Thursday, September 17, 2020

Interpreting Railways' Impact

Interpretation (an explanation as a way of teaching) is more effective when it is applied in a planned and thematic way. The Northwest Railway Museum’s Interpretive Plan establishes guidelines for sharing interpretive themes used in messaging and communication with visitors. It shapes the major themes that will bring visitors to our doors again and again over the years. It outlines the facilities needed to support the Museum’s collections and best enable the staff to effectively operate the Museum in a sustainable and efficient manner. It imagines a dynamic institution at the heart of the community—one in which the Northwest Railway Museum shares the stories of people and railways that engage both area residents and visitors from afar. The Plan codifies the Museum’s adherence to professional standards, best practices, and codes of ethics as defined by the American Association of Museums and American Association for State and Local History. In this way, activities and other forms of implementation arise from a clear direction and documented list of tasks or actions, all based on sound reasoning.

The Northwest Railway Museum began development of the Railway History Campus in 2006, and continues its growth. Staff developed interpretive themes for the focus of exhibits. Beginning with the original interpretive themes identified in the 2010-2012 Train Shed Exhibit Hall exhibit planning, staff began expanding original interpretive themes to create a cohesive plan for interpretation across the Museum’s sites. Exhibit topics were selected based on workshop participation by the Executive Director, Deputy Director, and Exhibits Committee during that period. This featured a multi-phase exhibit plan for the Train Shed Exhibit Hall which included an exhibit sharing how the development of the transcontinental railways fueled western expansion; an exhibit on how railways then impacted the Pacific Northwest; interpretive panels on each of the historic artifacts on display; and exhibits focusing on how the railway impacted diverse groups of people. It connected these themes to exhibits at the Snoqualmie Depot; creating an exhibit about the first railway into the Snoqualmie Valley, and connecting that exhibit to one on how the Snoqualmie Depot impacted Snoqualmie. Between 2010-2019 the Museum completed the first three phases and began working on the fourth phase with planned exhibits on Stewardess Nurses, Japanese-American Railway Workers, and Railway Workers of WWII (the Faces of the Railway exhibit). 

The Museum’s mission clearly describes two important themes: 1) the story of experiencing the excitement of a working railway; interpreting ways that visitors can be involved in the ongoing heritage and operations of trains.  And, 2) the story of how railroads influenced the development and settlement of Washington State and adjacent areas; interpreting how railways changed everything in the Pacific Northwest.

As the Museum has expanded exhibit offerings within the Train Shed Exhibit Hall, the plans for a fourth building, the Roundhouse Gallery, prompted the need to review and elaborate the Interpretive Plan just as the former plan neared completion and was due for review. This has coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic causing new social behavioral changes and social gathering size restrictions, which have necessitated new ways of envisioning traditional operating models.

Consequently, this spring the suspension of programming caused by the Covid-19 pandemic redirected efforts and allowed the Interpretive Plan and exhibits to be updated with additional content in the Train Shed Exhibit Hall.  Now, as visitors experience the Train Shed, they travel a directional route exploring how the arrival of the transcontinental railway changed settlement patterns, foodways, trade networks, leisure travel and industry. Additionally, they explore aspects of what people working for the railway have experienced with new exhibits on railway workers.  Additional exhibits will be arriving later this fall and winter expanding upon these stories with the installation of Asa Whitney’s Dream, an exhibit on railway car lighting, and an exhibit on the Japanese and Japanese-American logging railway workers of the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co. Tickets to visit the Train Shed Exhibit Hall are currently available at Shop.TrainMuseu


Friday, September 4, 2020

Train Shed reopens September 11

The Northwest Railway Museum is pleased to announce the planned reopening of the Train Shed Exhibit Hall. The Train Shed will reopen on Friday, September 11th at 11 am, and is located in Snoqualmie at 9320 Stone Quarry Road.  It includes many of the Museum’s most significant artifacts including chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, and a variety of exhibits about how the railway changed everything. The hall incorporates more than 24,000 square feet, and has not been able to reopen this year until now due to the pandemic. 

Beginning September 11, the Train Shed will be open every week until the Christmas season, Fridays through Sundays from 11 am - 4 pm, and on Wednesdays from 1 pm- 4 pm. Tickets are available online at and must be purchased in advance; adults are $10 and children are $5.

The pandemic has required the Museum to be closed for most of the season, which has until now been unprecedented.  Notwithstanding, the Museum will remain open unless guidelines change.  

To comply with Washington State's SAFE START – STAY HEALTHY plan to protect the health and safety of our community, up to ten people may enter every 15 minutes, and the Train Shed has been reconfigured with a new directional experience featuring refreshed and renewed exhibits. To ensure a safe experience, interactive exhibits requiring touch have been temporarily removed, and cleaning staff will be frequently disinfecting other touch surfaces including doors and restrooms.  All visitors over 2 years of age are asked to wear masks, and pursuant to state law, masks are required for all visitors over the age of 5 years old.

Members of the Northwest Railway Museum remain entitled to free, unlimited visits to the Train Shed.  For access, please contact visitor services manager Lara H by email or by calling 425.888.3030 extension 7202.

Monday, August 31, 2020

More on the 924 debut

The Museum's Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 made a brief public appearance while testing earlier this month.  The 1899-built Rogers 0-6-0 has been undergoing rehabilitation and restoration for five years in the Museum's Conservation and Restoration Workshop. An earlier blog post shared some highlights of the two hour session, but today this blog features a few moving pictures of this milestone event.  This video shows some rare views from inside the cab, which are particularly clear because the roof of the cab had not yet been added.  The new boiler jacketing is also visible, which was applied from the outset to protect the safety of the cab crew.  

This author is also pleased to share news that the 924 will make another public appearance this fall - all aboard!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Snoqualmie Depot Exhibits Reopen

Since early March the Northwest Railway Museum and most other museums in the state have been closed by order of the Governor of Washington State and King County health officials to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. In June, the Museum reopened its bookstore but kept all exhibit and gallery spaces closed to help reduce the amount of people in contact with each other.  On August 20th, the Governor approved a new plan that allows museums to reopen in Phase 2 following new guidelines. The Northwest Railway Museum is now excited to begin the process of reopening! 

Because this Museum is such a large institution and has had to make many changes in its operation to comply with the new guidelines, the Museum will be reopening its sites in phases beginning with Snoqualmie Depot.  The Museum is pleased to announce that the Snoqualmie Depot and Bookstore are now reopened to the public! 

The Museum remains open at 25% capacity, so only 6 people may visit each room at a time but visitors may again enjoy the exhibits in the Freight Room and Waiting Room. There is now a new directional visit to each space. As you visit the Freight Room tour the space beginning on the left.  To visit the Waiting Room, enter the bookstore via a left loop and then tour the Waiting Room on a right loop, returning through the bookstore to finish the loop out. All visitors over 2 years of age are asked to wear masks and masks are required for all visitors over the age of 5 years old as per the Governor's reopening guidelines.

Following the reopening guidelines, all touchable interactive exhibits like the Train Tables have been temporarily removed. Though the Museum hopes to bring back these interactive exhibits when allowed, their removal creates a more open and less cluttered experience. You may notice new signage like this Please Do Not Touch Historic Artifact sign as part of the new guidelines.

The Museum's staff and volunteers are working diligently to reopen the other sites as quickly as possible. Stay tuned for further announcements as they become available!  The Train Shed Exhibit Building is being revamped with a new directional experience and additional exhibits. The Museum staff and volunteers look forward to sharing this space with you as soon as it is ready.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Riding The Suffrage Special

June 27, 1909 Seattle Times article.
August 18th, 2020 marked the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving American women the right to vote! It was the culmination of decades long fighting and advocacy to grant women the ability to have a voice in the laws of the United States. Railways played a prominent role in suffrage advocacy by allowing the quick movement of political campaign stumpers. Two Suffrage Special trains, one in 1909 and another in 1916, played prominent roles in laying the ground work for the passing of the 19th Amendment.

To commemorate the role that the Suffrage Special Trains played, the Museum put together a video based on the rear platform speeches given at stops by Suffrage leaders. The presentation details the role of Suffrage leader Anna Howard Shaw and uses a compilation of quotes from her speeches and letters throughout the years of her work. The video is one piece of a new Suffrage Train exhibit which will debut in the Train Shed Exhibit Building when the Museum reopens.

Anna Howard Shaw

 Anna Howard Shaw Background: Born in England in 1847, Anna moved to the United States at the age of four. At a time when women were expected to only marry and become mothers, she took a different path. At the age of 24 she became a Methodist preacher and without family support, entered Albion College and began a career lecturing on temperance (abstinence from alcoholic drink). In 1878, at the age of 31, she graduated from Boston University Divinity School but was not ordained until 1880 due to being female. She received her medical degree in 1886 from Boston University at the age of 39.

 In 1888, Anna attended the first meeting of the International Council of Women. Leading suffrage advocate Susan B. Anthony encouraged her to join the National Woman Suffrage Association where Anna played a key role in persuading the American Woman Suffrage Association to merge with the National Woman Suffrage Association. She was Vice President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association under Susan B Anthony’s presidency and later became president of the Association herself.

King Street Station in Seattle, 1909

At the age of 62, she traveled on the 1909 Suffrage Special as it made its way across the country and throughout Washington State to attend the National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention in Seattle, which had been timed to coincide with the Alaska-Yukon–Pacific Exposition. It was believed that “the confluence of the widely publicized convention and the world's fair will help win supporters for women's right to vote.” Along the way she gave speeches from the rear platform of the train. Her work helped pass women’s suffrage in 1910 in Washington State. 

In her 70s, she performed home front war work during WWI and earned a Distinguished Service Medal in 1919. At the end of the war, at the request of President Wilson and former President Taft, she lectured in the U.S. and Europe in support of world peace and the League of Nations. During one of those tours she fell ill and died in July 1919 at the age of 72, just 13 months before her life’s work culminated in the ratification of the 19th Amendment.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

924 takes the main

In celebration of a social-distant, Snoqualmie Railroad Days lite, the Northwest Railway Museum was pleased to introduce to the community newly certified steam locomotive 924, an 1899 Roger's built 0-6-0 that served the Northern Pacific Railway in Washington until 1923, and continued in service for the Inland Empire Paper Company until donated to the Museum in 1969.

NPR 924 arrives at Snoqualmie on Aug 15, 2020

The open cab helped the crew tolerate temperatures in the 90s.

Northern Pacific Railway 0-6-0 924 has been undergoing rehabilitation and restoration for more than five years, and on Saturday, August 15, 2020, it finally had an opportunity to "strut its stuff" on the main track.  The operation was technically just a testing day, and was planned to check out - or prove - all the work that had been performed up until that time.  The 924 was accompanied by a combine car with several observers, and diesel-electric locomotive 4024 to provide a light braking load as desired, and to allow for safe backup movements.  And the day was a spectacular success: the only issues evident were already known to the 924's team.  

The 924 is temporarily sporting an open cab while plumbing is continuing to be adjusted.

How remarkable was Saturday's run?  The last time the 924 propelled itself up a main track Jimmy Carter was President, Amtrak was still introducing the original Superliners, and EMD/GMD's model SD40-2 locomotive was enjoying peak production. That was in 1979 when the 924 was on loan to the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad, and the 924 steamed its way down to the Burlington Northern mainline to greet British Columbia's Royal Hudson 2860 as it passed by on a tourism promotion tour.

Good lubrication, and appropriate procedures to apply it are essential on a steam locomotive of this vintage.  All the bearing surfaces are "plain" and if they run dry of oil, they will be quickly consumed.

The day was also an opportunity to continue the training process for crew members new to steam. The 924 has been set up to burn solid fuel, and there is a little more planning required before moving the locomotive.  Planning?  Solid fuel takes time to ignite so the fireman has to ensure the fire is already hot and the boiler is producing more steam before the engineer cracks open the throttle.  Otherwise, the locomotive will quite literally run out of steam.

Beginning this month, the 924 is now sporting its circa 1906 cab side lettering.

The original plan for Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2020 was to mark substantial completion of the 924 with steam powered excursions to commemorate the Suffrage Specials.  Two of those trains visited Washington State in the years leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the vote on August 18, 1920.  Unfortunately, the Covid 19 crisis allowed only social distant viewing of the 924; other elements of Snoqualmie Railroad Days were hosted on the web.

What's next?  The 924 will be getting some plumbing and running gear adjustments.  The tender will be painted.  The sand dome will be reinstalled.  And the volunteer crews will be practicing their wood chopping and chucking skills.

Monday, July 27, 2020

924 Testing

On a blistering-hot July 27, 2020, steam locomotive 924 emerged from its track inside the Conservation and Restoration Workshop for additional testing.  The 924 is an 1899-built 0-6-0 Rogers locomotive that served the Northern Pacific Railway in the Everett-Seattle-Tacoma region until 1923.  

The 924 has been undergoing a complete rehabilitation, with restoration to its appearance circa 1908.  Already, an investment of more than $500,000 has been made in this King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmark with support from local residents, museum volunteers, individual donors, 4Culture, Washington Heritage Capital Fund, the Emery Rail Trust, Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, Schwab Fund, and more.

Check out the moving pictures of the 924 in action:

The July 2020 testing was scheduled to prove the air brake system, most of which was re-plumbed with new schedule 80 piping giving the 924 a fully functional early 20th Century G-6 brake system.  Meanwhile, a number of minor boiler issues including some leaking stay bolts and boiler tubes were being re-tested to see if they had been successfully sealed.

The 924 was also put through a series of operating exercises, including pushing a braking diesel to simulate a load to check for things such as the efficacy of the cylinder packing.  The locomotive tender's new water tank was completely filled with water, but unfortunately did continue to experience several leaks, which will have to be sealed before the tank can be painted.  So not everything is perfect, but the 924 is 121 years old.  Yet aside from exceedingly high atmospheric temperatures, it was a perfect day to run a steam locomotive in the scenic Snoqualmie Valley.

Work on locomotive 924 is continuing and a public debut is expected later this season.  In the mean time, your support helps ensure this work can continue, and is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.  Please visit the Northwest Railway Museum's online donation portal to pledge your support.