Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day and the Railroad

Today is Labor Day, and it is a holiday that has particular significance for railroad labor. Spike was reminded of this earlier today when a Seattle Times column described the efforts of a self-described local think tank to boycott the holiday.   So what does it have to do with the railroad?

1893 was a difficult year for the United States: the worst economic recession in the country's 117 year history gripped the Nation.  Two of the chief culprits causing the "Panic of 1893" were railroad speculation and over-building.  More than 500 banks and 15,000 businesses failed, including the mighty Union Pacific Railroad; the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad; the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway; and the Northern Pacific Railroad.  The latter company had its western terminus in Tacoma, and had recently leveraged itself to acquire control of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway ("SLSE"). (The SLSE's mainline between Snoqualmie and North Bend is today owned by the Northwest Railway Museum.)  The Panic of 1893 was devastating for railroad suppliers too.

George M. Pullman was the founder and president of the Pullman Palace Car Company. In 1880 he conceived and developed the Town of Pullman, Illinois as a model community that would attract the best and brightest employees by providing ideal living conditions. When initial construction was completed in 1884, the town included more than 1,000 homes, public buildings, and many parks. Pullman workers rented homes from the company; the fee included basic home maintenance and even daily garbage collection. The community was independently viewed as a nearly perfect town, but residency for employees was less than optional: during a work slow down, employees who lived outside the town of Pullman were the first to be laid off.

The economic recession continued and by early 1894 Pullman reacted to the situation by reducing wages by an average of 25%.  Rental fees for company housing, however, remained unchanged so some worker's pay was reduced to just $9.07 a fortnight, but rent was $9.00 leaving just 7 cents for food, water and gas.  And a work day remained at 16 hours.  On May 10, 1894 workers who were now represented by the American Railway Union ("ARU") voted to strike. Six weeks into the work stoppage, Pullman - who had guaranteed the investors of his model town a 6% return on investment - continued to refuse requests for negotiation or arbitration. The ARU expanded the impact to a boycott by all their members of all Pullman Palace Cars operating in 27 States, ultimately involving 250,000 workers. This effectively shut down most of the railroads west of Detroit, stopped the mail, and - with telegrams from railroad managers demanding action - got the attention of President Grover Cleveland, who ordered his Attorney General to act.  Federal Marshalls - strangely, paid and under the control of railroad company managers - and as many as 12,000 army troops were called in to enforce the America's first-ever back to work order. Predictably, violence broke out, resulting in the death of at least 30 people and causing millions of dollars in physical damage and lost opportunity. The boycott ended by mid July; union leaders were jailed for violation of the injunction; but the strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company did not end until August 2.  

1894 was a midterm election year.  In the shadow of the Pullman strike and boycott, a concession to labor:  on June 28, 1894, a bill creating a national holiday called Labor Day, to be observed the first Monday of September every year, was approved by Congress and signed by the President. Interestingly, the law was silent on the subject of holiday pay, an almost completely unknown concept in 1894.

[images are from Wikipedia Commons and are public domain due to age]

Friday, August 29, 2014

Railroad Days 2014

Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2014 was a spectacular success, featuring the first operating steam locomotive in 25 years, the Santa Cruz Portland Cement 2.  More than 2,000 people took an excursion or tour, and an estimated 12,000 visitors attended at least one event or activity.  A grand parade, fun run, Legends Car Show, live music, history reenactors from Fort Nisqually, timber sports demonstrations and more made this Snoqualmie Railroad Days one to remember! 

Snoqualmie Railroad Days is a community event managed and hosted by the Northwest Railway Museum.  This 76th annual festival was held August 15 - 17, and was made possible by the generous support of the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe, City of Snoqualmie, All Weather Heating, Snoqualmie Valley Hospital District, and Carmichael's True Value Hardware.  And support from the YMCA and their awesome volunteers made the Children's Field of Fun truly successful.

Among the many events and activities were the history reenactors from Fort Nisqually, the recreated Hudson's Bay fort in Tacoma's Point Defiance Park.  Volunteers provide living history demonstrations at the fort and graciously agreed to visit Snoqualmie Railroad Days. These dedicated volunteers demonstrated how rope was made, gave cooking demonstrations, displayed children's vintage games, performed blacksmith demonstrations, and more.

Art in the Park, supported by Snoqualmie Arts Commission, featured Arts and Craft demonstrations, displays of artwork, and live music at and Redmond Ridge Winery stage. Local artists including carvers, painters, quilters, and potters were on hand throughout the event.  

The Legends Car Show was held on Sunday, August 17 during Railroad Days.  More than 100 classic and antique cars were on exhibit all day, staged along Railroad Avenue in the center of historic downtown Snoqualmie.  This remarkable show was the largest-ever in Snoqualmie, and featured a wide variety of vehicles.  A variety of awards were made to exhibiting autos too, and visitors helped choose the winners.

Many other activities contributed to the success, and the very essence of Snoqualmie Railroad Days.  A variety of craft and home-based vendors exhibited and marketed their unique and interesting products.  Local honey producers, clothing, and even book dealers were set up along Railroad Avenue.

One of many highlights was a concert by Spike and the Impalers, (no connection to this author!) and their well known members Bob, Spike, and Joe.  These gentlemen were the talent behind the Bob Rivers Show, which recently retired from Seattle's KJR-FM. Awesome sound that this Spike can still feel!

For the City of Snoqualmie, forest products had the greatest economic impact of the 20th Century.  So how appropriate would a timber sports demonstration be in celebrating the community's history? Quite!  The Moses Family and many others put on an awesome demonstration of logging skills in the park adjacent to the Snoqualmie River. Featured events included axe throwing, and whip saw and chain saw competition.

Trains and engines were also part of Snoqualmie Railroad Days.  The United Northwest Model Railroad Club set up model trains and operated throughout the event. Coach 218 operated all weekend allowing hundreds of people to experience an authentic excursion in a 1912 coach complete with mohair-covered seats, mahogany paneling, and a hardwood floor.  And of course all the trains were pulled or pushed by steam locomotive Santa Cruz Portland Cement 2, courtesy of owner Stathi Pappas and event sponsors.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

More Railroad Days steam testing!

video
 
For the first steam operating in 25 years - and during the annual Snoqualmie Railroad Days on top of that - there were lots of variables to resolve.  A test train was the solution Museum staff chose to identify obvious issues or concerns.  So on August 13, SCPC 2 was steamed up and operated to Snoqualmie Falls without passengers so the route could be evaluated, and yesterday's post revealed a few more details about the planned operation. 
 
Now a day later, we can say that number 2 performed beautifully without any difficulties pulling the train up a 1.5% grade without assistance, posing for photos in all the right places - check it out for yourself in the video included with this post! Or why not come up and take advantage of this extremely rare opportunity to ride behind it to experience for yourself?  Tickets may be purchased in advance on the Museum's web page, or 30 minutes prior to departure from the Snoqualmie or North Bend depots.
 
Steam for Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2014 is being made possible in part by a grant from the Snoqualmie Tribe, GiveBIG! contributors, sustained support from 4Culture, and a lodging tax grant from the City of Snoqualmie. If there are any proceeds from the event, they will be used in the development of the Museum's new steam program that will restore one or more locomotives to operation.


 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Steam test for Snoqualmie Railroad Days!



August 13 marks the first run of a steam locomotive to Snoqualmie Falls in 25 years.  Only the crew is on board this "extra" train for a run just to make sure all the operating procedures, appliances, and other equipment works as planned before Snoqualmie Railroad Days begins.  The steam locomotive is known as SCPC 2 and is owned by Stathi Pappas.  It will be the star attraction of Railroad Days 2014 and is being made possible in part by a grant from the Snoqualmie Tribe, GiveBIG! contributors, sustaining support from 4Culture, and a lodging tax grant from the City of Snoqualmie.

After everything checks out, this coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday, August 15 - 17, 2014, will see the first scheduled steam train in 25 years will operate between Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend and you can ride!

You can purchase your tickets in advance on the Museum's web site or in the depot 30 minutes prior to departure.  Please note the "extra" 5 PM departure available on Saturday, August 16, and on Sunday, August 17 on the 12:30 train you can get off at the Snoqualmie Falls Depot and get a tour of the new Snoqualmie Falls Historic Area Museum, but only with a special ticket available here.  People taking the Sunday tour will be on board the first scheduled steam train to stop at the Snoqualmie Falls Depot since passenger service ended in the 1920s - all aboard!







Saturday, August 2, 2014

Snoqualmie Falls historic area museum open

A new museum at Snoqualmie Falls is opening to the public this month.  The exhibits are housed in the historic carpenter shop and Snoqualmie Falls depot, and chronicle the Charles H. Baker's 1898-1899 development of the world's first underground power station.  The Museum will be open for just 12 days, a trial that is allowing owner Puget Sound Energy to evaluate and refine the program. (More information is included at end of this post.)  A more comprehensive operating schedule is being planned for summer 2015.

So why is there a power station in Snoqualmie Falls?  Charles H. Baker was a civil engineer who built the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway to the Cascade foothills, and platted the town of Snoqualmie.  While surveying and constructing the track at Snoqualmie Falls, he recognized the tremendous hydro electric potential and pursued its development. Having a key role in building the railway, creating the town and developing the power station, Baker had a truly remarkable impact that continues to define the community. And adding to the railroad history connection, is the significance of one of the power company's most important customers: the Puget Sound Electric Railway, the electric interurbans that operated between Tacoma and Seattle for 26 years.

Baker convinced his well-healed father to underwrite construction of the Snoqualmie Falls Power Company. 268 feet of vertical drop is greater than Niagara Falls and offered some generation economies.  All the supplies and machinery arrived by rail, which was by then reorganized as the Seattle and International Railway. 16 months of construction were required to build the plant, including excavation of the cavity right behind the base of Snoqualmie Falls.  It was carved out of andesite, the remains of an ancient volcano's caldera. 

Late in 2013, owner Puget Sound Energy completed a major rehabilitation effort on the original power station.  Many components including the four original generators are continuing in service, producing power more than 114 years after entering service.  A component of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission re-licensed project adaptively reused the original carpentry shop and train depot as interpretive centers.  This new museum tells the story of the power station.

Saturdays and Sundays through the end of August offer free guided tours of the new museum. In addition, Friday, August 15 and Monday September 1 will also offer public access. Saturday and weekday tours are being offered at 10:00 AM, 12:00 PM, and 2:30 PM and are scheduled to last 90 minutes; they are free.  On Sundays tours are offered at 10:00 AM and 12:00 PM.  All tours depart from the Snoqualmie Falls park Upper Plaza at the sandwich board kiosk titled "Snoqualmie Falls Historic Area Museum Tours" and last a total of 90 minutes. Tours accommodate a maximum of 14 people and are recommended for ages 12 years and older.

A special additional tour option is also being offered: a train excursion followed by the museum tour.  This two hour 30 minute tour costs $20 per person, which includes the train excursion, and departs at 12:30 PM from the Snoqualmie Depot at 38625 SE King Street in historic downtown Snoqualmie.  With space for just 15 participants per tour, the Northwest Railway Museum recommends advance purchase of train and tour combination tickets, which will be available at will call in the Snoqualmie Depot at least 30 minutes prior to departure.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Scenes from Day Out With Thomas 2014




The Day Out With Thomas Thrill of the Ride Tour was another successful event at the Northwest Railway Museum! Nearly 16,000 guests enjoyed a visit with Thomas the Tank Engine, and a multitude of activities.  This 13th annual visit of that Very Useful Engine was skillfully staffed by many of the Museum's 130 active volunteers who contributed hundreds of hours doing everything from checking tickets to running the locomotive to guiding visitors to applying tattoos to emptying garbage.  And the Santa Cruz Portland Cement 2 steam locomotive even made a cameo appearance to let everyone know about Snoqualmie Railroad Days on August 15 - 17.  Check out these scenes from this year's fabulous event -

Coach 218 was at the head of the
train during Day Out With Thomas.
Sir Topham Hatt greeeted
visitors throughout the
event.
Motor car rides were a highlight for
many children and their parents.


Eric Ode presented a variety of
material throughout the event.

Live steam locomotive models operated
on a layout during the event.
Photo opportunities with
Thomas the Tank Engine
were available from JED
Photography.
Punch and Judy was performed by
Clay Martin throughout the event.

Great food from Snoqualmie Falls
Candy Factory and Sahara's Pizza
was enjoyed by many throughout the
day.







Families could take their own photo
with Thomas too!
There were lots of learning
opportunities too.

US Plywood 11 was a featured exhibit.
Hi Thomas!
Santa Cruz Portland
Cement 2 was a special
guest who will return on
Railroad Days, Aug 15 -
17.
The splendid newly rehabilitated
interior in coach 218, a 1912-built
wood car that ran between Vancouver
and Spokane.






Thursday, July 17, 2014

Steam locomotive arrives!

Locomotive owner Stathi Pappas
poses with SCPC 2 at North Bend.
The long anticipated arrival of Santa Cruz Portland Cement steam locomotive 2 has been realized!  SCPC 2 arrived in North Bend, WA on July 17 aboard a nine-axle Sherman Bros Heavy Haul trailer following a two-day journey from Santa Cruz, CA.
Safely off the truck!  A few
moments later, the 2 began its
slow four mile journey to
Snoqualmie.

The locomotive was carefully unloaded and slowly moved to Snoqualmie.  There, it will be on exhibit for the next three Day Out With Thomas event days where it can be viewed adjacent to locomotive 201. And many thanks to the seven volunteers that helped unload car 2!


The 2 was pushed to Snoqualmie
by 4024 and was soon placed next
to Thomas the Tank Engine.
The 2 will receive some minor work at the Conservation and Restoration Center in the coming weeks.  It will make its operating debut in the Snoqualmie Valley during Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2014.  During this annual community festival hosted by the Northwest Railway Museum, it will operate August 15, 16, & 17 in commemoration of the 125th anniversary of the first passenger train excursion to Snoqualmie Falls.