Saturday, December 20, 2014

Steam Santa Train

In another important 2014 development for the Northwest Railway Museum, the first steam-powered Santa Train since 1989 operated on December 19, 2014.  The Santa Cruz Portland Cement 2 pulled sold-out four-car trains from North Bend to Snoqualmie where passengers disembarked to visit with Santa and receive refreshments prepared inside the railway kitchen car.  The SCPC 2 is owned by the Museum's curator and is helping train volunteers in preparation for a permanent steam program.  While not indigenous to the Northwest, the SCPC 2 is an excellent example of a small steam locomotive and is a powerful tool for interpreting steam locomotive operation.
 
Steam Santa Train was quite popular and successful  More than 1,200 people made the journey on December 19, and younger visitors who still believe received a small gift from Santa, which this year was an LED flashlight.  The day closed without incident and will likely be repeated in 2015 - check out the steam-centric photos of the event below!

Steam Santa Train departs from the North Bend Depot and travels to
Snoqualmie where the Santa experience takes place.

Periods of sunshine brightened the day, but crisp air allowed escaping steam
to persist making the event feel rather ethereal.

Santa Train has a tight schedule: the train completes a run every sixty minutes.

To maintain the schedule, a water truck topped up the water in North Bend at
the end of each run.

The SCPC 2 was very popular with the visiting public and crowds quickly
gathered after each arrival.

Steam Santa Train included a very rare 4:00 departure, which meant nearly
the entire experience occurred after sunset.

Heading up the coach consist was the newly-rehabilitated SP&S 218, a wood
coach built by Barney and Smith in 1912.
 
There is something truly magical about a steam locomotive operating after
sunset!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Happy Holidays!

From right to left, Gary, shipwright;
Peggy, marketing; Cristy, registrar 
and volunteer coordinator; Jessie,
deputy director; Jennifer, bookkeeper;
Stathi, curator of collections; James,
visitor services; Richard, director.
The museum staff got together this week to reflect on another successful year for the Museum.  Most importantly, the Museum served more than 120,000 visitors on the train, in the depot, on a tour, or in a classroom.  To advance the cause, a number of important projects were completed.  The first steam in 25 years, completion of coach 218 rehabilitation, major work on bridge 35, reconstruction of track at Snoqualmie Falls near the Snoqualmie Falls Depot, completion of a new exhibit "The Railroad built the Northwest," and completing design and securing permits for the new restrooms, classroom, and library at the Railway History Center were just a few of the year's highlights. 

How was all this possible? The generous support of local agencies, individuals, foundations, local and state government, business, more than 14,000 hours from 137 volunteers, and the governance of an engaged and supportive Board of Trustees of 11 people.  A lot goes into running a successful museum!

From all of us to all of you, thank you for your continued interest and support, and Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Gearing up locomotives for Santa Train!

Santa Train is the Northwest Railway Museum's annual family event held after Thanksgiving.  First hosted in 1969, this seasonal excursion has become a tradition for thousands of Northwest families.

Locomotive 4012 as it arrived in 2000.
4012 was acquired from the Yakima.
While preparing for this year's event, an engine crew caught locomotive 4012 being a little too much in the spirit of the season: it was a emitting a sound strangely similar to the Ghost of Christmas Past from Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  The 4012 is a 1953-built Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton RS4-TC that has operated for the Museum for many years.  It has been a very reliable locomotive and has rarely been out of service.  A quick assessment found that the culprit was the engine cooling fan, which had suffered a partial failure.

The cooling fan is an important part of any diesel engine.  On the 4012, it is powered with the diesel engine by coupling a universal joint to the end of the engine driveshaft.  The universal transmits power to an angle drive and the cast aluminum blades are mounted directly on top. The speed of the fan is directly proportional to the speed of the diesel engine.  

After the fan drive was disassembled, the problem was evident: a number of gear teeth had stripped off one of the miter gears.  So each rotation of the shaft caused the gear to slip, which also damaged the universal joint.  If left unchecked, continued use would have stripped all the teeth off the gear and resulted in an overheated diesel.

Broaching a keyway.
Fortunately, an identical  6 diametrical pitch, 30 tooth, 45 degree miter gear with a 20 degree pressure angle was available from a gear manufacturer.  Unfortunately, the bore was too small for the existing driveshaft.  So Curator Pappas has his work cut out for him.

Gear mounted on shaft.
Using the Museum's Monarch engine lathe, the bore was enlarged.  The second step was broaching a keyway in the bore to engage the key present in the shaft to assure power transmission rather than slipping.  Rather than purchase an expensive broaching set or contracting this work out, this was handily achieved by grinding a broaching single point tool and running it on a boring bar by hand with the lathe carriage.  This yielded a perfect keyway that needed no hand fitting.  The final step was facing the hub of the bear so as to set the lash.  The gear pressed on the shaft with no problems and the gearbox has been reassembled.

A test run of the 4012 quickly established that everything was correctly fitted.  Now locomotive 4012 is ready to pull nine days of regular Santa Train 2014 to North Bend, and to support steam locomotive SCPC 2 on the special Friday, December 19 Steam Santa Train. 

  

Friday, November 14, 2014

Exhibit companion website launched

The Museum has launched the companion website of the new exhibit: Railroads Built the Pacific Northwest. The exhibit is a free-standing display of 4 double-sided interlocking panels highlighting early passenger and freight service in the PNW. The companion website features content and images from the exhibit, plus a little extra that didn't fit into the panels!

The exhibit was designed by the Webb Group and fabricated by Artcraft Display Graphics Inc. Deputy Director Jessie Cunningham curated the exhibit, which included content development and image selection. Images came from either the Museum’s collection or were purchased from other local sources including Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum and UW Special Collections. The Museum is excited to offer the companion webpage, since it makes the exhibit accessible to those that cannot travel to the Museum to see the exhibit in person.

The display, Railroads Built the Pacific Northwest, is the Phase 2 exhibit for the Train Shed Exhibit Building. The exhibit will be stored during Santa Train but may be in the freight room over the winter. It will be installed in the Train Shed next spring along with the Phase 1 exhibit. Tour Package program participants will have more to see and experience in 2015!

The exhibit was made possible with generous grants from 4Culture and Humanities Washington.


All images from the Northwest Railway Museum Collection.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Birthday, Washington State — remix


Five years ago, we took credit on these pages for Washington State's 120th birthday. Well, we won't do that again.

Instead, we'll take credit for its quasquicentennial!

We said it then and we'll say it again: it was no coincidence that railroad builder D. H. Gilman signed this Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway Company stock certificate in 1888, and that U.S. President Benjamin Harrison signed Proclamation 294 admitting Washington into the Union the following year.

SLSE stock certificate
Today, we think the pace of life has rapidly increased with electronics, computers, smartphones — instant this and instant that. And so it has. But that's just what it felt like as the final decades of the 19th Century hurtled toward the 20th. The railroad turned a laborious multi-day journey from Seattle to Snoqualmie into a picnic. Literally. An excursion to Snoqualmie Falls became a recreational day trip. And folks in Snoqualmie? Whatever they wanted could be brought in by rail. Quickly. Life was transformed. So resist that sleepy historic town stereotype and let the flavor and flourish of those days swirl around you. The Depot and other wood buildings from the period can help you picture it.

President Benjamin Harrison
President Harrison. Courtesy FCIT.
Trains have operated out of the Snoqualmie Depot — the same building — since 1890. The sound of our footfalls may be different without lace-up boots and hard heels. But the creak of the boards would be familiar to those who stepped across the platform and into the ladies' waiting room to purchase their tickets. Incidentally, lengths of rail currently in front and back of the Depot pre-date the building. So if you step over the track to get to the platform, you may touch the very rail that was here when President Harrison signed that proclamation on November 11, 1889.

What else was here then? The two-story building behind the Depot was built not long after — in 1902 — for the Modern Woodmen's fraternal organization. Across King Street, the tavern is the original first floor of a two-story hotel built in 1910.

Across the main street from the Depot, at 8096 Railroad Avenue, another wood building harbors stories of Snoqualmie dating from 1909. And not much more than a block away at the corner of River Street and Falls Avenue, the hip roof porch and posts are among the features that maintain the historical appearance of another 1909 building, although additions and changes have been made to the structure since its original construction for Reinig Brothers General Merchandise.

Snoqualmie 1897. Northwest Railway Museum Collection.
Is the Snoqualmie of today — a main row of businesses facing the Depot, with additional enterprises peppered around neighboring streets, all in the shadow of Mount Si — so very different from the Snoqualmie shown here in 1897? The Depot-centered activity that greeted Washington's birth as a state has its echoes in activity surrounding the Depot today. More than 1,000 people rode the train during the last weekend of October. And the Northwest Railway Museum recently launched a steam program. So when you board the newly rehabilitated coach 218 with its mahogany paneling and mohair-covered seats, you might have an opportunity to ride in the wake of a steam locomotive. Just like the passengers who looked out those coach windows when the State of Washington was just a whippersnapper.

Santa Cruz Portland Cement 2 pulling coach 218
Santa Cruz Portland Cement 2 pulls coach 218 in 2014.


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Soft launch of new exhibit

If you have the time in the next month, visit the Snoqualmie Depot to view the new exhibit: Railroads Built the Pacific Northwest. The exhibit is a free-standing display of 4 double-sided interlocking panels highlighting early passenger and freight service in the PNW.

The exhibit was designed by the Webb Group and fabricated by Artcraft Display Graphics Inc. Deputy Director Jessie Cunningham curated the exhibit, which included content development and image selection. Images came from either the Museum’s collection or were purchased from other local sources including Snoqualmie Valley Historical Museum and UW Special CollectionsThe companion webpage will be available on the Museum's website within the next week.

The display is the Phase 2 exhibit for the Train Shed Exhibit Building. Unfortunately the fabrication wasn’t completed in time to install the exhibit in the Train Shed before tours wrapped up for the 2014 regular season. The Museum wanted to make the exhibit accessible to the public immediately, so it has been installed temporarily in the Depot freight room. You can come and view the exhibit for the next month during open hours (10am - 5pm, Monday thru Sunday). The exhibit will be stored during Santa Train but may be in the freight room over the winter. It will be installed in the Train Shed next spring along with the Phase 1 exhibit. Tour Package program participants will have more to see and experience in 2015!

The exhibit was made possible with generous grants from 4Culture and Humanities Washington





Tuesday, October 28, 2014

And so it begins . . .

The Northwest Railway Museum steam program officially launched today with the movement of former Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 to the Conservation and Restoration Center.  The 1899-built Rogers six-coupled locomotive was carefully pulled from the static exhibit track in Snoqualmie by Baldwin Lima Hamilton-built diesel-electric locomotive 4024, an RS4-TC that powers regular trains at the Museum.  Work to collect data that will eventually allow the boiler to be certified is expected to begin shortly.

The curatorial steam team headed by Stathi Pappas made quick work of the assignment, which also relocated Baldwin-built steam locomotive 14 to an accessible storage track.  Canadian Collieries 14 is a 1898-built ten wheeler that will be the second locomotive to operate in the Museum's steam program.  Its pre WW II wood-framed tender presented several challenges to the team, but in the end was moved without sustaining any damage.  14 is in most respects similar to 924 so many techniques developed for the 924 will be transferable.  It is not expected in the Conservation and Restoration Center until locomotive 924 is substantially complete, possibly in 2016. 

Locomotive 924 had a few issues to overcome too.  A door on the ash pan (924 was coal-fired until the very end) fell open and was discovered dragging along the ballast shortly after the locomotive began to move.  It was spotted and quickly wired up without incident, and the movement continued.