Project Archive


The Northwest Railway Museum has ambitious goals for the future that will improve the quality and depth of programming. But many projects are completed each year that move the Museum incrementally closer to these objectives.  Check out some of the Museum's past activities below:

Bridge 35 Rehabilitation

Br35wideBridge 35 was constructed in 1891 in Montana as the fifth crossing of the Yellowstone River, on the mainline of the Northern Pacific Railway. This 160-foot through-pin-connected Pratt truss was built to what we would now consider a Coopers E33 rating. It could support double headed locomotives of any size in operation in 1891.

By the 1920s, the increasing size of Northern Pacific's locomotives required bridges able to support greater weight. So in 1923 a new bridge was erected over the Yellowstone River. The old bridge was dismantled, moved to North Bend, Washington, and rebuilt over the south fork of the Snoqualmie River. Bridge 35 in North Bend also incorporates 798 feet of ballasted deck timber trestle constructed in 1929.

All bridges on the Museum's Snoqualmie Valley Railroad were built by the Northern Pacific Railway. They are inspected annually for safety and any evidence of deterioration.

Br35inspect1Periodically, a detailed study of structural timber is completed that includes ultrasound testing to detect damaged timber, and core samples using a half inch drill. A "map" of wet or rotten wood is made to track continued deterioration. When a suitable factor of safety cannot be maintained, the timber is replaced.

Bridge 35 last had major work circa 1955 when the wooden deck was replaced. By 1998, several critical elements were nearing the end of their useful life. The bridge also needed repainting.

By the spring of 1999, the Museum began the lengthy process of searching for funding and securing permit approvals. Funding was awarded by the King County Cultural Development Fund, and by the Washington State Department of Transportation from the Federal TEA-21 program upon recommendation of the Puget Sound Regional Council. The $492,000 project began construction in September 2003.

201Br35Bridge 35 plaque

AA001Bridge 35 was last repainted in 1964. This traditional coating system began to fail in the late 1990s when peeling paint and some corrosion began to appear on the lattice work. The primer and top coat contained approximately 17% lead, so any plan to repaint needed to incorporate a lead abatement plan. The Museum opted for encapsulation and selected a painted system to achieve this.

The Museum selected Wasser moisture cure urethane bridge coatings. This system consists of a zinc primer, micaceous iron oxide intermediate coat and a urethane top coat. These coatings can be applied with a relative humidity up to 99% over a wide range of temperatures.

Most of Bridge 35's surfaces were in good shape, and the new coatings effectively encapsulate existing well-adhering lead coatings. So the Museum decided to specify abrasive blasting only where corrosion was present.

AA036





The entire steel structure was treated with bleach to kill moss and then cleaned with pressure washers. To assure environmental protection, a system of tarps was erected to catch wash water and any grit from sand blast operations.

Once the timber deck was removed and the structure cleaned, abrasive blasting began. The grit selected was Cleanblast with Blastox. Blastox is an agent designed to neutralize lead, rendering the waste mixture of grit and paint non-hazardous. Heavy blasting to white metal was performed where corrosion was found. Other areas were blasted only to remove loose or poorly-adhering coatings.

Bridge 35 intermediate coatThe entire cleaning and painting operation took just 10 working days, but work was distributed over a five week period because of poor weather.

Bridge 35 black paint

The new coatings include 3 - 5 mils of MC Zinc primer, 3 - 5 mils of Ferrox B intermediate coating, and 3 - 5 mils of MC Luster semi-gloss top coat. This painting procedure gives the bridge an appearance very similar to what it had shortly after its 1964 paint application.

Bridge 35 removing cap

Prior to deck replacement, five pile caps were replaced. This required jacking the entire bridge using 8 hydraulic jacks, cutting the old caps into short sections using a chain saw and then inserting a new 30-foot long beam from the side. Note the steel I beam sections in between the piles. During jacking, these beams spread the bridge's weight over a larger surface to reduce the likelihood of jacking failure. The silt found between the piles in incapable of supporting more than 2,000 pounds per square foot.

After insertion work was completed, the caps were strapped to the piles to restrict movement during a seismic event. Work was completed in just two weeks.

Bridge 35 inserting cap

Bridge 35 viewReplacing a timber deck on a railway bridge can be hazardous. Workers are restrained with safety harnesses slowing their progress. Rails are laid across the bridge as the timber deck is placed and additional materials are delivered by rail-mounted crane.

The new deck consists of 141 10 inch square by 12 feet Douglas Fir ties treated with ACZA (ammoniacal copper zinc arsenate) and stained black. Creosote products were banned on this project by the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The rail is 112 lbs/yard, slightly heavier than the "original" 90 lb/yard rail. The heavier rail was applied to help spread load better through great beam strength in the rail section, and by the use of larger, double shoulder tie plates.


Bridge 35 placing deck1

Bridge 35 sign2

Bridge 35 sign1Many railroads used bridges and other structures as convenient advertising mediums. Bridge 35 is just 150 feet from highway 10, the precursor to Interstate 90 and today known as North Bend Way. In 1981, I-90 was aligned and moved about 1 mile to the south. Part of the multi-year I-90 project led to the abandonment of the much of the Snoqualmie Branch.

Bridge 35's original "Ship Northern Pacific Travel" advertising sign was damaged by vandals and 50 years of weathering so rehabilitation was not practicable. A new sign was faithfully copied from the original and reinstalled. Only a few minor "improvements" were made: urethane paint instead of alkyd, oak mounting brackets instead of creosote-treated fir, and galvanized bolts instead of plain steel.

McConnell Construction's Tom McConnell bravely climbed to the top of the bridge to install the new sign. He was assisted by Walt Weaver, the Museum's Civil Engineer and project inspector.


Bridge 35 201

Reconstruction of the North Bend Way Railway Crossing

NB Way xing 3The longest crossing on the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad is on North Bend Way. It is 210 feet long and carries over 8,000 highway vehicles per day traveling at 50 mph.

This heavy traffic really took its toll on the asphalt and huge chunks were beginning to break loose. It was rough for trains too resulting in a reduced track speed of 5 mph. And these poor track conditions were causing serious problems for the crossing signals.

NB crossing fireRecognizing the need to improve safety, the Northwest Railway Museum and the City of North Bend secured a grant to upgrade the North Bend Way signal system. Funding was provided by the Federal Highways Administration and was administered by Washington State Department of Transportation This safety improvement grant included funding for installation of new welded rail throughout the limits of the crossing.

Also contributing to this project was King County. Crossing safety grants cannot be used for crossing surface replacement so King County donated the installation of a new asphalt crossing surface.

Work began in mid August 2001 with a rail welding crew. Individual pieces of rail were "thermite" welded into a continuous length of 250 feet. This continuous ribbon of rail allows crossing signals to work more reliably. It also makes the crossing surface smoother for highway vehicles and trains.

Construction of new railroad crossing over State Route 202

SR 202The Snoqualmie Valley Railroad has 20 private and public railroad crossings between North Bend and Snoqualmie Falls. The busiest crossing on the railroad is State Route 202 that is used by over 23,000 vehicles per day. 20 years of heavy traffic wears out a railroad crossing and it becomes very rough for the highway vehicles.

Xing-WeldingThe Northwest Railway Museum, with the support of Washington State Department of Transportation and the City of North Bend, replaced this asphalt-surface crossing in March 2000 with a modern concrete tub system.

The project began with welding "new" rail together into continuous lengths using the thermite process.

Restoration of Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway Coach #276

Coach #276 was built by the Barney and Smith Car Company of Dayton, Ohio in 1915. It was part of an order for the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway for a series of cars that included baggage, express, and dining configurations. Fabricated of steel, the cars were state-of-the-art and similar to cars in service on parent roads Northern Pacific and Great Northern.

In 1949, many of the cars including the #276 were rebuilt to reflect newer design tastes and expectations of the post World War 2 era. New seats, pastel colors, a linoleum floor, and air conditioning were among the improvements that made the car look like new coaches then appearing on better financed railroads.

276 in 1961

The 276's appearance was largely unchanged until retirement in 1972, although many maintenance and repair activities resulted in minor changes. The advent of Amtrak made the car redundant and it was sold to the Northwest Railway Museum.

At the Museum, the 276 has remained in continuous service on the interpretive railway, the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad. On-going restoration has been aimed at correcting years of wear and tear and at presenting the car in its 1949 appearance.

Construction of Bridge 31.3 at Snoqualmie Falls

Site excavationIn February 1996, a land slide destroyed bridge 31.3 on the Museum's Snoqualmie Valley Railroad. Over 2,000 yards of mud and debris pushed the timber trestle over a cliff and down over 300 feet to the valley below.

In August 1998, work began to replace this missing structure with a new bridge. A large excavator removed the mud and the few remaining pieces of the old trestle. The remoteness and tight working space made this work slow and tedious.

Dowl placementThe first part of the construction process involved the creation of footings to support the new structure. The rock was excavated until it was perfectly flat and holes were drilled to allow insertion of thick steel rods or dowels. These considerations will help prevent the new bridge from moving during any future land slide.

This "footing" area was surrounded with form work to hold concrete in place until it set.