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.