Monday, August 28, 2006

More on Removing Arnold's Journal Boxes

On Saturday, August 19, Garrett Augustus and Ken and Scott Romine removed the two remaining journal boxes to Arnold Z. The process is fairly straightforward. Here how they do it:
  1. First, wipe the grease off the end of the axel.
  2. Remove the cotter pin (see first picture). The easiest way is to slip an old screwdriver through the loop and prey it out.
  3. Loosen the large nut at the end of the axel. If channel locks don't work, tap the nut with a pall pean hammer.
  4. Screw in six 5/8-inch studs.
  5. Get a chair. A 5-gallon bucket works well.
  6. Slip the journal box puller over the six studs and secure it in place with nuts.
  7. Screw the large center threaded rod in. This the rod that will pull the journal box off the axel. The center rod keeps things centered.
  8. Now you're ready to pull the journal box off.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

El Dorado Narrow Gauge Book Tops $70

Remember the copy Ferrell's El Dorado Narrow Gauge that sold for an impressive $35 last week?

The latest copy of the book went for $70.99 this evening. That's about $10 less than the $80 average.

Keith had told me at lunch today that we should secure a copy of the book for the railway's library.

My concern was that the bidder, who appears to live in Diamond Springs, had placed several large bids after he had placed himself on top Friday evening . My fear was that this gentleman (I assuming he's a man) had placed a very high proxy bid into the eBay auction system.

I was right. Had Keith or bid today, we certainly won the book at a hefty price -- over $80, I suspect.

Since the book surfaces once or twice each month, we'll wait to get a copy for the railway.

Removing Arnold Z's Journal Boxes

I only had a few minutes to stop by the engine house yesterday. An adult daughter is in town and I spent the day with her.

When I walked in around 9:30 a.m., Garrett was attacking the Arnold Z with a needle gun. Sam and Bill were working on a few items in the machine shop. And Eric and Logan stripped threaded bolts from one of the trucks to the Railbus trailer.

Last weekend, nine volunteers labored on the No. 4 Shay, the Plymouth and the trailer. It was the best turnout the El Dorado Western Railway has had this summer.

Garrett, Ken and Scott removed the last two journal boxes to the Plymouth. Dale, Eric and Logan, our newest and youngest trainman, were removing the brake shoes and tumbler bar from the Railbus truck. And Sam and Bill continued in the machine shop with Sam's valve shaping tool. Keith helped where needed.

(In case you're interested, I take keep historical notes for the newsletter and the blog, in addition to being the photographer.)

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Pulling the Pistons

Saturday, I arrived at the engine house around 8:45 a.m. I took my time. Biscuits and gravy at the Diamond Springs Hotel sounded good that morning.

As I walked up to the machine shop, Sam Thompson approached me and said, "Hey, you missed all the fun!"

The crew had removed the pistons from engines no. 1 and 2 in short order.

"I need to take them out anyway," Sam said. Dirt and shavings would fall into the cylinders when he shapes the valves this fall.

Sam left the no. 3 piston installed for the moment

An inside view of engine no. 1.

The pistons inside the machine shop.

Sam is getting ready to fit another piece to his valve shaper.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

El Dorado Narrow Gauge Sold for Less Than $40!

Earlier this week I made note of a copy of El Dorado Narrow Gauge by Ferrell for sale by auction on I said that this book often sells for over $80.

The book sold for an impressive $35.05 earlier this afternoon.

The nice thing about an on-line action like is that you find occasional deals. To find these deals, you have to stay on top of eBay and watch.

Set your personal top bid and wait. Unless the item is extremely rare (or you want it today), you'll be rewarded with patience.

It may take time, but in the end, you'll have the item that you searching for.

Cylinders and the Backhead

I left my notebook at the engine house. Until I retrive it ...

Friday, August 18, 2006

WS&CV Parlor Car Siding

Eric Stohl and Rob McMillan install bead board siding on the West Side & Cherry Valley Parlor car last Saturday.

Rob is a professional carpenter who has volunteered his time for the parlor car project.

Holding the next board in the background is Logan, an eight-year old boy who donated his birthday money to the railway several years ago.

"Logan is old enough now to start helping," Eric said.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Eccentrics on the Drive Shaft

What's an eccentric?

I usually think of it as a person with an unconventional approach to life.

You know the type. The person who wears odd clothing or espouses ideas that don't fit the community norm.

But that definition doesn't fit here. We're talking about a Shay geared locomotive, after all.

You could, of course, say that the Shay was the eccentric locomotive of its day. An oddball -- unconventional in the way it functioned and looked.
Last Saturday, I took a few minutes to talk to Sam Thompson, El Dorado Western Railway's lead machinist.

I asked Sam what he was working on. You see, as a novice around locomotives, I have to continually ask, "What's that slug of steel on the lathe going to become?"

"It's cast iron," Sam corrected.

Sam explained: He's machining the cast iron billet into the middle eccentric for the Shay's drive shaft.

"The old one is laying over by the band saw (pictured above right)."

The middle eccentric is split in half to install in onto the crank shaft (pictured above left), Sam explained.

Unlike the two end eccentrics, the middle eccentric is warn beyond machining. Dave Stohl was able to machine the other eccentrics.

"We'll need somebody to push this thing through the band saw -- that's going to be cute," Sam said.

So, what's an eccentric?

It's "a mechanical device with an off-center axis of revolution that converts the rotary motion of one component of a mechanism to reciprocating motion in another."

Much like the valve lifters in an internal combustion engine, the Shay's eccentrics lift the valves that let steam into the cylinder.

Now that I think of it, railroaders fit the definition. Aren't all steam railroaders a little off-center?

The cast iron billet that Sam is using to build an eccentric to replace the original.

The end eccentric installed on the crank shaft.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

El Dorado Narrow Gauge for Sale on eBay

The El Dorado Narrow Gauge: The Diamond and Caldor Railway by Mallory Hope Ferrell (Pacific Fast Mail, 1990) is available on

The auction ends on Sunday, August 20, 2006 at 2:13 p.m. PDT.

Although the book is currently being offered for $23.99, I've seen this book sell for over $80.

Both Keith and I won actions at that price last year. There are no bidders as of press time.

Wheel Sets Removed From Arnold

I stopped by the engine house Saturday for the first time since I returned from vacation. My visit only lasted 1-1/2 hours. Keith and I were heading to Yerington, Nevada to pick up a 1941 Dodge military Power Wagon.

Over the work day of Saturday, August 5, 2006, Eric, Keith and Garrett removed the wheel sets for Arnold Z, the El Dorado Western Railway's Plymouth switch engine. Both wheel sets were placed behind the locomotive (to the left of the photograph).

Scott had "planned on getting those two journal boxes off" the wheel set Saturday. Several sick volunteers and other projects in progress left Scott with nothing to do but clean the Plymouth.

The journal box on the left. The other pair of journal boxes were removed last April. The puller sits on the ground between the wheel sets.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Diamond & Caldor Ry. Heavy Equipment Moving Car

A North West Short Line model of the Diamond & Caldor Railway's 41-foot heavy equipment flat car (NWSL part number 137-01) is up for auction on The model doesn't include the trucks.

You need to act quickly if you're interested. The auction ends tomorrow at 5:29 p.m. PDT. Bidding has been lively. The current bid is $45.88.

As I've said in the past, we cannot attest to the historic accuracy of the model, nor to the quality of the item on eBay.

Union Pacific's Cascade Route through Odell Lake in Oregon

A southbound UP freight hauling milled lumber products passes nearby Odell Lake Resort on the eastern shores of Odell Lake.

I'm back home after an enjoyable two-week vacation in Oregon. After visiting my wife's sister on the southern coast, we spend a week at Odell Lake, along the Cascade Route of the Union Pacific Railroad.

The route was built by the Southern Pacific in 1926. Four times daily (two trains northbound and two southbound), passenger trains stopped at Odell Station so vacationers could enjoy the six-mile long lake near Willamette Pass in Oregon's Cascade Range.

Today, the Amtrak Coast Starlight passes along the southern shore of the lake. When it's on time, Train 11 comes through late in the evening as it rambles toward Chemult, Oregon and Sacramento, California. The northbound passenger train, Train 14, passes the lake late morning on its way to Eugene and Portand, Oregon.

On Monday, July 31, I counted 13 north- and southbound trains. You can hear the train coming as the three diesel units pull the long train up the grade. Although the trains aren't that loud, you do hear their presence as they pass the lake.