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.