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