Friday, November 15, 2019

Wheels for an interurban car

Puget Sound Electric Railway car 523 operated between Seattle and Tacoma from 1908 until 1928.  This early mass transit allowed commuters on "Limited" trains to travel from downtown to downtown in just 1 hour and 15 minutes.  The 523 is the sole surviving car from this once proud fleet and is the newest Snoqualmie property listed on the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmarks Register.

523 was first preserved in 1963 when it was purchased by preservationist Paul Class. It had been repurposed as a home in Federal Way sometime prior to WW II, and the property owner was ready to build a larger house. So Mr. Class purchased the car and moved it to Oregon where he had started what today is known as the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society. There were several ill-fated restoration attempts on the 523, but only when the car was donated to the Northwest Railway Museum was a formal plan prepared.

When 523 was adaptively reused first as an outbuilding and then as a home, the wheels and motors were no longer needed; they were sold for scrap circa 1930.  So replacements of at least similar vintage were needed.  This month new trucks (wheels and motors) for the 523 arrived in Snoqualmie. This was the result of a culmination of more than a year of effort and is being made possible with support from the Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving and 4Culture's Building for Equity program.


The "new" trucks are actually from an electric car order built for the Chicago Elevated and delivered in the early 1920s. The trucks were built by Baldwin (same builder of the Museum's locomotives 4012 & 4024), but are a decade newer than the trucks that would have been found under the 523 circa 1914. The front truck is powered with two GE traction motors and the rear truck is unpowered.


The Streetcar Investment Company purchased the trucks from a scrap car some years ago and the components had been in storage at their California yard.  An industrial motor shop in the Bay Area overhauled the two GE 243 traction motors, and the Streetcar Investment folks reassembled everything.  They arrived on a Gerlock Heavy Haul tow truck, the same rig that delivered 523 to the Museum more than two years ago.

The trucks are not ready for installation.  It was important to acquire and move the trucks so that all the variables between the carbody and the trucks were correctly defined.  Until they are installed, the trucks will remain in storage inside the Museum in Snoqualmie.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Giving thanks for the chapel car

The Halloween Storytelling Train is an engaging family outing, but it also represents an annual gathering for the Hodgins Family to visit chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace and remember their father, Arthur Halleck Hodgins, 1910 - 2005.  

The chapel car had served the elder Hodgins as a cabana adjacent to the family home, first in Snohomish, and later near Grayland.  His son Hal recently recounted, 'one day back in 1971, dad was out walking and noticed the signs indicating that highway 2 was going to be widened.  He asked what was going to happen to the old rail car that had served as a roadside diner, and was told it would be demolished.  He asked if he could have it and was told that he could buy it for a $1. Very soon after it was in our backyard in Snohomish.  

Arthur lovingly cared for the chapel car, maintaining its unique Terne metal roof, and keeping fresh paint on the car's exposed exterior.  The car was a part of family gatherings and events for more than 30 years, and became important to them, too.  Sadly, Mr. Hodgins passed away in October 2005 at the age of 95.  

In 2007 the Hodgins Family donated the chapel car to the Northwest Railway Museum.  It was moved from near the town of Grayland on the Pacific coast to Snoqualmie that same year.  It was successfully nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, and secured a Save America's Treasures grant later that year.  Major rehabilitation work began in 2011 and the substantially complete car is now on exhibit in the Train Shed exhibit building in Snoqualmie.  

On 27 October 2019 the Hodgins Family traveled to Snoqualmie for their annual gathering in the  chapel car.  As part of this year's gathering, the Museum was delighted to unveil a plaque in the car recognizing the importance of Arthur H. Hodgins in preserving the chapel car.  Sons Art and Hal were on hand to acknowledge and pose for a photo.




The Trustees and Staff of the Northwest Railway Museum gratefully acknowledge the tireless dedication of
Arthur H. Hodgins
(24 June1910 – 15 October 2005)
preserving
Chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace
His foresight is allowing new generations to appreciate its magnificence as a mobile church, understand its role in community development, and view it as a grand example of the lost art of wooden railway car construction.
_______________________

          With gratitude, the Northwest Railway Museum, 27 October 2019

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Inside a caboose

Yes, a real caboose.  White River Lumber Company 001.  It was built at Enumclaw in 1945 and restored to its original appearance here at the Northwest Railway Museum by Dale C., Martin N., Rich W., Dick H., and others more than 10 years ago.  The effort earned an award from the King County Historic Preservation Program.

Beginning Friday, October 11, 2019 visitors to the Train Shed exhibit building will be able to visit inside caboose 001.  New steps and LED lighting are making this possible, and opening this new exhibit was encouraged by visitor feedback asking for the opportunity to go inside a caboose.

White River Lumber 001 is pretty spartan, as were most cabooses.  Its plain interior reflects the short trips it was used on from Enumclaw into the forest and back again.  In the closing days of WW II it may have traveled as far as Mt Rainier National Park, but always returned home the same day.


Notably, 001 was built during the war at Enumclaw.  This was because the war time ration board denied White River permission to purchase a new caboose.  Yet a caboose was required on log trains with ten or more cars.  So the logging company managers tasked their workers with building a caboose.  It is not a prime example of the fine art of car building, but it is an example of the thoughtful and utilitarian improvisation that was common in logging camps throughout the Northwest.  

Come and visit caboose 001 Thursday - Sunday from 11:00 am - 4:00 pm through the end of October.  Members are free.  Admission is included with all regular train tickets; trains depart Snoqualmie on Saturdays and Sundays 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, and 3 pm.  A la carte visitation is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Mending a fence

Or building it from scratch.


Posts have been set in concrete just 
behind the paved trail edge.

Rails and trails are able to co-exist, but authorities do need to take measures to protect the trains from people (and pets) who try to wander off the path.  Protect the trains?  Yes, trains and engines generally do an outstanding job of staying on their tracks. It's the people and pets that don't stay on their "track."


The fence is actually adding a 
finished look to the trail, and looks
great in the presence of a
Northern Pacific Railway switch
stand.
A trail fencing plan was included in the City of Snoqualmie's 2013 downtown revitalization phase two, but unfortunately there were issues that prevented its full implementation.  Contract disputes, bad weather, and cost overruns all conspired to cancel a portion of the project.  So while a barrier was constructed in front of the Snoqualmie Depot and across from downtown businesses, it was not built along the trail from King Street to Northern Street.

In 2017 the Museum, City of Snoqualmie, and Washington State's Utilities and Transportation Commission discussed  options for adding a barrier between the tracks and the trail in the remaining "barrier free" zone.  Prefabricated metal fencing set at 42 inches was the option closest to consensus, and it was the design option that looked the best, too.


The fencing is now complete making
Snoqualmie safer for trains, people
& pets.
Funding 1,600 feet of fencing can be challenging, but the project was and is safety related.  Thanks to the support of Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, Snoqualmie City Council and the Snoqualmie Public Works and Administration, the project remained a priority and was successfully funded.  A contract was let earlier this summer and the work was completed this week.


Pro tip: don't try to walk this
fence line.  Or sit on it, either!
Excursion trains now operate with a greatly reduced potential for people or pets running into them, making Snoqualmie safer for trains, people and pets.  Check it out for yourself: trains operate weekends through the end of October, and for Santa Train.





Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hydro-static test

Locomotive 924 circa 1908
Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 has been undergoing restoration in the Conservation and Restoration Center.  This 1899-built Rogers locomotive served the Northern Pacific Railway until 1924. It is a King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmark, with project support from many individuals, foundations and public agencies including 4Culture, Washington Heritage Capital Projects, the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, the Emery Rail Heritage Trust and more.

Fire in the 924 firebox
For the last several years a variety of project work has been underway, but the most important division of work has been on the boiler.  The boiler is where water is heated and converted to steam, usually with an oil, coal or wood fire.  The boiler must withstand high temperatures and considerable pressure.  

Locomotive 924 is filled with water, 
and then the water is lightly heated so
as to reduce the strain on the boiler 
when it is pressurized.
For the general public, a little known fact about locomotive boilers is that they must be designed to withstand four times their operating pressure.  So an operating pressure of 180 psi requires the boiler be designed to withstand 720 psi.  This is called the factor of safety, and must consider any wasting or other deterioration of the boiler that occurred since it was built.

FRA inspector Brandon King witnessed
the 924's official hydro-static test.  He
found no exceptions, which is the best
possible outcome.  This means the
inspection found that the Museum
is complying with the regulations.
After measurement, analysis and calculations demonstrate that the boiler construction is capable of withstanding 720 PSI, a non-destructive test called a hydrostatic test is performed.  This test is performed by the locomotive owner, but is witnessed by an inspector from the Federal Railroad Administration.  During the test, the boiler is filled with water, lightly heated, and pressurized to 125% of its stated operating pressure.  

Kyle I. operated the hand
pump.
It was a beautiful morning on Thursday, September 5th when Museum volunteers and staff arrived to "fire" the boiler on locomotive 924.  Recycled wood logs and waste wood were used as fuel, and the temperature was brought up to 100 degrees.  At that point, the fire was dropped and a hand pump was used to bring the pressure up to 225 psi. Visual and aural inspections were all positive - just some light weeping from a handful of rivets.  Most impressive to the Museum volunteers and staff was how tight the boiler was.  One stroke from the hand pump every 15 or so seconds was sufficient to maintain 225 psi.

Kyle and David remove the steam dome
lid and throttle to allow an internal
inspection.
Upon completion of the hydro-static test, the boiler was drained.  After this 125% test, an interior inspection of the boiler and hammer testing of the stay bolts was required.  For the interior inspection, the steam dome lid and throttle was removed so an inspector could enter and crawl along the top course of tubes.

The Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 rehabilitation and restoration project continues to progress.  The hydro-static test brought great news so now the next phase - steam plumbing - can begin.  Donor support remains critical to the ultimate success of the project; your support really makes a difference.  Please consider a making a donation on the Museum's web site: Donate Now

Thank you for your support!

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Grand Tour - see it all!


The Grand Tour Package is the premier tour offered at the Northwest Railway Museum.  It is a docent-led experience that begins at the Snoqualmie Depot in historic downtown Snoqualmie. 

Your docent will give a brief tour of the Depot before you board the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad for a short ride to the Train Shed Exhibit Building. There, you will detrain and enjoy a 30 minute tour of the 25,000 sq. ft. hall that includes large and small artifacts, and several exhibits including the award-winning Wellington Remembered exhibit. 

Your docent will escort you through chapel car 5: Messenger of Peace and the 001 caboose! Next you will walk over to the Conservation and Restoration Center for a first hand look at current restoration projects, including steam locomotive 924. Both of these experiences are unique to the Grand Tour - this is the only opportunity to see inside the chapel car, and is a very rare opportunity to visit inside the Conservation and Restoration Center.

Next, you board the train again and travel west to the top of Snoqualmie Falls where you will view water cascading over the top of Snoqualmie Falls, and a beautiful view of the valley and river below the Falls. Your docent will accompany you during your trip to the Falls, interpreting the scenery and providing both historic and contemporary context. The Package ends when the train returns to Snoqualmie Depot. This round-trip experience lasts approximately 2.5 hours.

Dates and Times: Saturdays @ 12:30pm, on August 3, September 7 and 14, 2019.  Visit Shop.TrainMuseum.org to purchase your tickets in advance.

Additional dates: you may reserve a Tour on any other operating day for groups of 10-20 people by emailing the Museum

Cost: Adults $24, Seniors (62+) $20, Children* (2-12) $12, under 2 no charge. *The Tour Package is not recommended for children under the age of 5.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Thomas the Tank Engine is thrilling thousands

July 12 was the first Day Out With Thomas for 2019 at the Northwest Railway Museum.  Thousands of children and their families came to see and experience Thomas the Tank Engine at his very best.  Check out these scenes from the first day; tickets and information are at Thomas.TrainMuseum.org