Friday, April 17, 2015

Now easier than ever to take a seat!

The benches look great in the building!     
People participate in the mission of the Northwest Railway Museum in many ways. Some ride the train or take a tour of the Train Shed Exhibit Building; others are members or donate toward a restoration project, while still others participate by giving their time to the Museum and its mission.  This spring, the Museum had the honor of one such person participating in the Museum’s mission by choosing the Museum as the recipient of his Eagle Scout Project.
Alex, a longtime member, made benches for the Train Shed Exhibit Building. The Museum’s mission is to develop and operate an outstanding railroad museum that provides the public a place to experience the excitement of a working railroad and to see and understand the significance of railroads in the development of Washington and adjacent areas.  As part of that mission, the Museum needs guest accommodations so that visitors may enjoy their experiences as they learn how railroads changed everything. Benches help provide one important feature of guest accommodation, they allow visitors to sit and reflect upon the place of railroads.

For his project, Alex planned, organized and then constructed the benches with the help of fellow scouts and his dad Jeff.  The Museum was able to secure beautiful fir timber for the project and Alex was able to create 8 lovely benches for the Train Shed Exhibit Building.

Many thanks to Alex for his work!  Why not take our tour of the Train Shed on Saturdays and come see the benches? The Tour Package is available every Saturday at 12:30pm and includes a short tour of the Depot, a ride to the Train Shed, a docent tour of the Shed, and a train ride to Snoqualmie Falls. Total program length is two hours. Tour reservations may be made by contacting the bookstore during business hours at 425.888.3030 ext. 7202. Tickets are also available on Saturdays through the ticket window.

The scouts preparing to unload benches at the Train Shed.

Benches have been spread out along the Tour Package route.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

A tender behind?

Historically, steam locomotives consumed large quantities of water and fuel.  The nature of the technology - the state-of-the-art in its day - was essentially a giant tea kettle that boiled water to make steam, allowed the steam to build up pressure, used the pressurized steam to perform work, and exhausting the remaining water vapor to the atmosphere.

Light locomotives such as the SCPC 2 or those that operated with limited range may have used a tank to carry extra water.  Thomas the Tank Engine is another example.  Larger locomotives and those requiring greater range used a tender behind the locomotive.  Which brings us to the point of the story: locomotive 924 is under rehabilitation at the Northwest Railway Museum and is receiving a new tender tank.

The lower half of the original tender
tank is worn thin and will no longer
hold water.
A tender tank carries water.  The inside of any tank is almost always wet and will eventually rust from the inside out.  924's tank was constructed in 1899 and today portions of the sides resemble decorative lace, but are made of iron oxide and steel.  Repairing this type of deterioration is time consuming, and often results in additional water leaks just a few years later.  It is difficult to keep ahead of this type of problem and with the price of water in the Northwest, it can get expensive.

New steel parts for a new tender tank
arrived on a trailer from Portland.
924 is expected to operate reliably and a tender tank that does not hold water without measurable loss will never meet that expectation.  So a new tank - an exact copy - is being fabricated inside the Conservation and Restoration Center. The project team thoroughly documented the tender and created a drawing set.  Then, early in February, all the components arrived from a supplier who cut each piece to size and formed shapes such as the radius on the front of the tank.

Rivets are heated and driven with a
pneumatic rivet gun.  The job is
particularly demanding for the person
holding the buck (at left), which backs
up the rivet gun blows.
The heavy work and time-consuming portion of the new tender fabrication is the assembly.  Each piece was moved into position and then lightly tack-welded using an electric welder.  Holes were drilled where rivets were located on the original tender.  Then staff and volunteers applied (or continue to apply) more than 2,000 rivets.

The original tank was removed with a
large excavator and was placed in
long-term storage in the Museum's
Meanwhile, castings, fixtures, and any other part that could be reused from the original tank were carefully removed.  The old tank was unfastened from the deck and frame.  A large excavator was used to lift the tank off the deck and frame and set it aside for long-term storage.

The tank fabrication is nearing
completion, but more rivets are
The tank will remain on the shop floor and many more weeks.  The tender frame requires rehabilitation too, and the tank requires are few more rivets, some hardware, and some paint.  It work continues to progress at the current pace, a fully rehabilitated tender - with new tank - will emerge from the Conservation and Restoration Center in late spring or early summer.  Work will continue on 924 for at least the next 18 months, especially because of the awesome volunteers and staff.  And there is an opportunity for you to help support the project by participating in the Seattle Foundation's Give BIG event on May 5!  Stay tuned for more information.

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." 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.

The first new roof panel is completed!
The first panel is test-fitted to allow
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
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
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!