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

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day Out With Thomas 2011

The very useful engine completed his annual visit to the Northwest Railway Museum on July 17, 2011 and by all accounts it was a successful and happy time for thousands of children. Live music, motor car rides, historical artifacts, and model trains were just a few of the many things to see and do at Day Out With Thomas 2011 in Snoqualmie, Washington.

This event marked the tenth annual visit of Thomas the Tank Engine and more than 16,026 people greeted him at the Snoqualmie Depot. They rode to Snoqualmie Falls on a twenty-minute excursion and enjoyed a variety of activities on the Depot lawn. Musical performances included Nancy Stewart, Eric Ode, Casper Baby Pants, and Brian Vogan and his Good Buddies who all performed to an enthusuastic crowd of children and adults.

A pool of 137 volunteers and 9 staff supported the event with awesome support from the City of Snoqualmie and the local business community. The Snoqualmie Valley Middle School provided off site parking too. And the Museum is grateful for the support and accommodation of the local residential community whose community was visited by nearly 3,000 people per day.

Day Out With Thomas 2011 was a successful event and proceeds are supporting the Northwest Railway Museum and the new Railway History Center. Day Out With Thomas 2012 is tentatively planned for July 2012 and tickets will be available to members beginning in March 2012.

Thomas the Tank Engine and Day Out With Thomas are registered trademarks of Gullane (Thomas) Ltd.


(Top) Sam from Shoreline assembed a lengthy and colorful train on the wooden railway train tables while visiting Day Out With Thomas.

(Video) Scenes from all six days of Day Out With Thomas 2011 with short clips from Eric Ode ("Barn Cat"), Casper Baby Pants ("Run Baby Run"), and Brian Vogan and his Good Buddies ("Pirate Song").

Friday, July 15, 2011

Reconstructing a railroad crossing

Crossings are the interface between a railroad and a roadway or trail. The Northwest Railway Museum has 23 crossings; 13 of those are public crossings of local streets, arterials, or major thoroughfares including a State highway. All of these crossings require ongoing maintenance; the majority of the wear and tear is caused by truck and automobile traffic. To meet the needs of today's heavier trucks and increased traffic, when it is opportune crossings are being rebuilt to withstand greater weight and use.

Among the busiest of the public crossings in Snoqualmie is Meadowbrook Way SE, a road that opened in the 1920s. It was last reconstructed after the great flood of 1996 using asphalt. The roadway was heavily impacted by flooding in 2007 and again in 2009, and is scheduled for repaving (overlay) in late summer 2011. The Museum has been working with the City of Snoqualmie for more than four years to secure funding that would allow reconstruction of the crossing along with the overlay. Fortunately, a portion of funding from the Snoqualmie Tribe’s Snoqualmie Casino designated for area road improvements has allowed the project to proceed.

The Museum has rebuilt nearly 1/2 of its public crossings in the last 15 years. All of the recent projects have been reconstructed using concrete panels similar to those used on railroads throughout the Northwest. These panels last longer and take the weight of today's trucks better than older-style asphalt or timber crossings. But the concrete panels are only the most obvious element of a crossing reconstruction. Reconstructions also often involve upgrading the size of the rail and improving the subgrade conditions by excavating out the native soil to a depth of 41 inches and replacing it with railroad ballast. (This makes the crossing more resistant to settlement caused by the passage of trucks and busses.) It also involves the use of longer railroad crossties to improve stability and to support concrete panels. All these improvements together allow reconstructed crossings to last at least 25 years.

RailWorks of Chehalis, WA was awarded a contract and began work on July 5. The existing crossing was removed and the subgrade was excavated to a depth of 41 inches. Larger replacement rail (115 RE, which means it is 115 pounds per yard, as opposed to the existing 90 RB rail, which is 90 pounds to the yard) was welded together using the thermite process to eliminate rail joints from the crossing. Geofabric was placed as a new base at the bottom of the excavation. New railroad ballast was placed as subgrade and new oak crossties were placed on 18 inch centers. The welded rail was double spiked in the crossing and rail anchors to resist creep were installed. Concrete panels manufactured by Omega Industries of Vancouver, WA were installed on the new ties, and Asphalt by George patched the space between the new panels and the existing roadway. The City of Snoqualmie provided additional project support by assuming responsibility for the temporary closure of Meadowbrook Way SE. Project value was $38,000 and work was completed in 3 days.


(video) Scenes from the Meadowbrook Way SE crossing reconstruction project

(top photo) Completed crossing on July 8, 2011

(upper middle photo) New concrete crossing panel is lowered into place. Large lag screws driven into the white oak cross ties will hold them in place.

(lower middle photo) A jig is used to align two lengths of rail prior to thermite welding.

(bottom photo) Special compromise joint bars transition between the new welded rail and the existing rail. (Note the different height.)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Congratulations 4Culture!

4Culture’s funding source has been extended into the foreseeable future with the Washington State Legislature’s passage of ESSB 5834. Governor Gregoire has signed the bill into law and it takes effect on August 24, 2011. Passage of the bill was the result of a seven year bipartisan effort by King County, the arts & heritage community, and thousands of cultural patrons. It was passed in the toughest legislative session in recent memory.

4Culture is the public face of the King County Cultural Development Authority and is the latest iteration of a lengthy history of support for culture. Today, 4Culture receives and distributes a portion of lodging tax funds to cultural organizations using a variety of competitive grant programs. The Northwest Railway Museum has received dozens of grants from 4Culture to support a wide range of initiatives including the new Train Shed exhibit building, exhibits such as Wellington Remembered, landmark rehabilitation work such as Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace, and collections care efforts such as the recent purchase and installation of temperature and humidity monitors.

4Culture is not the Museum’s largest funder but it is its most diverse funder. It is often a first funder that demonstrates the efficacy of a proposal because of a widely respected rigorous and transparent vetting & adjudication process. It is also a consistent funder that understands the unique challenges of operating a museum.

So it is rather appropriate to acknowledge 4Culture’s success on Independence Day. Culture defines our Nation, but in a much broader fashion than what network television, professional sport, or iconic brands of popular culture so narrowly defines. It is local and regional history, architecture and historic preservation, visual and performing arts, public art, literature, and so much more. 4Culture provides initiatives to preserve, interpret, develop, perform, market, and perpetuate culture that is relevant and important to King County and its citizens. It is hugely important to the success of local and regional tourism. It also represents more than 30,000 full time jobs in King County.

So on this July 4th, a huge thanks to everyone that played a role in securing 4Culture’s future funding needs. Kudos to those that made this almost an obsession: King County Executive Dow Constantine; Senator Hunter; Senator Murray; Speaker Chopp; Advocate4Culture; Louise Miller, Dale Smith, & the 4Culture Board (Museum Executive Director Richard Anderson is a member of 4Culture's Historic Preservation Advisory Committee); and 4Culture Executive Director Jim Kelly. And a special thanks to 5th District Representative Glenn Anderson for recognizing the importance of 4Culture to the upper Snoqualmie Valley and the Northwest Railway Museum by supporting ESSB 5834.