Sunday, December 27, 2009

Siding for coach 218

Rehabilitation of the coach 218 has been underway for two years now. This comprehensive project is addressing nearly every aspect of this 1912-built coach to prepare it for its return to passenger service.

The Barney and Smith Car Company applied everything they knew about coach building to the 218; it was one of the last wooden coaches built for service on an American railroad. This allowed it to reliably serve as a coach for the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway for nearly 40 years, and then for another 35 years as a dormitory for track work crews.

Work efforts to date have completed replacement of floor sills, roof carlines, lower roof decks, all missing or damaged window posts and studs, repair of carbody blocking, and repair of the letter board. Application of new exterior cladding/siding is now underway and approximately 25% of the carbody application is complete. Thousands of hours have been contributed by project volunteers including Alan W., Roger S., Hugh H., Bob M., Bob Mc., Russ S., Mike G., Kaila, Dan D., George H., Chuck S., Dan C., and Chuck M.

Rehabilitation efforts will continue into 2010 with substantial completion planned by summer 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Steel erection begins!

The Train Shed is now beginning to take shape. On Tuesday, December 22, 2009 subcontractor CHG Building Systems began erecting steel columns for the Train Shed. CHG is not a newcomer to the Museum – they were also involved in construction of the Museum’s Conservation and Restoration Center in 2005 and performed work on that project to a high standard. For this repeat performance, CHG is using a crane, telescoping lifts and of course a highly skilled team of erectors, and the building is beginning to take shape.

The Train Shed will be a fully enclosed and semi conditioned exhibit building for the Northwest Railway Museum’s collection of railway transportation artifacts including locomotives, coaches and freight cars. Priority exhibits will include the most vulnerable objects – typically the oldest and those built predominantly of wood – and will include the 1898-built Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace, White River Lumber Co caboose 001, and Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924.

Construction began in July 2009 and substantial completion of the steel structure is anticipated in March 2010. Track construction will begin after the building is completed; project will be dedicated in August 2010. This nearly $4 million project has been in development for five years.

Major funders include the Washington State Historical Society’s Capital Projects for Washington’s Heritage, McEachern Charitable Trust, 4Culture, The Seattle Foundation, TEA-21 Transportation Enhancements, Puget Sound Energy Foundation, Nysether Family Foundation, Osberg Family Foundation, Washington Department of Commerce, Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving, and hundreds of individuals. Additional support is requested and can be made through the Museum’s web site here or on the American Express Giving Express site here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

This Santa drives a train

“On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!” may have a better ring than “On, Weyerhaeuser Timber #6! On, Coach NP X-46 and Caboose NP 1203!” But train, not sleigh, was the transportation of choice for Brian Norvell, Santa Train’s very first Santa.

The year was 1969. During warmer months, the Puget Sound Railway Historical Association offered steam train rides for a dollar. Brian’s mother Hazel Norvell and other members of the Women’s Auxiliary conceived of Santa Train as a way to thank the community for its support during the past year. (Women’s auxiliaries were a sign of the times.) They had no idea how many people to expect, but if they charged 25 cents a ticket and if maybe 500 people showed up, it would serve as a fundraiser, too.

So one Sunday in December, Hazel prepared hot chocolate in a stationary kitchen car (NP X-127, a car configured with a coal stove and eating area for railroad workers), and Brian a.k.a. Santa headed down the hill on board the train in hopes of greeting a few folks.

And 1,800 people showed up.

Families rode the train with Santa up the hill on a spur where Snoqualmie Parkway is today and disembarked for cocoa and cookies. (Says Brian, “I felt like a sardine getting squooshed out of the car.”) They stayed as long as they liked, singing carols around a bonfire. Trains came and went. Cookies and hot chocolate ran out, and the Women’s Auxiliary ran all over town in search of more.

The event expanded to two Sundays the next year and two weekends the third year. Guests visited Santa, now seated in an overstuffed chair in a stationary bunk car, and then walked through to the kitchen car for treats. In 1973, Santa handed out candy canes from a big chair on a platform in a combine car’s baggage room that volunteers decorated with leaded glass chandeliers and a tree.

Norvell qualified as a locomotive engineer in 1968. So after sitting for hours in his Santa chair, he enjoyed wrapping up the event by taking over as engineer for the last run. He invited the final family of the day, after they had waited so long to visit him, to ride with him in the locomotive as Santa engineered the train down the hill.

Brian’s parents, sister, wife and children have all contributed to Santa Train’s success. Norvell speaks of the incredible dedication and devotion of volunteers, especially in those early days when they worked entirely outdoors (which was “pretty brutal”), monitoring pipes during freezing weather so they would have running water, making sure there was enough firewood. What a change from today, he notes, with a fully restored depot and new buildings under construction. “It’s wonderful to see the dream we all dreamt as teenagers finally coming to fruition,” Brian says. “That’s awesome.”

Then he muses about this year’s 40th annual Santa Train, “We probably have grandkids of those who sat in my lap.” In fact he’s right. You can read about that here. Santa Brian and his mother started one fine tradition.

Photo: Santa Train's very first Santa Brian Norvell (right) poses with the 40th annual Santa Train's Santa.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Save America’s Treasures

Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace has been awarded a prestigious Save America’s Treasures grant. On 9 December 2009 the Institute of Museum and Library Services – in collaboration with the President’s Council on Arts and Heritage, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service – announced selection of the chapel car project from a pool of 402 eligible applications. In all, $9.5 million funded 41 applications.

The Chapel Car will receive $180,000 that will match funding awarded from the Washington State Historical Society’s Capital Projects for Washington’s Heritage program ($125,000), 4Culture’s Landmark Rehabilitation and Landmark Challenge grant programs ($37,000), a 4Culture Collection Care grant ($4,000) and a variety of private contributions.

Chapel Car 5 was built in 1898 for the American Baptist Publication Society. For 50 years it traveled through Washington and 10 other States bringing modern evangelism to the frontier. For two years it promoted the Railroad YMCA, and in its later years was used to conduct revivals. In 1899 a fatally ill Reverend Moody of the Moody Bible Institute traveled in the car on his final trip home.

In 1917, Car 5 traveled through Snoqualmie to conduct services in North Bend and later traveled to Issaquah to serve that community at the onset of America’s involvement in WW I. The car served dozens of communities in Western Washington and King County. After retirement, the car was adapted for use as a road side diner near Snohomish, WA, and later as a cottage at Grayland, WA. The artifact was donated to the Museum and moved to Snoqualmie in 2007.

Messenger of Peace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Washington Heritage Register, and the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmarks Register. It is recognized as the only Nationally-significant object in the Museum’s collection and this status helped secure the Save America’s Treasures grant.

The Save America’s Treasures grant will allow substantial completion of the Chapel Car rehabilitation. Work is expected to begin in second quarter 2010 following preparation of a detailed work plan and a successful review of that plan by the Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation. Work will take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Train Shed steel

The Train Shed construction is continuing to proceed but some of the most impressive work takes place in a manufacturing facility. Take the steel columns and girders as an example, part of the Varco-Pruden brand building designed for the Museum. They are being fabricated at Wick Constructor's subconcontractor BlueScope Buildings NA, Arlington, Washington facility, about 90 minutes north of the Museum.

Ironically, the BlueScope Buildings NA facility is located adjacent to the BNSF Railway and a section of former Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway that is just about the same physical distance the Train Shed is being built from the Museum's section of former Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. And for the record, mill steel is still delivered to the BlueScope facility by rail however the Train Shed is being built with components fabricated from American-made sheet and roll steel delivered by truck.

A recent tour of the BlueScope facility conducted by mill manager Phil S. revealed a plant dedicated to quality and safety. Much of the welding is performed by automated machines however due to the custom design of many buildings there were a number of welders manually completing the fabrications by hand. The actual Train Shed components were on the floor in fabrication and it was really interesting to see the transformational process from basic steel plate to finished column or girder. At the end of the production line, the components were physically dipped into primer to ensure full coverage of all surfaces.

The Train Shed fabrications are nearly complete and structural steel is scheduled for shipping to the Northwest Railway Museum on Friday, 4 December 2009. Train Shed erection will begin on Monday, 7 December 2009; assembly will take approximately three months.

Additional images are available for viewing on the Museum's WASteam web site.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Hidden Talents

Walking by the bay window at the Northwest Railway Museum, I spied some activity inside at the desk. Clarence, our telegrapher of many years, has taken up a new hobby. As I look closely, peering through the antique glass, it seems Clarence is putting the finishing touches on a Christmas model railroad display.

The tracks are covered with snow and Isaac’s Hardware awaits holiday shoppers at the end of the line. Wildlife is free to roam. I spy a moose, beaver and some wild mustangs. Clarence has taken a break from sending messages and is painting the roof of a new building.

The scent of pinecones and hot chocolate hang in the air with the smoke from the locomotive. A woman steps out her front door to wave at the passing train as it slows to pick up waiting skiers headed for the slopes. The fireman shovels more coal into the firebox as the engineer picks up steam for the trip into the mountains. Santa better be careful not to slide out the open door of the coach, as he waves merrily to the townspeople.

What a cheery display. It put a spring in my step and hope in my heart. The season of joy is upon us and all is ready. Northwest Railway Museum volunteers have been busy decorating for several days now, and the freight room, baggage car, kitchen car and waiting room of the Snoqualmie Depot have been transformed in anticipation of Santa’s arrival. Oh yes, and Clarence has been busy too.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Giving Thanks in 2009

15 things the Northwest Railway Museum is thankful for (in no particular order):

1. Sprinkler systems! (The Snoqualmie Depot was spared from major fire damage by sprinkler heads located on the structure’s exterior.)

2. Successful flood recovery. (On January 8 the Museum experienced the most significant flood event in its history and recovered in time to operate trains in April as scheduled.)

3. Broad base of community support from a truly successful community. (Participation through programs, volunteering, contributing funds, donating goods and services, and helping protect the museum from fire, flood and even petty crime.)

4. Popular programs. (2009 experienced record-setting participation in the Museum’s programs.)

5. Beautiful scenery in a great location. (A beautiful location helps the Museum be successful, and is part of railroad's legacy in the Northwest.)

6. A Collection of Northwest railway history truly representative of the region. (Locomotives, a depot, bridges, freight cars, coaches, lanterns, books, photographs, maps, and examples of pretty much anything else imaginable that was used to build, operate or maintain a railroad.)

7. Great volunteers. (Over 200 people have participated this year in everything from flood recovery to staffing all programs.)

8. Dedicated staff. (Five full time and four part time staff provide management and general support for museum programs.)

9. Supportive local government (Snoqualmie, North Bend and King County have all helped the Museum become more successful.)

10. Awesome elected officials at all levels of government from the City of Snoqualmie Council all the way to Congress.

11. Irreplaceable support from the State of Washington and the United States. (Together, the State and Federal government are funding nearly 40% of the new Train Shed.)

12. Museum members. (Membership remains as one of the Museum’s critical support mechanisms.)

13. Generous funders. (Recent new support received from 4Culture, North American Railway Foundation, the Quest for Truth Foundation, the City of Snoqualmie and dozens of individuals.)

14. Effective and dedicated Board of Trustees. (Museum is governed by 11 volunteer trustees. Members include rail historians, museum volunteers, and community representatives.)

15. The best bells and whistles of any museum in the County!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

World's Greatest Hobby on Tour

Model train show season has begun and the Northwest Railway Museum was present at one of the best train shows around this past weekend: The World’s Greatest Hobby on Tour, originating in Illinois.

Thousands of families and train lovers gathered in the Showplex at the Puyallup Fairgrounds for a train palooza, featuring model train layouts by local groups, retailers and manufacturers, and heritage preservation institutions such as the Northwest Railway Museum.

The Museum put on a well coordinated three-faceted display. The diorama depicting the Railway History Center has been refurbished with new covers, paint, and touch-ups to the modeling. Referencing the completed Conservation and Restoration Center, the currently under construction Train Shed and the future Library and Roundhouse helped visitors visualize the completed center. The Museum’s newest exhibit, “North Bend’s Own Train,” which tells the story of the importance of the railroad in North Bend, Washington, was well-received. An operating model train layout by Ron C. and friends completed the Museum’s display. This layout depicts the countryside in Great Britain, such as is frequented by Thomas the Tank Engine™. Children of all ages enjoyed operating Thomas by remote control.

In 2010, the Museum will be exhibiting in Seattle, at the Pacific Science Center Model Train Show, January and in Monroe, at the United Northwest Show at the Evergreen Fairgrounds, in February.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Good conductor, bad conductor

Weyerhaeuser Timber Company White River Branch #1 is a diesel-electric locomotive built in 1951 during the transition from steam to diesel. It is an important object in the Museum’s collection for the era in which it was built, because it represents local King County history (Enumclaw area), because of its connection with the forest industry, because of its builder (Fairbanks Morse) and because it worked together with White River Lumber caboose 001 that is also in the Museum’s collection. And, well, just because (yes, Spike disliked that reason too!)

Diesel-electric refers to the power transmission. A diesel engine turns an electric generator and relays control how much electricity is sent to electric traction motors that are mounted on each axle. It is a very efficient design and similar to the concept used in hybrid cars, except there is no storage battery.

Locomotive 1 is operationally complete and for nearly 20 years regularly pulled trains on the interpretive railway. Unfortunately, electrical problems developed a few years ago and the locomotive has been out of service ever since. Unfortunately, electrical problems concomitant with managing old locomotives because wires and components that are nearly 60 years old tend to be bad electrical conductors when they should be good, and good electrical conductors when they should be insulators. (In this context, conductor is not the boss of the train, it refers to the electrical properties of something. If something is a good conductor, electricity will probably flow easily through it.)

Locomotive 1 is slated to go on long term exhibit in the new Train Shed when that structure is completed later next year. In preparing for that exhibit, the Museum’s staff has been attempting to address known issues including stuck fuel injectors (Fairbanks Morse Engine sent out a crew to fix this problem) and electrical problems. For the 1, electrical problems appear to be confined to two traction motors that have an unusual buildup of carbon dust. In that situation, we would call that carbon a very bad good conductor: it allows the high voltage intended to power the electric traction motor to leak into areas where it is not supposed to. If an attempt were made to operate those electric motors, the result would be a very bright flash and a lot of molten copper, and that would almost certainly make future operation unlikely.

Over the past several months, various cleaning techniques have been applied to the locomotive 1’s traction motors. It is too soon to tell if the locomotive will be able to operate with any regularity, but some of the results are promising enough that a new set of carbon brushes – an essential component in a direct current traction motor – has been installed.

We have a lot more information to share about locomotive 1 – and even an exciting announcement or two – so watch for more posts in the coming weeks and months.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Happy Birthday, Washington State

Why be modest? We’ll take credit for Washington State’s 120th birthday.

Washington became the 42nd state when President Benjamin Harrison signed a proclamation on November 11, 1889. It’s not coincidental that D. H. Gilman was signing Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway Company stock certificates (shown here) in 1888, or that investors were planning the town of Snoqualmie in 1889, or that the Snoqualmie Depot was built in 1890. Railroads were crucial to Washington Territory’s development and statehood.

Before railroads, you got here by wagon or ship. The first trains began operating in Washington Territory in the 1870s. In 1883, a spike driven in Montana completed the second transcontinental railroad, this one reaching the Pacific Northwest. (The first connected the East Coast to California.) Washington State’s population surged to 357,232 by 1890, a five-fold increase in 10 years. (In case you’re wondering, we’re past 6 1/2 million now.) Seattle's population grew from 1,107 residents in 1870 to 3,533 in 1880 . . . to 42,837 in 1890. Trains, of course, didn’t only bring an influx of people. Trains carried goods and materials essential to the region’s growth and development.

The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern connected Snoqualmie to Seattle in 1889, the year Washington became a state. Does the Northwest Railway Museum have any artifacts from that era?

The Snoqualmie Depot, shown here around 1896, was built in 1890. About 150 feet of original track remain in front of the depot today. The final image shows original SLSE rail laid in 1889. This was the main track until about 1963. Rail behind the depot is also from the period. However it wasn’t laid here until 1999. It came from local logging lines.

Bridge 35 over Snoqualmie River’s South Fork provides a view of the most common bridge
design of that period. The through-pin-connected Pratt truss bridge was built in 1891, although it spanned a river in Montana before being relocated to North Bend in 1923.

The Northern Pacific day coach 889 is considered the oldest railway car/large object in the Museum’s collection. It was purportedly built in 1881, though it could have been built a few years later. (We have no definitive research yet.) The Canadian Pacific 25 was built in 1881 but didn’t find its way west until the 1890s.

You can see a picture of a steam locomotive built in 1885 (not in our collection) on the Washington State Steam Railroads and Locomotives website.

Secretary of State blog

Seattle History Examiner
History Link
Seattle Times
Encyclopedia of Western Railroad History: Oregon, Washington, by Donald B. Robertson

Monday, November 9, 2009

More on regulation

Ballast regulation that is.

Progress on rehabilitation of the Museum’s Kershaw ballast regulator was featured in an August post and the project is nearing completion. By November 6, Rich W. completed rewiring. He installed new switches, wires, a new battery, and a battery isolation switch. Additional work was performed by Brandon C.

Rich also applied all new flood lights, a new fan for the cab, and new ignition wires. Later in November, new sealed window units will be installed and a new cab heater too. The hood and wings will be reattached and the project will be all but complete.

Also noteworthy this month was receiving correspondence from Knox Kershaw of the Knox Kershaw Company. He shared with Museum staff how he remembers in 1965 seeing models just like the Museum’s regulator being assembled on the factory floor. He expressed how delighted he was to see photos of the Museum’s regulator from the August Blog post.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Movie Night Nov 4 offers train scenes, suspense & fun

In less than a week, a one-of-a-kind theatre, a movie full of action and suspense, and a lively museum team up to offer you a casual evening out with family or friends. And the best part is . . .

Actually, there are a lot of “best parts” to next Wednesday’s movie night fundraiser for the Northwest Railway Museum.

For some it will be the great footage of Idaho’s Camas Prairie Railroad splashed across a big screen.

For others it will be not having to decide whether to spend extra money on popcorn and soda, because it’s all included in the $10 ticket price.

For others it will be knowing that part of their $10 goes to the new Train Shed exhibit building now under construction in Snoqualmie.

For still others it will be a sneak preview of a Wellington exhibit planned for next year, along with a Train Shed update, recent museum project highlights, and a personal welcome from Museum Executive Director Richard Anderson.

For me, it’s the fact that the museum keeps coming up with intriguing fundraisers that offer the community genuinely fun events directly relating to the museum’s mission, instead of following generic fundraiser models.

Whatever your “best part” is, we look forward to seeing you.

Breakheart Pass

Wednesday, Nov. 4, 7:00 PM

North Bend Theatre

125 Bendigo Blvd. N

Click here for directions

$10/person includes popcorn & soda

NO CREDIT CARDS accepted. Cash & checks only.
Cash machines next door at Cascade Bank and Bank of America.

Oh, so you want to know what the movie is about? Breakheart Pass, a 1975 film starring Charles Bronson, weaves a tale of an 1870 Army outpost, a conspiracy between a group of killers and a tribe of Indians, an undercover agent posing as an arrested criminal, the lure of gold and silver, plenty of deception, and a rescue train carrying medical supplies and assorted passengers. As the train crosses the Rocky Mountains, passengers are murdered one by one. . . . But that's all incidental, right? We're all coming for the scenes of a Camas Prairie steam locomotive and wooden railway cars.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Family attends Santa Train 37 years in a row

Dick and Charlsia Schall were enjoying a Sunday drive with their three children when they stumbled upon Santa Train and decided to hop aboard. That was 1972, and they haven’t missed a year since.

As they waited to board, Dick remembers watching a flagpole. When a pennant matching the color of their tickets was raised, it was their time to ride. A steam locomotive pulled the train from Route 202 about 1/4 mile into a forest where Snoqualmie Parkway is today. The Schalls stepped off the train and gathered around a bonfire, where they were served hot cocoa and homemade cookies.

Santa Train has evolved over the course of 40 years. (It began in 1969.) But cocoa and cookies remain a constant. Today, guests file through the museum’s historic railway kitchen car to receive cookies baked inside coal-burning stoves. Hot chocolate is warmed in a huge pot on top of the stove.

Why did the Schalls keep coming back? “It was good entertainment for the kids,” says Dick. “They liked to ride on the train.” OK, be honest now. Dick adds, “I have always been fond of the railroad and trains.”

That excitement over the train ride is another constant. “The kids all remain the same,” says Charlsia. “It’s still the same kind of family involvement.”

Dick, Charlsia, Tim, Peter and Andrick have attended Santa Train in sunshine, snow, sleet, rain, even floods. One year, Dick and Charlsia thought their children had outgrown the event. But when they announced they wouldn’t be going, one son would hear none of it. It was tradition. And now the tradition includes Dick and Charlsia’s granddaughters, Teagan and Shaleigh, as well.

The story doesn’t end there. In 1999, Dick and Charlsia began volunteering for Santa Train. In the years since, they’ve baked cookies, decorated the Snoqualmie Depot, assisted Santa, and led singing on the train. A young boy dubbed Dick “Mr. Bells,” because Dick wears bells on his cap to amuse toddlers. Their son Peter has also volunteered for Santa Train. And now, Dick and Charlsia volunteer at the Northwest Railway Museum year round once a week, helping with collection care, archiving, preparing mailings, and other vital projects.

So this year, ride Santa Train if you dare! You never know where it may lead.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hoboes allowed on Halloween Train

If you’re looking for something creepy and frightening this Halloween . . . you won’t find it at Halloween Train.

Nothing here to spook the wee ones that love train rides so much. The Northwest Railway Museum offers three days of delight-filled, history-rich autumn fun for all ages: old-fashioned cider press demos, a train ride of course, a craft to make and keep, a model train display, and bluesy ballads and fiddle tunes performed live by the Holy Hoboes. Show up in costume, and you’ll get $2 off your train ticket.

Special treat alert! Swing by George’s Bakery (127 W North Bend Way, North Bend), and get a free cookie when you show your Halloween Train ticket.

All special activities are at the Snoqualmie Depot
3 days - Sat. Oct. 24, Sun. Oct. 25, & Sat. Oct. 31
Train schedule:
Click here to view the Fall train schedule
Train fare:
Click here to see train fares ($2 off if you wear a costume)
Holy Hoboes performance schedule:
All 3 days - 12:40-1:25 PM and 2:05-2:50 PM

Remember to come in costume! If you show up as a hobo, we promise we won’t throw you off the train.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Need spikes? Zap it!

Back in the 1970s, a forward-thinking company called RMC-Portec (track machine division now part of Harsco) came up with a machine design that holds a railroad tie in place under the rails and spikes it. Mind you an operator (or two or three) is required to manipulate a joy stick and some push buttons, it is nevertheless an effective and fast machine that takes most of the heavy labor out of the equation.

The Northwest Railway Museum has a former British Columbia Railway Portec Model B "Zapper" Automatic Spike Driver ASP-3. With the upcoming construction of the tracks inside the new Train Shed exhibit building, and the turnouts and siding connecting to it, Richard Wilkens has been leading an effort to get the Zapper back in working order and reports on some significant progress:

In September a rebuilt blower for the three-cylinder Detroit 3-53 diesel was installed along with a rebuilt starter. On Labor day weekend Brandon C. and Steve P. were successful in getting the engine running, despite it being out of service for 19 years. The engine on this machine is in very good condition with only a couple revolutions it fires right off. Other work leading up to its return to operation included draining the fuel tank to install shut off valves and a sight glass for the fuel level.

For those not familiar with this machine it is used to nip and insert spikes with a minimum of physical effort, something good for those of us not 18 any more. Using 3 people, two operators and one spike loader, the controls consist of a toggle switch to control movement, a foot pedal air brake pedal, and push buttons and joy sticks to place the spikes. After reaching the tie to be spiked a push button is pressed and clamps descend around the tie to nip it up snug to the base of the rail. Spikes are held in holders above the tie plates and a joy stick is used to line up the spike to the hole in the tie plate. After the spike is in the proper position a button is pushed and a hydraulic cylinder pushes down and sets the spike. After the cylinder retracts a new spike is placed in the holder for the next tie. Normally spikes are driven on both rails but the spike chutes on one side have been removed.

Being out of service for so many years we are in the laboriously slow process of checking electric circuits from the switches to relays and to solenoids that operate the air and hydraulic cylinders. So far part of the circuits are working but more testing is needed. Besides the previously mentioned work another major task has been repairing the roof. Several weeks ago the roof was pulled and placed on saw horses so we could remove peeling paint and deal with some rusted out areas. The largest rusted area is 3’ by 4’ and the failed metal was cut out and a patch was made.

First step was to remove paint and tar type undercoat on the bottom of the roof and this was done by Dan C., Dale C., Brandon C., Richard W., and Dick H. and a coat of primer was applied followed by a coat of yellow paint. On the weekend of the 10th and 11th the roof was flipped and the surfaced cleaned and primered. This past Thursday the 16th Richard W. applied the sheet metal patch and also some roof sealing tape to deal with smaller rusted areas. Saturday the 17th saw additional rust repairs and Sunday two coats of yellow paint was applied. This coming weekend plans are to reinstall the roof and to do final touchup painting, painting of lettering, and more work towards getting the machine to 100%.

So there you have it, thanks to this Shop Log update from Richard Wilkens. While a month or two of volunteer effort still remains, a few months of effort inside the Conservation and Restoration Center has restored basic operation to an RMC-Portec Model B Zapper. We'll update progress again soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Paint the depot red!

Not quite as attention-getting as “paint the town red,” but still a true statement. Painters from RC Painting began work on the Snoqualmie Depot on September 14 on all the areas below the gutters. While this work was not originally planned for this year, it nicely complements the painting performed above the gutter line last summer, also by RC Painting crews.

Unfortunately, the 30 June 2009 arson attack blistered paint over a wide area and necessitated at least some painting. A difficulty in matching color combined with the age of the existing paint was making it difficult to complete repairs without it appearing that something wasn’t quite right. So thanks to the financial support of several of the Museum's board members, much of the cost of painting the entire depot has been funded. And now resplendent in fresh green, white and red paint, it looks as crisp as it did in '89!

RC Painting is based in Woodinville and is owned by Randy Cowan and his son. Randy is a Mt Si High graduate and growing up in Snoqualmie he developed a strong affinity for the Snoqualmie Depot. Paint foreman John is also a Mt. Si graduate and has the distinction of being involved in the depot painting project in 1989, which was completed just in time to celebrate the Washington State centennial.

The Snoqualmie Depot was built in 1890 for the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. Later part of the Northern Pacific and Burlington Northern, depot ownership was given to the Northwest Railway Museum in 1976. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the City of Snoqualmie Landmarks Register, the depot has been restored to its appearance in 1900. It receives over 85,000 visitors per year and is the centerpiece of the Northwest Railway Museum collection, and the City of Snoqualmie's downtown historic district.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Spirit of Cooperation

Two Snoqualmie Valley Museums are sharing a new exhibit, “North Bend’s Own Train,” which depicts the fascinating but untold story of the role the rail line played in the growth and development of North Bend and the Upper Snoqualmie Valley. The display contains the history, historical photos, diagrams and first-hand accounts of how the railroad brought prosperity to the Valley.

Although Snoqualmie had the elaborate depot, and was the heart of the operation, North Bend was where the train and crew were based for many years. (The engine was serviced at night by a watchman, the crew slept in old boxcar converted to a cozy caboose, and the engine was turned on the wye in North Bend.)

A commonality shared by North Bend and Snoqualmie is the critical role the railroad played in the development and sustainability of both communities. Until modern times the only way products like lumber and coal got to customers was by train. The rail line, opened in 1889, has served North Bend and the Upper Snoqualmie Valley for 120 years, bringing trade and tourists and thereby boosting - even enabling - the area’s economy.

The exhibit is the work of Northwest Railway Museum volunteers Dan O. and Thom W. It shows there are many opportunities for individuals to volunteer their particular talents at the valley Museums. Also contributing research, images, data, and stories were the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum, the White River Valley Museum in Auburn, the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, the North Bend branch of the King County Library System, and a number of individuals.

North Bend’s Own Train will be on loan to the Snoqualmie Valley History Museum through October 30th. Stop by and check out their newest installations; an exhibit on the Snoqualmie Tribe and another reflecting the last 100 years in North Bend. The Snoqualmie Valley History Museum is a short walk from the North Bend Depot. Take a stroll and return on a later train. Don’t be afraid to mention where you saw the information.

Beginning November 1st, the exhibit will move to the North Bend branch of the King County Library System, and then it will be placed on long-term display at the Northwest Railway Museum.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Train Shed construction progress

Construction has now been underway for over two months and site work is nearing completion. A photo essay that chronicles construction progress is being produced on the Museum’s WASteam site. In that essay you can see that trees and other vegetation have been removed, the site has been graded, a piling system has been installed, and approximately 1/3 of the plinths have been completed. In a few days, workers will begin to form the stem wall that runs around the perimeter of the building. Meanwhile, the new sewer lines have been installed, and nearly all the new water mains and hydrants are installed, tested and in service.

There is a great deal of agonizing detail that goes into a museum building and every detail is important. Funders want to know they are getting good value for their investment, city inspectors want proof that the building has been built in accordance with the approved design, representatives of the Federal government want proof that prevailing wages have been paid and that only American steel has been used, and Museum representatives want proof that the needs of the collection and the visiting public are being addressed.

So let’s look at one detail: windows. The design calls for a minimum insulating value. It also calls for UV (ultraviolet) filters in every pane of glass to ensure at least 95% of the sun’s damaging UV rays never enter the building. And the color of the frames must match the design too. Unfortunately ensuring these details are met requires a lot of administration and involves the supplier, the general contractor, the resident engineer, the architect, a Federal representative (because of a Federal grant), and the Museum’s representative. All have to be in agreement before the windows can be ordered.

So is it all worth it? Of course! An indoor exhibit building for coaches, freight cars and locomotives is the most important project in the Museum’s 52 year history and is the single biggest investment in sustainability that the organization has ever made. Placing artifacts inside the Train Shed will almost completely halt deterioration caused by rain, wind and sun. So our children’s children should be able to visit the Northwest Railway Museum 30 years from now where they can see and understand the role railroads played in the settlement and development of the Northwest.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Phoebe says and Phoebe knows

ow Phoebe may
By night or day
Enjoy Facebook
Upon the way.
From far or near
She finds it here
And thinks that you
Should hold it dear.

Phoebe says
And Phoebe knows
Our Facebook page
Has great photos.
So check it out.
Without a doubt
You’ll have some fun
And learn about

Museum news,
Things that amuse,
Events, train rides...
What’s there to lose?
Our Facebook page
is all the rage.
It’s how we keep
up with this age.

You must agree,
Is what we know
And love, you see.
But Facebook has
Its place, and as
You’ll see right here
It’s got pizazz.

While some may wait
And hesitate
To bring their status
Up to date,
It’s new and bright
When you alight
Upon our page.
Enjoy the sight.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Managing a Collection

This week the Northwest Railway Museum gave a locomotive to another King County Museum, the Black Diamond Historical Society. For history museums, few things generate more controversy that deaccessioning (removing) things from the collection. So was this an act of treason, charity, or simply a case of making appropriate choices in managing a collection?

In the eyes of many museum professionals, a museum collection is dynamic. It changes over time to meet the needs of the institution’s mission and adopted policy, and is held in the public trust. And most importantly, a collection must be actively managed and should not be larger than the institution’s ability to care for it.

For many railway museums over collecting and collecting outside the adopted scope of collection have been serious impediments to success. Why? The objects are huge, occupy lots of space so each item requires significant resources to care for and manage. The Northwest Railway Museum has had prior experience in this arena and addressed these issues in the early 1990s. As a result the collection size was reduced from approximately 160 large objects each greater than 1 ton to about 75. Such a dramatic change in just a few years was difficult to do responsibly and certainly ruffled more than a few feathers, but it prevented the institution from going bankrupt and released resources to develop and implement long term plans and strategies.

The latest departure – a 1943-built Plymouth locomotive formerly owned by the US Army and then Western Steel Castings – was one result of a more recent Museum Board of Trustees-initiated examination that identified any large objects that were not in compliance with adopted policies. The findings did not mean that an object did not belong in a museum, just that it did not belong at the Northwest Railway Museum: the Plymouth locomotive is a classic example of a small industrial locomotive used in lumber mills, pulp and paper mills, coal mines and other industries to move freight cars and is worthy of preservation.

Unfortunately, finding another institution to assume responsibility for a large artifact such as a locomotive can take years. Happily, the Black Diamond Historical Society right here in King County was looking for a small locomotive to help them tell their local history. Snoqualmie’s Imhoff Crane made quick work of placing the 50,000 pound artifact on a truck and just a couple of hours later it was in front of the museum in Black Diamond. So the Museum’s position is that this act was an appropriate choice in managing a collection.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The sights we saw along Railroad Avenue!

Snoqualmie Railroad Days was so much fun this year, we can’t wait to give you a sneak preview of Railroad Days 2010.

August 2009 was the first time the Northwest
Railway Museum hosted Snoqualmie’s annual festival. Thanks to all who helped! The Field of Fun transformed the Snoqualmie Depot grounds, where hundreds of children bounced themselves silly in inflatables, raced bananas in North Bend Theatre’s Banana Boogie, and laughed and sang along with Nancy Stewart, Eric Ode, and Clay Martin’s Puppet Theater. 877 runners completed 1k, 5k and 10k courses in the Snoqualmie Fun Run. View results and a gallery of photos. 65 vendors sold paintings, crafts, insulated glass, you name it. 44 Grand Parade entrants marched, danced, rode and unicycled through Snoqualmie. Congratulations, winners! View parade and festival photos. The police department estimates 3,500 festival-goers, which nearly quadrupled downtown Snoqualmie’s population for a day!

Snoqualmie Valley Railroad trains sold out. Fair-goers also rode the rails aboard a railway motorcar. The Museum demonstrated a tie spacer, which is a diesel-powered machine for aligning railroad ties; a Pettibone Speedswing, which is a small crane that operates on roads and railroad tracks; and a winded museum director showing tamping techniques and rail spiking. Don’t know what those are? Well, that’s what the demo’s are for! We’ll see you next year, when the Museum will feature additional demonstrations and activities throughout 3 festival days.

That’s right, we’re back to a full-sized festival in 2010, beginning Friday, Aug. 20, 2010. You can look forward to the Legends Car Club Classic Car Show on Sunday, Aug. 22. RunSnoqualmie will host the Fun Run Saturday, Aug. 21, and the Northwest Railway Museum will dedicate its new Train Shed exhibit building. Should be about triple the fun!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What makes Railroad Days different

Seventy years after its launch as a fundraiser for Snoqualmie's volunteer fire department, Railroad Days - now a free annual festival - is under new management. And who better to take it on than a railroad?

Early this year, with the City of Snoqualmie’s wholehearted approval, the Northwest Railway Museum adopted the community festival. Come check out the results this Saturday, August 22! You’ll find everything you’d expect from a friendly town festival, including a pancake breakfast, fun run, Grand Parade, live music, food and art vendors. The Children’s Field of Fun offers live entertainment, games and the North Bend Theatre Banana Boogie: young folks build banana racers and compete on a special raceway. Plus, kids get their own Root Beer Garden, while adults get their Beer Garden.

But what makes Railroad Days different from other community festivals are the themed activities springing from Snoqualmie’s rich railroad history. Hop aboard a train in North Bend, arrive in style at the Snoqualmie Depot, and be sure to catch the railroad and logging equipment tours and demos.

Saturday trains depart North Bend 11:26 am, 12:56 pm, 2:26 pm and 3:56 pm (that one lands you in Snoqualmie with no way back to North Bend). Trains depart Snoqualmie at 11:01 am, 12:31 pm, 2:01 pm, 3:31 pm and - this next one takes you to the Falls and back to Snoqualmie only - 4:11 pm. Also, although there are no festival activities this Friday, the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad is running special trains Friday, August 21, departing North Bend at 12:26 pm, 1:56 pm and 3:26 pm (no return to North Bend), and departing Snoqualmie at 12:01 pm, 1:31 pm, 3:01 pm, plus 3:41 pm to the Falls and back only. Adults pay $10, seniors (62+) $9, and children (2-12) $7.

Get the whole scoop on Railroad Days...

View details on train rides and depot locations...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Train Shed official ground breaking

The site was cleared and graded, equipment was mobilized, the temperature was a comfortable 72 degrees, and then the sun came out making it a perfect Northwest evening. So on the eve of the beginning of the foundation construction (specifically, of the driving of 76 augercast piles) supporters gathered for a brief ceremony. Standing in what will be the main entrance of the new Train Shed, shovel was put to dirt. Performing the honors were (L to R) City of Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, Museum President Susan Hankins, Benjamin and Kaela Getz (who together were representing all youth), Museum Executive Director Richard Anderson and Washington State Representative (5th District) Jay Rodne.

Speaking at the ceremony held Wednesday, August 5th, 2009, Representative Jay Rodne spoke of the important role the Northwest Railway Museum plays in connecting generations. "This project is about preserving the past, but it is also about our future: our youth."

Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson who has been instrumental in supporting the project also spoke adding, "This is an important project for Snoqualmie and I hope it will be one of the things my administration will be remembered for."

Museum Executive Director Richard Anderson took the opportunity to announce a funding partnership with the North American Railway Foundation who will be supporting two public access components of the project. Their support will total more than $62,000 and is another important step in completing this cultural facility.

Museum President Susan Hankins thanked everyone for supporting the project and talked about the importance of community. Hankins spoke of the long road (rail, of course) it took for the Museum to get to this moment and of the significant work remaining to complete the vision.

But surely the highlight of the evening was the opportunity for over 100 supporters to visit the new site and see for themselves how big 25,000 square feet is. Many who attended gathered for a group photo and were afterwards rewarded with ice cream donated by Kyle T. from Tweede’s Cafe in North Bend. Thanks Kyle!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Regulating track ballast

It's not a form of government control but an essential component in good railway track. Track ballast is part of the track structure. It provides supports to the ties from below and holds the ties and rail in place by resisting the moving - or dynamic - forces caused by a passing train. In a curve, the train tries to push the curve outwards. On tangent track, any rocking and rolling of the cars tries to force the track to one side or the other. When braking down a descending a grade, a train tries to push the track down the hill. A sufficient amount of properly placed ballast resists these forces and holds the track in position.

Ballast has existed since the first colliery railroad some 200 years ago. Historically, it was often little more than locally-mined sand and gravel, and in many instances was no better than the best local native material. That meant it could have been sand, or even just dirt. Today, however, most railroads including the Northwest Railway Museum have graduated to crushed rock - meaning fully-fractured faces with no round edges - because it holds the track level and within lateral alignment ("in profile") far better than sand or gravel and helps promote good drainage. But crushed rock is heavy and difficult to shovel so working with it by hand is very labor intensive. During the labor shortages of WW II, that gave a cleaver railroad contractor in Alabama the incentive to develop a better way. Royce Kershaw designed and built the first ballast regulator by mounting a set of railroad push car wheels on a old Ford pickup and attaching a plow blade to the front.

A ballast regulator in its simplest form is a plow blade that spreads ballast evenly along the track, often right after it is dumped along the track by a rail car. In a more complex configuration, it uses a series of plow blades to transfer ballast from one side of the track to the center, or even from one side of the track to the other. Today, many "regulators" have also added a broom attachment that is used to sweep the excess rock off the top of the ties and spread it along the sides of the track.

The Museum holds a classic ballast regulator in its collection. This 1963-built Kershaw was used on the Great Northern Railway and successor Burlington Northern in Stevens Pass. Powered by a Detroit 3-53 diesel engine, it has been undergoing rehabilitation in the Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center. Leading the effort is Brandon C. with active participation from Rich W., Dan C., Ian, Earl W. and Dale C. Several bearings have been reworked, some missing and damaged hardware has been replaced, sheet metal panels have been straightened and cleaned, cracks in the plows have been welded, and everything has been painted. With a few more weeks of work remaining, this ballast regulator will be fully functional; more will be posted about the regulator in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Five time-tested ways to keep your cool

1) Enjoy the breeze and the view from Coach 272 when you ride the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad.

2) Stroll the Centennial Trail past the Museum’s rail yard, and continue a half mile to Snoqualmie Falls to catch some spray.

3) Board the train in Snoqualmie, and cool off with a cone or a shake at Scott’s Dairy Freeze in North Bend before completing your journey. Or board in North Bend, and take your ice cream break at the Chew Chew Cafe in Snoqualmie.

4) Inspect the Museum’s Northern Pacific Steam Rotary Snowplow, and consider how delectable these days will seem when temperatures dip below freezing next winter.

5) Enjoy the slower

pace of Snoqualmie. Step inside the historic wooden depot. Sit on a bench out front and contemplate all the people who have stood on the platform over the past 120 years.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Train Shed construction begins!

It did not begin with any ceremony, pomp, or circumstance. Instead, it began with a chain saw. The technological marvel called the railroad made the Northwest's forest industry viable by providing economical transportation of raw logs to the mill and processed lumber to market. So it seems appropriate that a small, carefully planned logging operation would be required to build the Train Shed. And nothing was wasted. Good logs went for lumber, less desirable logs went for pulp, and everything else organic including the branches were ground up and sent to Simpson Timber's plant to make steam.

Logging today is very different than just a generation ago. Excavators are used to control the tree falling. Access to the site is tightly controlled so there is no danger of anyone wandering into the work zone. Logs are sorted and piled with an excavator. And in implementing the Museum's really aggressive tree retention plan, trees can be removed from a grove with almost surgical precision. It's truly a remarkable experience to watch the process.

So about two weeks of effort later, the building corners are set - the pink ribbon in the photo is the actual location of the building corner. This is the south east corner of the building and in a few months this view to the north will incorporate 25,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space. An ambitious effort for any history museum, this project is unique in the Pacific Northwest. Progress will be updated on this blog and on the Museum's web site at

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thomas the Tank Engine thrills thousands

Day Out With Thomas has been a successful event at the Northwest Railway Museum for eight seasons. This past weekend was the first of two for this year's event and by all accounts it was a roaring success.

Of course Thomas the Tank Engine was the star. He pulled trains for three days - July 10 - 12 - and posed for photos with children of all ages. But the event is so much more than a visit with Thomas.

This year, the friends of the Northwest Railway Museum built a new HO scale model railway custom designed to fit the Snoqualmie Depot freight room. Of course, the children can run the trains around the loop just like the old train layout. And it will also be set up for Railroad Days, and possibly travel to some off-site events later this year or early next year.

Day Out With Thomas also features live entertainment. Singer Nancy Stewart appeared again this year, but also Eric Ode. What would Day Out With Thomas be without "B-A-R-N-C-A-T I'm a barn cat?" And Clay Martin's Puppet Theater presented Punch and Judy.

What else? Dan Parker's Lego Thomas and Friends, a visit with Sir Topham Hatt, temporary tattoos, train tables, Thomas and Friends videos, and of course motor car rides!

Day Out With Thomas is a family event that the Northwest Railway Museum really enjoys hosting. There are still a few tickets available for next Friday and a few for 5:15 on Saturday, but otherwise you will have to wait 'til next year! Check out the Museum's web site for more information.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Thomas the Tank Engine arrives in Snoqualmie

This is a true story but the narrative has been adapted to suit the occasion!

Thomas the Tank EngineTM arrived in North Bend early in July 7, 2009. Unfortunately, the Fat Controller made a mistake and loaded Thomas on the lorry facing the wrong direction! Thomas insisted that he be turned around and everyone at the Northwest Railway Museum agreed. Some clever work from Steve P. and Earl W. (with help from Dan C., Vern S., and Hugh H.) using the Northwest Railway Museum's Pettibone Speedswing accomplished the feat in no time and then it was official: Thomas the Tank Engine was ready to haul some freight!

Wagon NP 14794 was loaded with some precious cargo and was coupled to Thomas. Then the nice diesel 4012 was coupled on the rear so the guard would have a nice place to ride. And then they departed for Snoqualmie pausing on bridge 35 to chat with the fisherman and fisherwoman who were beneath the bridge. A short time later, Thomas arrived in Snoqualmie right on time!

Thomas the Tank Engine is visiting Snoqualmie for the next two weeks and will be hosting 8th annual Day Out With Thomas TM here on July 10 - 12 and 17 - 19. He would love to take you for trip to the scenic Snoqualmie Falls on the Museum's railroad. There are still a few tickets available so why not join him? Information is available on the Museum web site.

Thomas the Tank Engine and Day Out With Thomas are copyright 2009 Gullane (Thomas) Limited.