Saturday, November 29, 2008

Heritage: Taking the Train to the North Pole

BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON - Today, I had the opportunity to visit the Northern Pacific Railway Museum in Toppenish, Washington, located between Yakima and the Tri-Cities. The draw was their seasonal Toy Train Christmas event at the historic Toppenish depot.

The Northern Pacific Railway was the first northern transcontinental line, building its line through Toppenish and throughout the Yakima Valley in 1884. The current depot in Toppenish was constructed in 1911 and serviced its last mainline passenger train in 1961. Re-opening as a museum in 1992, the depot has been restored to a 1930's-era appearance with a variety of artifacts.

The 1911 Toppenish, Washington depot housed the Northern Pacific Railway Museum on 29-November-2008

For the holiday season, though, the entire building is taken over by model railroads of all scales and sizes for the Toy Train Christmas. Everything from Z-scale to G-scale, Legos to hand-crafted models are in constant motion in nearly every room of the building. While some of the normal indoor displays are somewhat sidelined by the special displays, the full-scale rolling stock and communications and signal equipment outdoors are still on display outside. Amongst the most impressive of the displays are the Northern Pacific steam locomotive once on display in Tacoma, a 1921-era Mann McCann spreader for snow-fighting, and a "wig-wag" crossing gate.

A G-scale model of Northern Pacific's North Coast Limited ran at the Northern Pacific Railway Museum on 29-November-2008

The real draw of the event, though, is the opportunity to ride the train to the North Pole. Visitors board a caboose for the ride on what turns out to be about a 1000-foot trip to the North Pole, where they find Santa Claus in a restored passenger car. After sharing wishes and taking photos with Santa, it's time for a ride in a different caboose back to Toppenish.

The Northern Pacific Railway Museum train headed for the North Pole at Toppenish, Washington on 29-November-2008

The Toy Train Christmas continues Saturdays and select Sundays through 21-December-2008 in Toppenish. See the Northern Pacific Railway Museum web site for more details.

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