Thursday, December 30, 2010


"This is just everyday routine stuff," explained Keith Berry (right) as he repaired a sticking coupler pin on the El Dorado Western Railway No. 1 locomotive with Cal Jessiman as Bob McCormack looked on. "It's what they do everyday at Roseville."

Sunday, December 26, 2010

El Dorado Western Railway No. 1 Plymouth locomotive move to El Dorado

Plymouth Locomotive No. 5634 was donated by the Certainteed Division of the Saint-Gobain Corporation of Chowchilla, California. The El Dorado Western Railway is operating component of the El Dorado County Railroad Park and is located in the town El Dorado, California, on the former Placerville Branch of the Sacramento Valley Railroad. The railroad runs parallel to the El Dorado Trail.

Friday, December 24, 2010

EDWR No. 1 on YouTube

Brett Soto, El Dorado Western engineer trainee, heads to Hagen's Crossing on the first run day for the 1952 Plymouth JDT 18-ton locomotive. Number 1 is the first Locomotive on the Placerville Branch of the Sacramento Valley Railroad in more than 20 years.

Plymouth loco run day at El Dorado

There's nothing more exciting than to wake up Christmas morning and find a HO-scale train under the tree. All you want to do is piece the track segments together, plug in the transformer and run the five-car train in a circle for hours on end. It's a holiday ritual that's been practiced in millions of American homes over the past century.

Last Saturday morning the town of El Dorado woke up and found a full size Plymouth locomotive under the oak trees. The banner on the engine housing proclaimed, "Merry Christmas to El Dorado, CA."

It's the gift of the El Dorado Western Railway to the historic town of El Dorado, a town that once served as an important stop on the Southern Pacific Placerville Branch rail line. Two long blasts on the whistle indicated that the railroad had returned to El Dorado.

Steven Karoly takes his turn at operating the No. 1. The crew ran the El Dorado Western Railway No. 1 up and down the rail this afternoon. The 18-ton Plymouth locomotive was donated to the railway on Friday, December 17, 2010 by the CertainTeed Corporation in Chowchilla, California.

The Plymouth approaches Hagen's Crossing at Oriental Drive. The banner over the radiator thanks three companies for their assistance in the donation of the Plymouth locomotive to the railway. They include the CertainTeed Corporation for its donation of the engine, Diamond Crane of Diamond Springs for lifting the locomotive onto the track and Bordges Timber of El Dorado for transporting the engine to El Dorado.

Cal Jessiman relaxes for a moment after completing the first leg of his run to Hagen's Crossing.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Storm patrol

Water is the enemy of railroad ties. More than 20 years of maintenance inactivity on the Southern Pacific Placerville Branch line has taken a toll. Many ties have slowly rotted away due to poor drainage on the right-of-way.

One of the first tasks of the El Dorado Western Railway was to rehabilitate a major flood zone adjacent to the El Dorado Community Hall. Storm water formed a sizable pond each winter at the site of the SP station in the town of El Dorado. The seasonal pond threatened to undermine a good 100 yards of track on the curve.

A volunteer crew began work at the site in late October. The crew fill in the pond, stabilized the soil with straw and devised a drainage system. Volunteers patrol the site during each large storm to make sure water is properly flowing.

Last Saturday, my son and I mucked out the drainage ditches at the depot site. Storm water once again flows in the ditch on the north side of the rail after all obstructions were cleared. In the background, Jacob Karoly mucks the drainage ditch on the south side.

The El Dorado Western Railway No. 1, a 1952 18-ton Plymouth locomotive, waits out the rain storm in El Dorado. The water started draining once I muked out the ditch.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

There is a better way to remove ties

I've previously posted pictures of the crew removing railroad ties the hard way. We often resort to prying, kicking and pounding the tie out from under the rail. While it's time consuming, our method gets the job done, especially in remote areas.

Last week El Dorado Western Railway President Keith Berry let me download these photographs from his camera. They gave me a chance to view track work on the weekdays. Since I work in Sacramento Monday through Friday, I miss the weekday projects.

This photographic series show how the crew used Bob McCormack's backhoe to remove a dozen ties on the historic Southern Pacific Placerville Branch rail line on Friday, November 5, 2010.

Ben Cuhna and Jeremy McCormack (both bent over) guide a rotten tie out from under the rail as Bob pulls it with the backhoe. While difficult to see, the crew wrapped a chain around the leading edge of the tie and attached to to the bucket.

Jeremy observes as the backhoe operator pulls a rotten tie out with the claws on the bucket.

The CP&LT No. 4 track inspection car waits at Hagen's Crossing on Oriental Road in the Town of El Dorado. The ties on the Southern Pacific push car will soon be inserted under the track.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Speeder run on Saturday

On Saturday, December 4, 2010, the El Dorado Western Railway participated in the Town El Dorado's Gold Rush Christmas. It was a relaxing day after working on the track for the past seven Saturdays.

Put my granddaughter in a moving vehicle and she's sound asleep! She's drifting into dreamland as she watches her reflection the speeder's taillight.

Twice I was able to take the Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe Railroad No. 4 speeder out for a spin between the old SP depot site and Blanchard Road.

These western troubadours strolled along the right-of-way in early afternoon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

UP tie replacement

You Tube caption: "A walk along the tracks in downtown Elmhurst while The Union Pacific Railroad replaces wooden ties. We start just West of York Rd. and go about a block West and show some of the equipment in operation. This is right at the Elmhurst, Illinois, METRA station."

Maintenance-of-way the real way

Keith, wouldn't this be fun to operate?

Caption on flickr: "Kershaw Tie Crane at work removing old ties recently removed from the rail line in Castlegar Canadian Pacific Railway yard."

Replacing ties

How does a railroad replace ties?

Like most aspects of our 21st century lives, railroads have found ways to mechanize tasks that once to require back-breaking labor. Tie replacement is one such task.

"There's a lot less back work now. The Union Pacific spends money for equipment so we can get in and get out and don't disrupt the traffic," Union Pacific foreman Dean Barber told the Craig Daily Press in May 2007. "I give credit to the old timers. They busted their backs working on the railroad."

The Union Pacific Railroad has a track-mounted machine called the TKO. After specialized track machines remove the spikes, the TKO travels down the rail, removing ties marked for replacement.

"Clamps grasp the railheads and hydraulic jacks push off the ground, lifting the rails from the ties," explained Dan's Depot: The Coast Line in Union Pacific maintenance-of-way gallery. "Then the hydraulic arm grabs the old tie and pulls it straight out, leaving it alongside the tracks."

Following the TKO are other speicialized machines that lift the track that allow workers to insert tie plates. Then spiking machines come a long, "rattling away like machine-guns."

"Oh, just in case you were wondering, we replace an average of 2,700 ties per day! The record is 5,000!" a UP worker told Amtrak conductor and student engineer Dan Klitzing in 1998.

I doubt the El Dorado Western Railway will acquire a TKO tie replacement machine any time soon.

And 2,700 ties per day? We pat ourselves on the back when we replace five in a day (our current record)!

The EDWR handles tie replacement the old fashion way, with lots of "back work!"

After replacing three missing bolts in the joiner bar, Steven Karoly (left) and Ed Cunha pounded, pried and kicked until the rotten tie could be pulled from under the track on the old Southern Pacific Placerville Branch rail line near Blanchard Road. Meanwhile, Keith Berry tightened the joiner bolts.

Historic El Dorado's 'Gold Rush Christmas'

A Christmas Faire in Mud Springs

Come one, come all on Saturday, December 4, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. to enjoy holiday festivities during Historic El Dorado’s "Gold Rush Christmas" faire.

Historic El Dorado town merchants and volunteers are turning the clock back to the Old Time Christmas Faire of years past. Stroll amongst decorated trees and storefront windows, enjoy the aroma and taste of great food, experience warm hospitality and shop from some 30 crafters and vendors during this free and fun event!

There is a full schedule of activities:

9-11 a.m. -- Flapjack Bob $8. Pancake breakfast location: Community Hall

11 a.m. to 1 p.m. -- Marilyn Wiley, author of Buffalo Chips & Co. book signing at Books 'n Bears

11:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. -- Chewin' tobacky (Tootsie Rolls) spittin' contest (it's a hoot!) at the Dorado Stage (Habitat for Humanity)

High Noon -- Kids and adult costume contest judging at the Dorado Stage

Noon to 5 p.m. -- Big Nose Kate's Claimjumper Chili and cornbread at the Community Hall

12:30 to 2 p.m. -- Bob and Shirley, Old-time Western songs at the Dorado Stage

1 and 3 p.m -- Christmas Carolers at the Crocker House

2 p.m. -- Storytelling and pinecone birdfeeder making at the Crocker House

2 to 3 p.m. -- Suzuki Kids 13th Annual Violin Concert at Gallery El Dorado

5 p.m. -- Traditional tree lighting ceremony in front of firehouse

All day activities:

Fabulous vendors —- jewelry, handcrafted goods, antiques and gifts

Davey "Doc" Wiser and crew stagecoach rides

Kids "Go for the Gold" treasure hunt

Tasty local foods -- Tequila Sam Tacos in front of Poor Red's

Treats and hospitality from local shops and merchants

El Dorado Trade School bake sale

Letters to Santa (drop off at The Barn)

Family Trust Estate Liquidators non-perishable charity food, and clothing drive (at Eagle Truck & Auto). Jess Notright on the loose!

Habitat for Humanity playhouse drawing

Hear the Whistle Blow!

Train rides and railway stuff presented by the El Dorado Western Railway and Folsom, El Dorado and Sacramento Historical Railroad Association.

A $5 donation will get you to Greenstone Road (a 36-minute ride) and a $10 donation will take you to Mother Lode Drive in Shingle Springs. It's a wonderfully old-fashioned and scenic experience. Hop on near the Community Hall in El Dorado, off of Oriental Street.

Come in Gold Rush period dress and enjoy this festive adventure of the Old West! Come one, come all to Old Mud Springs!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A bicycle superhighway for the SP right-of-way?

I get that fact that the railroad right-of-way is an ideal corridor to locate a major recreation trail in El Dorado County (alongside the train, of course). The El Dorado Western Railway has long supported a combined rail and trail system of the historic Southern Pacific Placerville Branch rail line right-of-way. It seems to me that the overwhelming majority of people will drive to one of the rail/trail heads to ride the train or hike or ride (bike or horse) on the trail (or to do both!).

What I don't get is the potential for the right-of-way to become a major bicycle transportation artery, a ‘superhighway’ of sorts. Other than a dedicated minority, who is going to use the bike path to commute to and from school and work? Without hundreds of miles of bike lanes on county roads feeding into the right-of-way/bike superhighway, how is this going to be practical?

A case in point: As a high school senior who attends Union Mine High School, the proposed bicycle superhighway wouldn't benefit my son. Living on east side of Diamond Springs, he'd ride his bicycle westward down Main Street/Pleasant Valley Road to Koki Lane. I suppose the right-of-way would be of benefit if he attended El Dorado High, but he doesn't. And since I work in mid-town Sacramento, it's impractical to commute via bicycle.

And what about Cameron Park and El Dorado Hills? The Southern Pacific right-of-way doesn't even travel through these communities. Once the tracks leave Shingle Springs, they head south for Latrobe, before turning north for Folsom. Does the county plan to connect these communities with a second major Class I bike path?

We'd love to hear constructive comments on this issue. What are your thoughts? Do you support the concept of a bicycle superhighway? Or do you believe that the right-of-way should be reserved for trains and recreation only?

Is this the reason that the Friends of the El Dorado Trail are pushing for a Class I trail on the right-of-way? For those who don’t know, a Class I trail is a "bike path that is completely separated from other uses." If I read this right, that means that you need two paved trails, one for the commuter bike path and the other for pedestrians, etc.

One further question: Is this is the reason that the Friends of the El Dorado Trail have ardently pushed to rip out the tracks from the county line to Mother Lode Drive (at the El Dorado Wye)? For the record, the Friends have agreed to share the right-of-way with the train in the segment plan for Mother Lode Drive to Missouri Flat Road, which coincides with the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park.

The El Dorado Trail segment from Missouri Flat Road to the Forni Road is a Class II trail. According to the article, this means that bicycles and pedestrians share the same paved trail.

Biking not just for fun anymore
By Chris Daley

El Dorado County supervisors learned the difference between a bike lane and a bike path Tuesday. They also learned that the county's Bicycle Transportation Plan has nothing to do with going out for a ride on the weekend. It's about serious transportation, not about recreation.

Dan Bolster, an engineer with the Department of Transportation assigned to the county’s Transportation Commission, delivered a slide presentation to the board updating the bicycle transportation element of the General Plan.

Calling the El Dorado Trail a "corollary to Highway 50 for bicycle transportation," Bolster described the long-range plan to complete the non-motorized, multi-use trail from Pollock Pines to Folsom. Within the terms of the plan, it is anticipated that the trail would be used by residents commuting to and from work and by children getting to and from school. That the trail is also a major recreation facility does not figure into the BTP.

Continue reading by clicking here.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Railway builds mountain bike crossing

With the skill of a High Sierra trail crew, volunteers from two railroads joined forces Saturday to stabilize the ballast under track between Mile Posts 138 and 139. The project was a joint effort by the El Dorado Western Railway and Folsom, El Dorado and Sacramento Historical Railway Association.

While the primary goal of the work day was to ensure safe passage of rail equipment through the old Tunnel No. 1 cut, project leader Keith Berry also wanted to repair a washout that threatened the rail to the west of the cut. To facilitate passage on the existing hiking and mountain bike trail adjacent to the tracks, the crew built a trail crossing over the repaired drainage ditch.

The crossing was built in a manner reminiscent of the many trails in the Sierra Nevada. Like a rock and dirt bridge built over a small mountain creek, the crew skillfully laid a rock foundation over an eight-inch steel culvert pipe. Then a car-load of fill dirt from the cut was brought down the rail line to complete the rock and dirt bridge.

This series of photographs chronicles the work at the washout site on Saturday.

Volunteers unload rocks from the push car into the gully. The crew laid a 10-foot line of rocks in the gully. The rocks will prevent rushing water from cutting into the rail bed during heavy rain storms. Bill Wilde, Alex Wilde, Hank Stiles, Keith Berry and Jacob Karoly unloaded the push car in about 15 minutes.

Bill, Alex and Hank represented the FEDS on the project. The FEDS also donated use of its Fairmount A-6 speeder and push car for the day. The A-6 provided the mechanical muscle on the rail to move carloads of rock and fill dirt from the cut to the washout. The speeder also ferried six of the 15 project volunteers from the staging point in Shingle Springs to the project site. Hank Stiles operated the speeder throughout the day.

Alex Wilde throws a large rock into the trench. Around four or five carloads of rock were hauled from the Tunnel No. 1 cut to the washout site. The project site is located about one-half mile west of the cut.

Ed Cunha catches a cantaloupe-sized rock. While it appears that Ben Cunha propelled the rock at his father with the flat-head shovel, Keith Berry actually tossed the rock at Ed from the left of the camera.

Alex Wilde and Hank Stiles rolled a very large rock from the side of the push car down into the trench.

Crew make up changed each time a new load of rocks or fill dirt was brought down the rails to the washout point. The last crew of the day consisted of, left to right, Hank Stiles, Keith Berry, Ben Cunha, Ed Cuhna, Alex Wilde, Bill Wilde and Bill Bellas. Photographer Steven Karoly documented the project.

At the end of the day, Hank drove the Fairmount speeder west toward Mile Post 137 at Shingle Springs. We saw two men on mountain bikes making their way along the track just east of the Shingle Springs Road grade crossing. The cyclists were going to be the first to use the new trail crossing at the washout.

Saturday evening Ed Cunha emailed me with this note: "When we got back to El Dorado some mountain bikers came by and said that they had used the new crossing that we put in, and thanked us for the work."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Wedding train

The readers of the El Dorado Western Railway blog may not know this little know fact: One of our board members was married on a train. The nuptials were held on Bear Mountain on the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad in Felton, California, some 10 years ago.

A photograph, with the happy couple posing for the photographer on the brakeman's footrest of the Dixiana No. 1, greets me each I visit the couple. The shotgun stack, as it reaches for the sky in the bright afternoon light of the Coast Range, always catches my eye as I enter their country home. (No pun intended ... the tall, narrow smokestack is called a shotgun stack because of its resemblance to a shotgun barrel.)

The Shay was a fitting venue for their wedding. As one of the railway's longest running volunteers, this board member dates back to the early days of the renovation of the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay.

I'm sometimes envious of my friends. They did something that I would've loved to have done. Since I'm nearly 30 years into my marriage, I doubt I'll have opportunity to get married on a train. Besides, my wife may have something to say about it!

Unless family tradition dictates otherwise, I highly recommend a special train wedding to our loyal railfans. A Facebook posting alerted me to this Portland wedding on-board the Oregon Pacific yesterday:

"A special train operated Saturday in Portland. But this is a special train in a different sort of way because a couple in our railfan community were married aboard! Leia and George charted this Oregon Pacific train for their ceremony which as long time railfans this was a perfect way for them to have their wedding and celebrate their day!"

Click over to Dogcaught: A Railroad Blog for the rest of the story and more photographs.

Who knows, maybe the El Dorado Western Railway will offer the occasional wedding special soon.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Movin' rock

Volunteers from two railways joined forces today to clear rocks and improve water drainage in the Tunnel No. 1 cut on the Southern Pacific Placerville Branch rail line. The El Dorado Western Railway and Folsom, El Dorado and Sacramento Historical Railroad Association met just after 10 a.m. at the cut, which is visible from eastbound U.S. 50 at the Red Hawk Parkway exit.

In the photograph, the crew loads rocks onto the push car for transport down the line. The rock was used as fill a washout on the right-of-way. The Fairmount A-6 gang car belongs to the FEDS.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Haulin' brush on the railway

One of the goals of the El Dorado Western Railway has been to reduce the vegetation load along the right-of-way. For the past several years, the Folson, El Dorado and Sacramento Historical Railway Association performed this task for the Sacramento-Placerville Transportation Corridor JPA. Last spring Keith Berry and Steven Karoly joined the FEDS in this effort. EDWR is now taking on this task with railway assets.

(While the SPTC is the current official name ascribed to the historic rail line, we prefer to call is the Southern Pacific Branch after its last operational designation.)

While the task may seem insignificant, it's important to preserve the historic right-of-way in operating contition. You can read about Keith and Steven's brush cutting work by clicking here, here or here.

Keith leads the crew in a safety brief at Hagen's crossing on the north end of Oriental Road.

Most of the morning the crew removed down brush in the area between the Oriental Road and Blanchard Road grade crossings. Keith transported the crew one-quarter mile to the east to the spot where brush was at its heaviest.

Volunteers tie off a load of brush on the Southern Pacific push car. The crew ferried about 10 loads of brush throughout the day to a staging point near the old depot site.

Billy Bellas of Cameron Park operates the speeder on the return trip. The railway uses these work days to train all volunteers how to operated its equipment.

Keith guides the Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe No. 4 speeder down the track on the last run of the day.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Railway maintenance crews uncover rail spur

Backhoe operator Bob McCormack skillfully scooped the six- to eight-inch layer of soil that had covered the spur track for the past 20 years. Bob pulled the bucket over the layer of soil without disturbing the rails or ties. Once he exposed the long buried ties, the maintenance-of-way crew removed the loosened dirt with hand tools.

Completed in 1888, the historic Placerville Branch rail line became an "important feeder branch line after the turn of the (twentieth) century for the Southern Pacific, producing hundreds of carloads annually, mostly lumber and refrigerated loads of deciduous fruits," said Doug Noble today in the Mountain Democrat newspaper.

For the first time since the Southern Pacific ceased rail operations in El Dorado County in 1987, the El Dorado Western Railway has started the process of rehabilitating the rail line for railroad operations. Volunteers are working three to four days each week on the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First tie!

There comes a time in the history of every railroad when it reaches a milestone, especially early in its operation life. Just like the Central Pacific Railroad when it spiked in the first section of rail on October 26, 1863 in Sacramento, the El Dorado Western Railway reached a similar milestone last week. A volunteer maintenance-of-way crew laid the first two ties Saturday.

While this event isn't on par with the Central Pacific, which began construction of the western leg of the first Transcontinental Railroad, it was a significant moment for the El Dorado Western. With this small step, the railway repaired a small washout just north of the Town of El Dorado.

Cal Jessiman, left, was given the honor of driving the first spike into the first tie. Railway President Keith Berry lifted the tie with a pry bar for Cal.

Western Railfan booklet

It's been a long time since I've posted an eBay auction on these pages. Here's a small brochure on the history of the Diamond and Caldor Railway, published by the Western Railfan in September 1969.

While I can't predict how high the auction will climb, you should be able to pick it up at a reasonable price if you're the winning bidder. The opening bid is $4. The auction ends at 7 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday, November 1.

I won't be bidding on this item as I already own a copy.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Run day at Shingle Springs

Despite mechanical problems with the speeder and Trackmobile yesterday, the crew successfully ran the between Shingle Springs and Tunnel No. 1 on the old Southern Pacific Placerville Branch rail line. The Folsom, El Dorado and Sacramento Historical Railroad Association sponsored the run. They offered rides to the public on their Weyerhauser Skagit No. 30 gang car and Fairmont A-6 track inspection car.

David Hamilton flags the Davidson Road crossing as the Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe No. 4 speeder heads toward Shingle Springs. During long runs, a vapor lock in the fuel pump prevented the engine from working. The mechanics believe the problem was caused by the lack of air flow through the engine compartment when engaged in reverse. Our initial work-around was to pour cold water on the fuel pump. Later in the day Ed and Ben Cunha bypassed the fuel pump. It worked because the gasoline is gravity fed from the tank, which sets above the engine.

The speeder pulls into Shingle Springs with David at the controls while Kurt Taylor rides "shotgun." When he's not helping on the railway, you'll find Kurt in B7704 for the El Dorado County Fire Protection District, where he's a battalion chief.

The El Dorado Western Railway No. 601 Trackmobile emerges from the Tunnel No. 1 cut on the Placerville Branch. Ben watches the right-of-way for obstacles from the passenger seat. You can see the remains of the tunnel from eastbound U.S. Highway 50 at Exit 40. The Southern Pacific blew the top of the tunnel many years ago. The radiator fan on the Ford 292 V8 engine failed during the run down to Shingle Springs.

On an morning run up to the tunnel cut, conductor Eric Olds guides the Skagit past rock debris. The FEDSHRA crew wasn't able to negotiate the cut without damaging the speeder.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Three hands

Saturday morning, El Dorado Western Railway President Keith Berry instructed volunteer Cal Jessiman to give me a refresher course on the operation of the CP and LT No. 4 speeder. I last ran the track inection car two years ago at an open house on the site of the then proposed railway park in the Town of El Dorado.

Keith wanted my son Jacob and me to make several training runs between the El Dorado and Blanchard crossings while he picked up additional equipment at the county museum.

I followed as Cal detailed the protocol to start the speeder. "This is going to take three hands," explained Cal. I soon leaned what he meant.

To operate the Kalamzoo speeder, grip the clutch lever with your right hand and grab the brake lever with your left hand, said Cal. Then somehow, use your "free hand" to control the throttle.

As Cal explained the process, I rehearsed the emergency braking procedure in my hand and with my hands. Better to simulate disengaging the clutch and engaging the brake now than to fumble through it when a worker walks onto the tracks in front of the moving speeder.

To start the engine, set the brake and place the transmission in neutral, instructed Cal. Turn the key, while gently nudging the throttle forward until the engine catches. Next came the tricky part -- throwing the transmission into gear and proceeding without stalling the engine.

Cal continued. Disengage the clutch with your right hand, shift the transmission into low range and slowly let the clutch out. This is wear the three handed operation comes into play.

I slowly guided the clutch until the transmission was firmly engaged. At the same time I had to be ready to give the engine gasoline to keep it from cutting out. With my left hand on the brake, I slipped the clutch, slowly reduced pressure on the brake and gave the engine one-third throttle -- it worked!

The speeder only jerked once or twice. Two longs on the horn and we were off for the El Dorado Road crossing. (Two long toots on the horn tells railroad workers that you've released the brakes and are proceeding forward.)

Once we were rolling westward on the Placerville Branch, I asked Cal about the origin of his three hands tag. "You know, that sounds a lot like something Keith would say."

"That's exactly what Keith was telling me (yesterday)," said Cal. "You need three hands to do this." Cal operated the speeder for the first time Thursday.

Twenty-three minutes later the run ended. We arrived at Hagen's Crossing, a dirt driveway that crosses the tracks about one-quarter mile east of the railroad depot site. It was time to pass the throttle to the next operator.

Jacob jumped into the operator's seat. A bit apprehensive about the process, he motioned with his hands as I walked him through it.

"Wear gloves," I said as I guided him through the process. "The engine throws off a lot of heat. Keep your left hand on the brake and your right on the clutch and your eye on the road."

It was up to Jacob to figure out how to manage the throttle!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Saturday workday on the Placerville Branch

Jacob Karoly learned how to operate a speeder car on the Placerville Branch rail line on Saturday, October 2, 2010. Eight crewmen from the El Dorado Western Railway gathered at the site of the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Museum for a workday. The railway used the day to train volunteers how to operate the speeder.

The crew loads tools and equipment onto the Southern Pacific push car as it prepares manage the vegetation load on the right-of-way and lubricate joiner bolts on the track. The Camino, Placerville and Lake Tahoe Railroad No. 4 speeder pushed the car from Hagen's Crossing up to Blanchard Crossing where it met the Trackmobile.

The line-up for the workday on Saturday. Keith Berry and Ed Cunha discuss the day's operations in front of the speeder. After the speeder arrived at Blanchard Crossing with the push car, the crew handed it off to the Trackmobile. The Trackmobile used the push car to support operations throughout the day.

Saturday, October 02, 2010


El Dorado Western Railway President Keith Berry (center in blue t-shirt) leads a tailgate safety session before the crew begins work today at Hagen's Crossing, near the site of the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park. The crew accomplished several important tasks on the Placerville Branch rail line. Volunteers learned how to operated the CP& No. 4 speeder, cleaned out four culverts, cut brush and lubricated rail joiner bolts. Most work was accomplished between El Dorado and Blanchard roads.

Friday, October 01, 2010

Trackmobile on You Tube

Here's a short video of the El Dorado Western Railway No. 601 Trackmobile running on the Placerville Branch in Folsom on Saturday, September 18, 2010. Yours truly in the guy that's playing with his cap at the end of the video.

You Tube video of Folsom Railrest

Here's a short video of the Folsom Rail and Transportation Festival on Saturday, September 18, 2010. The Pacific Gas & Electric No. 35 trolley leads the FEDS Skagit No. 30 gang car and Fairmont A4 and A6 speeders on the return trip from the White Rock Grade Crossing.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Drivin' spikes

Drivin' spikes, originally uploaded by SeabeeCook.
When the El Dorado Western Railway drives spikes, it does so the old fashion way. Maul in hand, railway volunteer Ben Cunha takes his turn at driving a railroad spike on the Southern Pacific Placerville Branch last Saturday.

Railway crews are currently replacing missing spikes by manually driving them into the tie with a sledge hammer. Once the crew becomes proficient in the use of a sledgehammer, it will graduate to the traditional spike maul, a large double-sided sledge hammer with long, thin heads.

Monday, September 27, 2010

New caboose in El Dorado County

I discovered this Southern Pacific Railroad caboose at Grampy's Produce in Shingle Springs this afternoon on my way home from work. According to Keith Berry, Caboose No. 1188 would've been manufactured circa 1941. It's nice to see a piece of history spotted on the right-of-way.

You can view a picture of the caboose here that was taken on May 31, 1972, in El Centro, Calif.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Cast iron billet

Lead machinist Sam Thompson is currently machining three pieces for the valve set up from a heavy cast iron billet. They are for the steam engines on the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive. After completing the first part, Sam used the electric shop forklift to move the billet from the lathe to the power hack saw in the next room. From there he cut off the part and returned the billet to the lathe to machine part number two.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

PG&E No. 35 trolley car near White Rock Road

The Pacific Gas & Electric Trolley No. 35 picked up railroad workers near the White Rock Road grade crossing as it prepared to return to Hampton Station on Sunday, September 19, 2010. The El Dorado Western Railway came close to putting its Whiting Trackmobile to work on the Placerville Branch line. Around 2:30 p.m., an official from the Folsom Rail and Transportation Festival stopped by our booth to ask if the Trackmobile was available to recover the trolley as it had stalled on the tracks just north of White Rock Road.

We were told that the trolley's power supply had failed and the vehicle that was going to tow it back, a Regional Transit Unimog hi-rail truck, had jumped the rails. Event organizers thought that the Trackmobile was the ideal recovery vehicle. To effect the recovery, plan was for Keith Berry to drive it south on Old Placerville Road to the site, mount the rails between the Unimog and the trolley and tow it to a point where crews could repair the generator.

In the end, our services weren't needed. But it would've been a photographer's dream to see the El Dorado Western No. 601 Trackmobile towing the PG&E No. 35 back to the northern terminus.

Like EDWR's Trackmobile, the trolley was one of unique artifacts at the Folsom Railfest. It required an alternate source of electricity for the event since the Placerville Branch doesn't have overhead power lines. Normally, the trolley is more at home on the Regional Transit rail lines, where it draws electricity from overhead power line through the trolley pole.

Photographer Philip S. Rose provided some insight into the operation of the trolley in the Village Life newspaper: "To power the vintage rail conveyance, Railfest organizers rented the huge generator being towed behind. (Folsom, El Dorado & Sacramento Historical Railroad Association) member Bob Morrison built a rectifier to convert the AC to DC power for the old streetcar."

The trolley was used throughout the weekend event to give paid rides to the public. The PG&E No. 35 was built in 1913 by the American Car Co. PG&E ran it on its Sacramento City Lines until 1934, when it was retired.

"In 1999, Sacramento Regional Transit purchased a beautifully restored trolley (PG&E 35) from the California Trolley & Railroad Corporation in San Jose," according to the Railway Preservation Resources (RPR Consulting) website page for Sacramento. "The car had been completely rebuilt in the late1980s as part of group of seven immaculately restored trolleys for operation in San Jose. Car 35 is operated on special occasions over a portion of the Light Rail system in the downtown area."

An interesting fact about the trolley is that it carries two road numbers. When restored, the car operated as the San Jose Railroad No. 129. The No. 35 wasn't available and it was renumbered 129, the next available number for the railroad. When Regional Transit purchased the car, a representative told us that the purchase agreement required them maintain the car's No. 129 identity.

Conductor Eric Olds of Folsom, punches a passenger's ticket on an afternoon trolley run on Saturday. Eric is a member of the Folsom, El Dorado & Sacramento Historical Railroad Association. He frequently operates their Skagit No. 30 speeder as the motorman.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How does a railroad refuel the Trackmobile?

Question: How does the El Dorado Western Railway refuel its Whiting Trackmobile?

Answer: The operator dismounts the tracks and drives it to the nearest Chevron station! He then pumps gasoline into the fuel tank, drives back to the tracks and re-mounts.

And yes, the Trackmobile is street legal in California.

Keith Berry pumps gas into the Trackmobile. The gasoline tank holds around 12 gallons topped off.

The El Dorado Western Railway Trackmobile No. 601 is located at the Chevron Station on Placerville Drive in Folsom, California. The Southern Pacific Placerville Branch is located at the base of the rock wall behind Starbucks.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Trackmobile rolls on the Placerville Branch

At 8:45 a.m. this morning, the El Dorado Western Railway mounted the Whiting Trackmobile on the Placerville Branch in Folsom for the first time. With El Dorado Western President Keith Berry at the operator controls, the crew ran it along a one-quarter mile section of the rail to the south of Mile Post 116.

"Well boys, we're on the tracks for the first time," said Keith. The break-in run gave time to evaluate the Trackmobile and make sure no mechanical issues surfaced.

Mark Bruto (kneeling) guides Keith as he mounts the Trackmobile on the tracks as Ed Cunha watches. The process was surprisingly easy. It only took about 5 to 10 minutes.

Ed takes his turn at the controls of the Trackmobile. After Keith's initial 30-minute run, each volunteer took turns learning how to operate the Trackmobile.