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.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Folsom Rail Festival

I stopped by the Folsom Rail Festival on the way home from work this evening. There wasn't a lot of activity. A small gang from the Folsom, El Dorado & Sacramento Historical Railroad Association was making last minute repairs to the Faimont A-6 gang car. And a crew from Regional Transit was getting ready to babysit the Pacific Gas & Electric No. 35 trolley for the night.

Visit the El Dorado Western Railway on Saturday and Sunday. Our booth will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The rail festival is located along Placerville Road in Folsom, ajacient to Starbucks and Hampton Inn. The nearest cross street is East Bidwell. The EDWR Whiting Trackmobile No. 601 will be on hand for viewing.

The FEDS Skagit Speeder No. 30 is ready to offer rides to the public Saturday and Sunday. Built around 1939, Weyerhauser Timber Co. used the speeder to haul track materials and work crews on its 26-mile logging line in Vail, Wash. Two Fairmont speeders (Models A-4 and A-6) are spotted behind the Skagit.

The motorman's station stands empty as the sun sets over Folsom. The trolley was built in 1913 by the American Car Co. PG&E ran it on the Sacramento City Lines until 1934, when it was retired. The car is currently owned and operated by the Sacramento Regional Transit Authority.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Lights on the Whiting Trackmobile

This morning the mechanics wired trailing lights on the Whiting Trackmobile. Trailing lights differ from tail lights in that they signify the end of train when the Trackmobile is running on the track alone. Since the Trackmobile is designed for combination road and track work, it also features a tail light.

Mechanics Mark Bruto (on the hood) and Larry Nygard wire the newly installed trailing lights.

Only one light will be on at a time on each side. The headlight will shine on the side of the Trackmobile that's making forward movement. The training light will shine on the oposite side. I took this photograph before Mark and Larry worked out a wiring issue.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Why do we do this?

Several weeks ago I began a short series that explorers why the volunteers of the El Dorado Western Railway do what we do. Railway President Keith Berry's originally wrote the series for the summer newsletter.

Each week 16 or more volunteers gather at the engine house to work on various projects. While most volunteers contribute mechanical skills to the railway, a shall team of "office" workers handle administrative tasks.

Unlike past years when most work was accomplished on Saturday, our volunteer pool has developed into a diverse group of weekday (mostly Wednesday and Friday) and Saturday workers. The weekday team largely consists of retirees and those available mid-week. Those still working a 40-hour week help out of projects on Saturdays.

Here's the second installment of Keith' assessment:

REASON #2: We all have some inherent train gene in us, attracting us to train things rather than old clothes, furniture or farm equipment, which we refer to as real rust. Trains reach out to us; trains are special, uniquely attractive without reason through our lives. Trains talk to us; they come alive much as the trains once under the Christmas tree came alive in our hands. It's sentimental to work on these trains, they all are unique, come with a personality and deserve their place by being refurbished. So, we await work day's to once again meet and "play with trains."

REASON #3: We enjoy the challenge. Refurbishing this stuff is not easy. It's really a lot of hard work and periodic frustration. Train parts are heavy, sometimes hot and always hard to handle. Regardless of the technical challenge, or the logistical problems, we enjoy finishing something. Years ago, we adopted the motto "One piece at a time, she goes back together again." We needed this motto given the fourteen years of effort just on Diamond and Caldor No. 4. You have to be patient, and find success in every part or you go nuts looking for the nuts (or the bolts, or the pipes, etc.).

Monday, September 06, 2010

Diamond Springs Labor Day parade

The El Dorado Western Railway featured the Whiting Trackmobile in the Diamond Springs Labor Day parade. With the loan of a flatbed truck by from Tom Anderson at Diamond Crane, the team hauled the Trackmobile down Main Street at 1 p.m. under leadership of railway Vice President Ed Cunha.

Ben Cunha and Steve Karoly rode in the cab of the Trackmobile. Since the Trackmobile was mounted on the bed of the track, Ben and Steve devoted their full attention to waving and greeting the crowds on Main Street.

Ben blew pulled the lanyard and blew whistle very minute or so. We ran the air compressor for the full length of the parade (about 20 minutes) to supply air to the whistle. Unfortunately, we weren't able to blow regulation signals, like the grade crossing alert (two longs, one short, one long). The mechanics need to install a three-quarter-inch supply line to the horn so there's sufficient air to warn of the approaching train.

Ed guides the Trackmobile past the Diamond and Caldor flatcar (up on jacks) as Ben drives it into the Veterans Memorial Building parking lot. The railway has completely refurbished the Trackmobile since it took delivery in mid-June. Railway President Keith Berry said that Breaker Glass will install a set of new windows next week. The painters also need to finish the interior.

Ben watches the Trackmobile as it's loading onto the flatbed. The crew washed the Trackmobile in the parking lot. The unit looked great with a fresh coat of paint and lettering as the EDWR No. 601.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

First locomotive lettered for El Dorado Western

The Whiting Trackmobile was lettered at the engine house as the El Dorado Western Railway Trackmobile No. 601 today. This marks a significant achievement for the railway as it is the first piece of rail equipment that has been lettered for the EDWR.

As a rule, assets that don't have historical significance to El Dorado County will be lettered for the railway. Locomotives and rolling stock with a historical attachment to the county retain its original identification. For instance, the Shay locomotive will retain its identity as the Diamond and Caldor No. 4 because it operated within the county for 47 years.

Kelly Roberts of Placerville removes the backing from the El Dorado Western sticker on the door to the Trackmobile. Kelly operates HKR Promotions with his wife Heather.

EDWRF Vice President Ed Cuhna (left) poses with Kelly at the completion of the job.