The Northern Pacific Railway Museum is located in the Northern Pacific's former depot in Toppenish, Washington. Since the museum was started in the early 1990s it has achieved many goals including restoration on the NP depot at Toppenish and the acquisition of a good collection of rolling stock and equipment. The museum has seen quite a bit of growth since it was initially established and today offers visitors a number of things to do and see including educational programs, displays, and even short train rides. The organization's preeminent piece, however, is a former NP steam locomotive that it is working to restore back to full operational status. They have spent many years and much money working on this project and once (hopefully) completed it should really draw the crowds (not to mention the possibility of loaning the locomotive for excursion opportunities).
The history of the Northern Pacific Railway Museum began in 1989 when a local group of train enthusiasts formed the Yakima Valley Rail and Steam Museum Association (YVR&S), with the goal of purchasing the dilapidated Toppenish depot and save it from an uncertain fate (most likely demolition). The depot itself was constructed in 1911 and operated as a fully staffed station until 1961 when Northern Pacific stopped calling trains at Toppenish. In 1981 then owner Burlington Northern Railroad ceased all operations at the building and it sat unused the rest of the decade. In 1990 the group was able to lease the building from Burlington Northern, along with the help of the city and set about the initial process of stabilizing the structure and minor restoration work. On July 4, 1992 the YVR&S and city held a grand opening of the restored depot, and a year later in 1993 was able to purchase it outright from BN.
That same year the group leased Northern Pacific 4-6-0 ten-wheeler #1364 from the Metropolitan Park District of Tacoma (which still owns the steam locomotive). Listed as Class S-4 by NP, it was constructed by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1902. When the group purchased the depot from BN they also got the nearby freight house and converted it into an engine house so that they could begin restoration work on #1364. Work on the locomotive continues to this day and ebbs and flows as time and funds become available. However, it is nearing completion.
Interestingly, the 4-6-0 would not be the only original NP steam locomotive the group would come to own. In 2006 the city of Auburn, Washington no longer wanted its Class Q-3 4-6-2 Pacific #2152, which the NP had donated to them upon the locomotive's retirement in 1952. After nearly 50 years of neglect the unit was in fairly poor condition although the museum was more than happy to take the locomotive to spare it an uncertain fate. Not only that but now in the organization's hands they plan to cosmetically restore the locomotive following the completion of the #1364 project and eventually hope to fully restore #2152 to full operational status.
In 2000 the YVR&S renamed the depot and adjoining property as the Northern Pacific Railway Museum, which it remains today. Other equipment the museum features includes an original early 20th freight train of a 1907 boxcar, 1913 boxcar, 1931 refrigerator car, 1922 flatcar, 1908 caboose, 1940 drop-bottom gondola, 1923 tank car, 1929 automobile car, and 1932 boxcar. Nearly all of these cars, save for the tanker, are either partially or fully of wood construction. The museum also has a number of other things to do and see, including an operating layout every weekend.
Finally, they feature train rides during various times of the year, such as during their annual railroad show (usually held in August) and the holidays (during Halloween and Christmas). If you are interested please consider helping out and volunteering with their restoration projects as they hold work days during Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays throughout the year. In any event, please click here to visit the Northern Pacific Railway Museum's website for information regarding all of the activities and events they host throughout the year.
For more reading on the Northern Pacific you might want to consider the book Northern Pacific Railway Photo Archive by John Kelly. The author gives a superb pictorial history of the railroad from the 1930s through the 1960s and features both freight and passenger operations If you have any kind of an interest in the Northern Pacific you are sure to enjoy Sullivan's book. Also, for more information and reading about excursion trains and railroad museums you might want to consider picking up Tourist Trains Guidebook from the editors of Kalmbach Publishing's Trains magazine. The book lists and reviews over 400 excursions and museums found throughout the country and is an excellent resource, which has received superb reviews by readers, if you're looking for one to visit. In any event, if you're interested in perhaps purchasing either (or both) of these books please visit the links below which will take you to ordering information through Amazon.com, the trusted online shopping network.