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!