Friday, December 13, 2019

Steam locomotive 924 updates

Steam locomotive 924 is an 0-6-0 constructed in 1899 by the Rogers Locomotive Works.  By 1901 it was owned by the Northern Pacific Railway and had been shipped west to Seattle.  It served a distinguished career in the Seattle region switching docks along Elliot Bay, building passenger trains to originate at King Street Station, and even switching industry in Everett, Tacoma and Auburn.  

Even by mainline standards of the early 20th Century, the 924 is a light locomotive.  So by 1924 it had been retired and found a second life working for a paper mill near Spokane.  In 1968 it was donated to the Northwest Railway Museum and was leased to the Chehalis Centralia Railroad.  It was moved to Snoqualmie in the late 1980s.  It listed on the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmark Registers in 2015.

The 924 has been undergoing restoration and rehabilitation at the Northwest Railway Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center for the last several years.  Since completing the hydro-static test in September, efforts have focused on plumbing the locomotive.  Heavy steel pipe (schedule 80) is being formed to attach appliances located in their original positions.

Replacement injectors now hang from each side of the boiler.  They were extensively rebuilt by Backshop Enterprises and will soon be used to inject water into the pressurized boiler.  Before that can happen heavy piping will connect the injector with the tender water tank, steam from the turret valve, and a pipe for the product of steam and water to be delivered to the boiler check valve.

Towards the rear of the locomotive, a rebuilt Detroit hydro-static lubricator has been attached to the boiler shell with a big stud.  This device will inject steam cylinder oil into the cylinders and the steam air pump.  It relies on boiler pressure to push lubricating oil into the steam cylinders against boiler pressure, which may sound almost like a perpetual motion machine, but it does work.

On the boiler back head, new try cocks and water glass valves have been installed.  These important safety devices are used to measure the height (amount) of the water in the boiler.  Originally the 924 had just one water glass but Federal regulations now require two.  So one will be visible to the locomotive fireman and the other to the locomotive engineer.

Another important feature is called the blower.  It uses a small amount of steam that it exhausts into the smoke box to help enhance draft.  This helps the boiler build steam a little faster.  It is pretty simple: just a valve and steam pipe running from the back head all the way to the smoke box, exhausting therein.  There are drains so that condensate may be drained from the line when the locomotive is shut down.

While all the plumbing has been happening, other members of the crew have been working on mechanical components including driving boxes, connecting rods, and the main rods.  So progress is evident on more than one front, and Spike will produce another update in a few weeks to show you even more progress.

The 924 project is one of the largest rehabilitation projects the Museum has undertaken, and work is in the final phases.  Your support can help bring this project to completion, and really does make a difference!  Your donation in any amount may be made on the Museum's web site here and is tax deductible to the extent provided by law. 

Monday, November 25, 2019

Upgrading coach 213

Sister coach 214 as delivered in 1912.
Coach 213 was built for the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway by the Barney and Smith Car company more than 100 years ago.  It carried countless thousands between Portland, Vancouver, and Spokane, then later between Portland and Seaside, OR.  Service to SP&S successor Burlington Northern continued as an outfit car for railroad track, bridge, and building workers.  The car was retired and purchased by an individual and donated to the Museum in 1973.

Michelle F. cleaning open car 213 in 1995.
The 213 has been a fixture on the Museum's interpretive railway since the mid 1970s.  Early visitors might remember it as the open car, the one you had to bundle up in during Santa Train, and the most popular car on a boiling summer day.  It was popular, yet not historically-accurate, and an open car built of wood does not improve with age.

213 windows are now fully operational.
Almost 20 years ago, the 213 received a set of new windows and it again became a fully-enclosed car.  Those Honduras mahogany windows continue to shine, but now they have fully-functional hardware so they can open and close.  (Incidentally, the window hardware components are a combination of originals from the car, duplicates purchased from collectors, and replicas produced by Harry Nicholls.  They represent an investment of more than $100 per window.)  Last year the upper sashes were renewed, and the excellent zinc came and art glass work that Larry F. performed is now on display.

The natural canvas color is white;
bronze tacks fasten the edges.
Now the 213 is receiving additional attention, and soon will appear almost identical to coach 218.  The first work completed this fall was a new canvas roof on the upper deck.  (The lower decks will be replaced over the winter.)  #10 cotton duck was stretched across the roof, fastened with bronze tacks, and then waterproofed with three coats of canvas stain.  This roof coating system behaves similar to Gore-Tex fabric in that it does not trap water vapor but keeps out the water.  (However, unlike Spike's Gore-Tex jacket, the 213's roof doesn't leak!)

Veneers are quarter-sawn, which
exhibits this striking pattern.
In the 213's interior, betterment is underway, too.  Panels to replace those missing above each window have been fabricated and have been finished with Awlgrip varnish.  These panels were funded with a grant from 4Culture and consist of a modern Baltic birch plywood with Honduras mahogany veneer.  Original panels were made from solid cores of yellow poplar, and it is not cost-effective to replicate this method of construction.

The traditional restroom is becoming
an electrical locker.
Meanwhile, the 213 has been rewired to accept the train's 480 volt electrical service.  Now, electric baseboard heating is being installed, and in the corner of the coach the original restroom is being recreated to enclose all the electrical equipment including breaker boxes, transformers, and relays.  This is a nearly identical installation to the effort Brent completed earlier this year inside coach 218, and it is destined to make Santa Train and shoulder-season travels much more comfortable.

Coach 213 is an historically valuable object in the Museum's educational collection. It is slowly but methodically being returned to its former glory as a first class passenger coach.  Meaningful progress is being made, thanks in no small part to contributions from 4Culture, the Schwab Fund, and almost 100 individuals.

Please consider an end-of-year contribution to help allow this work to continue in the new year.  Giving Tuesday is on December 3, but you can make a Giving Tuesday contribution anytime from now through the end of the year: donate now!

Friday, November 15, 2019

Wheels for an interurban car

Puget Sound Electric Railway car 523 operated between Seattle and Tacoma from 1908 until 1928.  This early mass transit allowed commuters on "Limited" trains to travel from downtown to downtown in just 1 hour and 15 minutes.  The 523 is the sole surviving car from this once proud fleet and is the newest Snoqualmie property listed on the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmarks Register.

523 was first preserved in 1963 when it was purchased by preservationist Paul Class. It had been repurposed as a home in Federal Way sometime prior to WW II, and the property owner was ready to build a larger house. So Mr. Class purchased the car and moved it to Oregon where he had started what today is known as the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society. There were several ill-fated restoration attempts on the 523, but only when the car was donated to the Northwest Railway Museum was a formal plan prepared.

When 523 was adaptively reused first as an outbuilding and then as a home, the wheels and motors were no longer needed; they were sold for scrap circa 1930.  So replacements of at least similar vintage were needed.  This month new trucks (wheels and motors) for the 523 arrived in Snoqualmie. This was the result of a culmination of more than a year of effort and is being made possible with support from the Schwab Fund for Charitable Giving and 4Culture's Building for Equity program.

The "new" trucks are actually from an electric car order built for the Chicago Elevated and delivered in the early 1920s. The trucks were built by Baldwin (same builder of the Museum's locomotives 4012 & 4024), but are a decade newer than the trucks that would have been found under the 523 circa 1914. The front truck is powered with two GE traction motors and the rear truck is unpowered.

The Streetcar Investment Company purchased the trucks from a scrap car some years ago and the components had been in storage at their California yard.  An industrial motor shop in the Bay Area overhauled the two GE 243 traction motors, and the Streetcar Investment folks reassembled everything.  They arrived on a Gerlock Heavy Haul tow truck, the same rig that delivered 523 to the Museum more than two years ago.

The trucks are not ready for installation.  It was important to acquire and move the trucks so that all the variables between the carbody and the trucks were correctly defined.  Until they are installed, the trucks will remain in storage inside the Museum in Snoqualmie.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Giving thanks for the chapel car

The Halloween Storytelling Train is an engaging family outing, but it also represents an annual gathering for the Hodgins Family to visit chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace and remember their father, Arthur Halleck Hodgins, 1910 - 2005.  

The chapel car had served the elder Hodgins as a cabana adjacent to the family home, first in Snohomish, and later near Grayland.  His son Hal recently recounted, 'one day back in 1971, dad was out walking and noticed the signs indicating that highway 2 was going to be widened.  He asked what was going to happen to the old rail car that had served as a roadside diner, and was told it would be demolished.  He asked if he could have it and was told that he could buy it for a $1. Very soon after it was in our backyard in Snohomish.  

Arthur lovingly cared for the chapel car, maintaining its unique Terne metal roof, and keeping fresh paint on the car's exposed exterior.  The car was a part of family gatherings and events for more than 30 years, and became important to them, too.  Sadly, Mr. Hodgins passed away in October 2005 at the age of 95.  

In 2007 the Hodgins Family donated the chapel car to the Northwest Railway Museum.  It was moved from near the town of Grayland on the Pacific coast to Snoqualmie that same year.  It was successfully nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009, and secured a Save America's Treasures grant later that year.  Major rehabilitation work began in 2011 and the substantially complete car is now on exhibit in the Train Shed exhibit building in Snoqualmie.  

On 27 October 2019 the Hodgins Family traveled to Snoqualmie for their annual gathering in the  chapel car.  As part of this year's gathering, the Museum was delighted to unveil a plaque in the car recognizing the importance of Arthur H. Hodgins in preserving the chapel car.  Sons Art and Hal were on hand to acknowledge and pose for a photo.

The Trustees and Staff of the Northwest Railway Museum gratefully acknowledge the tireless dedication of
Arthur H. Hodgins
(24 June1910 – 15 October 2005)
Chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace
His foresight is allowing new generations to appreciate its magnificence as a mobile church, understand its role in community development, and view it as a grand example of the lost art of wooden railway car construction.

          With gratitude, the Northwest Railway Museum, 27 October 2019

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Inside a caboose

Yes, a real caboose.  White River Lumber Company 001.  It was built at Enumclaw in 1945 and restored to its original appearance here at the Northwest Railway Museum by Dale C., Martin N., Rich W., Dick H., and others more than 10 years ago.  The effort earned an award from the King County Historic Preservation Program.

Beginning Friday, October 11, 2019 visitors to the Train Shed exhibit building will be able to visit inside caboose 001.  New steps and LED lighting are making this possible, and opening this new exhibit was encouraged by visitor feedback asking for the opportunity to go inside a caboose.

White River Lumber 001 is pretty spartan, as were most cabooses.  Its plain interior reflects the short trips it was used on from Enumclaw into the forest and back again.  In the closing days of WW II it may have traveled as far as Mt Rainier National Park, but always returned home the same day.

Notably, 001 was built during the war at Enumclaw.  This was because the war time ration board denied White River permission to purchase a new caboose.  Yet a caboose was required on log trains with ten or more cars.  So the logging company managers tasked their workers with building a caboose.  It is not a prime example of the fine art of car building, but it is an example of the thoughtful and utilitarian improvisation that was common in logging camps throughout the Northwest.  

Come and visit caboose 001 Thursday - Sunday from 11:00 am - 4:00 pm through the end of October.  Members are free.  Admission is included with all regular train tickets; trains depart Snoqualmie on Saturdays and Sundays 11:00 am, 12:30 pm, and 3 pm.  A la carte visitation is $10 for adults and $5 for children.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Mending a fence

Or building it from scratch.

Posts have been set in concrete just 
behind the paved trail edge.

Rails and trails are able to co-exist, but authorities do need to take measures to protect the trains from people (and pets) who try to wander off the path.  Protect the trains?  Yes, trains and engines generally do an outstanding job of staying on their tracks. It's the people and pets that don't stay on their "track."

The fence is actually adding a 
finished look to the trail, and looks
great in the presence of a
Northern Pacific Railway switch
A trail fencing plan was included in the City of Snoqualmie's 2013 downtown revitalization phase two, but unfortunately there were issues that prevented its full implementation.  Contract disputes, bad weather, and cost overruns all conspired to cancel a portion of the project.  So while a barrier was constructed in front of the Snoqualmie Depot and across from downtown businesses, it was not built along the trail from King Street to Northern Street.

In 2017 the Museum, City of Snoqualmie, and Washington State's Utilities and Transportation Commission discussed  options for adding a barrier between the tracks and the trail in the remaining "barrier free" zone.  Prefabricated metal fencing set at 42 inches was the option closest to consensus, and it was the design option that looked the best, too.

The fencing is now complete making
Snoqualmie safer for trains, people
& pets.
Funding 1,600 feet of fencing can be challenging, but the project was and is safety related.  Thanks to the support of Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson, Snoqualmie City Council and the Snoqualmie Public Works and Administration, the project remained a priority and was successfully funded.  A contract was let earlier this summer and the work was completed this week.

Pro tip: don't try to walk this
fence line.  Or sit on it, either!
Excursion trains now operate with a greatly reduced potential for people or pets running into them, making Snoqualmie safer for trains, people and pets.  Check it out for yourself: trains operate weekends through the end of October, and for Santa Train.

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.