Teamwork and dedication were the themes Sunday at a party to celebrate the successful end of the second season of the Lewis and Clark Explorer Train.
Oregon state Rep. Betsy Johnson and Astoria Mayor Willis Van Dusen hosted a celebration barbecue and awards ceremony near the train station Sunday, one day in advance of today's final day of the 2004 season.
Van Dusen opened the ceremony with a statement that brought forth cheers.
"We can all stand here today, proud that Astoria is a town with rail service further west than any other town in the continental United States," he shouted, before turning the microphone over to Johnson.
"We've met with the powers-that-be in Salem, and there absolutely will be a 2005 season," she stated, referring to a recent meeting with Oregon Department of Transportation's rail division, and Portland and Western, the train operators.
Before acknowledging each of the 60-plus volunteers, Johnson highlighted the efforts of the volunteer bridge turners, several of whom could not attend because they were dutifully turning three of the manually operated bridges in preparation for the departure of the train that day.
John Niemann, coordinator for the 40-strong bridge turner brigade, explained the process required to turn the bridges, all of them more than 100 years old, allowing the train to traverse the river on its path to Astoria from Portland's Linnton Station.
"For one of the bridges, we row a boat about 100 yards out to the bridge, we spin the key to the bridge 14 times to get it situated correctly, then lock it into place," Niemann said.
After the train crosses the bridge, the process is repeated to re-open the bridge to river traffic. Another bridge requires 28 key spins to get into position.
"This is why we appreciate the heck out of these bridge turners," Johnson said.
Johnson thanked the trouble shooters and greeters who meet the train each of the four days per week it chugs into Astoria during the season, handing out downtown walking maps and providing informational handouts to arriving train passengers. They guide passengers to the waiting Astoria Trolley, point them to the lodging shuttle, help them figure out how best to get to Fort Clatsop National Memorial and other attractions, and communicate with volunteers, bus and trolley drivers if the train is running late.
"It takes all of you to make this train a success," Johnson said. "It couldn't be done without you."
Van Dusen closed the event by leading the crowd in a cheer for Johnson, who was instrumental in securing the trains and the operational funding.
"Hip, hip, Betsy! Hip, hip, Betsy! Hip, hip, Betsy!" party-goers shouted.