Train lovers can relive glory days at Toppenish museum

The Northern Pacific Railway Museum in downtown Toppenish. (by TJ Mullinax)
(Click for Annual 2012 photo gallery)

For five decades of the 20th century, trains picked up and dropped off passengers at the depot in downtown Toppenish.

No longer, however, is the depot the town's major transportation hub.

Today, the depot houses the Northern Pacific Railway Museum, which offers a view of the Northern Pacific Railway's halcyon days.

Larry Rice, the museum's director and curator, estimates the museum has more than $1 million in restored vintage train engines and other memorabilia. Museum volunteers are working on additional engines that will one day be displayed at the museum.

The museum also holds a variety of school tours, experiences and events to better educate visitors.

"This is 100 percent history," Rice said.

After Northern Pacific ended passenger rail service in the 1960s, the train depot was vacant for three decades. By the 1980s, the building was boarded up.

In 1989, a group of railroad enthusiasts formed the Yakima Valley Rail and Steam Museum Association in hopes of restoring the building for a new museum.

That dream became reality when the museum opened on July 4, 1992.

The museum has a shoestring annual budget of $35,000 to $40,000, Rice said. Everyone involved with the museum volunteers their time.

Most of the museum's revenue comes from admission - $5 for adults, $3 for children 17 and younger -and annual fundraisers including its well-known Toy Train Christmas event, where children ride a caboose, meet Santa Claus and snack on cookies and hot chocolate.

The museum, located at 10 S. Asotin Ave., is open from May to October. Hours for the museum are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday.

— By Mai Hoang