Monday, May 28, 2012

Studio Snoqualmie

Former NP stock car is positioned for
filming inside the Train Shed exhibit
Lights!  Camera!  Work Extra 4024, take it ahead!  Not quite what you were expecting?  The Northwest Railway Museum was briefly transformed into a movie studio for the production of You Can’t Win, a screen play adapted from the literary work of the same name.  Filming at the Museum of this independent production took place on May 16 and 17, 2012; other scenes were filmed in the Snoqualmie Valley in the following week.
Costume specialists make last minute
 preparations to a jacket for a young
 Jack Black as extras prepare for their
 entry into the scene.
You Can’t Win is a novel published in 1926 and is the autobiography of Jack Black, a hobo and thief for more than 30 years who in later life reformed himself and became a librarian.  Black is portrayed by Michael Pitt, an American actor best known for his role as Jimmy Darmody in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.  The film is directed by Robinson Devor, a Seattle-based director.
Inside the stock car, the film crew
prepares to shoot as the train operates
between Snoqualmie Falls and Bridge
35.  Director Devor is seen in the
center looking toward the camera. Pitt
is seen at the other end of the car in
The production team had a variety of “riding the rails” scenes they wanted to recreate, many dating from the late 19th Century.  A train station scene was filmed in the Snoqualmie Depot ladies’ waiting room with locomotive 11 visible through the windows.  Several more scenes were filmed with representative freight cars from the Museum’s collection including a stock car, two former Northern Pacific Railway boxcars and a former Great Northern auto boxcar as they operated between Snoqualmie Falls and Bridge 35.
The former Great Northern automobile
boxcar is prepared for an action scene
with lighting and a blue screen.  The
car was rocked back and forth while
filming took place.

Later, the Museum’s Train Shed exhibit building proved to be a workable studio where a number of important scenes could be filmed inside the cars while they were stationary.  A“blue screen” was placed in the background and will be used to insert motion scenes later.  A crew of more than 70 specialists was involved in the production, which is expected to debut at a film festival in 2013.

Former NP boxcar was
the site of a "staged" ac-
The Museum only rarely participates in movie production - it is very disruptive to operations and is distracting to volunteers and staff.  You Can't Win is different: it has thematic content consistent with the Museum's mission.  And license fees the Museum charged were sufficient to fund work on Bridge 35 earlier this year.  Overall, the project progressed without incident thanks in part to the Museum's great team of volunteers (more than 20 participated!), staff, and a great and respectful movie production company.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


In honor of Memorial Day, the Northwest Railway Museum is offering reduced fare train rides for members of the military: active duty, guard, reserve, retired, and their dependent families. See the splendid scenery of the Cascade Foothills through the windows of a vintage railcar.

Your current military id and $5 are all you need for a ride on the Museum’s train Saturday, May 26 – Monday, May 28, 2012.

What a great deal, and fun for the whole family, too. All are welcome of course. Check the schedule on The first train departs the Snoqualmie Depot at 11:01 AM and the North Bend Depot at 11:31 AM.

Show your current military id at the ticket window of either the Snoqualmie or North Bend Depots. The Ticket Agent will issue a special ticket to you for only $5.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Clerestory windows for the chapel car

Let there be light, and some fresh air too!  One of the distinguishing features of most traditional clerestory-roofed railroad cars is the clerestory window.  Designed to provide both light and ventilation, the windows are typically elongated and have hinges that allow the windows to “roll” into the car.

Chapel car 5 - built in 1898 in an era before air conditioning - was built with 45 clerestory windows.  These windows were constructed of white oak and were glazed with double glue chip glass.  Fortunately, these windows were in comparatively good condition and 38 original windows arrived in Snoqualmie with the car.  Unfortunately, nearly all the bottom rails were badly deteriorated and some of the glazing was broken, or had been replaced with other types of glass.
Old shellac was removed with the
infrared stripper and then alcohol.
Glass and stop material was carefully
removed and saved. 
Work began in February 2011 with the removal, cataloging, and condition assessment of all the windows.  Over a period of months hardware was recovered, glazing was removed, paint and shellac was stripped, and new stiles and rails were made and exchanged as required.  Seven completely new window frames were made, and a new weather stripping reveal to hold a rubber strip against the bottom swivel face was made for all 45 windows.  The window frames were cleaned and sanded, and then set aside until the car body was completed.  The hardware and glass were carefully cleaned and set aside for reuse.
Hardware consists of a
spring-loaded latch and a
radius with detents to hold
the window in a given
Hardware is easily taken for granted but without it the windows never would have performed their function.  The hinges and pivots were assemblies originally produced by the Dayton Manufacturing Company, the hardware company owned by Barney and Smith.  Some windows had slightly more modern assemblies made by Adams and Westlake, a company still in business today as Adlake!  Regardless of origin, all hardware was "cooked" overnight in a dilute soap solution.  Each item was then lightly brushed to remove varnish, paint and rust.  The hardware was coated with a gun-metal paint color.  Many of the mounting screws were replaced in kind with steel flathead slot screws each individually painted black to match.
Shellac immediately changes the
appearance of the windows.
In winter 2011, “varnishing” of the windows began.  Traditional shellac (flakes dissolved in alcohol) was applied in successive 3 lb/gallon coats until a smooth and uniform finish was achieved - typically that required eight coats with light sanding between each coat.  Shellac dries quickly and recoating is typically after 8 hours, but it is dry to the touch in 15 minutes or less.

The exterior was painted with a dark
green urethane matched to paint
samples found under the end
platform hood.

After the varnish process was completed, the outside of the frame received primer.  Then the windows were glazed and the final coats of dark green were applied to the exterior. 
Window installation was tricky: care had to be used to set the hinges in exactly the right location so the windows are neither too tight nor too loose.  Evidence that this had been a problem in the past was a serious of metal clips that had been fashioned and installed over the clerestory hinges to prevent the windows from quite literally bouncing out on rough track!  This problem was exacerbated when windows were removed for servicing (typically a fresh coat of varnish) and were not reinstalled in the same openings they came out of.  With careful installation in the openings that match the numbers on the window, the Museum expects a more precision fit and does not plan to reinstall the “aftermarket” clips.
Lead restoration worker Kevin P.
highlights the first clerestory
windows to be reinstalled.
So many hundreds of hours later, chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace has 45 rehabilitated or restored clerestory windows installed.  The car had one of its distinguishing features returned to its former glory and another category of work is completed.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Chapel car secrets Pt 2

Part 1 was published on February 27 and described a business card for H. J. Geisler's tasting room that was discovered hidden in the roof structure of chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace.  The car was built at Dayton, Ohio's Barney and Smith Car Company in 1898.  So who was H.J. Giesler?  Thanks to some clever research by volunteer Doris A., his identity is much clearer.

H.J. Geisler was Henry J. Geisler of Dayton, Ohio.  He was born in Ohio in August, 1869.  In 1893 he married Clara and by 1894 appeared in the Dayton, Ohio city directory as the proprietor of "choice wines, Liquors and Cigars." In 1895 his business was identified as the "Sample Room," which continued to share his home address.  Business must have been good because he was able to afford cutting-edge technology - by 1899 he listed a telephone number!

The Henry J. Geisler Family was listed in the 1900 US Census, which revealed a daughter, Florence, born September 1894.  Henry's occupation was listed as "Saloon Keeper."

Henry J. Geisler continued to appear in the city directory until 1905.  Sadly, in 1906, the city directory listed Mrs. Henry J. Geisler as the Sample Room proprietor.  The 1910 US Census confirmed that Clara was a widow and head of household with daughter Florence, 15 years of age, not in school.

So a small business card found in the roof of chapel car Messenger of Peace reveals a few secrets from Dayton, Ohio at the turn of the 20th Century.