Thursday, September 5, 2019

Hydro-static test

Locomotive 924 circa 1908
Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 has been undergoing restoration in the Conservation and Restoration Center.  This 1899-built Rogers locomotive served the Northern Pacific Railway until 1924. It is a King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmark, with project support from many individuals, foundations and public agencies including 4Culture, Washington Heritage Capital Projects, the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, the Emery Rail Heritage Trust and more.

Fire in the 924 firebox
For the last several years a variety of project work has been underway, but the most important division of work has been on the boiler.  The boiler is where water is heated and converted to steam, usually with an oil, coal or wood fire.  The boiler must withstand high temperatures and considerable pressure.  

Locomotive 924 is filled with water, 
and then the water is lightly heated so
as to reduce the strain on the boiler 
when it is pressurized.
For the general public, a little known fact about locomotive boilers is that they must be designed to withstand four times their operating pressure.  So an operating pressure of 180 psi requires the boiler be designed to withstand 720 psi.  This is called the factor of safety, and must consider any wasting or other deterioration of the boiler that occurred since it was built.

FRA inspector Brandon King witnessed
the 924's official hydro-static test.  He
found no exceptions, which is the best
possible outcome.  This means the
inspection found that the Museum
is complying with the regulations.
After measurement, analysis and calculations demonstrate that the boiler construction is capable of withstanding 720 PSI, a non-destructive test called a hydrostatic test is performed.  This test is performed by the locomotive owner, but is witnessed by an inspector from the Federal Railroad Administration.  During the test, the boiler is filled with water, lightly heated, and pressurized to 125% of its stated operating pressure.  

Kyle I. operated the hand
It was a beautiful morning on Thursday, September 5th when Museum volunteers and staff arrived to "fire" the boiler on locomotive 924.  Recycled wood logs and waste wood were used as fuel, and the temperature was brought up to 100 degrees.  At that point, the fire was dropped and a hand pump was used to bring the pressure up to 225 psi. Visual and aural inspections were all positive - just some light weeping from a handful of rivets.  Most impressive to the Museum volunteers and staff was how tight the boiler was.  One stroke from the hand pump every 15 or so seconds was sufficient to maintain 225 psi.

Kyle and David remove the steam dome
lid and throttle to allow an internal
Upon completion of the hydro-static test, the boiler was drained.  After this 125% test, an interior inspection of the boiler and hammer testing of the stay bolts was required.  For the interior inspection, the steam dome lid and throttle was removed so an inspector could enter and crawl along the top course of tubes.

The Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 rehabilitation and restoration project continues to progress.  The hydro-static test brought great news so now the next phase - steam plumbing - can begin.  Donor support remains critical to the ultimate success of the project; your support really makes a difference.  Please consider a making a donation on the Museum's web site: Donate Now

Thank you for your support!

Monday, July 29, 2019

The Grand Tour - see it all!

The Grand Tour Package is the premier tour offered at the Northwest Railway Museum.  It is a docent-led experience that begins at the Snoqualmie Depot in historic downtown Snoqualmie. 

Your docent will give a brief tour of the Depot before you board the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad for a short ride to the Train Shed Exhibit Building. There, you will detrain and enjoy a 30 minute tour of the 25,000 sq. ft. hall that includes large and small artifacts, and several exhibits including the award-winning Wellington Remembered exhibit. 

Your docent will escort you through chapel car 5: Messenger of Peace and the 001 caboose! Next you will walk over to the Conservation and Restoration Center for a first hand look at current restoration projects, including steam locomotive 924. Both of these experiences are unique to the Grand Tour - this is the only opportunity to see inside the chapel car, and is a very rare opportunity to visit inside the Conservation and Restoration Center.

Next, you board the train again and travel west to the top of Snoqualmie Falls where you will view water cascading over the top of Snoqualmie Falls, and a beautiful view of the valley and river below the Falls. Your docent will accompany you during your trip to the Falls, interpreting the scenery and providing both historic and contemporary context. The Package ends when the train returns to Snoqualmie Depot. This round-trip experience lasts approximately 2.5 hours.

Dates and Times: Saturdays @ 12:30pm, on August 3, September 7 and 14, 2019.  Visit to purchase your tickets in advance.

Additional dates: you may reserve a Tour on any other operating day for groups of 10-20 people by emailing the Museum

Cost: Adults $24, Seniors (62+) $20, Children* (2-12) $12, under 2 no charge. *The Tour Package is not recommended for children under the age of 5.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Thomas the Tank Engine is thrilling thousands

July 12 was the first Day Out With Thomas for 2019 at the Northwest Railway Museum.  Thousands of children and their families came to see and experience Thomas the Tank Engine at his very best.  Check out these scenes from the first day; tickets and information are at

Friday, July 5, 2019

Back in the boiler

Steam locomotive 924 is a former Northern Pacific Railway switch engine that operated in the Seattle area from 1901 until 1924.  It is listed on the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmark Registers, and is a property truly representative of our collective history in the settlement and development of the region.

The 924 has been undergoing a major rehabilitation and restoration inside the Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center in Snoqualmie, WA.  Despite several unanticipated setbacks in the project, it has moved forward and real progress is becoming evident.

This past week, the last major known work on the 924's boiler was performed.  Seattle Boiler Works visited the Museum to remove the portion of the throat sheet that supports the blow down valve.  A patch had been installed here with patch bolts at least 70 years ago, and the "new" material had wasted in places almost 50% of its original thickness.  So replacement was definitely warranted.

The original patch was removed, which also required three rivets in the mud ring to be cut out.  Then the affected area was cut out, and the perimeter was beveled to allow for welding.  A dye penetrant was used to check for cracks and other flaws.

Seattle Boiler Works installed a flush patch and welded a coupling for a new blow down valve.  The process involved a full penetration weld, and preheating of the native material to about 350 degrees.  Repeated passes, grinding, welding, and continual evaluation took a full day, but the results are impressive.

Up next: three replacement rivets, two new stay bolts, and more.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Thomas the Tank Engine arrives

Thomas the Tank Engine travels between heritage railways on a special truck, and on an unusually warm Wednesday, June 12 he arrived in North Bend for trans-loading to the high iron.  On hand to greet this VIE (Very Important Engine) was one of his biggest fans, Otto L.  Otto is 3 year of age, and a resident of North Bend.  He was so excited to see his hero pull up in front of the North Bend Depot.  Otto says, "Thumbs up for Thomas!"

Day Out With Thomas is an event for children 2 to 5 years of age - and sometimes for those of us much older who still LOVE Thomas.  It features a ride on a century-old train to Snoqualmie Falls, live music, a Thomas toy tent, Thomas story time, a puppet show, a bouncy house, and even a ride behind a Kalamazoo motor car!  There is also a photo opportunity with Thomas, and an opportunity to go inside the cab of a locomotive.  This is an event for all the important Thomas the Tank Engine fans in your life!

Day Out With Thomas 2019 is scheduled for July 12-14 & 19-21, 2019.  Tickets are available in the Depot Bookstore (inside the Snoqualmie Depot) daily from 10 to 5, or from TicketWeb.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Charles Baker Hydroelectric Museum wine train

This year the Northwest Railway Museum is offering two opportunities to experience a Snoqualmie Wine Train at the Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Museum.  The next 3 1/2 hour experience is Saturday, May 18 beginning at 2:30 PM.

PSE Museum What's so special?  The Charles Baker Snoqualmie Wine Train features a tasting in the former carpenter shop and the Snoqualmie Falls depot. The Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric Museum celebrates the world's first underground hydroelectric generating station.  It was designed by Charles Baker and was completed in 1898.  Baker was the civil engineer for the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway and recognized the potential of the falls while surveying for the railway construction.  After the railway was completed, he formed a company to build the power station, and its first customers were Seattle street railways.  Later, power from Snoqualmie Falls helped energize the Puget Sound Electric Railway and interurban car 523.

lots of friends at the depot editedAll Snoqualmie Wine Trains feature a scenic train ride through the Snoqualmie Valley along the Seattle, Lake Shore & Eastern Railway, built in 1889. Passengers ride in historic coaches, gain unique access to Museum collections and exhibits, and learn how the railroad changed everything. Wine trains include multiple tasting stops with local wine, food and music. Take home your favorite bottle(s) of wine. Each wine is available for purchase in the Snoqualmie Depot Bookstore after your excursion.

Tickets are $49 and available daily 10 AM - 5 PM in the Depot Bookstore at 38625 SE King Street in Snoqualmie or on the web through the Museum's online ticketing system.

Friday, May 10, 2019

East meets west, May 10, 1869

On May 10, 1869 a ceremonial golden spike was driven at Promontory, Utah signifying the completion of the first North American transcontinental railroad.  The Central Pacific building from Sacramento in the west met the Union Pacific building from Omaha in the east and connected the eastern railroad network with the Pacific coast for the first time in history. 150 years ago today, the east met the west and forever changed the landscape of the continent.  

In the colder latitudes, it would be another 14 years before a northern transcontinental was completed.  The Northern Pacific connected Minnesota with the Pacific coast, initially via the Columbia River, but a few years after completion, via Stampede Pass and Tacoma.  The Northern Pacific Railroad drove their last spike near Independence Creek in western Montana on August 22, 1883, and hosted a formal "golden spike" event on September 8, 1883.  At this ceremony, instead of a gold or silver spike, the very first spike driven in 1870 in the construction of the Northern Pacific was redriven by three men:  railroad President Henry Villard, former President of the United States Ulysses S Grant, and Henry C. Davis, who helped drive that spike the first time, 13 years earlier.

Like the Union Pacific and Central Pacific, the Northern Pacific had a brief but tight stranglehold on commerce in the Northwest because they had a monopoly.  Yet, just ten years later, both the Canadian Pacific Railway (to Vancouver) and the Great Northern Railway (to Everett & Seattle) had also completed transcontinentals to the Northwest.  Soon, the cost of freight and travel declined and the level of service improved.

Fast forward 150 years.  Transportation in the 21st Century is very different than the 19th Century.  Competition is generally between different modes of transportation, and the relative cost of transportation is at its lowest point in history.  Despite all the change, the original Union Pacific Railroad remains in business today, though trains no longer operate through Promentory.  Congratulations to the Union Pacific Railroad in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the driving of the golden spike!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

Give Big for Puget Sound Electric Railway car 523

PSER 523 is depicted in this J. Craig Thorpe oil painting as it departs Auburn for Kent.Era-appropriate trucks have been located and purchased for the 523.  Now they need to be restored to their former glory!  When you support Give Big now through May 8, you will be helping put the 523 back on wheels this year, and for the first time since 1928.

Annual charitable giving event May 8, 2019Give Big is the annual charitable giving program in our local region, and May 8 is this year's day of giving.  The Northwest Railway Museum is developing the Puget Sound Electric Railway ("PSER") car 523 project, and this year is undertaking the restoration of the trucks (wheels) purchased for the project.  Work is expected to cost $15,000, and will be matched with 33 cents from every dollar with a grant from the Washington State Historical Society.

523 operated on the PSER from 1908 through 1928PSER 523 is a wooden electric interurban car built in 1907 for service between Seattle and Tacoma.  The 523 has survived for more than a century and today is a King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmark.  It is owned by the Northwest Railway Museum and will be restored to operate on the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad, powered with modern batteries.

The Museum located a set of era-appropriate trucks in a field in California
PSER 523 has some very significant local connections.  The Snoqualmie Falls Hydroelectric plant was completed in 1898 and its first customers were Seattle street railways.  When the PSER began operation in 1902, it was also powered with electricity from Snoqualmie Falls. The 523 entered service in February 1908 and operated between Seattle and Tacoma until 1928.  Later, it was adaptively-reused as a rail office in Tacoma, and then as a home in Federal Way.  In this "second life" the car's trucks and wheels were removed.

Axles and wheels for the 523 will be matched with the trucks during final assembly.The 523 was donated and moved to the Museum in 2017.  Since then, the Museum has purchased a set of era-appropriate trucks - check out the accompanying photos of the components in a California field! The Museum has already started the process of restoration to allow their use; work is being performed by street car expert Paul Class in his shop  north of San Francisco.  

A partial image of Chicago Elevated truck drawings
The Baldwin-built (the same company that built locomotives) trucks are about 10 years newer than the 523, but they are the best fit. And thanks to Bill Wulfert and friends at the Illinois Railway Museum, a detailed set of drawings is guiding the work.  It is amazing to be able to match a century-old interurban car with century-old trucks!

Please schedule a Give Big donation today!   The Museum is a public charity; contributions are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.  Your support in any amount will help keep this project "rolling!"

Friday, May 3, 2019

Train Shed Features New Exhibit

Panels with car 523.
This spring, the Train Shed Exhibit Building features several new exhibits, including Connecting Communities: Story of the Puget Sound Electric Railway. Using the recent acquisition of Puget Sound Electric Railway (PSER) car 523 as a spring-board, the Museum applied for and received a 4Culture Heritage Special Projects grant to fund the exhibit.

PSER was an interurban railway that ran between downtown Seattle and Tacoma and connected many points in between, both large and small. PSER operated from 1902-1928, and was an important factor in settlement along its route. With consistent and timely rail travel available, residents could move out of cities and into more rural areas while still remaining connected to urban centers.

Double-sided panels in Train
Shed Exhibit Building.
Connecting Communities consists of 4 double-sided panels, seven focusing on the story of PSER and one focusing on the history of car 523. The exhibit also includes a large (72"w x 34"h) high-pressure laminate panel that features reproduction of a graphic route map from a PSER public time table. Finally, there is a children's panel (the 1st of its kind at NRM!) that describes the different kinds of transportation children could have used to get around in 1902. That panel features a challenge to children with photos to lift and learn.

Children's panel is at a lower height.
A 2018 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!

Also installed in the Train Shed over the winter, a photography exhibit Faces of Railroading that features images of railroad workers taken by Jack Delano during his time working for the Farm Security Administration in 1942-43.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

April wine train

Guests enjoy local wines aboard coach 218.When a museum guest asks if they can check out the Cab, we usually assume they are referring to a locomotive.  However, during Snoqualmie Wine Train events they are almost always talking about a Washington Cabernet from one of the fine Snoqualmie - area wineries including Sigillo Cellars, Mt Si Winery, Pearl and Stone Winery, Convergence Zone Cellars, and William Grassie Wine Estates.  

Mt Si Winery serves wine in the Snoqualmie Depot freight room.The Northwest Railway Museum kicked off the 2019 Snoqualmie Wine Train season on April 27.  140 guests enjoyed wine, Train Shed exhibits, live music from Tinkham Road, a train excursion through the woods, and even access to the Conservation and Restoration Center where they viewed ongoing work on Northern Pacific Railway locomotive 924 and Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway coach 213.

Lyle shows a wine train guest how the radial arm drill press works.A new feature during month's event was the opportunity to view demonstrations in the Conservation and Restoration Center.  Volunteers and Staff including Lyle, Gerry, Gary, Bob, and Wayne explained what the machines were used for and then demonstrated how they worked.  Lyle gave a demonstration of the huge lathe once the centerpiece of Puget Sound Energy's Snoqualmie Falls power station machine shop.  

Wayne and Pete prepare to board passengers on coach 218 in Snoqualmie for the April 27 wine train.The Snoqualmie Wine Train is the Museum's newest event series; it was first introduced in 2018.  The event features a train excursion, live music, wine tasting, and a museum visit.  Museum Staff and Volunteers including Elizabeth, Cristy, Jessie, and Kacy planned this year's events.  A total of five are offered in 2019; events through June are available for advance purchase now.   

The band TInkham Road performs in the Train Shed during the Snoqualmie Wine Train.The next Snoqualmie Wine Train will be May 18 and will feature a tasting experience at the Snoqualmie Falls Hydro Electric Museum.  Tickets are available on the Museum's ticketing web site.  Proceeds from Snoqualmie Wine Train events support programs of the Northwest Railway Museum.  Join us for a great afternoon, and the opportunity to support heritage and historic preservation!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Pressure builds on the 924 project!

If "bake a cake" is old railroad slang for building up steam in a locomotive, then you could say that the restoration crew at the Northwest Railway Museum has been mixing a lot of batter lately.  With major boiler issues either already addressed or with a plan to mitigate, preparations for the first pressure test of the boiler are nearing completion.

The boiler was filled with water to the top of the dome to check for leaks.Over the past several weeks, the dry pipe has been "lapped" with the throttle body and the branch pipe manifold, the throttle valve has been lapped, and the components reassembled inside the boiler.  (Lapping is the process of grinding and polishing the mating surfaces to allow them to fit together without leaking.)  Then the boiler was filled with water to check for leaks.  Some minor leaking was detected around several new rivets and some of the new stay bolts, but nothing serious.

Gary James used his borescope to check for leaks inside the dry pipe.Gary James is a shipwright who usually leads the work on coaches and other wood projects, but he has a very diverse skill set, and some great tools, too.  His borescope displays an image on his phone and was inserted into the dry pipe to check for any leaks.  He found the assembly leak-free, at least under atmospheric pressure.

The copper gasket for the steam dome was heated and quenched to soften it in preparation for bolting on the lid.Meanwhile, the copper gasket for the steam dome was annealed by heating it with a torch and quenching it in cold water.  This makes the copper soft and prepares it to take shape as the dome lid is tightened down.  This thin ring of copper provides the steam seal.

The steam dome lid was gently placed on the copper gasket and bolted down.Lastly, the dome lid was replaced and tightened down.  Machinist Gerry Petitjean did the honors and verified the lid was pulled evenly against the gasket.  The water was filled all the way to the top and the last of the air was exhausted so the entire vessel could be inspected for leaks.  

What is next?  In the coming weeks water in the boiler will be heated to around 30 degrees C.  Then a small hand pump will be used to raise the pressure in the boiler to approximately 200 psi.  This process will identify any remaining leaks, or other issues that need to be addressed.  When all the remaining leaks are repaired, the hydro-static test will be repeated for the Federal inspector.

16 bolts hold the steam dome lid on locomotive 924.The Museum is grateful for 4Culture, Washington Heritage Capital Fund, Schwab Fund, Osberg Family Trust, Emery Rail Heritage Trust, Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, and more than 100 individuals for their support in funding the restoration of the 924.

Want to see and learn more?  Join us for the Snoqualmie Wine Train on Saturday, April 27 beginning at 2:30 PM in the Snoqualmie Depot.  Your Wine Train experience will include a visit to the Conservation and Restoration Center to see locomotive 924.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Wine trains return

Guest enjoy wine as they travel from one tasting stop to another aboard the Museum's train.The Northwest Railway Museum debuted the Snoqualmie Valley Wine Train in 2018, and it was enthusiastically received by the community.  This year the event has been enhanced by offering two options: the Railway History Center CRC option and the Charles Baker Hydro Museum experience.  The first opportunity to ride this year is April 27 beginning at 2:30 PM!

Wine Train guests explore the Railway History Center as they sample local wines.All Wine Train experiences feature Snoqualmie Valley wineries, food, music, and views! Visitors (21 and older only) receive a complementary souvenir wine glass with each ticket.

The Snoqualmie Wine Train series is hosted in partnership with several, rotating local wineries, food producers, and chocolatiers with fresh, locally produced products from Sigillo Cellars, Mt Si Winery, Pearl and Stone Winery, Convergence Zone Cellars, William Grassie Wine Estates, Carnation Farms, Heirloom Cookshop, Black Dog Cafe, and Boehm's Chocolates.

The Railway History Center option is a 3.5 hour program that includes wine tasting stops at the Snoqualmie Depot and the Train Shed Exhibit Building. Railway History Center Wine Train includes behind-the-scenes access to our Conservation and Restoration Center where you will learn about the restoration of Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 (built 1889) from staff and volunteers working on this and other projects. Must be 21 or older. Ticket includes return passage to Snoqualmie.

Guests on the Charles Baker Hydro Museum experience enjoy a stop at the Snoqualmie Falls Depot.The Charles Baker Hydro Museum option is a 3.5 hour program that includes wine tasting stops at the Snoqualmie Depot, the Train Shed Exhibit Building, and the Snoqualmie Falls Hydro Museum – home of the world’s first underground hydroelectric power plant that was built in 1898. Visit the historic carpenter’s shop and Snoqualmie Falls Depot, and learn about Charles Baker’s vision inspired by the power of Snoqualmie Falls!
View from the Museum's train high above the Snoqualmie River.

All Snoqualmie Wine Train experiences at for 21 and over only.  Tickets are $49 and are available in advance on the Museum's ticketing web site.