Friday, January 30, 2015

Curing boiler ache

The Museum's curator cuts out around
the stay bolts that secure the inside
sheet to the outside sheet.  During
operation, water between the sheets
is heated by combustion in the firebox.
Rehabilitation and restoration of a steam locomotive that is more than 115 years old can present many challenges, sometimes even when components appear to be in great shape.  Take the boiler for instance.  It's a pressure vessel designed to operate at up to 180 pounds per square inch. It represents a discipline that saw continuous change throughout the first half of the 20th Century as new techniques were developed, and older practices were sometimes found deficient.  Fast forward to the 21st Century and the best practices and regulations of the past have been combined with the knowledge and scholarship of the present to form the "new" regulations that govern the eventual certification of locomotive 924. 
The lower portion of the side sheet on
the right side of the firebox has been
removed allowing the back side of the
wrapper sheet to be inspected.  Several
small cracks were found radiating from
stay bolt holes.

With today's regulations - and the genuine desire to operate in a safe and efficient manner - there are some parts of the locomotive boiler that are being replaced.  Inside the firebox, the side sheets were repaired with a mixture of gas and early electric welding techniques, perhaps as many as 90 years ago.  Unfortunately, this presents challenges for the certification and sustainable operation of the locomotive.  Even if these repairs could be dissected and the boiler approved for operation, these repairs of unverifiable workmanship could present a problem during the next 1,492 days of operation, and require remedial repairs in the middle of an operating season.

The new side sheet sections are welded
into the boiler.  The holes will soon be
tapped for new stay bolts.
So in December 2014 the lower portion of the side sheets on both sides of the locomotive - together incorporating at least two prior repairs - were cut out.  This work required each individual stay bolt to be cut out so the sections of side sheet could be removed.  Inside, the outer sheet or wrapper was found to be in good condition, though several small cracks were found radiating from the stay bolt holes. Thanks to the added efforts of more than a dozen volunteers, the surfaces were cleaned up in preparation for new sheets.

Brand new sheets were purchase, fitted, drilled, and installed.  A modern electric welding machine was used to install the plate and the holes are being tapped for new stay bolts.  While working inside the firebox, some of the rear sheet seams were welded to improve performance and reliability when the locomotive is converted from coal to oil.

Replacing the lower portions of the side sheets inside the boiler is just one of many tasks required in the process of rehabilitating and restoring former Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924.  This intensive process will take approximately two years of effort.  Already, dozens of volunteers have contributed more than 750 hours, and the Museum's curator is committing 85% or more of his work day to the project.  It is just the beginning, but a measurable effort for a project that began less than four months ago.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Depot Bookstore makes history

Saturday January 23, 2015 was an historic day for the Northwest Railway Museum and the Depot Bookstore. A state-of-the-art Point of Sale (POS) system was launched for retail sales! The TAM Retail system is a powerful means of completing sales, tracking merchandise, and even ordering merchandise.

The Museum’s Deputy Director spent the last month, beginning during Santa Train, creating 700 SKUs for all the merchandise the Bookstore carries. A complete count of the inventory was required and once that was finished, the system was launched. While there is a learning curve for any new system, the TAM system is relatively easy to master. A fact well known ahead of time since the TAM system has been in place ~ for ticket sales ~ since May 2014.

The Museum is especially excited about the ability to track inventory and make informed orders, which should decrease the amount of inventory in over-stock at any one time. The bookstore clerks are most excited by the touch screen cash register and the ease of sales.

A big thank you to the POS team of Jessie, Lara, James, and Cristy who spent a couple of days together completing the inventory count, launching the sales system, labeling all products without barcodes, and ushering in the new era! 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Snoqualmie Depot Bookstore CLOSED this Friday 1/23/2015

The Bookstore in the Snoqualmie Depot will be closed to the public this Friday 1/23/15.
The reason? The Northwest Railway Museum is moving our Point of Sale system. The new system has been in service ~ for ticket sales ~ since May 2014. Now we will use the system to track and sell inventory in our bookstore. This is exciting news for all involved, as it means a smoother customer service experience for our visitors and a far more powerful retail inventory system for staff.
We appreciate your patience as we move to the new system! The other parts of the Depot will be open for visitors: freight room exhibits and public restrooms.
Thank you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

924 begins to progress towards steam!

(L to R) Nathan I., Mark S., Zeb D., Karl., Stathi P., Mike, Al, and CJ V. (center) are just a select few of the many people working on the loco- motive 924 project, some from as far away as California and Idaho.  All except Stathi are volunteers!
Hammers are hammering, saws are sawing, torches are torching, welders are welding, and progress is beginning to show.  Projected as a two year effort, the scope of work for the rehabilitation and restoration of Northern Pacific Railway locomotive 924 is extensive so success is inextricably linked with methodical and consistent efforts.  In plain English?  No rest for the weary!  For the past several weeks, efforts have focused on documentation, disassembly, and the beginnings of boiler repairs.  Now, more than 20 people are involved so progress has picked up! 

The locomotive 924 is being rehabilitated and restored following the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.  These are the same standards used for the chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, Snoqualmie Depot, White River Lumber caboose 001, and Spokane, Portland and Seattle coach 218.  An important component of demonstrating compliance with the standards - and also a museum best management practice - includes thorough documentation of the object before, during and after.  So photographs, motion pictures, material samples, sketches, scale drawings, descriptive narratives, and more are used.

The 924 tender is intact but is in poor
shape.  The tank fabrication will be
replaced in-kind, but the frame and
trucks will be used largely "as is."
Thanks to several highly talented volunteers (Adam P., Dave H., Zeb D., and many others), the 924 tender has been documented.  A thorough evaluation has concluded the tank is in extremely poor condition.  Given the plan to operate the 924, the tender must be able to hold water.  Literally.  A steel tank that is more than 100 years old and riddled with pinholes throughout the lower half presents some challenges that are difficult to overcome.  So the tank will be completely replaced using new steel, but the existing frame, trucks, stairs, the post electric dynamo headlight, and pretty much every rivet (count 'em boys!) will faithfully replaced in the new fabrication.

The locomotive 924 cab has been
completely removed to allow boiler
work to be undertaken.
The 924 locomotive cab presents a dilemma similar to the tender tank.  While the cab remained intact, it was far from complete or suitable for an operating locomotive.  Extensive documentation has been completed by Mike, George, Russ S. and many others, and now the team is able to slowly deconstruct the cab.  Individual parts have been numbered and inventoried, and everything is being saved.  Removing the cab allows boiler work to be undertaken, and for the cab to be restored to its period of significance when it served the Northern Pacific Railway. 

The interior of the smoke box takes on
a surreal look with a work light shining
through the tube sheet.
Meanwhile, Mark and others are finishing up the scaling and cleaning process inside the boiler.  As reported in December, all the tubes have been removed and the interior appears to be in great shape.  However there will be some repairs required, including some firebox sheet replacement.  That work has begun and will be the subject of a future 924 blog report.

The 924 work is now well underway, but your support is critical to its success.  Costs to rehabilitate and restore two steam locomotives are projected at more than $600,000.  Your contribution in any amount will help allow work to continue, and is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.  Please visit the Museum's donate now page and select "steam program."  All contributions received with this restriction will be used to purchase materials and services in support of locomotive 924 and (following completion of 924) locomotive 14.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Flood waters, but no damage

Bridge 32 in downtown Snoqualmie is
quickly engulfed in water.  Normally,
Kimball Creek is 18 inches deep and
about ten feet wide.
The Northwest Railway Museum is located in the urban flood plain.  That really isn't something the Museum has any choice about because it is built on and around a 19th Century railroad, and most mountain railroads are either along the river or on a hillside.  Last Monday, January 5, 2015, heavy rain combined with melting snow to create a rapidly rising river that crested at one of the highest flow rates ever recorded. Fortunately, the Museum avoided any significant damage.
The Salish Lodge and Spa keeps watch
over an angry river as it plunges over
the top of Snoqualmie Falls.
The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway arrived in Snoqualmie in 1889 (the Museum commemorated the 125th anniversary of passenger service to Snoqualmie Falls with a special train on July 4th, 2014) and the civil engineer  - Charles Baker - that designed the line chose the best possible grade and location.  Interestingly, the Snoqualmie Depot in downtown Snoqualmie is the highest point in downtown (it is unlikely that was by accident) as was much of the line but encroaching development has brought structures and significant changes in surface water management. So now some of the railroad grade is susceptible to flood damage because adjacent development constricts water flow and generates scouring velocities that have in the past removed vast quantities of railroad ballast from under the track. 

Bridge 35 is just a few feet above the
water in this image taken four hours
before cresting.,
Several projects in the last ten years have reduced flooding impacts.  First, a flood reduction project by the Army Corp of Engineers widened the river at Snoqualmie Falls to increase capacity of the river.  Second, Puget Sound Energy's rehabilitation of the Snoqualmie Falls hydro electric development removed the permanent weir (dam) across the river, but also other obstructions that were close to the river's edge including the remains of Bridge 5.46.

The flood waters get dangerously
close to the deck of the bridge.
Last Monday's flood was the first major event since completion of all the construction projects.  Naturally, when water flow rates approached those of prior major events including 2011 and 1996, many thought the Museum would sustain damage.  Fortunately, they were wrong.

The floor reduction projects appear to have made a difference.  Despite more than 51,000 cubic feet per second (normally it is about 2,000) of water flow over Snoqualmie Falls, there was no water over the track.  There was some minor scouring around bridge 35 in North Bend, but no damage that requires repair at this time. 

The flood reduction work that has spared the Museum damage during this recent event is not without controversy.  Spike cannot attest to the downstream impact in Fall City, Carnation and Duvall, which is a matter of considerable debate and has generated at least one lawsuit.  However, conditions for Snoqualmie and the Museum have improved dramatically, and bode well for the overall improved sustainability of the community.