SEQUIM — Trains haven’t run on the North Olympic Peninsula for about 40 years, but it might be possible to bring a railway to your house or garage.
Club members from the North Olympic Peninsula Railroaders seek a new home for their miniature replica of the Milwaukee Railroad system from Joyce to Discovery Bay.
The board of directors for the North Olympic History Center, formerly the Clallam County Historical Society, want the club to move the replica from the 1916-built Lincoln School at the corner of West Eighth Street and South C Street in Port Angeles to allow for a full inspection and plans to change the space.
Amy McIntyre, executive director of the History Center, said the club has been a good tenant over the years.
“There’s no bad blood; it’s just a matter of space and inspection,” she said.
“The board feels it’s time to focus attention on the school in 2021 after purchasing it in 1994,” she added.
“It’s less about the railroad club, and it’s time to make a decision about the school.”
McIntyre said the board is bringing in various contractors to assess the building, and they “just want to make sure they have full access.”
The board of directors for the center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, sent a letter in June 2019 asking the club to begin moving out as they explored options for the school.
However, the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed actions, club members said.
Previously, the center’s leaders had planned to turn the school into a museum and to incorporate the club’s train display.
Steve Stripp, railroaders’ president, said it was meant to be an attraction similar to other museums across the country.
“It was a great goal to have a historical layout in the museum,” he said. “It was sad when they had to change.”
History Center president Larry Lang wrote in February to Stripp that center personnel were considering three options for the school: Raze the building, sell it and/or the entire campus, or remodel the building.
They are strongly leaning toward a remodel, Lang wrote to the club.
An updated timeline has given the club until April 9 to move its train elsewhere.
McIntyre said a May 2007 contract between the center and club allowed them free space for five years in exchange for volunteer hours.
In May 2012, the agreement switched to month-to-month for an upstairs area, she said.
No other clubs or groups use space in the building, she said.
Prior to the pandemic, railroaders would share train displays at a train show, the Clallam County Fair and the Dungeness River Festival.
Work began in 2013 on a miniature railway recreation of the Milwaukee Railroad that ran across the area from 1915-1980. It would be mobile and created in sections.
John Kumparak, the club’s vice president, said members haven’t done much on the project in the past year due to the pandemic.
“We’ve mostly been meeting online, but it’s been rough, and we haven’t been able to earn any money (from our annual show).”
Club members estimate they’d need roughly the size of a two-car garage, or 500 square feet maximum, to store the railway replica.
“The plan is to keep working on it in a new space, and we’d work on the homeowner or business owner to handle scheduling,” Stripp said.
Railroaders would prefer to keep it in the Sequim or Port Angeles areas and preferably rent-free, they said.
Working with a nonprofit would mean the space could be tax-deductible, Kumparak said.
For more information, contact Stripp at 360-582-1316, email [email protected], or call Kumparak at 928-961-2549.
Future events for the railroaders depend on the pandemic, club members said, but they plan to participate in the Clallam County Fair, if it’s open.
Their annual show in September at the fairgrounds is tentative, too. It hosted about 2,500 people in 2019.
“We’re looking forward to getting the trains rolling again,” Stripp said.
“I’ve learned a lot about the history of the area through the club,” Kumparak said. “The history is amazing, and it’s been a good fellowship and a good connection for children to learn, too.”
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].