Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Finishing a pew

Last week Spike's blog post highlighted the completed pews being installed in chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace.  This project included the process of thoroughly documenting the original railroad car pew design and making 10 replicas for exhibit in the Messenger of Peace. This week we are illustrating a little more detail about what was involved in finishing the pews.

First of all, OB Williams did an awesome job of fabricating the pews.  They arrived sanded and all ready to accept finish.  There was some minor sanding involved to catch a few imperfections, and then a thorough vacuuming and wiping to remove wood dust and any other contaminates.  The first of seven to nine coats of shellac was applied using a bristle brush.  (The Museum has experimented with air application of shellac, and the results have not been consistent.  So most finish work is done with a brush.)

One of the most obvious changes that occurred in making the replicas was the color and apparent texture transformation from unfinished wood to finished wood.  Just one coat of shellac deepens the color of the wood and begins the process of sealing.  Initially, the surface feels rough.  Light sanding with 400 grit sandpaper - and more sanding with 220 grit if flaws are found - renders the surface smooth.  However, a unique characteristic of shellac is that is can be redissolved in alcohol.  So any subsequent coats are bonded to the earlier coats.  And subsequent coats can benefit from presanding, but it is not required.

Each pew component was finished separately.  When 7 coats had been applied, the finish was evaluated for consistency.  If any flaws were detected, they were corrected with sandpaper - or, sometimes even 0000 steel wool - and another coat of shellac was applied.  The process was repeated again if necessary. 

A beneficial characteristic of shellac is that it dries very quickly.  However, particularly after several coats have been applied, it must sit for a day or more to fully harden.  If subsequent coats are applied too soon, the surface will wrinkle and it is difficult to correct.  Notwithstanding, the pew project is now nearly complete and the results can be viewed through the chapel car's sanctuary door during regular hours of the Train Shed.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

There is a pew in the chapel car

The odor of the day was . . . ethanol, which was used to dissolve shellac flake.  Specifically, a 2.5 pound cut, which is 2.5 pounds gossamer shellac flake per gallon of ethanol.  This was the finish that historically was applied to the white oak surfaces in chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, and this year was mixed and applied to new pews for the sanctuary.

Shellac is an ancient technology that has been used for hundreds of years, and was widely used until the 1930s when it was replaced by nitrocellulose lacquers. Today, even the lacquers have been supplanted by newer and more forgiving finishes.  However, shellac is easy to mix, straight-forward to apply, and it dries very quickly.  To mix workable amounts of shellac, Spike began with 22 ounces of thin flake shellac.  The flake was place in a jar and mixed with 99% ethanol to bring the total volume to 64 fluid ounces.  The resulting solution was filtered to remove contaminants and was applied to the pews with a premium bristle brush.  A total of seven coats were applied to the new pews.

Chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace is a rare surviving example of a 19th Century Barney and Smith all-wood passenger car, and a fine example of a mobile church built for the American Baptist Publication Society. It was donated to the Northwest Railway Museum by the Hodgins Family in 2007, and by 2009 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Nationally-significant property.  Much of the rehabilitation was conducted between 2011 and 2013 by a team of shipwrights and other artisans, but a selection of accurate replica pews could not be fully completed until now.  

Before the chapel car was adaptively reused as a road side diner, and then a cottage, the Messenger of Peace had special Barney and Smith-built railroad car pews. Unfortunately, they were removed and disposed of back in 1948, but an identical pew from a sister car made it into the collections of the American Baptist Historical Society. The fine staff of their archives allowed Spike to take measurements, make drawings, and create templates, which were used by a mill work firm to make accurate replicas.  In June, Spike gave you a glimpse of the pew components as they were completed in the shops of architectural mill work specialist OB Williams in Seattle.  Next week Spike will publish an inside look at the finishing project.

The project was made possible with the generous support of many partners including the Nysether Family Foundation, the American Baptist Home Missions Societies, the American Baptist Historical Society, The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Washington, and contributions from dozens of individuals.  The Northwest Railway Museum and its Volunteers, Trustees and Staff are exceptionally grateful for this support.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Museum Day is Saturday, September 22, 2018

Do you like special deals and last-minute opportunities? Or perhaps you do your own research and already know about Museum Day? Either way, Saturday, September 22, 2018 offers "the deal of the year" at the Northwest Railway Museum. You can register and download a ticket from the Smithsonian Magazine web site good for free admission to the Train Shed at 9320 Stone Quarry Road! Saturday hours are 11 AM - 4 PM.

What can you do in the Train Shed?  You can see the Chapel Car Messenger of Peace.  Browse Wellington Remembered.  Check out The Railroad Changed Everything.  See Weyerhaeuser Timber locomotive 1.  Play a few minutes with a Thomas train table . . . or not. You decide how you use your free ticket, but please remember it is valid only on September 22!

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

More Wine Trains!

Wine trains are a great new way to experience the excitement of a working railroad, and see the scenic beauty of the upper Snoqualmie Valley.  Three more wine trains are scheduled for 2018: September 15, October 6 & October 13.  The three hour event features wine and food from several of the valley's premier venues, including:

  • Sigillo Cellars
  • Convergence Zone Cellars
  • Mount Si Winery
  • William Grassie Wine Estates
  • Pearl & Stone Wine Co. 
  • Carnation Farms 

  • The Snoqualmie Valley Wine Train experience includes breathtaking scenery, tasting stops at the Train Shed exhibit building and Puget Sound Energy's Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Museum, live music performed by local artists, food from local producers, and of course wine from local wineries.  During the experience you will have an opportunity to view exhibits in the Train Shed.

    The Wine Train begins with a check in at 2:30 PM in the Snoqualmie Depot where you will experience your first tasting with your complimentary Northwest Railway Museum wine glass.  You will travel by train to the Train Shed and Hydroelectric Museum for two more tasting opportunities, and will see the lower Snoqualmie Valley from high atop bridge 31.3, more than 300 feet above the Snoqualmie River.  The event will conclude at 5:30 PM when the train returns to the Snoqualmie Depot.  What a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon!

    Tickets for the Wine Train are $45 and can be purchased in the Snoqualmie Depot daily from 10 AM - 5 PM or on the Museum's new online ticketing website.  Sorry, the Snoqualmie WIne Train is for patrons 21 years and older only.

    Monday, August 13, 2018

    Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2018

    August 17-19, 2018 in historic downtown Snoqualmie, just 30 minutes from Seattle!

    Snoqualmie Railroad Days is a community festival celebrating Trains, Timber, & Tradition.  It is hosted by the Northwest Railway Museum and supported by the community.  Founded in 1939, this year represents the 79th annual festival.

    Railroad Days features a wide variety of entertainment and activities, and is well known for its visual and performing arts performances and exhibits.  Artists in Action, live music, living history, the Plein Air Paint Out, a community drum circle and the Art Stage are all included in this year's action-packed festival. There are some unique performances in the annual Grand Parade, too, and don't forget about the Legend's Car Show on Sunday!

    And speaking of the Grand Parade, this year's Grand Marshall is City Clerk Jodi Warren, who has served the City of Snoqualmie for more than 22 years.  

    Have you ever wanted to be in a parade? This year's Grand Parade also features a Kiddie Bike Parade.  Why not bring your whole family out with decorated bikes, wagons and animals?  You can meet in Riverview Park by 11 AM; preregistration is NOT required. 

    Of course there are trains, too!  Excursions on the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad will depart Snoqualmie on Saturday and Sunday at 11 AM, 1 PM, and 3 PM, and will include a stop at the Train Shed exhibit building.  Gas motor car rides on the Kalamazoo will be available from Snoqualmie, too!

    Snoqualmie Railroad Days has much more to offer!  Check out the Schedule of Events to find something of interest for you and your family.

    Sunday, August 12, 2018

    New arrival

    The Northwest Railway Museum is delighted to announce the arrival of a new and more comprehensive online ticketing systemThis month, advance ticketing was launched for the Santa Train, Grand Tour, and the Snoqualmie Valley Wine Train events.  The new system is built on the Museum's TAM Retail Point of Sale System and - when fully implemented - will allow advance ticketing for all regular trains too. 

    The new system has been designed to provide flexibility so it can be expanded as the Museum continues to grow, but also to improve security.  For instance, the new ticket system requires users to create a user account.  This process is intended to reduce attempts to illegally or inappropriately use the ticket system.  However, the user account will speed any user's subsequent ticket purchase because it will eliminate the need to re-enter contact information.

    Ticket are now on sale for the September 1 Grand Tour, Snoqualmie Valley Wine Trains in September and October, and the annual Santa Train.  Visit https://shop.TrainMuseum.org/Events.aspx to select and purchase your tickets today.

    Saturday, July 28, 2018

    A trolley for Yakima

    Heritage railroads are chronically underfunded, which makes it even more important that similar organizations work together to achieve common goals.  One opportunity recently presented itself to the Northwest Railway Museum, and it allowed an important vintage trolley to move to Yakima.  

    A private collector in Snoqualmie decided it was time to donate his trolley car to a museum.  The artifact is Brill Master Unit #20, a car that was purportedly the last trolley to operate on the Yakima Valley Transportation (YVT), a system that shut down streetcar service in 1947.  YVT is a national treasure now owned by the City of Yakima and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  This intact interurban line is maintained and operated by Yakima Valley Trolleys, a non profit similar to the Northwest Railway Museum.

    The Northwest Railway Museum viewed the project as one best taken on by a group that specializes in that interurban line's history and the donor agreed. So the Museum reached out to Mr. Ken Johnsen of the Yakima Valley Trolleys and made him aware of the opportunity, one they had actually been hoping for. 

    The Northwest Railway Museum was in a better position to help Yakima Valley Trolleys prepare and load the Master Unit on a truck for the three hour trek to Yakima.  So on a warm July morning Kyle, Bob and Richard joined with volunteers from Monroe Correctional to help Ken and the Yakima Valley Trolleys prepare and load the Master Unit onto a truck.

    Performing excellent transportation with an extendable trailer was Mike Hawkins Trucking of Sedro Woolley, the same firm that moved the Porter #7 from Bellingham last September.  Mike and his driver handily maneuvered the loaded trailer out of a very tight space and safely delivered the artifact to Yakima Valley Trolleys.

    Special thanks to Herb Cole for helping make the opportunity a reality, and to Raoul Martin for donating the Master Unit to Yakima Valley Trolleys.  Toot toot!

    Tuesday, July 10, 2018

    Day Out With Thomas 2018

    2018 is Day Out With Thomas' "Sweet 16" at the Northwest Railway Museum!  It all began in 2002 with the first event in Snoqualmie, and this year's "Big Adventures, Bigger Memories" tour continues the tradition; tickets are on sale now for July 13 - 15 and 20 - 22.

    Day Out With Thomas is an experience with Thomas the Tank Engine, the fabled storybook character first introduced to children in 1945.  Thomas is "the really useful engine" who has adventures on the Island of Sodor.  Once a year, Thomas the Tank Engine travels off the island to visit children at heritage railways. The Snoqualmie Valley is one of the regular stops.

    Day Out With Thomas in Snoqualmie is a fun-filled experience for children of all ages, but is designed for children 3 - 5 years of age.  Motor car rides, a bouncy house, live music, train tables, story time, a puppet show, and a model train are some of the activities included with admission.  For an extra charge, professional photos are available, and food vendors are located on site and across the street. A gift shop has unique Thomas-themed merchandise too.

    New in 2018 is a special sensory-friendly train on Sunday, July 22 at 9 AM.  This limited event time is for families with children who have special needs.  Please contact the Snoqualmie Depot Bookstore at (425) 888-3030 Extension 7202 daily from 10 AM - 5 PM to make a reservation and purchase a ticket. Or call after hours and leave a message!

    Live music in 2018 will feature noted artists Eric Ode, Nancy Stewart, and the talented Brian Vogan and his Good Buddies.  These local artists have produced unique children's music, and are excellent live performers too.  Do you know your Animal ABC's?  How about that Barn Cat? Come and check out the live music too!

    Day Out With Thomas is running July 13 - 15 and July 20 - 22.  Tickets are available through an online ticketing system, or from the Depot Bookstore in Snoqualmie.

    Sunday, July 8, 2018

    Crossing art?

    Crossing repairs are far from a work of art, or are they?  Recent crossing repairs on King Street in Snoqualmie and North Bend Way in King County appeared to have more in common with crazy quilting than a roadway.  Yet art is in the eyes of the beholder, so you decide.

    Notwithstanding, broken asphalt occurs in a somewhat haphazard and random fashion, which is exacerbated by local wintertime snow removal.  And every five or so years the cumulative effect causes enough damage to make some crossings  rough for cars and light trucks.  So the Museum hired Asphalt by George to remove the failed sections and replace with new hot mix.

    First, the roadway was closed off.  The defective sections were cut out with a concrete saw.  Then a worker pried out the old material. A truck brought in a load of hot mix, and a compactor tamped it into the patchwork. Finally, some cracks and the seams where sealed with hot tar.  (Thanks to the City of Snoqualmie Public Works Department for closing King Street to allow this work to occur safely!)

    North Bend Way is a wider and faster crossing than King Street.  Prevailing speeds can reach 70 MPH over this 160-foot long crossing, and it is a critical corridor so it is difficult to close the road.  The patchwork effort there required a little more choreography to assure worker safety, but the theory was the same.

    Completion of this crossing work represents two more summer projects the Museum can check off the list, and another task completed in time for Day Out With Thomas 2018

    Saturday, June 30, 2018

    Crossing Northern

    The Northwest Railway Museum's railroad has many safety obligations, and chief among them are 13 public crossings.  Northern Street is in downtown Snoqualmie and serves a residential neighborhood, and while it receives only light traffic, many decades of use and several major flood events that submerged the track have taken their toll.  In June 2018 a project with the City of Snoqualmie began improving the crossing.

    Volunteers and staff from the Museum along with a crew from Monroe Correctional removed the timber crossing planks, removed mud that had collected in the tie cribs, and set about improving the structure.

    The tie cribs were refilled with clean ballast, and down ties were tamped up.  New crossing planks from Wheeler Lumber in South Dakota were then installed between the rails.  The new planks were cut from coastal Douglas fir and treated with copper naphthenate.   They were fastened in place with timber screws and by the end of the day the crossing was open to traffic.

    Friday, June 8, 2018

    Thomas the Tank Engine arrives!

    That very useful engine rolled into North Bend this week in advance of Day Out With Thomas 2018.  Thomas the Tank Engine traveled all the way from an event in Canada.  He moved on the State and Provincial highway systems using a special truck trailer.  In North Bend, a locomotive and an "idler" car coupled onto Thomas and pulled him back onto the railway track.

    When he awoke from his nap, neighborhood children rushed to the North Bend Depot to welcome him to the Snoqualmie Valley.  Children of all ages took a moment to pose for a photo with him, too.

    When all the diplomatic pleasantries concluded - and after railway workers conducted a thorough safety inspection to make sure he had arrived safely - Thomas the Tank Engine got up his courage to cross the Big, Big Bridge (aka Bridge 35), and continue his journey to Snoqualmie.

    Thomas the Tank Engine will be appearing in Snoqualmie at Day Out With Thomas July 13 - 15 and 20 - 22.  Tickets and more information are available on the Museum's special Thomas page at www.Thomas.TrainMuseum.org  Thomas the Tank Engine is looking forward to seeing you there!

    Monday, June 4, 2018

    Chapel car pews

    Chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace is a signature exhibit in the Museum's Train Shed exhibit hall. Constructed in 1898 by the Barney and Smith Car Company, the Messenger of Peace is a wooden railway car that functioned as a mobile church for the American Baptist Publication Society, and later for the American Baptist Home Missions Society too.  Major rehabilitation work on this National Register-listed object was completed in 2013, but the sanctuary has been lacking pews, at least until now.

    Unfortunately the Museum has not had the capacity to produce replica pews while the Conservation and Restoration Center has been hosting rehabilitation of NP locomotive 924 and SP&S coach 213.  So beginning last winter, journeymen cabinetmakers at OB Williams in Seattle - and their very well-equipped shop - were contracted to produce pew components, which would later be finished and assembled at the Museum.  Construction is based on designs copied from an original two-seat pew held in the collection of the American Baptist Historical Society at Mercer University in Atlanta.  The pews were originally installed in a 3 & 2 configuration, and the replica components will allow five full rows.

    Much work remains: the pew components need to be finished with at least seven coats of shellac, and then they need to be assembled.  And to keep costs down, the project (assembly and finishing) is being completed between tasks on NP locomotive 924 and SP&S coach 213.  However, work is expected to wrap up early this summer.

    The Northwest Railway Museum is grateful for the support that is making this project possible, including contributions from the Nysether Family Foundation, American Baptist Home Missions Society, American Baptist Historical Society, and dozens of generous individuals.  Thank you also to Ms. Terry Wick at OB Williams for agreeing to take on this surprisingly complicated fabrication, especially with the attention to detail that is making each replica almost distinguishable from the original.

    Thursday, May 24, 2018

    Wine on the Rails

    This spring the Northwest Railway Museum uncorked a new option on its train excursion schedule! On April 14 and May 19, the first two Snoqualmie Valley Wine Trains were hosted by the Museum with support from Savor Snoqualmie Valley. Both wine trains sold out in less than 10 days, much to the delight of the organizers.  During these 21+ only events, guests enjoyed the scenic train ride combined with stops to sample local wine and food.

    Participants began their journey by checking in at the historic Snoqualmie Depot to pick up their tasting tokens and commemorative wine glass. Two wineries were immediately available for tasting opportunities in the depot’s freight room.

    Guests then boarded the train for the ride to the upper Snoqualmie Valley, including the view of Mount Si from historic Bridge 35, above the Snoqualmie River. Following that scenic pause, guests stopped for 40 minutes at the Museum’s Train Shed Exhibit building for wine tasting with all of the participating wineries as well as food samples from local valley food providers. Guests had time to leisurely taste more wines, grab food ‘niblets’, listen to live music provided by the talented members of Tinkham Road and wander amongst the exhibited trains.

    Following the stop at the Train Shed, passengers re-boarded the train for the breathtaking view from the top of Snoqualmie Falls and the river valley below. A final stop was made at the Puget Sound Energy Hydro Museum, where guests were welcomed for a final wine tasting and the chance to enjoy a variety of Boehm’s Chocolates.

    The special Wine Train excursion ended with the trip back to the Snoqualmie Depot where passengers could purchase bottles of their favorite wines. Historic downtown Snoqualmie merchants welcomed Wine Train riders with special dinner and shopping opportunities too.

    Many thanks to all of the participating wineries: Mount Si Winery, Sigillo Cellars, Wm Grassie Wine Estates, Convergence Zone Cellars, and Pearl and Stone Wine Company. Also, thank you to the food providers: Cherry Valley Dairy, Heirloom Cookshop, Carnation Farms, and Boehm’s Chocolates. And a special thank you to Jennifer McKeown and Savor Snoqualmie Valley for their help in putting these excursions together. Watch for news of upcoming Wine Train excursions in September and October!  

    Spike was delighted to share his photos with this article guest authored by Peggy Barchi.