Future of railway taking shape

When curious passersby stopped to find out what the hubbub of activity was in the Northwest Railway Museum's vintage waiting room, volunteer Dan Olah of North Bend proudly proclaimed the purpose of the miniature world taking shape.

"You're looking at the future of the railroad museum," he said.

Olah and fellow volunteers Bob Miller of Bellevue and Isaac Farrar, a Mount Si High School student, spent the afternoon of Thursday, April 3, assembling a diorama, roughly four feet by six feet, of the museum's planned new campus on 394th Place Southeast in Snoqualmie.

The diorama, which cost about $700, all in donations, and as many work hours to complete, was ready in time for the start of the museum's railroading season. It shows the existing Conservation and Restoration Center as well as the future museum buildings.

"People are visual," Olah explained. "This gives them an idea of the direction the museum is going in. By seeing all this, they get the bigger picture."

The idea, Miller added, was "Let's make a model, so people can see what we're trying to do."

New campus

Centerpiece of the new vision is a 25,000-square-foot train shed, which will house the museum's collection on four tracks. The museum has secured most of of the funding for the $3.2 million structure, and is now awaiting permits. If all goes smoothly, construction should begin this year.

The shed will take the museum's collection off the tracks along Railroad Avenue, and keep it safe from the elements.

"As we restore equipment, we can put it in there, and preserve it, out of the weather, as long as we are running the museum," Olah said.

Learning to build

Work on the diorama began last winter. Donations were made by volunteers and merchants including Carmichael's True Value Hardware and the Seattle Train Center.

"All the work has been done by volunteers not working on other projects," Olah said. "It didn't cost the museum anything to do it."

Working on the diorama was a lot of fun, the volunteers said.

"A lot of us are experienced model railroaders," Olah said. "We learned a lot, and at the same time, we had a lot of young people helping us. While we were learning, we were teaching them."

Everything on the diorama, which will be covered with a Plexiglas case, and is portable so that it can be taken to train shows, is an exact duplicate of a real artifact in the museum's collection.

"I think it's fantastic," said Cole Van Gerpen, 10, seeing the finished diorama. "All the scenery, all the trains, it's just so great."

The diorama was part of the opening of the train season, which began on Friday, April 5. To find out more about the Northwest Railway Museum and train times, visit

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