Train to Christmas Town derails in the Gorge, no injuries reported

The Train to Christmas Town, presented by Mt. Hood Railroad, is an hour-long journey filled with Christmas cheer. (SBG photo)

Officials confirmed the Train to Christmas Town in the Columbia River Gorge derailed Friday evening. Luckily, no one was injured.

The derailment occurred north of Pine Grove, about three miles from Hood River.

According to the Hood River County Sheriff's Office, the derailment happened at about 5:15 p.m. Four rail cars came off the track, but all remained upright.

Mount Hood Railroad General Manager Ron Kaufman said the train had six rail cars plus the locomotive. It was going about 10 mph to 15 mph when the derailment happened. The cause is under investigation.

Passenger Becky Vonasek recalled moments leading up to the derailment.

"We were just going barely down the tracks and then it started getting real bumpy," Vonasek told KATU. "It got bumpier and bumpier and then it stopped."

Power went out to several cars.

Vonasek says the crew told them there was a technical difficulty and were instructed to stay put.

Another passenger told KATU they sat on the train for about an hour before they were shuttled to the next road crossing where buses brought them back to Hood River.

Vonasek complimented the crew.

"They were calm," she said. "They were uplifting."

At one point, the crew sang songs with passengers. The train never made it to Christmas Town, its final destination, so Santa came to them.

"Santa Claus came and sat with each of the kids," Vonasek said.

An actor on board told KATU News reporter Joe Douglass: “Everyone is fine and passengers have a good attitude about it ... but it’s hectic."

The actor told KATU the 7 p.m. train was canceled.

"In the five years I’ve been working for the railroad," the actor said, "this has only happened a couple of times."

Kaufman says train derailments are rare because of strict maintenance requirements.

There were 214 passengers on board.

Kaufman said the railroad is offering passengers a full refund. It's not clear when the railroad will reopen.

Mt. Hood Railroad general manager Ron Kaufman is saying train runs are cancelled for Saturday and Sunday.

If you have a ride scheduled for this weekend, go to the reservation center for full refunds or rescheduling.

The tentative plan is for the train to start running again next Friday, December 8.

The cause of the derailment is still under investigation.

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