Three Days Along the John Day – Part Two (Steam)

This is part two of a three part telling of our trip into Eastern Oregon. For Part One, go here!

One of the things that we like to do when we travel is check out ghost towns. The problem with ghost towns is who gets to define what a ghost town is. There’s a website that tries to and, for the most part, it’s a good place to start.

Often, you’ll see a similar type of photo of an old abandoned building. That’s great and all, but with Granite, Oregon, it’s just not a ghost town. Most of the buildings are inhabited and even this “abandoned church” is used every Sunday. We were disappointed.

So we moved on to the Sumpter Valley Railroad – a narrow gauge excursion train that runs near Sumpter, Oregon.

In it is a tiny little museum with a bike that I pretty much need to have.

Anyway, we rode the train and got to sit in the cupola of the caboose. How cool was that? Pretty amazingly cool.

The Sumpter Valley Railway was, at one time, a working railroad. Now, it’s used only for excursions, but it preserves its history as well as possible.

Much of their equipment is original, but just as much came from other locations. The black hopper cars in the previous photos, for example, came from Pennsylvania’s own East Broad Top. EBT sent their hoppers to Alaska during WW2 as part of the war effort. After the war, they remained in the Yukon until Sumpter Valley Railroad bought them in the 1970s. They are preserved and marked as East Broad Top rollingstock. Unfortunately, we didn’t get any close up photos of them.

This area of Oregon was known mostly for gold mining. The type of mining employed here was called dredging. A huge machine would scoop up rocks and dirt, depositing all of the non-gold bits pretty much everywhere. It’s ugly and horrible and remains to this day.

The engine they were using on this day was a two-truck Heisler built in Erie, Pennsylvania. Notice how the pistons are at 45 degree angles – just like a Moto Guzzi V-Twin.

In Sumpter, where the train dropped us off, there was a town-wide flea market.

There, I ate a mess of fries.

And more kettle corn than these dudes could make. Well, not really. But it was quite possibly the best kettle corn I’ve ever had.

I had Sarah take a picture of this sign because I thought my dad would like it.

Even the church was turned into a yard sale.

To wash down the best kettle corn I’ve ever had, how about some of the best lemonade ever? This is easily on par with the lemonade made at the New Berlin Fireman’s Carnival when I was a kid.

Remember all of the rocks? Well this is the machine/boat that put them there. It was open to the public and so you could walk inside this thing and look around. It’s really quite obnoxious what we humans do for money.

While waiting for the train to take us back, I decided to get a photo or two of it pulling up to the station. Unfortunately, that never happened. The Heisler broke down.

The conductor actually drove us back in her Bronco. But as a reward, we were given a tour of their facilities. I was in train heaven.

I couldn’t find out who, but someone at the railroad has an amazing van.

This is the engine that broke down. This kind old fellow was explaining to me what happened. A bolt popped out and stripped all its threads. It seemed like a pretty big deal, but I honestly didn’t understand it. To me, it just sounded like “One of the cross beams has gone out of skew on the treadle.”

This is the East Broad Top stencil used to mark the hoppers that originally came from that small Pennsylvania railroad. It’s great to have a bit of home out here in the Pacific Northwest.

From the railroad, we headed east to Baker City. In every trip we take, there’s a dirt road or two, and this trip’s road came in here. I was looking for the old Oregon Trail, but mostly it’s gone (except where it was purposely preserved). We did, however, find some adorable cows.

Here, it is preserved. Near Flagstaff Hill just outside Baker City, there’s an interpretive center. We’ve visited it before, and so didn’t on this trip, but it’s well worth it.

Weather for this trip was hit or miss. Some rain decided to fall upon us while we searched for a ghost town that was supposedly started by Confederate soldiers. We sort of found it.

Baker City is one of those towns that you’d never want to live in, but every time you visit it, you sort of fall in love. I can’t explain it, but Yakima, Washington is the same way.

This was closed, but it appeared to be awesome.

But alas, the day was at an end. We had to return to our campsite. There wasn’t much to it, but it was only $10 a night. Hard to complain about such things.

Smartz passed up a few things that tempted her, but couldn’t say no to this horse (that looks like a deer) and squirrel figurine thinger. She was pretty thrilled about it.

Sleep came easy that night and the next day was for driving home. I’ll share all of that soon enough. Thanks a bunch for reading!


2 responses to “Three Days Along the John Day – Part Two (Steam)

    • Smartz and I were both wondering that. In Granite, there is still actually gold mining, so I bet some do that. Also, there were a lot of goat farms. We missed getting a shot of a huge white sign that said “WATCH OUT FOR GOATS.” We have failed in that respect.

      Otherwise, I’m not really sure. Many are retired or maybe only use the place as a cabin.

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