Monday, January 26, 2009

Museum Volunteers tour local railroad landmark

The combined contribution of over 8,000 volunteer hours recently earned four dozen Museum volunteers a rare experience. They had the opportunity to tour the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway’s Interbay Locomotive Shop and learn about the art of locomotive maintenance. The tour was organized by Justin Q., an Interbay employee, and BNSF retirees Dan O. and John H. who conducted the tour and answered questions.

The policies concerning visitors on railroad property have changed a lot in the past decade and BNSF rarely approves tours of its facilities. Interbay features an active roundhouse (built in 1929 for the Great Northern Railway), one of only two remaining in Washington State. The ability to learn Interbay’s role in supplying modern, reliable, well-maintained power coupled with a rare glimpse inside a steam-era structure made the tour a special outing.

Dave M., BNSF Interbay Shop Superintendent, approved the tour while Power Desk Foreman Wayne P. accompanied the museum visitors. After signing in, guests had a chance to look over a collection of books, photographs, rule books and pamphlets pertaining to Interbay’s history. A comprehensive safety briefing was held before the tour began; special boots and protective gear were required too.

A highlight of the tour was a ride on the 112 foot turntable. The tour included a look into the Maintenance Building, and a walk around the service tracks where locomotives are cleaned, supplied and inspected. The group toured through the entire roundhouse, getting a close look at the back shop, giant drop pit and tables, and the middle section (with its truss rod roof construction). The diesel house, where multiple level ramps allow workers access to every part of a locomotive, was next. Museum Volunteers also had a chance to look into the carbody of a 1970s vintage road locomotive called an SD40-2 to see how components are laid out.

It is noteworthy that one of the country's most successful railroads has kept the Interbay Roundhouse in service for 80 years and it remains a useful tool.

(Thanks to Ray Rhodes for this guest post.)

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