Preservation Special Projects
Assessing Puget Sound Electric Railway interurban car 523
This project will complete assessments of the only extant example of a Puget Sound Electric Railway interurban car. The results will be used to guide the rehabilitation and restoration of this Landmark structure.
Puget Sound Electric Railway interurban car 523 is a wood car body built in 1907 by St Louis Car and Foundry. It operated on limited trains between Seattle and Tacoma from 1908 until the end of service in 1928. It is the last known remaining trolley car from this once important transportation conveyance. It was donated to the Northwest Railway Museum in September 2017 and a 4Culture grant assisted its repatriation from Petaluma, California. In January 2018 the car was nominated and approved for listing on the King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmarks Register.
The 523 was retired in 1928 and adaptively reused as a crew office for a railroad in Tacoma, and then as a home in Federal Way. It was preserved privately beginning in 1963 and has been stored indoors or under a tarp ever since. It was briefly considered for use on the Benson Streetcar line in Seattle, but was set aside in favor of more accessible cars from Australia.
The car body is surprisingly complete, and the donation included several important parts such as a section of replacement side sill. However, extensive rehabilitation is required to stabilize the car, especially to repair structural defects caused when a residential doorway was installed into the side of the car.
Mr. Kyle Wyatt is one of the country’s foremost experts on wood car bodies. If this funding request is approved, Mr. Wyatt will be hired to conduct a detailed assessment of the body including frame, walls, roof, windows, and interior partitions, and make recommendations as to rehabilitation strategies, and to consult on any proposed restoration work. The report format will be similar to that prepared for the Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace, which was supported by 4Culture in 2008.
A parallel “operating potential” assessment will be conducted crucial in determining whether 523 will be a largely static exhibit, or whether it will be able to provide demonstration runs between Snoqualmie Falls, the Snoqualmie Depot, and the Museum campus on Stone Quarry Road. A team of three engineers from a local power utility has volunteered to make power demand determinations and evaluate if current battery technology could operate this 73,000-pound artifact on a five-mile return demonstration run. This volunteer effort is planned for completion by May 1, and the information it produces can and will be used by Mr. Wyatt in making recommendations for rehabilitation strategies on the car body.
The 523 project is a new and unanticipated opportunity presented to the Northwest Railway Museum. It is fully consistent with the long term strategic plan, and will potentially address a long-term plan objective of providing limited demonstration runs on summer weekdays. While it is too soon to confirm this outcome, the evidence that it is possible is rather compelling. The Northwest Railway Museum has listed this project as a priority, and it will be worked on along with locomotive 924 (under way now) and coach 213 (also underway now).
The 523 assessments will guide and facilitate the complete rehabilitation of this King County/City of Snoqualmie Landmark, and will determine if it is feasible to allow battery- operated demonstration runs of the car between Snoqualmie Falls, historic downtown Snoqualmie, and the Northwest Railway Museum campus in Snoqualmie. These eventual outcomes are the tangible public benefit, though publicity generated by the assessment phase will help raise awareness of this rare and underrepresented example of King County’s built environment.
The 523 in its preserved but deteriorated condition is on public exhibit in the Museum’s Exhibit Building. Knowledge of a 4Culture-funded assessment will be posted on the artifact and be seen by more than 15,000 annual tour participants.
An additional public benefit is that the 523 will eventually enhance the Northwest Railway Museum as the anchor attraction in Snoqualmie. The Puget Sound Electric Railway story is compelling and appealing, and much more so with a fully rehabilitated Landmark.
When the rehabilitation is complete, the 523 will remain on exhibit at the Museum in Snoqualmie. If battery-operated operation is deemed feasible, the 523 will receive even more exposure when it operates along the Museum’s rail line parallel to State Route 202.
Relevant Expertise / Experience / Accomplishments
Project is being led by the Northwest Railway Museum's Executive Director Richard R. Anderson. Mr. Anderson has led the Museum for more than 20 years, and notable achievements include the new Railway History Center campus in Snoqualmie, and the complete rehabilitation of Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace, a King County and City of Snoqualmie Landmark.
Mr. Kyle Wyatt will be conducting the carbody assessment. Mr. Wyatt is the Capital (Sacramento) Historic District Historian for California State Parks, and will be retiring from that role in March 2018. Earlier in his career, Wyatt conducted assessments on wood rail cars now part of the permanent exhibits at the California State Railroad Museum (part of the Sacrament Historic District), and is a Nationally-recognized expert in wood railcar construction.
The electrical system and battery assessment and feasibility study is being conducted by volunteers who are engineers with a major local electric utility. The team of three engineers - two electrical and one mechanical - are establishing power demand requirements and determining what battery capacity and charge characteristics of existing battery technology may allow wireless operation. The estimated effort is approximately 50 hours, and professional engineers are estimated at $100 per hour.
The electric utility team has begun work and will complete their assessment prior to May 1, 2018.
The car body assessment - proposed for funding from this program - would begin as soon as practicable after May 1, 2018, and is hoped for completion within two weeks. Mr. Wyatt is retiring on March 15 and has booked time to assess the car in the first two weeks of May.
- People - $3,500
- Services - $500
- Transportation/Shipping - $1,000
- In-Kind - $5,000
- TOTAL - $10,000
- In-Kind - $5,000
- 4Culture Request - $5,000
- TOTAL - $10,000
Project Budget Notes
Requested funding will pay for a car body assessment of the Landmarked-Puget Sound Electric Railway interurban car 523. Additional funds will pay for the collection specialist Kyle Wyatt to fly here from California, and pay his expenses while visiting the 523.
Electrical/battery demand assessment is being performed by volunteers from a local power utility as an in kind donation.
Optional Support Materials
The Puget Sound Electric Railway car 523 Landmark Nomination form is included here for reference. Also included are three images: left side exterior, right side exterior, and one interior view. Kyle Wyatt's resume and budget is attached. An image of car 523 circa 1915 is included, which is the period of greatest significance.