Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tamping for a better ride

Many different disciplines are required to prepare for the Museum's operating season.  After a winter shutdown, there is a certain amount of work re-activating the locomotives and coaches, but the bigger effort is performing annual maintenance.  Maintaining track, bridges, and signals require significant resources to inspect, repair and maintain.  Statistically, most railroads each year will invest about 60% of their resources into those three areas.

For the Museum's track and bridges, the last 12 months have been busy.  Substantial reconstruction of bridge 35's east pier, installation of more than 750 ties (including 500 feet of reconstructed track at Snoqualmie Falls) and surfacing of more than a mile of track are among the year's highlights.

During the last few weeks, crews have been changing ties and surfacing track in North Bend.  Surfacing is a slow process that uses a ballast tamper, jacks, and a good set of eyes!  The tamper is a Jackson that was delivered to the Northern Pacific Railway in the 1950s.  Before track tampers were introduced, men with tamping bars performed this work.

Check out the dip in the track in the first photo below, and how Mark S. and Brandon P. made it disappear in the second.  Come up to Snoqualmie and ride the train this coming Saturday, April 4 and check it out for yourself!  First train departs Snoqualmie at 11:30 AM.



 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A new roof every 100 years

New floor for the 276 installed in 1998
Coach 276 is unremarkable yet at the same time it is remarkable.  Built in 1915 by the Barney and Smith Car Company, it has carried hundreds of thousands of people, primarily between Spokane and Vancouver/Portland, but also to Seaside and Bend, Oregon. Among the first all-steel coaches,Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway coach 276 remained in passenger train service until the beginning of Amtrak in 1971. Soon after, it was acquired by the Northwest Railway Museum and has been carrying passengers between Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend ever since.

Years of use has required past collections efforts including new upholstery and flooring.  Yet it was difficult to address roof rehabilitation before completion of the Conservation and Restoration Center. Now the Museum is able to apply roof panels "like it was a new car."

http://skilfab.com/SkilFab is a sheet metal company located in Snoqualmie and they have extensive tooling for the cutting, forming and shaping of sheet metal.  The 14 gauge panels from the 276 were an easy match for their modern equipment, though the shaping process was somewhat tedious. 

SkilFab workers form the
roof panel.  Watch the
attached video clip to
see how it works!
The original roof panels were (probably) made on a large press using a die, which was an uneconomical option for a single coach roof.  At SkilFab, a sheet metal brake fitted with a round die was used to "bump" the heavy sheets into the correct profile.  The profile was cut into a  piece of sheet metal that was used to check the profile throughout the manufacturing process.  Workers stopped after every few "bumps" to check and made corrections as needed.  Upon delivery to the Museum, the back sides of the panels were coated with zinc primer and the panels were test fitted. Once there was a good fit, each panel was fastened into position with cold rivets.
video

The first new roof panel is completed!
The first panel is test-fitted to allow
corrections.
The new panels are very similar to the originals but there are some important differences.  First of all, the original roof used two separate pieces to clad between the bottom of the lower clerestory and the outer edge of the upper clerestory.  The new roof panels are a single piece and are modified from the original profile so that there is no flat area on the top of the lower roof for water to pool. They will also be attached to the car using a different system. The original roof panels used a standing seam.  The new panels will be plug welded and the seams will overlap.  This will be easier to install and there will no longer be a standing seam to leak.

Gary James is leading the project. 
Volunteer Arnie L. is playing a big
role too, as are other Museum
volunteers.
The Museum's Gary James has been leading the effort inside the Conservation and Restoration Center.  Gary is a shipwright and his skill set is perfect for the project. He has been performing much of the day-to-day work, and is providing direction for volunteers who have offered to participate. 

Before permanent installation began, the steel carlines were treated with rust converter, primed with zinc, and the ceiling cavity was insulated.  A new "Z" channel was installed on the top edge of the car side and is used to capture the bottom lip on the roof panel.  The installation is expected to take two weeks and will help prepare coach 276 for its second Century of service!


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Tools that made tools

Consider this: every tool or machine was made by a tool or machine.  So there are factories full of tools and machines that do nothing but make tools or machines.  For the connoisseur of fine machines, the tool-making tool is highly sought because it is usually well maintained and precise.

Imagine the excitement in the Northwest Railway Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center when word arrived of an opportunity to tour the shop in Yakima where the Century lathe was built.  Now imagine the excitement when they learned it was possible to buy some of the machines to equip the Museum's collection care center. 

Store front for McIlvanie
Machine Works in
Yakima, WA.
Opened in 1922, the McIlvanie Machine Works made the famed Century Lathe at their facility in Yakima.  (The shop has a heritage rail connection too: it fronts the Selah branch of the Yakima Valley Transportation Company interurban line, a former Union Pacific property now owned by the City of Yakima and operated by the Yakima Valley Trolley.)  The last owner passed on and family heirs chose other career paths.  And certainly the machinery is out of date: there is not a computer anywhere to be seen.  These machines are old-school, relying entirely on the skill of the machinist, and exactly what a railway museum needs to maintain Century-old machinery!  So please enjoy a few photos of what has become a rare resource: a machine shop without CNC (Computer Numerically Controlled) capability.



A famed Century lathe, though this one probably never left
the factory. It is on the production line and was used to
produce parts for new Century lathes.
 
American Pacemaker lathe.

A McIlvanie drill press, probably the
prototype.  Note how it operates from a
driveline.  You changed speeds by
selecting a larger or smaller pulley
diameter.
 
The pattern for the McIlvanie drill press.  This aluminum
pattern was pressed into casting sand.  Then the molten steel
was poured into the void that the pattern left behind. 


Overhead drivelines were located throughout the front shop.

The capstan on a turret lathe.  Different holes can be machined
into a piece mounted in the lathe chuck.  The turret or capstan
can be turned to each tool bit so it can be used over and over
again without having to remove and reinstall the bit.

The speed selectors on a Century lathe.

Thread cutting tool.

Radial arm drill press, and this one will
soon be inside the Museum's Conservation
and Restoration Center!
 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Learning from others

Main entrance to America's Car
Museum in Tacoma.
On Saturday, February 28, 2015, the Northwest Railway Museum's Board and Staff took a trip to Tacoma, the City of Destiny.  There, they visited America's Car Museum and the Fort Nisqually Hudson's Bay Company fort.

The Board of Trustees and Museum Staff are responsible for the governance and management of the Northwest Railway Museum.  Measuring efficacy requires benchmarks, but also a commitment to at least considering new ideas.  Periodically, there are organized efforts for Trustees and Staff to experience programs, and learn about policies and practices at other institutions.  This allows the Train Museum's leaders to maintain a working knowledge of best practices, and to see the best new ideas at other institutions.  There is certainly a "fun factor" in visiting and exploring other museums, but it is a lot of work, too.

Scot Keller leads a tour.
Scot Keller is Chief Curator of the Lemay Museum, best known as America's Car Museum.  He gave a talk and tour of this national collection where he focused on his work with consultants in developing exhibits. The trustees and staff learned about the car museum's development efforts, exhibit philosophy, and the process of building this new museum that is located right next to the Tacoma Dome.  The museum - the foundation of which is the Lemay collection - is truly a underrated gem and was well-worth the visit for the Trustees and Staff.  It was an educational experience for the Train Museum leaders, and one most will repeat with their families.
Collections care is performed on the first floor with a fully equipped auto shop.
Stanley Steamer - a steam-powered automobile!
An early Ford F series truck.
Auto colors of the fifties were often seen inside passenger trains too
Main entry for Fort Nisqually.
Next, the Train Museum leaders traveled to Point Defiance, a unit of Tacoma's Metro Parks to visit a living history exhibit.  The Fort Nisqually Hudson's Bay Company fort includes both original and replica structures, though the original site is in Dupont.  It represents this fur trade center as it operated between 1832 and 1869, an important chapter in Washington's history.  It is also emblematic of the era just prior to what the Northwest Railway Museum interprets, when the railroad arrived in Washington territory.  Re-enactors operate a small blacksmith shop, perform as an HBC employee in the trading post, and tend the Chief Trader's home.  This too is an valuable experience for the Train Museum leaders, and worthy of a family visit.

Checkers anyone?
One of the original structures moved to Point Defiance Park in 1935.
The Fort Nisqually exhibit includes a blacksmith demonstration.
 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sound Cities Association visit

Posing with locomotive 1 are (L to R) Don Gerend (Sammamish
Councilmember, SCA Treasurer), Matt Larson (Snoqualmie Mayor
& SCA President), Amy Walen (Kirkland Mayor, SCA Board Member),
Dennis Higgins (Kent Councilmember, SCA Board Member), Bernie
Talmas (Woodinville Mayor & SCA Public Issues Committee (PIC)
Chair), Bill Allison (Maple Valley Mayor, SCA Board Member),
Nancy Backus (Auburn Mayor & SCA Vice President), Chris Eggen
(Shoreline Deputy Mayor, SCA Board Member), Deanna Dawson
(SCA Executive Director).
 
Excitement is building on the Railway History Center campus.  The announcement of the new Railway Education Center, innovative partnerships between the Museum and regional communities, and the beginnings of a sustainable steam locomotive program are just a few of the topics generating interest.

A recent inquiry came from the Sound Cities Association ("SCA").  Snoqualmie's Mayor Matt Larson is this year's SCA President so it was natural that he would host a meeting.  Mayor Larson requested a lunchtime tour so elected officials from other communities could learn more about what Snoqualmie has to offer.  So a handful of regional leaders rode in the Spokane, Portland and Seattle coach 218 from city hall to the Train Shed.  There, they were able to visit icons including chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace and Weyerhaeuser Timber locomotive 1, and learn about the partnership between the Museum and Snoqualmie that allowed the campus to develop.  The guests were also able to make time to visit the Conservation and Restoration Center where they viewed rehabilitation progress on steam locomotive 924, and rehabilitation work underway on Spokane, Portland and Seattle coach 276.

Welcome to Snoqualmie, Mayors and Councilmembers!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Railway Education Center

This Miller|Hull illustration superimposes the new Railway Education Center
design rendering adjacent to the existing Train Shed and main track at the
Railway History Center.  (Click on the illustration to view a larger version.)
The Northwest Railway Museum is preparing for construction of the third building on the Railway History Center campus in Snoqualmie.  The Railway Education Center ("REC") will incorporate 4,940 square feet and include a library with archival vault, classroom, and public restrooms.  It will be located directly adjacent to the Train Shed exhibit building to provide for year 'round public visitation.
 
The REC is more than a library, classroom, and restrooms.  It will incorporate office and work space for collections staff.  It will include a reading room for researchers.  A small gift shop will provide an outlet for published rail-themed books.  There will be a ticket office where visitors will be able to purchase train tickets and admission tickets for the Train Shed tours.

The distinctly Northwest design was developed by the award-winning Miller|Hull Partnership. A sampling of sustainable design features include the use of primarily locally-sourced materials, high R values for insulation, LED lighting, windows to take advantage of natural light to the greatest extent possible, and a heat pump to provide heating and cooling.  Construction is planned for spring 2015 and will take up to 12 months.
 
The Railway History Center is located approximate one rail mile east of the Snoqualmie Depot.  The campus design was developed in 2007 by a design consortium including the Miller|Hull Partnership, Outdoor Studio, KPFF Consulting Engineers.  Funding sources include individual contributions, private foundations, the Washington State Historical Society Heritage Capital Projects Fund, and 4Culture. Your contribution can make a huge impact!  Please consider supporting construction of the Railway Education Center with a contribution using the Museum's online donation page here.


Friday, January 30, 2015

Curing boiler ache

The Museum's curator cuts out around
the stay bolts that secure the inside
sheet to the outside sheet.  During
operation, water between the sheets
is heated by combustion in the firebox.
Rehabilitation and restoration of a steam locomotive that is more than 115 years old can present many challenges, sometimes even when components appear to be in great shape.  Take the boiler for instance.  It's a pressure vessel designed to operate at up to 180 pounds per square inch. It represents a discipline that saw continuous change throughout the first half of the 20th Century as new techniques were developed, and older practices were sometimes found deficient.  Fast forward to the 21st Century and the best practices and regulations of the past have been combined with the knowledge and scholarship of the present to form the "new" regulations that govern the eventual certification of locomotive 924. 
The lower portion of the side sheet on
the right side of the firebox has been
removed allowing the back side of the
wrapper sheet to be inspected.  Several
small cracks were found radiating from
stay bolt holes.

With today's regulations - and the genuine desire to operate in a safe and efficient manner - there are some parts of the locomotive boiler that are being replaced.  Inside the firebox, the side sheets were repaired with a mixture of gas and early electric welding techniques, perhaps as many as 90 years ago.  Unfortunately, this presents challenges for the certification and sustainable operation of the locomotive.  Even if these repairs could be dissected and the boiler approved for operation, these repairs of unverifiable workmanship could present a problem during the next 1,492 days of operation, and require remedial repairs in the middle of an operating season.

The new side sheet sections are welded
into the boiler.  The holes will soon be
tapped for new stay bolts.
So in December 2014 the lower portion of the side sheets on both sides of the locomotive - together incorporating at least two prior repairs - were cut out.  This work required each individual stay bolt to be cut out so the sections of side sheet could be removed.  Inside, the outer sheet or wrapper was found to be in good condition, though several small cracks were found radiating from the stay bolt holes. Thanks to the added efforts of more than a dozen volunteers, the surfaces were cleaned up in preparation for new sheets.

Brand new sheets were purchase, fitted, drilled, and installed.  A modern electric welding machine was used to install the plate and the holes are being tapped for new stay bolts.  While working inside the firebox, some of the rear sheet seams were welded to improve performance and reliability when the locomotive is converted from coal to oil.

Replacing the lower portions of the side sheets inside the boiler is just one of many tasks required in the process of rehabilitating and restoring former Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924.  This intensive process will take approximately two years of effort.  Already, dozens of volunteers have contributed more than 750 hours, and the Museum's curator is committing 85% or more of his work day to the project.  It is just the beginning, but a measurable effort for a project that began less than four months ago.