It's funny, how you become a part of writing history, every day, without even realizing it. Yet at other times, it becomes everpresent, and the selfknowledge is overwhealming. And so, one day in November of 2003, along the Willamette Shore Trolley, became such a time for me.
One cold November Sunday, I was invited to become part of a WST work party by Brian Sopke, my friend and the road's Acting Roadmaster. Our goal? To run down to the nothernmost track, from Bancroft to Sheridan Street under the Marquam Bridge, where the line swings inland to it's terminus at Riverplace, on the edge of downtown Portland. There, we collected a few last bits of equipment, salvaged a little material, and took a few last looks around before our final departure.
The line was to be cut the following tuesday. A rail line that began as a granger narrow guage empire, headed for Nevada. A line that once served the valley with electric interurbans. A line that has been in place since the 1880s. One more mile, ripped up in the name of progress.
Suddenly, it was my turn. In countless photos of earlier eras, men of my grandfather's generation stand on the pilot of a diesel locomotive or an electric traction motor, or even in some cases, the point of a steamer, holding a sign, usually crudely lettered at home, reading "LAST RUN". It seemed so sad, and yet so comforting too. This was an earlier age. This did not happen anymore. This was a time that had passed, and we, we of a younger generation, we would not see such things.
But on the backside of a "Save the Sellwood Car Barns" sign -- another windmill tilted at and missed -- I took out a magic marker and wrote:
It was now my turn now to hold this sign -- if out the back of a Farimont speeder only -- and become a part of history. Life is fleeting, life is loss, and moments and monuments slip through the fingers of time like sand.