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.