Saturday, December 18, 2021

Merry Christmas, Jack!

Jack taking a short break
in Santa's chair inside
chapel car 5 Messenger 
of Peace.
Jack Christensen has had a long railroad career.  He began as an engine wiper for the Northern Pacific Railway in the Auburn roundhouse.  He first operated a steam locomotive on Christmas Eve 1943 when he was just 16 years old.  16?  Yes, apparently the locomotive engineer called for the Auburn yard had been at a party and wasn't fit for duty.  During WW II there were labor shortages everywhere and Jack was the only person fit and available to run a locomotive.  So with a little encouragement and guidance, he was called upon to run a switcher in the Auburn Yard for several hours.  Jack went on to experience a long career with the Northern Pacific Railway, the Burlington Northern Railroad, and then the BNSF Railway, as a fireman, engineer, road foreman, and more.  He retired in 1999.  Along the way he became an accomplished artist.

Walla Walla Valley Railway 770  
as the King Street switcher in the
For more than 20 years, Jack has been painting the annual greeting card for the Northwest Railway Museum.  (This year, members received a greeting card featuring Jack's painting of the 770.  This locomotive is in the Museum's collection and moved to Snoqualmie in November 2021.)  The Snoqualmie Depot, 924, the rotary snowplow, and many other artifacts have become the subject   of Jack's many carefully researched works of art. 

Jack and Mary on the 
deck of 924.
Jack remains active in the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, and has been closely following the Northwest Railway Museum's restoration of steam locomotive 924.  During Santa Train 2021 Jack got a little surprise: he had an opportunity to see the 924 operate.  It was a damp December morning when his daughter Mary - herself an accomplished museum professional at the Museum of Flight in Seattle - drove Jack to Snoqualmie to see the 924 under steam.  It had been a few decades since Jack had been on a "hot" steam locomotive, but when he was invited to board the 924, this spry 95-year-old was up the ladder like a new hire.

Jack on the right side of
the cab, where he belongs! 
Jack enjoyed seeing and hearing the 924 "bake a cake" and when he was invited to engineer the 924 into the siding, he lit up and quickly made his way into the cab.  A few minutes later, he had the Johnson bar in position, the cylinder cocks open, and the throttle slowly admitting steam to the cylinders.  The 924 quickly sprung to life and an unmistakable grin appeared on Jack's face.  How many people in the world today can say their steam experience spans nearly 80 years?

Enjoying the moment.
Mr. Christensen: thank you for all the beautiful artwork that has raised awareness about the 924 project, supported ongoing fundraising, and given enjoyment to thousands.  Merry Christmas, Jack!

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Lake Recognized

The Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust has recognized Northwest Railway Museum Registrar Cristy Lake for her contributions to the Greenway.

Lake was awarded the prestigious Jim Ellis Spirit Award at the Greenway's annual dinner (click to watch a video of the presentation), which recognizes her tireless dedication to the preservation of Snoqualmie Valley and Regional Heritage.  Some of her recent achievements include her contributions to the Trust's National Heritage Area Advisory Committee, preservation of local heritage through her work as Assistant Director of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum, and her recent efforts to preserve the collection of the Bellingham Railway Museum following their unexpected closure.

The Jim Ellis Spirit Award honors the example that he set from the very beginning of the Greenway, recognizing individuals who embody the Greenway values of collaboration, inclusion, trustworthiness, positivity, and pragmatism.  

Jim Ellis was active in the community for much of his adult life and focused on public works and nature.  He served on the University of Washington Board of Regents; as a proponent of Forward Thrust bond measures that established parks, swimming pools, preserved farmland, established the beginning of the Burke Gilman Trail on the right of way of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway, built the Washington Trade and Convention Center, and more; and his efforts helped create a new kind of government and for this he was often called the father of Metro.  He retired as a municipal bond lawyer from Preston, Gates and Ellis and is best known for his instrumental role in the establishment of the Mountains to Sound Greenway, which was recently designated a National Heritage Area.  Mr. Ellis passed away in 2019 at the age of 98.

Cristy is the Collections Registrar for the Northwest Railway Museum, and also serves as the Assistant Director of the Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum.  She has been active in the field of heritage for all of her adult life, and is a graduate of Whitman College in Walla Walla and the University of York in York, UK.

Congratulations Cristy!

Friday, November 5, 2021

High hood Alco arrives in Snoqualmie

The locomotive as 770 
circa 1950.
Locomotive 125 arrived in Seattle in February, 1940 and entered service for the Northern Pacific Railway doing the same work the Museum's former NPR 924 steam locomotive performed years earlier.  At that time nearly every train in Washington was pulled by either a steam locomotive or an electric locomotive.  Diesel electrics were still an experiment, even though there was already compelling evidence that they burned less fuel and required far less maintenance.  They also pulled heavier loads at lower speed, such as switching the docks along the Seattle waterfront or building passenger trains at King Street Station.  Just nine years later, it was clear that diesel-electrics were quickly taking over from steam and the 125 was sent to NPR subsidiary Walla Walla Valley Railway to replace an electric locomotive.

Decades later, the Northwest Railway Museum had an opportunity to acquire the oldest surviving Northern Pacific Railway diesel-electric locomotive, and the only survivor from the Walla Walla Valley Railway.  Known by then as Port of Longview 770, this model HH-660 was purchased at auction.  Arrangements were made to store the locomotive at the Port of Longview inside a building in a secure area, out of mind and sight of would-be copper collectors.

201 arrived early morning. 
With arrangements for former Kennecott Copper locomotive 201 to depart for the Nevada Northern Railway, the Museum had room to accommodate the 770.  So early in the morning of 3 November 2021, a heavy haul truck from Ness Campbell arrived in Snoqualmie with the 770 safely rigged to its deck.

125 is carefully picked
from the trailer deck.
By mid afternoon, the truck was positioned adjacent to two cranes for the transfer back to live rail.  The lift took place without incident, first for the locomotive's trucks, then for the locomotive itself.  After reconnecting the brake, the locomotive was moved to the Museum's campus.

Thank you to the Nevada Northern Railway Foundation and their President Mark Bassett for working together with us to make this great locomotive swap possible!

Please enjoy our photo montage:

The map shows where the 770 will 
soon be able to run.

770 on its trailer is juxtaposed by the main track in
front of the Snoqualmie Depot early on 3 Nov 2021.

First, the locomotive trucks were set on the rails.

Next, the locomotive was rigged.

And the lift begins!

Two cranes make light work of the lift.

Back over the rails now.

The set must be precise for the truck and bolster to 
correctly mate.

Some minor adjustments were required to get the
parts to fit together again.

By late afternoon, the 770 was ready to roll again.

Locomotive 201 departs the Museum

201 on 3 Nov 2021.
Locomotive 201 is an American Locomotive Company ("Alco") model RSD4 diesel-electric locomotive constructed in 1951.  It served Kennecott Copper for more than 30 years and was subsequently donated to the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, WA in 1985.  Although an outstanding example of a first generation road switcher, after the Museum updated its mission and scope of collection it was evident that the 201 no longer belonged in the collection because it was not connected with the history of the Pacific Northwest.  It was deaccessioned in 2004 and later a plan to return it to its original home was developed.

201 on 3 Nov 2021.
On Wednesday, November 3, 2021, the 201 rolled through Snoqualmie for the last time.  Early in the afternoon it was picked up by two huge cranes and set onto an unusually large truck for the journey to Ely, Nevada, and its new home at the Nevada Northern Railway where it originally operated for Kennecott.  The Nevada Northern Railway Foundation arranged to acquire the 201 in a transfer, but had the responsibility for transporting the 201 all the way to Ely.

201 suspended.
Steven Butler's Morton Locomotive had the contract to arrange the move.  IRH of Salt Lake City was selected to haul the 201, and Ness Campbell Crane was hired to pick it up.  The day proceeded smoothly with an almost flawless execution by the contractors, and a rain-free day as a bonus.

Congratulations to the Nevada Northern Railway Foundation and their President Mark Bassett on the most recent addition to their large object collection!

Please enjoy our photo montage:

Snoqualmie Mayor
Matt Larson brought
his grandson to say 
goodbye to the 201.
The Ness Campbell team rigs the 201.

Nevada Northern
Railway Foundation 
President Mark 
Bassett poses with
locomotive 201.

Rigged and ready to lift!

Up she goes!

You'd think it was a 737, and just as heavy, too!

Swinging over the truck.

Nestling down between the girders.

The 201 will be riding on blocks of wood!

The truck, all 250 feet.

Each of 201's trucks rode on a separate semi trailer,
which are really heavy because they include three
500 hp electric traction motors.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Out with the new, in with the old

Heavy things are about to move at the Northwest Railway Museum!

Successful museums constantly work to improve the representation of their collections and how it serves their mission.  An art museum may want to better represent notable local artists.  A flight museum might want the aircraft a local astronaut once flew.  A railway museum may want the second diesel electric locomotive to operate on a particular railway, and to return a road switcher to the home road it left more than 40 years ago.  These are all scenarios that have presented themselves at museums, but the last one is actually about to happen.

First, let's review a brief history of two locomotives:

Locomotive 201

Locomotive 201 transits bridge 35 in North Bend
Locomotive 201 crossing
bridge 35 in North Bend.

In 1983 Kennecott Copper shuttered their operation near Ely, Nevada, and embargoed the Nevada Northern Railway.  They donated many of the diesel locomotives to museums around the west, and their locomotive 909 (earlier known as 201) was sent to the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie.  This six axle road switcher was built by the American Locomotive Company (Alco) in 1951 as a model RSD4, and it pulled trains on the Museum's Snoqualmie Valley Railroad for more than 20 years.  It has been stored complete ever since the Museum acquired the two much smaller Baldwin switchers that currently pull passenger trains.

Locomotive 125

Walla Walla Valley Railway  
circa 1963.
In the early 2000s, the Port of Longview retired their locomotive 770, an Alco model HH660 built in February, 1940.  Aside from being a really old diesel electric locomotive, it has significance to Washington State railway history.  The Northwest Railway Museum won a sealed bid auction to purchase the locomotive.

Northern Pacific Railway    
circa 1945.
Historically, this locomotive was just the second diesel-electric locomotive on the Northern Pacific Railway, and was first operated in Seattle switching the docks along the waterfront where it served as their locomotive 125. 

Walla Walla Valley Railway 
circa 1950.
In 1949, the NP sold the locomotive to the Walla Walla Valley Railway where it was renumbered 770.  It replaced an electric locomotive just as that interurban line shut down its electric overhead.  It spent several periods in the late 1950s building trains at King Street station when it was leased back to the Northern Pacific and subleased to King Street Station.  By 1971 the locomotive was sold to leasing company Relco and by the early 1980s was assigned to Continental Grain in Longview.  The locomotive was later purchased by the Port of Longview.

The Move

For more than ten years, the Nevada Northern Railway Foundation has been working with the Northwest Railway Museum on a plan to return locomotive 201 to Ely, Nevada.  The 201 operated on the Nevada Northern Railway for many years, and the objective of this initiative is to return this original artifact to its home road.  
Locomotive 125 in its
Port of Longview livery.
As part of this transaction, former Northern Pacific Railway locomotive 125 will be moved from Longview to Snoqualmie resulting in another Alco also returning to a home road.  This is a truly exciting development for both the Northwest Railway Museum's and the Nevada Northern Railway's collection, which will help further align them with their missions and scope of collection.

The moves are planned for early November 2021, but there are many variables that come into play when moving artifacts that weigh more than 330,000 pounds.  

Please stay tuned to the Museum's social media channels for late breaking news as to the date and time!

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Restoring a truss

Pullman builder's photo, courtesy of the
California State Railroad Museum library.
Parlor car 1799 is a Pullman Company product  constructed almost entirely of wood, and completed in 1901.  The car was built for extra fare (first class, similar to business class today) service on the Northern Pacific Railway's Lake Superior Limited serving between Minneapolis/St Paul and Duluth.  Later, the car was transferred to Washington State where it operated on the North Coast Limited between Seattle and Spokane.  The car was retired in 1940 and sold for use as a cottage on Whidbey Island.  It was donated to the Northwest Railway Museum and moved to Snoqualmie in 2018.  

The cottage era doors 
were removed earlier this 
During the cottage era when it resided on Whidbey Island, two entry doors were cut into the carbody in the center of the car, one on each side.  The key objective of the rehabilitation and restoration is to return to the car to its period of significance when it operated on the Northern Pacific Railway.  So the doorways had to be removed and the missing components in the truss restored.  

Floyd cuts a truss component to
length for use on the 1799.
Floyd V. took the lead on this part of the project and fabricated in kind replacement sections of compression truss from southern yellow pine.  Next, the truss plank was replaced in kind using two large planks of Douglas fir.  Then the inter truss blocking was replaced with Douglas fir planks, though they were originally yellow poplar heartwood, which is not currently available to the Museum.  New sections were attached to old with lap slices, wood screws, and marine epoxy.  A replacement window sash set will be fabricated and installed later; new exterior cladding will be applied soon.

The cottage-era doorway is no more; a window
will be placed in the opening.
Rehabilitation and restoration of parlor car 1799 is continuing inside the Northwest Railway Museum's Conservation and Restoration Workshop. Funding for this phase of the parlor car project has been provided by individual contributions, the Washington State Historical Society Heritage Capital program, the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, and by the Nysether Family Foundation.

Your support is welcome, and will be used to complete this major effort!.  Please click here to be directed to the Museum's contribution page.

New wood is seen in the compression truss of parlor car 1799.
New wood is seen in the compression
truss on parlor car 1799.
Carbody diagram
This 1909 cab builder's diagram illustrates
the carbody structure in a modern wood car
that is normally invisible to passengers.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Snoqualmie Railroad Days returns!

Snoqualmie's original fire truck 
On August 28 and 29, 2021, Snoqualmie Railroad Days made a triumphant return to the live event scene.  Despite the lingering effects of a global pandemic, the annual town festival that has been hosted in downtown for more than 80 years was able to return with a Grand Parade, an impressive car show, and of course the trains.

924 attracted attention
Of course there were many precautions.  Even with local vaccination rates of more than 85%, masks were mandatory inside buildings and on the train.  There were no outside food vendors this year.  Many participants practiced social distancing, and some activities including the wine bar and jazz stage took this year off.  

924 began the parade
The steam locomotive NPR 924 operated on Saturday as a demonstration.  It paced the honor guard leading the Grand Parade.  Then it shuttled between Newton Street and Fir Street all day long, with a brief pause in the north siding at Northern Street to allow the regular train to pass.

Traditionally, Saturday morning of Snoqualmie Railroad Days weekend sees a Grand Parade, and 2021 did not disappoint.  Fancy cars, the Mt Si marching band "Band Is Back!" local politicians and more provided a 45 minute experience.  The parade also included dancers, drill teams, service clubs, local merchants, unicycle demonstrations, and the Grand Marshal.  The 2021 Grand Marshal was the Snoqualmie Valley Healthcare Worker, and was represented in the parade by a diverse group of healthcare workers, and backed up by the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital.

Every four years Snoqualmie elects a mayor, and Snoqualmie Railroad Days often sees competing candidates in the parade and in booths along Railroad Ave.  This year Katherine Ross is facing off against Peggy Shepard.  Both candidates made an impressive showing.

Vendors are always an important part of Railroad Days, too.  Local honey, Gideon Bibles, African art and hand made instruments were just a few of the unique offerings in booths along Railroad Ave.  Other vendors included hand made clothing, book dealers, and a candle maker.

The highlight of this year's event was the Sunday car show.  Hosted by the Roadsters Northwest Club, almost 100 automobiles graced the streets of Snoqualmie on Sunday.  Muscle cars, antique cars, collector cars, sports cars, hot rods and even a few antique pick up trucks were on display.

The Northtwest Railway Museum is delighted that Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2021 was able to proceed despite the lingering effect of a global pandemic.  Thanks and credit to the success go to the Railroad Days Committee and the City of Snoqualmie, but especially to first-time Coordinator Emily B., and to Cole VG. who masterfully pulled off a memorable Grand Parade as the first-time field marshal!

Stay tuned for announcements regarding Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2022!  Meanwhile, join us again for steam this fall; check for dates and times.