Friday, January 29, 2010

Wellington, WA

March 1, 1910 was a disastrous day in King County. Two occupied trains - a mail train and a passenger train - yarded at Wellington, Washington, near Stevens Pass, waiting for the tracks ahead to be cleared of snow, were swept away in the worst avalanche in American history. 96 people were killed with countless others injured; most were railroad employees but many passengers were victims too. Though tragic, this is a fascinating story and an important chapter in King County and Northwest history.

The Northwest Railway Museum is pleased to announce it is hosting a Working on the Railroad event at the Snoqualmie Ridge TPC on Friday, March 5, 2010 at 6 PM. A gourmet dinner will be followed by a presentation from noted author Gary Krist, author of the White Cascade: The Great Northern Railway Disaster and America's Deadliest Avalanche (available in the Depot Bookstore). The evening will also feature the Issaquah Singers performing a medley of railroad songs, and a silent auction with some memorable items including photos from the Wellington (Tye) area taken circa 1913. Proceeds benefit construction of the new Train Shed exhibit building. Tickets are $100 and are available from the Depot Bookstore in Snoqualmie in person or by phone (425) 888-3030 Extension 202.

(Photo depicts steam rotary x808 and crew circa 1913 at Wellington (Tye), WA.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New restrooms for the Depot

The Northwest Railway Museum’s Snoqualmie Depot receives about 90,000 visitors per year. Most arrive as families and many have young children. In those families, most decisions about family outings are made by mothers. Not surprisingly, most mothers rate clean, safe and accessible restrooms as essential to a successful and repeatable family outing.

The existing depot restrooms were constructed in 1979 as a component in the original Depot restoration. Over the last 30 years, these restrooms have served an estimated 2.5 million visitors. Despite a number of minor upgrades, the restrooms are at the end of their design life. In addition, they were constructed prior to passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and consequently are not technically accessible.

Over the last decade or more, the City of Snoqualmie has conducted a number of surveys, studies and development plans intended to help guide downtown redevelopment. Accessible and clean public restrooms have consistently rated highly. So new public restrooms were accepted as a city priority and Snoqualmie City Council – on the recommendation of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee - designated lodging tax revenues to fund the project.

So it has been a priority of the Museum and the City of Snoqualmie to provide clean and accessible restrooms for tourists visiting downtown Snoqualmie. Unfortunately, the cost of a new stand-alone restroom facility was financially out of reach for the City; reconstructing the Snoqualmie Depot restrooms was financially out of reach for the Museum.

In an unusual but mutually beneficial arrangement, the City of Snoqualmie has formed a partnership with the Museum to fund the complete replacement of the Snoqualmie Depot restrooms. This will construct public restrooms at less than half the cost of a new stand-alone facility. Under the agreement, the Museum agrees to allow public access to the Depot, the City funds the construction, the Museum provides the space for the restrooms, and the City provides daily cleaning and maintenance of the facilities.

The new restrooms were designed by the Miller|Hull Partnership, a Seattle-based architectural firm also involved in the design of the new Train Shed. The construction contract for this $160,000 project has been awarded to North Bend-based Mr. K’s Construction. Subcontractors performing work include local businesses Bob’s Electric and Falls Plumbing. Construction began earlier this month (Jan 10) and will be completed by April in time for the beginning of the 2010 tourism season.

New public restrooms. Thanks to the City of Snoqualmie, and its forward thinking Mayor and Council, the depot restroom project is a win-win and an example of efficiencies a Public – Private Partnership can bring to a project. Notwithstanding, the biggest winners of all will be the thousands of visitors who will benefit from the use of new restrooms.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Delegates and Students from Our Sister City Make Themselves at Home

Are you familiar with Sister Cities International, a program that originated with the Eisenhower administration? “It is a non-profit citizen diplomacy network which seeks stronger economic and cultural ties at the municipal level between the US and international communities.” The citizens of Snoqualmie, together with the people of Gangjin, South Korea, have formed a lasting bond, which is being strengthened by visits between the two cities.

Recently, the Northwest Railway Museum had the honor of showing 33 students and delegates from Gangjin, plus Mayor Matt Larson, Sister Cities Board Member, Tina McCollum and Gangjin city representative, Gil Jae Oh, the view from a coach window, aboard the Museum’s antique railway. Stops were made at Bridge 35 in North Bend, at the Conservation and Restoration Center on Stone Quarry Road, at Snoqualmie Falls and at the Snoqualmie Depot. At the CRC, the group had a tour by Richard A. and especially admired a Northern Pacific boxcar with the monad (or yin yang) symbol freshly painted on it. The monad can be found in several places throughout history, but the Korean students recognized it from their national flag. Northern Pacific regarded it not merely as a good luck symbol but also as a symbol of good transportation.

The Sister Cities Association is working to forge strong relationships between countries and individuals. By sharing our cultures and information about educational and economic practices, we can foster understanding, peace and prosperity between our two cities and in the world as part of a larger global effort. Here is a chance to see life through another’s eyes, to gain a sense of their perspective. The program offers diverse groups the opportunity to learn from each other, and gives all who participate a wider window on the world we share.

(In attached photo by Tina McCollum, left to right in front: Hye Jin Yun, Jeong Min Lee, Min Seon Jung, and Hwa Yeon Kim. At the back, Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, and Gangjin Education Director Seon Gil Kang)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A new city hall for Snoqualmie

A healthy and prosperous community has many dimensions, and according to A healthy community: a strategy for giving report released by the Seattle Foundation in June 2009, arts and culture are a vital part of it. But a healthy community is also more than a museum, and includes substantial investment by many stakeholders including private property owners and government. So the Northwest Railway Museum is pleased to see completion of a new Snoqualmie City Hall in historic downtown. This is an impressive vote of confidence in the community, and will prove to be a substantial economic stimulus.

The $6 million project was dedicated on 9 January 2010 and consolidates most city services and functions in one location. It is just one block from the Snoqualmie Depot and represents a significant investment in the historic downtown Snoqualmie. Snoqualmie could have easily built the new city hall on Snoqualmie Ridge or near the new fire station on the parkway, but chose to invest in the heart of the original town. This took great courage and determination, and additional expense to mitigate poor soils and a location in an urban floodplain. But the results are spectacular and are a credit to the community.

Check out the stunning views Mt. Si, the historic Methodist church, and the River Street railroad crossing seen from Mayor Matt Larson’s office. Congratulations to the City of Snoqualmie, and thank you for making this substantial investment in the historic downtown.