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.


Mike Kenison said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike K said...

Don't worry Steve, boys and girls grow up and all get bikes for Christmas. Check out all the kids on the bike trail at mo flat and you will see way more bikes and sneakers, than "thomas" t-shirts. They will be able to ride the bikes on the trail to the Train Park and pay to ride the train.

I don't think you guys are listening. We are for the Train Park and the Train. We have offerred to help you build it and support it financialy.

We have asked to meet with you and you have refused. We have been directed, by the County supes to get together and work this out. Lets get together, we do not bite!

We can work this out.

Mike Kenison
Friends of the El Dorado Trail

Steven C. Karoly said...

Yes, Mike, we are listening. The El Dorado Western is listening to those who do not want any of the track from Folsom to Placerville (Missouri Flat Rd.) torn out. Although the El Dorado Western has primary interest in the section from the El Dorado Wye to end-of-track, we believe that preserving the complete right-of-way for all interests is the right thing to do. The Placerville Branch should be preserved for bicyclists, hikers, equestrian folks and railroad enthusiasts, so that all citizens of El Dorado County and beyond can enjoy it.

I agree about bikes and trains. It'd be fun to mount a bike rack on front of the Diamond and Caldor No. 10 railbus. Families could cross Missouri Flat Road to the terminal depot behind Wal-Mart, board the Railbus and ride to the El Dorado Depot, or even further west to the Wye.

The El Dorado Western may not meet with the Friends in private as you have proposed, but we are meeting in the appropriate venues, such as the meeting that was scheduled with DOT yesterday (subsequently canceled and rescheduled by DOT) and in front of the Trails Advisory Board and the Parks and Recreation Commission. As representatives of the museum, we are duty bound to work through the appropriate county structures.

Mike, we'll save you a seat in the caboose cupola,

Steven Karoly
El Dorado Western Railway

Mike K said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike K said...

I would like to ride the train. I believe trail users would find our train history interesting. Do you have an idea when you will start laying track in the Park. Seems like that would be priority one.

I know the pressure is on to get this moving and show some progress. We still offer to help. I would like to swing a hammer and drive a spike into a tie. I am not sure how many I can put down. Do you know how many weekends a year you are going to run the train? Any projections on how many riders per weekend?