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.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

More on the 924

The Covid-19 crisis has been particularly difficult for the cultural sector, and the Northwest Railway Museum has been no exception.  However, prior grant awards and contributions have allowed at least some work to continue on steam locomotive 924, the Rogers-built 0-6-0 that operated for the Northern Pacific Railway in the Puget Sound Region from 1901 until 1923.  As reported in an article posted in May, after years of rehabilitation the 924 steamed under its own power this year for the first time since 1979.  Since then, the locomotive has taken on a more decidedly finished appearance.

The steam saddle had a number of broken screws that at one time helped secure jacketing.  A process of drilling, tapping, and backing out the remains of the old screws is used to prepared the saddle for new jacketing.  Kyle I. achieved great success by adding just a little heat, too.

Meanwhile, Floyd went to work fabricating a new mounting plate for a period-appropriate bell.  Unfortunately the original bell disappeared many years ago, but was a late 19th century model that mounted the harp up on a pedestal.  The bell the Museum's director selected to replace it is very similar and was purchased in a local antique shop by Joe S. more than 50 years ago.  Yet it too had also suffered from missing parts: the finial was no where to be found.  Fortunately, Floyd was able to fabricate a replacement ball from a trailer hitch as suggested by one the Museum's consultants, Steven Butler.  

One of the more interesting projects was fabrication of a new spot plate.  The remains of the original Rogers spot plate are long gone - the 924 was seen sporting a new plate as early as 1912.  Yet the period of significance the Museum has chosen for the locomotive featured the original casting.  So Lyle E. set to work fabricating a replacement Rogers lookalike using data supplied by the great curators at Railtown 1897 in California.

The replacement spot plate is not a casting, but a steel fabrication that was turned in a lathe to create the original profile.  It consists of a steel "doughnut" with a plate welded into the center.  The plate was placed in a press to create a convex face.  After finishing, replacement cast brass numbers produced by Keith Durfy were attached to the plate.  The end result is a very nearly identical spot plate, but one that is 121 years younger than the locomotive!

The Covid-19 crisis continues to place many restrictions on the Northwest Railway Museum, which remains closed to the public.  However, work is continuing on the locomotive 924 project.  Another update will be posted soon; your contributions are always welcome and encouraged, and will help ensure work continues on this signature project.  Contributions to the 924 project may be made online at shop.TrainMuseum.organd are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A bright idea

A museum volunteer prepares to change out a ceiling-mounted light bulb.
There are many elements required to create a successful exhibit space, but few are more impactful than lighting.  When the Museum's Train Shed exhibit and collection storage building was built, it was illuminated with High Intensity Discharge ("HID") lamps.  They represented the best compromise for cost versus light quality.  Yet just nine years later, there are many other options, and most use substantially less electricity.

With the Covid 19 crisis closure coupled with damage to the Train Shed roof mentioned in the last post, June seemed like the perfect time to retrofit electrical lighting fixtures to Light Emitting Diodes ("LED") lamps.  

Changing out lamps is very impactful because the boom lift needed to perform the work requires exhibits to be dismantled, and cars or locomotives to be moved.  This process normally generates weeks of disruptions - except right now the Museum remains closed because of the Covid 19 crisis.  

Thanks to volunteer Arnie L. and the local Platt Electric in Preston, a conservation rebate reduced the price of the new lighting elements to roughly the cost of new HID bulbs.  Also helpful was some assistance with equipment from CHG, the company who is performing the storm damage repairs.  And especially to Arnie L. who rode the lift to the ceiling and changed most of the 38+ ceiling fixtures.  Brent assisted with the conversion as well, and more than a dozen others helped with dismantling exhibits, removing the old ballasts, and helping provide supplies for the retrofit wiring.

With thanks to everyone for working together, all the Trains Shed HID high bay ceiling fixtures were successfully converted to LED lamps.  This cut the power consumption by approximately 25% and "warmed" the lighting color temperature to 3,000 K, which is also known as warm white.  This will generate annual power savings of approximately $2,000, and improve the visitor experience immensely.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

Thar she blows!

Western Washington has weather patterns seldom understood outside of the region.  Summers are dominated by beautiful weather, are usually drier than New York city, and have low humidity.  However, winter occasionally brings unpredictable storms that may release torrents of rain or wet snow, and hurricane-force wind gusts.  

Storm damage occurs most years, but it is usually minor and has consisted of railroad crossing gates that were broken in half by wind gusts, gutters torn from the Education Center by heavy snow, and a crossing gate mechanism shattered when a truck skidded in the snow and sideswiped a crossing signal mast.  

The large western hemlock dropped
diagonally across the roof.
Now the Museum can add another roof to the list.  Just as the Covid 19 crisis was expanding, a sudden wind storm brought destruction to the Museum when it brought a massive tree down onto the Train Shed.  The evergreen was more than 100 feet tall and appeared to be very healthy, but a gust snapped the trunk off approximately 20 feet above the ground.  The tree landed diagonally across the north dormer damaging the eave truss, gutter system, and roof panels.  Inside, wall paneling buckled and window casing popped off the wall. And soon water was leaking into the wall structure.

A standing -seam roof is now water
tight when the seams are no longer intact.
The Museum responded quickly to the crisis by hiring Imhoff Crane to remove the tree right away.  Due to its length and weight, Scott Imhoff cut the tree into sections to make it easier and safer to handle.  Then steps were taken to make the building water tight again until proper repairs could be undertaken.

A few needles and seed pods disguise
the extent of the damage,
With the warmer, drier weather now blanketing the Northwest, CHG Building Systems is beginning the repairs.  More than 1,000 square feet of roof is being replaced, along with several structural members, some interior cladding, and dormer cladding.  The work is expected to take two weeks and is valued at more than $140,000.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

924 steams!

The 924 builds steam on a warm spring day.
Locomotive 924 was constructed in 1899 by the Rogers Locomotive Works of Paterson, New Jersey, and was delivered along with two identical sisters to the St.Paul and Duluth Railroad.  By 1901 it was under ownership of the Northern Pacific Railway, and was soon serving their needs in the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest.

Steam and air plumbing fills the cab; the
roof has been left off the cab for now to
improve access and lighting.
In 1924, the 924 became superfluous to the needs of the N.P. R. and was sold to the Inland Empire Paper Company near Spokane, WA.  The locomotive met the needs of its new owner until 1969 when company president William H. Cowles Jr. donated the 924 to the Northwest Railway Museum.  The 924 briefly operated in Chehalis, and was later moved to the Museum headquarters in Snoqualmie.  In 2015 it was nominated and listed on the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmarks Register.  Work was immediately underway on a major rehabilitation effort, which is now nearing completion.

A wood fire crackled for about four hours
before the boiler reached operating
pressure. 924 will be fueled with wood
rather than coal.
May 18, 2020 represents an important milestone for the 924: it returned to steam and operated under its own power in testing on the shop track.  An inspection conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration observed that the boiler safety valves opened and closed at appropriate pressure levels, and the steam-powered air pump was able to deliver the required air flow.  During the visit, Museum staff also demonstrated successful operation of both Ohio injectors, and the hydro-static lubricator, all of which were rebuilt by Backshop Enterprises.  And an additional day under steam gave collections care specialists - steam specialists, really - an opportunity to perform additional testing and troubleshooting.  Steven B., Josh K., Scott, and Gary performed most of the effort required to boil the boiler water, but dozens of additional volunteers and staff contributed efforts that allowed this to happen.

Work on the 924 is continuing and completion of vital systems is anticipated in 2nd quarter 2020.  Work has been funded by contributions from individuals, companies, foundations, and government agencies including 4Culture, Washington's Heritage Capital Fund, the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, Emery Rail Trust, Schwab Fund, and more. You can support completion of the project by visiting the Museum's donation page, making a pledge, and selecting the steam program here.

Check out two days of steam in photos and videos:

The hydrostatic lubricator, automatic brake valve, steam gauge,
and air gauges.

924 was built with one water glass but
regulations now require two.

Setting safety valves to the correct pressure involves verifying
they open at the desired pressure.
Checking the water level.

Verifying the open and close pressures for the safety valves.

924 simmers in the Snoqualmie Valley
The Museum's director and the inspector from the Federal
Railroad Administration discuss locomotive 924.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A new cab for a locomotive

More progress for steam locomotive 924!  Despite the encumbrances of the Covid 19 crisis, a skeleton staff has been able to advance the project with installation of the new cab.

The cab was moved out of the Conservation and
Restoration Center by the Museum's Pettibone

The former Northern Pacific Railway 924 was built in 1899 and is nearing the end of a multi year rehabilitation.  The Rogers-built 0-6-0 has received extensive boiler work, and work is continuing on the brakes and running gear.  A new tender tank has been built, and a replica cab has been fabricated from white oak as part of the effort to restore the locomotive to its appearance circa 1908.

The all-wood cab was gently lowered into place.
The cab was held in position above the locomotive
while clearances were checked.

An important milestone was reached a few days ago when the wood cab was restored to the locomotive boiler and frame.  The heavy oak structure was swiftly placed by Scott Imhoff from Imhoff Crane in Snoqualmie.

It was as if the cab was flying.
The new cab was slowly lowered onto the locomotive.

The fabrication effort was led by the Museum's shipwright Gary James last year in a 4Culture-funded project.  Volunteers were extensively involved, too, but especially Mike D. who created a complete set of drawings scaled from historical photos, and from field measurements taken on locomotive.  Support for this work was also received from the Washington Heritage Capital Fund administered by the Washington State Historical Society, and from individual donors.  Your tax-deductible contribution to the Museum's steam locomotive fund will help continue and complete the effort.

Placement of the cab complete, the 924 is beginning to look like a locomotive again!
With the new cab in position, the 924 is beginning 
to look like a complete locomotive again.

Work on locomotive 924 is continuing this month, though at a much slower pace than anticipated due to health and safety restrictions necessary to protect volunteers and employees from Covid 19.  Notwithstanding, the cab is an important milestone with others anticipated in the near future for this long-term project.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Give BIG 2020 - help the Museum weather Covid 19

2020 is proving to be a challenging year with the longest closure in the Museum's 63 history.  Governor Insley's stay-at-home order has been extended to the end of May to slow the spread of Covid 19, but as a consequence of the closure Museum income is down more than $150,000.  A Pay Check Protection loan from the Small Business Administration of $94,000 is allowing the Museum to retain basic staffing levels for security, regulatory efforts, and maintenance, but many other efforts are suffering.

Ideally, the Museum would have been asking you to support the completion of steam locomotive 924, to help restore parlor car 1799, or perhaps to help with Puget Sound Electric Railway 523 rehabilitation efforts.  Instead, the Museum asks that you please consider a contribution today through May 6th to ensure the Museum is simply able to reopen when the state deems it safe to do so.

The Northwest Railway Museum has a very successful business plan, but its weakness is a reliance on earned income.  Most of the operating budget is funded with ticket sales.  So visits to the Train Shed, train excursion tickets, Depot Bookstore sales, Day Out With Thomas, and Santa Train tickets fund more than 90% of the Museum's operating budget.  The balance is funded with operating grants from King County 4Culture, and the City of Snoqualmie.  And adding to the financial hardship, the City of Snoqualmie has had to freeze the operating grants because their tax revenue from hotel room rentals has dropped almost to zero.

The Northwest Railway Museum provides a multitude of opportunities for families to learn about railway history, while experiencing the excitement of a working heritage railway.  Please help the Museum continue this unique programming with a contribution to GiveBIG 2020 through May 6.