Saturday, December 13, 2008

Someone has to do the cleaning ...

Keith to Jacob: "This tool is going to become your best friend!"

For hundreds of years, journeymen used mundane tasks to instill the value of work into young boys and girls. In the process, these young apprentices learned a trade. Along the way they leaned shop terminology, the difference between a mill and a lathe and how to care for their tools.

Helping is a valuable learning tool for Jacob, and thousand of boys and girls his age. I take him to the engine house about every other Saturday. He helps by cleaning shop equipment, separating the recycling and brushing rust off of 100-year-old locomotive parts.

While you could call Jake's work assignments tedious, these are jobs that must be done. It's a two-way street for Jake and the railway. The railway gets a clean shop.

Jacob is learning to attend to every detail and to complete a task on time and in a manner that pleases the boss. While it isn't pleasant listening to the boss tell you to vacuum the mill again, it pays in the end.

One day, Jake will appreciate the lessons learned here. Although he may not vocalize it, he'll express in doing a good job for him employer.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Fall-winter newsletter released

The fall-winter issue of The Dispatch, the official newsletter of the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation, will be mailed to members and supporters this week.

"The newsletter adds value for our membership," said Steve Karoly, EDWRF vice-president and newsletter editor.

"The fourth issue for 2008 closes the year with important news on the recent speeder tour on the Southern Pacific Placerville Branch."

Join the effort to restore the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 today
The Dispatch is a benefit of membership in the railway foundation. To join our effort to renovate the Diamond and Caldor Railway 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 2009 renovation season and help us celebrate the 102th anniversary of the D&C No. 4 Shay?

A Herculean task

"Chop ... chop ... chop ..."

That's all I heard Saturday morning as I drove up to the museum, a sound reminiscent of lumberjack cutting a tree down.

"We got our cardio workout getting that thing started," exclaimed Keith Berry.

Keith and Mark Bruto, the museum's hit-n-miss engine expert, started the Hercules Model E 5-horsepower engine by turning the flywheels.

How many turns did it take, I asked.

Keith turned to Mark for confirmation, "Oh, about 50!"

This is the third hit-n-miss engine that Mark and Keith have started since August. It's a pleasant distraction from the Shay locomotive, said Keith.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Annual Christmas social

Annual Christmas social, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.
It's once again time for the annual El Dorado Western Railway Foundation Christmas social.

We decorated this the room morning and will gather this evening in the board room of the Diamond Springs-El Dorado Fire Protection District at Station 49.

We have an evening of good food planned. Keith and I will recognize the volunteers and present a slide show of this year's accomplishments.

This has been a good year with the recent speeder car tour of the old Southern Pacific right-of-way and significant progress on the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #9

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. The El Dorado Western Railway blog will reprint serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report in the coming months.

The camps were established at various locations along the railroad logging line to accommodate the logging and construction crews close to their work. None of the woods crew were quartered at the Caldor Sawmill complex while it operated up until 1923. They stayed out all week in the bachelor camps and came to Caldor only on the weekends.

Life in the logging camps was primitive, but after a long day of hard physical work there was little time or thought given to recreation. The men were kept well fed with a high protein diet of fresh beef sent in from the slaughterhouse at Caldor.

Consumption of various alcoholic beverages was undoubtedly considerable. The main recreation experience, as time allowed, was fishing for trout in the abundantly stocked rivers and streams adjacent to the logging camps.

The first camps that were established apparently were of a more permanent nature that in later years. Horses and mules were being used extensively for skidding operations as the steam donkey had not yet entirely out their use. The care of the animals, therefore, necessitated the building of stables and corrals, and so a more durable camp complex developed.

Rough sawn lumber was furnished from the sawmill, and the cook house, living quarters, smithy, stables, barns and out buildings were constructed, generally contingent to a spring or other adequate water supply.

By 1915 the transition from animals to steam donkeys for log yarding and skidding needs had pretty well taken place, and the logging camps took on a much more temporary and transient nature.

Wood framed buildings were fabricated at the Caldor mill and were made up of rough, board and batten construction. These were about 8’x16’ in size and would accommodate four men. These buildings could be cross hauled by steam donkeys on to log bunk cars and moved from camp to camp as the scene of logging operations shifted.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Ten Wheel, not Pacific

I misidentified the Southern Pacific No. 2260 as a Pacific. I was under the impression that Pacific and Ten Wheel were the same locomotive class. A Pacific has a 4-6-2 wheel arrangement.

I have corrected my original blog post.

The No. 2260 was a 4-6-0 Ten Wheel, a class used for both freight and passenger service. The Schenectady Locomotive Works built nine (No. 2257-2265) of the 39 locomotives in SP's T-1 class in 1895. Cooke Locomotive Works built the remainder (No. 2235-2256 and 2266-2273) between 1895 and 1897.

The last remaining SP T-1 Ten Wheel engine is located in Roseville, California. The Cooke-built No. 2252 is on permanent display at Atlantic and Vernon streets in downtown Roseville, a town known for its SP large rail yard.

Reference: Richard K. Wright, Southern Pacific Company Diagrams of Locomotives and Tenders (Pacific Lines), vol. I, Oakhurst, Calif: Wright Enterprises, 1973.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Diamond Springs mill

A 14-year old Richard Wright snapped this photograph of the abandoned Diamond Springs mill site in April 1968. At that point, the mill had been closed for four years.

Today, the planing mill is used to store RVs, boats and other vehicles. It's located at the corner of Missouri Flat Road and Industrial Drive. What was once considered Diamond Springs sits on the Zip Code boarder between Placerville and Diamond Springs.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Early photo of SP depot at El Dorado

This photo shows the relationship of the Southern Pacific freight shed and depot to the school on the hill at El Dorado, California. The school building houses the El Dorado Community Hall today.

The SP No. 2260, a Schenectady-built T-1 class Ten Wheel 4-6-0, sets on the mainline of the Placerville Branch. The locomotive is heading uphill toward Diamond Springs and Placerville. It appears to be a working freight.

This and other historic photographs published on the blog are from the collection of the El Dorado County Historical Museum. These photographs are available for $10 each from the museum. Call (530) 621-5865 for additional information. Please consult museum staff for limitations to the use of photographs.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Second ride on the Placerville Branch

CPLT speeder, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.

The El Dorado Western Railway offered rides for the second Saturday on old Placerville Branch of the Southern Pacific Lines.

Given in partnership with the El Dorado County Historical Museum, the event gave the El Dorado Western a chance to tell key interested people and organizations of our plans to build a railroad park and demonstration railroad on the site of the old SP railroad depot at El Dorado.

Keith Berry used the museum's track inspection car to give tours between El Dorado and Blanchard roads. The Kalamazoo speeder was donated to the museum by the former Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe Railroad sometime in the 1980s.

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #8

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. The El Dorado Western Railway blog will reprint serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report in the coming months.

The rail logging spurs progressed outward along the drainages with grade changes being held as low as possible, but could run up to as high as eight percent for short distances when necessary. The spur road beds were not ballasted as they were considered only temporary in nature and final grading and construction were left to minimal requirements to support the engines and loaded cars.

Rail ties and trestle timbers were provided from the Caldor Mill and most certainly represented a substantial board foot volume of lumber production. After all the accessible timber adjacent to the spur lines were logged out, the rails were removed for reuse on other spurs.

All the logging rails were narrow gauge, three-foot width, to coordinate rolling stock with the rest of the Diamond and Caldor railroad system. Manpower was the predominant factor in placing rails and building trestles and the use of crowbars, sledges, shovels, crosscut saws and jacks were much in evidence.

Few records were kept of the logging rail system and it would probably be easier to trace these spurs through the overgrown country side than to locate or rely on any tangible records. An examination of old maps, cutover charts and actual on-the-ground observation and knowledge, however, gives one a pretty accurate account of the location of the entire system.

Logging camp locations and their approximate dates of use were also gleaned from these few remaining charts and maps. Firsthand knowledge, interviews and observation of physical evidence of known campsites were also relied of for some camp locations.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Hanging around

Hanging around, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.

A crewman and visitors discuss engine mechanics during a break from rides. The two-cylinder engine was only hitting on one cylinder most of the time.

The engine ran smoothly despite mechanical problems. Keith and Mark said that they would perform a compression check in the next two weeks to find out what's going on.

It was hitting on "one and a half" cylinders once the engine warmed up, said Mark.

The Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe Railroad donated the speeder car to the county museum sometime after it ceased operations in 1986. The standard gauge CPLT No. 4 was built by Kalamazoo.

Speeder driver

Speeder driver, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.

The El Dorado Western Railway, in partnership with the El Dorado County Historical Museum, hosted rides museum's track inspection car on the former Southern Pacific Placerville Branch in El Dorado, between El Dorado and Blanchard roads.

The ride gave us a chance to tell key people and organizations of our plans to build a railroad park and demonstration railroad on the site of the old SP railroad depot at El Dorado.

EDWRF president Keith Berry drives the Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe Railroad speeder back to the depot site. Each ride took the car 1/2-mile west toward El Dorado Road. Keith then "turned the car around" and headed to Blanchard Road, about 1-1/2 miles to the northwest. Each 3-mile ride took about 20 minutes.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #7

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. The El Dorado Western Railway blog will reprint serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report in the coming months.

The geared locomotive was originally designed and patented by an enterprising Michigan lumberman named Ephriam Shay in 1881. Shay recognized the need for a small, powerful locomotive that could be used to transport logs over steep grades, poor road beds and tight radius curves to the sawmills.

The existing rod driven locomotives were limited to gentle grades and required well ballasted road beds to withstand the pounding shock of the drive wheels, and thus were limited to well maintained, permanent mainline hauls.

The Lima Locomotive Works began manufacturing the first crude, two-truck Shay geared engines on the Shay patent and by 1888 had sold 200 to the lumber industry. At this time the Climax Manufacturing Company of Corry, Pennsylvania, brought out their Climax geared locomotive and in 1894 Charles Heisler in Erie, Pennsylvania, produced the Heisler geared locomotive.

Shay’s head start, its rugged performance and improved models, however, put it well a head of its competition. The Lima Locomotive Works produced 2,761 geared Shay locomotives until it ended their production in 1945, and the argument over which was the best geared locomotive had been won decisively by the Shay.

The Diamond and Caldor Railroad utilized 9 Shay locomotives and the one Baldwin 2-4-2T Saddle Tank Rod Locomotive at various times during their 50 years of railroad operations.

The transition to railroad logging progressed rapidly after 1904 with construction of logging spurs extending from Caldor northwest into the Steely Forks and south and east into the Middle Fork of the Consumnes River drainages.

Road alignments were laid out and construction crews brought the road beds to grade with horse drawn “Fresno” scrapers. Black powder was utilized for blasting loose stumps and rock formations. Because fill material volume was difficult to obtain, extensive use of trestles were used to cross even minor drainages.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Overpriced copy of El Dorado Narrow Gauge

I think the high price of gasoline has infected the world of railroad booksellers. Only the seller missed the message that the per barrel cost has dropped significantly.

Unfortunately, the seller of the latest copy of El Dorado Narrow Gauge, the quintessential text on the Diamond and Caldor Railway, may be able to demand such an exorbitant sale price.

Last year we tracked two copies of the copy of the Mallory Hope Ferrell classic that sold for $110 and $130 each on

This copy appeared today on eBay. The seller is using the "Buy it Now" feature to sell the book.

He's asking $175. Like the inflated gas prices of last summer, this is a take-it-or-leave-it sale.

If you want the book, you must pay at the pump or wait for the price to come down. Of course, you risk loosing the book, a rare piece in the world of short line railroads.

The on-line sale ends November 13, 2008, unless a collector buys it before that date.

It's difficult to predict how high the book will go. It wouldn't surprise me if someone pumps out the full price.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Machining the valve links

Here are two photographs from last summer:

Machinist Alberto Weiss aligns the milling head over one of the valve links to the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive. Here he uses the indicator on the second hole to tell him when the head is aligned over the hole.

At the moment I took the picture, Alberto was five-thousands of an inch off center.

"Now I have the center," said Alberto. To center, he moved the milling machine table "this way" (Alberto motioned side-to-side) and "that way" (front-to-back) until the tool was centered.

Alberto then removed the indicator and inserted the carbide boring tool. He set a towel on top of the valve linkage incase he dropped the heavy tool.

The tool is too valuable (and expensive) to risk breaking it. "This is the only one we have."

Alberto usually makes four or five passes with the boring tool for each hole. This hole only required three passes.

"Until I see the tool doesn't touch any more," explained Alberto. "Then I stop."

Alberto's goal was to make all six holes (two per valve link) equal in diameter.

"That's fantastic," exclaimed Alberto. "I expected serious problems."

"In the top it hardly took nothing," explained Alberto. "In the bottom the chips were really big."

Sometimes a simple task, like boring out the holes on the valve linkage, goes completely right in the machine shop. It's always a cause for celebration.

The last thing you want to do, said EDWRF president Keith Berry, is to patch up a major blunder, or worst, re-cast the part.

This is the part that tells the locomotive to go this way (pointing forward) or that way (pointing backward) on the first stroke of the engine, said Keith. The first stroke determines which way the steam engine will go.

After that, the engine moves in the direction it was set to go.

"Isn't it amazing that this piece was made 21 years before you were born!" Keith said to Albert.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Southern Pacific No. 9

Southern Pacific No. 9, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.

Even though I've neglected the blog for the past month, the crew has been busy working behind the scenes. And we've had time to visit two California railroad museums.

After our a photographic tour of the Bodie State Historic Park last Saturday, Keith and I (and our wives) drove to Bishop on Sunday to visit the Laws Railroad Museum in Laws, California. The museum is located about five miles north of Bishop on U.S. Highway 6.

The museum was built right on the right-of-way of the old Carson and Colorado Railroad, later acquired by the Southern Pacific. The narrow gauge railroad ran from Carson City, Nevada south to Keeler, California from 1880 to 1960. It never reached the Colorado River as implied by the name. It was one of the last narrow gauge lines to operate in the west.

Here's what one Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge website has to say about the No. 9 (known as the Slim Princess):

Locomotive No. 9, a 4-6-0, was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works, November 1909 for the Nevada-Calif.-Oregon Railway as their No. 9. It was acquired by the Southern Pacific Railroad, September 1, 1929, rebuilt and put in service on the Owens Valley line Feb. 21 1930 as the S P No. 9. It was put on stand-by service when the diesel electric locomotive was put in service, Oct. 1954, was retired when the railroad was abandoned. The locomotive was donated to the City of Bishop and moved to Laws for display, April 30, 1960.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Summer newsletter released

The summer issue of The Dispatch, the official newsletter of El Dorado Western Railway Foundation, was mailed to members and supporters this week. This is the third issue for 2008, according to EDWRF vice-president and newsletter editor Steve Karoly. The railrway is on-line to produce four issues this year.

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

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 2008/09 renovation season and help us celebrate the 102th anniversary of the D&C No. 4 Shay?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

You know it's a railroad wedding when ...

It seems the commissary crew at the Pacific Coast Railroad has been getting a lot of practice lately. I've reported on the culinary delights prepared by Patti LaRose, Mary Harlow and Karell Reader at least three times this year. These ladies cook more than I do on the El Dorado Western.

The railroad, which is located on a private Santa Margarita Ranch, found another reason to barbecue chicken and give up train rides.

Commissary crew member Patti "Cookie" LaRose tied the knot with fellow railroader Dennis Thurman, a trail crewman on the PCRR. The ceremony occurred at the nearby Bittercreek Western Railroad, a 7-1/2-inch gauge steam railroad park in Arroyo Grande, California.

One aspect of the nuptials stand out when you read the blog article. It's not "sight of steam engines lined up in the steaming bays and circling the miles of track" or the "delicious chicken barbecue."

Like a railroading couple I know, Patti and Dennis experienced a true railroader's wedding, down to the bride's conductor "wedding gown" and her bouquet.
Since Patti's bridal bouquet was a signal lantern and could not be tossed easily, the lantern was passed to Stephanie, Karl's sweetheart. Everyone had a wonderful time and wished the newlyweds well on their honeymoon to northern California. Congratulations and lots of love to Patti and Dennis.
It looks like the ladies will soon have a couple reasons to put some good railroading vittles. I'm certain they'll fire up the coals once the fire danger passes.

And Stephanie and Karl may just tie the knot themselves. That's reason enough to cook in my book.

No weddings are on the horizon at our Northern California railroad. But I'm sure I'll find sufficient reason to cook for the El Dorado Western soon.

Cross-posted at the 'Round the Chuckbox.

Workin' on the El Dorado site plan

For more than six months, the El Dorado Western Railway has been considering the Town of El Dorado for the site of a new county railroad park. Current plans call for reconstruction of the Southern Pacific freight and passenger depot and construction of engine house and shot buildings on the abandoned Southern Pacific right-of-way.

Even though the park is several years off, railway volunteers are working on a site plan for presentation to the Sacramento Placerville Transportation Corridor Joint Powers Authority (or SPTC). Since the right-of-way is controlled by the SPTC, we will have to secure its permission to operate on the tracks.

In the above photograph, Bill Schultz (left), Harold Kiser and Keith Berry discuss the location of track and buildings at the proposed railroad park. Bill recently retired from the Union Pacific Railroad. He brings 30 years of railroad operation experience to the El Dorado Western.

To the left, Harold, a retired engineer, moves orange cutouts as Bill and Keith discuss the feasibility of the location of each building in the park. His challenge is to site the engine house, turntable, siding and switches where they don't interfere with existing easements.

After the planning session, the team drove out to El Dorado and walked the ground. This gave Harold a chance to take measurements while Bill and Keith compared plans to historic photographs of the old depot site. They were able to locate several features that confirm the depot's probable location.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #6

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. The El Dorado Western Railway blog will reprint serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report in the coming months.

The Dolbeer steam donkey was developed in 1882 by John Dolbeer of Eureka, California. With this development the chore of handling logs became considerably easier.

The Dolbeer donkey was a simple devise utilizing a small, upright steam engine to power a single drum winch. The devise was first used for unloading logs at the mill, but was soon it was put to use pulling logs to the landings in the woods and unloading logs by cross haul cables and "gin" poles on to the log cars. More powerful engines were developed later to operate double drum winches for increased pulling power.

The versatile Dolbeer donkey was also utilized by attaching it to the pilot of a locomotive. This combination of log handling machinery and locomotive was dubbed a "gypsy." There is no evidence that such a devise was ever used by the Caldor operation, but extensive use was made of the skid mounted Dolbeer donkey in the woods and at the saw mill.

These steam winches began the phase out of the dependence on horses and mules for log skidding and loading after 1900.

With the arrival of the steel rail and steam locomotives at Caldor in 1904, the transition to a railroad logging operation began. The timber stands owned by the California Door Company were of excellent quality and could average up to 35,000 board feet per acre on the well-stocked sites.

The new mill could produce up to 60,000 board feet of timber per day so the stage was set for a more efficient harvest of the timber stands by utilizing the new geared locomotives that were now being used in the Sierra Nevada and were to drastically change production and logging methods in the timer industry.

I'll post the next installment in two weeks ...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Oriental crossing

Oriental crossing, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.

You find your photos in the most unlikely places. This afternoon Keith Berry and I walked the ground at the old El Dorado Town train depot. We were trying to locate the exact location of the small freight and passenger depot, which was torn down years ago.

After we finished, Keith said that I needed to look at the new kiosk at the Oriental Street grade crossing. It seems Eagle Scout Clinton Bell of Troop 859 built the bulletin board and bench for his Eagle Scout project.

In the display, located on the El Dorado Trail, Clinton featured several historic images of the historic Southern Pacific Placerville Branch. He also included a brief description of El Dorado Western Railway's effort to restore the Diamond and Caldor Railway No. 4 and site a railroad park long the old SP right-of-way. My 2007 picture of the locomotive was used as the centerpiece of the write-up.

Thanks, Clinton, for your efforts.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #5

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. The El Dorado Western Railway blog will reprint serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report in the coming months.

After the California Door company acquired the small mill and timber holdings in 1900 the company brought in mules and horses and the new Dolbeer steam donkeys to move the logs to the mill pond.

Michigan lumbermen had already devised the high wheels or "Michigan log buggy" (one is exhibited at the El Dorado County Historical Museum) that was the forerunner of the logging arch. This devise raised the front end of the log clear of the ground to decrease the skidding friction. The "Michigan log buggies" were also used at Caldor during logging operations before railroad logging came into existence.

Pole roads had also been devised in the Michigan woods in an early effort to get the logs off the ground. These were crude pole "railroads" on which double flanged or concave wheeled cars, loaded with logs, were pulled by horses, oxen, steam tractors or donkey engines.

Pole roads were used in some isolated locations in the west, but the size and weight of the large pine logs in the Sierra Nevada and the lack of a braking system to control the cars speed, probably precluded their use here. There is no evidence that a system of pole roads were utilized at any time during logging operations in the Caldor area.

Flumes and log chutes were also utilized for log and lumber transportation, but were of a very limited and specialized nature in the Sierra Nevada. A log chute was used by the American River Land and Lumber Company at Slab Creek on the American River in 1891.

The Madera Sugar Pine Lumber Company utilized an elaborate flume system to transport their sawn lumber from the mill south of Yosemite to their mill at Madera. Log chutes may have been used on a limited basis during the early logging days around Caldor, but no records or physical evidence of chutes or flumes is known to exist.

I'll post the next installment in two weeks ...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Engineer side, up

This is an example of how we mark parts. Although many parts look identical, subtle differences preclude their interchangeable use.

The machinists drill holes, for instance, to match the companion part. Often, the parts will not fit when reversed.

Keith and Alberto manufactured a pair a brackets two weeks ago. The brackets will be riveted to the water tank and will hold the ladder in place. The ladder hangs off of the rear of the oil tank.

Last week, Keith stamped each piece so we know which side it fits on the ladder. The pictured bracket, left, fits the engineer's side of the Diamond and Caldor No. 4. The backing plate was marked as well. Companion pieces were measured and drilled for the fireman's side mount.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe Speeder No. 4

The crew replaced the brake shoes on the CP and LT Speeder No. 4 during the past two weeks. The standard-gauge speeder is now fully operation and can be used to survey the Southern Pacific Placerville Branch right-of-way once we secure permission.

Oil change

It's rare that the crew at the El Dorado Western Railway devotes 100 percent of its time to artifact renovation. One or two crewmen spend a few hours each week on maintenance, cleaning and paperwork.

The medium-sized forklift has consumed a lot of attention in recent months. The crew re-built the hydraulic cylinders and repaired the brakes in June. Today, we changed the oil. It's once again a fully functioning forklift.

That brings up the question: How do you change the crankcase oil on a two-ton forklift?

Answer: Lift it off the ground with the heavier forklift.

Keith Berry uses the heavy forklift to jack the two-ton about 18 inches off the ground.

Next, you block the forks so a hydraulic failure doesn't injure the mechanic. Here Jacob Karoly (kneeling) slides a block under one of the front forks as Bill Rodgers looks on.

Of course, someone has to crawl under the two-ton and empty the oil pan. That job fell to Keith.

And since we do our part to project the environment around the museum yard, Bill poured the old crankcase oil into a five-gallon container for disposal. Keith waits for the catch basin so he can drain the remaining bit of oil.

Monday, August 11, 2008

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #4

The small mill operation that existed before the California Door Company acquired it and its timber holdings in 1900 was typical of the many small, independent mills operating in the Sierra Nevada at the time. They came into existence to furnish lumber locally to the flourishing gold mining industry and communities of the 1850s and the nearby cattle and dairy ranchers.

Logging methods were primitive from the 1850s to 1890s and ox teams were relied on to skid the logs short distances to the saw mills. These rudimentary methods were dictated by the very nature of the Sierra Nevada.

In comparison, the abundant rivers and waterways in British Columbia and Washington provided ready transportation of logs, and so large, high production sawmills evolved. Logging there progressed up and along these waterways and logs were skidded directly to the rivers by ox teams or directed to flumes and chutes which carried them to the rivers and down to the mills.

The Sierra Nevada’s river drainage systems are steep and rough with low water volumes in the summertime and early attempts to drive logs down them resulted in failure. The lack of river transportation, therefore, limited early sawmilling operations to small local mill until rail transportation evolved in the 1890s.

As the nearby timber stands were depleted the logging operations were extended farther from the mill. The slow moving but durable oxen were used almost exclusively in these operations until they were generally replaced by the more easily handled horse and mules in the 1890s.

As the skid roads became overused and extended further from the mill they were reinforced with crossed logs on which skidded logs were pulled. The ends of the logs were rounded off or "snubbed" and cross bridging greased to ease their progress.

Heavy four wheeled log wagons were brought into use and logs were loaded on to them with a cross haul jerk line method. Main wagon roads thus developed out from the mill following the easier contours and terrain of the countryside and started development of a transportation system.

Probably all of the logging to the original mill at Dogtown was done with oxen either skidding the logs or pulling the heavy wagons.

I'll post the next installment in two weeks ...

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Back at the eccentrics

Now that Sam Thompson completed shaping the valves on the Shay's three steam engines last June, he has time to turn his attention to fabricating the replacement for the middle eccentric on the drive shaft. In time, Sam will machine the billet of cast iron into one of two eccentric halves.

The eccentric os "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.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Oil tank truss mounts

The crew of the El Dorado Western Railway continues to complete several small projects on the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 locomotive. Except for a major boiler rebuild, work on the locomotive is nearing completion.

Keith Berry and Marcus, a new volunteer, have been drilling holes in the water tank to mount the braces that hold it to the locomotive deck.

During the past two weeks, Keith and Marcus have drill the holes for two mounds on the rear deck. They still have to drill the holes for the forward mounts. The next step after they drill the holes will be to rivet the water tank to the four braces.

The team has also drilled two pair of holes for the oil tank mount. They were able to complete the task working over two days (a Wednesday and Saturday).

These braces hold the oil tank restraining rod in place. They help to secure the oil tank in place so that it won't shift during movement.

Since the process calls for precision drilling, Keith and Marcus mount the electromagnetic drill press to the side of the water tank.

Once the drill press was hoisted in place with block and tackle, Marcus switched on the magnet. Sam Thompson (not pictured here) then centered the drill bit with Marcus' assistance.

It won't be necessary to rivet the oil tank braces to water tank as these braces are aren't located inside the water tank.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Official photographer ...

Mountain Democrat photographer Pat Dollins aims his camera at the open boiler on the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive. Dollins stopped by this morning to cover the museum yard sale. We grabbed him and asked if he could take a few shots of the locomotive. We should be one or two photos in the paper in a few days.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Puttin' engines together

"You gotta remember how it all goes together," said Sam Thompson to Bill Rodgers. Sam and Bill disconnected the bearing at the "big end" of the connecting rod before as they prepared to put the engine no. 1 back together.

"You can't slip it over the end of the crankshaft," explained Sam. To assemble the piston-crosshead-connecting rod group, Sam and Bill had to work one part at a time. First the bearing was attached to the crankshaft. They next lowered the piston into the top of the cylinder and slipped the crosshead just under the piston rod. The last step was to insert the pins and test it.

It took the engine team about three hours to put the no. 1 together. Now that Bill and Sam have re-learned the process, they should be able to put engines no. 2 and 3 together next weekend.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

We're puttin' things together ...

It's taken 14 years to disassemble and re-build the numerous parts on the Diamond and Caldor No. 4. Lead machinist Sam Thomson took almost two years to design, build and operate his "Rube Goldberg" valve resurfacing tool. He finished shaping the valve surfaces on the locomotive's three vertical engines last month.

Then two weeks ago, the crew reinstalled the crankshaft while I was on vacation. Sam's next project will be to complete the middle eccentric.

As Keith Berry says, the Shay is going together "one piece at a time." We're all happy to see her going together.

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #3

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. The El Dorado Western Railway blog will reprint serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report in the coming months.

The railroad was to be a three-foot, narrow gauge and would be 34.69 miles long. Construction progressed rapidly as the D&C was financed by a sound and prosperous company. Ties and bridge timbers were sawn out at the Caldor Mill and the track work advanced westward from Caldor to Diamond Springs.

A total of 63 trestles with a combined length of 10,992 feet were required to traverse the difficult terrain. A steel bridge structure 97 feet long was built to cross the North Fork of the Comsumnes River and was one of the longest ever built for a logging railroad up to the time.

Ties and trestle timbers were delivered to the work crews with the steam tractor and the work progressed rapidly. The Diamond and Caldor Railway line was completed in October 1904 after 18 months of construction and a cost of $388,788.00.

The first locomotive to see service was a Baldwin saddle tank 2-4-2T built in 1887 and purchased used from the Ferries and Cliff House Railway (their #3). At the same time locomotive #2, a Lima two-truck Shay #863 was purchased new and put into service.

Rolling stock was equipped with link and pin couplings standard for the times and which would eventually be the deciding factor in the termination of the railroad some 50 years later.

I'll post the next installment in two weeks ...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New board member and officers

I'd like to take time to welcome our officers:

  • Keith Berry -- president
  • Steve Karoly -- vice-president
  • Bill Rodgers -- treasurer
  • Mary Cory -- secretary
Keith and I would like to thank outgoing president Eric Stohl. Eric has served as president for the past four or five years. Eric continues on the board as a director.

We'd also like to welcome Mary Cory to the board. In the past, she's always served as de facto member while serving as secretary. The board honored her tonight by electing her to a three-year term as a director.

Directors Shelly Tilly, Keith and I were re-elected as directors. According to the bylaws, directors serve three-year terms while the officers are reconfirmed each July.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Pressure washing

Keith Berry pressure washes the No. 3 cylinder. Sam Thomson finished his 15-long long project to resurface the valve facings on the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 two weeks ago. The crew pulled the engine out of the engine house today so Keith could clean dirt and metal shavings from around the valve surfaces.

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #2

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. The El Dorado Western Railway blog will reprint serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report in the coming months.

A new, modern sawmill was constructed and the locale was renamed “Caldor.” Mr. Anton Hassler, Sr., was designated as the new mills superintendent. He had emigrated from Germany and was working for the California Door Company, which at that time had a contract to manufacture and install sash and doors during an expansion and remodeling project at San Quentin Prison at San Rafael. He moved to Caldor as superintendent in 1902 when the new sawmill was completed.

The new mill was unique in that the log pond, supplied by water from Dogtown Creek, was elevated above the operating floor of the mill, allowing the floated logs to be lowered by gravity down the log chute to the mill floor for placing on the log carriage. The sawn lumber was then transported to Diamond Springs where a new planing mill has been constructed. Rail service from the Diamond Springs mill was available via the Central Pacific (Southern Pacific) Railroad to the Oakland sash and door plant.

The sawn lumber from Caldor Mill was first transported to Diamond Springs on lumber wagons drawn by mule teams. This was a slow and difficult task. Oxen were then tried for a time to see if they could improve on the situation, but they provided no appreciable advantage. The progressive company then brought in chain driven steam tractors to do the hauling job in 1901. A review of the situation made it apparent, however, that a railroad would be the only reasonable solution to the transportation problem.

A railroad route was surveyed in 1901 and a wholly owned subsidiary of the California Door Company, the Diamond and Caldor Railway, was incorporated as a common carrier in 1902. Officers of the railroad were W.Y Kellog, President; C.W. Doe, Vice President; F.A. Merquire, Secretary; E.H. Kitteredge, Treasurer; and W.I. Wilson, General Manager.

I'll post the next installment in two weeks ...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pulling No. 4 out of the barn

Pulling No. 4 out of the barn, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.

The Diamond and Caldor Railway No. 4 gets some fresh air after seven months in the engine house. Lead machinist Sam Thompson watches to keep the engineer's side track clear. We pulled the engine for the El Dorado County Fair in Placerville, California, yesterday.

Although fair attendance is down significantly from last year, about 200 fair goers stopped by and viewed the engine. The locomotive is in its fifteenth year of restoration.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Come out to the fair

I'm getting ready to head out to the El Dorado County Fair and pull the No. 4 out of the engine house with the crew. This has been a slow year so far, so we need you to come out. The museum, railroad and fair have each experienced low turnout.

We would love to meet our fans today. All it costs you is a nominal fee at the entrance gate. The Diamond and Caldor No. 4 will be on the trail track from 10 a.m. until around 5 p.m.

See you then ...

Sunday, June 08, 2008

No. 4 to be displyed at the county fair

The No. 4, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.

From Eric Stohl, president of the El Dorado Western Railway:

Every June is marked by the El Dorado County Fair in Placerville, and each year we look forward to putting the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay on display. Volunteers will be available each day of the fair from June 12 to 15 to answer questions about the engine.

This year we will pull the engine out of its barn on Saturday, June 14. Besides the excitement of seeing the old girl in the sun, this year we are going to allow visitors into the cab for pictures. This is a fund raising activity so we will charge for this privilege.

So mark you calendar for June 14 and come on by the fair and say hi. You’ll have pay admission to get in, but it’s worth the nominal charge. El Dorado County Fair is located at 100 Placerville Road, Placerville, Calif.

We look forward to seeing you.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The crew

Here's the crew of the El Dorado Western Railway:

From left: Harold Tilton, Bill Rodgers, Keith Berry (vice-president), Sam Thompson, Alberto Weiss, Dale Mace, Steve Karoly and Eric Stohl (president)
Not present: Ed Cuhna, Doug Youngberg (in Oregon) and Richard Wright (Kentucky)

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Caldor Mill engine house

A 1916 shot of the engine house at the Caldor Mill. If you carefully gaze at the original photograph you’ll see three Diamond and Calor Railway locomotives.

Unless noted, historic photographs in the El Dorado Western blog are from the collection of the El Dorado County Historical Museum. These photographs are available for $10 each from the museum. Call (530) 621-5865 for additional information. Please consult museum staff for limitations to the use of photographs.

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. The El Dorado Western Railway blog will reprint serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report in the coming months.

The following account of the California Door Company and its years of logging and sawmilling in El Dorado County has been put together from a wide variety of sources and information.

Hopefully, this report will give a better understanding of the way of life of those times, and the extent of past impacts imposed on the area by the railroad logging and the men who left their transitory mark.

By Robert Niles
Placerville, California

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads

The California Door Company was formed in 1884 with the merger of three sash, door and millwork companies doing business in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Mr. Bartlett Doe was the first person on the scene in 1849 acting as agent for a Boston, Massachusetts sash and door company that was shipping manufactured millwork products to San Francisco merchants.

Mr. Doe was the possibility for establishing a manufacturing business of his own, an in 1850 entered into a wood working partnership with his brother John. This established the B.&J.S. Doe Company located at 36 Market Street in San Francisco.
The following year a competing business was formed by George and Nat Wilson to merchandize doors, window frames and millwork.

In 1861 Charles S. Doe, a brother of Bartlett and John, acquired an existing millwork company operating in San Francisco.

These companies grew and thrived with the prosperity of the times.

In 1884 the Doe brothers merged their business with George and Nat Wilson’s to establish the California Door Company. A new manufacturing plant was established in Oakland to produce doors, windows and blinds and was recognized as the largest plant of its kind in the west.

To assure an adequate and dependable supply of sugar pine and Ponderosa pine lumber for their new sash and door plant, the California Door Company in 1900, acquired some 30,000 acres of timberland in El Dorado County. A small sawmill was included and was located some 30 miles southeast of Diamond Springs at a gold mining settlement known as Dogtown in the Consumnes River Drainage.

I'll post the next installment in two weeks ...

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Steady hand

I'm always amazed at the steady hand of Dale, the lead fabricator on the Talley Ho Railbus No. 10. He's cutting out a piece from this angle iron for the rear coupler pocket to the railbus. Dale and Keith have re-designed the coupler pocket to correct some problems with the original design. Dale is working on the flatcar to the railbus. Both pieces of equipment were built in the shops of the Diamond and Caldor Railway, circa 1929, by master mechanic Arle Smith.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Brake heads

Two weeks ago, Harold showed me how the pictured template worked. He will use it to guide his hand while he adds metal to the upper surfaces of the Shay's brake heads. Once he's added the metal, Harold will use a square to guide him as he grinds the new metal to the proper height.

According to the Car Builders Cyclopedia of American Practice, 1903 edition, a brake head is a "piece of iron or wood attached to a brake beam and which bears against the wheels, and combines both a brake block and a brake shoe in one piece." The Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay has eight such brake heads, one per wheel.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Brakeman's foot boards on the railbus

Keith (left) and Albert clamped the brackets for the brakeman's foot boards on the Tally Ho Railbus No. 10 this morning. Keith said they will drill the top of two bolt holes first. After they mount the four brackets, they will tighten the bolts and square the brackets. After mounting, Keith will use a counter sink to mark the location of the bottom holes. One more trip to the drill press and the brackets permanent mounting.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Shay truck brakes

Last week, Keith and I paid the brake rigging out in the yard. Keith wanted to accomplish two things. First, he had to count the number of brake pins for the machine shop. The parts are set up for the rear truck. Alberto is currently machining new pins out of tool steel. Keith also needed to see that we still had all the parts.

Although I've seen the rods and levers around the engine house, this was the first time I saw the rigging parts laid out in a diagram. It helped me to see how the system works. Use this colored diagram to see how the linkage parts interact:

  • Blue -- stationery rod; anchors the system to the bolster
  • Red -- brake levers; the main lever (largest of the three) is bolted to the truck frame at the bottom; the remaining two levers are bolted to the brake beams in the center of the lever
  • Black -- movable brake rods; two pieces make the bottom rod; they're joined by a turnbuckle
  • Gold -- the brake beans with brake shoes; there's one bean per wheel set
  • Yellow -- brake hangers or dog bones; there are two per wheel set or four per truck
When you're viewing the front truck from the engineer's side of the locomotive, a rod pulls the top of the main levers to the read (not pictured). That motion actuates the joined brake rods and pulls both brake beans to the center. The brake system for the rear truck is set up as a mirror image of the front truck (pictured in the Lima shop drawing).

Friday, April 04, 2008

A hot engine and the Granite Rock No. 10

After working around a cold engine for nearly three years, I climbed into a hot locomotive this afternoon. I say hot because the crew had steamed the Granite Rock No. 10 at the California State Railroad Museum for opening day tomorrow. You could feel the heat radiating off the backhead even though the ambient temperature hovered in the mid-60s along the Sacramento River.

Listening to the sounds of the steaming saddle-tank engine (the 0-6-0ST was built by H.K. Porter in 1942) gave me a much needed shot in the arm. After working on a Shay engine that's several years away from its boiler tag, the morale boost helped me recharge my devotion to the project.

I took the short walk from Amtrak parking lot after work to the museum gift shot to look for a DVD on the Westside Lumber Co. As I turned the corner on to I Street, I caught a glimpse of the No. 10 disappear around the corner into the shops. I though I missed the engine and walked into the store.

It was the distinctive chug-chug of a rod engine that first alerted me to the presence of the locomotive. So, after leaving the gift shop empty handed, I walked toward the river and mainline of the Sacramento Southern.

The sound of steam shooting from the dynamo and mechanical action of the air compressor filled my ears as I walked past the Big Four Building. I turned the corner to find the crew pumping water into its two saddle tanks.

As I did at Roaring Camp in December 2005, I walked up to the crew and introduced myself. For the second time I leaned that the world of steam railroaders is small. Even this newcomer received a warm welcome.

The fireman graciously described the action of the valves and gauges on the backhead. Unlike my cab ride on the Dixiana at Roaring Camp, I was able to follow along as he showed my how to drain both sight glasses and blow the oil back into the oil tank by turning the blowback valve. Other valves, like the atomizer and blower on the firing manifold with the quadrant, keeps the fireman busy as the engine runs down the tracks.

I'm ready to head off to the museum in the morning and keep working. A few more shots in our collective arms and we'll soon have a hot Shay running up the old Southern Pacific grade from El Dorado to Missouri Flat Road.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Machining brake pins

Two new volunteers, Alberto and John, started machining brake rigging pins from a large piece of tool steel yesterday. Alberto is a retired machinist. He's a welcome addition to the machine shop. John, who's the son of board member Bill Rodgers, is a local contractor.

The first step was to cut the bar stock into workable lengths on the Racine power hack saw.

The blade and stock are cooled with a mixture of water and oil. Typical of any operation, Sam and Alberto had to unplug the cooling line before operating the saw yesterday.

Machining the tool steel into a pin.

All that needs to be done now is to cut the pin off of the excess stock. To save stock, Alberto is going to turn the piece around and mill a second pin on the stock.

Railway Volunteers Form the Backbone of EDWRF

Volunteers drive the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation—always have, and they always will.

Many volunteer trainmen, including several who've been involved since the project's 1993 launch, have patiently stuck with the project despite many setbacks. These men and women laid the foundation and set the vision for EDWRF and the proposed El Dorado County Logging and Railway Museum.

Historically, the railway didn't seek any kind of membership. As a volunteer of the El Dorado County Historical Museum, you just showed up and went to work. Once EDWRF was formed in 1997, volunteers have served both the railway and the museum.

In many respects, museum volunteers have carried the burden of giving new life the No. 4. Many supplemented "official" funding sources through generous donation of frequent shopping trips to Lowes and Home Depot in Folsom.

The EDWRF board chartered a new mode of operation two years ago with the inception of the Associate Membership program. It was time to take EDWRF to the next level. The railway recognized that it needed a consistent, growing base of support to meet its ambitious goals.

The railway needs volunteers who're committed to its long-term goal of building and operating a demonstration railroad along the old Southern Pacific right-of-way. This has been a major component of EDWRF’s mission statement since its inception.

As the day approaches when the Diamond & Caldor No. 4 and the Tally-Ho Railbus No. 10 will ramble down the old Espee right-of-way, the railway will need a cadre of committed volunteers to operate the museum and railroad.

Train crews, under the watchful eye of the train master, will form the frontline echelon of the railroad. Behind the scenes, workers like the machinists, mechanics, welders and hostlers will keep the railroad on the tracks. And let's not forget the section gang.

And don't forget that many will assume dual roles as trainmen and maintenance workers.

Docents, who can articulate the difference between the Shay and Heisler geared locomotives, will guide tours through the museum. Sales clerks will sell books and memorabilia in the gift shop. And of course, the bookkeeper and accountant will keep taxman happy.

My point is this: Volunteers drive the EDWRF. We must never forget that we serve both EDWRF and the El Dorado County Historical Museum.

As we celebrate the No. 4's 100th birthday, the railway must continue to recruit and develop volunteers at all levels.

As a representative of the board, I encourage all members to sell the benefits of the railway to El Dorado County citizens. And invite them to view the locomotive at the next Saturday workday.

The railway can only function through the generous donation of your time, energy and recourses.

This article was printed in the Spring 2007 issue of The Dispatch, the newsletter of the El Dorado Western Railway.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Through the eyes of a steam dome

The engine house and museum yard reflect back into the polished steam dome cover from the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 as I take the picture. The Shay geared locomotive is being restored to full operation by the El Dorado Western Railway. It's located at the El Dorado County Historical Museum in Placerville, California.

Yard cleanup day

Saturday the crew of the El Dorado Western Railway cleaned the engine house yard. Our main purpose was to help the museum get ready for its sale of excess museum property, which is being help on Saturday, March 29, 2008 (see the link for more information on the sale).

Like many short lines, including the Diamond and Caldor Railway, we have collected an odd assortment of scrap iron and old parts in 15 years of existence. To facilitate the sale, the crew had to move railway property to a secure area. Since railway property is not for sale, we wanted to ensure that museum staff and volunteers only tag appropriate items for the sale.

All went well until about 11 a.m. when the transmission in the forklift became extremely hot. Eric Stohl, EDWRF president and forklift driver parked it and shut her down for the day.

Keith Berry, left, Steve Karoly and Bill Rodgers wrestled the three rusted drive chains to Arnold Z, the Plymouth locomotive, into a steel barrel. Keith plans to give the chains a Diesel-fuel bath. This will help break the rusted links to the point where we can clean and lubricate.

Eric prepares to move a pallet of parts for the Michigan-California Lumber Co. bobbie car. We believe the bobbie car, which the Mich-Cal once used to transport rough cut lumber across the American River gorge is the only one remaining.

Doug Youngberg, left, and Bill catch up on news on the railroad front while Eric loads the bobbie car parks on Doug's trailer. Since Doug's move to Oregon last year, he had become one of a handful of long distance volunteers. Doug plans to rebuild the bobbie car in his new machine shop.

Keith, left, and Doug discuss possible problems with the forklift. At first they though it may be a hydraulic leak. They later determined that the cause of excessive smoking and fluid loss could be a transmission seal.