Peter Callaghan: Good news on railroad history and school money

Staff WriterFebruary 27, 2014 

It’s Update Thursday here at The News Tribune:

Dining car blues – On Feb. 16, I wrote about the increasingly desperate attempt by Tacoma history buff Dave Burns to save his hobby.

His problems might not be newsworthy if he collected stamps or baseball cards. But Burns collects historic railroad cars, one at least. Northern Pacific Dining Car 1663 is the last of a set built in 1910. Taken out of service in 1949 at the NP’s South Tacoma Shops, the car was moved to Easton, where it served as a diner until it closed in the 1980s.

Burns fell in love with it while in college at Central Washington. He purchased the car in 2003 and moved it to Tacoma in 2006. Since then, he has been tinkering with the inside while trying to build interest in restoring it and displaying it somewhere in his hometown.

Time, however, might be running out. Tacoma Rail, which has rented him space on a siding in the Tideflats, needs him to move. Without a place to put it — hopefully under cover — Burns fears he will have to sell it, most likely to rail collectors out of town or out of state.

Since the column ran, Burns says he has received more than 40 emails and offers of several lots for temporary storage.

“All comments have been positive, and many of the recommendations have made good sense,” Burns wrote.

All storage offers so far are outside the city — Lakewood, Orting, Puyallup and Spanaway. The LeMay family has offered covered space at its Marymount campus, and former Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma is helping work on an agreement there.

While the under-cover storage is preferable, it also increases the costs of moving the 80-foot car. Burns will have to raise up to $10,000 to cover that expense. Still, he said he is thrilled with the help he has received and that he was granted some extra time by Tacoma Rail.

Freighthouse Square and Amtrak — Washington transportation officials seem to be keeping their commitment to work with Tacoma, rail advocates and Dome District business owners on the relocation of the Amtrak station.

This is welcome after a very rough start that saw the Department of Transportation displaying a plan for replacing the most-historic section of Freighthouse Square with a new building (which will forever be known as “Amshak”).

Last week, however, interested residents viewed schematic ideas for placing the new station inside the existing building. Architect Jim Merritt showed that the station’s needs could be met in both the historic west end of the building (closer to Interstate 705) and the multi-story east end that was built after a 1992 arson fire.

I’m still partial to the historic solution since the original Milwaukee Road freight offices are the most visible from nearby arterials and the Link line. But the consensus of those who attended last week was to use the east side.

Either way, moving the station to Freighthouse Square as part of the Point Defiance Bypass project should help the building and its merchants while at the same time bringing the station closer to existing bus and rail links.

No Child Left Behind — I could be critical of Gov. Jay Inslee for waiting until the 44th day of a 60-day session of the Legislature to get involved in the issue. It is probably more productive, though, to compliment him for an intervention that could prove decisive in unraveling a controversy built more on politics than policy.

After visiting Sunday with federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Inslee now believes the state must tweak its teacher and principal evaluation law. Only by demanding that state tests be among the assessments used as one factor in evaluations can the state keep its waiver from sanctions of the federal law.

Inslee’s support for legislation long pushed by state school Superintendent Randy Dorn should finally dash hopes of some Democrats and the Washington Education Association that Duncan could be persuaded to give the state a pass. There is now a good chance that the state will be in compliance and keep control of $38 million in federal money for high-poverty students.

Peter Callaghan: 253-597-8657

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