Sunday, December 27, 2009

Siding for coach 218

Rehabilitation of the coach 218 has been underway for two years now. This comprehensive project is addressing nearly every aspect of this 1912-built coach to prepare it for its return to passenger service.

The Barney and Smith Car Company applied everything they knew about coach building to the 218; it was one of the last wooden coaches built for service on an American railroad. This allowed it to reliably serve as a coach for the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway for nearly 40 years, and then for another 35 years as a dormitory for track work crews.

Work efforts to date have completed replacement of floor sills, roof carlines, lower roof decks, all missing or damaged window posts and studs, repair of carbody blocking, and repair of the letter board. Application of new exterior cladding/siding is now underway and approximately 25% of the carbody application is complete. Thousands of hours have been contributed by project volunteers including Alan W., Roger S., Hugh H., Bob M., Bob Mc., Russ S., Mike G., Kaila, Dan D., George H., Chuck S., Dan C., and Chuck M.

Rehabilitation efforts will continue into 2010 with substantial completion planned by summer 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Steel erection begins!

The Train Shed is now beginning to take shape. On Tuesday, December 22, 2009 subcontractor CHG Building Systems began erecting steel columns for the Train Shed. CHG is not a newcomer to the Museum – they were also involved in construction of the Museum’s Conservation and Restoration Center in 2005 and performed work on that project to a high standard. For this repeat performance, CHG is using a crane, telescoping lifts and of course a highly skilled team of erectors, and the building is beginning to take shape.

The Train Shed will be a fully enclosed and semi conditioned exhibit building for the Northwest Railway Museum’s collection of railway transportation artifacts including locomotives, coaches and freight cars. Priority exhibits will include the most vulnerable objects – typically the oldest and those built predominantly of wood – and will include the 1898-built Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace, White River Lumber Co caboose 001, and Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924.

Construction began in July 2009 and substantial completion of the steel structure is anticipated in March 2010. Track construction will begin after the building is completed; project will be dedicated in August 2010. This nearly $4 million project has been in development for five years.

Major funders include the Washington State Historical Society’s Capital Projects for Washington’s Heritage, McEachern Charitable Trust, 4Culture, The Seattle Foundation, TEA-21 Transportation Enhancements, Puget Sound Energy Foundation, Nysether Family Foundation, Osberg Family Foundation, Washington Department of Commerce, Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving, and hundreds of individuals. Additional support is requested and can be made through the Museum’s web site here or on the American Express Giving Express site here.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

This Santa drives a train

“On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!” may have a better ring than “On, Weyerhaeuser Timber #6! On, Coach NP X-46 and Caboose NP 1203!” But train, not sleigh, was the transportation of choice for Brian Norvell, Santa Train’s very first Santa.

The year was 1969. During warmer months, the Puget Sound Railway Historical Association offered steam train rides for a dollar. Brian’s mother Hazel Norvell and other members of the Women’s Auxiliary conceived of Santa Train as a way to thank the community for its support during the past year. (Women’s auxiliaries were a sign of the times.) They had no idea how many people to expect, but if they charged 25 cents a ticket and if maybe 500 people showed up, it would serve as a fundraiser, too.

So one Sunday in December, Hazel prepared hot chocolate in a stationary kitchen car (NP X-127, a car configured with a coal stove and eating area for railroad workers), and Brian a.k.a. Santa headed down the hill on board the train in hopes of greeting a few folks.

And 1,800 people showed up.

Families rode the train with Santa up the hill on a spur where Snoqualmie Parkway is today and disembarked for cocoa and cookies. (Says Brian, “I felt like a sardine getting squooshed out of the car.”) They stayed as long as they liked, singing carols around a bonfire. Trains came and went. Cookies and hot chocolate ran out, and the Women’s Auxiliary ran all over town in search of more.

The event expanded to two Sundays the next year and two weekends the third year. Guests visited Santa, now seated in an overstuffed chair in a stationary bunk car, and then walked through to the kitchen car for treats. In 1973, Santa handed out candy canes from a big chair on a platform in a combine car’s baggage room that volunteers decorated with leaded glass chandeliers and a tree.

Norvell qualified as a locomotive engineer in 1968. So after sitting for hours in his Santa chair, he enjoyed wrapping up the event by taking over as engineer for the last run. He invited the final family of the day, after they had waited so long to visit him, to ride with him in the locomotive as Santa engineered the train down the hill.

Brian’s parents, sister, wife and children have all contributed to Santa Train’s success. Norvell speaks of the incredible dedication and devotion of volunteers, especially in those early days when they worked entirely outdoors (which was “pretty brutal”), monitoring pipes during freezing weather so they would have running water, making sure there was enough firewood. What a change from today, he notes, with a fully restored depot and new buildings under construction. “It’s wonderful to see the dream we all dreamt as teenagers finally coming to fruition,” Brian says. “That’s awesome.”

Then he muses about this year’s 40th annual Santa Train, “We probably have grandkids of those who sat in my lap.” In fact he’s right. You can read about that here. Santa Brian and his mother started one fine tradition.

Photo: Santa Train's very first Santa Brian Norvell (right) poses with the 40th annual Santa Train's Santa.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Save America’s Treasures

Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace has been awarded a prestigious Save America’s Treasures grant. On 9 December 2009 the Institute of Museum and Library Services – in collaboration with the President’s Council on Arts and Heritage, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Park Service – announced selection of the chapel car project from a pool of 402 eligible applications. In all, $9.5 million funded 41 applications.

The Chapel Car will receive $180,000 that will match funding awarded from the Washington State Historical Society’s Capital Projects for Washington’s Heritage program ($125,000), 4Culture’s Landmark Rehabilitation and Landmark Challenge grant programs ($37,000), a 4Culture Collection Care grant ($4,000) and a variety of private contributions.

Chapel Car 5 was built in 1898 for the American Baptist Publication Society. For 50 years it traveled through Washington and 10 other States bringing modern evangelism to the frontier. For two years it promoted the Railroad YMCA, and in its later years was used to conduct revivals. In 1899 a fatally ill Reverend Moody of the Moody Bible Institute traveled in the car on his final trip home.

In 1917, Car 5 traveled through Snoqualmie to conduct services in North Bend and later traveled to Issaquah to serve that community at the onset of America’s involvement in WW I. The car served dozens of communities in Western Washington and King County. After retirement, the car was adapted for use as a road side diner near Snohomish, WA, and later as a cottage at Grayland, WA. The artifact was donated to the Museum and moved to Snoqualmie in 2007.

Messenger of Peace is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Washington Heritage Register, and the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmarks Register. It is recognized as the only Nationally-significant object in the Museum’s collection and this status helped secure the Save America’s Treasures grant.

The Save America’s Treasures grant will allow substantial completion of the Chapel Car rehabilitation. Work is expected to begin in second quarter 2010 following preparation of a detailed work plan and a successful review of that plan by the Washington State Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation. Work will take between 18 and 24 months to complete.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Train Shed steel

The Train Shed construction is continuing to proceed but some of the most impressive work takes place in a manufacturing facility. Take the steel columns and girders as an example, part of the Varco-Pruden brand building designed for the Museum. They are being fabricated at Wick Constructor's subconcontractor BlueScope Buildings NA, Arlington, Washington facility, about 90 minutes north of the Museum.

Ironically, the BlueScope Buildings NA facility is located adjacent to the BNSF Railway and a section of former Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway that is just about the same physical distance the Train Shed is being built from the Museum's section of former Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. And for the record, mill steel is still delivered to the BlueScope facility by rail however the Train Shed is being built with components fabricated from American-made sheet and roll steel delivered by truck.

A recent tour of the BlueScope facility conducted by mill manager Phil S. revealed a plant dedicated to quality and safety. Much of the welding is performed by automated machines however due to the custom design of many buildings there were a number of welders manually completing the fabrications by hand. The actual Train Shed components were on the floor in fabrication and it was really interesting to see the transformational process from basic steel plate to finished column or girder. At the end of the production line, the components were physically dipped into primer to ensure full coverage of all surfaces.

The Train Shed fabrications are nearly complete and structural steel is scheduled for shipping to the Northwest Railway Museum on Friday, 4 December 2009. Train Shed erection will begin on Monday, 7 December 2009; assembly will take approximately three months.

Additional images are available for viewing on the Museum's WASteam web site.