Monday, May 31, 2021

Japanese railroad workers in Snoqualmie

Japanese immigrants to Washington were influential in railway construction, and other industries including forestry. Workers of Japanese ancestry made up the largest ethnic group of workers at the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company, outnumbering even Scandinavian immigrants.

Japanese immigrants settled in several regions of the country, but the Northwest was a particularly popular destination. This new exhibit acknowledges the role of Japanese immigrants and their children in the construction of railroads, but also in the success the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company.  

In the Snoqualmie Valley, the earliest known Japanese connection was through the construction of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway.  The Chinese exclusion act combined with Japan's emergence from isolationism to position Japanese immigrants as the predominant group recruited for railroad construction and maintenance in this region.  Usually, a contractor provided a Japanese worker to a railroad, and that worker was then required to pay a fee to said contractor, often as much as 10 cents a day.

Persons of Japanese ancestry were part of the fabric of Snoqualmie Falls, but it was an imperfect tapestry: persons of Japanese ancestry lived in a separate bunkhouse or a different part of the community than those of European ancestry.  However, they did attend the same schools. 

The Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company - and the Snoqualmie Valley - was devastated by the 1942 incarceration of persons of Japanese ancestry.  Overnight, this Weyerhaeuser Timber enterprise lost a significant portion of its work force, and these people - many of whom were either born American citizens or had been living in the United States for decades (Asian immigrants had no path to citizenship) - were interned in camps only because of their ethnic origins.

Japanese Railroaders was funded in part by 4Culture and the Quest For Truth Foundation.  It is a permanent exhibit at the Northwest Railway Museum and is open now in the Train Shed, 9320 Stone Quarry Road, Snoqualmie, WA, Thursday - Sunday, 11 am - 5 pm.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Sign language

Successful heritage tourism is an important goal in our local community, and to successfully attract an audience there are many preconditions.  However, being able to successfully find and then identify the Northwest Railway Museum is one of the key requirements.

Over the last few years, the Museum has been working with Lot22 to develop a successful brand and apply it to every aspect of the marketing effort.  The most recent efforts involve new signage in Snoqualmie.

The "original" Snoqualmie Depot monument sign was installed in 1974, and no longer reflected the image the Museum wanted to convey.  A new sign was developed by Lee A. at Lot22 and fabricated by Northwest Sign.  It incorporates elements of the Museum's brand awareness and includes a reference to the Museum, Depot Bookstore, and the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad.  Construction features a massive cedar plank, and installation was completed by Floyd.

The Museum includes several sites in the upper Snoqualmie Valley and visitors have often been confused about the interconnectedness.  Landscape artist J. Craig Thorpe created a watercolor map to illustrate the operating territory of the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad and identify stops and connected attractions, but chiefly to show where the various parts of the Museum are located.  These new way finding maps are being placed at the Rotary Snowplow at the foot of the Snoqualmie Parkway, and by the exhibit building at the Railway History Center.  Later, another map will be placed at the Snoqualmie Depot.

Though elegant and simple in design, these new signs represent a significant investment of time and money.  The Northwest Railway Museum is grateful for the vision and design work contributed by Lee A., and for the funding contributed by the City of Snoqualmie from the Lodging Tax Fund.  And special thanks to Floyd for installing them!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Restoring a truss - part one

Parlor car 1799 was built by Pullman in 1901.  After 38 years of service for the Northern Pacific Railway, the car found a second use as a seaside cottage.  That new adaptive use removed the distinctive truss rods, queen posts, and needle beams from the wooden car's underbody that supported the car while in service.  These components were vital for the car frame to span from one truck to the next, but no longer required once the car was set on a foundation.  So naturally for the car to return to its appearance and function as a railroad parlor car, the trusses required restoration.

The parlor car was moved from Whidbey Island on Puget Sound to the Northwest Railway Museum using a temporary steel frame.  This adjustable device had been used to move countless homes and served the same purpose for the parlor car.  Once unloaded at the Museum, the car was supported with wood and steel car stands, but to allow the car to return to its former glory as a Pullman parlor car, the truss had to be replaced.

The Museum was fortunate to have retained the needle beam and queen posts from a former Canadian Pacific officials car.  These hardware components were standardized by the Master Car Builders, the forerunner of today's Association of American Railroads.  So the queen posts and needle beams manufactured in the Hochelaga Shops of the Canadian Pacific Railway in Montreal were visually and functionally nearly identical to the components manufactured by the car builder in Pullman, Illinois.

The rehabilitation and restoration of parlor car 1799 to its appearance and function during the early 20th Century is being supported in part by a grant from the Heritage Capital Projects program of the Washington State Historical Society.  Many staff costs are used to meet the obligatory cost share and are funded by the Museum's operating budget, which has been seriously compromised by the closure necessitated by the pandemic.  Your support helps this project continue through to completion, and ensure the museum continues to serve its educational purposes.  

Please consider a contribution to GiveBig 2021.  Your support will help this project overcome the pandemic.