Sunday, January 28, 2007

A Productive Week

The crew of the El Dorado Western Railway capped a productive week with a hearty meal yesterday. It began with the donation of 1,500 feet of rail to the railway Monday. The meal was a reward for an action-filled week.

Nine crewmen gathered at the engine house to continue work on two locomotives. The railway is currently in possession of three engines, as follows:

  • Diamond & Caldor No. 4, 2-truck Shay (CN 1896), built in 1907
  • Arnold Z, the Plymouth, switcher from Glenn Bell's West Side & Cherry Valley Railroad (possibly the No. 11 according to John Barnhill)
  • Michigan-California Lumber Co. No. 6, a 0-4-0T Porter (CN 2044), built in 1899

A fourth, the Diamond & Caldor Tally Ho No. 10 railbus, is owned by the El Dorado County Historical Museum. EDWRF Vice-President Keith Berry announced Saturday that the El Dorado County Museum Commission approved funding to restore the railbus to its original Diamond & Caldor configuration.

The commission released the initial $1,000 to purchase metal to restore the steel cab and frame. Future funds will be available to rebuild the Waukesha engine and redesign a new brake system. (I mistakenly reported the engine as a Waukesha. See this post and this one.)

The Plymouth crew of Garrett, Ken and Scott continued work on Arnold. They were able to move both wheel sets to spot where we can load them on one of the pick up trucks. Garrett has working with a few Sacramento machine shops to turn the wheels. They closed the day chipping and priming one side of the locomotive's large steel frame.

Welder Dale continued building another set of saw horses. This set will stand 4 feet above ground level. We plan to use this set to access the high points on the No. 4.

Dale also built a second chop saw stand. Since the railway has a large stock of old boiler flues, we plan to build several saw horse sets for our supporters. If interested, please contact me at my email address (Steve -at- President Eric Stohl has not set a donation price yet.

Sam's "Rube Goldberg" valve shaper is nearing completion after 15 months of trail and error design and construction. Sam and Bill spent Saturday installing the pneumatic controls to the shaper. We expect a test run soon.

Housekeeping work also continued. Keith vacuumed about 10 pounds of bead material from the bead blaster. He then poured a fresh 50-pound bag into the machine. His next project is to clean the brake parts to the flat car.

I have more news, including the donation of 1,500-feet of high-grade rail to the foundation. I'll post more news through the week.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Meal Time at the Engine House

Here's what happens when noontime rolls around at the El Dorado Western Engine House:

About noon, I commented to EDWRF President Eric Stohl that the crew was sticking around for the meal. Eric (in white coveralls) didn't seem that amused. "Yea, but I loosing productivity here!" I think the crew ignored him. Nine volunteers (including the cook) scarfed a large pot of smothered chicken in mushroom sauce.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Railbus Plans

Discussion on the Diamond & Caldor Railway Tally Ho Railbus No. 10 has centered around the time period we select for the focus of our restoration. In 40 years of service to four railroads, the railbus has gone through three major configurations.

D&C master mechanic Arlie Smith built it in 1929 with no roof or projection from the elements (see photos from Ferrell's book below). Smith later added a steel roof, enclosed engineer's station and added fabric sides for inclement weather.

After Hal Wilmunder purchased it in the early 1950s, he first operated it on his private Antelope & Western Railroad at his Antelope, California home. He later used on the Camino, Cable and Northern Railroad in Camino, California from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Wilmunder enclosed the sides and moved the entrance to the rear.

The railbus served back east during the late 1970s and through the 1980s. I believe it was with the East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad Historical Society. They purchased the railbus from Wilmunder.

Dale Mace and Keith Berry discuss their approach to restoration of the railbus. We plan to restore the Tally Ho to its second major configuration. As much as possible, the El Dorado Western plans to restore the railbus to the configuration in the lower photographs. This is a page out of El Dorado Narrow Gauge: The Diamond & Caldor Railway, by Mallory Hope Ferrell (Pacific Fast Mail: Edmonds, Wash., 1990).

Keith and Dale have already began to make cut marks for Dale's welding torch. The remains of Wilmunder's CC&N logo is still visible.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Trestles on the Steely Fork Branch Line

Once the rails of the Diamond & Caldor Railway reached Caldor, some 34 rail miles east of Diamond Springs, three main feeder lines fanned to the north, east and south of the mill. The California Door Company used these lines to haul the freshly cut logs to its mill each day during the six to seven month logging season.

One of these feeder lines is still viable in the Eldorado National Forest several miles east of Grizzly Flat. The Steely Fork line ran northwest from the mill. At its northern most limit, it reached Bear Meadow.

The narrow-gauge expansion began in 1907. The line encompassed some 50 miles of logging spurs. The line allowed the company to log along North and South Steely creeks to Capps Crossing on the North Fork of the Consumnes River. The line reached Long Canyon and Bear Meadow to the west.

The Steely Fork line heads to the west as it climbs out of the Steely Fork canyon. This cut is found a hundred feet west of the ruins of the river trestle. The Steely Fork trestle crossed the river just west of the confluence of the North and South Steely creeks.

One of the few trestle bents that's remains upright. All four trestles collapsed years ago. Today the heavy timbers are slowly rotting.

The first trestle can be reached after a 10 minute hike from the Trestle Trail trail head. It's still possible to see some organization to the heavy bridge timbers on the ground. I was able to count a dozen or more bents at this trestle site. Most of the timbers (10x10 or larger) are in very good condition considering it's been 54 years since abandonment.

Bridge timbers are lined up on the ground between the eastern and western landings. This picture looks to the east.

Cross-posted at 'Round the Chuckbox blog.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Slow Work at the Engine House

I've made the comment several times on this blog, "Today was another slow day at the engine house." The crew at the El Dorado Western has been going through a work slump since late November.

Like most slow periods, this one will pass as the weather warms and the tempo of work gradually increases until summer.

The four or five crewmen that have come to the engine house each Saturday work on an assortment of odd projects. Little work is being done on the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 or on Arnold at this time.

The first two Saturday this month have averaged five volunteers each. Dale Mace, Sam Thompson and Bill Rodgers are the only trainmen doing any productive work. Dale finished the third saw horse and matching saw stand yesterday. He is building the saw horse from discarded boiler flue pipes (pictured above).

The rest -- Eric Stohl, Keith Berry, Garrett Augustus and myself -- have spent our time talking about the future. Last week, Eric, Garrett and I spent an hour pacing out a layout for an 18-inch gauge rail line that we hope to set up at the county fair this June.

EDWRF board member Harold Kiser stopped by the engine house both Saturdays. Harold also serves as the president of museum commission. He and Eric surveyed the museum's "historic junk collection" in the shed on museum property.

We are looking forward to a productive weekend soon. Once the Sacramento-Elk Grove team returns from their long winter break, work will resume on the Plymouth switcher.

I have a newsletter to write. Keith will continue feeding parts into the bead blaster. And Eric and Dale will complete work on the first truck to the flatcar.

Soup in the Engine House

My career has been based on cooking for crowds, not railroading. While railroading has been a pastime since childhood, my comfort has always come from commercial kitchens. My pending retirement (in a year or two) from the California prison system will give me an opportunity to cook again.

EDWRF Vice-President Keith Berry told me one day two summers ago that they often made chili on the pot belly stove in the engine house. So when I joined the El Dorado Western Railway in August 2005, it made sense to bring my chuckbox to the engine house on occasion. (I secretely think that's the main reason Keith recruited me!)

I thought a thick potato soup with leeks would warm the trainmen at the El Dorado Western engine house around noon. Like the loggers who ate in the camp kitchens of the California Door Company, our workers appreciate a hearty meal that fills the belly and warms the soul.

Yesterday was the second time I've brought my camp cooking gear to the engine house. The first was to cook chili and cornbread for a rare Saturday board last February.

Keith and I are already talking about a second soup fest on one of our larger volunteer weekends.

The recipe for potato leek soup is found on my personal blog at 'Round the Chuckbox. The recipe and blog about the chuckwagon chili is found here.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Trestle Trail

This afternoon I took advantage of a light snow pack in the old logging area of the California Door Company. I've been looking for a weekend where I could survey the Trestle Trail in Eldorado National Forest east of the community of Grizzly Flat.

Very little evidence of the Diamond & Caldor Railway and its parent company, California Door Company, remain in the forest. Trestle Trail is a hiking trail that travels along one of the logging company's main feeder lines north of Caldor.

Here are three photos of our hike:

To access Trestle Trail, take Capps Crossing Road from Grizzly Flat to Forest Road 9N86. Continue east along the road for a half mile. Turn right onto Road 9N86A. An abandoned vehicle about three-tenths of a mile down the road partially blocks the road.

After you drive another half mile (or so -- I didn't clock it), you'll see this sign to the left up on the old railroad grade. Park your car in the wide spot and hike the trail.

Partially buried railroad ties are visible a few hundred feet from the trail head. Please don't disturb the ties.

You can visualize a Shay locomotive pulling a consist of empty skels up the grade toward Camp Webster.

Here's what the Eldorado National Forest website has to say about the trail:

Trestle Trail: Follow the Capps Crossing Road from Grizzly Flat or the North South Road (Forest Route 6) to the dirt road 9N36. Turn south on this road and stay to the right for approximately one-half mile to the trailhead. This pleasant foot trail follows a railroad grade for 1.2 miles to the site of the main bridge (removed) over Steely Fork Creek. The trail is in excellent condition, and passes three collapsed trestles (wooden railroad bridges) on the steep hillside. Return to the trailhead along the same route.