Friday, May 25, 2007

Westheimer's Rule

You've heard of Murphy's laws, right? I say laws because Murphy expressed several "laws of nature" in his work. Beyond his classic law, "If anything can go wrong, it will," Murphy had an uncanny ability to translate into words what every renovator already knows, like:
If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will cause the most damage will be the first one to go wrong.
So, my question is this: Do railroader's live by Westheimer's rule?
To estimate the time it takes to do a task: Estimate the time you think it should take, multiply by two and change the unit of measure to the next highest unit. Thus, we allocate two days for a one hour task.
This rule has application to the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 renovation project.

Remember the 1993 prediction that the locomotive could be steaming in 75 days? By my calculation, it's going to take somewhere between 13 and 35 years to seal the last rivet on the boiler. Since we passed the 13-year mark last year, the project has already entered its "target completion zone."

Here's how I calculated the two limits of the zone. Multiply 75 days times two. The product is 150 work days. That translates into 150 work months, or 12-1/2 years. The earliest our project can be completed is 13 years when rounded off.

But there's another way to interpret Westheimer's rule. Volunteers at the El Dorado Western only work one day per month. That means 75 work days represents 17.4 work months at a average rate of 4.3 work days per month. Multiply times two and you arrive at 34.8 months, or 34.8 years when translated into the next level.

I figure it'll take 13 years on the outside to complete the renovation. However, we passed the 13-year mark some 16 months ago, the El Dorado Western must be ready to accept that the project will go long.

At that rate, Logan and Jacob will be struggling in the work-a-day world and looking forward to Saturdays at the engine house. Retirement will be knocking at Garrett's door. Guys like Keith and I will be but a memory.

Of course, I can't tell you when we'll complete work on the Four-Spot. We keep plugging away on project at a time.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Patience for Railroaders

It's been said that patience is a virtue. It's a moral quality that I've long held in my personal life. And it's a value that I've come to appreciate in my railroading life, which is really just an extension of my personal life.

Like others involved in the business of steam locomotive restoration, we at the El Dorado Western Railway have come to appreciate the virtue of patience.

Early indications told the crew that Diamond and Caldor No. 4 would be steaming within months.

"We figure 75 more working days, maybe this fall or winter," one early supporter of the project told the Mountain Democrat in August 1993.

Project leaders confidently said the locomotive would become a "serious" income source for the museum. Renovation was estimated to cost $35,000.

By the time of the May 1997 steam up, the crew looked forward to running trains on the abandoned Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe right-of-way, adjacent to U.S. 50.

"Wouldn't (a logging and rail museum on Newtown Road) be a tourist stopper - to see a passenger train hooting and steaming alongside the highway?" asked the Democrat in an editorial.

One volunteer "waxed enthusiastic about the Shay, rattling off its specifications, reciting its history, relating the progress of its restoration by foundation members" to a Democrat reporter one year later. Restoration work on the engine was estimated at 75 to 80 percent complete.

Today the project seems as far from operation as it did the day the needle jumped to 160 pounds 10 years ago.

At times we face obstacles that appear insurmountable. These days you rarely hear any volunteer proclaim project completion in 75 days. We know better.

But there's hope for the locomotive.

I remember reading of one steam renovation project that took 20 years to complete. By that standard, we are six years away from acquiring a steam tag from the State of California.

I recently found these encouraging words from fellow railroader Doyle McCormack, president of the Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation:
I thought forty years of railroading had taught me patience. Sitting in sidings, waiting for trains, waiting for dispatchers, waiting for signals, just to name a few. But now I realize that was the patience of hours, not the patience of weeks or months. I hope that you have learned patience in your lives, too, because it seems we’re all going to need it as we work toward our goal of a home for Portland’s three steam locomotives.
There's hope for the El Dorado Western Railway and the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay geared locomotive.

Patience is waiting for the project's completion when there's no light in the tunnel. Like the ORHF, we've experience the "patience of weeks or months" and years.

But patience doesn't sit by the depot and spin yarns. It's built on a hope-filled vision of the future.

Patient railroaders work while they "suffer long" (to quote the Old English rendition of patience) and wait for the day the old Four-Spot will steam.

The vision of a logging and rail museum on the Southern Pacific right-of-way between Diamond Springs and El Dorado has replaced the Newtown Road museum.

While six to eight volunteer trainmen gather at the engine house each Saturday to give new life to the engine, others meet with community leaders and property owners to secure a future for the No. 4.

We may have no other option but to wait for the next steam up. In the interum, the El Dorado Western crew is working one part at a time and working toward the day when vurtue will be rewarded with a Shay running down its own demonstration railroad.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Dip Stick Detail

Here's a better shot of the dip stick handle and locking eye. Next week I'll take a picture of the whole didp stick and post it.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Spring Newsletter Has Been Released

The spring issue of The Dispatch, the official newsletter of El Dorado Western Railway Foundation, was mailed to members and supporters this week, said El Dorado County Historical Museum director Mary Cory. The second issue for 2007, which sports a fresh, new banner, will be in the mail by mid-week next week.

The Dispatch is a benefit of membership in the railway foundation. A copy of the quarterly is normally mailed to each member's house at the beginning of each quarter.

100th birthday party for Diamond & Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive
We will pull the Four-Spot out of the engine house and display her on the tail track on Saturday, June 16, 2007 at the El Dorado County Fair. A little birthday celebration is scheduled at 1:00 p.m. that day. Please come by and share this memorable event with us.

The locomotive, which steamed on the 34-mile narrow gauge railroad between 1907 and 1953, will be in her finest attire for the fair. We are working hard to have her dressed up with her bell, back-up light, air compressor and dynamo.

Let the Sunbeam back-up light guide you as you enter the museum -- it's bean will draw you to the engine house.

Join the effort to restore the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 today
To join our effort to renovate the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive and to build and operate an El Dorado County Logging and Railroad Museum, send $35 (check or money order) for individual membership to:

PO Box 3517
Diamond Springs, CA 95619

Family membership costs $60, corporate $100 and life membership is $500 for individual or family and $1,000 for a business. Annual membership runs from January to December.

Won't you please join our effort for the 2007 renovation season and help us celebrate the 100th anniversary of the D&C No. 4 Shay?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Oil Tank Filler Lid & County Fair

We plan on setting the oil tank on top of the water tank for the El Dorado County Fair next month. Doug Youngberg will be back from his new home in Oregon on June 2 to help the team lift the tank.

The plan during the county fair (June 14-17, 2007) is to move the Shay onto the tail track on Saturday, June 16. We will install the back-up light, water tank ladder, air compressor and dynamo onto the locomotive for display. When you walk into the museum from the fairgrounds, a beam of light will attract you back to the engine house.

Stop by and meet the crew. We'll be ready to answer any questions and encourage you to join the railway's effort to restore the Diamond & Caldor No. 4.

Dale Mace fabricated a new dip stick for the oil tank. Like many parts on the No. 4, the dip stick was missing when the project started in 1993.

The chain will be used to lock the dip stick in place after each day's run. Since a part like the dip stick is easily pilfered, makes sense to lock it in place at night. This saves us the effort it takes to fabricate a new piece when the first is stolen.

Keith Berry purchased this wire cloth basket from McMaster-Carr last month. He bought the model with dual grip handles. Since he was only able to buy a basket with 15-inch inside diameter, he had the basket reduced by about 3/8-inch by a professional welder.

Although we're certain Dale could've done the project, Keith wanted to keep Dale focused on fabrication of the oil tank lid. The welder also had special knowledge working with stainless steel.

It took Dale approximately four Saturday to fabricate the lid for the oil fill port. As with the dip stick, we will be able to lock the oil tank lid in the evening. I doubt the original lid had a locking device as the Diamond & Caldor never had to worry about pilferage or sabotage. It's a true concern for us in today world, however.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

One Project at a Time

We rarely accomplish spectacular gains at the engine house. We tend to measure a successful weekend by the number of small projects the crew was able to finish. We've learned over the years that the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 is being assembled one piece at a time.

Progress is marked one tie at a time. Until we complete renovation of the Four-spot, we'll have to settle for small, measurable accomplishments. Visually, you don't see much progress from week to week unless you're intimate with the project.


We like to see sparks in the engine house! That means someone is working. On a typical Saturday six or seven volunteers gather at the engine house to work on three major projects, which include the Shay, the flatcar and Arnold.

Dale Mace is cleaning the weld on the dip stick for the oil tank. Since Dale joined the project in January 2006, he's become one of the most valuable team members. His skill as a welder and metal fabricator is in much demand during this phase of the restoration of the locomotive.

Jacob Karoly watches Dale install the locking clasp to the new lid for the oil tank. Jacob has been asking me if he can learn to weld. My first response was, "In time ..."

Then on Saturday, Jacob and Dale hit it off. Dale had a helper and Jacob will be able to learn a thing or two about working with metals in the coming months.

Base Lake Bulletin

It's always nice to read unsolicited publicity in the community. This piece was published in the April 2007 issue of the Bass Lake Bulletin. The Bass Lake Community is situated along Bass Lake Road in Western El Dorado County.

Association president John E. Thompson wrote the following in his monthly president's message:
All you railroad fans may be interested to know that the El Dorado County Museum also houses the El Dorado Western Railroad Foundation, a group of railroad buffs that are restoring several rail cars of the old narrow-gauge Diamond & Caldor Railway. It was primarily a logging railroad, but it was also licensed to haul passengers and freight. The group is comprised of volunteers dedicated to creating an historically accurate logging railroad facility, through research and restoration, in the county.
Thompson also mentioned the efforts of the El Dorado & Sacramento Historical Railroad Association to develop an excursion train from Folsom eastward toward Placerville.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Quick Visit to the Ione Railfair

We found an eclectic collection of speeder cars at the Ione Railfair today. Among the cars present this afternoon was the Weyerhaeuser Vail Speeder No. 30. The trolley is owned and operated by Folsom, El Dorado & Sacramento Historical Railroad Association.

The FEDS operate the Folsom Railroad Museum at 198 Wool Street, Folsom, California.

The annual event is held ajacient to the old Southern Pacific depot and yard at the south end of Ione. The Recreational Railroad Coalition sponsored the railfair for the second year. The depot is also the western terminus of the Amador Foothills Railroad, which runs east for about 11 miles to Martel.

The Extra Board

The Extra Board is a regular feature in The Dispatcher. We featured retired machinist and volunteer Sam Thompson in the winter 2007 issue ...

One would suppose that a logging railroad doesn’t need a rocket scientist. After all, rolling logs to the mill takes men with brawn, not guys who wear lab coats.

But I know one retired “senior engineering associate” who’s been rebuilding Shay engines for years. Sam Thompson might correct you if you call him a rocket scientist. But any guy who machined parts for his aerospace industry has the brainpower to turn a 75-pound cast-iron billet into the middle eccentric on the Shay’s drive shaft.

A logging railroad may not need a rocket scientist. But machining precision parts makes you one in my book. And for the record, Sam wears a blue denim apron in the shop.

Monday, May 07, 2007

2007 Ione Railfair this Weekend

Keith and I are planning on visiting the 2007 Ione Railfair this Saturday after the workday at the engine house.

Here's the add for the railfair from the DiscoverLiveSteam website:


May 12-13, 2007

Ione Railyard
339 South Mill Street
Ione, California

Ione is the western terminus of the Amador Foothills Railroad.

Antique "speeders" will be featured along with other, rarely seen and no longer used, mechanical muscles of the nations railroads. See these pieces of railroad history move on the rails of the historic AFRR.

A Skagit car, a track mobile and a Whitcomb locomotive have been invited to participate in displays and/or demonstrations in their natural habitat, the railroad tracks of Amador County.

There is no charge or entry fee to see these historic old machines in action. Owners of rehabilitated speeders will participate in a series of excursions eastbound and return in their privately owned track inspection machines.

A Living History presentation will be made with former employees of the railroad in cooperation with the Amador Historic Society. Railroad history buffs will find this particularly interesting and informative. A special railroad media presentation will be made using video.

The "Hobo Camp" for RV dry camping has been arranged again at trackside. A $10.00 fee will be charged for this unique opportunity. RV parking is available in the "Hobo Camp" to all who wish to live in recreational vehicle civilized comfort in the center of the RailFair for the weekend of the event.

For additional information contact Dave Balestreri, 916-531-7536 or Larry Bowler 916-686-5950.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Put a Lid on It

Doug Youngberg (left) and Keith Berry consult over the remaining details in the design and construction of a replacement oil tank lid for the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 Shay.

Doug made the long trip down from his new home in Oregon to consult with Keith on several key projects. Despite his distance from Placerville, Doug remains active with the El Dorado Western. He plans to work on projects in his new shop for the locomotive once it's set up. Doug serves on the board of directors.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Digital Locomotive

My intent today was to work on the railway's newsletter inside the museum while the crew worked in the engine house. Since the research room was closed, I brought the laptop inside the engine house and typed while manning the mag drill for Sam Thompson.

Barring any interruptions, I should be able to give museum director Mary Cory the completed newsletter by the end of the week. Mary can have it printed and in the mail by May 18.

Join the effort to restore the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 today

To join our effort to renovate the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive and to build and operate an El Dorado County Logging and Railroad Museum, send $35 (check or money order) for individual membership to:
PO Box 3517
Diamond Springs, CA 95619
Family membership costs $60, corporate $100 and life membership is $500 for individual or family and $1,000 for a business. Annual membership runs from January to December.

Won't you please join our effort for the 2007 renovation season and help us celebrate the 100th anniversary of the D&C No. 4 Shay?