- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

VANCOUVER, Wash. (AP) - One of the people involved in a new museum exhibit at the Vancouver train station had a railroad career spanning more than 40 years and recalls the days when trains were the only reliable transportation through the Columbia River Gorge.

Harry Hendricks was a conductor on a Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway freight train in the mid-1950s when roads in the gorge were closed by a winter storm. Then the dispatcher called.

“A little girl is deathly ill and needs to go to the hospital in Portland,” Hendricks was told.

Heading west, Hendricks had the train stop at Bingen - about 70 miles from Vancouver - where the little girl, her mother and a nurse came aboard.

Since it was a freight train, the only place for passengers was the caboose.

Hendricks told the engineer to keep rolling west at a steady 25 mph until they made another stop at Stevenson to pick up more stranded people.

“We wound up with 17 people in the caboose. When we got to Vancouver, there was an ambulance waiting to meet us” so the girl could be transferred to the hospital.

“She was a neat little girl, about 10 years old,” Hendricks said.

He never did learn how her medical emergency turned out, but there likely was some high-level praying on her behalf.

One of the people they picked up in Stevenson was a priest who was traveling to Rome and had to get to Portland for his flight.

The Clark County Historical Museum opened the exhibit, “The Northwest’s Own Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway,” on Saturday at Vancouver’s 1909 train depot, now the Amtrak station.


Information from: The Columbian, https://www.columbian.com

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