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!