Thursday, August 5, 2010

Train Shed substantial completion

A vision dating from the Museum’s incorporation in 1957 has been realized: construction of an indoor exhibit hall. The building has achieved substantial completion and the contractor is working to complete a short punch list of corrections. The completed structure is one of the most significant railway museum facilities west of the Mississippi River and the only facility of its type in the Northwest.

The Train Shed incorporates 25,000 square feet and when track construction is complete will have 1,130 track feet inside the heated space. Concrete walkways provide public access to all tracks as required or desired. The structure is nestled in the forest providing an appropriate and unmistakable connection with the industry that was defined by late 19th and early 20th Century railroad construction: the forest industry.

The Train Shed addresses the two most pressing needs for the Museum’s large object collection: preservation and access. The Train Shed will allow a dramatic improvement in program quality and allow services to be offered equally well in the winter and summer. Its heating and ventilation system helps preserve the large artifacts, but also makes the environment comfortable for the visiting public.

The greatest impact will be on the most vulnerable objects in the Collection, typically cars built predominantly of wood. For these objects – many of which were built in the late 19th Century or very early 20th Century – heated indoor storage and exhibit space this new facility is essential to their preservation. A notable example is the chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, which will make the Train Shed its permanent home following completion of its rehabilitation.

Conceptual planning and fundraising for the Train Shed began more than seven years ago when permitting for the Conservation and Restoration Center was underway. Following design and permiting, a contract was awarded to Wick Constructors of Bellevue. Construction began in July 2009 and completion was projected for early 2010. Unfortunately a variety of factors conspired to postpone completion including delays in the arrival of exterior cladding, and a problem boring the augercast pilings, but the completed structure is everything the Museum’s leadership envisioned. The completed structure is stunning for its functionality and appearance.

The Train Shed has earned a temporary occupancy permit. Additional work includes construction of the railway track, landscaping, and exhibits. Track – over 2,300 feet and six turnouts – is being constructed by Museum Volunteers; materials began arriving in July. The temporary occupancy permit allows the public to use the facility however under the limited operations planned for the next few years all public visits will be guided by a museum docent.

The Train Shed is the most ambitious project in the Museum's 53 year history. It is the largest component of the planned Railway History Center and is the only railway museum structure of its type in the Pacific Northwest. Total project costs top $4.1 million; funding has been provided by individuals, foundations, regional government, state government and the US government. Additional funding is required to continue developing the Railway History Center and contributions are gratefully accepted on the Museum's web site at