Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Vandalism of the worst kind

The Snoqualmie Depot is a local icon, a centerpiece for the City of Snoqualmie and the Northwest Railway Museum, and as a 120 year-old National-Register structure it is a powerful symbol of our cultural heritage. The depot is often cited as the second most recognizable image of Snoqualmie, the first being Snoqualmie Falls. Restored between 1979 - 1983 to its appearance in 1900, the Snoqualmie Depot is visited by over 85,000 people per year.

On Tuesday, June 30, 2009, the depot faced a threat even greater than a Snoqualmie Valley flood: fire. In the wee hours of the morning, a person or persons deliberately set a fire that threatened to destroy this beautiful wooden structure. The senseless act caused damage but, fortunately for our community, the building’s sprinkler system activated and when combined with a quick response from the Snoqualmie Fire Department prevented the loss of this important cultural property. But it was too close for comfort.

A broken window on a new building or graffiti on a wall is frustrating, ugly and demoralizing but for a price it can usually be repaired. However vandalism and other destruction directed at unique objects such as museum collections and historic buildings means a portion of our collective past gets erased and can never be fully replaced.

Culture defines us. It represents our society’s beliefs, customs, knowledge, and even enlightenment. Cultural icons are visible representations of these values and the Snoqualmie Depot is one of our community’s examples. So powerful is cultural property that through the ages despotic leaders and repressive regimes have sought to destroy these symbols in the (usually) mistaken belief that they can erase the ideas by erasing the images. While damaging or destroying one unique and historic building in of itself does not eliminate our local history, the story is certainly richer and more compelling with a complete and functional Snoqualmie Depot.

Monday, June 29, 2009

North Bend block party

The City of North Bend is turning 100 this year! In preparation for a grand celebration in August, the City hosted a block party for local residents, and the Northwest Railway Museum was there. Hundreds of people turned out to watch Twede's burger-eating contest, George's Bakery's children’s giant donut-eating contest, a race through Encompass’s inflatable obstacle course, listen to music and of course visit the Cookie Train!

Cookie Train was conceived by George’s Bakery’s proprietors. Tens of dozens of locomotive-shaped cookies were given to local residents who came down to tour the Museum’s Army Ambulance Kitchen Car and SP&S combine 272, both located at the North Bend Depot just for the occasion. Thom and Lynn W. volunteered to give tours and distribute the cookies, and Isaac F. and Bob L. helped the regular crews move the cars to North Bend for the day.

The block party was fun, but it was just a warm up. Prepare for North Bend’s grand centennial celebration. It will be held on the August 8th weekend, during the annual Festival at Mt. Si.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Connecting with collections

The Northwest Railway Museum has been selected as a recipient for a Connecting With Collections Bookshelf. This collection includes essential text books, charts, and other collections resources assembled by some of the foremost museum experts in the country.

The Connecting With Collections Bookshelf will be used to help ensure the Museum’s collection of railway transportation artifacts receives the best possible care and is preserved for future generations.

Connecting With Collections is a national leadership initiative of the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a Federal agency charged with supporting America’s 122,000 libraries and 17,500 museums. The initiative is focused on caring for collections, which are threatened at many museums and libraries across the country as identified in the IMLS’s and Heritage Preservation's A Public Trust at Risk: the Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections. A staggering 190 million objects held by museums across the country are in need conservation. Light, humidity, temperature and insects are some of the key threats facing collections and the Connecting With Collections Bookshelf provides a selection of resources for museums and libraries to use in addressing these threats.

The Connecting With Collections Bookshelf is made possible by an agreement with the American Association for State and Local History and with the support of the Getty Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, and the Samuel Kress H. Foundation. The Northwest Railway Museum is one of 2,000 museums and libraries across America to receive a Bookshelf collection.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Last Saturday, I had the pleasure of representing the Museum at the Tanner Jeans Memorial Bike Rodeo. Held yearly on Snoqualmie Ridge, the rodeo’s main purpose is to educate young children and their parents on bike safety. The event is held in honor and memory of Tanner Jeans, who was killed in a freak bicycle accident when he was 7 years old.

The warm summer air was charged with excitement and happiness. Radio Disney had the kids dancing and singing in the Cascade Elementary parking lot. It felt as though the entire community had turned out to celebrate. Kids with painted faces and new helmets proudly rode their bikes around the parking lot, toting balloons and rubber bracelets. The Snoqualmie Police guided each little bicycler through the safety course they had set up in another section of the parking lot.

What a shining example of community spirit. Together, a caring group of friends and neighbors has begun turning a horrifying accident into a powerful remembrance and a positive force in all our lives.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


There were "Steampunks" aplenty at the Snoqualmie Depot today! The trip was arranged by Steamrats, an association of Steampunks living in and around Seattle. They planned this delightful outing to ride the train, see the falls, and all the assorted steam engines and logging contraptions in and around the Northwest Railway Museum. Naturally, most made time for high tea, but all remained vigilant for aerial pirates.

Today’s informal gathering allowed participants to dress the part, visit a Victorian-era depot, and ride inside railroad coaches built when steam was king. Now how appropriate was that?!

Certainly Spike was quite impressed with their period clothing, and especially with several sets of brass goggles. And check out the young lad. Not so visible in this photo taken with steam locomotive 11 is his steam-powered jet pack!

For those new to the term, Steampunk refers to a category of fiction somewhere between fantasy and speculative fiction that is often set in Victorian times when nearly everything was powered by steam. So think Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, dirigibles, and of course lots of steam engines.

Steampunk is developing a following across the country and a “steamposium” is planned for this October right here in the Seattle area. It sounds like a lot of fun so check out their web site for more information: http://www.steam-con.com/

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Train Shed contract let

Two years of design and permitting, nearly four years of fundraising, and many hours of negotiation have culminated in a contract for construction of the new Train Shed. The Train Shed will be an indoor exhibit building for large artifacts including locomotives, coaches and freight cars and will incorporate 25,000 square feet. Construction will be predominantly steel with a concrete stem wall. The design is earthquake resistant to magnitude 7.4, and flood proof to a level approximately 2 feet above the 100 year flood plane.

The Train Shed will provide fundamental preservation for critically endangered artifacts including Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace, White River Lumber Caboose 001, and Northern Pacific steam locomotive 924. It will also provide an attractive and comfortable environment for museum visitors. This classroom will be used to preserve, teach and perpetuate Northwest railroad history.

The bidding process was complex. With a large grant from the Federal government, special contracting provisions were required including administration of the project by King County Road Services. A call for proposals was issued in February and bids closed in late March. A period of analysis occured and an apparent low bidder was identified. Additional analysis delayed an offical decision until late May and a contract was signed in early June. The successful bidder is Wick Constructors of Bellevue, a firm with a variety of successful commercial building experiences. They are expected to complete the building in the first quarter of 2010.

The next step is a notice to proceed. This will be issued after all the required submittals including insurance and additional contracting documents are received by the County.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Thomas the Tank Engine is coming to town!

Come spend a Day Out With Thomas! This July 10 - 12 and 17 -19, 2009, Thomas the Tank Engine will be visiting the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie. Tickets are available in person at the Snoqualmie Depot for $18, or via TicketWeb for $18 plus a dispensing fee. Tickets are required for everyone 2 years and older and include everything except food and merchandise.

Day Out With Thomas features a variety of activities including story telling, railway motor car rides, model trains, Lego trains, video viewing, temporary tattoos, and of course a ride behind Thomas the Tank Engine to Snoqualmie Falls!

So who is Thomas the Tank Engine? The Reverend Wilbert Awdry, an Anglican clergyman, developed the idea that became Thomas the Tank Engine in 1943. Thomas and his railway friends were invented by Awdry to entertain his young son Christopher, who was in isolation recovering from the measles. The Reverend made up the early stories and young Christopher insisted on hearing each story again and again. But when the Vicar retold a story from memory, he sometimes amended some of the details, which Christopher instantly recognized. To ensure consistency, Awdry had to begin keeping notes to remind him of the details, a record that later developed into the stories that were first published in 1945. Since then, Thomas has captivated generations of children with his adventures on the Island of Sodor. These stories have grown in popularity and were depicted on the children's television program called Shining Time Station, and remain popular in print and on video.

Thomas the Tank Engine first appeared in Awdry’s stories in 1946. He is (technically speaking) based on a 0-6-0T Class E2 shunting engine built for the London, Brighton and South Coast Railway in the late 19th Century. The Thomas the Tank Engine that will visit the Northwest Railway Museum is a replica that is visiting railway museums up and down the west coast.

Day Out With Thomas is one of the largest events the Museum hosts and is expected to attract nearly 17,000 people to Snoqualmie. Advance tickets were offered beginning in late April; the event often sells out. Visit the Northwest Railway Museum web site for more information.

Day Out With Thomas is a trademark of Gullane (Thomas) Ltd. and is licensed by Hit Entertainment.