Friday, March 20, 2020

Curve at Snoqualmie Falls

The Museum's railway extends between Snoqualmie Falls and North Bend, but the most spectacular view is at Snoqualmie Falls.  A tight 11 degree 30 minute curve thrusts the railroad out onto a bridge high above the Snoqualmie River.  Yet this curve - and others no longer in place - represented significant maintenance efforts for the track workers on the Northern Pacific Railway.

This tight curve is built with 100 pound per yard rail last renewed in the 1950s. Tight curves create resistance, and that means wear.  When a wheel set navigates a curve this tight, one wheel - the one on the outside of the curve - has to travel further than the one on the inside.  That extra motion causes wear, which widens gauge and reduces the size of the rail head.  Despite the light and infrequent use the Museum makes of this curve, after more than 40 years and at least 500,000 passengers, the high or outer rail was completely worn out.

In a project planned out in 2019, RailWorks was hired to replace the outer rail with relay rail the Museum acquired from Union Station in Seattle in the early 1980s.  The 100 pound rail pulled from those platform tracks once supported Milwaukee Road electric locomotives and Union Pacific stream liners. Like all rail replacement projects, work began by pulling spikes. 

The relay rail had worn bolt holes so the project included cropping and drilling the rail ends.  This work was performed as each length of rail was laid.


The project also included replacement of 25 cross ties, important in ensuring the curve maintains gauge.  A hyrail excavator aided the work, which was completed in one day.  The new ties were cut from Douglas fir, treated with creosote, and cost more than $60 each.  They are physically similar to the ties they are replacing, which are an average of fifty years old.  New ties are expected to last at least 25 years.

This major capital project was planned and initiated prior to escalation of the Covid 19 crisis, and represents one of the Museum's major 2020 projects, and an investment of more than $20,000.  Donations to the Museum's general fund help support this important work and are gratefully accepted.  When the Museum is able to reopen after expiration of the Governor's Executive Order closing public venues including Museums, service to Snoqualmie Falls will be able to immediately resume.  Monitor the Museum's web site at for updated information about when the Museum will be able to reopen.  

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