Forty & Eight: New life for an old Astoria train

As a child in the 1950s, Jeff Daly remembers hearing the bell and whistle of the American Legion’s Forty & Eight train during Astoria Regatta parades.

“There was no way you didn’t know it was coming,” he said. “Kids were just enthralled with it, and you were really lucky if you could get a ride on it.”

Driving through Gearhart one day in 2014, Daly noticed the nose of the train sticking out behind the Yankee Trader antique store just off U.S. Highway 101. Known for restoring odd automotive remnants from Astoria’s history such as a 1948 Chrysler clown car, he acquired the train and towed it north.

Daly hopes to have a new and improved train ready for the downtown holiday lighting ceremony next month, and fully equipped for a trip to next summer’s Burning Man gathering in Nevada.

Returning World War I veterans in the newly created American Legion formed Forty & Eight in 1920 as an invitation-only honors society.

Known formally as The Society of Forty Men and Eight Horses, the group was named after the boxcars in France that each carried 40 men or eight horses to the front.

Ken Rislow, chaplain for the American Legion’s Clatsop Post 12 in Astoria and adjutant for the Forty & Eight since 2006, said the local chapter of the honor society was formed around 1920 along with the American Legion.

The train was originally built in 1945, used for parades and other celebrations and rebuilt several times throughout its life, Rislow said. On the side