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!


Wayne Smith said...

That is nothing short of spectacular. Amazing attention to detail...

Unknown said...

I have such a profound respect for the work being done to maintain the history of our railroads. Moving here a few years ago we always enjoyed driving through Snoqualmie and imagining the history of the railroad. Reading this blog, researching other parts of the history and riding the trains have become a part of living in the Valley. Gardening or just relaxing becomes better hearing the train whistle! The steam train runs have become such a treat as well. Thank you all for your diligent work making this part of the Snoqualmie Valley a part of history.. all over again!

Jim Ellis and Kris Reid, North Bend, WA.

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