Monday, February 6, 2017

Training teachers

Teachers need training too, and what better place to get trained than at a railway museum?  On Saturday February 4th, 2017, the Northwest Railway Museum hosted the Washington State Council for the Social Studies K-8 conference. The train transported more than 70 attendees from the Snoqualmie Depot to the Railway History Center on a very rare winter excursion. There, teachers split into four break-out sessions located in the classroom and reading room of the Railway Education Center, and the foyer and between tracks 3 and 4 in the Train Shed Exhibit Building.

After two hours of break-out sessions, participants grabbed lunch and re-boarded the train for a trip to Snoqualmie Falls and back. Then, the teachers were treated to docent tours of the Train Shed before returning to the Depot. Many teachers commented how they didn’t even know the Museum was there and pledged to return again – we’re hoping they come back with their students!

The Museum is honored to have had the opportunity to host a group of history educators, and is delighted to have put the new Railway Education Center to use for a program that so clearly aligns with the Museum's Mission. A huge thank you to the volunteers (train crew and docents) that came out to support the program. The Museum looks forward to many similar future programs.

This guest blog was written by deputy director Jessie Cunningham.  Ms. Cunningham manages interpretation and educational programming at the Northwest Railway Museum.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Better lighting

Brent does the honors using
Star Rental's 45-foot lift.
The Northwest Railway Museum collections care work space now has brighter lighting that saves money by using less power. Thanks to an energy conservation grant from Puget Sound Energy, the high intensity discharge metal halide ("HID MH") lighting installed in the Conservation and Restoration Center ("CRC") during its construction in 2016 has been retrofitted with new light emitting diode ("LED") bulbs. Now, lighting is brighter than ever before!

Bob and Kyle "Re-manufacturing"
light fixtures.
An industrious crew of participants removed the light fixtures from the ceiling, removed the HID MH electrical ballast and rewired the fixture, screwed in new bulbs, and rehung the fixture from the ceiling. Bob, Kyle, Gary, and Arnie worked under the direction of Brent, a retired industrial electrician.  Just two days were required to remove, modify and reinstall 24 light fixtures.

A re-manufactured light fixture flickers
to life 30 feet above the floor.
The old lighting served the Museum well, but was always a little dull due to the high ceilings.  And LED lighting is up to six times more efficient than traditional lighting, and even compared to HID MH lighting there is a significant reduction in energy consumption.  For the CRC, a 400 watt HID MH bulb was replaced with a 110 watt LED, which still resulted in a net increase of light intensity.  And this "bright" idea will improve the quality of all the work performed in the CRC because to see what you are doing is, well, pretty important.

"Vanna" Arnie models a
new LED module, which
is roughly 17 times brighter
than an old fashion 60 watt
The new bulbs look like over-sized cobs of corn.  They are covered with dozens and dozens of miniature LED bulbs. The bulbs screw into the same sockets as the original bulbs, and can operate over a wide voltage range, from 110 volts to 277 volts. Each bulb emits more than 14,000 lumens, and has a life expectancy of more than 50,000 hours.

This lighting retrofit was a relatively small but impactful project.  It is reducing operating costs while improving the overall lighting conditions in the CRC, and is a further example of the Museum's commitment to the King County EnviroStars program.  Many thanks to Arnie, Bob, Brent, Gary, and Kyle for their efforts installing the new lighting, to Puget Sound Energy for a grant in support of the project, Ryan at Platt Electric in Preston for their excellent service, and to Star Rentals for a great price on a 45-foot lift.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

First books in the vault

January 2017 has been an eventful month at the Northwest Railway Museum. Not only has staff moved into the new Railway Education Center, but the first books were cataloged and placed in the new archival vault.

Meet Tom and Teena Kracht, long-time members and volunteers at the Northwest Railway Museum.  This month, just shy of the Museum's 60th anniversary, Tom and Teena symbolically placed three volumes of Kirkman's Science of Railways on the new library shelving. 

Readers of this Blog will probably be surprised to learn that it was Teena Kracht who first shaped the image of the new library and archives.  "A few short years ago" as a library science student at a local community college, Teena brought fellow students to the Museum to help catalog books.  As the needs of the collection were discussed, the idea of a vault took shape.  Later, a formal needs assessment funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and written by Randy Silverman articulated the details of exactly what would be required to "do it right."  And then Tom and Teena were the first donors to support the new vault.  Thank you Teena, and thank you to Tom, too, for the many publications you have helped catalog, and for your support in creating today's archival vault!

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Compact rolling shelving

The new Railway Education Center.
The new Railway Education Center was dedicated in October, but over the last few months finishing touches have been applied to prepare it for use. Some of these "extras" are rather unique and unusual features long planned for this facility, and for some their inclusion may feel almost anticlimactic, but planning, designing, funding, and constructing has been a 25 year effort. 

Beginning in December 2016 special high density rolling shelving was installed in the archival vault. The project was completed last week, a major milestone for a project that was first conceived in 1992. 

The archival vault is a special windowless room with precise temperature and humidity control coupled with a clean-agent fire suppression system.  These features were among the key recommendations contained in the needs assessment funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and performed by noted preservation librarian Randy Silverman.  For some, these features may seem rather esoteric, but for archivists and curators it is vital for the preservation of documents and artifacts. Yet archival space is valuable so achieving maximum efficiency is in everyone's interest.  

An installer from WorkPointe levels the
rails that will soon support the compact
rolling shelving carriages.
Compact rolling shelving allows a single aisle to service a roomful of shelves, which nearly doubles a room's capacity.  Each section of shelving is mounted on rolling carriages that can be positioned to provide an access aisle.  Rails were set into the vault floor and each section carriage was independently installed.  A hand wheel on the end of each carriage and shelf assembly is used to transmit propulsion to the carriage wheels.

Installation of new upper
The shelving itself is rather conventional, but features a powder-coated finish that is scratch-resistant and low-VOC (volatile organic compounds).  The system was designed and built by SpaceSaver, and installation was funded in part by 4Culture who approved two Heritage Equipment grants in support of the project. The system was installed by WorkPointe who also arranged for a local medical center to donate the lower sections of these almost new shelves. The upper sections - to bring the total useful height to 10 feet - were purchased new.

Installing linoleum flooring.
The room itself was carefully designed to exclude any water pipes from adjacent walls or ceilings. Under the gypsum board walls a monolithic vapor barrier was applied and sealed around the frames of all room penetrations. Interior surfaces were coated with low-VOC paint, and linoleum flooring was selected for its chemical stability.  

Completion of the archival vault and the installation of the first seven shelving carriages represents a remarkable milestone in development of the Northwest Railway Museum.  Almost 3,000 linear feet of shelving now stand ready to accept small objects, photographs, maps, drawings, books and more.  This milestone also represents the beginning of the real work: completing the sorting, cataloging, and finding aids for a collection 60 years in the making.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Season's Greetings

Jennifer, Richard, James , Peggy, Traci, Cristy,  Lara & Jessie
The Trustees and Staff of the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, Washington are pleased to extend Season's Greetings to all our Volunteers, Patrons, Supporters, and Guests.  In 2016 generous support of made it possible to serve a combined paid and unpaid attendance of more than 130,000 people, improve the level of service by completing the new Railway Education Center, make significant progress on rehabilitation of locomotive 924, and expand the interpretive railway program to include a visit to the Train Shed exhibit building.  

Thank you for your support!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Scenes from Santa Train

Santa Train has been a Northwest tradition since 1969.  This year more than 11,000 guests will ride a vintage train, enjoy a hot cocoa and Krustez cookies baked in an authentic army kitchen car range, and visit with Santa.  Younger visitors may enjoy a gift from Santa, or perhaps some coal . . . And for some families who have enjoyed Santa Train for 20, 30 or even more years, every year brings something new and memorable, yet the experience is infinitely repeatable.  Here are a few unique "wintery" images to enjoy from this year's Santa Train!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Got a little baggage?

The Great Northern Railway is one of the Northwest's greatest railways and the Northwest Railway Museum is delighted to have baggage car 485 in its collection. The 485 was built in 1921 by Pullman as heavy weight sleeper Epicurus, which was owned and operated by that company as part of their famous sleeping car service. Following retirement in 1948, Great Northern purchased this and several additional cars to convert to rider mail storage cars, which appeared as baggage cars for many passengers on trains of that day.  Later, the car was assigned to the maintenance of way department and carried car number 968060, and as its final assignment was used as part of the Burlington Northern Railroad's Operation Lifesaver public crossing safety outreach program.  The car was donated to the Northwest Railway Museum in 1986. 

Recently, 485 received some limited rehabilitation. Deteriorated external panels at each corner were renewed and some minor body defects were repaired. The car body was smoothed and primed.  There were minor mechanical repairs performed.  Then the spectacular orange and green "Empire Builder" paint scheme was applied.  Time constrains imposed by this year's Santa Train schedule did not allow lettering to be applied at this time, and the three inch gray stripe along the bottom is temporarily missing too.  But given its prior oxide brown exterior, the recent work represents a positive step forward in responsible collection care.  The total investment is more than $7,500 and benefited from the contribution of more that 400 volunteer hours, including the invaluable assistance of trustees from a local prison.  Kudos to the Museum's staff shipwright Gary James who did all the layout, which was a vital yet particularly tedious part of the job.  And special thanks to the fine folks at the Minnesota Transportation Museum in Minneapolis who shared the paint color codes.