Thursday, September 17, 2020

Interpreting Railways' Impact

Interpretation (an explanation as a way of teaching) is more effective when it is applied in a planned and thematic way. The Northwest Railway Museum’s Interpretive Plan establishes guidelines for sharing interpretive themes used in messaging and communication with visitors. It shapes the major themes that will bring visitors to our doors again and again over the years. It outlines the facilities needed to support the Museum’s collections and best enable the staff to effectively operate the Museum in a sustainable and efficient manner. It imagines a dynamic institution at the heart of the community—one in which the Northwest Railway Museum shares the stories of people and railways that engage both area residents and visitors from afar. The Plan codifies the Museum’s adherence to professional standards, best practices, and codes of ethics as defined by the American Association of Museums and American Association for State and Local History. In this way, activities and other forms of implementation arise from a clear direction and documented list of tasks or actions, all based on sound reasoning.

The Northwest Railway Museum began development of the Railway History Campus in 2006, and continues its growth. Staff developed interpretive themes for the focus of exhibits. Beginning with the original interpretive themes identified in the 2010-2012 Train Shed Exhibit Hall exhibit planning, staff began expanding original interpretive themes to create a cohesive plan for interpretation across the Museum’s sites. Exhibit topics were selected based on workshop participation by the Executive Director, Deputy Director, and Exhibits Committee during that period. This featured a multi-phase exhibit plan for the Train Shed Exhibit Hall which included an exhibit sharing how the development of the transcontinental railways fueled western expansion; an exhibit on how railways then impacted the Pacific Northwest; interpretive panels on each of the historic artifacts on display; and exhibits focusing on how the railway impacted diverse groups of people. It connected these themes to exhibits at the Snoqualmie Depot; creating an exhibit about the first railway into the Snoqualmie Valley, and connecting that exhibit to one on how the Snoqualmie Depot impacted Snoqualmie. Between 2010-2019 the Museum completed the first three phases and began working on the fourth phase with planned exhibits on Stewardess Nurses, Japanese-American Railway Workers, and Railway Workers of WWII (the Faces of the Railway exhibit). 

The Museum’s mission clearly describes two important themes: 1) the story of experiencing the excitement of a working railway; interpreting ways that visitors can be involved in the ongoing heritage and operations of trains.  And, 2) the story of how railroads influenced the development and settlement of Washington State and adjacent areas; interpreting how railways changed everything in the Pacific Northwest.

As the Museum has expanded exhibit offerings within the Train Shed Exhibit Hall, the plans for a fourth building, the Roundhouse Gallery, prompted the need to review and elaborate the Interpretive Plan just as the former plan neared completion and was due for review. This has coincided with the Covid-19 pandemic causing new social behavioral changes and social gathering size restrictions, which have necessitated new ways of envisioning traditional operating models.

Consequently, this spring the suspension of programming caused by the Covid-19 pandemic redirected efforts and allowed the Interpretive Plan and exhibits to be updated with additional content in the Train Shed Exhibit Hall.  Now, as visitors experience the Train Shed, they travel a directional route exploring how the arrival of the transcontinental railway changed settlement patterns, foodways, trade networks, leisure travel and industry. Additionally, they explore aspects of what people working for the railway have experienced with new exhibits on railway workers.  Additional exhibits will be arriving later this fall and winter expanding upon these stories with the installation of Asa Whitney’s Dream, an exhibit on railway car lighting, and an exhibit on the Japanese and Japanese-American logging railway workers of the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Co. Tickets to visit the Train Shed Exhibit Hall are currently available at Shop.TrainMuseu


Friday, September 4, 2020

Train Shed reopens September 11

The Northwest Railway Museum is pleased to announce the planned reopening of the Train Shed Exhibit Hall. The Train Shed will reopen on Friday, September 11th at 11 am, and is located in Snoqualmie at 9320 Stone Quarry Road.  It includes many of the Museum’s most significant artifacts including chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, and a variety of exhibits about how the railway changed everything. The hall incorporates more than 24,000 square feet, and has not been able to reopen this year until now due to the pandemic. 

Beginning September 11, the Train Shed will be open every week until the Christmas season, Fridays through Sundays from 11 am - 4 pm, and on Wednesdays from 1 pm- 4 pm. Tickets are available online at and must be purchased in advance; adults are $10 and children are $5.

The pandemic has required the Museum to be closed for most of the season, which has until now been unprecedented.  Notwithstanding, the Museum will remain open unless guidelines change.  

To comply with Washington State's SAFE START – STAY HEALTHY plan to protect the health and safety of our community, up to ten people may enter every 15 minutes, and the Train Shed has been reconfigured with a new directional experience featuring refreshed and renewed exhibits. To ensure a safe experience, interactive exhibits requiring touch have been temporarily removed, and cleaning staff will be frequently disinfecting other touch surfaces including doors and restrooms.  All visitors over 2 years of age are asked to wear masks, and pursuant to state law, masks are required for all visitors over the age of 5 years old.

Members of the Northwest Railway Museum remain entitled to free, unlimited visits to the Train Shed.  For access, please contact visitor services manager Lara H by email or by calling 425.888.3030 extension 7202.

Monday, August 31, 2020

More on the 924 debut

The Museum's Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 made a brief public appearance while testing earlier this month.  The 1899-built Rogers 0-6-0 has been undergoing rehabilitation and restoration for five years in the Museum's Conservation and Restoration Workshop. An earlier blog post shared some highlights of the two hour session, but today this blog features a few moving pictures of this milestone event.  This video shows some rare views from inside the cab, which are particularly clear because the roof of the cab had not yet been added.  The new boiler jacketing is also visible, which was applied from the outset to protect the safety of the cab crew.  

This author is also pleased to share news that the 924 will make another public appearance this fall - all aboard!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Snoqualmie Depot Exhibits Reopen

Since early March the Northwest Railway Museum and most other museums in the state have been closed by order of the Governor of Washington State and King County health officials to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. In June, the Museum reopened its bookstore but kept all exhibit and gallery spaces closed to help reduce the amount of people in contact with each other.  On August 20th, the Governor approved a new plan that allows museums to reopen in Phase 2 following new guidelines. The Northwest Railway Museum is now excited to begin the process of reopening! 

Because this Museum is such a large institution and has had to make many changes in its operation to comply with the new guidelines, the Museum will be reopening its sites in phases beginning with Snoqualmie Depot.  The Museum is pleased to announce that the Snoqualmie Depot and Bookstore are now reopened to the public! 

The Museum remains open at 25% capacity, so only 6 people may visit each room at a time but visitors may again enjoy the exhibits in the Freight Room and Waiting Room. There is now a new directional visit to each space. As you visit the Freight Room tour the space beginning on the left.  To visit the Waiting Room, enter the bookstore via a left loop and then tour the Waiting Room on a right loop, returning through the bookstore to finish the loop out. All visitors over 2 years of age are asked to wear masks and masks are required for all visitors over the age of 5 years old as per the Governor's reopening guidelines.

Following the reopening guidelines, all touchable interactive exhibits like the Train Tables have been temporarily removed. Though the Museum hopes to bring back these interactive exhibits when allowed, their removal creates a more open and less cluttered experience. You may notice new signage like this Please Do Not Touch Historic Artifact sign as part of the new guidelines.

The Museum's staff and volunteers are working diligently to reopen the other sites as quickly as possible. Stay tuned for further announcements as they become available!  The Train Shed Exhibit Building is being revamped with a new directional experience and additional exhibits. The Museum staff and volunteers look forward to sharing this space with you as soon as it is ready.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Riding The Suffrage Special

June 27, 1909 Seattle Times article.
August 18th, 2020 marked the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution giving American women the right to vote! It was the culmination of decades long fighting and advocacy to grant women the ability to have a voice in the laws of the United States. Railways played a prominent role in suffrage advocacy by allowing the quick movement of political campaign stumpers. Two Suffrage Special trains, one in 1909 and another in 1916, played prominent roles in laying the ground work for the passing of the 19th Amendment.

To commemorate the role that the Suffrage Special Trains played, the Museum put together a video based on the rear platform speeches given at stops by Suffrage leaders. The presentation details the role of Suffrage leader Anna Howard Shaw and uses a compilation of quotes from her speeches and letters throughout the years of her work. The video is one piece of a new Suffrage Train exhibit which will debut in the Train Shed Exhibit Building when the Museum reopens.

Anna Howard Shaw

 Anna Howard Shaw Background: Born in England in 1847, Anna moved to the United States at the age of four. At a time when women were expected to only marry and become mothers, she took a different path. At the age of 24 she became a Methodist preacher and without family support, entered Albion College and began a career lecturing on temperance (abstinence from alcoholic drink). In 1878, at the age of 31, she graduated from Boston University Divinity School but was not ordained until 1880 due to being female. She received her medical degree in 1886 from Boston University at the age of 39.

 In 1888, Anna attended the first meeting of the International Council of Women. Leading suffrage advocate Susan B. Anthony encouraged her to join the National Woman Suffrage Association where Anna played a key role in persuading the American Woman Suffrage Association to merge with the National Woman Suffrage Association. She was Vice President of the National American Woman Suffrage Association under Susan B Anthony’s presidency and later became president of the Association herself.

King Street Station in Seattle, 1909

At the age of 62, she traveled on the 1909 Suffrage Special as it made its way across the country and throughout Washington State to attend the National American Woman Suffrage Association Convention in Seattle, which had been timed to coincide with the Alaska-Yukon–Pacific Exposition. It was believed that “the confluence of the widely publicized convention and the world's fair will help win supporters for women's right to vote.” Along the way she gave speeches from the rear platform of the train. Her work helped pass women’s suffrage in 1910 in Washington State. 

In her 70s, she performed home front war work during WWI and earned a Distinguished Service Medal in 1919. At the end of the war, at the request of President Wilson and former President Taft, she lectured in the U.S. and Europe in support of world peace and the League of Nations. During one of those tours she fell ill and died in July 1919 at the age of 72, just 13 months before her life’s work culminated in the ratification of the 19th Amendment.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

924 takes the main

In celebration of a social-distant, Snoqualmie Railroad Days lite, the Northwest Railway Museum was pleased to introduce to the community newly certified steam locomotive 924, an 1899 Roger's built 0-6-0 that served the Northern Pacific Railway in Washington until 1923, and continued in service for the Inland Empire Paper Company until donated to the Museum in 1969.

NPR 924 arrives at Snoqualmie on Aug 15, 2020

The open cab helped the crew tolerate temperatures in the 90s.

Northern Pacific Railway 0-6-0 924 has been undergoing rehabilitation and restoration for more than five years, and on Saturday, August 15, 2020, it finally had an opportunity to "strut its stuff" on the main track.  The operation was technically just a testing day, and was planned to check out - or prove - all the work that had been performed up until that time.  The 924 was accompanied by a combine car with several observers, and diesel-electric locomotive 4024 to provide a light braking load as desired, and to allow for safe backup movements.  And the day was a spectacular success: the only issues evident were already known to the 924's team.  

The 924 is temporarily sporting an open cab while plumbing is continuing to be adjusted.

How remarkable was Saturday's run?  The last time the 924 propelled itself up a main track Jimmy Carter was President, Amtrak was still introducing the original Superliners, and EMD/GMD's model SD40-2 locomotive was enjoying peak production. That was in 1979 when the 924 was on loan to the Chehalis-Centralia Railroad, and the 924 steamed its way down to the Burlington Northern mainline to greet British Columbia's Royal Hudson 2860 as it passed by on a tourism promotion tour.

Good lubrication, and appropriate procedures to apply it are essential on a steam locomotive of this vintage.  All the bearing surfaces are "plain" and if they run dry of oil, they will be quickly consumed.

The day was also an opportunity to continue the training process for crew members new to steam. The 924 has been set up to burn solid fuel, and there is a little more planning required before moving the locomotive.  Planning?  Solid fuel takes time to ignite so the fireman has to ensure the fire is already hot and the boiler is producing more steam before the engineer cracks open the throttle.  Otherwise, the locomotive will quite literally run out of steam.

Beginning this month, the 924 is now sporting its circa 1906 cab side lettering.

The original plan for Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2020 was to mark substantial completion of the 924 with steam powered excursions to commemorate the Suffrage Specials.  Two of those trains visited Washington State in the years leading up to the ratification of the 19th Amendment that gave women the vote on August 18, 1920.  Unfortunately, the Covid 19 crisis allowed only social distant viewing of the 924; other elements of Snoqualmie Railroad Days were hosted on the web.

What's next?  The 924 will be getting some plumbing and running gear adjustments.  The tender will be painted.  The sand dome will be reinstalled.  And the volunteer crews will be practicing their wood chopping and chucking skills.

Monday, July 27, 2020

924 Testing

On a blistering-hot July 27, 2020, steam locomotive 924 emerged from its track inside the Conservation and Restoration Workshop for additional testing.  The 924 is an 1899-built 0-6-0 Rogers locomotive that served the Northern Pacific Railway in the Everett-Seattle-Tacoma region until 1923.  

The 924 has been undergoing a complete rehabilitation, with restoration to its appearance circa 1908.  Already, an investment of more than $500,000 has been made in this King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmark with support from local residents, museum volunteers, individual donors, 4Culture, Washington Heritage Capital Fund, the Emery Rail Trust, Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, Schwab Fund, and more.

Check out the moving pictures of the 924 in action:

The July 2020 testing was scheduled to prove the air brake system, most of which was re-plumbed with new schedule 80 piping giving the 924 a fully functional early 20th Century G-6 brake system.  Meanwhile, a number of minor boiler issues including some leaking stay bolts and boiler tubes were being re-tested to see if they had been successfully sealed.

The 924 was also put through a series of operating exercises, including pushing a braking diesel to simulate a load to check for things such as the efficacy of the cylinder packing.  The locomotive tender's new water tank was completely filled with water, but unfortunately did continue to experience several leaks, which will have to be sealed before the tank can be painted.  So not everything is perfect, but the 924 is 121 years old.  Yet aside from exceedingly high atmospheric temperatures, it was a perfect day to run a steam locomotive in the scenic Snoqualmie Valley.

Work on locomotive 924 is continuing and a public debut is expected later this season.  In the mean time, your support helps ensure this work can continue, and is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.  Please visit the Northwest Railway Museum's online donation portal to pledge your support.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

More on the 924

The Covid-19 crisis has been particularly difficult for the cultural sector, and the Northwest Railway Museum has been no exception.  However, prior grant awards and contributions have allowed at least some work to continue on steam locomotive 924, the Rogers-built 0-6-0 that operated for the Northern Pacific Railway in the Puget Sound Region from 1901 until 1923.  As reported in an article posted in May, after years of rehabilitation the 924 steamed under its own power this year for the first time since 1979.  Since then, the locomotive has taken on a more decidedly finished appearance.

The steam saddle had a number of broken screws that at one time helped secure jacketing.  A process of drilling, tapping, and backing out the remains of the old screws is used to prepared the saddle for new jacketing.  Kyle I. achieved great success by adding just a little heat, too.

Meanwhile, Floyd went to work fabricating a new mounting plate for a period-appropriate bell.  Unfortunately the original bell disappeared many years ago, but was a late 19th century model that mounted the harp up on a pedestal.  The bell the Museum's director selected to replace it is very similar and was purchased in a local antique shop by Joe S. more than 50 years ago.  Yet it too had also suffered from missing parts: the finial was no where to be found.  Fortunately, Floyd was able to fabricate a replacement ball from a trailer hitch as suggested by one the Museum's consultants, Steven Butler.  

One of the more interesting projects was fabrication of a new spot plate.  The remains of the original Rogers spot plate are long gone - the 924 was seen sporting a new plate as early as 1912.  Yet the period of significance the Museum has chosen for the locomotive featured the original casting.  So Lyle E. set to work fabricating a replacement Rogers lookalike using data supplied by the great curators at Railtown 1897 in California.

The replacement spot plate is not a casting, but a steel fabrication that was turned in a lathe to create the original profile.  It consists of a steel "doughnut" with a plate welded into the center.  The plate was placed in a press to create a convex face.  After finishing, replacement cast brass numbers produced by Keith Durfy were attached to the plate.  The end result is a very nearly identical spot plate, but one that is 121 years younger than the locomotive!

The Covid-19 crisis continues to place many restrictions on the Northwest Railway Museum, which remains closed to the public.  However, work is continuing on the locomotive 924 project.  Another update will be posted soon; your contributions are always welcome and encouraged, and will help ensure work continues on this signature project.  Contributions to the 924 project may be made online at shop.TrainMuseum.organd are tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

A bright idea

A museum volunteer prepares to change out a ceiling-mounted light bulb.
There are many elements required to create a successful exhibit space, but few are more impactful than lighting.  When the Museum's Train Shed exhibit and collection storage building was built, it was illuminated with High Intensity Discharge ("HID") lamps.  They represented the best compromise for cost versus light quality.  Yet just nine years later, there are many other options, and most use substantially less electricity.

With the Covid 19 crisis closure coupled with damage to the Train Shed roof mentioned in the last post, June seemed like the perfect time to retrofit electrical lighting fixtures to Light Emitting Diodes ("LED") lamps.  

Changing out lamps is very impactful because the boom lift needed to perform the work requires exhibits to be dismantled, and cars or locomotives to be moved.  This process normally generates weeks of disruptions - except right now the Museum remains closed because of the Covid 19 crisis.  

Thanks to volunteer Arnie L. and the local Platt Electric in Preston, a conservation rebate reduced the price of the new lighting elements to roughly the cost of new HID bulbs.  Also helpful was some assistance with equipment from CHG, the company who is performing the storm damage repairs.  And especially to Arnie L. who rode the lift to the ceiling and changed most of the 38+ ceiling fixtures.  Brent assisted with the conversion as well, and more than a dozen others helped with dismantling exhibits, removing the old ballasts, and helping provide supplies for the retrofit wiring.

With thanks to everyone for working together, all the Trains Shed HID high bay ceiling fixtures were successfully converted to LED lamps.  This cut the power consumption by approximately 25% and "warmed" the lighting color temperature to 3,000 K, which is also known as warm white.  This will generate annual power savings of approximately $2,000, and improve the visitor experience immensely.  

Monday, June 1, 2020

Thar she blows!

Western Washington has weather patterns seldom understood outside of the region.  Summers are dominated by beautiful weather, are usually drier than New York city, and have low humidity.  However, winter occasionally brings unpredictable storms that may release torrents of rain or wet snow, and hurricane-force wind gusts.  

Storm damage occurs most years, but it is usually minor and has consisted of railroad crossing gates that were broken in half by wind gusts, gutters torn from the Education Center by heavy snow, and a crossing gate mechanism shattered when a truck skidded in the snow and sideswiped a crossing signal mast.  

The large western hemlock dropped
diagonally across the roof.
Now the Museum can add another roof to the list.  Just as the Covid 19 crisis was expanding, a sudden wind storm brought destruction to the Museum when it brought a massive tree down onto the Train Shed.  The evergreen was more than 100 feet tall and appeared to be very healthy, but a gust snapped the trunk off approximately 20 feet above the ground.  The tree landed diagonally across the north dormer damaging the eave truss, gutter system, and roof panels.  Inside, wall paneling buckled and window casing popped off the wall. And soon water was leaking into the wall structure.

A standing -seam roof is now water
tight when the seams are no longer intact.
The Museum responded quickly to the crisis by hiring Imhoff Crane to remove the tree right away.  Due to its length and weight, Scott Imhoff cut the tree into sections to make it easier and safer to handle.  Then steps were taken to make the building water tight again until proper repairs could be undertaken.

A few needles and seed pods disguise
the extent of the damage,
With the warmer, drier weather now blanketing the Northwest, CHG Building Systems is beginning the repairs.  More than 1,000 square feet of roof is being replaced, along with several structural members, some interior cladding, and dormer cladding.  The work is expected to take two weeks and is valued at more than $140,000.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

924 steams!

The 924 builds steam on a warm spring day.
Locomotive 924 was constructed in 1899 by the Rogers Locomotive Works of Paterson, New Jersey, and was delivered along with two identical sisters to the St.Paul and Duluth Railroad.  By 1901 it was under ownership of the Northern Pacific Railway, and was soon serving their needs in the Puget Sound region of the Pacific Northwest.

Steam and air plumbing fills the cab; the
roof has been left off the cab for now to
improve access and lighting.
In 1924, the 924 became superfluous to the needs of the N.P. R. and was sold to the Inland Empire Paper Company near Spokane, WA.  The locomotive met the needs of its new owner until 1969 when company president William H. Cowles Jr. donated the 924 to the Northwest Railway Museum.  The 924 briefly operated in Chehalis, and was later moved to the Museum headquarters in Snoqualmie.  In 2015 it was nominated and listed on the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmarks Register.  Work was immediately underway on a major rehabilitation effort, which is now nearing completion.

A wood fire crackled for about four hours
before the boiler reached operating
pressure. 924 will be fueled with wood
rather than coal.
May 18, 2020 represents an important milestone for the 924: it returned to steam and operated under its own power in testing on the shop track.  An inspection conducted by the Federal Railroad Administration observed that the boiler safety valves opened and closed at appropriate pressure levels, and the steam-powered air pump was able to deliver the required air flow.  During the visit, Museum staff also demonstrated successful operation of both Ohio injectors, and the hydro-static lubricator, all of which were rebuilt by Backshop Enterprises.  And an additional day under steam gave collections care specialists - steam specialists, really - an opportunity to perform additional testing and troubleshooting.  Steven B., Josh K., Scott, and Gary performed most of the effort required to boil the boiler water, but dozens of additional volunteers and staff contributed efforts that allowed this to happen.

Work on the 924 is continuing and completion of vital systems is anticipated in 2nd quarter 2020.  Work has been funded by contributions from individuals, companies, foundations, and government agencies including 4Culture, Washington's Heritage Capital Fund, the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, Emery Rail Trust, Schwab Fund, and more. You can support completion of the project by visiting the Museum's donation page, making a pledge, and selecting the steam program here.

Check out two days of steam in photos and videos:

The hydrostatic lubricator, automatic brake valve, steam gauge,
and air gauges.

924 was built with one water glass but
regulations now require two.

Setting safety valves to the correct pressure involves verifying
they open at the desired pressure.
Checking the water level.

Verifying the open and close pressures for the safety valves.

924 simmers in the Snoqualmie Valley
The Museum's director and the inspector from the Federal
Railroad Administration discuss locomotive 924.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A new cab for a locomotive

More progress for steam locomotive 924!  Despite the encumbrances of the Covid 19 crisis, a skeleton staff has been able to advance the project with installation of the new cab.

The cab was moved out of the Conservation and
Restoration Center by the Museum's Pettibone

The former Northern Pacific Railway 924 was built in 1899 and is nearing the end of a multi year rehabilitation.  The Rogers-built 0-6-0 has received extensive boiler work, and work is continuing on the brakes and running gear.  A new tender tank has been built, and a replica cab has been fabricated from white oak as part of the effort to restore the locomotive to its appearance circa 1908.

The all-wood cab was gently lowered into place.
The cab was held in position above the locomotive
while clearances were checked.

An important milestone was reached a few days ago when the wood cab was restored to the locomotive boiler and frame.  The heavy oak structure was swiftly placed by Scott Imhoff from Imhoff Crane in Snoqualmie.

It was as if the cab was flying.
The new cab was slowly lowered onto the locomotive.

The fabrication effort was led by the Museum's shipwright Gary James last year in a 4Culture-funded project.  Volunteers were extensively involved, too, but especially Mike D. who created a complete set of drawings scaled from historical photos, and from field measurements taken on locomotive.  Support for this work was also received from the Washington Heritage Capital Fund administered by the Washington State Historical Society, and from individual donors.  Your tax-deductible contribution to the Museum's steam locomotive fund will help continue and complete the effort.

Placement of the cab complete, the 924 is beginning to look like a locomotive again!
With the new cab in position, the 924 is beginning 
to look like a complete locomotive again.

Work on locomotive 924 is continuing this month, though at a much slower pace than anticipated due to health and safety restrictions necessary to protect volunteers and employees from Covid 19.  Notwithstanding, the cab is an important milestone with others anticipated in the near future for this long-term project.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Give BIG 2020 - help the Museum weather Covid 19

2020 is proving to be a challenging year with the longest closure in the Museum's 63 history.  Governor Insley's stay-at-home order has been extended to the end of May to slow the spread of Covid 19, but as a consequence of the closure Museum income is down more than $150,000.  A Pay Check Protection loan from the Small Business Administration of $94,000 is allowing the Museum to retain basic staffing levels for security, regulatory efforts, and maintenance, but many other efforts are suffering.

Ideally, the Museum would have been asking you to support the completion of steam locomotive 924, to help restore parlor car 1799, or perhaps to help with Puget Sound Electric Railway 523 rehabilitation efforts.  Instead, the Museum asks that you please consider a contribution today through May 6th to ensure the Museum is simply able to reopen when the state deems it safe to do so.

The Northwest Railway Museum has a very successful business plan, but its weakness is a reliance on earned income.  Most of the operating budget is funded with ticket sales.  So visits to the Train Shed, train excursion tickets, Depot Bookstore sales, Day Out With Thomas, and Santa Train tickets fund more than 90% of the Museum's operating budget.  The balance is funded with operating grants from King County 4Culture, and the City of Snoqualmie.  And adding to the financial hardship, the City of Snoqualmie has had to freeze the operating grants because their tax revenue from hotel room rentals has dropped almost to zero.

The Northwest Railway Museum provides a multitude of opportunities for families to learn about railway history, while experiencing the excitement of a working heritage railway.  Please help the Museum continue this unique programming with a contribution to GiveBIG 2020 through May 6.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Locomotive 924 gets rods and more

The  worldwide pandemic is causing significant disruption in nearly everyone's lives throughout the Puget Sound Region, but a core group of dedicated specialists is continuing to work on locomotive 924.  They are practicing social distancing, and limiting the number of workers in the shop at once, but still achieving success.  Until this week, that meant not more than ten people at a time.  However, now the Governor has ordered non-essential workers (and pretty much all volunteers) to stay at home for at least the next two weeks.  So this seems like a great opportunity to reflect on and highlight recent progress, and what all the public donations have supported.

Packing - Mechanical packing seals the gap around the piston rod where it penetrates the steam cylinder.  The packing has to be installed before the rod is inserted into the cross head.  So Jay was busy assembling this puzzle on a Saturday morning earlier this month as everyone else was preparing to install the rods.  There is more to this than meets the eye - the packing gland has to be able to resist 185 lbs of saturated steam without leaking.

Radius rods - Meanwhile, Paul and Larry were cleaning up the radius rods for the valve gear, which with Stephenson motion are located between the lead and main drivers.  It is an awkward place to reach, but the Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center has pits 60 inches deep, providing ample room to work from below.

Eccentric straps - Over on the work bench, David and Vic were cleaning and preparing the eccentric rods or straps in advance of their reinstallation.  These rods fasten around the main driver axle on an eccentric (offset center) and as the axle turns they convert rotary motion into a longitudinal oscillating displacement (back and forth motion) to move valves that control steam entering and exiting the cylinders.

Cross head - After Jay completed tightening of the packing, the piston rods were inserted into the cross heads.  The cross head is the assembly that most observers will recognize on a steam locomotive.  It is the component that moves back and forth with each rotation of the main driver, and at high speeds might appear to some to be just a blur.  The rod has a taper and fits just about perfectly into the cross head - so there is no movement between the two parts.  Then a tapered key or keeper fits through the cross head and the end of the piston rod to ensure they remain tightly in position.

Main rod - Installing the main rod is a delicate dance.  This forged assembly is - even on a light locomotive such as the 924 - amazingly heavy.  Fingers or toes that are in the wrong place will be effortlessly and mercilessly removed.  So with the aid of a wheeled hydraulic table to adjust the height and position of the rod, the work was performed with just three workers.  The first milestone was installation of the little end into the cross head.  It is attached with a pin just behind the piston rod end.

The next step was to raise the big end of the rod into position ahead of the main rod crank pin.  This involved another form of dance as the entire cross head, piston and rod assembly was gently moved forth and back until it was in just the right place.  And yes, there was a great deal of careful measurement and calculation, too.  Otherwise when the bearing brasses were installed and wedges tightened to hold them in place, the rod would be either too long or too short, causing catastrophic failure.  

With the rod in the correct position, the bearing brasses, wedge, and a large fitted bolt were applied to hold everything in the correct position. Lyle was careful to apply anti seize coatings on all the components prior to assembly.

The resurrection of Northern Pacific locomotive 924 is continuing to take shape at the Northwest Railway Museum.  Support from 4Culture, Washington Heritage Capital , Schwab Fund, Microsoft, Osberg Family Foundation, Boeing, Emery Rail Heritage Trust, more than hundred individual donors, several awesomely skilled employees, and dozens of dedicated volunteers is making this work possible.  Additional progress will be described in another article that will appear in early April.

Project 924 continues to welcome your support!  To make a donation online, please visit the Northwest Railway Museum donation portal and select "steam locomotive."