Thursday, December 4, 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend 2008

Thanksgiving Weekend at Joshua Tree, November 25-28, 2008

November in the desert is always a crapshoot when it comes to weather. The prognosticators on the boob tube had the world scared to go out of the house; rain, snow and mudslides everywhere that had a hillside, were in store for the southland. Out at JT the fog rolled in and out most of the day on Wednesday, at times the fog was very thick, ten minutes later it would be clear. It did rain Wednesday night from before midnight till just before dawn.

Thanksgiving Day was a beautiful day to be out at JT, after the morning chill passed it was very comfortable out and any activity would warrant the removal of your extra shirt. Al and Lynn Ratliff had arrived earlier in the week and Paul Westover dropped of a delicious pie for us, he spent a few days in Arizona and returned for the weekend after the family festivities were over. Rain in the coastal areas allowed me to get out Wednesday afternoon myself. Greg showed up early Thursday. The biggest project tackled on Thursday was to unload the GE 47 tonner and unstack flat cars, but the best project was to deep fry two beautiful and delicious turkeys for the evening meal and the weekend’s sandwiches. That afternoon the Tolan boys, Jeff and Kevin, arrived; we kidded them about leaving home right after Thanksgiving breakfast.

Friday was a flurry of activity, another beautiful day at hand and we had a few more visitors arrive to partake in the action. Tom Downing and Robert Lamont came out from Long Beach with Tom’s plantation engine, Ang Dirigma, which is a Philippine literal translation meaning “little warrior” and Tom has been adjusting the timing and even surprised himself on how well it will work in the hill, well named Tom. Brendon Hilton came out followed later by his dad Bill and they whittled on the granite impediment in the 15” cut. I just happened to have the company’s jack hammer at home over the weekend, so the newer 90 pound hammer did some time along side Brendon’s Smithsonian model. When renting an air compressor by the hour use it to full capacity. They’re getting closer to grade every time they come out.

Greg Casford came out from Whittier and brought out El Gubernator for a few days of hill climbing too. That engine sure sounds good pulling a string of cars up the grade, good to see an old friend out at the tracks again, thanks Greg. The Chula Vista contention was out in full force for the weekend as well. Scotty and Timothy Lewis got a kitchen pass to spend the weekend away from home, and the president of the Chula Vista club, Matthew Zacharzuk came up as well. Darren Saylor and Amber Palomino made the trek also and brought along their Diesel to ply the tracks. Comments were made about a Union Pacific engine on the narrow gauge; they should be reminded of the history of the DSP&PRR. There were many visitors through the new gate over the weekend Terry Watson had a group or two along with him at times showing off the digs.

Did you get the part about the “new” gate? One of the little presents that Bill Shepherd left us on his last visit down here was a new front gate. A rolling gate at that, complete with cross bucks and JT&S letters across the front of it. Nice addition Bill, thank you. Paul and Celeste Lavacot came up and spent some time over the weekend, Paul brought up a huge steel table to be used for making track panels. It must have worked as he made three or four panels for the freight leg of the wye and also forty feet of track was made for the Joshua Tree extension past the Palmer Bridge north of the fence towards Thompson cut.

Friday morning the excavation started for the air and water lines to the bays. From the northeast corner of Tedder Shed directly below the air fitting east and down the walkway to the engine house wall a trench of varying depth was made and refilled as the new Poly Ethylene (PE) piping was placed in the trench. The PE piping and necessary fittings were donated by supplier P&F in La Verne. The equipment to connect it was from my employer Amtec in Temecula. PE is wonderful stuff, comes in 500 foot rolls and you only have connections at the ends, not every ten or twenty-one feet, doesn’t rust, is flexible and resilient to most of what mother nature can throw at it. As the trench reached the water line to the Tedder mansion a connection was made for both the new line to the bays and a water plug at track side. This would be a great place for a water column if one were so inclined to build one. The trench was deeper in the wash area to anticipate possible erosion in the area from future gully washers. The line teed off at the wall to reach the steaming bays as well as the bays inside the engine house. After the connections were made the trench was backfilled, compacted and raked over, one would not know that any thing had been done in the area. The end fittings were covered and tapped and are at the base of the bays waiting for the next phase, the risers. The rock wall was rebuilt below the engine house and fill was placed behind it raising the level of the ground so that the east wall of the engine house is not so formidable in height. Tom and Robert along with Paul Westover and Kevin Tolan helped out immensely on the rock and fill moving on this project and their sweat equity was duly noted and appreciated.

Over at the new lift and unloading pad things were hopping in activity too. The cells of the cinder block walls that were erected were filled with mortar so that backfilling of it can start next time we’re out. The Chula Vista group made quick work of this project after all the necessary supplies were amassed. Even Amber found a position to fill, as the water tender for the mortar mixer and the one to spray off spilled concrete. Greg Ratliff took on the project of rebuild the steps on the trail to the station to make them easier to ascend.

Sunday was a day to finish off what had been started and to put it all away. I did get in a lap on the Heisler before I gave up and blew it down. Flat cars restacked and loaded. Cars that were used put back in the barn. The car barn got a cleaning over the weekend to rearrange cars for a better fit now that the yard is finished. Electrical cords, buckets and what not returned to their homes. Finish grading was done on the north extension along with realigning of the curve. The wire fence needed to be resized to clear the right of way.

The weekend was an enjoyable mix of operating trains and working on projects that sometimes aren’t the most noticeable of things that people see when they come out. No one will see the pipe under ground that was placed, or the concrete in the wall that gives a wall its’ strength, but they both need to be there for the end result to happen. The rock diversion wall for the wash is a lot of heavy work, as well as the fill behind it. The walk under the Tedder Bridge is easier because sand was removed below it, to fill the area behind the wall. Soon the sight of a long air hose and the community water hose at the bays will be replaced by individual hoses under the bays throughout the area. Certainly an easier more convenient task then before, and just a few more things that will help us all enjoy our next visit to JT and the surrounding area.

See you New Years, Brian

Sunday, November 16, 2008

New Hoist Progress

Just happened to go for a Harley ride today and I knew that Bill Shepherd would be pouring mud on Monday. So, I swung by to get a shot of the steel work and progress of the unloading area.

Boy, was I impressed!! Bill had Ole Olson do a little tractor work to speed up the grading and to throw the dirt back where the yard tracks will be. The yard will be four foot eight inches above the concrete pad as to keep the yard level and to keep things from rolling into the hoist area. A retaining wall will be on two sides of the hoist with a three foot wide apron around the hoist for access. There will be a step on each side of the hoist for access to the yard while unloading.

Concrete will be poured Monday and block work will start on Tuesday or Wednesday. By Thanksgiving we can fill the cells and even start erection of the hoist but will probably wait on that. We have yet to trench the electrical to the power pole by the ash pit. I'm sure we will start grading and compaction of the yard tracks during the Turkey Weekend, but need to wait to get too close to the new wall.

It's looking good and I thought you would all be interested in what Bill has gotten done to date. Thank you all for your generous donations to date as well and there is always room for more checks in the bank account for the completion of the infrastructure around here. The donation of the concrete block sure helped out as you will soon see.

Thanks to all again Brian

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Rudy Run 2008

November 7-10

Good thing I ditched work and came out Thursday night. Friday was awesome; people, weather and activities. Bill Shepherd had been out for a week and it showed. Grade stakes everywhere for the drain project. And grade stakes and dirt flying for the lift project too.

Thursday all the fun started early, the Burns family was at the gate bright and early from breakfast down the street after pulling an all-nighter to get here from Salinas. Gary and Margret Stites brought out their GE 47 tonner and attempted to enjoy the day. Becky and Ray Bjerrum made the trip down from Kerman, brought the whole train down with them, that engine is looking better every time I see it, good work Ray. Al and Lynn Ratliff came through the gate in the afternoon to enjoy the festivities. I got out of town in time to drive out in the dark and Greg was somewhere behind me. The girls, Becky, Stacy and Sydnie arrived on Friday evening, something about work.

Friday morning was unload morning after checking out all the recent activity. RGS #41was steaming up and soon was pulling cars out of the car barn to exercise for the weekend. Al unloaded his GE 47 tonner and a stack of 24’ flats as well. I had his Plymouth to unload out of my truck. Greg brought the Yankee Girl Mining Co. dump car back out as well as dad’s Westside skeleton cars, yes, two now. Those long cars sure can fill up a truck. By then it was time to unload Mike Thompson’s Mogul and cars. Bruce would be up later after donating to the Casino electricity fund. The weather could not have been nicer on Friday; at 7:00 am it was t-shirt weather and stayed that way all day. Saturday was actually warmer but still wonderful.

Saturday saw the Heisler get steamed up for and hour or so till Mike and the boys decided to start hauling fill for the Joshua Tree extension, so I put her down to help out. With plenty of engines out it was getting busy on the track. The extended tails of the Wye help out as a good sized train can negotiate it without cutting the train. The Tolans showed up with a mini van stuffed with trains for the weekend. We also had two visitors from Riverside with a real nice plantation engine that made the grades with two guys on two cars all afternoon, sure worked her wheels off and sounded good doing it, sorry I didn’t get their names.

With most trains having a flat car or two in the consist, most trains took part in hauling a bucket, or two, or seven, from the loading site to the far side of Palmer Bridge for off loading. The Fifteen inch boys were hauling rock out of their cut with Brendon’s mini dump truck and were dumping the rock near the 7 ½” track so that was hauled by train to the work site too. Every body that wanted to, participated in the project all afternoon, and by dark time the road bed was pretty much ready for 50’ of new track to be laid down soon. Over the course of the day, a good estimate, of 125 people were out, or had been to the club during the day. From the vantage point of across the wash at the work site, the coming and going of visitors can really be seen. Most of the railroad can be viewed from there and people were everywhere, the end of the high-line, the unloading area, the museum, etc.

The Fifteen inch boys had a project going too. An air compressor was procured for the day and their collection of an antique rock drill and jack hammer were working all day. The rock drill is an interesting piece of high dessert history and the 90 pound jack hammer is actually more ergonomically friendly then the one I use on occasion at work. They are completing the cut for the balloon loop on the yard project and have a very hard vein of granite standing in the way of progress. The rock drill helps them drill into the vein and then they use an expansion agent called ‘Dexpan’ to fracture the rock. The rock is losing this battle and they are nearing their goal. Good work and your efforts are showing, Kudos to Brendon and his crew.

Terry Watson camped out near the Museum and the doors were open all weekend so that all that wanted could view the museum. Both Terry and Gary Conley have spent a considerable amount of time and talent on the exhibits and their presentation and it really shows. They deserve your thanks for their hard work, stop in and see the museum the next time. Ask about how the head light got up on the perch. And if you have something you would like to be exhibited in the building let them now.

Saturday evening the weather deteriorated to windy and cold real quick. A fast moving storm blew through most of the night and by morning it was just blustery and cool. The annual meeting was held in the museum Sunday morning instead of in the RPO car, after the dust settled the officers of the year ended up being; Tom Arnold- president, Paul Lavacot- vice president, the remaining board members- Brendon Hilton, Brian Ratliff and Bill Shepherd. Cherie Palmer is still our Secretary and Rebecca Ratliff is holding the purse strings as Treasurer. Reports and retorts were had and the ‘state of the club’ was talked about, we are in better shape then in the past and advancement of projects and progress were discussed. Also we invited and elected two new regular members to the fold. Both are hard workers and an asset to the membership, welcome goes out to Bill Hilton and Bruce Thompson.

Dirt continued to fly around the new unloading area on Sunday and even on Monday as well. Plan was to pour concrete for the retaining wall and base for the lift in the next week. With all that helped move dirt that might happen sooner. After things cure the lift can be brought in from its hiding place and the lead track be built from the upper loop. Power and water need to be run from nearby. A goal, of operation by the narrow gauge meet in March has been drawn in the sand. It is a goal that can be had with many good things coming from it. Ease of unloading for the regulars, and with the horrors of the old lift gone, engines that were too big to unload before can now visit. The possibilities can be exciting at least. Build it and they will come.

Oh, and did I mention I’ll be your newsletter editor too. I’ll try to blow a new breathe into the Desert Wind, as we end up our 40th year as a club and soon we will celebrate our 30th year of operation and continued building of the 7 ½”, we have much to look forward to as well as look back on what has happened over the years. You’ll be hearing from me.

A very good time was had and the weekend ended too soon as usual. Looking forward to when we can do it again and hope that all can make it then, Brian Ratliff.

Monday, October 27, 2008

October Pre-Halloween weekend at Joshua Tree

The First Weekend of the 2008/2009 Season on the ‘Real Narrow Gauge’

The temperature is falling to acceptable levels, but it is still hot in the sun. The evenings are most enjoyable and it’s Autumn in the desert again.

With two weeks till the Rudy Run, a weekend out at the tracks is a must to see how things survived the summer. Weeds that have taken root as barriers to commerce by growing big and tall between the rails during the long summer, need to be removed and their little dried out brethren that lay withered along side the track, need to be raked away. The ever moving embankments of sand need to be shoveled off the rails and placed where they will do us good; where instead of covering the rails, they support it.

Al and Lynn Ratliff, returning from a tour of Texas railways of miniature were first in the gate. Gary and Margret Stites originally came out for the day Friday and stayed till Saturday evening. Margret ‘scissor hands’ Stites has been keeping the right of way trimmed of things that grab. The walkways as well as the railways have received the attention of the pruning clippers. Bruce, Mike and Nathan Thompson arrived Friday and were very active in the raking and grooming of the area as well as working on the northern extension below Palmer Bridge. We should be able to put down an additional 50’ of track by Thanksgiving. Mike and Bruce made quick work of reroofing a section of the Van Wingen car barn that the wind had shredded away in a previous episode.

Greg and Becky Ratliff got an early start from Corona, and Stacy and I made a dash for the hills after the salt mines closed on Friday. The economy has allowed the freeways to unclog and traffic was light on the way out as well as returning Sunday evening.

Paul Westover arrived Friday evening as well from his ‘tie crew’ job near Wendover, NV. He had a pickup load off pre drilled 7 ½” gauge ties for the soaker and the rest of the truck was full of scrap wood for the fireplace.

Saturday morning was an enjoyable time; a t-shirt was clothing of the day. No need to bundle up with layers to shed and then find again later as it cooled. Some of the Mulberry trees were changing colors and dropping leaves while others in the camp were still very much green. Brendon and Ace Hilton came out Friday as well and on Saturday had planted the first of the Cottonwood trees, or Poplar for you east coast folks, which we are trying as they are a more heat tolerate tree then the Mulberry. We have been losing a tree or two a year and a change to a more native tree might be the answer for shade and a hearty tree as well.

In June we had a gracious donation of six pallets of cinder blocks for our projects. Carl Englund of Precision Block Co in San Bernardino had them delivered and Terry Watson met him at the gate to unload them. As the empty pallets need to be returned sometime soon, the plan to disperse them to where we thought they would be needed formed. The six inch wide split face blocks where set near the new unloading area worksite. Additional block was set nearby the steaming area for use in the ‘Gazsi steaming bay project’. The eight inch block and others were shipped via rail to our team track area for storage and easy rail delivery to future projects. This is a donation that will be used for years to come as the need for a block wall or steps come along. Thanks again, from the whole organization.

Sunday morning was a little warmer then the day before but nowhere near the heat of summer. A few more loads of block were moved and a tour of the Museum was had by most as Terry and Gary showed off their summers work.

The shade of the station was enjoyable and well used by the group that was assembling in the easy morning hours. Plans for an additional water plug at the station were discussed and a quick excavation was made to prove the diameter of piping and parts necessary for the task. Look forward to additional water plugs in the station soon, possibly a spigot for additional water in the lower parking area too. By mid-day the planning and measuring crew had made it to the engine house site for last minute checks of the plans in anticipation of Bill Shepherd’s arrival in the coming days. An errant object from a grinder caused Bill to be waylaid at home in Fort Bragg till the doctor cleared him for driving and other visually important tasks. He is to be traveling south in the days to come.

As usual, I have probably omitted some very important task that was done, or more importantly omitted who was out for a visit. I offer my apologies’ for such omissions, and was and never meant to slight anyone. I enjoy writing about what and who attends our functions out here at Joshua Tree and hope that all enjoy them as well. I don’t take notes, I try to absorb it as it goes along, for, one cannot be everywhere, even out here at the track. All I hope for is that it makes one curious enough to come on out and find out for themselves. And, if one could not attend, that they felt that they knew what happened, during their absence. You’ll find a very unique railroad and museum among a very unique setting and terrain, operated and built by very different and genuinely unique people as well. I love it out here; hope you do too, Brian