On the train

Eleven-year-old Gavin Edwards, of Vancouver, watches the passing trees while riding the Chelatchie Prairie Christmas Train in Yacolt Nov. 30. Edwards comes for the train ride every year with his family and looks forward to the train going through the tunnel most of all. 

Local train operator Chelatchie Prairie Railroad started up its final train rides of the year this past weekend. 

The Christmas Tree Excursions took place Saturday, Nov. 30, and Sunday, Dec. 1, with people gathering to take a trip up to Yacolt Falls and pick out their Christmas Tree. 

The 1941 diesel engine was operated by Jerry Jacobus, of Vancouver, and he said his favorite part of being the conductor is all the kids he sees riding the trains and the look of joy on their faces. 

Feel the wind

Twelve-year-old Dalilah Cunningham, of Camas, points out the window while riding the Chelatchie Prairie Christmas Train in Yacolt Nov. 30.

“I also like to play with the trains,” he said. “Last year I did 366 hours with the railroad.”

Jacobus also spoke to the importance the trains have on the economy of the small area of Yacolt and said the tourism the trains bring is “very important to the city.”

The views

From left to right, Vancouver residents Korbin Gutierrez, 6, Logan Gutierrez, 3, and Phoenix Doros, 9, enjoy snacks while soaking in the views on the Chelatchie Prairie Christmas Train in Yacolt Nov. 30.

Started in 2001, the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad uses the tracks built in the late 1800s to early 1900s and was used for passenger and commercial traffic until January of 1984. After that, the tracks sat unused until a group of volunteers came together in the late 1990s to restore the line and build the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad into a functioning piece of history. 

“It’s all volunteers out here,” Jacobus said. “Sometimes it’s really hard to get volunteers that want to do anything.” 

Throughout the year, volunteers help the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad host excursions in both its diesel and steam engines, taking families and train enthusiasts up through the mountains of Yacolt to visit Yacolt Falls and experience a 330-foot rock tunnel and hosting seasonal events like the Father’s Day Weekend trains, the Headless Horseman Train Ride in October and Christmas trains. 

Departing from the station at 9:30 a.m., noon and 2:30 p.m., Chelatchie Prairie Railroad plans to make three more trips this winter. Get together with the family on Dec. 7 and 8; Dec. 14 and 15 or Dec. 21 and 22. Note that the supply of trees to pick out will be limited on the Dec. 21 and 22 runs. During the ride, Santa makes a visit to the tracks and has gifts for all the kids and refreshments for all riders. 

In awe

(Right) Two-year-old Ruby Samules, of California, is stunned by the views on the Chelatchie Prairie Christmas Train in Yacolt Nov. 30. Salmules and her mother are visiting family in the area, and this is their second year going on the train

Family packages for the runs include four passenger tickets and a tree of choice. Douglas fir packages are $85 while Nordmann and Noble Fir are $105. Add an additional tree starting at $35 and add an additional rider for $12 to $22 depending on age and date. Tickets are available in advance online at bycx.org or by calling (360) 686-3559. All seats reserved prior to departure date hold an inside seat if you choose; same-day tickets must be purchased at the station. Call for availability.

Tunnel

Riders prepare to enter a tunnel while riding the Chelatchie Prairie Christmas Train in Yacolt Nov. 30.

Trains leave punctually so it is asked that you arrive at the station at 207 N Railroad Ave., Yacolt, 30 minutes prior to your scheduled departure. If you would like to volunteer for the railroad, visit or call (360) 686-3559.

Photographer Mary Broten contributed to this report.

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