Railroad Avenue and King Street
I mentioned that I went to Ellensburg again recently and that the trip took twice as long as usual. Part of what slowed me down was a horrific traffic jam on I-90 due to an earlier accident.
The only lane that was moving much at all was the exit-only lane to the Snoqualmie Parkway. So I had the bright idea (along with hundreds of other people) to see if I could bypass the traffic jam by going through Snoqualmie to North Bend and getting back on the freeway there.
The traffic jam had already kicked my anxiety up a few notches due to feeling trapped, and driving on a road I’d never been on before without checking a map first didn’t help. I was trusting that I had enough of an idea of where the towns were to get there. The last time I’d been in that area was many, many years ago and the parkway didn’t exist back then.
So by the time I took the right turn to Snoqualmie I was feeling a bit frayed at the edges, and was also thinking maybe I should take a bathroom break since I was already off the freeway. I’d been on the road for an hour and had only made it as far as Snoqualmie, and chances were good I’d run into more delays.
As I hit the beginning of downtown I spotted the Northwest Railway Museum on my right. I’d never been there before, but I’d read about it within the last year on a blog. I figured this would be a convenient spot for a pee break and to unwind a bit before continuing my journey.
I only spent about 15 minutes here. Time enough to visit the restroom, stretch my legs, take a few deep breaths, and snap some quick photos. But it’s a neat place if you have any interest in trains, area history, photography, or are just looking for a pleasant spot in town for a picnic.
If you know what you’re looking for, you can see a few train cars on your right as you head into Snoqualmie from the parkway, some distance from the museum. A path from the park across from the museum heads that way along the tracks, and you can take a walk down there to get a better look than what you get from driving by in your car.
The Northwest Railway Museum is located on the corner of Railroad Avenue and King Street.
Free back-in angle parking is available along Railroad Avenue in front of the museum. I was there in the late morning on a Friday and plenty of parking was available. I’m not sure what it’s like on weekends, but I’m sure it fills up if any local events are going on.
The museum and a bookshop are housed at the restored Snoqualmie Depot, built in 1890 (I think). The bookshop is at the front. The indoor museum displays are in the middle and didn’t look too extensive, but I only popped my head in. I didn’t take time to look at any exhibits or see if there were additional rooms.
The public bathrooms are located at the back end of the building through a barn style door.
In the yard near the bathroom entrance are some traditional wood picnic tables. If you want to rest in some shade while the kiddies explore or eat a snack in view of some train cars this is an okay spot. But there’s a nicer picnic spot I’ll discuss below.
In this open outdoor area of the museum are a couple locomotives, a couple train cars, and some railway carts. From what I recall from the blog I read, you can’t actually walk around in the train cars, you can only peek inside. I didn’t even try due to not wanting to be off the road too long.
Across King Street from the depot is a city park with trees, garden plantings, benches, picnic tables, and a gazebo. With the modern park furniture, landscaping, and blooming flowers it’s a pleasant spot, so if you’re planning a picnic this is where I recommend you go. A bit further into the park is a covered picnic area and the path to the more distant train cars I mentioned above.
While this isn’t exactly a detailed report due to my brief stop, I did see enough to think this is a neat location, especially for train enthusiasts and families with younger children. If you combine the Northwest Railway Museum with a visit to Snoqualmie Falls it makes for a nice day trip from Seattle. I’m interested in going back sometime when I can actually stay a while and take more photos.
The museum has an additional site separate from the depot that, according to Google Maps, is located across from Mount Si High School between Snoqualmie and North Bend. I haven’t been there, but I’d like to see it.
At that site a giant building protects the large pieces (locomotives and rail cars) in the museum’s collection that have been restored. That site is only open to drive-up visitors Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm, and charges a $10 admission fee. If you love trains you’ll want to add it to your itinerary.
Snoqualmie itself is a quaint town with little shops, eateries, wonderful old buildings, and a great view of Mount Si. The buildings and mountain add interest for photographers.
If you want more details visit the museum’s website. There you will see info about a train ride you can take between Snoqualmie and North Bend if you go on a weekend between April and October.
Online reviews on sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp are mixed as to whether or not the ride is worth the time and ticket price. I’d recommend reading them to help you decide if you want to make the train ride part of your outing.
Directions from Seattle
Take I-90 east to the Snoqualmie Parkway exit.
After exiting go left to cross the freeway. You’ll now be on the Snoqualmie Parkway.
Follow the parkway quite a distance.
Turn right onto Railroad Avenue which takes you into downtown Snoqualmie. (You can go left instead here to get to Snoqualmie Falls.)
Snoqualmie Depot and the park are on King Street, to your right just as you hit the main stretch of downtown.
10 am – 5pm daily (Except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.)
No admission fee at the depot, but donations happily accepted.
Once back on the road to North Bend I hit another huge traffic backup. The main traffic light in Bend had stalled all of us trying to get around the freeway backup. The line of cars was standing still, and then occasionally inching forward at a blinding speed of 1 mph. At one point I was parked by a sign proclaiming the speed limit to be 50 mph. Yeah right.
I did get some nice long looks at Mount Si and peaceful pastoral scenes by not rushing past.
I hit two more freeway backups between North Bend and Ellensburg. It wasn’t a fun drive. But I did enjoy my unexpected, if brief, detour in Snoqualmie.