Friday, May 14, 2021

Sign language

Successful heritage tourism is an important goal in our local community, and to successfully attract an audience there are many preconditions.  However, being able to successfully find and then identify the Northwest Railway Museum is one of the key requirements.

Over the last few years, the Museum has been working with Lot22 to develop a successful brand and apply it to every aspect of the marketing effort.  The most recent efforts involve new signage in Snoqualmie.

The "original" Snoqualmie Depot monument sign was installed in 1974, and no longer reflected the image the Museum wanted to convey.  A new sign was developed by Lee A. at Lot22 and fabricated by Northwest Sign.  It incorporates elements of the Museum's brand awareness and includes a reference to the Museum, Depot Bookstore, and the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad.  Construction features a massive cedar plank, and installation was completed by Floyd.

The Museum includes several sites in the upper Snoqualmie Valley and visitors have often been confused about the interconnectedness.  Landscape artist J. Craig Thorpe created a watercolor map to illustrate the operating territory of the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad and identify stops and connected attractions, but chiefly to show where the various parts of the Museum are located.  These new way finding maps are being placed at the Rotary Snowplow at the foot of the Snoqualmie Parkway, and by the exhibit building at the Railway History Center.  Later, another map will be placed at the Snoqualmie Depot.

Though elegant and simple in design, these new signs represent a significant investment of time and money.  The Northwest Railway Museum is grateful for the vision and design work contributed by Lee A., and for the funding contributed by the City of Snoqualmie from the Lodging Tax Fund.  And special thanks to Floyd for installing them!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Restoring a truss - part one

Parlor car 1799 was built by Pullman in 1901.  After 38 years of service for the Northern Pacific Railway, the car found a second use as a seaside cottage.  That new adaptive use removed the distinctive truss rods, queen posts, and needle beams from the wooden car's underbody that supported the car while in service.  These components were vital for the car frame to span from one truck to the next, but no longer required once the car was set on a foundation.  So naturally for the car to return to its appearance and function as a railroad parlor car, the trusses required restoration.

The parlor car was moved from Whidbey Island on Puget Sound to the Northwest Railway Museum using a temporary steel frame.  This adjustable device had been used to move countless homes and served the same purpose for the parlor car.  Once unloaded at the Museum, the car was supported with wood and steel car stands, but to allow the car to return to its former glory as a Pullman parlor car, the truss had to be replaced.

The Museum was fortunate to have retained the needle beam and queen posts from a former Canadian Pacific officials car.  These hardware components were standardized by the Master Car Builders, the forerunner of today's Association of American Railroads.  So the queen posts and needle beams manufactured in the Hochelaga Shops of the Canadian Pacific Railway in Montreal were visually and functionally nearly identical to the components manufactured by the car builder in Pullman, Illinois.

The rehabilitation and restoration of parlor car 1799 to its appearance and function during the early 20th Century is being supported in part by a grant from the Heritage Capital Projects program of the Washington State Historical Society.  Many staff costs are used to meet the obligatory cost share and are funded by the Museum's operating budget, which has been seriously compromised by the closure necessitated by the pandemic.  Your support helps this project continue through to completion, and ensure the museum continues to serve its educational purposes.  

Please consider a contribution to GiveBig 2021.  Your support will help this project overcome the pandemic.

Friday, April 23, 2021

Steam test 2021

Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 was fully rehabilitated and restored over a period of five years.  It made its debut on 1 November 2020 with passenger runs from Snoqualmie and North Bend.  Yet with any steam locomotive, maintenance and inspection are ongoing responsibilities.  

Steam locomotives require an annual inspection and test of the boiler.  This work includes a series of visual and other non-destructive tests, followed by a hydrostatic test of the boiler at 125% of operating pressure.  Then a steam test is performed during which the safety valves must demonstrate that they lift and seat at the required pressures.

The 924 received its annual test in April 2021, and a portion of the test was witnessed by an inspector from the Federal Railroad Administration.  There were no anomalies reported, and the locomotive boiler was declared fit for service.  This was also the first time the complete new locomotive jacketing was displayed; continuing tests and rehabilitation did not allow the new jacket to be installed until this past winter.  The jacketing project was funded in part by the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association; the Museum is grateful for their support.

Pandemic-era restrictions are particularly difficult for steam trains  because of the higher operating costs.  Fewer passengers places the cost per passenger much higher that normal. Notwithstanding, the Museum has committed to operating steam trains on at least two upcoming weekends: Mother's Day Weekend and Father's Day Weekend, when they will operate on two hour return schedules, and include a brief visit to the Train Shed exhibit hall.  

Do you want to see the 924 continue to run?  Please consider a Give BIG! 2021 donation now or on May 4 & 5 to the Northwest Railway Museum to help support operating of the Museum and the 924 during the pandemic.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Coal trains from Snoqualmie?

There is coal in the Snoqualmie Valley! 

"Soon there will be scores of rail cars full of sequestered carbon headed from Snoqualmie to power Seattle, and dozens of new local jobs mining the ore, too." 

Well, not quite, but almost a century ago an enthusiastic Mr. R.T. Warwick, Agent of the Northern Pacific Railway in Snoqualmie could easily have said such a thing. 

In 1925 the California Alaska Corporation was operating the Niblock Mine, which was extracting coal from two seams located near today's I-90 exit 27, just outside Snoqualmie city limits.  In a common move both then and now, Mr. Newenham of that venture had offered a glowing report light on evidence and advised that, 

"they have opened up number three vein and found it (to be) twelve feet thick, and a very high grade of coal."  

Agent Warwick dutifully reported this information to the railway company's traffic manager.  Statements like this were difficult to verify over distance, so these glowing reports usually went unverified, causing the value of mining company stock to rise, and sometimes even tricked railway companies into building rail lines that would never see enough traffic to recover the cost of construction, let alone operation.  The promise of coal and iron mines in the Snoqualmie Valley was part of what led to the construction of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway into the area.  Yet when the valley was connected by rail, it was its vast timber resources that dominated the local economy.

So a colliery was operated on and off by a series of three successive operators over a period of almost 40 years, but it never achieved any of the success found to the west in the mines of Issaquah, Newcastle, and Renton.  So there will not be any coal trains in Snoqualmie at any time in the foreseeable future.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Station Name Sign Snoqualmie

The iconic Station Name Sign on the Snoqualmie Depot has been rehabilitated!  The sign was a project managed by T. Little more than 35 years ago to complete the restoration of the depot to its appearance in 1900.  Over the ensuing time, rain, sun, heat and cold had conspired to fade the paint.  Thanks to local artists Laura and Bob Antone, the sign is again resplendent with fresh paint!

Laura and Bob began back in January by removing the sign and storing it in the depot's freight room to give it time to dry out.  Then they carefully traced the original lettering on tracing paper.  This gave them a reference so they could repaint the white background.

The next step was to apply fresh black paint to the letter bodies.  "One Shot Lettering Enamel" was the paint selected for the project, and a grant from the City of Snoqualmie Lodging Tax Fund allowed the purchase of these supplies and materials.

After allowing the paint to dry for about a week, the sign was rehung on the front of the depot.  Thank you to Laura and Bob for their generous contribution of time, and to the City of Snoqualmie for the grant to pay for materials.  This effort is helping ensure this 1890-built City of Snoqualmie Landmark remains as the centerpiece for the downtown historic district.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Abby Williams Hill Exhibit

The newest exhibit in the Train Shed Exhibit Hall is on loan to the Museum for the next year from the University of Puget Sound. This new exhibit follows the life of artist Abby Williams Hill. You might ask, “Who was Abby Williams Hill and what does she have to do with Pacific Northwest railroad history?”

Abby Williams Hill (1861-1943) was a landscape painter who is known for her commissioned works for the Great Northern Railway and Northern Pacific Railway companies in the early 1900s. Her paintings were exhibited at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904, the Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland in 1905, the Jamestown Centennial in 1907, and the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in 1909. Her works promoted rail tourism including being printed in a travel pamphlet for the Great Northern Railway entitled Scenic Washington Along The Line (of the) Great Northern Railway in 1904.

The University of Puget Sound has graciously loaned the six panel exhibit to the Northwest Railway Museum through February 4, 2022. The collection was donated to the University by Hill's daughter, Mrs. Ina Hill. Many of Hill's paintings are on permanent display in the Collins Memorial Library and other spaces on campus. Hill's personal papers are held in the Archives & Special Collections of the University’s Collins Memorial Library. The Abby Williams Hill Collection contains approximately 150 paintings and drawings and includes letters, diaries, day books, postcards, news clippings, ephemera, and artifacts documenting the life of Hill and her family. The Hill Collection documents her travels across the nation and in Europe, her relationship with her husband and four children, her experiences hiking and painting in the Pacific Northwest wilderness, and her passion for social causes including her work with the Congress of Mothers.

Thanks to the curatorial staff of the University of Puget Sound, now you can view the exhibit and learn about the incredible life of Abby Williams Hill when you visit the Train Shed Exhibit Hall. The Train Shed Exhibit Hall is open Thursday- Sunday, 11AM-4PM. Tickets are available online or admission is free when you purchase a train ride ticket.


Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Trucks for the Parlor Car

The parlor car in 2016 on Whidby Island 
Parlor car 1799 was built by Pullman in 1901 and is typical of an extra fare day service car of the era.  It and an identical car were the Northern Pacific's very first true all parlor car.  It was donated to the Museum in 2018 and moved to Snoqualmie from Whidbey Island.  It had been used as a seaside cottage for more than 70 years, but is now destined to return to its former configuration as a Northern Pacific Railway parlor car.

The trucks arrive on a truck
When the car was reconfigured as a cottage, the trucks - frames that support the suspension, wheels and bearings - were removed and scrapped.  The original trucks were a standard design developed by the Master Car Builders (MCB) Association, and were of composite wood and steel construction.  This same truck design is found under chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, and Spokane, Portland and Seattle coaches 213 & 218.  It is a design that was replaced by the late 1910s with all steel cast trucks.

The trucks were unloaded by
simultaneously lifting  all three axles

The Museum is delighted to share that Steven Butler and Morton Machine Works donated a pair of 1900s-vintage MCB trucks to the project.  The former Great Northern Railway baggage car trucks were located at the Texas State Railroad Museum and arrived by highway truck last Sunday morning.  This 25 ton load arrived on time after a four day drive from Palestine, TX.

Both trucks were unloaded in 45 minutes
The fine folks at Imhoff Contractor and Crane Service of Snoqualmie made quick work unloading the "new" parlor car trucks.  They were unloaded onto the Museum's main track and moved into the Conservation and Restoration Workshop where they will be rehabilitated in anticipation of installation under the parlor car later this year.

The transportation and unloading of this pair of MCB trucks was funded in part with individual donations, and grant funding from the Washington Heritage Capital Projects Fund of the Washington State Historical Society.  Work is being guided by research funded by the National Trust for Historic Preservation conducted by Mr. Kyle Wyatt, former Curator at the California State Railroad Museum.  Special thanks to Steven Butler for donating these important components to the parlor car.