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.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Depot Bookstore makes history

Saturday January 23, 2015 was an historic day for the Northwest Railway Museum and the Depot Bookstore. A state-of-the-art Point of Sale (POS) system was launched for retail sales! The TAM Retail system is a powerful means of completing sales, tracking merchandise, and even ordering merchandise.

The Museum’s Deputy Director spent the last month, beginning during Santa Train, creating 700 SKUs for all the merchandise the Bookstore carries. A complete count of the inventory was required and once that was finished, the system was launched. While there is a learning curve for any new system, the TAM system is relatively easy to master. A fact well known ahead of time since the TAM system has been in place ~ for ticket sales ~ since May 2014.

The Museum is especially excited about the ability to track inventory and make informed orders, which should decrease the amount of inventory in over-stock at any one time. The bookstore clerks are most excited by the touch screen cash register and the ease of sales.

A big thank you to the POS team of Jessie, Lara, James, and Cristy who spent a couple of days together completing the inventory count, launching the sales system, labeling all products without barcodes, and ushering in the new era! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Snoqualmie Depot Bookstore CLOSED this Friday 1/23/2015

The Bookstore in the Snoqualmie Depot will be closed to the public this Friday 1/23/15.
The reason? The Northwest Railway Museum is moving our Point of Sale system. The new system has been in service ~ for ticket sales ~ since May 2014. Now we will use the system to track and sell inventory in our bookstore. This is exciting news for all involved, as it means a smoother customer service experience for our visitors and a far more powerful retail inventory system for staff.
We appreciate your patience as we move to the new system! The other parts of the Depot will be open for visitors: freight room exhibits and public restrooms.
Thank you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

924 begins to progress towards steam!

(L to R) Nathan I., Mark S., Zeb D., Karl., Stathi P., Mike, Al, and CJ V. (center) are just a select few of the many people working on the loco- motive 924 project, some from as far away as California and Idaho.  All except Stathi are volunteers!
Hammers are hammering, saws are sawing, torches are torching, welders are welding, and progress is beginning to show.  Projected as a two year effort, the scope of work for the rehabilitation and restoration of Northern Pacific Railway locomotive 924 is extensive so success is inextricably linked with methodical and consistent efforts.  In plain English?  No rest for the weary!  For the past several weeks, efforts have focused on documentation, disassembly, and the beginnings of boiler repairs.  Now, more than 20 people are involved so progress has picked up! 

The locomotive 924 is being rehabilitated and restored following the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.  These are the same standards used for the chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, Snoqualmie Depot, White River Lumber caboose 001, and Spokane, Portland and Seattle coach 218.  An important component of demonstrating compliance with the standards - and also a museum best management practice - includes thorough documentation of the object before, during and after.  So photographs, motion pictures, material samples, sketches, scale drawings, descriptive narratives, and more are used.

The 924 tender is intact but is in poor
shape.  The tank fabrication will be
replaced in-kind, but the frame and
trucks will be used largely "as is."
Thanks to several highly talented volunteers (Adam P., Dave H., Zeb D., and many others), the 924 tender has been documented.  A thorough evaluation has concluded the tank is in extremely poor condition.  Given the plan to operate the 924, the tender must be able to hold water.  Literally.  A steel tank that is more than 100 years old and riddled with pinholes throughout the lower half presents some challenges that are difficult to overcome.  So the tank will be completely replaced using new steel, but the existing frame, trucks, stairs, the post electric dynamo headlight, and pretty much every rivet (count 'em boys!) will faithfully replaced in the new fabrication.

The locomotive 924 cab has been
completely removed to allow boiler
work to be undertaken.
The 924 locomotive cab presents a dilemma similar to the tender tank.  While the cab remained intact, it was far from complete or suitable for an operating locomotive.  Extensive documentation has been completed by Mike, George, Russ S. and many others, and now the team is able to slowly deconstruct the cab.  Individual parts have been numbered and inventoried, and everything is being saved.  Removing the cab allows boiler work to be undertaken, and for the cab to be restored to its period of significance when it served the Northern Pacific Railway. 

The interior of the smoke box takes on
a surreal look with a work light shining
through the tube sheet.
Meanwhile, Mark and others are finishing up the scaling and cleaning process inside the boiler.  As reported in December, all the tubes have been removed and the interior appears to be in great shape.  However there will be some repairs required, including some firebox sheet replacement.  That work has begun and will be the subject of a future 924 blog report.

The 924 work is now well underway, but your support is critical to its success.  Costs to rehabilitate and restore two steam locomotives are projected at more than $600,000.  Your contribution in any amount will help allow work to continue, and is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.  Please visit the Museum's donate now page and select "steam program."  All contributions received with this restriction will be used to purchase materials and services in support of locomotive 924 and (following completion of 924) locomotive 14.