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.