New roundhouse gallery coming to Northwest Railway Museum

The multi-phase project will bring a model railway, new exhibit space and a working turntable to downtown Snoqualmie.

As the Northwest Railway Museum continues to work on several projects to improve and expand the Railway History Campus, organizers are thrilled to share plans for the upcoming construction of a roundhouse gallery at 9320 Stone Quarry Road.

“The Roundhouse Gallery will more than double the indoor exhibit space at the Northwest Railway Museum…[it] will allow improved and expanded programming with many opportunities for the local community to educate and recreate,” wrote Richard Anderson, the museum’s executive director. “The attraction that the expanded programming adds to the community benefits local businesses of all sizes, too.”

The addition of the 35,000-square-foot two-story roundhouse gallery will include a model railway and new exhibit space.

Ground floor exhibits will feature historically relevant artifacts and interpretive themes to illustrate the importance of railroads in the development and settlement of Washington, according to the museum’s website.

A 5,000-square-foot scale model railway exhibit on the second floor will demonstrate to visitors how railways determined settlement patterns and made previously inaccessible regions across the state available.

The working turntable will be the museum’s outdoor centerpiece and main attraction. It will turn locomotives and cars for visitors’ viewing pleasure and allow operators to access tracks in the adjacent roundhouse.

At the peak of train travel, there were over 3,000 roundhouses in the United States, according to “A Definitive History of the American Roundhouse,” written by railroad historian Timothy Starr in 2022. Only 200 remain standing, a number that declines every year.

While the museum has raised nearly $10 million for the project so far, it will seek another $40 million from foundation grants, public grants, individual donations, special events and museum admission fees, Anderson wrote.

Clearing and grading at the 6.3-acre site to make way for the gallery was initially expected to start this summer, followed by construction efforts beginning in 2025, according to the city of Snoqualmie. However, the museum has experienced delays with its permit application process.

“We are hopeful [the city of Snoqualmie] will be able to address our permit in a timely fashion that could allow site preparation to take place this year,” Anderson wrote. “We are unsure about the timeline because normally, we would have already gone out to bid for a summertime project. However, we remain optimistic.”

Currently, the museum is focusing on the Snoqualmie Depot, which requires a new roof and several other upgrades. Contractors will begin removing the old roof in June and installing new gutters and shingles.

The project, valued at $400,000, is supported partially by grants from the Department of Archeology and Historic Preservation and King County 4Culture.