, “This ride allows passengers to see that Coast, enjoy some down time and even meet Santa Claus, while I take care of the driving. It is a terrific time!”