Thursday, February 24, 2011

Annual Banquet & Volunteer Recognition

This year the Annual Banquet and Volunteer Recognition was held on Saturday February 19th at the Hilton Garden Inn in Issaquah. Acting Board President Dennis S. addressed the crowd before we enjoyed a lovely plated lunch, followed by brownies donated by George’s Bakery of North Bend. Participants enjoyed a slide show of Museum activities and programs in 2010, as well as a gift raffle. After lunch there was the State of the Museum address by Executive Director Richard R. Anderson followed by our awards ceremony. This year’s awards were as follows:

The Legacy Award recognizes volunteers who have made exceptional long-term contributions and commitments towards the success of the Northwest Railway Museum. This year’s Legacy Award winner was Jason P.. While involved for a number of years in various capacities, Jason received the Legacy award for his dedication to sound at Day Out With Thomas and RR Days and for his recent leadership in the kitchen car during Santa Train. Jason is always upbeat and seems to easily maintain composure during stressful or adverse conditions. He is a pleasure to work with – thank you Jason!

Hugh H. is this year’s Cliff Sharpe Award winner. The Cliff Sharpe Award is given to a train crew volunteer who makes outstanding contributions towards the operation of the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad. Unless he is out of town, Hugh usually spends a day a weekend on train crew, mostly as fireman or rear brakeman. This is a significant commitment towards train operations, done with a friendly demeanor and a great attitude – thank you Hugh!

The Conservation and Restoration Award is presented in recognition of outstanding service in the care of our collection of historic railway transportation artifacts. Typically the award is given upon completion of a restoration or rehabilitation project. This year, however, we chose to honor an individual’s body of work on a currently incomplete project. Marty B., a travelling volunteer, put in 550 hours in three months on the coach 218 project before heading south to warmer weather. Marty primarily worked on windows and was able to complete a significant amount of work. We will always think of Marty when we see coach 218’s windows!

This year’s Community Partner Award goes to Phil S. and Lisa M. of Finaghty’s Irish Pub & Restaurant. Phil has volunteered to manage the main stage during Snoqualmie Railroad Days, including finding and hiring bands, hiring the sound engineer and getting the stage donated. As music is a very important component of the event – having someone volunteer to take care of the whole thing has been greatly appreciated. A big thank you to Phil and Lisa for their community support of our RR Days event!

All in all it was another great day! Thank you to all the volunteers and special guests who attended the banquet - we thoroughly enjoyed the event and hope you did too.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

"The scenes of the last few days haunt me"

I don’t know about you, but I grew up thinking history was all dates, wars and Important Names. But the word story is in there for a reason.

In college, my American Westward Movement professor radically transformed my tinder-dry concept of history. He sat back, put his feet on his desk and filled the hour with stories. The voices of nameless, lonely women going crazy on the Great Plains where the wind never ceased, and of countless families mournfully giving up their most cherished objects to lighten their load as they rolled west, have never left me.

So it’s pretty cool when a museum finds just the right object to ignite interest and, better yet, insight into the lives of those who came before us. Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace is one such object. It’s not that Important Names weren’t associated with this railway car. They were. Thomas Edison provided phonographs for most of the chapel cars - attracting even the non-religious. And W.C. Coleman (an Important Name to the campers among us) installed his new lighting system free of charge when he saw for himself the need for brighter, more reliable light.

But they’re not what make Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace nationally significant. The car’s uncelebrated role in “taming the West” - the number of ordinary lives touched and townscapes altered - infuse it with enduring meaning.

“The scenes of the last few days haunt me,” wrote Reverend Neil in 1900. Rev. Neil, accompanied by his wife Nellie, was the first pastor aboard Chapel Car 5. He was in Missouri, stunned by the superstition, drunknenness and lack of education prevalent there. Rev. and Mrs. Neil’s work not only resulted in the establishment of Sunday Schools and churches. Secular schools were erected in at least two Missouri communities as well.

Further west, the chapel car attracted people who as a rule never set foot inside a church. One pastor said, “...this is the story everywhere. The compactness, the dignity, the simple beauty of the car wins the people."

Well, maybe dignity wasn’t always what drew people. "I've been to a good many circuses, and I've seen all the grandest exhibitions that have come west,” said one man, “but this is the biggest show yet."

Chapel Car 5 has carried many things. Now it’s carrying stories into the 21st Century. You’ll have an unprecedented opportunity to hear stories of Rev. Neil and those whose lives the chapel car touched, during a theatrical presentation Friday, March 4, at the Salish Lodge & Spa. Hosted by the Northwest Railway Museum, “Working on the Railroad” includes chapel car stories, a delicious dinner and a small silent auction, all near the famous Snoqualmie Falls, from 6:00-9:00 PM. Tickets must be purchased in advance; proceeds benefit Chapel Car 5.

Illustration above of Thomas Edison speaking into phonograph courtesy FCIT

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chapel car rehab begins

The chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace’s rehabilitation has begun in earnest. The Museum has been fundraising for this long-planned project for over three years. On January 31, 2011 a crew consisting of a project manager, lead restoration woodworker and restoration woodworker began working fulltime. Clark M., Kevin P., and Meghan G. work on the chapel car 5 days a week. Already, progress is apparent on this 1898-built National treasure.

All the original wood siding – or cladding - has been carefully removed and stored for repair and reinstallation after structural repairs are completed. (Watch the video at the end of this post to see cladding removal using a slide hammer.) Some sections of cladding are being set aside for preservation, specifically those pieces that that carry the faded but discernible lettering: "Entrance" on the kitchen stove (right) side and "Messenger of Peac" (sic) on the Baker heater (left) side. Both lettering examples date from circa 1924 and have survived because at that time the car was “modernized” with light sheet metal. These pieces of car siding are extremely delicate and have been treated with ‘Smith’s Penetrating Epoxy’ to stabilize them; they will become permanent objects in the Museum’s reference collection and will not be reinstalled on the car.

It has been over 60 years since the Messenger of Peace was deconsecrated but it continues to reveal rich heritage. Some newly uncovered evidence suggests that the car cladding was made of catalpa wood, aka catawba wood, and not the yellow poplar commonly used in the construction of passenger cars during the wood era. Samples have been sent to a forest products lab for positive identification, but so far the evidence is pretty compelling. Catalpa speciosa is native to the upper Mississippi valley, was readily available, machines well and is decay resistant. In 1906, the Messenger’s builders, Barney & Smith Car Company of Dayton, Ohio built two entire sections of a railroad passenger car out of catalpa wood, including the furniture.

The chapel car rehabilitation will continue for the next 18 months, but on Friday, March 4, 2011 at 6 PM you have an opportunity to learn more about life on the rails in chapel car service as well as an update of the rehabilitation process. Please join us Friday evening March 4, 2011 for a Working On The Railroad benefit dinner theatre for the Messenger of Peace at the Salish Lodge and Spa. Tickets are $75 and are available here.

Thank you to chapel car project manager Clark M. for writing content for this post and providing photos.