Monday, November 16, 2009

Learning to volunteer

Have you ever considered why parents bring their children along to volunteer functions?

My father brought my brothers and me to Saturday work days at the church building in Fresno. Michael, David and I almost always acquiesced and willingly assisted the men as they raked autumn leaves, mowed the church lawn and cleaned out the rain gutters.

On Saturday, November 7, the crew of the El Dorado Western Railway welcomed the children and grandchildren of several volunteers onto the project.

"It's exciting to see that youthful energy," said railway president Keith Berry, "and slender bodies that can fit into tight spots."

During the session, four young volunteers prepared sections of the Diamond and Caldor Railbus No. 10 for painting. Doug Youngberg's grandsons worked on the rear truck while Ed Chuna's granddaughter and my son prepared the engine and transmission compartments.

After completing the rear truck project, Doug took his grandsons inside the engine house to work on the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive. Here Breck (center) uses a die to thread one of eight eye bolts on the brake safety system while Andy observes. There are eight brake safety chains on the Shay, each with two eye bolts. A pair of chains hold each of four massive brake beams in place in the event of a failure.

Ed helps his granddaughter clean one of the differential yokes from the rear truck to the railbus. Ed completed a major re-build of the Camino, Placervile and Lake Tahoe No. 4 track inspection car (in the background) in 1999.

My son, Jacob, scrapes and brushes 30 years of encrusted grease off the railbus. He put his slender frame to work inside the transmission compartment. The engine and transmission were removed last spring for a complete re-build.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Railbus rear truck

Work on the rear truck to the Diamond and Caldor Railbus No. 10 is moving along. Since removing the truck in mid-September. Here's the work that the crew has done in the past three weeks:
  • Fabricate and install the end-frame T-brace
  • Design and install the differential yoke swivel pin brace -- this corrected a problem with unwanted differential movement
  • Replaced the rear differential bearing cap and spacer

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Progress on the railbus

I stopped by the engine house on Wednesday to view progress on the Diamond and Caldor Railbus No. 4. This was my first visit since I went back to work on October 13.

Ed Cuhna, lead painter for the El Dorado Western Railway, prepped and primed the rear structure on the railbus in the past two weeks. He still needs to paint the inside surfaces, including the ceiling.

Monday, October 26, 2009

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #13

This history was prepared by Robert Niles for the Eldorado National Forest in 1979. This segment concludes our reprint of serialized portions of Mr. Nile’s report.

The company prospered through the post World War II building era, but it became obvious that changing times and depleted timber holdings would soon force some important changes in operating policies. In 1952 a directive from the State Safety Commission ordered immediate instillation automatic couplers on the Diamond and Caldor railroad cars to replace the original link and pin coupling system.

Mr. Price and company directors calculated the cost of updating the equipment and faced with increasing maintenance cost of old trestles, road bed and locomotives decided to abandon the railroad. Diesel trucks would now be utilized for the entire log haul from woods landings to the mill at Diamond Springs.

Track crews were retained to take up the rails and this progressed from Caldor to Diamond Springs. Most of the remaining engines and obsolete equipment were brought in from Caldor and sold to a South San Francisco scrap dealer, Oscar Borovik. Abandonment of the line was completed in the spring of 1953.

A cutover timber land exchange with the U.S. Forest Service in 1952 for timber stumpage in the Caldor working circle sustained the mill operation for a few more years. The company then experimented with importing mahogany logs from the Philippines. These were shipped into a bay area port then loaded onto Southern Pacific Railroad gondola cars for delivers to Diamond Springs.

The sawmill and remaining cutover land were sold to Winton Lumber Company in 1956, who operated the facility on a limited basis for a short time. The entire mill operation at Diamond Springs were abandoned when the Winton Lumber organization sold their extensive timber holdings and facilities to American Forest Products Corp. in June 1964.

Monday, October 12, 2009

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #12

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 old mill site at Caldor now became a division point and logging camp as the extensive housing and track layouts were utilized. Daily operations on the Diamond and Caldor started with a 20-car log train departing from Caldor before daybreak.

Moving past Leoni Station it made its way down to the halfway point at Rodwell (Coles Station) where there was a turning wye, sidings for 40 cars, oil and water facilities. Here the training was broken into two sections and the engines that had brought up the empties from Diamond Springs hooked up the loaded log cars and returned.

The Caldor engines then picked up 20 empty cars spotted at the Rodwell siding and returned to the logging areas. Mean while another train crew was busy making up another string of loaded cars for the next days run from Caldor.

The average daily train delivered about 150,000 board-feet of logs to the mill. The round trip from Diamond Springs to Caldor took about 16 hours including the activities at Rodwell.

Editor’s note: Rodwell and Coles Station are not located at the same point. Rodwell was situated in the North Fork Consumnes River canyon at the 15-mile post. Coles was located on the ridge to the south at the 21-mile post.

Conversion from wood to oil was accomplished in 1910. The engines used for switching and logging continued to burn wood until the early 1920’s, as did the donkey engines in the woods. As the donkeys were continually on the move from one cutting and loading area to another, facilities for oil storage were not practical in the early years.

The renewal of logging activities in 1935 saw many changes taking place in the logging industry. The diesel, internal combustion engine powering crawler type tractors began to replace the steam donkeys for skidding logs to the landings and diesel powered jammers and cranes took the job of loading the log cars.

The biggest transformation, however, was in the form of the diesel logging truck for transporting logs and would soon spell an end to the logging railroad era. Old railroad grades were converted to a truck haul transportation system and the numerous trestles were bypassed and abandoned as the ravines were filled in.

1945 marked the end of most railroad logging for the California Door Company, and some of the wood locomotives began to be broken up for scrap. The more mobile diesel log trucks now supplied practically all the logs to the transfer point at Camp Webster and Caldor where they were reloaded on to the log cars for the 33 mile rail haul to Diamond Springs.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

New pipefitter

Matt Allen (left) and Keith Berry trace airbrake lines under the Diamond and Caldor Railbus No. 10. Matt spent Saturday morning diagramming the undercarriage brake system. As a pipefitter, Matt will take the lead on re-fitting the brake lines for the bus. For safety, Keith plans to replace all 1/2- and 1-inch air lines.

Matt found the railway project through my personal blog at 'Round the Chuckbox. As an occasional Dutch oven cook, he was looking for recipes for his next camping trip.

As a railroad enthusiast, Matt quickly jumped to the the El Dorado Western Railway blog. He's followed the crew's effort to restore the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive for the past two years.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Call for the oven man

My culinary skills were put to work for the first time since joining the El Dorado Western Railway. Although my occasional meals please its volunteers, they're a side benefit. Demonstration railroads don't need a cook to renovate locomotives and rolling stock.

I was asked to check a standard home oven at the engine house last Saturday. Machinist Sam Thompson wanted to use the oven to pre-heat three cast iron valves for the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive.

At about 9 a.m., I watched welder Harold Tilton wheel the oven into the engine house on a hand truck. He planned to plug it into the shop's 240-volt receptacle, which is normally used to power the electric arc welder.

Other than a mental note, the fact that Harold was moving the oven didn't register in my brain. Acquired several years ago, the oven hadn't been used to date. I have often though that it could be become the centerpiece of a shop kitchen.

"I had just sat down to preview photographs of the morning's activities when I heard my name.

Where's the oven man?" called Harold. "We need the cook."

I walked into the engine house and looked at the oven, which was set up in the narrow isle between the 39-ton locomotive and a tool cabinet.

"All I can do is to play with the dial." I explained to Harold that my next move has always been to call the kitchen maintenance man in to repair the problem.

As I walked up to the oven, I saw Bill Rodgers, the railway "kitchen maintenance" man, at work. Once we determined that the oven had no power, Bill quickly assessed that the wrong receptacle was connected to the 240-volt power supply.

Bill is our millwright, a jack-of-all-trades shop maintenance man. We've come to depend on his capability to repair almost any piece of shop equipment, including older General Electric electric ovens.

Once Bill repaired the oven, I asked Sam (pictured above, watching Bill repair the receptacle) what he planned to "cook" in the oven.

"As you know," explained Sam, cast iron cracks when intense, local heat is applied to the cold metal. Instead, Sam set the cold valves inside a cold oven. He then turned the oven dial to about 250 degrees.

Once hot, Harold removed each valve one-by-one and braized a layer of brass on each side of the valve. Sam will later machine the valves to the proper specification.

I may use the oven as long as Sam doesn't intend on cooking toxic compounds inside it. The oven and rangetop will come in handy this winter during inclement weather.

There's no reason we can't mix some harmless metallurgy with a bit of precision bread baking in the engine house.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Mountain Democrat: Oh, 'Shay' can you see a new railroad park?

The Mountain Democrat, the local newspaper for Placerville and Western El Dorado County, printed a very nice article about the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park in El Dorado. Keith Berry (left) and Alberto Weiss take a break this morning to read the article.

Monday, September 28, 2009

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #11

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.

From the time the sawmill was established in 1902, and with the creation of the logging railroad to supply its raw material needs, the lumber operation expanded and prospered. Extensive bachelor living quarters, family houses, shop, mess hall, store and community hall were built up surrounding the mill at Caldor. Close to 200 people, including the families of the mill workers were now living there.

The mill and logging operations shut down in the wintertime due to the heavy snows and most of the people moved into Diamond Springs for the winter months. For several families, however, this was their only home and they stayed there year round after having put aside up to a six month supply of food staples.

On August 13, 1923 a disastrous fire completely destroyed the sawmill at Caldor, bringing to a close its twenty odd years of operation. After an analysis of the damage and overall efficiency of the operation, it was decided by the board of directors to build a new sawmill at Diamond Springs.

Construction was soon underway and a new larger, electrically powered mill was completed in 1924. During this time the mail line railroad from Caldor was extensively repaired and rehabilitated and a new 65-ton, 3-truck Shay was ordered to supplement the existing locomotives.

Engine facilities near the new mill site were expanded and the D&C mainline from Caldor was made ready to covert it to hauling logs instead of sawn lumber. Facilities at the new mill included a log pond that could accommodate 2-1/2-million board-feet of logs.

For the next five years the nation-wide building boom and good times placed a heavy demand on the woods and sawmill operation. In 1929 the Wall Street Stock Market crash occurred and the failing national economy forced the closing of the Diamond Springs mill the following winter. The logging and mainline locomotives and rolling stock were brought into Diamond Springs and placed in storage. Lumber for a curtailed operation at the Oakland door plan was once again obtained on the open market.

In 1934 the California Door Company acquired the services of Mr. Chalmers Price, a highly-qualified lumberman, and instructed him to start up the logging and sawmill operations at Diamond Springs and Caldor. Extensive rehabilitation of the mill and D&C Railway to Caldor was necessary as the five years of inactivity had taken their toll. The D&C mainline was realigned at some locations and shortened slightly to 33 miles. In the springs of 1935 logging and sawmilling operations were again underway.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Progress on the D&C railbus

We've made steady progress on the Diamond and Caldor Railbus No. 10 since the first of the year. A crew of about a dozen volunteers has restored the body to its 1953 configuration, prepared the engine for rebuilding and primed most exposed surfaces for painting.

The crew still must complete an impressive list of major projects on the railbus. The El Dorado Western expects to operate the railbus by late spring next year. With the current crew, we fully expect to meet our goals.

This list gives you an idea of the major challenges that face the crew over the next seven to nine months:
  • Remove the trucks from the railbus and determine the work needed to rehabilitate them
  • Re-build the brake system; this includes renovating the air pots, installing new air lines and replacing the worn out brake shoes
  • Re-install the air compressor and air tank and connect them to the brake system
  • Install the re-built engine once Doug Youngberg returns it to the museum late next winter
  • Finish rebuilding both gasoline tanks
  • Build passenger benches and install them inside the railbus
Here are three photographs from our work Saturday:

Ed Cunha uses a sledge hammer to straighted the leading edge of the cab roof. The roof was damaged at the point where the line for the air horn traveled up to the roof. We don't know when or where the roof was damaged. It's been that way as long as anyone can remember.

Mark Bruto (left), Sam Thompson and Keith Berry guide the rear truck out from under the railbus. The crew will renovate the rear truck first before proceeding to the front truck.

Mark demonstrates how to remove a hydraulic jack when it's stuck between the cribbing and link-in-pin coupler on the railbus!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

History of the California Door Company and its logging railroads #10

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.

Later on, bunk railroad cars for living quarters and commissary were built up in the D&C shops at Diamond Springs and these gradually replaced the portable frame camp buildings for the logging and construction crews. These provided more comfortable living quarters and were easily moved to new logging locations, and spotted on to an adjacent siding.

It is therefore reasonable to presume that any substantial amount of physical evidence still identifiable as a logging camp existing along the old railroad line was established between 1904 and 1915, during the first ten years or so of the railroad operation. Examination of the surviving area maps of the time verify some of these camp locations.

Some of these early camps became switching or division points on the logging railroad system and were used for many years, while others were abandoned when logging was completed in their area. Some of these abandoned camps were probably utilized later on by ranchers and others in the area.

The early logging crews were probably quartered at Caldor mill facility previous to 1904, as logging operations were limited to adjacent timber stands. The early skid roads were confined to McKinney Creek and Dogtown Creek drainages and then extended north and eastward along Plummer Ridge.

With the beginning of railroad logging in 1904, camps to accommodate the crews were established as the railroad logging system developed and moved farther away from the mill.

There is no record or recollections concerning the numbering of the railroad logging camps. Such a procedure was generally used on a typical railroad logging show of the time.

Discussions with "old timers" acquainted with the early operations indicate the camps were identified by names only. A hypothetical numbering system has been devised to facilitate identification and locations of known camps in conjunction with applicable names.

There were undoubtedly several other logging camps established in conjunction with the railroad logging activities. Many of these were most likely temporary and transient in nature and were served by bunk cars or portable houses. Most probably there was a camp and division point at Pi Pi and at Five Corners, as these were key points on the railroad system.

Movable logging camps were undoubtedly used in the Bear Meadow Loop area during extensive logging here in the 1930's. Subsequent relogging activities, road building and camp activities have pretty well obliterated what few remnants may have survived from these temporary camps.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Lunch at the engine house

I haven't cooked lunch for the crew at the engine house of the El Dorado Western Railway in six months. Several priority projects kept me from cooking in the months leading to my early June departure for the summer camp job. My labor was more important at that point.

Railway President Keith Berry and I first discussed a lunch meal several weeks ago. We both wanted to reward the crew for a summer of notable accomplishments. Plus several out-of-town volunteers were driving in for the day.

Twice this summer, Keith called on the volunteers to complete high-profile projects in a short period of time. Last June the crew rallied to remove the rail, tie plates and rail joiners from the old Southern Pacific yard at Diamond Springs. Once the county gave its approval to remove the track and associated hardware, we had less than two weeks to complete the job.

The crew completed the project in eight days. Several volunteers worked every day. The rails and hardware will be used to add a third rail and build the yard at the recently approved El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park in the town of El Dorado.

The most noteworthy event of the summer came on August 25 when the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors approved the park on a 5-0 vote. The park will be located on the right-of-way of the Southern Pacific depot in El Dorado.

Volunteers again answered the call this weekend when it became evident that we had to move about 300 ties to a secure location. The ties were open to theft in their current location along the old right-of-way, which is being converted into a riding and walking trail.

Lunch at the engine house

I often use meals at the engine house to try new recipes and to use ingredients that I already have at home. Since I had a 4-pound pork shoulder in the freezer, I knew the menu would be built around a pork dish.

Although chili verde is a favorite -- a dish I enjoy cooking for potlucks -- I wanted to try a flavor combination that was new for me. The idea for a pork stew came to me as I watched Alton Brown's Good Eats television show last week.

In the re-broadcast of his 2005 "Dis-Kabob-Ulated" episode, Brown marinated beef sirloin in a spicy marinade with red wine vinegar and olive oil. Turmeric, smoked paprika and cumin formed the flavor base for the marinade.

Since it isn't practical to make pork kabobs with the tougher pork shoulder, a braised or stewed dish seemed to be the best way to tenderize the meat. I used the marinade to impart flavor, then prepared a tradition stew from that point.

I worked the recipe in my mind Friday evening as I moved railroad ties. I had originally planned to work out the menu and shop that evening. But a 3 p.m. telephone call from Keith brought me to the Diamond Springs yard instead.

When I arrived at the storage site for the ties, the crew (Mark Bruto, Ed Cunha, Keith and myself) asked me what was on the lunch menu for Saturday. I received a chuckle or two when I told them that Keith had pulled me away from my menu planning duties.

They weren't amused when I said that I should be home planning the menu. At that moment, the crew was more interested in my back than culinary skills. Since we didn't quit until 7:30 p.m., I delayed shopping until Saturday morning.

My original thought was to prepare the stew with orange marmalade, but hit on the idea to build the stock with apple juice after moving almost 250 ties. Yams and apples seemed like a natural addition from that point.

Here's the menu for the El Dorado Western Railway lunch (the links take you to 'Round the Chuckbox, my personal blog):

Eleven crew and guests enjoyed the meal. While I cooked, Doug Youngberg, Sam Thompson, Bill Rodgers, Mark and Keith (see picture) loaded the 1937 Waukesha engine from the Diamond and Caldor railbus onto Doug's trailer. Doug will rebuild the six-cylinder engine and return it to the museum next spring.

After lunch, Ed drove over to the Diamond Springs-El Dorado FPD Station 49 to pick up the fire department's Bobcat. The crew (Bill Schultz, Allen Key, Jacob Karoly, Wayne Thorely, Mark, Keith, Ed and myself) headed over to the Diamond Springs yard. The last 40 or 50 ties, including about 15 massive switch ties, had to be moved to secure storage.

Keith then asked if I was going to help. Lunch over, it was time to get back to work.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Sacramento Bee: Enthusiasts hope El Dorado rail park is just around the bend

The El Dorado County Historical Museum occasionally enjoys an article in one of our regional newspapers:

By Cathy Locke, Sacramento Bee writer
Published: Friday, Sep. 11, 2009, Page 3B

An old locomotive, screened by a chain-link fence and a row of trees, is easy to miss at the El Dorado County Historical Museum in Placerville.

But volunteers have labored for years in the storage yard to restore vestiges of an industry and an era nearly as important to the county as the Gold Rush. By next spring, their handiwork may be on view in the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park.

The park, to be developed within a former Southern Pacific Railroad right of way in the town of El Dorado, will spotlight the county's logging railroads. [Continue reading]

The photo gallery can be viewed by clicking here.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

How many railroaders does it take to thread a screw?

Answer: One railroad president (Keith Berry, tapping the hole for the handbrake pal) and six railroads giving advise, including the photographer! The crew includes, clockwise from top left, John Rodgers, Wayne Thorely, Bill Rodgers, Alberto Weiss and Mark Bruto. Photographer Steve Karoly was behind the camera.

Keith and Alberto have used the past week to fabricate a new hand brake for the Diamond and Caldor railbus flatcar. Using parts donated from a rail museum in Massachusetts (ratchet and pawl), the two designed and machined the chain roller, brake shaft and bushings for the hand brake.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Handrail and roof

Monday, August 24, was a productive day on the Diamond and Caldor Railbus:

Mark Bruto drills one of the holes for the handrail on the rear entrance to the rail bus. Keith Berry guided Mark to make sure the hole was drilled square to the rear wall. Welder Wayne Thorley (not pictured) finished welding both handrails on Saturday.

Steve Karoly (pictured) and Keith sanded the roof to the railbus before Mark arrived. The painting and preservation team took advantage of the cool weather. With Steve taking the lead, the two completely sanded the old paint off in about two hours. The plan is to paint the roof silver while the body will be school bus yellow.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park to county supervisors today

Today is a significant day for the El Dorado Western Railway and the El Dorado County Historical Museum. Our proposal to build the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park is going before the county Board of Supervisors today for approval.

The project is being recommended by Supervisor Jack Sweeney and Library Director Jeanie Amos. (The museum falls under the County Library.)

The full text of the proposal can be viewed on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisor's website.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Working on the Porter

When I stopped by the engine house last Wednesday, I found Keith Berry sanding the wood surfaces on the Michigan-California Lumber Co. No. 6 Porter locomotive. Even though the tiny eight-ton 0-4-0T engine (CN 2049) isn't scheduled for renovated at this time, Keith wanted to preserve the wood surfaces. The wood seats and arm rests soon rot away when left to the elements with the open cab.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back in action ... report on rail recovery

After working as the chef at Deer Crossing Camp at Loon Lake for the summer, I'm back in town and ready to report on the happenings of the Ed Dorado Western Railway. Although I was out-of-action for most of the summer, volunteers have been busy with various projects.

My last two reports on the rail recovery project at the site of the old Diamond Springs Southern Pacific depot and yard named the volunteers who were involved. This included new father and son team, along with the son's friend and a young volunteer, as reported in my July 16 update.

My original story of June 9 listed the names of some eight volunteers who contributed significant physical effort toward removing un-need rail at the Missouri Flat Road site for eventual use at the proposed El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park in the Town of El Dorado.

One volunteer stands out among the dozen who have contributed to the project. Bill Rodgers worked on the project from the beginning in early June. He probably gave more time than any other volunteer.

Even after the contractor palatalized the rail joiners and tie plates, Bill made sure that these key components for the construction of sidings and a third rail at El Dorado were secured at the county museum on Placerville Drive. As recently as last Saturday, Bill was moving rail hardware to the museum.

You quickly learn of Bill's impeccable work ethic when working side-by-side with him. With his trademark bib overalls and orange t-shirt, Bill is a master handyman who and will can do almost anything.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Update on Diamond Springs depot rail removal

June 9, 2009 was the last time I worked on the rail project in the old Southern Pacific yard at Diamond Springs. My summer job at Loon Lake in Eldorado National Forest has kept me far away from the day-to-day action of the El Dorado Western Railway and El Dorado County Historical Museum.

I left for Deer Crossing Camp at the front end of the rail removal project. Except for weekly email updates from Keith Berry, I've been out of the loop.

Home for a rare two-day stretch, I emailed Keith earlier in the week and arranged to meet at the Diamond Springs Hotel for breakfast today.

Keith and I met El Dorado County Fire Battalion Chief Kurt Taylor and EDWRF board member Ed Cuhna at the hotel. We caught up on the happenings of the railway and its effort to promote the proposed El Dorado County Railroad Park at the old El Dorado depot site in El Dorado.

"The project went right along, thanks to our new volunteers," said Keith. The railway experienced a sudden influx of volunteer at the beginning of June. Father and son team Mike and Mason Powers had started Memorial Day week.

Then Mason brought his friend Ian to help. Ian's father soon joined in, as did a young, hard-working college student, Alex. "Ian and his dad used to come around at the county fair and visit us," said Keith.

"Everybody pitched in," added Keith. The rail team completed the project in eight calendar days, "which is amazing."

Our foursome enjoyed lively conversation on local politics, fire department news and rail happenings in El Dorado County. It gave me a chance to re-connect with rail buddies and get my mind a way from the camp kitchen (more on my job at 'Round the Chuckbox).

Kurt and Ed left to restore an old fire engine after breakfast. Keith and I talked on.

Always gracious, hotel co-owner Amy Shim and Kathy, our server, kept coffee and soda flowing for two and one-half hours.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Workin' on the railroad

I've twice had opportunity to lay and remove railroad track. The first came in 1983 when my reserve unit, Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 2's Detachment 0402, built a 880-foot rail spur at McClellen Air Force Base in Sacramento.

I should've come away from the five-month project with a new found appreciation for the heavy physical labor required by track workers. But it didn't happen that way.

I worked a desk job during the years that I drilled with Det. 0402. As the detachment career counselor, it was my job to convince the young Seabees to stay in the Naval Reserves when their first enlistment came to an end.

During those years, I often held counseling sessions on the tailgate of my pick up truck at the job site. While I spent many hours at McClellen as the Seabees removed the old spur, built a new loading dock and lay the ties and rail, I pushed paper instead of driving spikes.

I did drive several spikes at the insistence of some of the Seabees on the project. As a life-long rail enthusiast, I eagerly joined in. I can say that driving a spike with the long, pointed spike maul is not easy. It takes years of experience to hit the spike square on its head.

My newest experience started Saturday. The crew of the El Dorado Western Railway is removing the track on the old Southern Pacific Placerville Branch right-of-way east of Missouri Flat Road in Placerville, California.

The crew is relocating the track, along with the switches, joiners, joiner bolts, spikes and tie plates from the old Diamond Springs yard to the site of the proposed El Dorado County Railroad Park in the town of El Dorado. A contractor is currently expending the El Dorado Trail a long the old right-of-way from Placerville to Missouri Flat Road.

I have a new found appreciation for the work of the old section gangs. It took two four-hour days for the crew to remove the joiner bolts on approximately 1,000-feet of mainline and siding track.

Using early twentieth century track tools, our crew of six unbolted the joiners that were spaced every 30 feet on Friday and Saturday. A four-man crew removed spikes on 300 feet of track on Sunday afternoon.

I realized Sunday that track work gives you a good, healthy cardio workout. My pulse approached 130 beats per minute after I had pulled spikes for an hour. I felt good despite a few aches and pains Sunday night. I belive my evening walks helped.

The track relocation is a project of the El Dorado County Historical Museum. As volunteers of the museum, the El Dorado Western Railway is providing labor and technical assistance to the museum as it moves forward with the railroad park in El Dorado.

Rail work ...

Since last Friday, crew members have worked every day to prepare the rail at the old Diamond Springs yard for removal. The El Dorado Western Railway will ultimately move the rail and its associated hardware to the town of El Dorado for the new El Dorado County Railroad Park. The rail and switches will be used at the railroad park for the sidings and third rail.

All track east of Missouri Flat Road in Placerville is being removed. Within a couple weeks, the contractor will grade the old right-of-way and built that section of the El Dorado Trail. The track west of Missouri Flat will remain in place.

Each day one or more teams of two to three volunteers have worked for three to four hours to remove the joiner bolts and spikes. Once that process has been completed, the crew will remove the joiner plates and turn the rail on its side. Then the tie plates can be picked up.

The following volunteers have helped with the project: Keith Berry, Steve Karoly, Bill Rodgers, Ed Cuhna, Eric Stohl, Mark Bruto and Jacob Karoly. Plus, we have a new father and son team that joined the effort last Friday.

Please don't look if you're a high school shop teacher! Bill uses an unconventional assortment of tools to hold the joiner bolt steady while Keith attempts to break it free.

Eric hold the bolt steady while Ed prepares to remove the nut. Friday and Saturday, the crew removed the joiner bolts on approximately 800 feet of the main line and 200 feet of one siding. On Sunday, the crew removed spikes from about 300 feet of track.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Removing the engine

On Memorial Day, the crew pulled the engine out of the Diamond and Caldor Railbus No. 10. We are getting ready to send the circa 1937 Waukesha engine up to Doug Youngberg's house in Oregon. Doug will rebuild the engine and return it to Placerville in the fall.

The crew had already removed the radiator and hood from the engine compartment. When welder Wayne Thorley builds the engine stand, he will include supports for the radiator. Doug will need the radiator when he tests the engine on the stand.

The first task was to move the flatcar out of the way. Keith Berry pulled it out into the parking lot while Mark Bruto kept trucks from crabbing.

Ed Cuhna, Mark and Keith first tried to lift the engine out of the railbus by attaching a lifting plate to the rear head. When Keith lifted the engine, they found that the center of gravity was too far back. The engine leaned forward into the forward engine mounds.

Ed and Mark removed the lifting plate and moved it to the center head on the engine. First, Mark had to take the plate to the machine shop and re-bore the holes to match the studs on the center head.

Keith re-positioned the forklift. Ed and Mark then rigged the chains to the lifting plate.

The crew then removed the engine out of the railbus. The engine behaved as expected. It tilted approximately 20 percent to the transmission. Here Mark guides the engine as Keith backs the forklift.

Mark and Ed steadied the engine as Keith drove it to the front of the engine house.

The crew blocked the engine in front of the engine house. The engine stand will be build with material that was donated by Barsotti Juice Company. Bill Rodgers was instrumental in acquiring the material. During the engine removal, Wayne welded plates for the steel casters to the bottom of the engine stand. Wayne and Mark are building the engine supports for the engine stand this morning.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Cuttin' torch

Mark Bruto uses a cutting torch to free the exhaust manifold so that we can remove the engine from the Diamond and Caldor Railbus No. 10. Keith Berry assisted Mark perform a few last minute tasks on Friday, May 15, 2009. Volunteers plan to remove the engine today.

Friday, May 08, 2009

2009 membership letter

Dear Railroad Enthusiast:

There she sits, alone in the weeds, without purpose, and unattended. Her paint is faded, her cab is rusting, and her headlight is but an empty shell. No reason to worry; she has no place to run. She sits on a lonely stub of track, near an auto racetrack, not the saw mill she served from 1907 to 1953. No engineer to open her throttle, no fireman to raise her steam, not even a kid happens by to play engineer and head east to Caldor.

The Diamond and Caldor No. 4 sat for many years on the El Dorado County Fair-grounds. Eventually, concerned management decided to bulldoze a pit and bury the locomotive. Thankfully, a last minute offer was accepted and the locomotive spent time at Camino as a display for a tourist railroad. Once again, the locomotive found its way to Placerville, this time being located at the El Dorado County Historical Museum.

During the past 15 years of volunteer Saturday work, the D&C No. 4 has been our center of attention and commitment toward a return to steam operation. New parts were patterned and cast, other parts were sandblasted and painted, and one key part purchased still in its box from 1940.

Today, this once almost buried locomotive is nearing restoration. Her water and oil tanks are finished, her wheels are round, her brake rigging repaired, and her cab is fashioned from beautiful Red Oak. Today, this locomotive draws attention from visitors. She will be the oldest operating Shay of her class. The most frequently asked question is "When will she run"?

Is something special happening here? Progress is evident from the vantage point of a before photograph. Dare we look ahead to operation?

This is where you come in. Would you like to see the D&C No. 4 chug along the old Southern Pacific Placerville Branch line in the Town of El Dorado? Please take this opportunity to join the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation. Your valuable support will assist in the continued restoration of this historic locomotive and other El Dorado County railroad artifacts like the D&C No. 10 Railbus.

Through our membership program and generous donations by railroad enthusiasts like you, we will raise the necessary funds to complete the D&C No.4 and return her to a safe operating condition. For a weekly view of restoration activities, please visit our comprehensive website at The blog chronicles the efforts of the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation as it restores a number of key
El Dorado County railroad artifacts.

The Membership Program has many benefits:
  1. You have the satisfaction of knowing you are contributing in a meaningful way toward the preservation of our historic railroad artifacts
  2. Membership card
  3. Quarterly newsletter
  4. Discounts of 15 percent on Foundation merchandise
  5. Recognition as an Associate Member in the newsletter
Enclosed is an Associate Membership sign-up card. Please don’t put this off. We want to continue to make progress on these most important restoration projects and we need your help.

I would just like to say thank you for your interest in El Dorado County railroading. I also want to thank you for joining the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation as an Associate Member and contributing to the preservation of railroading history for future generations. All aboard!


Keith Berry

PS: Please stop by the museum any Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 104 Placerville Dr., Placerville to say hi to the crew and see our progress.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Camp Layman Road crossing

Camp Layman Road crossing, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.

My son and I drove spent the day following Union Pacific No. 844 up the Feather River Canyon yesterday. We started at Oroville at 8 a.m. and ended later in the afternoon when the train pulled into Portola.

This photograph is my best of the day. I like the classic pose of the 1940s-era 4-8-4 Northern pulling past a jubilant group of railfans at the Camp Layman Road grade crossing on the Middle Fork of the Feather River.

The UP 844 was the last steam locomotive built and delivered to the Union Pacific Railroad. With a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement, the locomotive was used in fast passenger train service until the 1957. It spent its last days in active service pulling freight trains.

The Union Pacific saved the engine from the scrapper's torch in 1960. It now tours the country as a living legacy to the days of steam. The locomotive was built by the American Locomotive Company and carries a construction number of 72791.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A slow week or two

"It's been a quiet week in Lake Wobegon ..."

This is how Garrison Keillor has begun his monologue about the fictional Minnesota town each week on the A Prairie Home Companion radio show.

You can say the same thing about the engine house at the El Dorado Western Railway. With our normal cadre of six to eight volunteers cut to one or two, slowed progress a bit.

Unseasonably cold weather and rain, along with out-of-town volunteers (myself included), has hindered work over the past two weeks.

As the weather warms, work will pick up on the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 and Railbus No. 10.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Restoration by remote control

This article was originally published in the winter 2008 edition of The Dispatch, the official newsletter of the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation. It contains many of the thoughts of our current president, Keith Berry

Volunteers are a very special type of individual, and are fast becoming a rare resource in our "me first--it’s all about me" society. Discovering--and then nourishing such an individual, who gives of their time, talent and resources--is the challenge of any volunteer driven project.

Our Diamond and Caldor No. 4 restoration project enters its 14th year! That is a lifetime in terms of volunteerism. Some volunteers work awhile and then move on. Others stay longer, committed to the end, determined to overcome the challenges, just to reach the point of saying, "We did it!"

However, the longer the project, the chances increase that some members of the team experience life and family changes that take them out of the local community, even though they remain committed to the endeavor. That’s when Restoration by Remote Control becomes a viable alternative for these individuals to remain connected to the project.

Within our project, several team members support the local team in very special ways.

Richard Wright, who lives in Louisville, Kentucky, has been on the team for years. Richard grew up in Placerville, has family here and played on the No. 4 as a child when it sat at the fairgrounds.

Richard excels at pattern making, casting coordination and technical consultation. Richard has re-created patterns for locomotive number plates, builder’s plates, axle bearings and now is working on brake system patterns. We look forward to Richard’s future return to the local area, so he can enjoy seeing the No. 4 return to operation.

Doug Youngberg recently relocated to Oregon, so he can enjoy being covered over in blowing rain and snow. Also a long standing team member, Doug is instrumental in all phases of the restoration, and is our boiler project leader.

Doug refers to his new shop as the El Dorado Western Oregon Division. His new shop will serve to restore locomotive components and special one of a kind projects such as the Michigan California Lumber "Bobbie Car" reconstruction. Doug falsely thinks he is going to rest in retirement.

Ken and Scott Romine, father and son team from Manteca, continue to serve long distance, executing mechanical work and providing heavy-haul trucking resources for movements of track. Movement of special narrow gauge size equipment calls for special people like the Romine family.

The eventual success of our volunteer driven projects is through overcoming the logistical changes in our members lives. Given electronic communication, projects can be pursued from de-centralized locations, engineering drawing copied and transmitted and visual relationship maintained through website, blog site and cell phone photography.

We maximize our project success through the following:

  • Matching the skills of the remote volunteer to projects that don’t require their presence in Placerville.
  • Provide resources, like drawings, parts, pictures, and funds to complete the project.
  • Stay in touch with the understanding that the remote volunteer does have a life elsewhere; let time be a flexible resource rather than a constraint.
  • Acknowledge each contribution with sincere thanks and appreciation.
  • Enjoy the ride! Every part counts and every completed project is a step toward the overall accomplishment. All projects have contributing value, and share equally toward completion.
  • Upon completion of one remote project, find new projects that may interest the remote volunteer. Projects should be fun!
Restoration by remote control is a great way to retain special people who have been a vital part of the project. Coordinating them with on-site volunteer efforts is the key to reaching the status of "A special project, well done, by special people, voluntarily."

Thanks to all of our remote volunteers. Your efforts are most appreciated.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Keith Berry in the news

The crew, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.

"(Steam) is a big deal for anyone into trains because it brings back an understanding of what life was like in Roseville," said El Dorado Western Railway President Keith Berry in a Roseville Press-Tribune article this afternoon.

"You're looking at active history in this area right now."

This afternoon a Keith and I drove over to Roseville to view the Union Pacific No. 844 roll into town for the weekend. It was the last steam locomotive built and delivered to the Union Pacific Railroad.

With a 4-8-4 wheel arrangement, the locomotive was used in fast passenger train service until the 1957. The 844 spent its last days in active service pulling freight trains.

The Union Pacific saved the engine from the scrapper's torch in 1960. It now tours the country as a living legacy to the days of steam. The locomotive was built by the American Locomotive Company (construction no. 72791).

A visit from an out-of-town volunteer

Doug Youngberg and wife drove down from their home in Oregon the last two weekends. They're moving the last of their belongings from storage to their home along the Sprague River in southeastern Oregon.

When long-distant volunteers come to Placerville, it gives the crew a chance to catch up on what's happening in their lives. These volunteers, like Doug and Richard Wright in Kentucky, get to interact with the crew on a more personal level. And the visit helps to validate their involvement with the project.

In the photograph, Doug shows me how a ball governor works. The governor currently sits in from of one of the stamp mills at the El Dorado County Historical Museum.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Raising the crankshaft

Last Saturday, Sam Thompson and Mark Bruto mounted the middle eccentric onto the crankshaft of the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive. The project took most of the morning. The crankshaft was lifted in place. Sam is now ready to re-assemble the rest of the engines.

Sam (foreground) and Mark raise the crankshaft using a pair of screw jacks.

Mark slid under the firebox to help Sam mount the eccentric.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Spring newsletter released

"The spring 2009 newsletter brings important news of the Diamond and Caldor Railbus No. 10 renovation," said Steve Karoly, EDWRF vice-president and newsletter editor. If all proceeds according to plan, the railway will complete its re-fit by this fall.

"The recent development of the El Dorado Railroad Park concept plan has emphasized the need for a restored rail artifact that can transport riders," said EDWRF President Keith Berry in the newsletter.

"We anticipate immediate public interest once approval is given to occupy the right-of-way in El Dorado. The Diamond and Caldor No. 10 Railbus has become the obvious choice for expedited restoration."

To read more about restoration of the almost 80-year-old one-of-a-kind railbus, you'll have to join the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation.

The spring edition also features a look back at the Diamond and Caldor No. 10 Shay. Volunteer Mark Bruto is featured in The Extra Board and we conclude our re-print Robert Niles' 1979 History of the California Door Company and its Logging Railroads.

Join the effort to restore the Diamond and Caldor No. 4
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. 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?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Setting up for a shave

Sam reads the measuring devise as he lines the middle eccentric up with the boring head. The rig looks more like a 21st century robot arm that's been attached to a 19th century drilling head.

"This machine is not the daintiest thing to run," said Sam Thompson.

He struggled to line the middle eccentric up with the boring head. Sam's main concern was to line the eccentric on vertical and horizontal planes, or pitch and yawl, as he calls it. Otherwise, the eccentric won't line up properly with the crankshaft, said Sam.

His goal is to shave about one and one-half hundredths of an inch from the interior bore on the middle eccentric. Sam finished the job today. The test comes next Saturday when he re-fits the eccentric onto the crankshaft.

Sam used a series of shims and wedges -- "whatever I could find" -- to line the eccentric up with the boring head.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Now that spring is here ...

The past two weeks have been slow at the engine house of the El Dorado Western Railway. After a years-worth of activity this winter, all of our volunteers took last Saturday off.

Until now, the engine house and machine shop have been busy places, considering it was the middle of winter. Unusually dry weather and an abundance of projects gave us to expand work days to include Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings.

Weekday volunteers Alberto Weiss, Mark Bruto, Marcus Hodge , Keith Berry and Wayne Thorley gave us the ability to work on multiple projects. Saturday volunteers San Thompson, John Rodgers, Bill Rodgers, Jacob Karoly and Steve Karoly (Steve also works on Fridays) rounded the crew.

It seems that we all decided to take a day off with springs approach. Sam ran up to Oregon for the 5th annual Pacific Model Loggers' Congress at the Camp 18 Restaurant Logging Museum, in Elsie, Oregon. (We do allow our volunteers to take railroad-related field trips on occasion!)

Keith was out of town on business while Steve attended a training class for work and visited the grandkids in the Bay Area. And Bill had to install some new equipment at his job. The others took advantage of the absence of leadership and enjoyed a free Saturday.

Now that spring officially yesterday, the crew is ready to get back into action. I'm sure I'll have more to report soon.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Shaving a bit at a time

"I'm trying to decide whether to put it on the lathe or horizontal boring mill," said lead machinist Sam Thompson. Harold Tilton and Sam dropped the crankshaft and removed the eccentric on Saturday, February 28, because it didn't fit properly.

Sam spent Saturday morning recalculating his next series of cuts on the middle eccentric to the Diamond and Caldor No. 4. He figures he must to remove one-thousands of an inch from the eccentrics bore to make it fit onto the crankshaft.

"It's going to be a cut-and-fit process," said Sam. The challenge will come when Sam tries to mount the eccentric on the lathe. He expects it to take several Saturdays.

In the picture, Sam uses railway's No. 2 rotary head milling machine to shave a thin layer of metal out of the key slot on the middle eccentric.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Starting to look like a locomotive

Arnold Z, the El Dorado Western Railway's only diesel-powered locomotive, has sat in a state of disassembly for about three years. The crew started preparing her for renovation in early spring 2006.

It was an exciting time. Except for Sam Thompson's valve-facing project, there was little need for a crew to work on the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay. Most of the immediate work had been completed. The two of the four remaining projects -- build a new middle eccentric and repair the boiler -- were beyond the expertise of most of the crew. (Sam has since finished the eccentric.)

We needed a project for the three enthusiastic volunteers who had just joined the El Dorado Western project. The tear-down proceeded quickly. The crew cut up the steel cab and set it on a pallet next to the machine shop. They then removed the wheel sets, journal boxes and leaf springs. You can view the project’s early progress by typing the keyword "Plymouth" in the search box above.

We thought the locomotive could be operational within a year or so. By the spring of 2007 the Arnold crew had disbanded due to things beyond their control. Two of the three crewmen (a father and son) both had to start working Saturdays. Without the two strong backs, the third crewman turned to other projects.

The project soon faltered. The disassembled Plymouth locomotive sat in the museum yard along the fence for two years. Except for a occasional paint job, we focused our energies on other pressing projects.

Last week the crew has turned its attention toward Arnold. The crew built a new cab and remounted the radiator and engine hood in response to a recent effort to clean up the museum yard. The team consisted of John Rodgers, project lead for the cab, Bill Rodgers, Keith Berry, Steve Karoly and Jacob Karoly.

Keith holds the plywood sheet while John cuts a wall panel for the new wood cab to Arnold. As a local contractor, John has volunteered his time on several key woodworking projects since last fall.

John screws one of the top plates onto the studs for the cab.

Steve helps John mount the end piece on the rafters to the cab last week. The cab was 90 percent done when the crew left at 5:30 p.m. last Saturday. John installed the windows Wednesday and worked on some of the trim.

Wayne waits for the radiator as Keith brings it forward with the forklift. Bill placed a temporary set of running boards over the gravel ground covering.

Bill guides Keith as he operates the forklift. It was a delicate operation that required Keith to raise and lower the radiator in very small increments.

Bill and Wayne guide the radiator in place as Keith drives the forklift.