Museum to rebuild piece of mining history

A more than 90-year-old visitor has arrived in Snoqualmie for some much-needed TLC - and no, the guest isn't here to enjoy a Salish Lodge spa package.

On Friday, Jan. 25, a deteriorating coal car rolled into town. The 3-foot by 7-foot, 1,000-pound piece of history, which normally lives at the Renton History Museum, will spend the next two months in Snoqualmie as staff from the Northwest Railway Museum reconstruct it.

"The idea is to have it look like it would have looked when it was shiny and new," said the Railway Museum's collection care manager, Bill Hall, who will lead the project. "We want it back to essentially new condition."

The car used to haul coal in the Black Diamond mines, located southeast of Renton. It was sealed in the mine for decades until it was retrieved in the 1970s. The Black Diamond Historical Society donated the car to the Renton History Museum, where volunteers replaced its original wood that had rotted. For decades the car was a fixture outside the museum, greeting visitors.

"It was outside for more than 20 years as a symbol of Renton's economic roots in coal mining," said Renton History Museum supervisor Elizabeth Stewart.

Exposure to harsh weather led to further structural deterioration of the car, so in the late 1990s, museum staff moved it to indoor storage. Last year, they discovered that the car's wood was badly splintered and was infested by small insects.

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