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.