Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Snoqualmie Depot Bookstore CLOSED this Friday 1/23/2015

The Bookstore in the Snoqualmie Depot will be closed to the public this Friday 1/23/15.
The reason? The Northwest Railway Museum is moving our Point of Sale system. The new system has been in service ~ for ticket sales ~ since May 2014. Now we will use the system to track and sell inventory in our bookstore. This is exciting news for all involved, as it means a smoother customer service experience for our visitors and a far more powerful retail inventory system for staff.
We appreciate your patience as we move to the new system! The other parts of the Depot will be open for visitors: freight room exhibits and public restrooms.
Thank you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

924 begins to progress towards steam!

(L to R) Nathan I., Mark S., Zeb D., Karl., Stathi P., Mike, Al, and CJ V. (center) are just a select few of the many people working on the loco- motive 924 project, some from as far away as California and Idaho.  All except Stathi are volunteers!
Hammers are hammering, saws are sawing, torches are torching, welders are welding, and progress is beginning to show.  Projected as a two year effort, the scope of work for the rehabilitation and restoration of Northern Pacific Railway locomotive 924 is extensive so success is inextricably linked with methodical and consistent efforts.  In plain English?  No rest for the weary!  For the past several weeks, efforts have focused on documentation, disassembly, and the beginnings of boiler repairs.  Now, more than 20 people are involved so progress has picked up! 

The locomotive 924 is being rehabilitated and restored following the Secretary of the Interior Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties.  These are the same standards used for the chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, Snoqualmie Depot, White River Lumber caboose 001, and Spokane, Portland and Seattle coach 218.  An important component of demonstrating compliance with the standards - and also a museum best management practice - includes thorough documentation of the object before, during and after.  So photographs, motion pictures, material samples, sketches, scale drawings, descriptive narratives, and more are used.

The 924 tender is intact but is in poor
shape.  The tank fabrication will be
replaced in-kind, but the frame and
trucks will be used largely "as is."
Thanks to several highly talented volunteers (Adam P., Dave H., Zeb D., and many others), the 924 tender has been documented.  A thorough evaluation has concluded the tank is in extremely poor condition.  Given the plan to operate the 924, the tender must be able to hold water.  Literally.  A steel tank that is more than 100 years old and riddled with pinholes throughout the lower half presents some challenges that are difficult to overcome.  So the tank will be completely replaced using new steel, but the existing frame, trucks, stairs, the post electric dynamo headlight, and pretty much every rivet (count 'em boys!) will faithfully replaced in the new fabrication.

The locomotive 924 cab has been
completely removed to allow boiler
work to be undertaken.
The 924 locomotive cab presents a dilemma similar to the tender tank.  While the cab remained intact, it was far from complete or suitable for an operating locomotive.  Extensive documentation has been completed by Mike, George, Russ S. and many others, and now the team is able to slowly deconstruct the cab.  Individual parts have been numbered and inventoried, and everything is being saved.  Removing the cab allows boiler work to be undertaken, and for the cab to be restored to its period of significance when it served the Northern Pacific Railway. 

The interior of the smoke box takes on
a surreal look with a work light shining
through the tube sheet.
Meanwhile, Mark and others are finishing up the scaling and cleaning process inside the boiler.  As reported in December, all the tubes have been removed and the interior appears to be in great shape.  However there will be some repairs required, including some firebox sheet replacement.  That work has begun and will be the subject of a future 924 blog report.

The 924 work is now well underway, but your support is critical to its success.  Costs to rehabilitate and restore two steam locomotives are projected at more than $600,000.  Your contribution in any amount will help allow work to continue, and is tax deductible to the extent permitted by law.  Please visit the Museum's donate now page and select "steam program."  All contributions received with this restriction will be used to purchase materials and services in support of locomotive 924 and (following completion of 924) locomotive 14.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Flood waters, but no damage

Bridge 32 in downtown Snoqualmie is
quickly engulfed in water.  Normally,
Kimball Creek is 18 inches deep and
about ten feet wide.
The Northwest Railway Museum is located in the urban flood plain.  That really isn't something the Museum has any choice about because it is built on and around a 19th Century railroad, and most mountain railroads are either along the river or on a hillside.  Last Monday, January 5, 2015, heavy rain combined with melting snow to create a rapidly rising river that crested at one of the highest flow rates ever recorded. Fortunately, the Museum avoided any significant damage.
The Salish Lodge and Spa keeps watch
over an angry river as it plunges over
the top of Snoqualmie Falls.
The Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway arrived in Snoqualmie in 1889 (the Museum commemorated the 125th anniversary of passenger service to Snoqualmie Falls with a special train on July 4th, 2014) and the civil engineer  - Charles Baker - that designed the line chose the best possible grade and location.  Interestingly, the Snoqualmie Depot in downtown Snoqualmie is the highest point in downtown (it is unlikely that was by accident) as was much of the line but encroaching development has brought structures and significant changes in surface water management. So now some of the railroad grade is susceptible to flood damage because adjacent development constricts water flow and generates scouring velocities that have in the past removed vast quantities of railroad ballast from under the track. 

Bridge 35 is just a few feet above the
water in this image taken four hours
before cresting.,
Several projects in the last ten years have reduced flooding impacts.  First, a flood reduction project by the Army Corp of Engineers widened the river at Snoqualmie Falls to increase capacity of the river.  Second, Puget Sound Energy's rehabilitation of the Snoqualmie Falls hydro electric development removed the permanent weir (dam) across the river, but also other obstructions that were close to the river's edge including the remains of Bridge 5.46.

The flood waters get dangerously
close to the deck of the bridge.
Last Monday's flood was the first major event since completion of all the construction projects.  Naturally, when water flow rates approached those of prior major events including 2011 and 1996, many thought the Museum would sustain damage.  Fortunately, they were wrong.

The floor reduction projects appear to have made a difference.  Despite more than 51,000 cubic feet per second (normally it is about 2,000) of water flow over Snoqualmie Falls, there was no water over the track.  There was some minor scouring around bridge 35 in North Bend, but no damage that requires repair at this time. 

The flood reduction work that has spared the Museum damage during this recent event is not without controversy.  Spike cannot attest to the downstream impact in Fall City, Carnation and Duvall, which is a matter of considerable debate and has generated at least one lawsuit.  However, conditions for Snoqualmie and the Museum have improved dramatically, and bode well for the overall improved sustainability of the community. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Steam begins to simmer

Museum's Curator of Collections peers
from the 924's firebox door opening.
Rehabilitation of locomotive 924 is underway!  Some important progress has already been achieved with significant and positive news emerging since bringing the locomotive into the Conservation and Restoration Center this past fall. 

Inside the boiler barrel, scale is removed
from the inside of the tube sheet.
The first objective was to inspect the inside of the boiler, which required the boiler tubes to be removed.  To allow for tube removal, some other appliances and components had to be removed first including the master mechanic’s front end (helps direct exhaust and improve combustion), smoke box front, steam dome lid, and throttle valve.  Once that work was completed, then all the boiler tubes were removed to allow scaling and inspection of the boiler barrel interior.  The process has yielded some wonderful news: the inside of the barrel is in great shape.  Some of the witness marks used to lay out the rear tube sheet can still be seen!

Boiler sheet thickness measurements
were entered directly into a spreadsheet.
With a clean boiler barrel and access to the firebox, the team measured the thickness of the boiler sheets using an ultrasonic thickness tester.  Measurements were taken along a grid and provided data that was entered into a spreadsheet, which performed preliminary "form 4" boiler calculations.  The form 4 is what the Federal Railroad Administration uses to evaluate a request for approval to operate a locomotive boiler, and at this point in the project it represents a sort of acid test as to whether an historic locomotive is feasible to rehabilitate.  And the 924 successfully buffered the acid: preliminary calculations suggest an operating pressure of approximately 170 pounds per square inches, and without any major boiler work, provided there are no serious issues on the exterior.

A Federal Railroad Administration
inspector examines the 924's firebox.
During the annual inspection of SCPC 2, inspectors from the Federal Railroad Administration were able to make a brief visit to the 924.  They reviewed the initial work plan and looked inside the firebox.  Ensuring the Federal inspectors remain apprised of the work plan and progress is also an important part of the project.

An area of firebox side
sheet is being removed
to allow for replacement.
Certainly there is work to perform on the boiler that is desirable and will help ensure a full 1472 days of operation before the operating approval expires.  One area of attention involves the side sheets inside the firebox.  This area received some type of repair many decades ago, and the repair was performed with gas welding.  Today, such repairs are generally performed with electric welding and to ensure the integrity of the vessel, the old repair is being removed and replaced with a new patch.  this process will also require the stay bolts restraining this area to be replaced, in all numbering about 200 items.

So as 2014 draws to a close, the 1899-built locomotive 924 has a wonderful New Year to look forward to, and your support can ensure that the work continues!  Please consider a tax-deductible contribution to the "steam program campaign". All contributions will be used to rehabilitate and restore locomotive 924.

Cutting around stay bolts in the firebox side sheet.


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Successful Santa Train 2014

Last Saturday, the Northwest Railway Museum wrapped up a successful Santa Train, an event that was first hosted in 1969.  Reflecting on the eight-day event, 11,200 guests were served, more than 24,000 cookies were baked, about 320 gallons of hot cocoa were prepared, and 40 gallons of coffee were brewed.  This year's event also featured the first steam-powered Santa Train in 25 years.  In all, this was the largest Santa Train by numbers served, with 500 more guests than the previous record.

Many thanks are in order.  First and foremost, to the 61 volunteers that contributed time and talent to running the event and making it successful.  Volunteers put up seasonal decorations, served as Santa's helpers, addressed any problems as they occurred, served on the train crew, baked cookies, served the refreshments, helped in the gift shop, cleaned up garbage, and helped direct guests to Santa and the kitchen car.

Thanks are also in order to the many Museum supporters.  Many thanks to Continental Mills who donated Krusteaz cookie dough to the event; to the many media partners who helped spread the word; the City of Snoqualmie parks staff who helped clean the restrooms in the Snoqualmie Depot; the Si View Park District who maintained the restrooms in the North Bend Depot; the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber of Commerce staff who helped publicize the event and host the ice rink for several days in downtown Snoqualmie; 4Culture and City of Snoqualmie who provided sustained support grants to the Museum using lodging taxes collected at the Salish Lodge and Spa, and hotels and motels across King County; and last but certainly not least, anyone who helped support the event who Spike has inadvertently omitted from this important list.

There are also thanks owed to the Museum's Board of Trustees who provide the governance and oversight that allow this event to continue, to the part and full-time staff who work additional hours to ensure the event operated smoothly (even helping clean the restrooms!), and especially to the two very talented Santa actors and their two elf actors!

And thanks to all the guests who purchased tickets, enjoyed the event, and made all the other efforts worthwhile!

Seasons Greetings from all of us at the Northwest Railway Museum.

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

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!