Thursday, December 31, 2015

Highlights from 2015

2015 was a year of significant accomplishment at the Northwest Railway Museum. Read on to learn about some of the highlights!

This 2015 continued a major multiyear effort to improve the passenger car fleet. In the first part of the year Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway coach 276 received an all-new standing seam lower clerestory roof complete with high performance paint job. At the same time, a great deal interior work, refurbished vestibule traps and doors, and assorted running gear work was completed.
Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway coach 213 – an all wood car body with steel center sill - received a rebuilt A end wood vestibule components as well as a rebuilt upper diaphragm support, floor and roof repairs, interior paint, and interior header work.
Oregon, Washington, Railroad and Navigation Company (Union Pacific) observation car 1590 saw significant replacement of the steel underframe cross bracing replaced, a new leaf spring, side bearing work, floor repairs, roof repairs, and brake system work.
Combine SP and S 272 was not left out and received several new steel roof panels, several new headers, rehabilitated clerestory windows, and several new coach section windows.
Chapel car Messenger of Peace received new replica lighting and additional interior finishing work. It was also moved to its long term exhibition location inside the Train Shed.
New exhibits have been introduced too.  “The Railroad changed everything” debuted in the Train Shed exhibit building in fall 2015.  Earlier in 2015, “Railroads built the Pacific Northwest” was introduced.  These are just the first two of many new exhibits planned for the Train Shed.
2015 was an important year for the City of Snoqualmie too.  A major reconstruction of downtown Snoqualmie valued at more than $3 million was completed.  It features a new boardwalk just across the tracks from the Snoqualmie Depot, new landscaping, and a 42 inch fence to deter trespassing on the tracks.
A great number of improvements to the Conservation and Restoration Center (shop) facility occurred in 2015 with the acquisition of several large machines including a 48" vertical turret lathe, Cincinnati 5 milling machine, Clemco 1000 48" belt sander/surfacer, 18" American lathe, Carelton radial drill, Grizzly edge sander, Gould and Eberhart 24" shaper, Dewalt planer/surface, wheel press, as well as numerous hand tools and supplies.
Steam locomotives have been the really big story in 2015 with significant changes, and progress towards a sustainable steam program.  Curator Pappas' SCPC 2 received a great deal of work in the first half of the year to improve performance and economy. Piston rods were turned and ground, new packing installed, guides remachined and lined, rear cylinder heads lapped in, ring grooves trued, and new rings installed.  This allowed for the Northwest Railway Museum’s first full steam season in more than 25 years, which was a tremendous success with ridership increases, crew training, and enhanced public education.
Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 – the Museum’s Rogers-built 1898 0-6-0 - saw a great deal of progress towards its operational rehabilitation and restoration to its circa 1906 appearance. In 2015, a new riveted slope back cistern was built for the tender, in house asbestos abatement completed, form 4 boiler engineering finished, a new riveted steam done constructed and installed, new steam dome lid machined, firebox side sheets fabricated and welded in, and a new cap stack fabricated to match historic photographs circa 1906.
The Museum’s diesel fleet also saw improvements with the conversion of RS4-TC 4012 from a direct drive cooling fan to a battery of temperature-controlled electric cooling fans using off-the-shelf components for improved reliability. This conversion keeps the locomotive’s diesel engine operating temperature within two or three degrees of optimal, which improves efficiency and reduces wear.  The new cooling design mimics what modern locomotives use and has proven very reliable.  Very importantly, locomotive 4012 received new batteries in 2015.  New "Rolls" locomotive batteries were installed at the beginning of the season and have really helped with cool weather starts.
The Snoqualmie Depot received some important work too.  The two waiting room floors were refinished and the Depot Bookstore was relocated into the ladies’ waiting room.  It had been located in the gentlemen’s waiting room since the early 1980s.  This change is allowing improved programming.  For instance, Santa Train 2015 used the newly available gentlemen's waiting room as Santa's parlor.
All in all it has been a great year for the Northwest Railway Museum.  Major events have been some of the best attended ever, ridership is up, and 2016 looks to be even better with ground breaking coming soon for the new Railway Education Center, changes to the operating schedule so that passengers get to visit the collection within the Train Shed exhibit building, and the continued rehabilitation and restoration of the collections.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Let there be light

The rehabilitation and restoration of chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace was substantially complete in 2013, but a number of restorative details have been ongoing, long-term projects.  Often it is the search for additional evidence supporting the alteration that takes the greatest effort, and it can be very time-consuming. Interior lighting was one of those projects. 

It is known that the chapel car was built with pendant light fixtures fueled with kerosene; those fixtures appear in a widely-circulated builder's photo taken in May 1898.  However, this lighting was never very bright and was reportedly replaced sometime in the early 20th Century.  When work began on the chapel car, Museum staff discovered the chimneys for the kerosene lighting covered with sheet metal confirming that a change had occurred while the car was in the service of the Baptist Church.  So what lighting did the chapel car get, and when? 

The chapel car is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the Snoqualmie and King County Landmark Register.  Those important listings - and funding they have helped leverage - do not allow for speculative efforts, and require use of the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.  These standards encourage - even mandate - careful, methodical research and record keeping. So during the course of the chapel car project, more than 2,000 pages of research were collected or created as a record of work performed.

Letter stating nature of lighting installed in MoPWhile reviewing research into the Messenger of Peace and its service to the American Baptist Publication Society, references to "gasoline" lighting and the purchase of gasoline were found throughout chapel car expense reports.  A letter discovered by chapel car researchers and authors Wilma and Norman Taylor in the collection of the American Baptist Historical Society detailed what had been installed in the Messenger of Peace.  (Click on the image to see a full size version of the letter.)  The Taylor's research also discovered that Messenger of Peace spent two weeks in a Missouri railroad shop in June 1912. Evidently, the chapel car received a new "Coleman Lighting System," manufactured by the Hydro Carbon Company of Wichita, Kansas, most likely in June 1912.  (In 1913 the manufacturer reincorporated as the Coleman Lamp Company.)

Coleman maintains an archive of old prints and catalogs.  Through their good graces, the Museum obtained catalog cuts of similar lighting.  Then, by chance, a light fixture from the same model line appeared on Ebay and was purchased.  Using the model 27 lamp, the Museum's curators were able to match the mounting hardware to the ceiling heat shields that remained in the car until rehabilitation began in 2011.  In addition, iron pipes discovered in the car's walls were consistent with those used for institutional installation of gasoline lighting so that a centralized fuel supply could be used for all the lamps.  So with substantial evidence, a plan to replicate the lighting from the period of significance (1917, when the chapel car traveled through Snoqualmie) was developed. 

The chapel car is a predominantly wood structure.  So it was no surprise to have discovered oversize metal heat shields on the interior ceilings.  These metal pans were fabricated from light gauge sheet metal, were badly corroded, and were also designed to cover the old kerosene lighting chimney ports.  New metal heat shields were fabricated by SkilFab in Snoqualmie using the one completely intact original as a pattern.  Meanwhile, instead of iron fuel pipes, the car was wired with car and locomotive wire (fine wire strands inside extra thick insulation) and a new breaker box.  Modern electrical boxes capable of supporting light fixtures were installed in place of the gasoline light bases.  

The shades and decorative bonnet are unlike any lamp components manufactured today.  So the plan included making new parts using a process called metal spinning, and performed in Auburn at Pacific Wire.  Next, the decorative ridge on the bonnet (Coleman actually called it a crown!) was copied and cutout using a laser.  CEL Manufacturing in Woodinville performed that work by producing a series of 60 inch sections that could be cut and spot welded to the bonnet. The entire bonnet was sent to Art Brass Plating in Seattle to be nickel plated. Back in the Conservation and Restoration Center, the shade portion of the fixture was enameled white on the inside and green on the outside.  A metal conical heat dispersion feature often mounted right above the chimney was made and installed too, as evidence supports its use in applications where the fixture was mounted close to the ceiling.  For the glass globe, Rejuvenation Lighting in Portland supplied hand blown glass globes.  The electrical components were supplied by Antique Lamp Supply.  Then, and finally, 1,600 lumen LED bulbs were installed with a dimmer to allow the light intensity to be varied just as it was when it was  provided by a gasoline burner.

The chapel car lighting project was more complex that originally envisioned, but has met the objective of helping faithfully restore the car to its 1917 splendor.  The Museum is grateful for the support of King County 4Culture who funded most of the effort through the Landmarks Capital program.  Support for this project was also received from the American Baptist Home Mission Societies, the American Baptist Historical Society, National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in Washington, and the Northwest Railway Museum general fund.  Volunteer Arnie L. wired the car, and Arnie and staff member (shipwright) Gary James performed the installation.  In all, a diverse collection of resources and skills were brought together to further the efforts in historic preservation of this unique cultural resource!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Seasons Greetings!

The Museum's key staff represent a very
diverse group of qualifications that sup-
port many mission-critical functions. 
From left to right, Gary James, ship-
wright; Richard Anderson, executive
director; Cristy Lake, registrar and
volunteer coordinator; Lara Ballinger,
bookstore buyer; Stathi Pappas, large
object curator; Peggy Barchi, market-
ing manager; Jessie Cunningham,
deputy director and educator; James
Sackey, visitor services; and Jennifer
Youngman, bookkeeper.
From all the Trustees and Staff at the Northwest Railway Museum to all the supporters, patrons, volunteers, donors, visitors, and all 'round fans, thank you for another great year.

There are many components in a successful Museum, and chief among those are willing and generous supporters.  So whether you donated goods, services, funds, volunteer hours (more than 14,000 in 2015!), or bought tickets to visit or ride, thank you for your role in making 2015 successful!

The senior staff recently got together to reflect on the last 12 months, and tour Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace.  As 2015 winds down, the Museum has secured necessary permits to build the new Railway Education Center, installed a new exhibit in the Train Shed, made significant progress in the rehabilitation of steam locomotive 924, successfully nominated 924 to the Landmark Register, operated more than 37 days of steam with the visiting SCPC 2, refinished the floors in the Snoqualmie Depot, performed additional rehabilitation on chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, and performed major work on coach 276

Wow, 2015 was a busy year!  Yet 2016 looks like it may be even busier with plans for construction of the new Railway History Center, near completion of locomotive 924, additional coach work, and more.  Your support always makes a difference and we invite you to consider - even encourage you - an end of year donation to the Northwest Railway Museum so that this important work may continue.

Seasons Greetings, and thank you for your support.