Santa Trains postscript

Four words:  Best.  Santa Trains.  Ever.

Our team at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum has been working to grow and improve this event, and this effort was most certainly evident this year.  We broke records across the board, from attendance to gift shop sales, admissions, and donations.  Why?  Because we have a STRONG LEADERSHIP TEAM and the BEST VOLUNTEERS in the Heritage Tourism/Historic Railroad business.

At the center of this event is Vice President Steve Habeck and his family, for whom this event is truly both a labor of love and a family affair.  They take care of decorating the baggage and dining cars as well as other interior areas of the shop.  You will see them all there every night of the event:  Steve, his wife Mary, daughters Kathy and Jennifer (and, now, their husbands), sister-in-law Vickie and her boyfriend Eddie, with the ladies handling the distribution of the hot beverages and baked goods to the visitors.

Other families include Director Greg Elems and his son, David (son Matt has been a big help in years past – he recently relocated to Southern Nevada, but we hope eventually that circumstances will return him to us), Bart Hansen along with his father and brother, Burr and Alex Wilson, Ethan Doty and Ali – all are great assets to us as volunteers, along with the many other volunteers in our “core group” who work to make this and all museum events a success.

Since the WP entered the 21st Century in its current incarnation in Portola, our core group of volunteers has been of ONE HEART and ONE MIND in pursuing ONE PURPOSE:  raising the bar every year in regard to the performance of our organization and museum while overcoming the challenges faced in doing so.  Culminating in the Santa Train event, 2015 has again been a year of success in accomplishing this, again, because of a STRONG LEADERSHIP TEAM and the BEST VOLUNTEERS in the business.

Many, many thanks to all of the volunteers whose efforts contributed in making this event an unprecedented success, and the year 2015 a success as well.  Thanks as well to those members who attended the Santa Trains this year – make sure to put us on your calendars for December 2016, especially if you couldn’t make it this year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, and here’s to looking forward to an even more successful year in 2016!

Matt Parker

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Santa Trains in Portola!

The 2015 Santa Trains are fast approaching!  We are running three Saturdays this year: December 5, 12 and 19.

Gates open at 3 PM and trains start running at 5 PM.
There is no cost for a ticket.  Admission is $10 per carload, or $5 per carload with the donation of 3 cans of food for the local food bank.
Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there for the kids.  Come enjoy complimentary cookies and hot beverages.
Also don’t forget to visit our Museum Store!  We will have our 2016 Western Pacific Historic Photo calendars on sale and Plan B Run A Locomotive Gift Certificates will also be on sale, just in time for Christmas shopping.  And don’t forget that FRRS members get a discount on all Store merchandise.
If you would like to volunteer, we are looking for docents / guides and gate attendants for all three weekends.  Please contact Steve Habeck ( or Eugene Vicknair ( to sign up.
Come up to Portola and bring the whole family!  Like this event on Facebook!
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October 2015 Board Meeting Rescheduled

As announced previously, the October FRRS Board Meeting, originally scheduled for October 10, has been rescheduled to Saturday, October 17 at 4:00 PM due to a conflict.

The meeting will still be held in the Meeting Room at the WP Museum in Portola.

Eugene Vicknair

Secretary – FRRS

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Around the Museum, 8/17/15

Greetings, everyone.  Matt Parker here again with a report on activities around our museum.

It was another great day in Portola, in terms of weather as well as volunteer and visitor activity.   I began the day by driving over at the crack of dawn so I could go for a bike ride out to Lake Davis and back, grabbing breakfast along the way, and be back in time for a shower before opening time.

When I returned from the bike ride, Charlie Spikes had arrived and was working on some weed abatement in the parking lot.  Our Gift Shop Attendant Elise arrived promptly on time.  She had mentioned last week that she was expecting a big shipment of merchandise to arrive by today, and so I was figuring I would spend much of the day assisting her in getting the merchandise labelled and put on the shelves.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that yesterday’s Gift Shop Attendant, Jazmine, along with our Operations Supervisor Rick Gruninger’s girlfriend Lisa, had already labelled and stocked it all yesterday.  Great job, ladies, and thanks!

Bil Jackson, Loren Ross, and Vice President Steve Habeck were also on hand.  Bil went to work cleaning inside our Business Car, UP 105, while Loren cleaned up messes left by the large bear who frequently includes our museum in his nighttime raids around town.

It wasn’t long before we had a request from some visitors for a walk-in RAL (Run-A-Locomotive – Elise is so good at selling them!).  Loren handled that.  In the meantime, I was visiting with visitors, conducting equipment tours, and spelling Elise so she could take a lunch break.  When she returned, it was my turn to head back over to Nichole’s Coffee Depot and grab a bite.  Upon returning to the museum, a father and son had decided they wished to do an RAL.  I took that one so that Loren could take a lunch break.  We had a great time, and the young man who did most of the running said he was really looking forward upon returning home to the Bay Area to being able to tell his young railfan friends as they were watching trains go by, “Hey, I’ve run one of those!”

Once this RAL was completed, our switch crew consisting of Steve, Loren, Charlie, and Bil, along with Matt and David Elems (who arrived while I was doing the RAL) went to work setting up our equipment displays for Portola Railroad Days this weekend.  I retrieved some more merchandise from storage for Elise to stock, then grabbed my camera and headed out to the yard to get some picture of “the boys and their toys” in action.  All in all, it was another great day for the museum with lots of work getting done around the property and a good dose of happy visitors.

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Around The Museum, 8/12/15

Hello Everyone! Matt Parker here, with an update on goings-on around the museum today.

Today was my first opportunity to visit the museum this summer. Disappointing that so much of our busy season has passed, but with other matters settled I am looking forward to spending more time around the property with our other volunteers during the back-side of the season.

Elise was quite busy in the Gift Shop today, which is always good news. I introduced myself to her (today was the first time we met) upon arriving and let her know I was available to man the store, giving her a break for lunch.

After catching up with volunteers David Elems and our all-time favorite “wrench nazi” Seth Adams, it was time to go to work. A guest with physical limitations desired an RAL, which necessitated preparing WP 917-D for service and the efforts of a few volunteers to get the guest aboard the locomotive. The guest later said that running a locomotive was something on his “bucket list” which he was not sure he would be able to achieve due to his difficulties in getting on and off the equipment. Making magic for guests such as this gentleman is a great reward for our volunteers who go the extra mile to get it done!

Between assisting with this RAL as well as taking time to answer visitor’s questions and give a few equipment tours, it was after 2:00 by the time I got to eat my lunch and give Elise a break! So goes those days when it is busy around the museum, but being busy is never a bad thing.

Charlie Spikes was here, cleaning up in the Silver Plate dining car and also handing our walk-in RAL’s. David spent the day performing work on WP 501’s prime mover, getting it ready for return to service after many years of being sidelined. Seth was working on several small issues on WP 1501. Also present was Larry Hanlon, who has been on the property throughout the beginning of this week working on electrical issues on WP 805-A. To facilitate his work, Larry rigged up the dynamic brakes on the #2 power unit of our DDA-40X, UP 6946, to use as a load box. During his testing this afternoon, the combination of WP 805-A’s engine throttled up while the dynamics on UP 6946 screamed, absorbing 805’s load, provided some GREAT acoustics.

During the day, Portola City Manager Robert Meacher stopped by with some family members. We had a nice chat with Mr. Meacher regarding Portola Railroad Days, which is just over a week away, as well as some planned future cooperative efforts between the City and our organization.

It was another great day in Portola! If you can, come visit us soon, and experience the ongoing efforts to preserve the Western Pacific!

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2015 Election Completed


A simple 4 letter word sent over crude telegraph wires marked the end of a colossal feat; the completion of a railroad that would unite the country with a ribbon of steel rails on May 10, 1869.

Done is a good descriptive to finally sum up the results of the legal fiasco that has become the 2015 Board of Directors Election.  As of Saturday, August 7th, it’s FINALLY done, over, and finished.  The membership has spoken, and we are proud to announce that the honesty and integrity of the society has prevailed and Directors Habeck, McClure, and Vicknair have retained their seats and the Feather River Rail Society has survived this recent coup attempt by FRRS members James Mason, Robert Reininger, Debra Baer, William Meeker and Keith Gillette, who sued the society and took over the election in Plumas County Superior Court.  While the procedural, financial and behavioral issues behind the scenes of this fiasco are far from over and will be dealt with, the election is in fact over and the membership has spoken.


On behalf of the Feather River Rail Society, we sincerely apologize for the strife and inconvenience that this has caused our membership during what has become the biggest obstacle that the FRRS has had to overcome in its 31 year history.  Fighting for what is fair and right has been a monumental feat.   We appreciate the support shown to your trusted, elected officials and we thank you all.

Now, back to productive work we go….

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The Feather River Rail Society is pleased to announce a new marketing partnership with the City of Portola to bring visitors to town and to the museum.

Look for our new full page color ad in “Deals & Wheels” magazine, which should be hitting news stands early next week.

Deals & Wheels Ad

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