Sunday, May 31, 2009

Washington Steam Railroads and Locomotives

May is National Historic Preservation month and it seems fitting to end the month with the re-launch of Washington Steam Railroads and Locomotives. Conceived by Brian Fritz in the mid 1990s, the site has been commonly known as WASteam and is dedicated to surviving Washington railroad history. [The attached photo shows Brian working on caboose 001 in 2002 at the Northwest Railway Museum.]

Brian Fritz was a local rail historian who was active in several regional railway heritage groups including the Northwest Railway Museum. Brian passed away unexpectedly in March 2007 and his family donated the web site to the Museum to perpetuate. This updated version of the site incorporates all of the original material that Mr. Fritz assembled but provides a newer, more browser-compatible design. Architecture is based on Plogger, web-based open source photo gallery software that was customized by NDC Web Design.

WASteam began as a site to highlight park and other steam locomotives preserved in Washington State. Later, Brian with the help of Roger Kirkpatrick, added a roster of surviving cabooses. (Roger authored "Captive Cabeese in America.") And the site also eventually included pages for most of the major heritage rail operations in the state. And as when Brian was with us, the site will continue to evolve to best meet the needs of the audience.

WASteam is hosted by Railfan.Net as a service to the railfan community. Railfan owner J. Henry Priebe, Jr. has been very generous in his support of the site, and he also provides similar support to other sites. Mr. Priebe has offered to continue hosting the site and the Northwest Railway Museum has gratefully accepted.

WASteam is continuing as a program of the Northwest Railway Museum. Material will be updated and newly identified resources will continue to be added. But its success is somewhat dependent upon its users. Without advice and input regarding Washington’s rich railroad heritage, this site cannot succeed. So the staff and volunteers of the Northwest Railway Museum look forward to hearing from you about resources in your Washington community.

Check out the new WASteam today!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Caboose 001 project receives Spellman Award

Last year the Northwest Railway Museum's intrepid group of collection care volunteers completed rehabilitation of White River Lumber Company caboose 001. This year their efforts were acknowledged with the John D. Spellman award for outstanding achievement in restoration.

The Award is named for the first King County Executive John D. Spellman, who held office from 1969 - 1980 and later went on to become Governor of Washington. This year, the presentation was made by Congressman Dave Reichert in a ceremony held at the Meadowbrook Farm Interpretive Center in North Bend. Depicted in the photo l to r, Congressman Reichert, Caboose volunteers Dale Campbell, Martin Nemerever, Richard Wilkens, Dan Calhoun and Museum Executive Director Richard R. Anderson. Not present was Dickie Huntamer.

Five volunteers contributed over 75% of the efforts to restore caboose 001, a project that consumed over 5,000 person hours. Volunteer Martin Nemerever's site describes the process:

The Spellman Award acknowledges this significant achievement and its overall contribution to historic preservation in King County. It is given each year to outstanding projects in King County. Other recipients this year include the Interpretation of the Iron Goat Trail in Steven's Pass performed by Volunteers for Outdoor Washington, David Cook's reconstruction of the Cook Building in North Bend, and Peter LaHay's adaptive reuse that created the Woodman Lodge in Snoqualmie behind the Snoqualmie Depot.

King County photo by Ned Ahrens

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Whistle stop birthday parties

Happy Birthday To You!

Whistle Stop Birthday parties are all the rage at the Museum for ages 2 and up. During the last several weekends, the Northwest Railway Museum has hosted twelve parties.

A great time was had last weekend by four different family groups and their friends. Diego W. and family had a super time with over 40 friends. They made the party festive with their bubble machine, piƱata, picnic and colorful balloons. Party-perfect weather was the rule of the day, and everyone enjoyed being outside, with a light breeze swaying through the trees.

Lilianna S. and family celebrated her second birthday playing on the train tables in the baggage car and on the Whitcomb engine outside, too.

Patrick H. and family loved the train ride. Patrick received a framed drawing of the Snoqualmie Depot from his wife, Jan.

Apollo D. turned 3 recently, and was thrilled to celebrate at the Museum. The train ride is everybody’s favorite part of the party. We wave to them as they pull out of the Snoqualmie Depot, headed for the top of the Snoqualmie Falls and the panoramic view of the valley below.

This picture of Ben L. taken by his mother, Kim, says it all.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Barney and Smith Car Company

So what was the Barney and Smith Car Company? It was a railroad car builder. Chapel Car Messenger of Peace (and indeed many of the passenger cars in the Northwest Railway Museum Collection) was manufactured by Barney and Smith.

Barney and Smith was the premier car builder of the 19th Century and was located in Dayton, Ohio. Its car building efforts began in 1849 as the E. Thresher and Company and the initial organization included $10,000 of capitalization with partners Eliam Barney and Ebenezer Thresher. They gradually expanding production, weathered several recessions, added several more partners and by 1867 had expanded their capitalization to over $500,000. In 1867, this was a truly vast sum and is indicative of the prominence of railroads in the 19th Century.

During the Civil War E. Thresher and Co. expanded production to fill orders from the United States Military Railroads and in that era added many modern manufacturing facilities including their own steam kiln to dry lumber, a facility to manufacture coke, and an iron foundry. Then as now, war time production work was very lucrative.

By 1864, Mr. Preserved Smith joined as a partner and the company was henceforth known as the Barney, Smith and Company. In 1867, the Barney family gained control of the enterprise when Eliam Barney and his son Eugene bought out two earlier investors. Reorganized as the Barney and Smith Manufacturing Company, the officers were all family relatives except for Preserved Smith.

Illustrating the importance of B & S in that era were orders from Pullman. Beginning in 1859 George Pullman ordered sleeping cars from Barney and Smith and continued as a customer until 1881, when their own manufacturing facilities were able to meet all their requirements. Similarly, Pullman’s competitor, the Wagner Palace Car Company, also purchased many of their sleeping cars from Barney and Smith.

In 1892 Barney and Smith became a publically traded corporation. An initial stock offering of $4.5 million was purchased in part by a group of Cincinnati, Ohio investors. The company was reincorporated in West Virginia – though operations remained in Dayton - and the name was changed to the Barney and Smith Car Company. Certainly for the Barney family, this was a wise move because by 1893 the world economy was beginning to feel the effects of a major recession.

Barney and Smith manufactured both freight and passenger cars. By 1896 and the end of the global recession, it was clear that steel was the emerging technology for all car construction but unfortunately Barney and Smith was slow to adapt. For example, by 1906 Pullman had converted most of their manufacturing to steel while Barney and Smith was just beginning to make the shift. This resulted in substantial orders for competitors who had switched from wood to steel.

The failure to adapt to steel construction was arguably the greatest factor that led to the deminse of Barney and Smith. Other issues included general management blunders, the rise of competitors such as American Car and Foundry and Pullman, a car shop fire in 1905, and a devastating Ohio River flood in 1913 that effectively shut down remaining production in a fashion that never fully recovered. Nothing the company could do compensated for what was a gradual but ultimately substantial loss of market share.

The company was in serious jeopardy by 1913 but managed to remain in business - albeit with few orders to manufacture - until 1921. The remaining assets of Barney and Smith were auctioned off in 1924.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Save Our Rails success

Over 130 people experienced the Save Our Rails event. That beautiful sunny April afternoon and evening saw temperatures soar into the 70s. Really good food, interesting auction items, incredible wines in an after dinner tasting, and a scenic train excursion to Snoqualmie Falls rounded out the evening. There was even a guest appearance from Captain Johnathan Hillstrand of the good ship Time Bandit, one of the stars from Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch.

Certainly the highlight of the evening was the great food from Snoqualmie’s very own Woodman Lodge. Proprietor Peter L. and his excellent staff served up superb food with prompt and efficient service. Salmon, pasta and of course steak were among the menu choices. A varied and extensive wine menu was available as an extra too.

Silent auction items provided an important avenue for support of Save Our Rails too. Over a dozen local organizations contributed including the LeHay family, Seattle Mariners, Salish Lodge and Spa, Sue B’s Avon, Carmichael’s True Value, Hit Entertainment, Snoqualmie Falls Golf Course, Jason V., Costco, Sherry G., Snoqualmie Falls Brewery, Radar Ski, TPC at Snoqualmie Ridge, and Birches Habitat.