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Museum to break ground this weekend on CRC

SNOQUALMIE - When visitors start coming to the Northwest Railway Museum's Conservation and Restoration Center (CRC) next year, they won't be able to arrive by car, foot or even horseback. They will have to get there by train.

Richard Anderson, executive director of the museum, said the museum wanted to make the CRC a destination; a place where arriving was never hard but never taken for granted, just as train travel was during its boom in the first part of the 20th century.

"You couldn't drive anywhere," Anderson said. "You had to use a train."

On Aug. 6, the museum will have a ceremony to commemorate the physical beginning of its (CRC) located on Stone Quarry Road in Snoqualmie. Its conceptual beginning goes back seven years, but it languished in its permitting stage for the past five years due to technicalities and complaints brought by landowners near the CRC site. The landowners contested the CRC because they felt it would aggravate environmental problems in the area, but the museum was eventually given the permits to move ahead.

The $1.9 million, 8,300-square-foot facility will house train cars and engines, which the public will be able to view as they are being restored. The CRC will have the capacity to hold 200 track feet of cars (the museum's cars vary in length from 20-90 feet). While there may be some museum-like additions, such as a small interpretive gallery, Anderson said the CRC will basically be a safer, more visitor-friendly version of a working railroad workshop.

Construction is expected to last about a year, and when it first opens the CRC will host visitors brought via train from the museum's depot in Snoqualmie. There will be guided tours on the weekends throughout the year.

Anderson said he has been able to find few visitor-oriented facilities in the nation similar to the museum's planned CRC. He said there is a similar center in Pennsylvania, but it is a publicly-funded facility.

The CRC is only the first of three phases the museum has planned for expansion. Next, the museum would like to build a $1.3-million facility to properly store more of its collection of cars, which currently totals 70. It hopes to build such a facility somewhere on the right of way it owns along Railroad Avenue in Snoqualmie. The structure would be used to store and protect the museum's collection of wooden cars. Many of these cars are sitting outside, exposed to the elements, with little more than a tarp covering them.

The third phase would be a library and archive for the museum's materials that would also house its administrative offices. This $1.1-million facility, which Anderson said is still in the feasibility study stages, would have to built on property yet to be acquired by the museum.

Anderson said the museum estimated that the CRC should host a couple thousand visitors a year. He said it should be a good addition to a city that not only wants to draw a lot of visitors, but would like those visitors to stay longer.

* For more information, visit www.trainmuseum.org.

Editor Ben Cape can be reached at (425) 888-2311 or by e-mail at ben.cape@valleyrecord.com.

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