Friday, October 15, 2010

Train Shed: where past and future intertwine

“Some of you might have thought we were going to pound in the golden spike,” said Museum Director Richard Anderson at the Train Shed Dedication October 2, “but that’s not the case.”

He went on to outline how in 1900 the Great Northern Railway had recently acquired controlling interest in the Northern Pacific Railway and was on the verge of insolvency. At that time, the sale of 900,000 acres of land to Frederick Weyerhaeuser forever changed the fortunes of the Pacific Northwest, because a few weeks later Frederick launched the Weyerhaeuser Timber Company, and the railroad became the primary connection between producer and customer.

So I believe it’s rather fitting that we celebrate the completion of the Train Shed with the placement of two juvenile trees, one a Douglas-fir and the other a western redcedar.” These two species played vital roles in the success of Northwest forest and rail industries.

While dignitaries dedicated the Doug-fir, other special guests - children and teens - dedicated the western redcedar. “Even though we’re representing history here,” said Anderson, this facility “is all about tomorrow. And for tomorrow, it’s the youth of today.”

“How exciting it is to see people coming here today in strollers and on walkers,” King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert remarked. “It is both ends that make [this project] so important.... I want you to know that we appreciate what’s happened here. It’s part of the economic development. Its part of...the city having a new vibrance. It’s really exciting to see.”

In the creation of this new exhibit building, history and future unite in a number of ways. While Lambert spoke of vision, Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson presented another forward-moving concept. “If I was to pick one word to describe a theme for where Snoqualmie and the Northwest Railway Museum is right now in its history, that word would be momentum,” Larson said. “This town of Snoqualmie had not had a lot of great things happen for several decades. It just went into a lot of slow decline.... It takes a tremendous amount of effort to start that momentum, just to get things moving.”

Snoqualmie Councilmember Bob Jeans added, “Not only is our history tied together, but the future of Snoqualmie and the future of the Museum are inexorably tied together.”

The Train Shed honors history. But it’s also making history. The project is possible because of a complex land exchange never before done in Washington State. The Museum offered up some land down the road, and King County, the City of Snoqualmie, the City of North Bend, the State of Washington and Meadowbrook Farm Preservation all approved a transfer which enabled the Museum to create a 6-acre site in combination with its railroad right of way. Another first: the North American Railway Foundation, based in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, made its first contribution in Washington State to this project.

A further way in which yesterday and tomorrow join forces is in the building itself, in design and materials. The Train Shed and grounds feature natural lighting, recycled steel, locally produced concrete, ultraviolet-filtering windows, a rain garden, pervious pavers and native plants, plus other sustainability-driven innovations.

“But in the end,” said Museum Director Anderson, “this is really about all of you. Successful museums are engaged with their communiities, and achieving that engagement is the very essence of a museum’s success. For the Northwest Railway Museum, it means having an engaged and representative board of trustees, being located in an open-minded and inclusive community, having participation from a broad spectrum of volunteers and earning the support of individual donors from across the region.”

The Museum is grateful to many supporters and donors, including State Representative Jay Rodne, whose support helped secure substantial funding for the project; the Puget Sound Regional Council; and 4Culture, who awarded the Train Shed’s first large grant, which the Museum repeatedly leveraged for additional outside funding.

So what do you think? As the Douglas-fir and western redcedar take root and grow, will they symbolize yesterday or tomorrow? Or - in their branches as in the Train Shed - will past and future intertwine?

Photos from top
to bottom:
Train Shed groundbreaking ceremony August 5, 2009
Train Shed dedication October 2, 2010
Western redcedar sapling

Youth dedicatin
g western redcedar
"People here today in strollers and on walkers"
Museum President Susan Hankins, Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson and King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert
Snoqualmie Councilmember Bob Jeans

Guests enter the Train Shed
Train Shed interior
After the ceremony
Special performance by world-renowned violinist Lenore Vardi
Douglas-fir sapling
Special train arrives at the dedication event

To view a video of the Train Shed Dedication, click here.

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