Sunday, December 17, 2017

Victorian Santa

Santa Train is a Northwest tradition that began in 1969.  Each year thousands are thrilled to see Santa, but one day is extra special: Victorian Santa Train!

Friday, December 15th was Victorian Santa Train 2017 at the Northwest Railway Museum.  Guests enjoyed a train excursion to Snoqualmie, received cookies and hot chocolate from the Army Ambulance Kitchen car, and had a visit with Victorian Santa in the Snoqualmie Depot.  

Young guests received on Santa's lap were treated to a Jacob's Ladder gift, which is a wooden toy popular in the late 19th Century.  It was the toy that every kid said they had to have!  And the atmosphere was made oh so much more festive with the enthusiastic participation of Victorian (and Edwardian!) reenactors dressed in period clothing.

Check out these images from this year's Victorian Santa Train!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

PastPerfect training

This month the Northwest Railway Museum partnered with Savor Snoqualmie Valley and Two Rivers School to conduct PastPerfect collections software training for volunteers from local historical societies.  The training was hosted in the computer lab at Two Rivers School; the Museum's Registrar Cristy Lake led the effort.

PastPerfect is the defacto standard collections database used worldwide by more than 10,000 museums for cataloging museum collections.  Catalog records include provenance, condition, location, purpose, and even photographs.  Examples of catalog records are included in the Northwest Railway Museum's new online lantern exhibit.

For PastPerfect to be effective, it is essential that museums have staff and volunteers trained in its use.  In the Snoqualmie Valley, a half dozen museums use the program, but most have only part-time volunteers that have not had formal training opportunities. During this training session, volunteers from Duvall Historical SocietyFall City Historical SocietySnoqualmie Valley Museum and the Cedar River Watershed EducationCenter all participated.

Ms. Lake is a veteran user of PastPerfect software, and she provided the overview and basic guidance in the use of the software. Two Rivers students helped answer questions and created a friendly atmosphere as everyone worked through the process of creating sample accession and object records.

Thank you Two Rivers School students and Savor Snoqualmie Valley for helping local historical societies modernize their collections cataloging!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Giving Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Giving Tuesday is a day of charitable giving held every year on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, and this year is officially Giving Tuesday in the City of Snoqualmie as declared by Mayor Matt Larson.  The Northwest Railway Museum is part of the Giving Tuesday movement, and invites you to support programs and initiatives.  This year support will be directed towards continuing work on NP steam locomotive 924, to assess Puget Sound Electric Railway interurban car 523, and help move former Northern Pacific Railway parlor car 1799 to the Museum from an island in Puget Sound.  And the Museum is grateful for General Fund support too!


NP 924 circa 1908
Locomotive 924.  Rehabilitation of this former Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive has been underway for the last two years.  This multi-year effort will allow this 1899-built steam locomotive to operate again!  924 is a City of Snoqualmie and King County Landmark. The locomotive cab and running gear are two of the undertakings contributions are supporting this year, and some additional boiler work will be taking place early next year.  Recent work has included rehabilitation of the steam appliances.  

LC parlor car photoParlor car 1799.  Parlor cars were extra fare cars on passenger trains that catered to the needs of the more affluent.  1799 operated between Seattle and Yakima on through trains.  This former Northern Pacific Railway parlor car is located on an island in Puget Sound, and is included on the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation’s Most Endangered Places list.  The owners have offered the car as a donation provided it is removed from the site.  The project is ready to proceed pending receipt of development permits, which is expected to occur early in 2018.  Support is being directed towards the cost of crane, barge and trucking fees.

InterurbanInterurban car 523The Puget Sound Electric Railway operated electric trains between Seattle and Tacoma from 1902 through 1928.  Car 523 is the only known surviving car, and originally served as a combination coach/parlor/observation car. It arrived in Snoqualmie in September.  Support towards this project will help funding a complete assessment, and the first phase of its structural rehabilitation to repair side sill damage caused by the car’s reuse as a residential home.

The General Fund is a great way to support the Northwest Railway Museum without designated a specific project or initiative.  Support received designated towards the general fund will be used for regular programs including School Train, operation of the Snoqualmie Depot, and the operation of web sites like

Giving Tuesday is an opportunity to support the Northwest Railway Museum.  Please visit the donate now page and choose your favorite project!

Friday, November 10, 2017

Digital collections now available online

The main page of Digital Collections.
The Northwest Railway Museum recently completed a 4Culture Collection Care (Heritage) grant: Small Object Cataloging. The project proposed to catalog a selection of small railway artifacts and provide the public with a way of viewing those items through the Museum’s website. 

As part of the project, more than 600 objects were cataloged using Past Perfect Museum software. The software also includes a function that allows the public to view designated collection items online. The Digital Collections are available for perusal on under Research. The Museum selected a small sample of artifacts for the online collection under three categories: lanterns, ephemera, and tools of the trade. 

The Digital Collections are available at no cost to the public on Additionally, some artifacts from this project are on display in the Train Shed Exhibit Building, which had approximately 14,000 visitors in 2017.

Sample page of the Ephemera collection.

Lantern main page.
Sample table of contents for Tools.
Sample page of the Lantern collection.

Railway history is an under-represented heritage theme yet railroads played an extremely important role in getting people to the Pacific Northwest and materials out of the area. The Digital Collections help tell that story to the public through photographs and collections data.

A 4Culture Collection Care (Heritage) grant funded this exhibit. 4Culture is the cultural funding agency for King County, Washington. Using Lodging Tax and 1% for Art funds, 4Culture has four program areas to serve the county: arts, heritage, historic preservation, and public art. For more info on 4Culture, visit their website at 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Northern Pacific 924 work continues

The Museum's former Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 has moved a little closer to operating under its own steam.  This year rehabilitation of the locomotive appliances has been completed, and was undertaken by Bernie Watts at Backshop Enterprises.  The Northwest Railway Museum is grateful for support from the Heritage Capital Projects Fund of the Washington State Historical Society - and the Washington State Legislature who approved this agency's appropriation - which funded this work.

Appliances perform a variety of functions.  The air compressor provides compressed air for the brakes.  The steam dynamo provides electricity for the headlights.  The steam injectors provide a means for "injecting" water into the boiler while it is under pressure.  The hydro-static lubricator uses steam pressure to push lubricating oil into the steam cylinder while it is operating.

The Westinghouse 9 1/2 inch steam driven air compressor is a relic from the early 20th Century.  Many steam locomotives operating today have a more efficient cross-compound air compressor, but this single stage 9 1/2 was installed on locomotive 924 around 1910 and has remained there ever since.  Unfortunately, it required extensive work, including replacement of the steam cylinder, the original of which was cracked.  The compressor also required a new steam piston, piston rings, a variety of steam gaskets, oil cups, air valves, and more.

The steam dynamo uses steam to spin a turbine.  The shaft in the turbine spins an electric generator and produces direct current at 32 volts.  This energy is used to power the headlights, but also for the cab lights. The era the Museum is representing with the 924's restoration is before the locomotive had an electric headlight.  However the original-style oil lamp just isn't bright enough to allow for safe operation over the 20 public and private railroad crossings on the Museum's railroad.  So the Pyle National K-240 steam dynamo has been fully rebuilt to its original specifications and will be used to power an electric headlight, though it will resemble an oil light.

The dynamo is a distinctive feature on most steam locomotives operating today.  It emits a high-pitch whine while operating, and exhausts expended steam out a short stack.  The Museum's K-240 was tested by Bernie Watts prior to shipping back to Snoqualmie, and the results were brilliant!

The hydro-static lubricator lubricates the steam cylinders, including the steam side of the air compressor.  Steam pressure is used to inject lubricating oil into steam cylinders while they are under pressure.  The 924's lubricator was made by the Detroit Lubricator Company and has three feeds.   It is a vital component, but the function can also be performed by a mechanical lubricator.  Some steam locomotives in operation today have instead replaced the hydro-static lubricator with a mechanical lubricator.  However, this lubricator is original equipment for the 924.

The steam injector is an ingenious device that allows water to be injected into a boiler under pressure.  The 924's original injectors mysteriously disappeared some years ago, but replacement injectors were acquired and have now been fully rebuilt to original specifications.  Two Ohio type A number 8 injectors are now fully operational and ready to be an integral part of the 924's operation.

Rehabilitating and restoring a steam locomotive to allow its operation is an expensive and complex undertaking, and your contributions will help complete the project.  Rehabilitation of the appliances was just part of the equation, but also represents a very significant investment of time and materials.  Historical research, technical specifications, regulatory compliance, funding, and project management are just a few of the many considerations that govern the outcome.  Stay tuned for the next chapter!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

More on H.K. Porter steam locomotive 7

The former Permenante Cement Company H.K. Porter-built steam locomotive is now been relocated to the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie.  A major effort involving dozens of volunteers and staff, construction of temporary track, and a heavy haul truck allowed the project to be completed without any major issues, and the project was described in this recent post.

Now, thanks to the excellent creative efforts of volunteer Kyle I., embedded here is his drone-view movie illustrating the move of locomotive 7 from Bellingham to North Bend.  (It would be later moved by rail to the Museum.)  Thanks, Kyle!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

To Tacoma by Trolley, then Snoqualmie

A Century ago Seattle was connected to surrounding communities by interurban railways.  Among the early arrivals was the Puget Sound Electric Railway ("PSER") who operated electric interurban trains between Seattle and Tacoma for more than 25 years.  PSER  trains connected Renton, Kent, Auburn, Orillia, Milton, Fife, Tacoma, and points in between.  

Power for PSER trains was delivered in rural areas by an electrified third rail and in Seattle by an overhead wire.  Much of the line was energized with power from Snoqualmie Falls.  And this electric propulsion allowed quick acceleration and for speeds of up to 60 miles per hour.

Though efficient and  practical, operations ended on December 31, 1928 when the company defaulted on bond payments. Though a short-lived operation, PSER did influence settlement patterns, and today portions of the right of way in King and Pierce Counties have been re-purposed as the Interurban Trail.

The electric interurban story is not well represented in area museums and few traces of these railways are identifiable today. However, the Northwest Railway Museum has accepted the donation of PSER car 523, the last known surviving Seattle-Tacoma electric interurban car.  This car will be used to interpret the story of early 20th Century electric railroading in King County, a particularly interesting contrast with the modern investment in light rail now taking place in the region.

On Saturday, September 23, 2017, the Museum's attention was focused in Petaluma, California where car 523 has been stored for approximately 20 years.  On that beautiful Saturday, Precision Crane picked up the 523 and set it on a Gerlock Towing and Heavy Haul trailer for transport to Snoqualmie.

A few days later, on Wednesday, September 27, 523 arrived in Snoqualmie and was offloaded onto a railroad flatcar by Ness Campbell Crane.  The flatcar allows this 1907-built car to be moved in and out of the exhibit building so a comprehensive collections care plan can be developed.

The Museum is incredibly grateful to Mr. Paul Class and the Streetcar Investment Group for their generous donation of this car, and to King County 4Culture for funding the cost of transportation from California to Washington.  Extra special thanks are also due volunteers of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad HIstorical Society, the Petaluma Trolley Living History Museum, and the Northwest Railway Museum because this would never have happened without all of you!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

An 0-4-0 for the Northwest Railway Museum

Thursday, September 21, 2017 was a momentous day for the Northwest Railway Museum.  The first steam locomotive to be acquired by the Museum in more than 40 years was moved to the Snoqualmie Valley.

Steam locomotive #7 was built in November 1918 by the H.K. Porter Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania as builder’s number 6361.  Initially owned by the US Navy, it operated in Norfolk, Virginia, and later in Bremerton, Washington.  In 1952 the #7 was purchased by the Olympic Portland Cement Company for use at the cement plant in Bellingham.  In June 1956 that operation was purchased by the Permanente Cement Company who in July 1960 donated the locomotive to the City of Bellingham.  Bellingham placed the locomotive on a plinth in the Bloedel Donovan Park at the north end of Lake Whatcom where it has remained on exhibit ever since.  

Changing priorities for Bellingham Parks resulting in the 7’s donation (technically, purchased for $1) to the Northwest Railway Museum.  And on September 21, it was moved by road to North Bend, Washington.  A simple track ramp was constructed to allow the 7 to be winched onto a truck.  In North Bend, it was connected to the Museum's railroad with a similar ramp and pulled off with locomotive 4024.

Locomotive 7 has been accepted into the Northwest Railway Museum's collection.  Plans are to perform basic preservation and some limited rehabilitation to allow the locomotive's use in an exhibit in time for its 100th anniversary.  While this work is underway, additional assessments will take place to establish if there are other future rehabilitation and/or restoration scenarios. However, for now, there are no immediate plans to operate the locomotive.

Thanks to the efforts of Bellingham Parks and Rec, Mike Hawkings Trucking, and volunteers from the Northwest Railway Museum, and the City of North Bend the #7 has been safely moved to the Snoqualmie Valley.  And special thanks to the City of Bellingham's Mayor Kelli Linville and the City of Bellingham Council for approving ownership transfer of #7 to the Northwest Railway Museum.  

Please enjoy the highlights of this exciting day, and join us in thanking our many volunteers who made this possible!