I love the sound of the train’s horn.
There’s something so evocative about it—the announcement of a journey about to begin, or of the arrival of newcomers and merrymakers to our downtowns in North Bend and Snoqualmie. Maybe it takes me back to my roots in the Lewis-Clark Valley, where freight trains ran before the era changed. Or the journey I took back to my family’s roots in Montana aboard a red-eye AmTrak in Spokane. I’m sure I’m not alone in getting a deep sense of nostalgia whenever I hear that whistle, which is one the truly classic sounds of the Upper Snoqualmie Valley.
Locals have the chance to make a new train siren sound in the Valley this summer, through one of the Northwest Railway Museum’s annual fundraisers.
Once again, the Snoqualmie-based museum is taking part in the Seattle Foundation’s single-day GiveBIG event, which asks people to give to deserving charities over a one-day period. The museum has entered contests like this in the past to raise money for its Chapel Car restoration project, and hosted gala parties for its efforts. However, this is the first time a museum fundraiser has helped a special event for Railroad Days—money raised this year brings a steam locomotive to the festival, for the first time. It’s a possible prelude to the museum getting its own steam train for the collection.
The museum doesn’t just curate old machines, they tell the stories of how we got here. If you don’t know where you’re from, you don’t know where you’re going. And at the same time, the museum is helping us get there.
Since 1957, the train museum has drawn more than 127,000 visitors to see and ride its train collection. After the Falls, it is the key tourist draw in the Valley, and its programs probably bring more people to the downtown’s streets and business than the Falls does. All those cars and families mean a lot to the health and vibrancy of our downtown, which to date boasts more empty storefronts than I’d like to see. With the museum one of the biggest, if you’ll pardon the puns, economic locomotives of Snoqualmie, the one-day GiveBig promotion is a worthy cause.
Why should we help?
First, Snoqualmie has something to prove with its local festivals. North Bend has really wowed in recent years with its new Block Party, the Adventure Sport Festivals, and music events like last week’s Blues Walk for the Boxley’s Music Fund.
Snoqualmie is, for the moment, the bigger town, yet for all its strengths, it needs to do something to enliven downtown. Railroad Days, held this August 15-17, is the city’s main festival, yet it doesn’t draw the masses in the same way North Bend’s Block Party and Festival at Mount Si do. A few years ago, the Railway Museum took on the role of main organizer, with the committee, and, through its historical events and rides, is really stepping up to integrate its history-preserving, tourist-attracting role into the downtown festival.
The GiveBIG promotion, bringing a vintage steam train all the way from California to the depot, is the latest manifestation of that effort. Your donation to that effort is a way of telling the museum and Snoqualmie that you support what they do and want to see a vibrant historic downtown and community.
When you hear that steam train blast, that’s not only the sound of history come to life—it’s the sound of a community that cares about history and its future.
The Railway Museum has posted about the event and the SCPC No. 2 engine on its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/trainmuseum.
You can donate directly at www.seattlefoundation.org/npos/Pages/NorthwestRailwayMuseum.aspx.