Friday, August 27, 2010

Why do we do this?

President Keith Berry wrote this piece last month as we geared up for the summer issue of The Dispatch, the official newsletter of the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation. Since I didn't have room for the article in the newsletter, I'll share Keith's thoughts on volunteerism over the next several weeks here.

The El Dorado Western Railway engine house and machine shops are located in Placerville, on the grounds of the El Dorado County History Museum. Several locomotives, a railbus and various other railroad cars are scattered about, all creating the look of an over sized model railroad. All of us are museum volunteers, our objective being to interpret and explain the work going on toward operating restoration of these community artifacts.

Frequently, we are asked, "Why do you choose to do this work, especially as a volunteer?"

Well, that is a good question, one which we ponder deeply, search for the best explanation and then get right back to the work. Being volunteers, we take breaks, called "standing around," and discuss just why we do volunteer for this work, donating time and expense to keep the work progressing toward a distant conclusion. Usually, we all reach the same answer, we don’t quite know! However, here are the most frequent opinions.

REASON #1: We are attracted to rusting junk! Now, seriously, we don’t like rust. It only serves to entice us to look beneath it for the original pieces and parts which offer recovery to their original beauty. Getting to the item through decades of rust is the attraction to find, save and restore to operational level something 100 years old. We are on a treasure hunt -- a hunt for old trains, steam trains, logging trains, trains of long ago.

To be continued ...

Progress on the Trackmobile

Here are three photographs from Saturday, August 14, 2010:

In the past two weeks, our father and son painting team have made significant progress painting the Whiting Model 3TM Trackmobile.

Ed Cuhna, the new vice president of the El Dorado Western Railway, paints the roof.

Ben Cuhna preps the roof for painting as Ed gets the paint ready.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Imagine a real Thomas The Tank Engine

Yesterday morning I noticed something as I dropped my three-year-old granddaughter off at preschool. While waiting in line, I saw two boys wearing Thomas The Tank Engine t-shirts. A third boy sported a brand new Thomas daypack.

It got me to thinking. If the railroad tracks along the 28-mile Placerville Branch are torn out by Iron Horse Preservation Society, as proposed by the Friends of the El Dorado Trail, then these boys (and their sisters) will never have the opportunity to ride the rails on the historic Placerville Branch rail line.

Sure, the parents of our young Thomas fans could drive the family to the California State Railroad Museum and ride the train on the Sacramento Southern Railroad. After all, the museum is a worthy destination with its amazing collection of locomotives from California's long railroading history.

But I say, why drive over 40 miles to ride an excursion train when there could be at two local railroad venues, one at each end of the line? Boys and girls from throughout the area would encourage their parents make the short drive to passenger depots in Folsom, Latrobe, Shingle Springs, El Dorado and Diamond Springs.

Can't you picture a young El Dorado County family boarding the train at the newly re-created historic Southern Pacific passenger depot in El Dorado? Approved by the county Board of Supervisors last year, the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park will soon become the premier rail destination for the local region.

The Diamond and Caldor No. 4 Shay locomotive would pull the train – with young Thomas fans sitting on the edge of their seats – to the end-of-track at Missouri Flat Road, near the location of the old Diamond Springs interchange with the Diamond and Caldor Railway. On the ride, the conductor will tell our young Thomas fans how the Four-Spot once pulled trains loaded with rough-cut lumber from the Caldor mill to Diamond Springs.

Then these young Thomas fans will get the view of a lifetime as they poke their heads out the window. At the head of the train, the brakeman will uncouple the Four-Spot from the train. And the engineer will guide the century-old geared steam locomotive through the switch onto the run-around track.

What child wouldn’t react with enthusiasm as the Shay backs down on the run-around track? The engineer and fireman will wave as if they were personal friends of each boy and girl on the train. Our young fans will have come into contact with the real “Thomas” in person.

Along the way, our young Thomas fans will enjoy an afternoon of family fun, while viewing some of the best countryside in California. And, they’ll experience history in the best way possible – by experiencing it firsthand! Captivated by the train crew, dressed in bib overalls, long-sleeved shirts and striped engineer caps, our young Thomas fans will feel the heat of the engine as it passes by. And the sweet aroma of the steam exhaust will capture their hearts.

If the citizens of El Dorado County allow the Friends of the El Dorado Trail and Iron Horse Preservation Society to rip out the twin steel tracks of the Placerville Branch, they’ll be tearing out a piece of our history for good. And families, both young and old, will never be able to experience the once daily passenger local, bound for Placerville.

Come to think of it, I don’t recall seeing any boys in bicycle t-shirts! Tear out the tracks and these boys and girls will miss the sights and sounds of the real Thomas The Tank Engine.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

2010 Folsom Historic Railroad and Transportation Festival

Come to Folsom, California, next month and support the future of the historic Southern Pacific Placerville Branch railroad line.

Enjoy a fun filled family day with rides on historical rail equipment, talk to those who have a passion for preservation of area rail history and discuss the furure of the branch line.

The Railroad Education and Preservation Society, with support from the Folsom, El Dorado and Sacramento Historical Railroad Association, present the Folsom Historic Railroad and Transportation Festival on September 18 and 19, 2010 in Folsom.

The event will be held on the trailroad tracks behind Starbucks and the Hampton Inn at Iron Point Road and East Bidwell Street. The tracts, last used commercially by the Southern Pacific Railroad in the late 1980s, date back to 1864.

Festivities will include railcar rides, motorcar rides, handcar rides, model railroad displays, a classic car show and Sacramento Regional Transit’s No. 35 PG&E Streetcar.

The RailFest is presented and organized by the Railroad Education and Preservation Society. REPS is a newly formed organization made up of individual members from regional rail organizations, including the Recreational Railroad Coalition, Inc., Motorcar Operators West, FEDSHRA and among others.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943

My sister periodically sends me links to blogs of interest. While most of Lib's suggestions are food related, she occasionally comes through with links that fulfil my interests in other endeavors.

This morning, Lib send me a link to Captured: America in Color from 1939-1943, a blog post on the Denver Post website. The article contains some 70 color government photographs from the World War II era.
These images, by photographers of the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information, are some of the only color photographs taken of the effects of the Depression on America’s rural and small town populations. The photographs are the property of the Library of Congress and were included in a 2006 exhibit Bound for Glory: America in Color.
"Toward the end - trains and planes ...," Lib wrote in her mid-morning email. The reference to trains was intended for my eyes. The photos of planes will interest my brother David, a pilot.

Nine photographs in the collection feature the Chigago and Northwestern Railway in Chigago and Clinton, Iowa. They're numbered 45 to 54. Here's my favorite photo:

Caption from the Denver Post blog: "Mrs. Viola Sievers, one of the wipers at the roundhouse giving a giant 'H' class locomotive a bath of live steam. Clinton, Iowa, April 1943. Reproduction from color slide. Photo by Jack Delano. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress."

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Trackmobile wiring issues

Mark Littlejohn of Newport Richey, Florida, chases wiring issues in the 3TM Whiting Trackmobile. As an appliance repair technician, he is the perfect fit for the job.

Mark joined the El Dorado Western Railway this week while on a two-month vacation in the Placerville area. He will work with the railway on various projects through the Labor Day holiday. He then returns home to run his used appliance store.