Sunday, December 18, 2011

Another successful Santa Train event

Zoe (Santa's oldest elf) and Ms. Claus
joined Santa in greeting children and
preparing the list of who is naughty
 and nice.        
         Santa Train is the Northwest Railway Museum's premier event; it has been a Northwest tradition for 43 years.  Visitors travel on a 2 hour excursion on a century-old train from North Bend to Snoqualmie, visit with Santa and enjoy refreshments prepared in an authentic railway kitchen car.

        In 2011 trains ran for eight days and served 11,200 visitors.  The kitchen car stoves baked more than 24,000 cookies and Kris Kringle distributed nearly 7,000 small gifts to children.  Factors in a successful event include the 57 dedicated volunteers and permanent staff that hosted the event, and awesome community support from the Snoqualmie Valley. 

       Volunteers crewed the train, helped guide people around the depot, assisted Santa, served refreshments in the kitchen car.  They decorated the Snoqualmie Depot, the kitchen and the train.  They baked cookies, sold and mailed tickets, cleaned the coaches, and set up craft tables.  More than 1,600 hours were invested in preparing and hosting Santa Train.

24,000 cookies were rolled and baked
in the railway kitchen car. A dedicated
 team of volunteers served them too!  
        Continental Mills contributed Krusteaz® cookie dough and North Bend's John Day Homes provided monogrammed cups for hot cocoa and coffee.  The City of Snoqualmie Parks Department cleaned and maintained the restrooms in the Snoqualmie Depot.  They also did an outstanding job of decorating Railroad Park in downtown Snoqualmie.  The North Bend Public Works Department cleaned and maintained the North Bend Depot.

        2011 brought several important improvements to the kitchen car too.  The demise of Borders Books provided an opportunity to acquire and install an SBC Coffee machine.  New 300 ounce insulated beverage dispensers were acquired to improve cocoa service.  A new dough mixer has improved the quality and consistency of cookies. And a new cookie flavor was introduced: lemon!

        Santa Train is a wonderful event and all of us here at the Northwest Railway Museum really enjoy hosting it. Wishing you Happy Holidays from all of us at the Northwest Railway Museum.

Families young and younger rode in century-old coaches.
Seasonally decorated coaches greeted Santa Train passengers.
Locomotives featured wreaths and Santa's own class lights.
Excited children arrive in Snoqualmie.
As he rode back to the North Pole, Santa reviewed his "nice" list. 
Santa was very pleased to note that none of the children who visited
him in Snoqualmie were on the naughty list.                                   

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Recollections of a Santa

The Patron Saint of Children has been a frequent visitor to the Northwest Railway Museum ever since seasonal programming began in 1969.  He is an integral part of Santa Train and has brought joy to generations of children.

Santa Train is in its 43rd season and will serve more than 11,000 visitors during eight days of sold-out operation.  The event is an important opportunity to attract a diverse audience to the Museum where they ride on a 100-year-old train, visit a Victorian-era depot, and experience a working railway kitchen car.  And the Snoqualmie Depot remains an important stop for Santa as he collects lists from children around the world. 

To remain a successful event, a very special person is required to "stand in" for such a famous man.  From 1979 through 1999, Santa was portrayed by local resident Frank Webb who played this role purely for the joy it brought to children and their families. Now retired and living in South Dakota, Mr. Webb recently visited the Snoqualmie Valley and shared some of his fondest memories of being the Northwest Railway Museum Santa.

Perhaps you visited Santa Train years ago and were once a child on his lap? Regardless, his recollections should bring a smile to your face too!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Pew with a view: seats for the chapel car

Chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace was built with a full complement of pews. Unfortunately changes in use and 113 years of history resulted in the loss of all the originals. But the Messenger of Peace had four “siblings” - they were other chapel cars built to the same plan by the Barney and Smith Car Company. And as fate would have it, a pew from Herald of Hope was donated to the American Baptist Historical Society (“ABHS”) and is held in their collection at Mercer University in Atlanta, GA. So after a recent effort to measure, photograph, and make cardboard templates, there is a “herald of hope” that Messenger of Peace may soon again have pews.

Herald of Hope was the chapel car built two years after Messenger of Peace, and in 1900 was also the last such wooden car constructed. It was called the “Young Men’s Car” because it was funded as a project of the young men of the Woodward Avenue Church in Detroit, MI. Even though early Twentieth Century Detroit was a very prosperous industrial center, fundraising to purchase an entire railroad car was a remarkable achievement. This stands in contrast to the Messenger of Peace, which was known as the “ladies’ car” because it was funded by subscriptions purchased by ladies from across the entire country.

Herald of Hope served the Baptist Publication Society and Home Mission Society for 31years. In 1931 it was moved off the rail to continue as a church, but finished out its days as an office at a coal mine in West Virginia. Fortunately, its final days as a chapel car were attended by its last parson’s widow. Mrs. Newton gave away many of the car’s furnishings including two portable organs and at least one pew. Later, one of the organs and a pew were donated to the ABHS and are today held in their archives at Mercer University.

Examining a 111-year-old pew so that construction plans can be created is a delicate operation. Gloves are worn to protect the object from the acidic affects of bare hands. It cannot be disassembled - this is so the object may continue to serve the needs of researchers - and this makes it challenging to discover the type of joinery and the true profile of hardware. Photography occurs with available light only. Pencils are used to sketch and take notes. Calipers, a measuring tape and protractor are carefully applied to the artifact to take measurements. Acid free card stock is carefully cut to make templates of the curves and shapes. Five pages of sketches and notes, 100 photographs and 11 cardstock templates are now available to support construction of replica pews.

Perhaps it is a coincidence that the “young men’s car” would help the “ladies car.” Notwithstanding, the helpful staff at the ABHS allowed the pew to be examined, dimensioned and photographed so that replica pews can be created for the Messenger of Peace. Special thanks to Archivist Jan Ballard and Associate Archivist Clarence Brown Jr. for their assistance with the rehabilitation of chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace.

Photos (top to bottom)

Messenger of Peace interior with pews, May 1898. Image courtesy of the Adair County (MO) Historical Society.

American Baptist Historical Society archives at Mercer University, Atlanta, GA.

Hinge and seat support for chapel car pew. There are a few challenges in reverse engineering something that cannot be taken apart but these have been overcome.

American Baptist Historical Society Archivist Jan Ballard and Associate Archivist Clarence Brown Jr. pose with chapel car Herald of Hope pew held in their collection.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Chapel car milestone

Chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace has been undergoing rehabilitation for over 9 months. A full time crew of carpenters and other preservation specialists has been reversing the effects of 112 years of deterioration and decay. Considering the car is just 78 feet long, the scope is massive. Frame repairs, new or repaired exterior cladding, new windows, repaired interior paneling and new trucks are just a few of the work categories underway. And to undertake the work, wood species were identified and replacement material sourced, fasteners duplicated, and cutting jigs prepared.

The most intensive aspect of the rehabilitation project is the frame (side sill) repairs, including the replacement of over 60 feet of sill material, 16 feet on the right side and over 45 feet on the left. This work required the car to be extensively jacked and blocked up to restore it to its original profile. The roof and walls were supported with false work installed in the car’s interior and supported by the center sill.

Work began with removal of the exterior cladding and the underlying blocking. Braces, ties rods and compression trusses were removed to provide access to the side sill. New sections of sill were created while the southern yellow pine timbers were supported by saw horses. After machining window post mortises, holes for tie rods, and a rabbet for the truss plank, the sill was installed. Then the real work began: installing window posts, fitting the compression and auxiliary compression planks, reinstalling the belt rail, and fitting and installing old and new blocking. Months of work later, the car superstructure is back together again and it can support the car’s weight. With this category of work completed, the car has also had its "camber" restored to a condition not seen for more than 60 years.

The chapel car rehabilitation will be continuing into 2012. Work is being funded by Save America's Treasures, Washington State Heritage Capital Projects Fund administered by the Washington State Historical Society, 4 Culture, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express.

Images (from top to bottom):

Carbody together again. Right side received 16 feet of new side sill.

Left side sill repair began with removal of cladding, blocking, compression planks, and the damaged side sill.

Meg G. begins installing bracing in the new side sill. A missing section of the truss plank evidenced in the foreground will be spliced in. The truss plank is made from Douglas fir and was the only Northwest wood used in the 1898 construction.

New section of truss plank mentioned in previous photo caption is shown in place along with new section of side sill.

Duane S. installs the last of the screws in the compression plank on the left side of the car.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

1,000 likes and climbing

Milestones. Sometimes we celebrate them with great fanfare. Sometimes with quiet delight. For the Museum, both kinds of milestones happened one day recently.


Train whistles. Trumpets. Remarks by People with Titles. The Northwest Railway Museum celebrated the Grand Opening of the Train Shed September 17 with a happy crowd of members, donors, volunteers and other supporters. It’s a special milestone, because some of the organization’s earliest supporters have envisioned this day for 50 years. The Museum’s most vulnerable large artifacts now have a place of refuge, where the public can soon step inside an illustrated story of how the northwestern United States was settled and civilized.

View a bit of the fanfare here:


Something else happened at the same time we were whooping it up in the Train Shed. With a quiet click, our Facebook page climbed to 1,000 “likes.” No trumpets. No speeches. But a big deal nonetheless.

In one way or another, community has played a role in every milestone the Museum has reached - from the launch of the Railway History Center in 2006. . .to the hosting of Santa Train, Day Out With Thomas and Snoqualmie Railroad Days. . .to awards recognizing Museum Collections,
recent still shot of Museum's Facebook wallpersonnel, restoration achievements and interpretive efforts. Our tremendous community comprises volunteers, members, donors, heritage and train enthusiasts, families, City partners. . .and now, Facebook users and followers of our blog.

It's because of you, our online community, that Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace received enough votes to earn a large grant in the Partners for Preservation campaign last year. It's because of you that the Northwest Railway Museum experienced the single most successful day of giving in the Museum's history during The Seattle Foundation's one-day GiveBIG campaign in June. With you, we're achieving entirely new milestones.

So to celebrate 1,000-likes-and-climbing, we're giving Jessica H., our 1,000th Facebook fan, a free train ride for a party of six. Congratulations, Jessica! The railroad built our community, and our community is building the railway museum. A big thank you to each one of you.

Visit the Northwest Railway Museum on Facebook

Friday, September 23, 2011

Day of Caring at NRM

Every year in September, United Way organizes Day of Caring where thousands of volunteers all take the day off from work and volunteer in their community. United Way asks non-profit organizations to sponsor projects and then group leaders - mostly from companies - sign up for projects and organize volunteers to work on those projects. This year, on September 16, 2011, the Northwest Railway Museum participated in Day of Caring by sponsoring two projects.

The first project was for a group of 16-20 volunteers to come bake cookies for Santa Train in the Museum's historic US Army Ambulance Kitchen car. An amazing group from Marriot Hotels signed up. They were able to bake a ton of cookies and prepare the batter for the upcoming cookie bake on October 22nd. Normally, baking cookies at the Museum is quite an endeavor because bakers use an historic coal-fired oven to bake in and there are very few volunteers who know how to use coal ovens these days. But in this group there was a chef who grew up in Burma who learned to cook on a coal-fired oven. He immediately took charge and everyone was quite impressed.

Our second project was to beautify the Northwest Railway Museum for the Train Shed Grand Opening. 55 volunteers from Microsoft signed up to help clean the Museum. They worked on a mammoth list of tasks to help make the Museum look nicer. At the New Train Shed, to name just a few jobs, they washed windows, swept floors, raked gravel, weeded flower beds, and planted native plant landscaping. They also cleaned the Train Set: they power washed the exterior, vacuumed the coaches, cleaned out the closets and old restrooms, washed windows, reinstalled windows, and tightened up loose benches.

Volunteers worked at the Snoqualmie Depot as well: they painted picnic benches, washed windows, power washed the walkways, and swept. And if all of that was not enough, in the afternoon about half the group went up to the rail yard and worked on cleaning it up, cutting back the weeds and getting some of the equipment ready to be moved to the Train Shed. All told there were 75 volunteers from Marriot and Microsoft sign up plus, to help coordinate the event, four volunteers from the Museum helped run the speeder (railway scooter to move volunteers between work sites) and another three helped supervise the projects.

The Northwest Railway Museum thanks all of the volunteers who helped out from the Marriot, Microsoft and from the Northwest Railway Museum. It was a very successful day! If you have a group that would ever like to come and volunteer for a day, please feel free to contact our Volunteer Coordinator Cristy Lake at any time. Volunteering as a group for the day can be a fun way to serve the community and have an enjoyable time with friends.

Images(From top to bottom)

Volunteers from Marriot Hotels baked cookies and made lunch for everyone.

Microsoft volunteers raking gravel at the Train Shed.

A gentleman from Microsoft spent 6 hours power-washing the brick walkways at the depot – they haven’t looked this good in a long time!

Microsoft volunteers rode to and from the Train Shed by speeder. A big thanks to Jim H., Pete K., Ken L. and Chuck S. for operating the speeder and the train during the day!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Train Shed grand opening

September 17, 2011 was a momentous occasion for the 54-year-old Northwest Railway Museum. That occasion was the grand opening of the Train Shed exhibit and collection storage building, a project 54 years in the making. 137 invited guests joined together to hear live music, inspirational speeches, and to see the rehabilitated White River Lumber Company locomotive 1 and caboose 001 roll into the building. Hundreds of donors and over $4.3 million were required to achieve completion.

Last year the Museum celebrated the completion of the structure with a dedication ceremony. That empty building was an achievement in its own right but this year’s completion of all the railway track now allows the structure to be fully utilized for its primary purpose: protecting the most representative and vulnerable objects from the outdoor environment. It will also be available for limited public access.

Guests of all ages were transported to and from the Train Shed ceremony by train and while enroute Snoqualmie Postmaster Bud canceled a commemorative postcard. The Cornucopia Concert Band performed a variety of brass band standards throughout the evening and light refreshments were served from track two platform.

Mayor Matt Larson spoke of the importance of vision in achieving an important goal and praised the Museum for its many recent successes. 4Culture Executive Director Jim Kelly spoke of the tenacity and creativity evident in finding a way to build the Train Shed. (4Culture is the King County Cultural Development Authority and was a major supporter of the Train Shed design and construction.) Museum Board of Trustees Vice President Dennis Snook talked about achievement, planning and continued development. Museum Executive Director Richard Anderson spoke of eleven years of effort to plan, fund and construct the Train Shed, and of the interesting parallels between Snoqualmie’s beginnings as a railroad town and its revitalization efforts today led in part by a railroad museum. Other dignitaries attended to celebrate the event including King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert and City of Snoqualmie Councilmember Bob Jeans.

Opening the Train Shed for collections use and limited public access is the latest and greatest of the Museum’s achievements but it is hardly the last. Now work will continue on completing facilities for the museum campus including restrooms, additional parking, and program office space. Efforts will also increasingly focus on renewed and expanded collection care on the museum’s large collection of coaches, freight cars and locomotives.


(top left) Caboose 001 and locomotive 1 are pushed in on track three
(top right) Snoqualmie Postmaster Bud cancels a commemorative postcard
(middle left) Cornucopia Band performs live during the ceremony
(lower left) locomotive 1 and caboose 001 wait outside for their call
(lower right) native plants adorn the perimeter gardens at the Train Shed

Friday, August 26, 2011

Railroad Days revisit

Snoqualmie Railroad Days has been part of Snoqualmie for 73 years; the Northwest Railway Museum has managed the event for the last three years. Railroad Days celebrates Snoqualmie's history as a railroad and logging town, but also as home to the Snoqualmie Nation of Native Americans/First Nations people.

Railroad Days 2011 was a tremendously successful event with an estimated 10,000 participants. The event was held on August 19, 20, and 21 in downtown Snoqualmie. The three-day event included a grand parade, train and motor car excursions, vendors, a competitive running event, live music, a live "paint out" event, railroad demonstrations including from the BNSF Railway, a car show, inflatable amusements, and dozens of additional activities.

Railroad Days is an annual opportunity to celebrate our community's heritage (Snoqualmie) but also to attract a larger and more diverse audience to Snoqualmie, the railway museum, and many other area attractions. The event was made possible by dozens of sponsors including the City of Snoqualmie, the Snoqualmie Tribe, and the Northwest Railway Museum. Spike hopes you were able to enjoy this year's event and invites you to enjoy this collage of photos.


(Top) The food court at Railroad Days along King Street in Snoqualmie
(Below and in order, left to right, top to bottom)
1) Passengers prepare to board the interpretive railway during Railroad Days 2011
2) Engineer and Conductor compare orders and time prior to departing from Snoqualmie
3) Traditional Snoqualmie Nation carvings and skins on display at Railroad Days 2011
4) Clan Gordon, a tradition Scottish pipe band performs on the main stage
5) BNSF Railway demonstrates a rerailing crane
6) A family enjoys the Big Purple Slide at RR Days
7) Panthers unicycle team performs during the Grand Parade
8) Railroad Days goers watch the Grand Parade
9) Russ N. displays his live steam locomotive
10) Children enjoy the Whitcomb locomotive exhibit at the Snoqualmie Depot
11) Families enjoy the Grand Parade
12) A vintage automobile, pretty in pink
13) Redmond Ridge Winery hosted Railroad Days' first-ever wine garden
14) A motor car prepares to set on the railroad track
15) An artist participates in the "paint out" event
16) Face painting transforms a young lady into a tiger
17) John Mullen demonstrates Snoqualmie Nation traditions

Monday, August 15, 2011

Weyerhaeuser Timber Company locomotive 1

The White River Branch was a Weyerhaeuser operation near Enumclaw in east King County, Washington. They had a logging railroad that stretched to the outer reaches of Mount Rainier National Park, and a spur line that connected with the Northern Pacific Railway and Milwaukee Road.

In 1951 "a great yellow beast" (as described in the company’s newsletter) arrived to replace a steam locomotive and was soon working in the woods. Service on the logging railroad was short-lived because Weyerhaeuser converted to trucks just a few years later. Yet #1 soldiered on pulling trains to interchange with the Northern Pacific and Milwaukee lines for close to another two decades. (For more on the history, visit the September 28, 2010 blog post.)

The White River Branch's #1 received extensive rehabilitation in 2009 & 2010 funded in part by a grant from the National Railway Historical Association. Work included replacement of worn upper pistons and rings, car body repairs, electrical work, replacement of damaged glass, and priming and painting. Owing to a particularly wet and cool fall, winter and spring, lettering of the locomotive was delayed until summer 2011.

Armed with accurate tracings made off the remnants of the original lettering, volunteer Rich W. scanned and smoothed the lettering. He traced it out and “printed” it on a vinyl cutter to create a paint mask. The mask was applied to the locomotive using low-tack release paper and the lettering was painted out. When the lettering mask was removed, the crisp new lettering remained. This technique is similar to how the original lettering was applied in 1951 to this model H12-44 at Fairbanks Morse in Beloit, Wisconsin. While today a similar project would probably be lettered with vinyl, this traditional technique should outperform even the best vinyl. And it is historically accurate too!

Later this month, locomotive 1 will be moved into its permanent new home inside the Northwest Railway Museum's Train Shed in Snoqualmie, Washington. There, this class A rehabilitation effort will be protected from the Northwest's winter rains and will be part of an exhibit about logging by rail.


(Top) Locomotive 1 with Weyerhaeuser's traditional W/T logo as applied in 1951. This new lettering was applied at the Museum's CRC in 2011.

(Middle) The "T" in the Weyerhaeuser W/T logo is evident under the paint mask as the three layers of paint that make up the logo are applied.

(Bottom) The eight and six inch lettering on the long hood first appears as an outline as the lettering mask is exposed just prior to applying black paint.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I've been working on the railroad as an engineer

“The engineer is in charge of and responsible for the locomotive as well as the mechanical operation of the train, train speed, and all train handling.” In other words, the engineer controls the locomotive. Historically people apprenticed for the position of engineer by being the fireman.

A steam locomotive fireman spent most of his time maintaining pressure in the boiler -- shoveling coal into the firebox of a coal-fired steam locomotive or adjusting the fire in an oil-burning locomotive. It was a hard, dirty job. Hours and hours spent shoveling coal – it was hot in the summer and drafty in the winter.

Besides lighting and tending the fire, the fireman was also responsible for cleaning out the boiler and firebox, and adding water and fueling the locomotive before departure. Besides the fire and other duties, the fireman was also learning the job of engineer - incentive enough to shovel all that coal!

George William Longworth was born in Connecticut on February 16, 1879. He was the first of five children born to Peter and Kate Longworth. Soon after his birth the family moved west. In 1900 they were living in Lester, WA, where Peter was a shopkeeper.

Longworth hired out on the Northern Pacific Railway (NP) in September 1898, at 19 years old. He listed his occupation as locomotive fireman in the 1900 U.S. Census and locomotive engineer in the 1910 census. So somewhere within that 10 year span he was promoted to engineer from fireman.

Longworth married Josephine Devershire and the couple lived in Seattle, WA. They had two children, daughter Melrene and son Thomas. Melrene was born in 1911, Thomas in 1917. Longworth worked for the NP until his death, at age 52, in 1931.

The executor of Melrene’s estate donated her photo collection to the Northwest Railway Museum. The collection consisted of some of George Longworth’s photos and correspondence from his time as an engineer, as well as the passes Melrene used to ride on the train when her dad worked for the NP.

If you are interested in seeing more photos, as well as several artifacts, visit the ladies waiting room at the Snoqualmie Depot. "I've been working on the railroad" is a rotating exhibit showcasing railroad jobs and and the people who performed them. Approximately every six months a new job will premiere.

Which one is the fireman and which one is the engineer? Here is a hint: the fireman was responsible for shoveling coal as well as cleaning out the boiler, jobs he probably would have used a coal scoop for. Meanwhile, the engineer was responsible for oiling bearings and sliding surfaces before departure. George Longworth is on the left and is the engineer (holding his tool of the trade, an oil can), his fireman is on the right holding his shovel. Sometimes the fireman can be spotted simply because his clothes are noticeably dirtier from coming into contact with all that coal dust! Northwest Railway Museum Collection

George Longworth, date unknown. Northwest Railway Museum Collection

Trainmen were responsible for filing all kinds of paperwork, especially if there was a problem with their run. Here, engineer Longworth receives kudos from his superior: “George - Atta Boy, I knew you could do it, keep it up.” Circa 1930. Northwest Railway Museum Collection