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Railroad museum back on track

Surveying repair efforts on the Snoqualmie Valley’s historic railroad, Northwest Railway Museum Executive Director Richard Anderson stops at flood-damaged track in Snoqualmie. The museum plans a benefit ride and dinner next month to help pay for repairs. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Surveying repair efforts on the Snoqualmie Valley’s historic railroad, Northwest Railway Museum Executive Director Richard Anderson stops at flood-damaged track in Snoqualmie. The museum plans a benefit ride and dinner next month to help pay for repairs.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

The January 7 flood devastated the Valley’s Northwest Railway Museum.

But the train museum has a light at the end of the tunnel, thanks to Save Our Rails, a benefit dinner and train ride planned for 6 p.m. on Thursday, April 30.

The dinner “is to get us back on track,” said Richard Anderson, Northwest Railway Museum executive director.

The museum, which collects and restores vintage train cars and equipment in downtown Snoqualmie, sustained more than $115,000 in damages from the flood.

High water washed out 2,000 feet of track and damaged brakes and bearings in the museum’s train collection.

In recent weeks, groups of volunteers and workers have helped rebuild damaged track. Dozens of area residents came to Snoqualmie to help with debris cleanup. The museum hired a crew to use a sophisticated machine called a “tamper” to realign damaged track.

While the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not contribute to the repairs, the museum received $50,00 from the 4Culture, King County’s cultural promotion arm, and $20,000 in private donations from people of all ages.

Piggy bank donation

For Hal Chesley, age five and three quarters, the museum’s plight was severe enough to donate the entire contents of his piggy bank to help recovery efforts.

He was so worried about his favorite museum, he told his dad he wanted to help. On Friday, March 20, the boy dumped his bank out on the counter at the depot, and donated his entire savings of $11.

“I was crying,” said museum marketing manager Sue Van Gerpen.

Hal had earned that money by making his bed, brushing his teeth and putting his clothes on without being told.

“I told him thank you from the bottom of my heart,” Van Gerpen said.

Hal won’t miss any programming this year, Gerpen said. Flood damage is nearly all repaired, but the museum now needs to pay for the fixes.

It was important to proceed with repairs right away, without waiting for federal disaster funds, to ensure the railroad was ready for the spring tourist season, Anderson said.

With Save Our Rails, the museum hopes to raise nearly $8,000 for flood recovery. The benefit night includes a short train ride, a silent auction and dinner. For each ticket purchased, the museum will issue a tax-deductible receipt. Tickets are $85 per person, or $150 per couple.

The museum has not yet decided whether to seek a loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“We still have a $50,000 loan from the last [flood],” Anderson said. “We cannot afford to carry any unplanned debt.

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