Thursday, December 27, 2007

Old Rail Never Dies

Recycling, railroad style ...

I suppose you could say, "Old rail never dies. It gets reused."

Several feet of old railroad rail, presumably salvaged from the Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe Railroad, were fashioned into an iron retaining wall. The wall supports the built-up roadbed around a culvert. This retaining wall won't rust away soon.

Maintenance of way crews fabricated the wall from discarded rail. Railroad mechanics were masters at reusing old materials laying around the shop. It fit their operating model to scrimp, save and repair everything without spending a dime.

I'd say this wall, when amortized over the years, this wall will cost less than a penny per year!

Don't Smell Me, I'm Here to Work

Here's little gem from 90 years ago ...

In October 1917, the American Railway Bridge and Building Association met in Chicago for its 27th annual convention. Among the convention topics was a discussion on the feeding and housing of railway maintenance crews.

Association president S.C. Tanner of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad told this story to highlight the need for bathing facilities to convention goers:

It reminds me of a story of a little boy whose mother sewed him up in his underclothes and sent him to school. He had been going in a steam-heated schoolroom for about a month. Finally the teacher didn't like his smell, so she sent him home with a note which said, "Give Jackie a bath and send him back." Jackie came back all right, and written across the bottom of the note the teacher had sent was scrawled, "Jackie isn't a rose—learn him—don't smell him."
Fortunately, my experience falls to the positive side of the bathing equation.

As a tugboat and destroyer sailor in the 1970s, the captain always exempted the cooks and hospital corpsmen from water restrictions in the showers. The captain -- with persuasion from the ship's medical officer -- recognized the importance of hygiene for these key crewmen.

After all, smelling the food is much more pleasurable than smelling the cook!

Sunday, December 23, 2007


At Vice-President Keith Berry's suggestion, I cooked breakfast for the guys at the engine house yesterday. After a pot of thick, strong railroad coffee (after all, railroad men won't accept hobo or cowboy coffee), the crew ate a hearty meal of orange cream cheese French toast, grilled maple sausage links and orange juice. Keith stepped in long enough to help so I could take his picture.

Read the companion article on my personal blog that includes the recipe for orange cream cheese French toast.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

10 Projects in 10 Weeks

Ed note: Keith wrote this article during Thanksgiving weekend and sent to me 10 days ago. So we're already three weeks into his timeline. At this writing, the crew has completed 60 percent of the projects noted below.

By Keith Berry, Vice-President

The Diamond and Caldor rebuild project is in its 14th year! Looking back, it's obvious where the years went, a perceived short term refurbishment has turned into a major recovery/rebuild project.

Removal and rebuild of major assemblies led to the reconditioning or replacement of parts, which required tools, engineering drawings and support work in pattern making casting, and machining. The truck assemblies, water tank, cab and appliance overhaul has consumed a lot of time, given we work one day a week.

Were fond of telling visitors and those monitoring our work that were "85% finished, and 50% done!" Why? Because we've reached the time for re-assembly and fitting up all the small stuff like mounting brackets, supports, more appliances, brake rigging and such, which is almost invisible but necessary to finish the project.

Recently, Steve Karoly suggested we need a pathway out of the seemingly endless procession of tasks, and we need to regain a sense of organized momentum and staying focused. During the summer, we labored over things like an oil tank lid-hinges, handles and the oil level dip stick (why do people take away all this stuff from an exhibited locomotive?).

So, when you see an oil tank in place on the locomotive, you do not see all the stuff related to installation for operation rather than just cosmetic display.

I agreed with Steve, and pondered the work remaining through visiting our photographs of the No. 4 to identify remaining parts and installations. I decided to push a timeline on these items, something realistic if we stay organized and work as a team. I decided we should attempt the following, to complete ten items in ten weeks.

10 Projects in 10 weeks

Here then are the top ten assignments, not including the on-going machine shop work by Sam Thompson, Bill Rodgers and Harold Tilton on the steam engine valves and the drive shaft rebuild.

1) Fabricate the lower ladder mounts for the rear ladder on the water/oil tanks, ready for riveting (are you reading this, Doug Youngberg?). [done]

2) Fabricate the oil tank retaining rod mounts, ready for riveting (are you still reading this Doug?).

3) Fabricate some base mounts for the new rear deck tool box, mount the tool box to the locomotive deck. [done today]

4) Fabricate new support braces for the engineer side steps, correcting an original poor design as evidenced in photos. [fabrication and painted done, waiting for installation]

5) Prep and paint new oil tank dip stick and bolt on the fireman side steam water pump on the running boards. [done]

6) Bolt down the rear sand box to locomotive deck. [holes drilled, ready to string sand tubes]

7) Locate, prep and paint drive shaft covers. [done]

8) Locate and drill water tank mounts, ready for riveting (still with us Doug?).

9) Fabricate 14 each 5/8-inch eye bolts for the safety chains on the brake beams. [projected started today, measuring and materials list completed, ready to roll and looking for December completion]

10) Locate position and drill the smoke box for the builders plates, that were cast and finished to perfection by Richard Wright in Kentucky. [on-line for next Saturday]

11) Fabricate a smoke stack cover with handle as in photos, which will serve us with steam operation.

OOPS! That is 11 items! See how this type of project goes, one project finished is replaced by another pending project, but the list needs to stay at 10 total items.

Our motto remains, "One part at a time, she goes back together," so now we need to "Get-'er-done!"

As of this date, 3 of the 10 projects are completed, and 3 more are underway. It appears several other projects will finish together on one day when we drill all future rivet holes in the water tank. Coordination of our time on Saturday is essential.

We'll provide a score card to you in mid-February. Thank you to our volunteer team for spending their time and energy on this project to serve our community in preserving the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive.

Drop by some time and say hello, check out our progress.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Pulling the No. 3 Piston

I missed the extrication of the number 1 and 2 pistons 16 months ago. Biscuits and gravy seemed more important that hot, summer morning than reporting on happenings in the engine house.

All I could do -- once I arrived at the engine house -- was take pictures of empty cylinders and quote lead machinist Sam Thompson.

Yesterday, by chance, I arrived in time to witness the no. 3 piston being pulled out of the engine. I say "by chance" because Keith Berry and I had another appointment in the morning.

When we walked in around noon, Sam was the only volunteer working. The only other volunteer at work had left to attend to a medical appointment. All other other volunteers took the day off.

Sam snagged Keith as we walked in to the engine house. A strong back to pull the 75-pound piston straight up out of the cylinder would only take a minute or two.

I've learned as the photographer one must act fast. It took Keith less than a minute to position his large frame on top of the engines. I would've missed the picture had I not jumped on the deck of the locomotive at ahead of him.

I lifted my camera to eye level as Keith swiftly pulled on the piston. The action occured so quickly that I only snapped four shots -- two of the extrication and two of Sam lugging the piston off to the machine shop.

Sam is now ready to install the valve shaper on the no. three engine.

Events such as this have helped me learn more about the mechanics of a steam locomotive. The engines of the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 have a 10-inch bore and 12-inch stroke. The engines are considered double acting, as steam is injected into the engine during each stroke of the piston.

Sam confirmed that steam is injected into the top of the cylinder during the downward stroke and into the bottom during the upward stroke, "hopefully not at the same time."

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Annual Christmas Dinner and Recognition

The El Dorado Western Railway held its annual Christmas dinner and volunteer recognition last night at the Diamond Springs firehouse. Although not as well-attended as last year's event, some 18 railroaders and family enjoyed over two hours of good food, friendly railroad talk and recognition of new volunteer.

For the third year, we've held the party in one of the cozy training rooms of Station 49, which is the headquarters for the Diamond Springs-El Dorado Fire Protection District. We'd like to publicly thank district board member Ed Cuhna for facilitating the use of the facilities. Ed also serves as a director on the EDWRF board.

Board member and engineering department head Harold Kiser carves the turkey for the event. Museum director Mary Cory contributed the 15-pound bird. I like the party (besides the food) because it gives me a chance to photograph those board members who don't come around the engine house on Saturdays.

Vice President Keith Berry (right) listens as Ed explains the details in an early panorama of the Diamond Springs mill and drying yard. Ed played in this same area as a young boy in the years after the mill closed.

Keith shares a lighter moment with party-goers during our annual recognition of volunteers. This photo of a Diamond and Caldor No. 4 shows a crewman holding a coffee pot in his right hand. Keith believes the trainman may be related to one of our volunteers who's always walking across the street to buy a fresh cup of coffee!

We always adjurn to pie. Since the party is held in lue of the monthly board meeting, it's only fitting that board member Bill Rodgers contributed two deep dish apple pies from Abel's Acres in Camino.

Drivin' a Consolidation

I stopped in at the annual Santa runs for the Sacramento Valley Live Steamers last week. Although I didn't get a pictures of Santa, here's a few of a Consolidation:

Although its scaled to one-eighth the size of a real locomotive, this Consolidation 2-8-0 steam locomotive functions in the same manner as its full-sized cousin. Owner Milon Thorley of El Dorado, California, uses coal in the firebox to produce the steam. The gauges and valves -- from the water glass and pressure gauge to the throttle and injector valves -- control the operation of the boiler and locomotive like they once did in the Consolidations that pulled freight trains.

The El Dorado and Southern No. 613, a 7-1/2-inch gauge Consolidation 2-8-0 steam locomotive, releases steam after an afternoon of running the rails at the Sacramento Valley Live Steamers in Rancho Cordova, California.

Here's head-on shot of the Consolidation. EDWRF VP Keith Berry noted that by the turn on the 19th century, these mightily locomotives were relegated to branch line operation. They were popular many industrial and short line operations.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Classic Diamond and Caldor Book Sells for $130

El Dorado Narrow Gauge: The Diamond and Caldor Railway by Mallory Hope Ferrell sold for $130 last Monday on eBay. That's a record price in recent memory.

The eBay seller (runaboutc4c) has 20 other railroading books up for auction at this time. Titles include: This Was Logging! by Ralph W. Andrews and The Heisler Locomotive 1891 - 1941, published by Benjamin F. G. Kline, Jr.