Thursday, September 17, 2015

New exhibit installed in Train Shed

The Northwest Railway Museum recently completed the much anticipated Phase 1 exhibit in the Train Shed Exhibit Building. The railroad changed everything is the guiding interpretive theme for the building and the Tour Package program. The exhibit is stationed in the foyer of the building and consists of four double-sided panels and four exhibit cases showcasing small objects.

The exhibit was curated by Deputy Director Jessie Cunningham. In her role as Deputy Director, Cunningham is responsible for all programming including exhibits and education programs such as School Train. The Phase 1 exhibit has been a long time in the making and Cunningham is please to have it installed. After completing the content and lay-out, the panels went thru several reviews by lead docents. It was important to Cunningham that the exhibit work with the docents and the Tour Package, rather than work against them. At this time, the only public access to the Train Shed is during the Tour Package which has a tight time frame. Cunningham limited the amount of text, allowing the images to be the focus of the panels as well as help illustrate and interpret the history taught to the public during the Tour Package.

The Tour Package is available in Snoqualmie on Saturdays at 12:30pm and includes a short depot tour, train ride to the Train Shed, tour of the train shed, and a train ride to the top of Snoqualmie Falls and back. Reservations can be made by calling the Bookstore between 10am and 5pm daily.

The Museum received a grant from 4Culture to complete the exhibit. 4Culture is a huge supporter of projects at the Northwest Railway Museum as well as countless other organizations in King County. For more info on 4Culture, visit their website at

The Phase 1 exhibit will also have a companion website that will be available shortly at
Small artifacts include a selection of tools of the Trainman's trade as well as items passenger might encounter during a train ride.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Snoqualmie Depot celebrates 125 years!

Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2015 included a special celebration, one that occurs just once in an historic structure's life cycle. Sunday, August 16, 2015 commemorated the 125th birthday of the Snoqualmie Depot.  

It was a beautiful day in historic downtown Snoqualmie.  The temperature was in the low 70s and there was not a cloud in the sky.  More than 125 people gathered before the Snoqualmie Depot's distinctive octagonal turret to hear a dedication by Museum Board President Dennis Snook.  Surrounded by historic reenactors dressed in their late 19th Century finery, President Snook spoke of the Depot's construction in 1890, how it was completed in 90 days, and cost just $4,200. Constructed by the firm of Anderson and Scott, the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway commissioned this unusually elaborate depot designed in the late Queen Anne style.    

City of Snoqualmie Councilmember Bob Jeans presented a proclamation from Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson acknowledging the Depot's birthday, its importance to the community's past, present, and future, and declaring Sunday, August 16, 2015 as Snoqualmie Depot Day. The success of the Depot as the centerpiece of historic downtown Snoqualmie has been a cornerstone of the redevelopment of the district and the City of Snoqualmie has been an important partner with the Museum.

The next presentation was by Mike Seal, one of the founding partners of Sigillo Cellars in Snoqualmie.  They dedicated a special limited bottling of wine in commemoration of the Snoqualmie Depot's 125th anniversary.  "Cab 125" is 2013 vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon available at Sigillo Cellars in Snoqualmie (right across the street from the Depot) for $25 per bottle until it is sold out.  The spectacular artwork was developed by Sharon D. Siegel and donated to the effort.

The event was capped off with a splendid "coming together" of steam and diesel in front of the Snoqualmie Depot.  Snoqualmie Valley Railroad locomotive 4012 and Santa Cruz Portland Cement 2 made a ceremonious coupling to the delight of all in attendance.  Then all attendees were invited to join the Museum's Board of Trustees for cake and lemonade. Happy 125th Anniversary Snoqualmie Depot!

Photos courtesy of Dave Honan.  Special thanks to the Northwest Railway Museum Board of Trustees for organizing the Snoqualmie Depot 125 Celebration.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Steam locomotive 924 insulation removal

Locomotive 924 is a six-coupled, former Northern Pacific locomotive.  It is held in the collection of the Northwest Railway Museum and beginning in November 2014 rehabilitation work has been underway.  The objective is to return the 924 to its former glory and operate it on the Museum's railway between Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend. 

924 ready for insulation removal
Urethane foam was used to seal weak
areas until the removal project was
ready to begin.
Since the fateful day last November when the locomotive was pushed into the Conservation and Restoration Center, the boiler interior has been stripped of tubes and scale, the Form 4 engineering package begun (regulatory requirement for operating a steam locomotive), new firebox side sheets fabricated and welded in place, a new all riveted tender cistern fabricated, the tender frame rehabilitated for service, and tank installed on the frame.  However, a major hurdle for the completion of the boiler work remained the locomotive's jacketing and insulation.  In order to complete the Form 4 process, the exterior of the boiler had to be stripped for visual inspection, and the final ultrasonic thickness data collected.  

Director Anderson and
Curator Pappas wore
elaborate protective
Preliminary testing determined that the insulating material was a form of asbestos, commonly used for locomotive boiler insulation, but now found to be harmful to human respiratory systems, causing malignant cancers, formation of plaques that inhibit lung function, and a host of other nasty, potentially life-ending conditions. Needless to say, the work of removing this material needed to be performed in a safe manner for everyone involved.  Hiring a remediation contractor is quite expensive, and it was the suggestion of volunteer Zeb Darrah to obtain the necessary training and certification to legally conduct the remediation in house.  He recommended several potential training programs, and did the majority of the preliminary fact finding for the legalities of doing this work in house. In preparation for this museum director Richard Anderson and curator Efstathios Pappas received training from Argus Pacific, a private firm that specializes in hazardous material handling training.  

Edwin from Global Asbestos
Contractors checks verifies
the entry door seal on the
containment structure.
In early August, remediation work began working with Global Asbestos Abatement, a licensed asbestos contractor.  By partnering with this firm, valuable advice and experience was available to the team, but perhaps more importantly the necessary equipment to complete the job safely and effectively.  

A double-wall containment structure
was built over locomotive 924.
Over the course of three days, the mandated double wall containment was constructed of polyethylene sheeting, and taped so as to be air tight to a minimum of -.018 inches of mercury with HEPA negative air machines running.  A three stage decontamination chamber was built and attached to the front of the enclosure, and pre-abatement samples taken so as to demonstrate a clean and safe working environment, and provide comparison for the post abatement samples.  All work conducted in the enclosure was accomplished using full face respirators with external supplied air, full coverage Tyvek suits, as well as appropriate personal protective gear such as hearing protection, gloves, etc.  

Insulation is sprayed with water prior
to removal to reduce the likelihood
that fibers will be introduced to the
The removal of the jacket and insulation took approximately a day and a half to remove and safely bag for disposal.  Although the original jacket was in very poor shape, the reason for involving trained museum professionals in the actual remediation was highlighted in the data collected that will be useful as rehabilitation of the locomotive continues.  Hardware such as boiler band brackets, washout plug ferrules, and other assorted hardware was removed, cleaned and saved for reuse.  In addition, various samples of trim treatments, riveting of jacket panels, etc were also saved, and will allow the team to match the original methods of construction as closely as possible.  Illustrating how this benefits the Museum was a discovery made on the inner surface of the jacket located just beneath the hydrostatic lubricator bracket: an uncorroded patch of the original American Iron boiler jacket surface.  Samples such as these are rare because the oxide finish of both Russian and American Iron was extremely prone to corrosion and loss if not kept continuously oiled.  Curator Pappas noted the extremely oil soaked appearance of the jacket and insulation in this area due to frequent overfilling and leakage of the hydrostat over many decades of service, and was particularly mindful of the potential presence of an unadulterated sample.  

Clean boiler!
Following the removal of the material, the arduous process of cleaning all surfaces of the locomotive and containment began.  The next three days were required to assure the successful completion of the job.  The surface of the boiler was rough due to surface corrosion, and provided an ideal surface for asbestos fibers to be trapped and potentially endanger individuals working on the locomotive in the future.  To avoid this possibility, all flaky rust was removed with a chipping hammer and wire brushed while moistened to clean the surface.  More aggressive methods such as needle gunning and wire wheeling are usually not employed as these can raise the concentration of fibers in the containment to unsafe levels, even with full face mask protection.  After this step, all surfaces of the locomotive and containment were vacuumed using a HEPA vaccum cleaner, and all debris double bagged and removed from the containment.  Although this may sound like a relatively simple matter, the work in full protective gear on a hot summer day can be exhausting!

After the insulation was double bagged
and removed, the enclosure room was
cleaned and locked down. An air
sample was collected during a two
hour interval to verify that there was
no airborne fibers prior to removal of
the containment.
Once everything was cleaned, a final wash down with water was conducted over every surface.  The water was then collected below the engine, and pumped through approved water filters to remove any asbestos micro fibers.  All of the secondary inner walls of the containment were sprayed with a fixative called Lockdown, taken down, rolled, and double bagged for removal.  Then all primary surfaces were also sprayed with lockdown and clearance air samples taken.  This last step is critical to assure the safety of anyone in the shop, as once the containment is breached, any contamination will remain.  After the samples were examined by a third party local laboratory, air quality was found to be ideal, with the lowest presence of asbestos recordable!  

Although a great deal of time and effort was expended to conduct this remediation, the money saved, and opportunities for artifact care and documentation were worth the effort.  With this work completed, it is time to finish the boiler work and proceed to the running gear.  Look for more updates soon as Snoqualmie rings with the sounds of heavy boiler work again!  Until then, we hope to see you all in Snoqualmie.  

Monday, July 6, 2015

Tender tank gets wheels

Tender tank project volunteers and staff pose with the new tank on the tender frame.A major milestone was achieved on the Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 last week: substantial completion of the new cistern (tank) for the tender.  For more than five months, a replacement tender tank has been taking shape on the floor of the Conservation and Restoration Center.  Other than a couple additional baffles and the rear coal board, all structural and seam riveting was completed such that is was time to move on to other aspects of the project.  The tender frame had already been rehabilitated and prepared for placing the tank some weeks before.  

During this phase of the project, additional research determined that this tender frame is actually far more ancient than the locomotive and tank.  The tender frame and trucks were originally built for a Northern Pacific 4-4-0 C class locomotive in the early 1880s, predating the construction of 924 by more than 15 years.  Later in 924's service life for the NP, the original frame and trucks were replaced by the running gear from one of the many 4-4-0s that were being retired in the 1910s and 1920s.  Contemplating the implications, this tender frame hardware and trucks were potentially in service prior to completion of the Northern Pacific as a transcontinental railroad!

Remachined bottom valve installed on bottom of new tank.
Before the tank could be placed on the frame, the water valves at the ends of the water legs needed to be remachined and installed in the floor of the tank.  The lack of access and upside-down nature of this work would have made it very difficult to install once the tank was in place.  The valve bodies were faced, bored, and valve seats recut using one of Museum’s large lathes.  Then the valves were fitted into position, holes drilled in the base of the tank, and mounted.  

Large loader lifts new tender tank from floor in Conservation and Restoration Center.With the bottom valves in position, it was finally time to install the new tank on the tender frame.  Weber Construction is the Museum’s neighbor and is also owner of the local rock quarry.  Their repertoire of machinery includes large excavators and loaders that each can lift tens of thousands of pounds.  So Weber was hired to perform the lift and arrived Friday, June 26th with a very large loader with forks mounted on the leading edge.  The 16,000 pound tender tank was picked up from the floor, removed from the CRC and placed on the frame.  Everything fit perfectly the first time, and the total elapsed time from start to finish was just two hours!

A significant amount of work remains to be done on the tender before it is ready for service. The tank requires installation of the rear coal board, filler hatch, four small baffles, hand rails, rear headlight, additional seal welding, and interior and exterior paint.  And not to forget, large white numerals proudly displaying her number!  However, the shop floor is now open and uncluttered so that Museum forces can begin placing and powering up the new large machine tools that were acquired earlier in 2015.  This will allow work effort to slowly transition to the locomotive and its many needs.

New cistern on tender frameThis achievement was made possible by the hard work and sacrifice of many museum volunteers and staff, and is a testament to the scale and quality of work that can be accomplished through teamwork.  At this time, there still remains much work to complete 924's return to operation.  However, the list just got a lot shorter!
--Special thanks to Dave Honan for taking photos of this special day, and to Stathi Pappas for providing the content of this post--


Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Steam trains return July 4 & 5!

Steam trains are returning to the Northwest Railway Museum on July 4 and 5, 2015!  The first departure is at 11:30 AM from Snoqualmie.  Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $12 for children.  You can purchase tickets in advance and pickup them up at will call prior to boarding the train. There is no service charge for using the Museum's online ticketing system, and it will reserve space for you and your family!  So why wait?  Order here today!
Trains will be pulled by Santa Cruz Portland Cement steam locomotive 2.  There will be departures from Snoqualmie each day at 11:30 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:30 PM, and 4:00 PM.  Just a year into service after years of effort were expended restoring this early 20th Century gem, "The Chiggen" is ready to steam for the weekend. This will be the last weekend of regular trains before Thomas the Tank Engine visits Snoqualmie so come and ride the line in style, behind SCPC 2!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Peruvian sister city visit

The City of Snoqualmie recently formed a sister city relationship with Chaclacayo, Peru.  As part of the relationship, Snoqualmie is sending surplus firefighting equipment to that community located about 17 miles from Lima, Peru. To transport the gear from Snoqualmie to Peru, officials in both countries worked to arrange a visit from a Peruvian naval vessel. 
The BAP Villavisencio (FM-52) arrived at Seattle’s pier 66 on Tuesday, June 9 for five day visit, and its complement of officer cadets were bussed to area attractions as part of their ongoing education and outreach.  During the visit, approximately 50 cadets with their captain and commanders enjoyed a short excursion to Snoqualmie Falls aboard the Museum’s railway.

Captain Jose San Martin along with Commanders Luis Maury and Daniel Herrera rode along with locomotive engineer David Olix to Snoqualmie Falls in the cab of locomotive 4012.  So it was more than just cadets that had memorable experience.

The visit was remarkable in a number of other ways, too.  It was a rare opportunity for North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing to also ride the train.  He was escorted by Washington 5th District Representative Marine Reserve Colonel Jay Rodne, who also had a hand in helping arrange the visit.

The Museum extends special thanks to Snoqualmie Sister Cities Association President Tina McCollum for arranging the cadet's visit to the Northwest Railway Museum.


Friday, May 29, 2015

Tender work will soon be behind us

The tender tank rehabilitation and restoration work for Northern Pacific Railway 0-6-0 steam locomotive 924 is drawing to a close!  The 19th Century Rogers-built locomotive is the subject of a major collections care effort inside the Northwest Railway Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center in Snoqualmie where the first order of business is the tender and its badly deteriorated water tank.  The building of a new riveted cistern for a steam locomotive is a lot of hard work, and is not often undertaken at heritage railroads. 

Erecting major components such as sides, ends, and slope sheets can usually be accomplished quickly. In the non-museum world, a similar vessel would be put together using modern fabrication techniques such as welding, and the project would have been completed months ago.  However, in order to adhere to the Secretary of the Interior Standards for Treatment of Historic Properties, fa├žadism is not an acceptable practice. Instead, it is critical to reuse original fabrications and components to the greatest extent practicable, and when infeasible, faithfully recreate the missing or irreparably damaged fabrications using materials and techniques consistent with the original.  So for the tender cistern, every rivet has been or will be duplicated using the technologies of the era.  For instance, each corner seam  is riveted to an angle iron on both sides of the angle with 1/2 button head rivets on a 1 1/2" pitch requiring literally thousands of precision drilled holes. 

Since the last report, the top deck of the tender tank has been fitted and installed.  Historically, for this portion of the tank, flush head "Liverpool" style rivet heads were used for the majority of the work.  This was done so that coal could be scooped from the top deck without hitting the higher "button head" style rivets.  This feature has been faithfully reproduced on the new tank. 

In addition to the structural riveting, the tank continues to receive original castings and forgings with the installation of tie down brackets and hand rails. The side coal boards were also added, giving the cistern that iconic 19th Century everted lip tender look.  Moving forward, this coal board will soon be extended and wrap completely around the rear of the top deck, and the original water hatch will be rehabilitated and installed. 

In addition, to the ongoing cistern work, the tender frame has received attention for its return to service.  This frame had been extensively rebuilt in the 1970s due to an encounter with a runaway freight car while being stored in Centralia, WA, and most of the wooden framework remains in remarkable condition.  However, aesthetically the timbers exhibited surface weathering and other effects which would not present well in the final product.  In order to rectify these issues and assure many decades of trouble free service, the surfaces have been sealed and filled using epoxy-based fillers and sanded to fill any minor cracks and surface blemishes.  (This technique was extensively applied to chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace.) The frame will be primed with epoxy-based primer Awlgrip 545) and top coated with a finish coat of black.  Once this work is completed, the tank can be installed on the frame and bolted down.  Following this step, the tender trucks will be rebuilt so as to assure like-new performance from the tender. 

The 924's tender will be completed this summer.  At that time, work will shift to the locomotive boiler, running gear, and cab.  And the 924's tender just might see some early service in support of the Museum's steam program.