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An excavator clears away brush and
organic soil in preparation for GeoPier
piles.

On an unremarkable and cloudy day in March 2016, an excavator was delivered to the Railway History Center on Stone Quarry Road in Snoqualmie.  It attracted little notice from Mt. Si high school students, who sped along Stone Quarry Road in the parent’s cars at their usual speeds, which rivaled those attained by Amtrak Cascades.  Yet the excavator was soon meaningfully changing the way the Northwest Railway Museum will operate in the future.  The excavator was on site to begin building a public parking lot, and to clear and grade the footprint for the new Railway Education Center (“REC”), the third building on the Railway History Center campus.

Railway Education Center rendering
developed by Miller|Hull.

The REC will be a modern building designed to appear similar to a train station, but using a modern architectural flavor developed by designers at the Miller|Hull PartnershipIt is a project valued at nearly $3 million, and is moving to construction after a lengthy permitting process, and the time required to secure construction financing.  The general contractor is Kirtley-Cole, who is experienced in the construction of institutional buildings of this size. Construction began in earnest in mid March, and will hit its peak in early summer.  The project is scheduled to reach substantial completion in early fall 2016, but many uncontrollable factors including weather could affect the completion date.

Parking lot construction adjacent to
Stone Quarry Road begins to take
shape.

Fundamentally, it will be a tool to expand public access and improve preservation.  It will house essential facilities and services including public restrooms, admissions, and a small gift shop, but it will also incorporate an environmentally-controlled archival vault to preserve the Museum’s irreplaceable collection of photographs, documents, and books that illustrate, interpret and document the railway history of the Pacific Northwest.  A reading room will be provided to allow students and other researchers to access the collection.  The collection lab will be used to process and conserve small objects and paper-based materials.  A classroom will provide for lectures, presentations, tours, and school groups to congregate and learn about regional railway history. 

First floor layout.  Library and archives
will be located on the second floor.

The REC is a facility that addresses needs first identified when the Museum was founded in 1957.  Its design has been under development for more than seven years; it is being constructed between the Conservation and Restoration Center (2007) and the Train Shed (2011). After completion, this new facility will allow the Railway History Campus to open to the public when there are no trains operating, which will allow the Museum to serve a broader and more diverse audience.  A lack of public restrooms, parking, and program offices are just three factors that have limited the Museum’s ability to expand public access, but which this new facility addresses.

Major funding has been awarded for the REC by 4Culture, the Washington State Historical Society’s Capital Heritage Fund, the Schwab Fund, major corporations including Puget Sound Energy and the BNSF Railway, and hundreds of individuals.  The Museum has additional support opportunities including the upcoming May 3rd Give BIg event (click on the link at www.trainmuseum.org), and  a live donate now link here.  Your support will help expand public access and improve preservation.