Friday, August 18, 2017

Snoqualmie Railroad Days 2017

Come and experience the excitement of an old-fashion town festival! The annual Snoqualmie Railroad Days is happening tonight, tomorrow and Sunday August 18 - 20, 2017.  There's live music, crafts, food, antique cars, trains, a parade and more!  Check out the event schedule for more details.  All Aboard!

Friday, August 11, 2017

New exhibit installed in Snoqualmie Depot

Dark wood frames
were chosen to blend
with the existing
wood work.
The Museum has just completed and installed the “Depot RE-Interpretation project” in the Snoqualmie Depot’s men’s waiting room. The 4Culture-funded project is an eight-panel exhibit on the history of the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway – the company that built both the original rail line to Snoqualmie and the Snoqualmie Depot.

Using historic photographs, maps, and railroad documents, the exhibit describes the process of building the railroad from Seattle to Snoqualmie, as well as several other lines, and the eventual absorption into the Northern Pacific Railroad. The final exhibit panel is all about the Snoqualmie Depot construction.
A combination of vertical and hori-zontal panels were used to get the most out of the available wall 
The challenge with any exhibit is finding a balance between too much and not enough information. There is always more that can be said, but all authorities on exhibits say, “less is best.” So how do you tell the story without too many words? The strategy used with this exhibit was to utilize large font (48pt) for the key points of each panel and smaller font (22pt) for supplementary information for those interested in knowing more. Part of that strategy is also to use only around 50 words to make main points, so the bulk of your text is in the supplementary section of content.
Seating was removed from under 
the exhibit panels to encourage guests to walk up to the panel to investigate the small details and images up close.
The exhibit is in the men’s waiting room at the west-end of the Snoqualmie Depot and can be viewed Monday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm. Guests arriving to purchase train tickets on the weekend can enjoy the exhibit while they wait in line. In addition, since the Depot is free to visit, so is the exhibit. The companion website for this exhibit will be available by September 1st at

A 4Culture Heritage Special Projects Grant funded this exhibit. 4Culture is the Cultural Development Authority for King County, Washington. Using Lodging Tax and 1% for Art funds, 4Culture has four program areas to serve the county: arts, heritage, historic preservation, and public art. For more informaton on 4Culture, visit their website at

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Chapel car ABCs

Chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace has continued to receive a variety of restorative efforts, and beginning last summer lettering was added.  Original lettering was gold leaf applied in a gilding process but most of the restored lettering has been applied with a gold paint.  Unfortunately, it is a slow a deliberate process that involved more than 150 letters.  However the letterboard has been completed thanks to support from the American Baptist Home Mission Societies and the American Baptist Historical Society.

Original lettering was traced from the car during the rehabilitation process.  Those original tracings are now part of the car's permanent record, but were used to create digital images.  Steve at Issaquah Sign (he also did the lettering for the Weyerhaeuser locomotive 1) prepared the files and procured the letter mask.  He used a vinyl cutter to transfer the letters and a transfer tape to hold everything together.  The masking was applied to the car, lettering base exposed and sanded, the lettering applied with a gold paint, and then the final lettering was exposed.  Check out these sequential photos taken during the application process.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Access for All!

If you are a King County voter, you may have heard about Access for All!  This initiative appears on the Primary ballot as Proposition 1.  With your support Proposition 1 will pass and help improve access to the Northwest Railway Museum.

Access for All will provide increased funding for arts, science and heritage education, and access for students and families throughout King County. With Access for All, we (all of us who live and work in King County) will invest in programs that change lives, give more kids access to the same opportunities and help our communities thrive.
The August 1 Primary asks King County voters to increase cultural access funding by raising the county sales tax 0.1 percent — just one penny for every $10 spent, or $30 a year for the average household. If approved, the result will increase funding for regional and community arts, science, and heritage institutions by about $70 million, which will be spent on programs including in-school education and free and reduced ticket programs for low-income and middle-class families.  

The Northwest Railway Museum is a regional organization based in King County, Washington, and a Yes vote will be particularly impactful. Yes on Proposition 1 will provide funding directly to the Museum to provide free and reduced admissions - especially for school groups - which will increase attendance and allow improved and expanded programming.  Interested in another perspective?  Check out this Op-Ed from Kent Schools Superintendent Calvin Watts.  So if you are a King County voter, the Museum urges you to vote YES on Proposition 1!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Keeping cool

The Museum's primary locomotives are Baldwin-built RS4-TC switchers built for the Army Transportation Corp and the Air Force in 1953.  Their original cooling systems consisted of a large radiator cooled with a fan driven directly from the prime mover, a V12 Caterpillar D197. In the early 1950s this was a typical design used by nearly all locomotive manufacturers.

Beginning two years ago, following a problem with the mechanical drives, the cooling systems were altered with the addition of six electrically-driven fans.  The mechanical fan drive was disconnected from the prime mover and abandoned in place.  

The electric fans were in theory a brilliant solution to an expensive problem.  And they are of high quality intended for use in Kenworth and other large trucks. (Kenworth trucks are built by PACCAR who until 1983 produced legions of freight cars and cabooses.)  However, after two years, shop forces discovered the fans are susceptible to water running down the drive shaft and corroding the electric motor bearings.  When used as originally intended, the fans are not directly exposed to rain because they are located under a hood.  So a modification has been implemented that flips the fan upside down, reverses the motors, and mounts the fan blades upside down.  So far, the system is performing well, but a fall and winter will be required to fully test the alteration.

This is another example of the many small behind-the-scenes projects that keeps the Northwest Railway Museum railway operating.  Consider taking the grand tour on the first Saturday of August to learn more about the workings in the Conservation and Restoration Center!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Thomas we love you . . .

 The Northwest Railway Museum's annual Day Out With Thomas 2017 is underway!  Thomas the Tank Engine is visiting the Museum this week and next, and more than 16,000 people will see the Really Useful Engine as he pulls the Museum's train to Snoqualmie Falls. Tickets are available at TicketWeb!  Check out some scenes from the first day, and as always click on the image to enlarge:

The train passes Puget Sound Energy's Hydro plant museum.
Brian Vogan and his Good Buddies!
Visitors arriving at Day Out With Thomas.
Ready, set, go!
Locomotive 4024

Thomas the Tank Engine

Will call tickets
Engine drivers

Thomas the Tank Engine in depot square park

Motor car rides

Eric Ode

Train tables

Thomas the Tank Engine arrives at the Snoqualmie Falls depot

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A moment of inattention

The Northwest Railway Museum operates a railroad with 13 public railroad crossings.  Some crossings see just a few hundred cars per day while others see thousands, which includes trucks and buses too.

As any driver can attest, just a moment of inattention while driving can have disastrous results.  Issues can be exacerbated at points of restriction such as bridges and railroad crossings. And so that was the result when a tractor-trailer combination from a local construction company was turning from SR 202 onto the Snoqualmie Parkway. It ended up mounting the center median just in advance of the Snoqualmie Parkway railroad crossing, and with disastrous results..

Two crossing signal masts and the accompanying signs and signals were instantly transformed into scrap metal.  The precipitous fall of the signal masts damaged a car traveling in the opposite direction, but there were no personal injuries.  One of two foundations was partially uprooted, and that metal fabrication was damaged beyond repair.

Crossing signals are regulated by the Federal government. Imperfect or otherwise non functional components can render the signals unusable, which means a flag person(s) has to protect the crossing .  To allow regular operation as soon as possible, temporary signals were assembled using spare parts from prior incidents.  Mismatched lights and cracked castings are common reasons for replacement, but for a short term application, they can and do meet regulatory requirements.  Thanks to Jon Beveridge for his many hours of extraordinary effort to get these lights in service just one week after the incident.

Incredibly, Siemens (successor to Safetran Systems) was able to generate a proposal and begin construction of replacement signals in just a few days. Thanks to David and Jeff at Siemens for making that happen!  The replacement signals were completed and shipped to Snoqualmie on a expedited basis, and arrived just one month after the accident. Normally, signals equipment might have a production date four months or more after receipt of order.

June and July are exceptionally busy months for the Northwest Railway Museum.  So the Museum looked to local electrical contractors MT Electric and Chapman Electric to perform the installation. Work included a new foundation, assembly of lights, erection of poles, and testing.  The entire installation took two days and proceeded without incident; great work was performed by Tom Judge and CJ Chapman.

Crossing signals are important safety devices and a timely repair is critical to maintaining a safe operation.  With everything back together, a responsible party paying for repairs, the Museum is all set for another visit from Thomas the Tank Engine, who will be operating over this railroad crossing during Day Out With Thomas.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Steel chemistry

Rehabilitation of former the Northern Pacific Railway steam locomotive 924 has been underway in the Conservation and Restoration Center for the past year and a half. One of the remaining boiler vessel requirements is completing the package of documentation used to obtain regulatory approval. And one of the remaining details is confirming the chemical composition of the boiler plate, which is a factor used in determining the pressure vessel's maximum operating pressure.

The preliminary calculations used data from the manufacturer's marketing literature.  This is useful for a theoretical exercise, but unreliable for the final document because every batch of steel is different. Furthermore, steel used for patches and other repairs conducted over the last 118 years may greatly differ from what the locomotive was constructed with in 1899. So 23 test sites were identified and prepared with a flapper wheel to remove all paint, rust and other contaminants.

The Mistras Group was engaged to test each of the plates used in the boiler. In all, 23 individual plates were identified and received an arc-flash optical emission spectrometer test. Carbon is one of the components that the Museum is concerned about and this method is an efficient way to determine if the sample is OK, or if further investigation is required. Rogers Locomotive Works claimed that their boiler plate was manufactured with not more than .18% carbon content. More carbon means stronger plates, but it also makes them brittle and prone to cracking, particularly if welded.   

The Mistras technician Haley Lowe conducted optical emissions spectroscopy using a Metorex Arc-Met 930 Metals Analyzer.  The portable device (or at least when compared to the small refrigerator-sized mass spectrometer) was introduced more than 25 years ago and is popular in laboratories and foundries where chemical analysis of metals is required.

The device creates a high voltage electric arc on the surface of the metal.  The device analyzes the light created by the arc and produces a print out indicating material composition by percent. The report includes sulfur, silicone, and carbon, but also other common components including chromium, manganese, copper, tungsten, and phosphorus.

The testing provided lots of good news and reason for optimism, but also revealed three plates that will have to receive further testing, and in the absence of better news may have to be replaced due to abnormally high carbon content. Two sheets are in the firebox and are most likely replacements installed after the locomotive was built.  The third sheet appears to be a patch that will most likely have to be replaced.  Is this bad news?  Not really.  The locomotive is 118 years old and defects were expected.  And it may be good news because these potential issues have been discovered before the locomotive was reassembled!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Oh Canada!

In honor of Washington State's neighbor nation's 150th Anniversary of Confederation, Spike is pleased to highlight a little-known object in the Northwest Railway Museum's large object collection: former Canadian Pacific Railway officials car 25 (1918 - 1964), nee "Saskatchewan" (1918 - 1928), nee "Earnscliffe" (1881 - 1890), nee "Chapleau" (1881 - 1890).

The 25 was purportedly built as a coach in 1879 by the Gilbert, Bush and Company of Troy, New York for the Quebec, Montreal, Ottawa and Occidental Railway ("QMO&O").  It had an eventful history in the fast-expanding railway empires of the new Canadian Nation, and is an excellent example of late 19th Century wooden car construction. It experienced several ownership changes, and at least two reconstructions before May 1890 when it entered service as private car Earnscliffe.  

Earnscliffe was assigned for the use of dignitaries including Canada's first Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, who would have used this car whenever traveling by rail, up until his death in June 1891. Macdonald would almost certainly have traveled in this car during the spirited election of 1891 when the wedge issue was reciprocity (free trade) with the United States. By the way, he handily won using a rather remarkable slogan: "The Old Flag, The Old Policy, The Old Leader."  So free trade would have to wait for another 100 years.

Railroad cars usually have a much longer shelf life than elected officials, so Earnscliffe continued as a private car.  Which brings us to the famous photo accompanying today's post: On May 17, 1894 dignitaries including Canadian Pacific Railway President William Cornelius Van Horne (in the center gazing to his left) posed with private car Earnscliffe on the occasion of the dedication of Stoney Creek Bridge in Rogers Pass, British Columbia. 

Mr. Van Horne was an American railroad man from Illinois who on the recommendation of James Jerome Hill (himself a successful railway man born near Toronto) was hired to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway, and he succeeded beyond nearly all expectations. Meanwhile, James J. Hill went on to complete construction of the Great Northern Railway with its terminus at Puget Sound here in Washington State, and a less than cordial relationship developed between the two men. And the resulting legacy of economic aggression unleashed along the Washington - British Columbia border is an important interpretive theme the Northwest Railway Museum looks forward to sharing with future visitors.

Happy 150th Birthday, Canada!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Happy retirement, James!

Last call for cunningly clever quotes and punny pontifications: James Sackey has announced his retirement as Depot Book Store Clerk!

James joined the Northwest Railway Museum staff in February 1997, shortly after retiring from the United States Navy. He has been the watchful warden of the Snoqualmie Depot and the careful clerk of the Depot Bookstore for more than 20 years, and he reports that it has been his longest gig, at least so far!

Mr. Sackey has been a valued supporter of the Museum, but for many he has been its face. Over the years, his good humor,  puns, literary prose, and general railroad banter have been enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of visitors. He will be missed by many, but especially by Snoqualmie Depot regulars, Museum Volunteers, and Staff. And one staff member in particular - Phoebe Snow to be precise - offers a literary tribute:


FASTER than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle,
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.

Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And there is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart run away in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone for ever!

                        --ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON.


PUNNIER than joke books, one-liners and games,
Close to our hearts, “Almost everything James”;
And charging along with his trademark mustache,
James took MasterCard, Visa, and sometimes took cash.
With James, jokes and puns—witty, inane—
Fly as thick as driving rain;
Yet never again, in the wink of an eye,
Will this bookstore clerk whistle by.

Here is a man who clambers and scrambles
All by himself to save bookstores from brambles;
Here is a tourist who stands and gazes
While James with his knowledge, and singing, amazes!
Good-humored banter, groans, and camaraderie
Are exiting sometimes sunny Snoqualmie;
Wishing you well, James; please know that you’ll never
From thought, from our hearts, be gone for ever!


Happy trails James Sackey!