Monday, July 29, 2013

Keeping track safe and reliable

The grade immediate below the track
structure is called the subgrade.  It was
disturbed by an excavator during a
recent construction project conducted
adjacent to the track.
Good track is easy to take for granted, but a safe and reliable railroad depends on it.  And good track requires a stable subgrade, especially within the 1:1 live load zone beneath the track.  (The 1:1 live load zone is the area that extends downward from the ends of the ties at a 45 degree angle.)  Steep slopes, poor soils, seasonal flooding, adjacent uses, earth quakes, and heavy annual precipitation are all among the conditions that must be considered to ensure stability.  So when recent construction activities were found to have affected the subgrade at Snoqualmie Falls, immediate steps were taken to protect the track and trains. 

A rock slope was constructed to stabil-
ize and strengthen the subgrade for
more than 200 linear feet.  Geotextile
fabric was placed below the rocks to
improve performance of saturated soils.
First, for trains already operating, speed was immediately reduced to a crawl to reduce dynamic forces on the track and subgrade.  Second, a licensed geotechnical engineer was called in to inspect the subgrade below the track and determine if and under what conditions trains could continue to operate.  Third, rehabilitation work was performed to mitigate the issues discovered in the affected area using a design that was reviewed by other engineering professionals. 

A new rock slope below
the track at Snoqualmie
The long term rehabilitation plan was developed by the Museum's geotechnical engineering consultant at PanGEO Inc and reviewed by other knowledgeable professionals including Museum volunteer Dave H., who is a civil engineer - thanks Dave!

The design uses "heavy loose rock," which are large rocks 30 inches and more across.  It relies in part on prior stabilization work performed when soil anchors were driven under the track and a retaining wall was installed at the toe of the slope.  To address the current issue, the slope on the subgrade below the track was covered with geotextile fabric and the heavy loose rocks were keyed into the sloped using an excavator.  This design places several hundred tons of rock on the subgrade slope and restores integrity to the 1:1 zone beneath the track.  However work did not stop there.  Areas affected by construction activities that were outside the 1:1 zone but within the 2:1 slope of the railway grade are being strengthened with a foot or more of quarry spalls three to six inches in diameter.

Work took three days to perform and was completed between scheduled trains.  What is most impressive to Spike is that the total elapsed time between discovering the issue and implementing final rehabilitation was just four days!  Trains are continuing to operate and will resume track speed when authorities determine that stability has been fully restored.  So a stable subgrade once again supports good track.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

A day of firsts

Coach 218 pauses outside the Train Shed prior to being switched onto the train.
The first passengers since the 1940s and the first five-coach train since 1988!  On July 13, 2013, coach 218 was marshaled into the passenger train in Snoqualmie creating the Museum's first five-coach passenger train since 1988.  Coach 218 then carried its first revenue passengers since the 1940s! 

218 prepares to depart for Snoqualmie
Falls with 30 passengers, its first
revenue run since the late 1940s.
Coach 218 first entered service in August 1912 for the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway.  By 1948 it had been replaced by more modern cars and relegated to work train service where it served as rolling accommodation for railway workers.  It was purchased at auction by Museum supporters in the early 1980s and stored.  In 2007 the Museum made the decision to rehabilitate the car and work began soon after.  The primarily volunteer-led effort completed much of the carbody work and beginning in March 2013 several grants have funded two full time carpenters to continue work on the car, but with continued substantial volunteer support.  Support from 4Culture, The Snoqualmie Tribe, the Nysether Family Foundation, proceeds from GiveBIG! 2013, and other private funders is helping advance this important project.

Temporary "parlor" seating is in the
coach 218 to allow Day Out With
Thomas visitors to ride inside.  An on
board docent explains the state of the
project and a diagram shows the name
and function of all the exposed wooden
A project of coach 218's complexity always involves a few surprises.  On July 1 the Museum learned that the paint supplier "lost" the formula for the deep coach green paint that had been accurately matched from original samples.  To move the project forward, the car has been temporarily painted with a similar color created from one part jet black and five parts jade green.  The correct color will be matched and applied later this summer.

After years of effort, 218's carbody rehabilitation was substantially completed earlier this month.  Considerable effort remains to complete the interior appointments and lower window sashes, but with a visit from railroad royalty (Thomas the Tank Engine) it was difficult to resist the opportunity to "try out" the 218!  And after Thomas departs for his next museum venue, coach 218 will return to the Conservation and Restoration Center where work will resume on the interior.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Thomas the Tank Engine arrives!

Thomas the Tank Engine has returned  to the Snoqualmie Valley for Day Out With Thomas 2013!  The really useful engine arrived at the North Bend depot today for a visit from the Island of Sodor.  He will be visiting with young children and their families in Snoqualmie on July 12 - 14 and 19 - 21, 2013.  Tickets are $21 and are available via the link or phone number here.  You may also purchase tickets in person (and avoid service fees) at the Snoqualmie Depot, 38625 SE King Street, Snoqualmie daily from 10 AM - 5 PM.
Day Out With Thomas is a fun-filled event for young children and their families.  Admission includes a ride on a train with Thomas the Tank Engine, but also a variety of activities including a bouncy house, story time, a puppet theatre, motor car rides, locomotive cab tours, model trains including live steam, temporary tattoos, and live music by Eric Ode, Nancy Stewart, and Brian Vogan and his good buddies.  Check out the accompanying video images from one of our recent Day Out With Thomas events (this year will be similar, but even better!) and see what you have been missing!  Why not join the fun this year?