Sunday, December 25, 2022

Season's Greetings


The Staff of the Northwest Railway Museum wish all our volunteers, trustees, supporters, patrons, and guests and safe and happy holiday season!  

The Staff enjoyed a holiday celebration in the style of the 14th Century thanks to our friends at Camlann in Carnation, but don't worry: we'll be back with late 19th and early 20th Century railroad operations on January 21st, 2023, weather permitting!

Happy holidays!

Monday, September 12, 2022

Pettibone Speedswing

(Click image to see larger 
version) Pettibone invented the
"do it all" rail crane.
The Northwest Railway Museum first adopted a Pettibone Speedswing in 1994. With Hyrail gear and more than 30,000 pounds it has been used to deliver railroad ties, clean up minor incidents, perform rail exchanges, and reconstruct and demolish track up and down the line from North Bend to Snoqualmie Falls.  The original machine is a model 441B built in 1979, but it has been showing its age.

(Click image to see larger version) The new 441C
pauses for a photo outside the Railway Education
When Maintenance of Way Equipment Inc. delivered the Museum's newly purchase tamper in mid June, one of the principals commented on the age and wear on the Museum's Pettibone.  A few weeks later, the Company offered to donate a new model of Pettibone and asked if the Museum was interested.  Naturally, the Museum accepted their kind offer.

A low boy truck delivered a model 441C on a pleasantly cool weekday morning.  Just out of service on the BNSF Railway, it had called Havre, MT and a steel gang home for some years.  It was completely rebuilt in 2009 and has no reported mechanical or electrical defects.  This machine has already been placed in service helping maintain the track and perform maintenance at the Conservation and Restoration Workshop.

Special thanks to Maintenance of Way Equipment Inc for their generous contribution!

Friday, August 19, 2022

Celebrating Snoqualmie since 1939

Snoqualmie Days (formerly known as Snoqualmie Railroad Days and Snoqualmie Firemen's Festival) is the annual celebration of the Snoqualmie Valley, its people, and its culture!, but the original Snoqualmie Days celebrated a specific and important event – the arrival of the town’s first fire truck. The festival was originally organized by volunteer firefighters to celebrate the arrival of the town’s first Fire Truck in 1939. 83 years later, and we’re still celebrating!

Before the fire truck, fires were suppressed using two hose carts operated by volunteers. When a fire was detected, a volunteer would run to the fire siren (still heard downtown each day at noon) to summon help. The first volunteer to arrive would grab a hose cart and run to the fire.  Despite best efforts, volunteer firefighter and later fire chief, Martin Fringer, recalled that even an “average fire meant a completely burned building.”

By the 1930s, efforts to establish an official fire district and raise funds for a community fire truck were underway. In March of 1939, voters passed a $5,000 bonds measure for the purchase of new firefighting equipment.

“The Church is on fire!”

Before the new truck arrived, however, disaster struck. In the early afternoon of May 10, a fire started in the downtown church woodshed. The origin of the fire has never been determined. However, a group of boys seen running from the woodshed as the fire quickly spread caused speculation.

Volunteer firefighters and community members immediately jumped into action. Margaret Hackney rushed into the burning building to save the hymnals within. Her husband, volunteer firefighter Frank Hackney, arrived with the hose cart. The “water pressure…was not strong enough to break the windows to get water in the church” he recalled, “We had to use rocks.” Despite being dressed in a “nice new grey suit with a grey fedora hat,” Charlie McGarrigle, an ex-firefighter from Renton and manager of Puget Power, also ran towards the fire. According to Frank, Charlie “grabbed the [hose] nozzle and…went so fast I tripped on the step, and the only thing that kept me up was hanging on to hose.”

Lorna Jean (Wallace) Young was in second grade arithmetic class when the fire started. Hearing shouts from other students, she looked out her window and saw “smoke billowing up over town.” Her teacher, Miss Peggy McKay, insisted students return to their desks and work for the remaining ten minutes until lunch recess.

“Five volunteer firemen of the Snoqualmie fire department narrowly missed death when a 400-pound church bell plunged down from the burning steeple – barely five feet from the firemen.” – Snoqualmie Valley Record, May 11, 1939

As Young fled home, she was “stopped dead in her tracks,” horrified at what she was witnessing. As she gathered herself, she heard yelling come from inside the church. “Then, I saw the men run out just a fraction of a second before the [church] bell came crashing down.” The bell was so hot, it was said, that it sizzled in the water that was collecting on the church floor.

Despite the damage, the church structure was saved and rebuilt six months later. And the old bell that came crashing down was re-installed in a new steeple.

Fire truck arrival and celebration

While the church fire was devastating for the community, the arrival of the new fire truck just two months later was cause for celebration. On July 29, residents came out to participate in the first Snoqualmie Days festival, later to be known as Snoqualmie Railroad Days, and then known once again as Snoqualmie Days! Volunteer firefighters sold red cardboard fireman hats for 25 cents to raise funds for the department. Any man caught without a red hat was said to be subject to a 10 cents fine. The event included a parade, street dance, carnival and even a water fight between the Snoqualmie and Issaquah fire departments.

“Trains, Timber, Tradition”

Today, Snoqualmie Days celebrates many aspects of the city, its history, and its community members. The Snoqualmie Firefighters Association continues their central role in this event by hosting an annual fundraiser pancake breakfast, raffle, and silent auction. And the fire truck? It remains a central feature of Snoqualmie Days and continues to be included in the annual Grand Parade, over 80 years later.

Historic Snoqualmie Music Crawl

Join us for the opening evening to Snoqualmie Days 2022, tonight, August 19, 2022 on opening night of Snoqualmie Days 2022 for live music & community celebration..  Since 2019, the Downtown Music Crawl has been a wonderful addition to our historic Valley event.  The Music Crawl brings life to the historic downtown district, supporting our brick & mortar businesses as well as showcasing some of the best musicians the PNW has to offer.  

Music Crawl Lineup

The Black Dog Arts Cafe | Erin McNamee | 6 – 7pm

The Snoqualmie Brewery | Fretland | 7:10 – 8:10pm

The Bindlestick | Clothing Optional | 8:20 – 9:20pm

Smokey Joe’s Bar & Grill | Steel Beans | 9:30 – 10:30pm

Firemen's Pancake Breakfast

The Snoqualmie Fire Department’s annual pancake breakfast continues as part of the original event. The annual fund raising Pancake Breakfast is held by the non-profit organization, Snoqualmie Firefighters Association (SFFA), in conjunction with the City of Snoqualmie Fire Department. The Snoqualmie Firefighters Association’s Pancake Breakfast & Silent Auction helps support Snoqualmie Fire Department special equipment purchases as well as community events, public safety & fire education, human services assistance during emergency situations, high school educational scholarships in the health & fire sciences, historic preservation & maintenance of Snoqualmie’s original Engine 1 and support of charitable organizations within our community. Join in for a yummy breakfast from 7am to 11am at the Snoqualmie Fire Hall.

Grand Parade

The parade will begin promptly at 11 am on Saturday August 20th, 2022. The route will start in Historic Downtown Snoqualmie, WA at the intersection of Newton Street and Railroad Ave., proceeding down Railroad Ave. until the end of the route at King Street.

History Comes Alive

Enjoy hands-on history activities with living history re-enactors in the History Comes Alive area located near the gazebo in Railroad Park!

Other Activities

There will also be live music at the main stage, a 5K run, lots of vendors, and of course train rides!

 Check out Snoqualmie Days to learn more!


Thanks to our friends at Snoqualmie Valley Museum for providing historical accounts of the church fire and the early Snoqualmie Volunteer Firefighters. Pancake breakfast image provided by Snoqualmie Firefighter’s Association.


Friday, July 29, 2022

Thomas the Tank Engine thrills thousands

Thomas the Tank Engine 
arrives at the Railway
History Center
It has been a full 20 years since Thomas the Tank Engine first visited the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie.  While the event is structured differently today, the guest of honor remains the highlight of the event.

Scratch the Cat
visits with Eric Ode 
In 2022, Day Out With Thomas at the Northwest Railway Museum consisted of a shuttle ride with Thomas from the Snoqualmie Depot to the Railway History Center.  After an hour of excitement including live music from Eric Ode, a visit with Sir Topham Hatt, Thomas play tables, railway museum exhibits, model trains, a maze and a selection of Thomas-themed games, guests had an opportunity to get a photo with Thomas and then go on an extended excursion to Snoqualmie Falls, returning to the Snoqualmie Depot shortly thereafter.

Sir Topham Hatt greets
visitors of all ages
Thomas the Tank Engine stories originated in the United Kingdom in 1945.  The Reverend Wilbert Audry created the stories for his son Christopher who was ill at the time.  The popularity of the stories was amplified when they transitioned to television in the early 1980s.  In North America, Thomas the Tank Engine began visiting heritage railways about 20 years ago.  His first visit to the Pacific Northwest was in July 2002 when he traveled to Snoqualmie.

Thomas the Tank stops to
smell the day lilies.
Day Out With Thomas 2022 was fully subscribed and operated without any major disruption.  Stay tuned for announcements regarding Thomas's return in 2023!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Electromatic Mk II

Typical track cross section
The basis of any good railroad is track, which consist of rails supported by ties held in place by ballast.  Unlike roads and highways, when track settles the original profile can be restored by jacking and tamping ballast under the ties to hold them in position.  This is an advantage that railroads have over highways, but track is also less forgiving and failure to maintain profile may result in a derailment.  So whether it is an Amtrak Cascades train or a Northwest Railway Museum steam train, the ability to maintain the track profile is important.

Jackson Jr Tamper from the 
Northern Pacific Railway
For more than 40 years, the Museum has maintained its track with a Jackson Junior Tamper, a unit first delivered to the Northern Pacific Railway in the early 1950s.  After about 70 years of service, the Junior Tamper has become difficult to maintain in operation.  In short, the correct replacement parts are no longer available.

The Museum's new tamper
arrived on a truck designed 
for moving rail equipment.

The Museum has been searching for a new tamper for several years and the right opportunity arrived in late May 2022: a machine used in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on the BNSF Railway.  It was completely rebuilt in 2012 and has just 691 hours of service since that rebuilding. It was purchased through Maintenance of Way Equipment Services in Houston, Texas, but was sold "as is" in South Dakota.

The tamper was carefully rolled
off the truck under its own powe
The new tamper arrived at the Museum on Wednesday, June 15.  As expected , there were several minor issues: machines are not usually retired in perfect working order.  Some electrical wires were eaten by mice.  There was debris in the fuel tank.  Several switches were dirty or worn and not functioning correctly.  However, the machine was in very good shape overall and after a few hours of work is functional.

A turntable feature allows the
tamper to be jacked and rotated 
180 degrees.
The tamper is a Canron/Tamper Electromatic Mark II ES originally manufactured in 1983 for the Burlington Northern Railroad.  In 2012 it was remanufactured by the BNSF Railway at Brainard, Minnesota to bring it back to original specifications, and to upgrade components that were obsolete.  It features adjustable workheads for tamping turnouts (switches), and a turntable to allow the machine to operate effectively in both directions.  Notably, it features something not yet invented when the old Jackson was produced: the hydraulic squeeze to help consolidate ballast under each tie.  

The model ES features adjustable
work heads for tamping switches
The Mark II has already been out tamping track and is a welcome addition to the collection of maintenance equipment.  While not yet historic, it will help ensure the Museum's heritage railway remains in operation for years to come.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Day Out With Thomas returns in July!


Thomas the Tank Engine is returning to Snoqualmie this July, but he made a brief appearance on May 18 when he stopped at the Snoqualmie Depot for water, and to let his driver have a short break.  Thomas the Tank Engine is on his way to greet families in British Columbia, but will soon return for his grand event here in Snoqualmie.

The Very Useful Engine took a few moments to speak with Snoqualmie's new mayor, Katherine Ross.  And Mayor Ross welcomed a few of Snoqualmie's younger residents, as they too wanted to say hello to Thomas the Tank Engine.

Join us for Day Out With Thomas 2022 at the Northwest Railway Museum, July 8-10, 15-17, and 23 & 24.  For more information, visit

Friday, April 29, 2022

Give BIG for an iconic locomotive!

Moving the 125.
Northern Pacific Railway
 locomotive 125 is now part of the Northwest Railway Museum collection in Snoqualmie, WA.  It moved here last November as part of a much larger project.  Now, it is being restored to its appearance when it arrived in Seattle in February 1940 and you can help make it happen.   

Why is this important?  In the Washington State of January, 1940, steam was everywhere.  Aside from two electrified segments, nearly every train in the State was pulled by a steam locomotive.  So imagine the excitement in February when a new kind of locomotive arrived from the American Locomotive Company ("ALCO").   

This brand new locomotive could operate for days or weeks without any major maintenance, and could power through an entire shift without needing additional fuel or water.  Few knew it then, but in about 15 years, nearly all the steam locomotives would be retired from Northern Pacific, and by 1958 the last one would go cold, and it began with the 125.

Historians, fans or just people who like steam locomotives may lament the end of the steam era, but it was an incredibly transformational time in America. The transition from steam to diesel resulted in significant impacts on railroad labor and the communities they populated, but these changes also helped the railroads become more economically viable because they could perform more work with fewer people.  

The 125 in 1940.
What is the locomotive?  The locomotive is a model HH660 built by ALCO in Schenectady, New York. It has 660 horsepower, is powered with a McIntosh & Seymour 538 diesel engine, is about 40 feet long and weighs more than 200,000 pounds.  

The unit is technically a diesel-electric locomotive wherein a diesel engine turns an electric generator.  The electricity is used to turn electric motors mounted on each axle.  An air compressor is also powered by the diesel, and is used to provide air for the brakes.

What is the project?
  The objective of this project is to restore the locomotive 125 to its appearance in February 1940 when it was delivered to the Seattle waterfront and began switching the docks along Alaskan Way.  

Restoration work will include air brake repairs, restoration of the reflector headlights, relocation of the bell to the front hood, repairs to the radiators, minor car body repairs, floor repairs in the cab, several window replacements, and application the original color and lettering as it would have appeared in February 1940.  

Turning the wheels.

Moving the locomotive to Snoqualmie and turning the wheels have already required an investment of more than $100,000.

How can I help?  Please help us ensure the preservation of this icon of change, this first-of-a-kind, and remarkable machine that actually remained in daily service until 2003, more than 63 years!, Thanks to a generous matching grant of $5,000 awarded from the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association, work has already begun on returning this artifact to its former glory, but at least $15,000 must be secured to complete the project.  

Please help close the gap with this year's Give BIG, May 3 & 4! Just add "125" in the dedication box to ensure we credit your contribution to the 125, and as a matching donation to fully release the matching gift.

NPR 125 arrives on Snoqualmie, November 6, 2021

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

An infamous anniversary

It began 80 years ago today.  March 30, 1942 was the first day of forced relocation and incarceration of individuals of Japanese ancestry in Washington State.  The first affected were the 200 children, women, and men living on Bainbridge Island.  By May 22, 1941, employees of the Snoqualmie Falls Lumber Company logging railroad - who built and maintained an extensive network of more than 150 miles of track - were forced to leave their jobs and homes. 

Initially, many of those forced to evacuate were sent to Puyallup and temporarily housed in squalid conditions adjacent to the Puyallup Fairgrounds.  Soon after, these people were relocated out of state, many to a hastily-built prison camp in Idaho.  In all, for most of WW II more than 8,000 residents of King County were imprisoned.  They consisted of  aliens and citizens, children and adults, women and men, and the healthy and the infirm.  Following their release, many never returned to their communities. 

Workers of Japanese ancestry had a profound impact on railroads in Washington State.  In the immediate aftermath of the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese immigrants were active in the construction of many area railroads including the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway and the Great Northern Railway.  The next time you travel on the Museum's railway between North Bend and Snoqualmie Falls consider that it was originally built by Japanese immigrant labor.

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Big wheels rolling

Sheel lathe and cutting heads.
Cutting heads in position.

The Museum's high hood Alco model HH660 locomotive received its first restorative work this week when Scott Hutton - with able assistance from Josh Kiavo - was on hand to turn the wheels.  The last operating assignment for the 125 was switching grain cars at the Port of Longview.  In this intensive use, the tapered profile of the steel wheels wore down into a hollow.

Lots of chips are generated.
The wheel lathe produced many
shavings and chips. 
This model HH660 was built by the American Locomotive Company for the Northern Pacific Railway in 1940, and was the first diesel electric switcher that road brought to Seattle.  It later served the Walla Walla Valley Railway and RELCO locomotive leasing before it was purchased by the Port of Longview.   It was retired in 2004 and in November 2021 moved to Snoqualmie after years of offsite storage; evaluations of the locomotive and its systems are ongoing.  

Wheel profile
Wheel profile detail.
The steel wheels were worn beyond acceptable limits and Scott's portable wheel lathe was summoned to bring the tread back into profile. 
Wheel profiles are important for maintaining adhesion (avoiding wheel slip), minimizing friction, reducing wear, minimizing hunting (undesired side to side motion) and providing a smooth ride.  The profile used on the 125 was developed by the American Association of Railroads and features a 1:20 tread taper.

Completed wheel.
Turning a new profile onto a wheel usually involves removing the offending wheel sets from the car or locomotive and placing them in a wheel lathe.  Scott has a set of portable cutter heads that allow a locomotive wheel set to be profiled in situ.  How is that possible?  By using the locomotive's electric traction motors to turn the wheels.  Each axle and wheel set is addressed individually by jacking up the motor and axle and powering the motor with an electric welding outfit.  The output of the welder is modulated until the axle is spinning at a rate appropriate for the carbide cutters.  A thin sliver of steel is peeled off; it takes a full work day to profile each wheel set, and care must be used to ensure the diameter of both wheels is the same.

Check out this short video illustrating the process: