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.