Friday, February 12, 2010

Turning the floods and fires of 2009 into good things

Last year began with a major flood. It was countered by a flood of support. Halfway through the year, an arsonist set fire to the Snoqualmie Depot. That was countered by fire in the bellies of countless community members, volunteers and visitors who value the experience and education the Museum offers.

We ended the year way ahead.

Despite the flood our regular train season began on time, thanks in part to a generous grant from 4Culture. Bonus: Snoqualmie Valley Railroad passengers enjoyed a smooth new stretch of track.

Instead of repainting just the burned portion, we repainted the entire Snoqualmie Depot. Bonus: It looks better than it has in years.

Other highlights:

We broke ground on an exhibit building for coaches, freight cars and locomotives, and by now it’s really beginning to look like a building! This 25,000 square foot Train Shed will almost completely halt deterioration from rain, wind and sun.

Before the Train Shed came the Conservation and Restoration Center, used to full advantage last year in rehabilitating a classic 1963-built ballast regulator and in rehabilitating a 1932-built Northern Pacific Railway boxcar to its 1953 appearance. The CRC also sheltered substantial work on rehabilitation of 1912-built passenger coach 218, one of the last wooden coaches built for service on an American railroad. Museum volunteers also got a former British Columbia Railway Portec Model B Zapper Automatic Spike Driver ASP-3 back in working order.

The Northwest Railway Museum received important recognition in several ways last year, including the Spellman Award for outstanding achievement in restoration, for the Caboose 001 project.

Selected as a recipient for a Connecting With Collections Bookshelf, we received essential textbooks, charts and other collections resources assembled by some of the foremost museum experts in the country. We’ll use this Bookshelf to ensure that our collection of railway artifacts is preserved for generations to come.

The Chapel Car Messenger of Peace was listed on the National Register of Historic Places under national criteria. Then it earned City of Snoqualmie landmark status by a unanimous vote. Later it received a prestigious Save America’s Treasures grant from 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. All in all, a very good year for Chapel Car 5.

The Museum relaunched the late Brian Fritz’s Washington Steam Railroads and Locomotives website dedicated to surviving Washington railroad history, welcomed a lively, interactive community to the new Northwest Railway Museum page on Facebook, and created the historical exhibit “North Bend’s Own Train” in time to help North Bend celebrate its 100th birthday. The Museum was pleased to benefit from an Eagle Scout project, installation of 400 feet of fencing to improve safety and security. And we experienced record-setting participation in Museum programs, including the 8th annual Day Out With Thomas, the 40th annual Santa Train, and the 70th annual Snoqualmie Railroad Days, which the Museum hosted for the first time in 2009.

Floods? Fires? We won’t exactly say, “Bring it on.” But 2009 was a good year for demonstrating what can be accomplished with a dedicated community of supporters, workers and visitors. Full steam ahead in 2010.

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