Imagine that instead of taking you from Snohomish to Arlington, the Centennial Trail could transport you back in time.
A new project from Snohomish County will try to do that — more or less.
With a grant in hand, the county is preparing to create multimedia exhibits for key points along the former rail corridor. The exhibits would be accessible in cyberspace, through smart phones and other mobile devices, as well as a website.
“This way, we’re able to deliver history in a truly modern way,” said Wendy Becker, Snohomish County’s economic and cultural development officer. “We could use it as a sense of discovery.”
The Centennial Trail follows the right of way built by the Seattle, Lake Shore and Eastern Railway north of Snohomish in 1889. The railroad eventually connected Seattle to Canada and Everett to Stevens Pass.
Noteworthy spots include a railroad depot in Machias, near Lake Stevens, and the Nakashima farm, north of Arlington, which belonged to a Japanese-American family forced into internment camps during World War II.
Snohomish County is proposing to use quick response or “QR” tags, a kind of barcode, so people can read about those and other sites using smartphones or other mobile devices. Smart phone users will need to download an application for their phones to be able to read the tag. People who don’t have such gadgets in hand will be able to go to a website, which should be finished by the end of this year.
“Imagine scanning a QR tag on the Centennial Trail and then immediately being linked to historical photos of rail construction in the late 1800s,” County Executive Aaron Reardon said in a release.
The county also wants to recycle old roadway signs as markers on the trail. The county expects to seek bids soon for work on technical aspects of the project. When complete, the exhibits could incorporate oral histories from people who experienced the railroad.
“I have a lot of folks who are calling me and who want to share their stories or talk about other points of interest,” Becker said.
The county also is looking for companies to sponsor a mobile kiosk. The idea is to use a car outfitted with a monitor displaying information about the trail to advertise the trail to tourists.
The county has dubbed the project PASTforward: A journey along the Centennial Trail.
It’s happening thanks to a $99,080 transportation enhancement grant. The state Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation recently helped the state Department of Transportation select about $600,000 in projects throughout Washington, state historic preservation officer Allyson Brooks said. Another $500,000 in grants is likely to be awarded within six months to a year.
“All these projects had to be related to surface transportation in some way,” Brooks said.
Other efforts receiving the grant money also focus on railroads. They include work by the Washington State Cemetery Association to research railroad cemeteries throughout the state. The Clark County Museum is preparing an exhibit on the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway. The Pacific Northwest Railroad Archive is getting money to digitize historical train records.
Snohomish County isn’t the only place working on a smartphone application. The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation received grant money to take a similar approach to give people information about historical roads.
Other recipients were Western Washington University and the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture.
The county estimates that more than a half million people use the Centennial Trail each year.
Two portions are under construction, one between north Marysville and downtown Arlington and another between Bryant and the Skagit County line. Work is expected to finish this fall. When done, the Centennial Trail will stretch for 23 miles.
Noah Haglund: 425-339-3465; email@example.com.