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