Pacific Northwest Railroad Archive

A nonprofit organization


PNRA's mission is to preserve the region's railroad heritage & make it accessible to everyone over the internet, through presentations, exhibits & by personal contact. This is important since railroads established most communities in western United States, as stations were needed every eight miles along a line. Station operators handed up orders to passing trains telling them which sidings to take to pass opposing trains. Stations became the center of towns & with time, some grew into cities.


Pacific Northwest Railroad Archive (PNRA) was formed by five non-profit Rail Heritage Organizations (RHOs) to own and operate an archive facility in Burien, Washington. Through PNRA, the RHOs use affordable space and services while sharing expenses to preserve the histories of their railroads. RHO collection materials which consist of photos, maps, and operating documents, are preserved physically and digitally at the Archive. The digital information is then posted on internet websites for access by anyone interested in railroad history. PNRA is not a museum that provides public access to physical collections. Rather, it operates as an Archive, providing website access to the collections, although researchers can access materials in the physical collections by appointment.

Archive users come from many constituencies throughout the world:
•Heritage Museums request research and railroad expertise to assist their exhibit development.
•Educators develop curriculum with vivid ways to illustrate the past to future generations.
•Historians translate the past in hope that past mistakes are not repeated.
•Government Agencies seek historical information about railroad facilities to comply with preservation requirements to document histories before construction projects.
•Individuals research for genealogy, regional history, modelers, authors, etc.

PNRA is registered as a nonprofit corporation in the State of Washington and recognized as an exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In June 2010, PNRA purchased a three-story, 7,500 square foot building in Burien, Washington, with sufficient space for all Archive activities. This location is ten miles southwest of downtown Seattle, close to the SEA-TAC Airport, and accessible by good bus service from most parts of the region, as well as from two freeways.

The RHOs retain ownership of their collections and pay PNRA fees for use of space and equipment to work on their collections and for other services. PNRA's volunteers maintain five research web sites on commercial servers for the RHOs to give worldwide access to their collection materials. Currently, the five web sites receive a total of 16,800 visitors each year. Visit the web sites at:

PNRA fulfills information requests for photos, maps and documents from the RHO collections. PNRA also assembles interpretive presentations and exhibits promoting the region's railroad heritage for display at museums and community centers throughout the Pacific Northwest.

RHOs active at PNRA show potential railroad material donors that contributed collections are honored and preserved for the future generations. Currently, the following six RHOs are active at PNRA:

  • Boeing Employee Model Railroad Club
  • Cascade Rail Foundation
  • Friends of the Burlington Northern Railroad
  • Great Northern Railway Historical Society
  • Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association 
  • Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railway Historical Society

If you have a collection of railroad photos, timetables, correspondence, maps, technical drawings, project files, etc., please consider a tax-advantaged donation to PNRA by contacting us for assistance. The Archive is open by appointment, so please call to arrange a meeting. Also, if you would like to join one of the cataloging crews or have any questions or comments, please contact us.


PNRA is funded from operating revenues, individual contributions and receives grant funding for special projects and facility improvements. PNRA thanks the following organizations for their continuing support:

  • 4Culture, the cultural services agency for King County, Washington
  • Washington State Historical Society, Heritage Capital Projects Fund
  • BNSF Railway Foundation
  • North American Railway Foundation
  • Boeing Company Employee Gift Match Program
  • Great Northern Railway Historical Society
  • Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association
  • Moccasin Lake Foundation

Organization Data


Organization name

Pacific Northwest Railroad Archive

Tax id (EIN)



Arts & Culture


425 SW 153rd Street
Burien, WA 98166

Service areas

King County, WA, US






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