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.

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