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!