Monday, June 28, 2010

Heritage: Northwest Railway Museum

The excursion train (at left) had tied up for the day at the historic Snoqualmie, Washington depot on 26-June-2010

BELLEVUE, WASHINGTON - If the family history is correct, I took my first excursion train ride at what was then the Puget Sound & Snoqualmie Valley railroad between Snoqualmie and Snoqualmie Falls, Washington. The heritage railway had come to be on a former Northern Pacific branch line when the Burlington Northern abandoned it in favor of access to the area above Snoqualmie Falls using a former Milwaukee Road line from Cedar Falls. I hadn't actually ridden the line since, despite its extension to North Bend, so this year it was time to finally rectify that.

Recently-restored Northern Pacific boxcars sat outside the Conservation and Restoration Center of the Northwest Railway Museum on 26-June-2010

In the intervening time, the organization has become the Northwest Railway Museum and focused its efforts on restoring what had been a very publicly decaying fleet of rolling stock and displays. A major step in that effort was getting grant money to build a Conservation and Restoration Center along the excursion line east of Snoqualmie. Equipped with a drop pit and a growing collection of classic tools, the facility is now the site of a lot of work on the locomotives and cars at the museum. Soon to be added to the complex is a four-track train shed, nearly half a football field in length, which will be able to store in climate-controlled conditions the entire current active fleet of the museum.

The new train shed at the Northwest Railway Museum was nearly ready for occupancy when viewed near Snoqualmie, Washington on 26-June-2010

Thanks to the kindness of a museum volunteer that I had worked with on other projects in the past, I was able to tour the new facilities and see the projects that were underway. The 1951-era Fairbanks-Morse H-12-44 diesel is well along to returning to operation, and I was impressed with the progress on former Spokane, Portland, and Seattle coach #218, built in 1912 and well along to returning to its 1920's appearance. Before long, the unique "Messenger of Peace" chapel car will be taking its turn in the facility.

The interior of former Spokane, Portland, and Seattle passenger car #218 was under restoration at the Conservation and Restoration Center of the Northwest Railway Museum on 26-June-2010

The reason to come out to the Northwest Railway Museum, though, is mostly to ride the train, currently hauled by former Army RS-4TC diesels. The 9.0-mile round trip from North Bend to Snoqualmie Falls and back makes for a leisurely 70-minute ride. While the line may be best known for its tree-obscured view of Snoqualmie Falls, the best views are of the Snoqualmie Valley below the falls (which featured a Peregrine Falcon watching the train on my trip), and of Mount Si (famous from the "Twin Peaks" television show), visible from many locations on the line.

Mount Si appeared beyond the south fork of the Snoqualmie River as viewed from a Northwest Railway Museum excursion train on 26-June-2010

The real treat for younger riders was hiding, though--Thomas was on hand for his upcoming visit in July. For more information on the excursions and the Day Out with Thomas, see the Northwest Railway Museum web site.

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