Thursday, December 31, 2015

Highlights from 2015

2015 was a year of significant accomplishment at the Northwest Railway Museum. Read on to learn about some of the highlights!

This 2015 continued a major multiyear effort to improve the passenger car fleet. In the first part of the year Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway coach 276 received an all-new standing seam lower clerestory roof complete with high performance paint job. At the same time, a great deal interior work, refurbished vestibule traps and doors, and assorted running gear work was completed.
Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway coach 213 – an all wood car body with steel center sill - received a rebuilt A end wood vestibule components as well as a rebuilt upper diaphragm support, floor and roof repairs, interior paint, and interior header work.
Oregon, Washington, Railroad and Navigation Company (Union Pacific) observation car 1590 saw significant replacement of the steel underframe cross bracing replaced, a new leaf spring, side bearing work, floor repairs, roof repairs, and brake system work.
Combine SP and S 272 was not left out and received several new steel roof panels, several new headers, rehabilitated clerestory windows, and several new coach section windows.
Chapel car Messenger of Peace received new replica lighting and additional interior finishing work. It was also moved to its long term exhibition location inside the Train Shed.
New exhibits have been introduced too.  “The Railroad changed everything” debuted in the Train Shed exhibit building in fall 2015.  Earlier in 2015, “Railroads built the Pacific Northwest” was introduced.  These are just the first two of many new exhibits planned for the Train Shed.
2015 was an important year for the City of Snoqualmie too.  A major reconstruction of downtown Snoqualmie valued at more than $3 million was completed.  It features a new boardwalk just across the tracks from the Snoqualmie Depot, new landscaping, and a 42 inch fence to deter trespassing on the tracks.
A great number of improvements to the Conservation and Restoration Center (shop) facility occurred in 2015 with the acquisition of several large machines including a 48" vertical turret lathe, Cincinnati 5 milling machine, Clemco 1000 48" belt sander/surfacer, 18" American lathe, Carelton radial drill, Grizzly edge sander, Gould and Eberhart 24" shaper, Dewalt planer/surface, wheel press, as well as numerous hand tools and supplies.
Steam locomotives have been the really big story in 2015 with significant changes, and progress towards a sustainable steam program.  Curator Pappas' SCPC 2 received a great deal of work in the first half of the year to improve performance and economy. Piston rods were turned and ground, new packing installed, guides remachined and lined, rear cylinder heads lapped in, ring grooves trued, and new rings installed.  This allowed for the Northwest Railway Museum’s first full steam season in more than 25 years, which was a tremendous success with ridership increases, crew training, and enhanced public education.
Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 – the Museum’s Rogers-built 1898 0-6-0 - saw a great deal of progress towards its operational rehabilitation and restoration to its circa 1906 appearance. In 2015, a new riveted slope back cistern was built for the tender, in house asbestos abatement completed, form 4 boiler engineering finished, a new riveted steam done constructed and installed, new steam dome lid machined, firebox side sheets fabricated and welded in, and a new cap stack fabricated to match historic photographs circa 1906.
The Museum’s diesel fleet also saw improvements with the conversion of RS4-TC 4012 from a direct drive cooling fan to a battery of temperature-controlled electric cooling fans using off-the-shelf components for improved reliability. This conversion keeps the locomotive’s diesel engine operating temperature within two or three degrees of optimal, which improves efficiency and reduces wear.  The new cooling design mimics what modern locomotives use and has proven very reliable.  Very importantly, locomotive 4012 received new batteries in 2015.  New "Rolls" locomotive batteries were installed at the beginning of the season and have really helped with cool weather starts.
The Snoqualmie Depot received some important work too.  The two waiting room floors were refinished and the Depot Bookstore was relocated into the ladies’ waiting room.  It had been located in the gentlemen’s waiting room since the early 1980s.  This change is allowing improved programming.  For instance, Santa Train 2015 used the newly available gentlemen's waiting room as Santa's parlor.
All in all it has been a great year for the Northwest Railway Museum.  Major events have been some of the best attended ever, ridership is up, and 2016 looks to be even better with ground breaking coming soon for the new Railway Education Center, changes to the operating schedule so that passengers get to visit the collection within the Train Shed exhibit building, and the continued rehabilitation and restoration of the collections.
 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Let there be light

The rehabilitation and restoration of chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace was substantially complete in 2013, but a number of restorative details have been ongoing, long-term projects.  Often it is the search for additional evidence supporting the alteration that takes the greatest effort, and it can be very time-consuming. Interior lighting was one of those projects. 

It is known that the chapel car was built with pendant light fixtures fueled with kerosene; those fixtures appear in a widely-circulated builder's photo taken in May 1898.  However, this lighting was never very bright and was reportedly replaced sometime in the early 20th Century.  When work began on the chapel car, Museum staff discovered the chimneys for the kerosene lighting covered with sheet metal confirming that a change had occurred while the car was in the service of the Baptist Church.  So what lighting did the chapel car get, and when? 

The chapel car is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Snoqualmie and King County Landmark Register.  Those important listings - and funding they have helped leverage - do not allow for speculative efforts, and require use of the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.  These standards encourage - even mandate - careful, methodical research and record keeping. So during the course of the chapel car project, more than 2,000 pages of research were collected or created as a record of work performed.

Letter stating nature of lighting installed in MoPWhile reviewing research into the Messenger of Peace and its service to the American Baptist Publication Society, references to "gasoline" lighting and the purchase of gasoline were found throughout chapel car expense reports.  A letter discovered by chapel car researchers and authors Wilma and Norman Taylor in the collection of the American Baptist Historical Society detailed what had been installed in the Messenger of Peace.  (Click on the image to see a full size version of the letter.)  The Taylor's research also discovered that Messenger of Peace spent two weeks in a Missouri railroad shop in June 1912. Evidently, the chapel car received a new "Coleman Lighting System," manufactured by the Hydro Carbon Company of Wichita, Kansas, most likely in June 1912.  (In 1913 the manufacturer reincorporated as the Coleman Lamp Company.)

Coleman maintains an archive of old prints and catalogs.  Through their good graces, the Museum obtained catalog cuts of similar lighting.  Then, by chance, a light fixture from the same model line appeared on Ebay and was purchased.  Using the model 27 lamp, the Museum's curators were able to match the mounting hardware to the ceiling heat shields that remained in the car until rehabilitation began in 2011.  In addition, iron pipes discovered in the car's walls were consistent with those used for institutional installation of gasoline lighting so that a centralized fuel supply could be used for all the lamps.  So with substantial evidence, a plan to replicate the lighting from the period of significance (1917, when the chapel car traveled through Snoqualmie) was developed. 

The chapel car is a predominantly wood structure.  So it was no surprise to have discovered oversize metal heat shields on the interior ceilings.  These metal pans were fabricated from light gauge sheet metal, were badly corroded, and were also designed to cover the old kerosene lighting chimney ports.  New metal heat shields were fabricated by SkilFab in Snoqualmie using the one completely intact original as a pattern.  Meanwhile, instead of iron fuel pipes, the car was wired with car and locomotive wire (fine wire strands inside extra thick insulation) and a new breaker box.  Modern electrical boxes capable of supporting light fixtures were installed in place of the gasoline light bases.  

The shades and decorative bonnet are unlike any lamp components manufactured today.  So the plan included making new parts using a process called metal spinning, and performed in Auburn at Pacific Wire.  Next, the decorative ridge on the bonnet (Coleman actually called it a crown!) was copied and cutout using a laser.  CEL Manufacturing in Woodinville performed that work by producing a series of 60 inch sections that could be cut and spot welded to the bonnet. The entire bonnet was sent to Art Brass Plating in Seattle to be nickel plated. Back in the Conservation and Restoration Center, the shade portion of the fixture was enameled white on the inside and green on the outside.  A metal conical heat dispersion feature often mounted right above the chimney was made and installed too, as evidence supports its use in applications where the fixture was mounted close to the ceiling.  For the glass globe, Rejuvenation Lighting in Portland supplied hand blown glass globes.  The electrical components were supplied by Antique Lamp Supply.  Then, and finally, 1,600 lumen LED bulbs were installed with a dimmer to allow the light intensity to be varied just as it was when it was  provided by a gasoline burner.


The chapel car lighting project was more complex that originally envisioned, but has met the objective of helping faithfully restore the car to its 1917 splendor.  The Museum is grateful for the support of King County 4Culture who funded most of the effort through the Landmarks Capital program.  Support for this project was also received from the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, the American Baptist Historical Society, National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Washington, and the Northwest Railway Museum general fund.  Volunteer Arnie L. wired the car, and Arnie and staff member (shipwright) Gary James performed the installation.  In all, a diverse collection of resources and skills were brought together to further the efforts in historic preservation of this unique cultural resource!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Seasons Greetings!

The Museum's key staff represent a very
diverse group of qualifications that sup-
port many mission-critical functions. 
From left to right, Gary James, ship-
wright; Richard Anderson, executive
director; Cristy Lake, registrar and
volunteer coordinator; Lara Ballinger,
bookstore buyer; Stathi Pappas, large
object curator; Peggy Barchi, market-
ing manager; Jessie Cunningham,
deputy director and educator; James
Sackey, visitor services; and Jennifer
Youngman, bookkeeper.
From all the Trustees and Staff at the Northwest Railway Museum to all the supporters, patrons, volunteers, donors, visitors, and all 'round fans, thank you for another great year.

There are many components in a successful Museum, and chief among those are willing and generous supporters.  So whether you donated goods, services, funds, volunteer hours (more than 14,000 in 2015!), or bought tickets to visit or ride, thank you for your role in making 2015 successful!

The senior staff recently got together to reflect on the last 12 months, and tour Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace.  As 2015 winds down, the Museum has secured necessary permits to build the new Railway Education Center, installed a new exhibit in the Train Shed, made significant progress in the rehabilitation of steam locomotive 924, successfully nominated 924 to the Landmark Register, operated more than 37 days of steam with the visiting SCPC 2, refinished the floors in the Snoqualmie Depot, performed additional rehabilitation on chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, and performed major work on coach 276

Wow, 2015 was a busy year!  Yet 2016 looks like it may be even busier with plans for construction of the new Railway History Center, near completion of locomotive 924, additional coach work, and more.  Your support always makes a difference and we invite you to consider - even encourage you - an end of year donation to the Northwest Railway Museum so that this important work may continue.

Seasons Greetings, and thank you for your support.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Locomotive 924 Landmarked

Snoqualmie Landmarks Commission,
key Landmarks staff, and Museum
Executive Director Richard Anderson
pose for a post-vote photo in the
Snoqualmie council chambers.
The Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 has been successfully nominated to the City of Snoqualmie and King County Landmarks Register.  The Snoqualmie Landmarks Commission met in Snoqualmie on November 19, 2015 and voted to designate the 1899-built locomotive.  Officially, the commission considered the nomination that was submitted by the Northwest Railway Museum earlier this fall.  Commissioners toured locomotive 924 now undergoing rehabilitation in the Conservation and Restoration Center, and asked a variety of informed questions.  Commissioners later convened in Snoqualmie’s Council Chambers to vote on the staff recommendation to place the object on the Snoqualmie and King County Landmark Registers.

The staff report made a number of interesting observations about locomotive 924:
Catalog cut from the Rogers Locomotive
Company catalog of 1900.
  • The NPR Locomotive 924 is significant under (King County Landmarks) Criterion A1 for its association with the growth and development of King County.  Locomotives were the engine of the industrial revolution and western expansion, and the Northern Pacific Railway (NPR) was instrumental in setting broad patterns of settlement and development in King County and across the northern portion of the country from Minnesota to Washington.  NPR 924 served this railway for twenty-five years.

  • NPR 924 is significant under Criterion A3 as an excellent and rare example of a classic late 19th century steam locomotive. It features many of the common elements of both larger and smaller locomotives, and in many respects was “state of the art” for the era. There are very few locomotives originally owned by mainline railroads that survived beyond WW II.

  • NPR 924 is also significant under Criterion A5 as an outstanding and rare example of a switching locomotive constructed by Rogers Locomotive Company in Paterson, New Jersey, the second largest builder of steam locomotives in America.  Rogers was an innovative manufacturer who developed many features that became common – or even standard – on nearly all steam locomotives.  Rogers produced more than 6,000 locomotives.  Only 20 known examples remain world-wide; 11 of those are in the United States.
 
924 at Millwood, WA, after retirement
from the Northern Pacific.
The Landmarks Register listing for locomotive 924 is important for the Northwest Railway Museum and its mission.  A listing on the Landmarks Register conveys certain legal protections for the object regardless of who owns it.  It provides additional public recognition of its historical importance, and its role in the interpretation of King County’s railroad history.  City and County landmarks are eligible to apply to certain grant programs, and for technical assistance.

The Landmark Register is an important initiative of King County, which is one of the largest counties in the United States.  A King County Historic Preservation Officer – Jennifer Meisner - is appointed by the King County Executive.  Under her direction is a full time staff in the King County Historic Preservation Program that provides technical advice, project impact reviews for public agencies, and Interlocal landmark programs for suburban cities including Snoqualmie and North Bend.  Other objects on the Landmarks Register at the Northwest Railway Museum include Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace, Northern Pacific Railway rotary snowplow 10, and the Northern Pacific Railway/Seattle Lake Shore and Eastern Snoqualmie Depot.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Weathering another storm

Main track at the Snoqualmie Depot
during peak rainfall. 
November in Western Washington is synonymous with severe winter storms.  High winds, heavy precipitation, and power outages occur nearly every November and this year was no exception.  Fortunately, no significant damage occurred, but it was a nail-bitter because this was the first major storm event since completion of the PSE power plant reconstruction, and combined with the 2005-era Army Corps of Engineers section 205 river widening project.

Snoqualmie River at Snoqualmie
approaching peak flow.  Sandy Cove
Park is completely flooded.
The first indications of a threat usually arrive in the form of a flood warning.  A stage three flood is fairly common in Snoqualmie with several occurrences per year, while the more severe stage four floods occur every few years.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ("NOAA") predicts peak water flow using computer models based on data from prior storms.  There is some margin for error, but the model updates as the storm progresses. 

South Fork of the Snoqualmie River
at peak flow.  Under normal flow,
there is approximately 20 feet of
headway under Bridge 35.
Flooding is one of the greatest threats to both the City of Snoqualmie and the Northwest Railway Museum.  Since 1948 there have been more than two dozen Presidential disaster declarations, and track and/or bridge damage has occurred in every event.  Tracking historical river peaks, there has generally been track damage at or above 43,000 cubic feet per minute as measured at Snoqualmie.  November 17, 2015's flood was projected at more than 48,000 cubic feet per second.  Actual peak flow was almost 49,000 cubic feet per second, yet there was no track or bridge damage.

The Museum is fortunate the flood reduction measures have worked in favor of preserving track and bridges, yet concerns remain about the ever-increasing frequency and severity of high rainfall events.  And, as with all high water events, all the affected bridges were inspected for damage and were found safe and suitable for service. Though no damage occurred, significant resources were utilized monitoring conditions and preparing for potential impacts.  Hopefully, snow levels will drop and the threat of further high rainfall events will diminish!                          (In the interest of full disclosure, the flood reduction measures have been controversial below Snoqualmie Falls and many think that flood impacts have now in creased in Fall City, Carnation, Duvall, and all points in between.)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Chapel car visit

Late last month the Northwest Railway Museum was pleased to welcome the Art Hodgins Family to the Train Shed exhibit building for a tour of Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace.  In 2007 the Hodgins Family graciously donated Messenger of Peace to the Museum where it has been extensively rehabilitated and is now on exhibit.  
 
The Chapel Car 5 was built in 1898 for the American Baptist Publication Society and served the Church for more than 50 years.  Later used as a roadside diner in Snohomish County, Art Hodgins Sr. saved the car from the path of a road widening project and preserved the car, first in his back yard, and later on his beachfront property near Grayland, Washington.  It was donated and moved to the Museum in 2007.
 
Rehabilitation is more than 95% complete and several additional features will soon be added to brighten the experience for everyone.  Stay tuned for details soon to be announced!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Snoqualmie Depot floors

Douglas fir.  Almost every stick of wood that was used to build the Snoqualmie Depot (the shingles are red cedar) was cut from Douglas fir, a species of softwood native to the Northwest, and vital to the forest industry.  And the Depot's contractor didn't have far to search far because in 1890 tall stands of Douglas fir adjoined the mainline of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway almost all the way to the foot of Western Avenue in downtown Seattle.  So clear Douglas fir lines the walls, ceilings and floors of the Snoqualmie Depot and is an important part of its character.

Fast forward to the 21st Century and continuing efforts to preserve the Snoqualmie Depot, the most iconic structure in historic downtown Snoqualmie.  The interior flooring was last refinished in the early 1990s.  Despite a very hard finish, some of the surface was beginning to wear through to bare wood.  So Hardwood Specialties was hired to sand, repair, and refinish the waiting rooms floors.


Refinishing the floors in what is now better known as the Depot Bookstore required moving the retail operation out of the room it has occupied since 1982.  The Depot Bookstore was moved in its entirety to the women's waiting room, right next door to the Gentlemen's waiting room it has occupied for the past 33 years.  Then, in late September and early October 2015, the floors were sanded, filled, resanded, sealed, and coated.

There are a variety of floor finishing systems to choose from, but many are ill-suited to a floor that sees almost 134,000 visitors per year. The "Swedish Finish" system was selected, which is a modern, long-lasting finish.  Three coats - two sealer coats and one top coat - were applied and allowed to cure.  The sealer coats are a type of epoxy similar to what is used in the railroad car preservation work.  For the finish system, a full cure takes approximately three weeks.  Now the Snoqualmie Depot waiting room floors are ready for another 25 years of service!