Monday, March 19, 2007

The People's Railbus

Logging railroads are know for their ability to improvise speeders and railbusses out of most anything. It it's 49-year history, the Diamond & Caldor Railway owned a numbers of modified speeders. And its Railbus No. 10 is one of the most unique pieces of logging motive power in California.

So, it doesn't surprise us that a Romanian logging line would modify a Volkswagen bus for rail use. John M. Day posted this photograph from September 23, 2005 on The logger, R.G. Holz, still steams steam locomotive Corzia 1 on a 760-gauge mm line, built in 1986.

Here's what John has to say about the engine on "An R G Holz Company train of empty disconnected log boggies approaches the junction at Novat Delta. Wood burning steam regularly backs up the diesels on this 76 cm line that remains link n pin and without air or vacuum brakes (brakemen set hand brakes)."

Here's Bob Turner's look at Romania steam. The photos are reminiscent of American steam logging 50 years ago.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Saturday Work Day

Yesterday was a normal work day at the engine house of the El Dorado Western Railway, located at the El Dorado County Historical Museum, 104 Placerville Drive, Placerville, California. Six volunteers gathered around 8 a.m. to work on the Shay and other projects.

Here's an idea of what we worked on:

Keith Berry, Eric Stohl and Dale Mace discuss the hinge arrangement for the lid to the oil tanks. I took the photo from the deck of the Shay where I was helping Sam at the time.

Dale and Eric heat a strap for the Diamond & Caldor Railbus No. 10. Last week Dale cut four such straps. The straps will be used to hold steps on the front bumper to the railbus.

Everything worked well until we realized that the extra tank of gas was empty. Work stopped on this project since the local welding supply store is closed on the weekend.

Sam Thompson adjusts the valve shaper on the no. 2 engine. The reddish hue on the engines and manifold is not rust. The color is off on these pictures. (I used the automatic white balance setting for these photos.)

Bill Rodgers assisted Sam until he left for work late in the morning.

I spent an hour assisting Sam from inside the cab. Since I couldn't take pictures of myself, here's one of the backhead.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Cutting New Plates for the Truck Bolster

Last Saturday, Dale Mace used a compass-like guide to cut center body plates from a sheet of three-quarter-inch steel plate.

"Yea, it takes a while to get something this thick hot," said Dale. In welder's term, "a while" means a minute or two. Dale drills a pilot hole when he needs more persuasion.

I asked Dale to show me how the pieces would work. He took me over to the truck and placed the two plates on the bolster. Dale later drilled a large hole in the center of the plates. The center pin will pass through the hole when the crew assembles the truck.

The center body plates will absorb a lot of energy as the truck rocks. They act as a stabilizers, according to Dale. The bolster apparatus is loose enough to keep the deck fairly level as the car rolls along.

The original bearing to the Diamond & Caldor railbus flat-bed trailer. One ball bearing is visible in the center.

Amtrak Interuptions Result from UP Trestle Fire

The trestle had completely collapsed last night at about 11:23, according to the News 10 story. The newspaper is saying that reconstruction will take "several weeks."

The California Zepher stopped several miles east of the fire yesterday. According to the Amtrak timetable, the No. 5 was already three hours late for its 2:15 p.m. arrival at the Sacramento Valley Station at 5th and I Streets.

An Amtrak service alert said: "Please be advised that passengers traveling on California Zephyr Trains 5 and 6 may experience delays of approximately three to five hours due to freight congestion, speed restrictions and other operating conditions affecting its schedule."

I don't believe the alert has anything to do with the fire. As of 10 this morning, I couldn't find any news of the line closure on Amtrak's website.

I said on my first blog yesterday that the bridge was to the south of the river. It's located to the north and west of the Business I-80 bridge. I have corrected my first blog post.

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Update on Trestle Fire

When News 10 last updated their Union Pacific trestle fire at 8:28 p.m., portions of the bridge had collapsed.

"The fire has caused significant damage to the bridge which has partially collapsed," said News 10 producer Jason Kobely. "No trains will be able to use the bridge until further notice, according to fire officials."

The Associated Press reported that a westbound Amtrak train from Reno was stranded in Roseville. About 130 passengers were bussed to Sacramento. An Amtrak spokesman said passengers would be bussed around the damaged bridge Friday. Service may be suspended.

"The trestle supports a key rail artery leading into Sacramento," said AP writer Aaron C. Davis. "Officials reported that several Amtrak trains were scheduled to travel through that section of track and were being stopped."

The cause of the fire had not been determined as of 9:30 this evening according to the AP.

AP news story via Guardian Unlimited website.

Union Pacific Trestle Fire Burns Near CalExpo

The Placerville, California Mountain Democrat reported on September 13, 1904:
Trestle 13 of the Diamond and Caldor Railroad was burned Friday last by a forest fire.
Trestle fires can stop railroad operation for several weeks. Though the newspaper didn't give any detail, the fire occurred during construction of the 34-mile line between Diamond Springs and Caldor. Construction likely slowed until the bridge was repair.

A similar fire in currently burning on the Union Pacific trestle leading north from the American River crossing. Thick, black creosote-spiked smoke is drifting skyward. The plume threatens communities to the east.

"Few details are available on the blaze that began burning just after 5:30 p.m. just west of Interstate 80 near Cal Expo," reported News 10 producer Jason Kobely. "The line is a major rail thoroughfare for Amtrak and other railroad transportation."

A UP spokesman told News 10 during special news coverage that the trestle is damaged sufficiently to close the bridge until repairs or replacement can be made.

The photograph is from the News 10 website.

Monday, March 05, 2007

El Dorado Narrow Gauge by Marrory Hope Ferrell

I haven't seen El Dorado Narrow Gauge: The Diamond and Caldor Railway by Mallory Hope Ferrell (Pacific Fast Mail, 1990) on since late last August. My intent was to come home today and track the book, which had a starting bid of $34.95 and a Buy It Now price of $69.95.

When I got home this afternoon, I saw the book sold earlier this morning, about 10 hours after the auction was posted. The buyer scooped it up for $69.95. That's a fair price in my book since El Dorado Narrow Gauge often sells for over $80 on

We'd love to see Ferrell's classic re-printed and made available on the railroad book market. I personally believe that there's sufficient interest in the Diamond & Caldor Railway to warrant the expense of a second edition.

Sould Ferrell does decide to re-print the book, the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation would definitely sell it out of the engine house and on the website.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Steam Dynamo Spins After 54 Years

"The Sunbeam dynamo lit a light bulb for the first time in 54 years," said Keith Berry, El Dorado Western Railway Foundation vice-president.

It last produced electricity in April 1953 when the Diamond & Caldor Railway ceased operation.

This morning chief mechanical officer Doug Youngberg connected the air hose to the steam intake and spun the Pelton wheel shaft. He measured output at 21 volts. Doug believes once the generator is connected to a steam line, output will reach the 37 volts these units produced while in operation.

Lead machinist Sam Thompson said the unit reached 1,800 revolutions per minutes during this morning's test. Once connected to steam, the shaft will turn at the higher 2,400 RPM, according to Doug.

Replacing the pitted Pelton wheel presented the greatest challenge to the dynamo team. Water had pooled inside the housing and pitted the wheel.

The locomotive was displayed in an unsheltered location for 40 years at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds.

"We had little hope of finding a replacement Pelton wheel, let alone finding a new one," said Keith.

An opportunity came last fall when the two located a decades-old replacement wheel at Backshop Enterprises, Colorado company that specializes in the repair and replacement of steam locomotive appliances.

Doug and Keith rebuilt the dynamo in Doug's machine shop on Tuesday evenings over the past 14 months.

The steam-powered turbo-generator will soon resume its rightful position behind the smoke stack on the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive in Placerville, California.

Caldor Train 'Rolls' Again at County Library

The El Dorado Western Railway Foundation announced today that the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive will turn 100 years old this April.

Kicking off the celebration is a month-long exhibit at the El Dorado County Library. The exhibit reflects on the life of the locomotive as it has served the county these past 100 years.

"The No. 4 has become symbolic of El Dorado County’s early logging economy," said Keith Berry, vice-president of the foundation. "As we approach the locomotive’s birthday this April it is time we reflect on its contribution to the community."

The exhibit can be viewed during operating hours at the El Dorado County Library, 345 Fair Lane, Placerville, until March 31, 2007. The exhibit takes you from the engine's early life as a narrow gauge steam-powered logging locomotive to a fairgrounds exhibit, and currently a restoration project.

The foundation is working in partnership with the County of El Dorado and the El Dorado County Historical Museum (104 Placerville Drive, Placerville, California) to develop a railroad and logging museum and educate the community about historic logging in El Dorado County.