Our archive volunteers have been meeting two nights a month this year at Pacific Northwest Railroad Archive (PNRA) in Burien, WA to work with the archival collections of Cascade Rail Foundation. We typically meet on the first and third Thursdays of each month. We’ve almost completed an initial inventory of the Nighswonger collection. Only a few more boxes left to inventory! Once we complete this inventory, we can organize the collection, develop a finding aid so researchers can see what is in the collection, and prioritize material to be digitized.
There are some important developments at PNRA on the horizon that will aid our work. PNRA is implementing a project to install compact, moveable shelving in the archive. This project is funded by the North American Railway Foundation. The new shelving will greatly improve access to our materials, which are currently stored in boxes stacked in pallets. Another important development at PNRA is the arrival of scanning equipment. Earlier this year, PNRA received a donation of three used multifunction copier/scanner machines. These machines will scan documents up to 11”x17”. To scan larger documents (up to 3-feet wide), PNRA is looking to acquire a used large-format scanner. Once these machines are installed and operational, our volunteers will be able to start digitizing documents in our collections.
With the ability to digitize documents coming soon, we are starting to think more about how we will make these digital files available to people. We are currently planning to develop a web site based on SharePoint, similar to the Joint GN-NP Archive web site. We’ll have the flexibility to customize the site to meet our own needs. Currently, we are thinking about different ways we could organize our materials. If you have some thoughts about this, please let us know.
Another archive development we are excited about is our new guidance document for processing collections. Tracy Rebstock, a graduate student intern from Eastern Washington University, is developing this for us. This document will guide our work with our collections to ensure we are doing as much as we can to preserve them and make them usable for researchers. It will address things like how we handle documents, how we store them, how we organize them, and how we digitize them. We’re looking forward to implementing the procedures that Tracy is developing for us.
To give you an idea of some of the material we have in our collections, here is an example of a type of document in the Nighswonger collection. It’s a statement of “carload shipments forwarded from” Elbe, WA (click the image below for a larger version). The Nighswonger collection includes many packets of these forms, typically in one month packets for an individual station. You can see that in addition to information about carloads shipped on December 31, 1930 from Elbe (no carloads today!), it also has information from other nearby stations like National, WA and Ashford, WA. There are many, many monthly packets of these forms in the Nighswonger collection, along with similar forms for carload shipments received. They span a time frame from the 1920s to early 1940s, though the large majority of them are from the 1930s. Most are from stations on the lines south of Tacoma, though a few are from places like Auburn and Sumner. There are also a couple from locations in Eastern Washington, like Hyak and Kittitas. And yes, even one from Cle Elum! A researcher using these documents could learn a lot about the freight traffic patterns for these stations. We look forward to making these and other documents available to people.
Contact Paul Krueger if you are interested in volunteering to help us with our archival collections or would like to donate material. Or click on the link below if you’d like to make a donation to support our work.