AT LONG LAST it was confirmed that the Oregon DOT had purchased three of BC Rail's Budd RDC units. The speculation, which had lasted for months, finally became fact last month when BC Rail took them off their list of items for sale on it's web site.
Three units were purchased: ex BCR numbers BC-10, -11, and -31. (Car 31 is formerly GN 2350, the Great Northern's sole RDC.) Currently the cars still sit in North Vancouver, awaiting customs approval to move south.
The plans for the service, to be known as the Lewis & Clark Explorer, are still in flux, partly due to budgetary issues in Salem. The purchase, however, is viewed as a wise one, as there are many alternate uses the cars could be put to if the Explorer does not come to pass, e.g. Washington County Commuter Rail, or protection for Cascades Service.
Service is intended to begin on Memorial Day, 2003, running through Labor Day. Repeats of the service are expected for 2004 and 2005 as well.
Wherein lies the difficulty? Operations. Altho not intended as a money maker, with the amount of interest both from railfans and from the general public in this run, ODOT expects the runs will sell out, and that cost recovery will be achievable. However, for the first year, an operating subsidy of as much as $60k per month may be required in order to initiate service.
To help with the project, ODOT is seeking corporate sponsorships, and public funds support. So if you want to ride these trains, and you are inside of Oregon, call, write, or email your state representative and senator in Salem, as well as your local members of the Federal delegation.
Outside of Oregon, contact your US Representative's office and tell them that, as part of the larger Lewis & Clark Bicentenial, you support funding for this project. Every voice counts in this.
Best of luck to the guys at ODOT Rail!