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.