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Hop ‘inn’ the train with George Washington

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by MATTHEW NASH
Sequim Gazette

As if a near-replica of George Washington’s Virginia home wasn’t unique enough, Dan Abbott is trying to set his estate apart even more.

 

As proprietor of the George Washington Inn and Washington Lavender, 965 Finn Hall Road, Port Angeles, Abbott said he couldn’t pass up his latest endeavor of bringing a railroad back to the North Olympic Peninsula.

 

On Saturday, Dec. 17, a 7.5-inch narrow gauge train with railroad cars runs in front of the inn, compliments of volunteers with the new club George Washington Live Steamers, the Northwest Railroad Foundry and Supply out of Kingston and Port Angeles train enthusiast Dick Peterson.

 

Abbott helped form the local live steamers group after catching the train bug, he said.

 

“It’s a legacy that was in this area,” Abbott said. “The trains are all gone, but this is one way to keep the legacy alive.”

 

Organizers hope the one-day event builds interest and membership toward a future permanent installation.

 

When Abbott and his wife, Janet, bought the property in 2002, it was simply a field, but a series of projects brought in the lavender store, inn and lavender fields with 2,000 plants.

 

He learned of the train hobby from the Kingston club and reading about the North Olympic Peninsula Railroaders, a miniature train club operating out of Sequim.

 

He recently tried out Peterson’s private large track west of Port Angeles. Riding and driving the train, he said, was thrilling.

 

“Just something about seeing the steam go,” Abbott said, that led him to his own track.

 

George Washington Live Steamers is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Abbott is allowing the club to develop the train on his property for a modest amount. Donations are accepted at the event to support the future installation.

 

Dick Wolf, a member of both local train groups, said a handful of people are interested so far, but they are looking for more people from outside the club.

 

“I hear stories about other tracks in the area, but this is the first open to the public,” Wolf said.

 

Abbott plans to tie the train into his Washington Lavender farm, part of the Sequim Lavender Farmers Association, which runs the Sequim Lavender Farm Faire. This was Washington Lavender’s first year on the Farms on Tour.

 

“Every farm wants to do something unique and when I saw this possibility, I thought, what a perfect place to have a train,” he said.

 

Washington Lavender is zoned for agricultural purposes and Abbott feels the trains would be a great addition to link lavender and agritourism.

 

“Agritourism and entertainment farming is what it’s all about now,” he said.

 

Developing a temporary track could take at least a year to develop. It might be small initially, but Abbott wants the plans to remain open so they can expand. He’s considering ideas of bringing the track around the inn, and/or through the lavender fields and to the farm store so he can haul lavender to and from the distillery. The track they install could run electric, gas-powered and live steam engines.

 

Whatever the club plans, it’s going to take a lot of man-hours, Wolf said.

 

“It’s like planning a good roadway with a lot of soil work,” he said.

 

“It’s just another train garden, just bigger, but I think it’s an incredible use for the farm.”

 

For more information on the George Washington Live Steamers, visit www.GWSteamers.org, www.WashingtonLavender.com, www.GeorgeWashingtonInn.com, or call 452-5207 or e-mail info@georgewashingtoninn.com.

 

Reach Matthew Nash at mnash@sequimgazette.com.

 

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