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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

New exhibit panels installed in Train Shed

Sign on the Northern Pacific bunk car.
New exhibit panels have been installed on or near eight objects in the Train Shed Exhibit Building. The panels were developed and purchased with a 2017 4Culture Heritage Special Projects grant and are now on display for the visiting public. Fossil Industries fabricated the panels. The Museum has used Fossil, based in New England, for several projects – the company is a leader in High Pressure Laminate (HPL) signage. HPL is a popular exhibit material because it is fade resistant and anti-graffiti.

Eight artifacts now sport a new panel that will help interpret the type of railroad car (general history) as well as the individual history of the car. The panels also include information on northern transcontinental lines including the Northern Pacific (NP), the Great Northern (GN), and Canadian Pacific (CP). Included are the GN X-101 and NP 1203 cabooses, the chapel car Messenger of Peace, the NP bunk car, the NP refrigerator car, a NP box car, a Polson Logging side dump car, and the CP 25 (formerly known as "Earnscliffe"). Four signs are 32” x 32” and are displayed on a sign stand next to their object. The other four panels are 24” x 24” and are affixed directly to the object in some way.

With these eight new signs added to the four signs already in the building, it means most of the large objects on display have their own interpretive sign. This is a major milestone for the education/exhibit department!

A 4Culture Heritage Special Projects 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

A big thank you to 4Culture for continuing to support exhibits at the Northwest Railway Museum.

Sign on one of the NP box cars in the Train Shed.

Large sign for the dump car - sign is affixed to
sign stands donated by Washington
State Historical Society.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Parlor car arrives

It has been a busy week at the Northwest Railway Museum.  Generous contributions from individualsGive Big, local business, Nickel Bros. and the Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving supported the move of Northern Pacific Railway parlor car 1799.  Its placement on wheels on the Museum's railroad was the result of many months of planning.  Located on Whidbey Island for more than 77 years, car 1799 crossed Puget Sound on a barge, traversed three Interstates to Snoqualmie in a night-time move, passed through downtown Snoqualmie along Railroad Avenue, and - finally - this week was lowered onto a set of trucks (a frame to support wheels and a suspension).

The move was completed by Nickel Bros., a firm best known in Washington and British Columbia for moving historic homes and structures.  They are well-acquainted with moving structures in a marine environment, and devised a system to move the 1799.

Parlor car 1799 was built by Pullman in 1901 for the Northern Pacific Railway.  It served that railway for almost 40 years - including service from Seattle's King Street Station - until it was retired and subsequently purchased by a railroad executive and moved to Whidbey Island for use as a seaside cottage.

Owned by the Shaw Family since the early 1970s, the car has remained in great shape but it was not well-suited for the use of a multi-generational family.  Fortunately, thanks to an introduction arranged by Thomas the Tank Engine, the Shaw family contacted the Museum and offered to donate the car if it could be removed from the seaside parcel it occupied since 1941.

Moving a more than 100-year-old wood railroad car usually involves dealing with substantial deterioration, but not in this case.  Car 1799 was and is in excellent shape.  Notwithstanding, two doorways were cut in the sides, and the truss rods - an important part of the structure - were removed in 1941.  So an elaborate steel frame was constructed to support the car, and allow it to be moved off the beach without damage.

There was considerable effort required to complete the move of car 1799.  One of the important requirements was "flooding" the Museum's track with railroad ballast so the Nickel's truck could roll onto the rails.  Mr. Tom Weber of the Mt. Si Quarry donated 40 tons of 2 inch ballast, which was easily spread and performed admirably.  Mr. Weber also owns Weber Construction, and arranged to lift two passenger car trucks out of storage and back onto the tracks.  The lightweight trucks are quite an anomaly - they were not built until after 1799 was retired - but will support the car until historically-correct trucks arrive.

The house-moving frame did create a few challenges - the assembly was 16 feet wide and occupied two highway lanes.  Yet this was the most practical option, and as of this week, the car is back on the rails, and preserved at the Northwest Railway Museum.

The next step is moving a set of historically appropriate trucks to the Museum and installing them.  Contributions in support of this next phase are welcome. Thank you to the dozens of individuals and businesses that have already made contributions to this project!  

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Parlor car service on the Interstate?

Well, not quite, but the Northern Pacific Railway parlor car 1799 did have an eventful trip on three Interstate highways as it continued its journey to the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, destined to arrive via old I-90.  The recent run of unusually hot and dry summer weather - in early May - has served the 1901-built artifact well, and made the process of moving it much easier and less stressful.  And thanks to the careful efforts of Nickel Brothers, the support and cooperation of WSDOT, the City of Seattle, and the City of Snoqualmie, the 1799 has landed in Snoqualmie. 

Moving an oversize load in Washington State is now a little different than it was a few years ago.  Moves of parlor car size must be made at night, cannot go over the floating bridges, and require a police escort.  

The move began by slowly rolling out of the port facility on the Duwamish River.  Just shy of highway 99, the trailer was modified with additional axles, a device most truckers call a jeep, or jeep dolly.  This extended the overall length of the assembly to more than 156 feet, and spread the substantial weight over a greater area.

The really interesting part of the parlor car move was taking up two lanes of traffic, and Spike can attest to the significant volume of traffic on I-405 at 3 AM, and the distraction that the parlor car created.  One brief moment of excitement was when some blocking began to loosen, and the entire convoy stopped on the shoulder in Renton, which really means a wide shoulder plus an entire lane of traffic.  But after some quick work, the parlor car was underway again.

More excitement was in store in Snoqualmie when the parlor car attempted to negotiate the roundabout at the Snoqualmie Casino.  Unfortunately, there was a minor miscalculation and the trailer - even in shortened state - was just a little too long: there is a concrete monument in the center of the roundabout that provides an absolute limit.  So the entire rig was turned around and entered Snoqualmie via the parkway.  The parlor car passed by the Snoqualmie Depot after all, and arrived at the Museum campus just as the sun came up!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Casting details

Some organization's details are cast in stone, but some of the Museum's are cast in ductile iron!

There are many details involved in successful historic preservation.  For instance, just one vestibule platform contains hundreds of parts, two of which were recently renewed. 

Two support base castings were found cracked and unrepairable.  The originals were made from cast iron, and repairing anything made of that material is very difficult.  The parts are located on the end of coach 213, a wood Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway car built in 1912, and form the base of the center support columns.  

Mr. Tony Cooper owns Mackenzie Castings in Arlington, Washington.  Mr. Cooper produced two replacement castings in ductile iron using the Museum's patterns.  Ductile iron is a modern product, and is less brittle than cast iron.  The Museum expects long service from these new castings - thanks, Tony!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Give Big, today!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018 is Give Big day in King County and the Seattle region.  Give Big is a charitable giving event benefiting non profit organizations of many differing sizes and missions.  Contributions received on May 9 go directly to the designated non profits.

Parlor car 1799 loaded on barge just off coast of Whidbey Island on April 30, 2018. The Northwest Railway Museum is participating, and has designated the Northern Pacific Railway parlor car 1799 preservation project as its recipient.  1799 is in the process of being recovered from a beach on Whidbey Island on Puget Sound and moved to the Museum in Snoqualmie.

Check out some of the progress over the last two weeks, and please Give Big today!

Videos of barge loading operation

Loading the barge

Preparing the parlor car

Dismantling the parlor car's shelter

Thank you for your Give Big in support of the parlor car 1799 preservation!

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Loading the barge, redux

Parlor car 1799 was loading on a barge to transport it from Whidbey Island to West Seattle.  Preparations for the move were described here and here, and loading of the barge was documented here.  Now, from budding photographer Bennett A. is a time lapse version of loading the barge.  Enjoy, and remember to Give Big on May 9, or better yet, schedule your contribution now!

Not to be outdone, experienced drone operator and videographer Kyle I. filmed the barge loading operation., providing a unique perspective of this undertaking.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Whatever floats your rail car

Parlor car 1799 has recently been the center of considerable attention, and the effort reached its pinnacle when the car rolled onto a barge on Puget Sound.  And yet this culmination of nearly two years of planning was anticlimactic because everything proceeded without significant incident. 

Recapping, Parlor Car 1799 was built by Pullman in 1901 for the Northern Pacific Railway.  In 1941 it was retired and moved to a beach on Whidbey Island for use as a cottage.  The owners have lovingly cared for this historical artifact for many years, but it was time for them to build a more traditional home.  The owners searched for an option that would assure the car's preservation, and they selected the Northwest Railway Museum.

Nickel Bros. specializes in moving homes and was hired to recover the Parlor Car, which had lost its truss rods (part of the structure) in 1941.  Nickel's house moving "erector set" was used to jack and support the car, and a set of wheels that must have been inspired by a large aircraft were attached to one end.  The ungainly vehicle was more than 130 feet long and weighed upwards of 150,000 pounds.

On a bright spring day, a barge arrived under the control of tug Carolyn H.  A ramp system was installed to connect the barge with the seawall, and then it was time for the Parlor Car to move.  

A semi tractor (with a little help from the crane) pulled the car from its resting spot of more than 77 years.  It was gingerly backed onto the barge in a little more than 45 minutes.  There was plenty of crackling wood, but the car was silent: all the noise came from the plywood mats that were placed to keep the semi tractor from sinking into the beach sand.

By 6:50 in the evening, Parlor Car 1799 was on its way to Seattle!  Tug Carolyn H pushed it down the east coast of Puget Sound along the route of the Great Northern (BNSF).  About the time of the Parlor Car's departure, a northbound Amtrak Cascades train was observed on the distant shore.

Facilitating the preservation of the Parlor Car has been a monumental task, and it is not complete yet.  Please help the Northwest Railway Museum complete the effect with a scheduled contribution to Seattle Give Big 2018.  Your support in any amount with go towards the relocation effort.  Thank you for your consideration!