WEEKEND: All aboard for Washington Inn express

PORT ANGELES — It may be only a narrow gauge, but it still will be the first passenger train operating on the North Olympic Peninsula in 57 years.

The George Washington Live Steamers will install a 7.5-inch-gauge track today at the George Washington Inn at 939 Finn Hall Road, nine miles east of Port Angeles, after the track was assembled in sections by volunteers at the Northwest Railroad Foundry and Supply in Kingston.

On Saturday, the model train big enough for passengers will provide free rides from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The rides will be a holiday sample of a more extensive rail route to be installed at the inn and lavender farm nine miles east of Port Angeles in the next year, said Dick Wolfe, one of the 10 to 12 core members of the newly forming club of Olympic Peninsula train enthusiasts, and the owners of the inn, Dan and Janet Abbott.

Hot chocolate, coffee

The inn’s farm, Washington Lavender, will provide hot chocolate and coffee in the farm store, Janet Abbott said.

The permanent train will be installed by the train club members, she said.

“We wanted to add some things interesting for families” to see during the lavender festival weekend in July, she said.

“We told the train enthusiasts to do whatever they want to do out in the lavender field,” she said.

“They are designing the track.”

“Just as long as we can have lots of lavender interspersed among the tracks,” added Dan Abbott, who plans to join the train club.

During the harvest season, such a train would transport fresh-cut lavender from the fields to the farm’s store for processing, and be available for passengers as needed, Wolfe said.

Although the ride is free, donations to support the first live steam-train club on the Olympic Peninsula will be appreciated.

“This is our first attempt to solicit interest in the community,” Dan Abbott said.

Peninsula railroads

Steam trains came late to the Olympic Peninsula, with tracks completed in 1918, but once established, rail moved logs and people in the relatively roadless area until 1954.

Washington Inn’s steam railroad will recreate some of the feel of the railroad era in the shadow of the inn, a replica of George Washington’s Mount Vernon home.

Several members of the steam-train club own engines or cars, many of which may be used on the Washington railroad once the permanent railroad bed and tracks are completed, Wolfe said.

Two engines

Two engines will be available for Saturday’s event, one electric engine and one live steam engine, owned by Port Angeles steam-engine enthusiast Dick Peterson.

The live steam engine is powered with propane, which heats the water for locomotion, he said.

The farm will be open for special holiday hours from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and Saturday, Janet Abbott said.

Appointments can be made for visits at other times by phoning 360-452-5207.

More information about the live steam train can be found at www.GWSteamers.org.

For more information on the George Washington Inn, visit www.GeorgeWashingtonInn.com.

________

Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-417-3535 or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

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