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Northern Pacific Railway Museum Visit 6/19/2011

by Chris Guenzler

Bob and Elizabeth left Yakima right after me but I took Interstate 82 to the Wapato exit and they took US Highway 97. I beat them to Wapato then called them to let them know I would meet them in Toppenish.

The Northern Pacific Wapato station built in 1927, which was founded as Simcoe in 1885 but changed to Wapato in 1903 to eliminate U.S. Postal Service confusion with Fort Simcoe. From here I made my way out to US Highway 97 and headed to Toppenish where I found the Northern Pacific Railway Museum. I called Elizabeth to give her directions to the museum and took a few pictures of the station while I waited.

Northern Pacific Railway Museum 6/19/2011

The BNSF sign for Toppenish.

Two views of the Toppenish station built in 1911.

A brief history

The Toppenish railroad depot was built by the Northern Pacific Railway in 1911. For 50 years it served as the transportation center of the community. As automobile, bus and airplane service increased, railroad transportation declined and in 1961 passenger service from Toppenish was discontinued. In 1981 the depot was no longer of use to the railroad and it was boarded up. In 1989, a group of railfans approached the city and the railroad about leasing the depot as a railroad museum. The Yakima Valley Rail and Steam Museum Association (YVR&S) was formed to accomplish this goal.

With the city's help the depot was leased in 1990. The Fort Simcoe Job Corp was able to refurbish the damaged plaster ceilings. Many hours of volunteer work resulted in the replacement of the electrical systems, stripping of the paint from the oak trim and the beginnings of the museum displays. The museum had its grand opening on July 4, 1992. In 1993, the depot and adjacent freight house were purchased from the Burlington Northern Railroad. In 2000, the museum division was renamed the Northern Pacific Railway Museum. In 1993 an agreement was reached with the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma for the lease of the 1902 Northern Pacific engine 1364. Volunteers converted the old Toppenish freight house to an engine house. The wooden floors were removed from the old freight area. Concrete and rail were laid so that the locomotive could be moved inside. Many more hours of work are coming to fruition as the once derelict locomotive begins to take shape again. A 1930's vintage freight train is being restored to display the importance of railroad transportation to early western development.

In 2006, the museum received word that the City of Auburn, WA, wished to dispose of NP 2152. It had been donated to the city in 1958 and had sat in their memorial park since that time. The city sent notices to everyone that they thought might be interested and the Northern Pacific Railway Museum's proposal was accepted by the city. By October final preparations were made and the locomotive boiler was lifted off the running gear. All the components were brought to Toppenish on four large trucks. A crane was hired to load and unload them and the 2152 now sits on a rail spur built for it. As soon as the 1364 comes out of the shop, work will begin on the cosmetic restoration of 2152. Operational restoration will come later.

The Northern Pacific freight house built in 1929, Bob and Elizabeth arrived and we all went inside the museum and Bob paid for my visit. Now we will take a look at the exhibits inside the Toppenish station.

Views inside the station.

The baggage cart outside the station.

Northen Pacific 4-6-0 2152 built by Baldwin in 1902. In 1932, it was assigned as a head-end helper on the Yellowstone Division before being retired in 1958. It was then donated to the City of Auburn, Washington and placed on display in a city park. During the next five decades its condition progressively deteriorated, and Auburn sought to dispose of it. The engine was bought by the museum in 2006.

Northern Pacific outside-braced wooden box car 20484 built by the railway in 1932 and puchased from the Lewis and Clark Railroad in 1999.

Shell Oil one-dome tank car SCXX 715 built by Standard Tank in 1923 and donated by the Washington State Railroads Historical Society in 1996.

Northern Pacific automobile car 4753 built by Pacific Car and Foundry in 1929 and purchased from the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion in 2000.

Northern Pacific gondola 50409 built by Pressed Steel in 1940.

Northern Pacific two-bay hopper 207412 builder and year unknown.

St. Louis-San Francisco one-dome tank car 191119 built in 1949.

Toppenish, Simcoe and Western dining car 453, nee Northern Pacific lunch-diner 453 built by Pullman-Standard in 1947 for service on the new Streamlined North Coast Limited. In 1958, it was assigned to the Mainstreeter. In 1962 a lounge section was added, then called "Economy Buffet", and in 1967 it was assigned to the 407-408 Portland to Seattle Pool Trains. 453 is one of two cars that followed all of this exact path of use.

Utica and Mohawk Valley NRHS baggage-lounge-two roomette car, nee New York, New Haven and Hartford 214 built by Pullman-Standard in 1948.

A sugar beet factory switcher.

Northern Pacific hi-rail truck.

Toppenish, Simcoe and Western Railroad ballast spreader 972682, ex. Burlington Northern 972602, nee Northern Pacific 642 built by the St. Paul Foundry Company in 1921. It is the sole surviving Mann McCann ballast spreader. Spreaders were used during summer to push ballast back up onto the roadbed and during winter to plow snow from tracks. Snow was pushed from one track of a double track line, then a rotary snowplow would throw the snow off the second track.

642 was used on Stampede Pass until about 1985. After retiring, it sat unused on a spur track just off Meade Avenue in Yakima then in 1996, it was bought by the museum for $1,000, and was shipped to Toppenish at no charge by the Washington Central Railroad.

Burlington Northern refrigerator car 9169, builder and year unknown.

Santa Fe box car 151852 built by American Car and Foundry in 1973.

The tender from Northern Pacific 4-6-0 2152.

The bottom of Northern Pacific 2152's tender.

Various railroad signals.

Burlington Northern caboose 12220 built by Pacific Car and Foundry in 1978.

Toppenish, Simcoe and Western caboose 12001, nee Burlington Northern 12001 built by Pacific Car and Foundry in 1975.

Northern Pacific flat car 207564 built by the railroad in the 1920's.

Northern Pacific 65 ton switcher 12, nee ex. Puget Sound Naval Shipyard 12 built by General Electric in 1943.

Northern Pacific coach 588 built by Pullman-Standard in 1948. It was one of the first two cars to be painted in the Raymond Loewy two-tone green paint scheme for the North Coast Limited. It served until 1971 when Amtrak took over operations and became a Burlington Northern maintenance-of-way car and was acquired by the museum in 1995.

Northern Pacific truss rod box car 33547 built in 1907 and purchased from the Lewis and Clark Railroad in 1999.

Northern Pacific truss rod center sill box car 22549 built in 1913, converted to a maintenance-of-way car and purchased from the Lewis and Clark Railroad in 1999.

Another view of the Toppenish station.

Northern Pacific wooden caboose 1065 built by the railway in 1908 and later re-numbered 1238. It was donated by Nalley's Fine Foods in 1998.

Ex Burlington Northern box car, number, builder and year unknown.

View of the grounds.

A steam tractor.

BNSF Control Boxes.

The Riding of Bicycles on Platforms is Forbidden sign.

Another view of the Northern Pacific Railway signals.

Northern Pacific oil house.

Northern Pacific telephone box. From here we went back into the station to see the rest of it.

The North Coast Limited's famous menu item was the Great Big Baked Potato. Hazen Titus, who was made head of Northern Pacific's dining car department in 1908 and shortly after obtaining this position, he was on board the North Coast Limited when he overhead two Washington state farmers lament the fact that the potatoes they grew were so big there was no market for them, as people thought they were too big to serve. Mr. Titus soon ordered all they could grow. He also featured Big Baked Apples, individually-sized lemon pies and other specialties in NP dining cars. But the Great Big Baked Potato was the real hit, leading NP to, among other things, mount a 40-foot-long, three-dimensional Great Big Baked Potato on the roof of its commissary in Seattle. Electric lights caused the butter to glow and the potatoes eyes to wink.

With those last two pictures, I was finished here and said my goodbyes to Bob and Elizabeth until Tuesday then left the wonderful Northern Pacific Railway Museum.

The Trip back to Pasco

I drove from Toppenish to Sunnyside for my next stop.

The Northern Pacific station in Sunnyside built in 1948. From here it was on to Grandview.

The Grandview Northern Pacific station built in 1948. I proceeded to Prosser, filled the car with petrol and stopped at KFC for some lunch before finding the station here.

The Northern Pacific station in Prosser built in 1948, after which I drove to the Motel 6 in Pasco, first writing the Yakima Trolley story and calling Winston to proof it while I had a Burger King dinner. That evening, I wrote the Northern Pacific Railway Museum story and finished it to this point, after which I called it a night.

Click here for Part 2 of this story