So what is it like to ride on the Chehalis-Centralia? Follow along with us on a virtual tour of the line. Of course, if you really want to experience the sights and sounds of steam railroading, drop on by and take a ride!
CCR&M Line Overview
The Chehalis-Centralia operates over approximately ten miles of branch line railroad in Lewis County, Washington. The line was originally built to connect Willapa Harbor with Chehalis, and eventually became a coastal branch line of the Milwaukee Road. In later years, the line became a part of the Weyerhaueser Company’s timber railroads. Since the 1990s, the line has been owned by the Port of Chehalis.
Starting in the south end of Chehalis, the railroad passes through pastoral farm lands and skirts the south end of Adna before reaching Milburn. A former junction with the Northern Pacific, Milburn is the destination of most of our coach trains.
Past Milburn, the line begins to wind through hilly country, and emerges alongside the Chehalis River. A look back to the right downstream will reveal a Willapa Trail bridge over the Chehalis River in view. For the next 2 1/2 miles the route will follow the scenic river bank to Ruth, near Curtis, and the present end of in-service track.
The Chehalis Depot on a particularly busy day, during Pumpkin Train runs.
The renovated vintage station at Chehalis was originally built by the Milwaukee Road. It was purchased by Bill & Wanda Thompson in 1995, who in turn donated and moved it to the museum grounds.
All regularly scheduled trains depart from this station.
Newaukum River Bridge
Here the train is crossing the Newaukum River Bridge, over the Newaukum tributary of the Chehalis River. This bridge is one of the few laminated wood-beam railroad bridges still in use in the United States, and was built by Weyerhaeuser after they purchased the line from the Milwaukee Road in the 1930s.
On clear days, passengers can get views of Mount Rainier and Mount St. Helens from various portions of the line. Here, Mount Rainier — Washington’s tallest peak at more than 14,000 feet high — pokes up over the distant hills.
This trestle over Stearns Creek is typical of many to be found along the line of the Chehalis-Centralia.
The tracks of the Chehalis-Centralia cross numerous streams and follow many wetlands. Here our train is passing what is known as the “Alligator Pond” at Milepost 5, on its way to Milburn.
Milburn is the destination of our regular coach runs. Here is where Weyerhaeuser used to junction with the Northern Pacific in order to access its operations in Pe Ell.
Today, passengers on the Chehalis-Centralia can watch as crews run around the train with the locomotive in order to put it on the end, and in the process, put on a bit of show.
For passengers riding a Dinner Train or one of the CCR&M’s 5 PM Saturday coach trains, there will be no stop at Milburn, as their journey will continue up the Chehalis Valley and back in time to Ruth.
Past Milburn, the tracks curve through a narrow rock defile and then emerge on the banks of the Chehalis River. For the next three miles, the train will follow along the river, its whistle echoing off the nearby hills.
South Fork Chehalis River
The Saturday evening train is seen here pulling out onto the trestle over the South Fork of the Chehalis River, near Curtis, Washington. Here the train will pause, allowing passengers to take in a 360-degree panorama of the Willapa Hills, including 3,061′ tall Boistfort (or Baw Faw) Peak at the head of Lost Valley.
From here, the train will back a short distance to Ruth, where the engine will run around the train, and take passengers back to Chehalis.
The origin of Ruth’s name is a bit of a legend. Once upon a time, the train used to pick up and leave off a woman named Ruth at this point. She always met the train alone, and nobody on the crew ever knew where she lived. She’d just walk out of the woods to meet them, and walk back into the woods when they let her off.
Here, the locomotive will swap ends and take the Saturday evening train back to Chehalis.