Thanks to a donation from the city of Bellingham, The Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie is now the owner of a 99-year-old steam locomotive and will begin restoration work on the engine. Next year, the museum hopes to show off the locomotive as part of its collection.
Richard Anderson, executive director of the museum, said the No. 7 Porter steam locomotive had been on display at the Bloedel-Donovan Park in Bellingham since 1960. When the city decided to make some changes in the park and remove the locomotive, it looked for organizations that would be able to take it in. The Northwest Railway Museum was chosen as the recipient.
“It has been donated by the city of Bellingham, they have other plans for the park and they don’t include this locomotive,” Anderson said.
“They asked for proposals from museums and historical societies and our proposal was selected. We intend to offer this up as an exhibit next year. There is no decision as to whether it will ever operate here, that was not our primary concern. Our primary concern is preservation and it tells part of the story of the role that railroads played in the development of Washington state.”
Thursday morning, Sept. 21, the museum had Mike Hawkings Trucking from Sedro-Woolley bring a transport rig to the park in Bellingham to haul the locomotive to Snoqualmie. Anderson said the crew had to build a short section of track up to the truck and roll the locomotive into the truck bed.
The same method was used later that afternoon to get the engine back on to the tracks when it arrived at the North Bend depot.
Once the train engine was successfully docked onto the rails, it was taken to the museum’s Conservation and Restoration Center where staff will assess what issues need to be addressed and what problems it might have that they were unaware of.
Anderson said they do not have a precise timeline on when it will be ready as an exhibit, but stated it will be ready sometime in 2018, just in time for the engine’s 100th birthday.
Anderson also said that the acquisition of this engine was the first large object the museum had obtained in 10 years.
“Importantly, this is our first acquisition of a large artifact since 2007,” he said. “It’s been 10 years, the last large object we acquired was the chapel car Messenger of Peace and we know how that turned out. It turned out very well. It was a massive investment and complete rehabilitation and it’s now one of our signature exhibits so this is following in that theme… This is not something we take lightly, acquiring an artifact that weighs 110,000 pounds, it’s a big decision and a big responsibility that we have taken on.”