Thursday, March 31, 2011

Rehabilitating track at Snoqualmie Falls

The world's first underground power generating station is located at Snoqualmie Falls. It was opened in 1898 by Charles Baker, who just a few years earlier was a civil engineer for the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway. Fast forward to 2010. Puget Sound Energy owns the Snoqualmie Generating station and began a major reconstruction of the 112 year old plant. Scope of work includes new penstocks and replacement of a 1910 era generator. (The original 1898-built generators will return to service after project completion.)

In August 2010, efforts to construct a retaining wall above the water intake did not go as planned. Soil conditions and other factors caused movement of the hillside. Unfortunately the hillside also supports the Northwest Railway Museum’s railway, the former Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern. Train service was immediately suspended and additional geotechnical investigation began. Changes in construction techniques, longer soil anchors, some clean ballast for the railroad, and two years of monitoring are among the mitigation measures that have been adopted.

In late March 2011 rehabilitation of the railway began. Railworks of Centralia, WA was the successful bidder and are reconstructing over 400 feet of track in a difficult location. Their crews are dismantling track, excavating old ballast and installing new, and rebuilding the track. Work is expected to take two weeks and will allow regular trains to operate on April 2, 2011.

Please enjoy this two minute video illustrating the work:


(Top) Railworks hyrail excavator at Snoqualmie Falls spreading new ballast; Salish Lodge and Spa is across the river in the distance.

(Bottom) Video shot at Snoqualmie Falls illustrating track reconstruction.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Preservation field school

The Northwest Railway Museum recently hosted an historic structure field school. Maintenance and repair of historic structures is a course regularly offered by the Army Corp of Engineers and outlines the unique characteristics of historic structures and the technical knowledge, skills, and procedures used to care for historic properties owned by the Federal Government. The course also addresses the concomitant legal and administrative requirements.

The course was conducted by Horace Foxall, Jr., a nationally-recognized historic preservation expert and a member of the National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Mr. Foxall recently retired as the manager of the Army Corps of Engineers’ Center of Expertise for Preservation of Historic Structures and Buildings. Participants from all across the United States toured the Snoqualmie Depot and observed demonstrations in the Conservation and Restoration Center.

Clark M., Meg G, and Kevin P. led a demonstration of the techniques used to construct accurate replacement window sashes for the chapel car rehabilitation project. They also demonstrated techniques they use to disassemble the chapel car’s three-light clerestory windows for repair and reassembly. Many of the window construction methods are identical to those traditionally applied to older structures including the use of blind tenons.

Bill H. led a tour and described the techniques used to rehabilitate coach 218, a 1912-built passenger coach used on the Spokane Portland and Seattle Railway. Coach 218 has received a new floor, the car sides have been completely rehabilitated and new cladding has been applied. New carlines were installed and the end platforms are now being restored.

Both objects are built of wood and apply the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties, but the reuse of each object will be very different presenting an interesting contrast for session attendees. Coach 218 is destined for regular operation on the Museum’s railroad where it will carry up to 84 passengers on an 11 mile excursion. The chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace is being rehabilitated for exhibit inside the new Train Shed and will not be used to carry passengers. While functionally complete, the chapel car will rarely operate in deference to its significance and its age. The chapel car is a National treasure listed on the National Register of Historic Places and heroic efforts are being made to reuse as much of the original materials as possible including at least half of the exterior cladding.

The preservation field school was an opportunity to showcase the work the Northwest Railway Museum is doing to preserve Northwest railroad history. This event and others like it help raise awareness in the historic preservation community about the Museum's activities and share the skills and techniques being developed - or resurrected - to rehabilitate railway history of the region.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Working on the Railroad success

Many charities run benefits that are designed to just make money. Others run events that inform, educate and entertain, but also support the institution. Working on the Railroad 2011 was the latter.

The Northwest Railway Museum hosted its second annual benefit dinner on Friday, March 4, 2011 at the Salish Lodge and Spa in Snoqualmie. A total of 90 people were on hand for an evening themed around chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, the National treasure now being rehabilitated in the Museum’s Conservation and Restoration Center. Proceeds will benefit the chapel car rehabilitation effort.

Guests were treated to a splendid meal prepared by the Salish’s executive chef. Each table was adorned with a collection plate loaned from Snoqualmie United Methodist Church, Mt. Si Lutheran, and North Bend Community Church. A short three item live auction conducted by Phil L. followed (a silent auction operated during the cocktail hour) with great items including the opportunity to be a locomotive engineer for an hour. Then, local actors Gary Schwartz and Denise Paulette took on the roles of Reverend and Mrs. Neil, the first missionaries assigned to chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace. They dramatized several notable moments in the car’s early history and talked about what it was like to live on a railroad car for two years with just 200 square feet of personal living space. The evening finished off with a lovely cake prepared by George’s Bakery in North Bend.

Thank you to the many donors including North Bend Theatre, Salish Lodge and Spa, North Bend Bar and Grill, Charmichael's True Value, Hit Entertainment, Think2a, Down to Earth Flowers and Gifts, Boxley’s, Down to Earth Photography by Mary, the Museum of Flight, Bob M., Rocky B., Allan W., James D., Rocky B., Russ S., & Jon B.

Working on the Railroad 2011 was a successful event raising awareness of the chapel car project and helping support its rehabilitation. Thank you to all the wonderful businesses and individuals in the community who made it a success!

Photograph: Guests at Working on the Railroad included (L to R) North Bend Mayor Ken Hearing, Gary Schwartz portraying the Reverend Neil, Denise Paulette portraying Mrs. Neil, Museum Executive Director Richard R. Anderson and Snoqualmie Mayor Matt R. Larson.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Research and the process of education

Education at the Northwest Railway Museum has many levels. It is interpretation – whether a small or large exhibit or even a sign found around the site. It is education programs like Pre-School Train and School Train. It is educational tours of the Depot or the CRC. It is also the train rides which begin again in April. Education has many levels, all of which require background knowledge of the subject matter to be presented, and background knowledge comes from research.

Sometimes the research has already been done and all one needs to do is read and absorb the information so they can present it in a coherent manner (whether in verbal or written form). Often times, though, research is required. So where to begin? Once you have your topic, the easiest first step is searching our archives. What does the Museum have that relates to the subject? Once we have established what we have, then we need to determine what we need. This could be written material to build our content, photos to add visual depth to the presentation, or archival documents to connect people and events across time.

There are some great online resources to help with this type of research, among them is the University of Washington’s digital collections, Washington State Archives, and the Library of Congress digital collections. There are many additional sites that can be very helpful, but these three are a great place to start looking for information and resources.

On a recent online trip we found multiple images and maps that could work well in a tentative Train Shed exhibit, along with interesting primary documents pertaining to the need – in Washington Territory – for a railroad. This research is how we begin to build exhibits and interpretation (= education) here at the Museum. And while it can sometimes be difficult locating the information you need – when you finally find, or stumble, upon the missing piece – it can be very rewarding. It is much like completing a puzzle when you don't have the box and picture to help guide your work!

Photograph: Locomotive #1265 at Lester, WA. Longworth Collection, Northwest Railway Museum.

Certificate: Certificate of marriage, Colville, WA circa 1915. Washington State Archives.