Olympia volunteers repaint ‘Rainbow Rails’ after longtime attraction was defaced

A quick Google search online for “Rainbow Rails Olympia” will lead to images of an abandoned railroad track painted with the colors of the rainbow located near downtown. The bright train tracks have become a popular spot for urban exploration or to take some scenic photos overlooking Budd Inlet.

But at some point earlier this month, the rails were painted black and white, notably during Pride Month, which uses the rainbow as a symbol. The action posted on Reddit prompted users of the social media platform in the area to grab some cans of paint and head to the tracks.

Volunteer painters gathered over four days to return the tracks to their rainbow colors.

One volunteer, who wished only to be called “B,” told McClatchy on Sunday that they saw on Reddit that the tracks had been defaced. Everyone in their house is queer, and they said it felt like it was a hate crime.

B said the most logical thing to do was to “help fix it.”

“I’ve lived here for 10 years and I’ve always wanted to come out and refresh the paint,” B said. “But this gave me a really good reason to do so.”

Some Reddit users speculated that the black and white colors were meant to signify the “Straight Pride Flag.”

“For this to happen in Pride Month, it’s like whoever did this did it on purpose,” B said. “And honestly even if it does get painted over again, I just want them to know that we’re going to paint it rainbow colors. We’ll paint it rainbow colors every day if we have to.”

B told McClatchy that it was heartwarming to see so many people from the Olympia community come out to help, and that they felt like the tracks were “one of the defining things about Olympia.”

“It makes marginalized people feel safe just to see it,” B added.

Another volunteer who asked to be called Nat told McClatchy that they wanted to come out to help put a smile on people’s faces. Nat said they had passed by the Rainbow Rails for years.

“That someone would go ahead and deface it for Pride is just a spit in my face,” Nat said.

According to a Reddit post, volunteers finished painting the tracks on Tuesday.

No one seems to seems to know why the tracks were initially painted with the colors of the rainbow, but a spokesperson for the Olympia Historical Society told McClatchy in an email that the tracks were part of a rail system that “extended as far north as the lumberyard at the foot of Schneider’s Hill on West Bay Drive.”

“At one time there was a plan to extend the system all the way to Port Townsend and among the various names that the tracks were known by was the Port Townsend and Southern Railway,” the spokesperson said.