Railroad museum right on track

The foundation has been poured and the walls will soon be going up on the Northwest Railway Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center.

Scheduled for completion in July, the center is right on track, said Richard Anderson, executive director of the museum.

Construction at the site on Stone Quarry Road in Snoqualmie began on Oct. 5 of last year. The first major element was soil stabilization, Anderson said.

"The trains are so heavy, so we have special foundation requirements," he said. "We also wanted to make it reasonably earthquake resistant."

The stabilization process included drilling holes about 17 feet deep to remove the fine soil and replacing it with structural fill (crushed rock with fractured faces). At about 17-feet down, the ground at the site has a gravel layer. The construction crews drilled 148 of those holes, and the soil surrounding them puts pressure on them and holds them intact.

After the soil was stabilized, Anderson said the crew moved on to building the depression pits where volunteers will work on the railroad cars.

On Feb. 9, the foundation for the building was poured. The sunny, dry day was perfect for that step in the construction, and rain showers the next morning actually helped the concrete, Anderson said.

"It uses water for the curing process," he said.

The crew has started to put up the steel components of the building structure and will be putting the roof on it soon, followed by the walls.

"In a relatively short period of time, they will erect the entire building," Anderson said.

Anderson said the steel parts are all pre-manufactured and cut to length. The walls, roof and insulation will all go together quickly, he said, but finishing the interior surfaces will take a little more time.

Once the 8,300-square-foot, $1.9-million center is complete, it will be a unique draw for visitors because they will all travel there by train. As Anderson puts it, the center is an "experiential museum."

Before freeways, most people who traveled went by train.

"If you were going to visit your grandma in Spokane, you had to hop on a train to do that," Anderson said. "We're giving people the opportunity to experience what that was like."

He said that you can tell someone about the way things were, but "if you make people experience that, more people go away understanding it."

Visitors will be brought via train from the museum's depot in Snoqualmie to participate in guided tours. Anderson said one objective is to eventually expand the museum's operation to year round.

Volunteers who are skilled in areas like woodworking and welding will be doing the restoration work. Because of the area's climate, restoration work on the museum's many train cars has been hampered.

"Some of [the cars] have never had the chance to dry out," Anderson said. "One objective met above all else is to work in a controlled environment. We have control of temperature and humidity."

One advantage from a building standpoint in the way the center is set up is not needing a large parking lot and being able to control access to the facility, Anderson said.

The CRC is the first of three phases the museum has planned for expansion. The next phase will be a $1.3-million facility to properly store the cars once they have been restored. The museum currently has about 70 cars.

Anderson has talked to Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson and officials from North Bend about the possibility of using land on the Meadowbrook Farm property for this facility. Those talks are very preliminary, but Larson said he is excited about the possibility.

"It's been myself or the city who have been nudging Richard for this," he said. "I'm happy to look into it more myself."

Larson said Snoqualmie has been looking into downtown revitalization and the train museum would need to play a big role in that. One criticism has been the train cars, which are currently exposed to the elements and are becoming more dilapidated.

"What we want to do is effect some very notable change in as short a time frame as we can," Larson said.

The third and final phase for the train museum's expansion would be a library and archive for the museum's materials. That facility would also house administrative offices.

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