Friday, December 18, 2009

Bored after Christmas?

If for some reason you're going stir crazy sitting around the house after Christmas, I've got it on good authority that Three Companies is going to be out after Christmas for the weekend and get a jump on a few projects, such as switches, before New Years weekend. If that works for you we'll see you out at the tracks.

Mike Thompson wants to finish off the Joshua Tree extension so his crew can focus on the High Line. The steel work is going to get a little attention on the Engine House. And I'm going to try and finish the switches in the station before tackling the ones needed at the Hoist area yard.

Here is your chance to get a day or a weekend in without the crowds, ha. Start you New Years resolutions early or get a jump on breaking them. See you out there. Brian

If your looking for my direct E-mail you can contact me at for the quicker response then going through the mailbox.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving at Joshua Tree, Novemeber 25-29, 2009

Thanksgiving weekend was a busy time out at the tracks this year with many things getting done between turkey and leftovers. Bill Shepard had been busy previous to this weekend with a sanitation project nearing completion. The day after the Rudy Run Bill had five shovels busy at one time. Gary Stites, Kevin Kane, Kevin Johnson, Paul Lavacot and himself did a little digging on the project. Ken Ells helped out at a later date also I hear, thanks to all for getting a behind the scenes project done and wiped off the to do list.

The guest list started to fill early for the long weekend, no known gate crashers as everyone is invited to start. Al and Lynn Ratliff were up early as usual. Greg and Becky Ratliff made it up before dark on Wednesday or real close to dark. Becky's folks,Dave and Trish Gray showed up mid day and use the Villa Thompson for the weekend. New member and enthusiastic one at the Josh Klenske came up with the whole family, wife Mary and their two kids Katherine and Daniel. I made it up sometime after dark after many stops on the way. The weather was ideal for a late night chat and Josh and I made it till past midnight with all the others filtering away as the night progressed.

Thanksgiving day was yet another beautiful day in the high desert. As the sun rose so did the temperature, and likewise in the afternoon. The early project was to get the Thompson Mogul out and fire it up; as the cook only has the morning to play before getting the bird ready to eat this afternoon. She fired up as easy as usual and soon it was around the place steaming away. After Greg and Al were stirring the big project of moving the steel needed for the engine house bays from their resting spot in the car barn to the engine house was tackled.

The Three Companies westside flats have a myriad of uses. And as idlers and load bearers they work out perfect. In order to move 20 and 21 foot long heavy pieces of steel one needs two flats with pivots to hold the load spaced with two idlers in between. And at least one car as a idler on each end for safety and aesthetics. With the heavy lifting out of the way the train made its way up and backed into the engine house side track for off loading. All the other necessary gadgets were accumulated for the welding project and that was about all that was done in the way of progress for the day.

Thursdays feast of Thanksgiving was being prepared and readied for a 3:00pm seating. As we eat outside when blessed with decent weather it is nice to enjoy the meal while the sun is still present above the mountain as it cools fast after the big orange ball drops for the day. Deep Fried Turkey with all the fixings was experienced by the Ratliff's, Gray's and Shepherd's. After dinner it was around the warmth of the fire at the patio. Soon we were blessed with the presence of the Tolan boys, fresh from their 'dine and dash' trip from home to spend their 'black Friday' getting coal smoke on them.

Friday was an early steam up day with the C&S Mogul, a few posed shoots were taken about the facility for an upcoming segment on the website that the prez,Tom Arnold, wants to try out. Mike Thompson brought out Nathan and Emily to let their mother do a little shopping too. Mike is working on finishing the fill below Thompson cut and completing for now the extension to Joshua Tree so we can consolidate projects for a push up the hill. The welding crew was busy welding up the legs for a bay in the engine house as quickly as the saw and cutting crew could supply the proper lengths. When all the legs were together they were welded to the rails and the whole assembly was rotated so the welder, Brian, could weld at closer angles to flat then vertical. My welding resembles pigeon droppings in that it might not look good but it sticks. We got one bay in place and ready for concrete before session was over for the afternoon and plans for an early trip to the lumber yard for ready-mix was in place for the a.m.

Saturday it was off to Barr for the concrete and other stores for the necessaries; adult beverages, ice, big juicy steaks... A little rain tried to fall, but not enough to dampen the project de jour. The concrete was off loaded at the Team track at the station and off up the hill to the batch plant for mixing. In no time the bay was set and a waiting game was in place as we just used up our work bench, after a few hours a replacement jig was rigged and we could return to welding up the last bay. With direct sunshine going to wane soon and a threat of rain being more a reality then a possibility the batch plant was cranked up as it started to sprinkle and soon the third and final bay was set in the engine house. A quick clean up and it was up to the fire to warm up. It rained quite a bit overnight and it was still spitting come day break. A much needed moisture was wetting the desert, this spring should be a good flower show.

Sunday an impromptu clean up of the area was undertaken and the forms were removed from the engine house bays, revealing another daunting task had been completed. Thanks to the crew that dirtied their hands and invested another installment of 'sweat equity' on our little Mainline thru the Rocks. Come on out and 'wring' out the out year and ring in the new out at JT, should be something going on from after Christmas till the 3rd of January, see you there.

Thanksgiving 2009 at Joshua Tree & Southern

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2009 Rudy Run, November 12-15

The 2009 Rudy Run is one for the history books; both in the fact that somehow if you were not one of the estimated one hundred and fifty that went through the gate over the weekend you missed it, and the other being, that we that did make it had a darned good time being there. An early winter storm had passed through Southern California earlier in the week and Thursday night it rained pretty darned good to the west of here, but of course this is the desert and we were spared any wetness. Friday it clouded up but nothing that would do anything more than make you keep on your extra shirt. Saturday was tourist weather and Sunday just a great late Fall day in itself.

The participants arrived early as they usually do and by Thursday evening the steaming bays had some interesting iron gracing them and there was a few trailers yet to unload as well. Al and Lynn Ratliff played host as the early arrival and helped all the rest make it off the lift with yeomen duty from his trusty GE 47 Tonner. Gary and Margret Stites made it out early too with their 47 Tonner in 'Black Widow'scheme; Gary is learning the shuttle job of hauling equipment from the steaming bays to the lift with the electric engines. The Salinas contention of Burns' minus Beard got a good jump on the weekend as well and the always great sounding RGS #41 plied the rails flawlessly the whole time. Becky and Ray Bjerrum brought the whole train done from Kerman, and Ray said of the new lift; that is the first time he had ever unloaded the engine and tender at the same time, he had plenty of good things to say about the new lift as did others throughout the weekend.

The Thompson's brought out both of Mikes engines with a load of engine being brought out by Greg Ratliff. His newly completed Mich-Cal Shay ran like a Swiss watch and the C&S Mogul got quite a work out as well. Between Ray and Mike the Colorado & Southern had a good showing. Bill and Holly Boller made their Joshua Tree debut with the D&RGW #268 in 'Bumble Bee' paint, the new is wearing off and one can approach the engine without sunglasses, it is getting a beautiful patina that comes only with use. Peter Moseley, Ron Schmidt and Bill Dolph brought down quite a collection of stock cars as well as Peter's D&RGW # 268 'Durango switcher', one was not seeing double this weekend from maybe imbibing in too much cactus cooler, there were two #268's in attendance. The stock cars made a great and fitting, for the season, set of cars to pull around in the late Fall as this would be the time of year that the narrow gauge was running 'stock extras' to get the cattle out of the high country and off to market before the 'snow flies'.

The Tolan's crammed the whole family and 'Chloe' in the mini van for the weekend. Jeff has grown another foot since Halloween. Paul Lavacot ran his personal rail craft around on Sunday, RGS 'work goose' #6.

Friday running got busy enough that one had to wait at each siding for one to pass in the other direction before proceeding. operations went well all day with no major disruptions. Photo opportunities abounded all weekend and it was amusing watching newcomers scurrying to get photos of trains passing by, it is a loop they'll be back. Saturday was an even busier operation day and dispatching helped to keep things flowing smoothly instead of all massed at one end or the other. Always plenty of action going on and plenty to see as well both days. The Museum was open and Terry Watson gave tours constantly with the help of Lori Tolan keeping an eye on the station while Terry showed people the 12 inch to the foot scale cars. Parking was a premium by mid Saturday afternoon with cars parked all the way from the lift to the gate on both sides of the road including cars throughout the compound as well.

Saturday nights 'Dinner in the Diner' was a wonderful time by the 71 people that attended. Ken Ells did a bang up job in getting us all feed and out of the way for the next seating. The 15" Shay was steamed up on Saturday afternoon for a spell, it's whistle echoing around the place.

Sunday saw some action after the annual meeting in the Museum. Thompson's Mogul got a few laps in before the meeting and most got in some running in after it. Those that had to load early got a jump on it, yet some ran till the late afternoon, getting in a full day before packing it away till the next time we meet on the 'Main Line thru the Rocks'.

Here is a link to the photo's I have on Picasa, keep an eye on it there might be more
Joshua Tree & Southern 2009 Rudy Run
enjoy, till next time.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween at JT, October 30,31 November 1, 2009

Spending Halloween away from home is always a good thing, I get to keep my good candy bars. Spending the whole weekend out at Joshua Tree is even better.

With two weeks to go till the Rudy Run the last weekend of October is always the chance to see how the digs lasted the summer. The chance to pull four foot tall weeds from between the rails, fill in those pesky rodent holes and spruce the place up for the Fall Spectacular Event.

Paul Westover was in town a few days early before working the tie gang in New Mexico, and he was a flurry of activity. Paul weeded the place and I know there were a few 'four footers' in the steaming area a couple of weeks back and now they're gone. He also filled the approaches to the silver high bridge where the rodents like to create an 'ankle breaker' over the summer. Paul had to leave Friday afternoon as everybody else was just getting there.

Kevin and Jeff Tolan got a kitchen pass for the weekend and arrived Friday afternoon. Al and Lynn Ratliff were right in there too. Greg and Becky beat me out before dark as the evening sky was enjoyable for at least one more weekend. The Tolan's brought out their 'Chloe' for some steam action and 'Three Companies' had the trusty 47 tonner and the Plethora of 24 foot flats in tow.

The early Saturday planning session went out the window when I forgot to load the most important of track tools in the truck. The building of another switch would have to wait. But the projects that did get done were important in the scheme of things anyway. Two more full size rail road ties were added to the retaining wall along the unloading yard and discussions lead to the most efficient way to continue in the area. Wait, till the lower area is finished instead of moving the dirt twice.

While the group was milling about at the unloading area the Museum boys, Gary Coneley and Terry Watson, stated that there was a problem with foot traffic in the station area along the retaining wall between the parking lot and the Museum building. Seems the ties placed to keep the erosion down and the road bed up looked like steps. And people were stumbling over the miniature tracks after climbing up full sized ties. Situation solved, we removed the third tie down so there were only two rows of ties and placed rip-rap from the 15" cut below the ties to give it a rock garden look to deter pedestrian traffic and keep us from putting something like a wall or fence that would detract from photo opportunities.

The Saturday afternoon Pumkin Carving contest was won by Sydnie Ratliff, and "Jack" spent the evening glowing in the picnic shelter area. A delicious steak dinner was enjoyed Saturday night and the weather cooperated yet one more night.

Sunday's activities were even less the Saturday's, as not much more could be thought up and the weather was more conductive to things like procrastination and sloth. The leaking spigot at the new water plug in the station was repaired after many false starts and detraction's. The time change weekend was taking its toll and soon it was time to make a few more runs before putting it all away till two weeks from now.

Hope to see each and every one of you out at the 'Rudy Run' on November 12, 13, 14 and 15, 2009. Fall is falling in the desert and the weather is becoming very hospitable, come enjoy it, Brian

Monday, August 17, 2009

Joshua Tree visits the Central Coast

Over the Weekend of August 7, 8 and 9 the annual pilgrimage to the Nipomo Mesa for the Bitter Creek and Western Railroad Narrow Gauge meet was the usual place to be. Karl Hovanitz's place is quite the railroad; and the people, the hospitality, the weather and the facility make it a must for anybody narrow gauge to be there. This year was no exception and nobody left disappointed.

The action always starts early with the early birds flocking to all the great spots to park their rigs. The bay area is always well represented, as well as Southern California's narrow gauge contention too. And as in recent years we've seen a few from Colorado as well.

Richard and Linda Ulin made the trek from the Rocky Mountain state with the Westside Shay #14 and their usual string of rolling stock. Tom Artzberger made it by on his circuitous route to Train Mountain to retrieve his trailer that has been resting in Oregon for the summer. One of his creations, a RGS #20 was on the steaming bays all weekend but I didn't see much action around it and don't believe it had a fire in it either. The Ratliff family arrived with Allan's GE 47-tonner and the plethora of flats. Gary and Margret Stites brought their GE up to shine the wheels on it too, their currently leasing a couple of Westside flats through Three Companies so they have something to ride on. Gary has spent most of his summer adding details and painting the engine in a 'Black Widow, Espee' look. Looking good, Gary. Artzberger's locomotives are getting more and more popular and many JT people have some of his other engines in various building stages.

One train that we haven't seen in a few years was the Haas K-28 and all its assemblage of cars too. It smoked it's way around all weekend and had many a different engineer on it at times. Nice to see it back and running. Paul and Celeste Lavacot were up with a load of parts to distribute and Paul ran his 'personal rail craft' the RGS Goose #6 around as well.

Mike Thompson made his Narrow Gauge debut with his recently completed Mich-Cal Shay. It purred around all weekend with very little effort and Mike's big grin. He named his railroad the Nathem Lumber and Flume after his two children; you've all seen Nathen, but also his daughter Emily. He even made a trip up the big hill with a load of wood with absolutely no problem.

From Salinas, Burns, Burns and Beard had RGS #41 out and about all weekend, with the ever popular refrigerator car. The brake system pump is now in the boxcar so the Gondola his more leg room as a riding car now. Bill Boler unloaded two engines when he arrived. The 'bumblebee' 268 ran around Thursday and the Westside Shay #15 ran on Friday. And come Saturday he road tested Jimmy Booth's D&RGW #50 as it was redelivered from RMI and Bill was picking it up for him. Ron Schmidt and Peter Moseley came down sans locomotive as Peter's consolidation is down due to valve gear getting mangled up underneath and Ron is retro fitting his to burn propane. At least the Flintridge and Portola Valley isn't electrifying to keep 'green', propane is a little easier to find at the Circle K then coal; it's out front by the ice. Looking forward to seeing the ease of operating that propane will bring for Ron and Peter.

Becky and Ray Bjeerum came out to the coast from the San Joaquin valley to spend some time running as well. His engine just runs and runs, and Becky's always on the back just smiling away too. Their little pike around the acreage at home is coming along nicely Ray says; will we have to have a Narrow Gauge meet in Kerman soon?

It was a great weekend, it was always nice to see everyone, this list is nowhere complete. It is always tougher to write after a week goes by, pictures help to rekindle the good time that was had and if you haven't been to Bitter Creek put it on your 'bucket list', you won't be sorry. Check out their website, its listed on the narrow gauge links over on the right of this blog, when you get there click on events and you'll get a taste and a view of BCW.

See you in November at the Rudy Run. 40th anniversary of JTSRR this year. We've come a long way baby!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A New Steam Engine In The Family

On a seasonably cool June morning I received a call from Mike Thompson asking if I was doing anything special to which I replied that there wasn't too much going on. He said that he was getting ready to light the fire for the first time in his 2 1/2" scale Mich-Cal Shay. I said I'd be over in a while. When I arrived on the Harley he was tending to his new baby like a proud papa. She was popping off and just simmering away on the engine stand. The drive shafts were removed from the engine so she would just run and not climb off the end of the stand, the engine had run many, many hours on air and even ran on air at Joshua Tree earlier in the year; but this was special she had a fire in her and was under steam, alive!

Mike has been working on the Shay project since 1993, he showed me the first pieces he fabricated, the frame perches for the tank and cab. We have all watched it's progress over the years, sometimes a seemingly large amount of progress is noted, like the boiler attached, and sometimes it would be just the cab details that one would notice. It all needs to be done to get the end result and today was the day. Sixteen years in the making and June 20, 2009 was the day.

Mike finished his cars first. They've been tagging along behind someone else's trains for years. His Westside short Caboose is rapidly shrinking as his two kids barely fit inside when the roof is off. Also in the mix is a Westside 24' flat car and his Westside tank car that holds both water and a propane tank for the engine. All his cars have link and pin coupling as when he started this project he was a 'lone wolf' as some of us started too, and didn't even fathom somebody else would be building something in this scale.

Having spent years around the hobby and slowly in between ten plus years of marriage, two great kids with activities that they enjoy, a demanding job with a commute and a new house a few years back, Mike had never ran a steam engine till I put him on the Heisler at a meet in Chula Vista a few years back, if he could run that, he could tackle anything. The next year at Chula Vista it became known that C&S #13, a beautiful Mogul in 2 1/2" scale; built by Kevin Doe and at the time belonged to the late Rudy Van Wigen was available. It didn't take long for Mike and his dad, Bruce, to be the new owners. As when you have more then one of anything, some thing has to go to the back of the shed for a while, not so with the Shay project. There was always something new being put together on her, even when the Mogul consumed the bench a few times to get bushings or a crosshead reworked.

Congratulations Mike, you deserve it, many happy years of steaming around whichever track that the runday is at. Look for it at Bittercreek in August.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend

Hey guys. the desert is getting hot out here and we're staying out of it this weekend. Enjoy yourselves this weekend and remember what Memorial Day is all about while your enjoying it. See you at Bitter Creek in August, Brian

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Joshua Tree Goes to Train Mountain Narrow Gauge Meet 2009

On the first weekend of May in Chiloquin Oregon for the last three years has been the Narrow Gauge meet at Train Mountain. A private little party of like minded narrow gaugers. The expanse of Train Mountain's miles upon miles of track with only a hand full of trains operating.

The bulk of the engines and cars that make it up to Chiloquin for this weekend are the same engines that travel south to run out here at JT. Ron Schmidt, Peter Moseley, Bill and Holy Boller, Burns' and Beard, Allan, Brian and Greg Ratliff, Becky and Ray Bjerrum, Bruce and Mike Thompson, Jeff and Kevin Tolan, Paul Lavacot. So it is our unofficial run day for us. And Bill Shepherd just walks out his front door from his darn near complete summer home.

The rest of the attendees of notice are the regular travelers from afar. Bill Dobbs with his empire of rail cars from Pennsylvania, Bruno and Trudy Platzer from Nevada, Rich and Linda Ulin from Colorado and Tom Artzberger from Colorado as well. Tom delivered yet another RGS #20 on his way to the meet; more ng engines. The rest of the folks at TM for the weekend are the regular group that shines and polishes the railroad for the upcoming season. So, this is the first run of the year really upon which we get to see the railroad as it is emerging from the winter and spring is doing its thing.

This years operations were hampered by the weather more then in the past. The weatherman predicted it to rain and it did at least sometime every day. Sunday it rained and tried at times to lay down one last blanket of snow but it didn't stick too long.

After pulling an all nighter to reach our destination Greg and I made Chiloquin about 6:15 Friday morning, we unloaded the trailer and headed to breakfast at Maleta's, the off site center of attraction for the weekend. With their rooms for rent, some people stay there and the restaurant gets plenty of business from breakfast to dinner as well. By the time breakfast was over the steaming bays were bustling with jacketed activity. It never quite got warm all day and the vapor shots were awesome for the photographers. Every body made it out and soon one would think that they were the only engine out there at times.

If last year the Elizabeth Loop wasn't far enough from civilization for you, the new single track extension is just the ticket. Heading up the grade from the end of nowhere this new track works its way up the gentle valley and at present ends at a Wye, with the roadbed graded forever it seems towards the great north. I was crewing with the Shay's, double headed of course, with the Thompson boys leading up ahead on the C&S Mogul when we reached the Wye, radio contact had Peter and his train behind us back at the loop and it was communicated to come on up. Soon there were three trains at the end of track and upon descending back to the loop there were two more trains waiting to tackle the hill when we cleared. When our group stopped for lunch a steady trickle of activity passed for our dining entertainment.

Operations on Train Mountain are different that you will see everybody in the steaming bay in the morning but they can totally disappear for a whole day and never pass you. I saw RGS #41 once during Friday's run briefly yet everybody that ran that engine was soot faced from running somewhere all day. I only saw Ray and Becky on Saturday because they where stopped in a siding, and they ran all weekend too. Or you'll pass a train going in the other direction on the serpentine, never to pass again all day. Out in the flat land in the distance one might see a train wondering through the forest but they are on a different loop. With the Shay's double heading, one could hear them but where they were was any one's guess. Shay's in a forest are like Huey's in the jungle; they're there, you can hear them like thunder, but where?

Sunday morning a thin coating of snow greeted the early risers. Then it would split rain, try to snow some more, my chance to fire up the Mogul and play. It was cold, ugly and fun at the same time. Mike and Nathan accompanied me down the serpentine and around the Midway for a few photo runby's in the snow flurries. It never got a blanket of white on the ground, but it wasn't for trying. Then it was back up the hill in the heaviest it tried to snow. Good fun, us southerners don't get snow days very often. By 11:00 the sky was starting to clear and it even warmed up a bit. Drying out and allowing all of us to pack it all away in our vehicles for the trip home. Another interesting weekend at Train Mountain. Next year the meet will move back two weeks till after Mother's Day to try for a little less inclimate weather.

For a peek at the photos of the weekend;
Train Mountain Narrow Guage Meet 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

15" workday, April 25, 2009

On Saturday the 25th I ran out on the Harley to assist Brendon Hilton and his crew of dedicated helpers on an historic endeavor. The plan was to finish the 15" gauge balloon loop on the mesa before their Spring Meet on the first weekend in May. Well it seems that Brendon and company had been at it since Wednesday and had the loop completed excepting final grading and alignment. That was done in quick order and I had the opportunity to operate the 'ore car' with the Sessum's ballast car in tow through the new cut. That is an impressive piece of work Brendon and all the others; that whittled on that section of real estate from April of 2007 when this picture was taken and twenty five months later when the dream was fulfilled, a train can pass through. Later in the morning a few more helpers arrived and the switches were raised just west of the bridge and work progressed on the other side of the abyss above the museum cars. The existing track panels that were past the bridge were removed to allow the grading crew a clear shot at leveling and grading. The roadbed clear up to the base of the hill behind the caboose was regraded and soon the track crew was replacing the old section of track just east of the bridge. Now this rail the 15" use is thirty something feet long, so it doesn't take long to have 100 feet of track laid out, and their tie spacing is a lot further apart too. With the help of their handy dandy 'Iron Maiden' tie holder three guys can get ties put to the rail pretty quickly without too much pain. By the time I left around four that afternoon there was track back to the caboose and it was ready to grade already. A great accomplishment from a hand full of people in short order of time. Brendon's report of the weeks accomplishment is more telling of all that was done and by who, I just wanted to get the word out about what had transpired on the last weekend in April. Something that the early members of JT had envisioned, and has now come to pass.">

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Weekend, April 2009

Hey guys, this is a work in progress, so enjoy while I get it done. It might change so keep an eye on it, Brian.

The wildflowers are out in force this year, they are blossoming everywhere. And out out the tracks is no exception. The curve out of the station was just one of the many places where it was absolutely covered with flowers.

This weekend's project was many fold and long in planning to be done someday. Foremost of them all was to relay the rail in the station to remove the bent section of track from an automobile driving on the platform a few years back. Of all the things to do at JT it is the most disheartening to have to do something over because of negligence. But it needed done and while we were at it why not improve the situation, so we did.

One. The rail in the station is a lighter or smaller size then we use on the main line and it was intended for use as guard rail and the like. Over the years it has been used up and it is now gone. When the Palmer bridge was relaid in March of 2006 it never got guard rails placed on it, so the light rail on the station track was put to use as the new guard rails for the track. We're still twenty foot short, but better then we were. New track panels with heavy rail are now in place down the station track. And now the switches at the west end of the station can be built using heavy rail.

Two. The station was lacking adequate water facilities when steam engines are at the platform. The only water plug is mid way on the platform. Just great if you're the only train but when it gets busy, and we know that is two or more on our little pike. And it would be nice if the steam engines wouldn't have to stop on the platform for safety reasons too. So let's put the new plugs just past the end of the platform. Well, the station sidings don't go that far, or at least they didn't. We added twenty feet to the three tracks so that all three tracks can now get water at the east end of the station. This makes the station track look a whole lot better now that the track is straight throughout the station platform too.

Three. That nasty kink in the switch on the center track at the station. Any body that's prayed the engine stays on the track as they go through there knows which one. Well with every thing apart while moving things east twenty feet it was apparent that there was just too much track between the first switch and the second one to make a nice curve there. So we took some out, thirty inches of tangent brought the switch in alignment and now we have a nice curve into the second track and a great little 'S' curve to watch when the long trains go through it. We rebuilt the switch so that all four rail joints aren't on the same tie too, that will keep things in one with the alignment forces.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

JT visits MLS Spring Meet

March 20-22, 2009

With the Narrow Gauge Meet over and done it was time to visit another track as it is traveling time for Three Companies. With Mom felling much better these days Al and Lynn were off to the Maricopa Live Steamers Spring Meet. They pretty much just went from JT to Phoenix, ah, that retirement life. Greg and I had to attend our weekly sessions at the salt mill, but we were on the road by mid Friday afternoon. Matt Z, the CVLS president and soon to be new JT member (hint, hint)drove up to Corona for the trip over with us. He had never been to the Adobe track site and was exited to get the chance to go along.

The trip across the desert was uneventful, with the sun at our backs and traffic bearable we were soon in Buckeye and stopped to see Mike Polinsky's new house and to see his Artzberger RGS #20. When these engines are finished they will be as prolific as Little Engines Americans once were. Looking forward to that day.

In Greg's truck we had a stack of flat cars and the caboose to compliment the stack of flats that Dad had with the GE 47 tonner. It makes for quite a string, meandering out among the flora and fauna of the flood basin in spring. On an early Saturday trip through the yard area, Ron and Lila Schmidt had arrived as they were in the area for a spell.
We took them on a scenic trip on one of the five different loops that can be taken at MLS. After a good hour on the ride they were off again to enjoy the great spring weather.

MLS has quite a few 2 1/2"ng engines and cars about their railroad. Karl Hovanitz has a stable of 2 1/2" equipment at the club as well as at his home track at Bitter Creek.
Bruno Platzer keeps a plethora of narrow gauge equipment to pull behind his massive K-36 and GE 47 tonner there as well since MLS is the closest track to his home in Las Vegas. John Mueller's C-16 is at home there as well and is an early representation of Rio Grande equipment. He is working on finishing up a wooden box car, individual boards on the exterior, nice. John is one of the original five to be involved in the JT property. Jeff Hickman has an impressive collection of rolling stock with wide wheels too. A past visitor to JT, Bob Clark from Farmington, New Mexico was down to pick up his new Easlon freight cars. Bob says he lives by the blogs and E-mails from other clubs as he lives in the middle of nowhere. Thanks for the good word about these musings. Thanks to Rick White for the photos of the train, I took one photo the whole weekend.

It is always fun and interesting to travel to other tracks, you learn different ways to tackle things, some work for you, some don't. MLS has a weather demon like we do and the way they go about it makes a lot of sense. They have sand everywhere and their switch throws are the way we should go. We're working on it. Make an effort to visit another club track this season, you'll be glad you did. Next travel spot, Train Mountain Narrow Gauge Meet 09, May 2009, Chiliquin Oregon, see you there.

Monday, March 16, 2009

March 2009 Narrow Gauge Meet

Joshua Tree & Southern Narrow Gauge Meet 2009
and Dedication of the Bill Shepherd Lift
March 12-15

The best decision for having a meet was to have it in March instead of February. The weather was absolutely wonderful; mild temperatures, clear skies, and the next day was ‘more of the same’ all weekend.

The Meet started early for Gary and Margret Stites, they came the week before, a calendar mistake to their favor. Gary got in some valuable throttle time on his GE 47 tonner, learning the ins and outs of its operation quite well by the end of the weekends. The painting project and detailing are coming along fine, good job Gary.

Bill Shepherd has been in town for a few weeks now and his handy work is to be found all throughout the place.
The Gazsi bay is complete and filled now and the steps are forming at the south end of the steaming bays, a greatly needed and appreciated addition and completion to the steaming area. A concrete curb was added to the turn table pit area to keep the soil from eroding into the pit. The only thing left is the erection of the engine house to add the final crown to the improved and expanded complex. Bill has also completed the pedestrian entrance at the front gate. You must come see it for yourself, this is a project that Bill has worked on for over a year in secrecy and it is now de-classified for our enjoyment.

Bill has also been trenching away at the campground septic system, when finished it will need more than four hundred feet of pipe to complete. Bill has also been finishing up the steps and retaining walls around the new lift area. I’m sure there will be added attention to details as we dedicated it in his name on Saturday, a very fitting expression of our gratitude for all his hard work, dedication to detail and the stamina to see it through to completion of many things around our great museum and club.

The dedication on Saturday was well attended. As a background for the occasion, three locomotives sat on the leads from the hoist. Giving those assembled a touch for what can be done at the new facility. The Speech for the dedication was short and to the point about how all who come out to Joshua Tree leave ‘finger prints’.

Finger Prints, from the early days of when the original founders of the club put their mark on what is out here. From the building of the 7 ½” railroad that started in 1979 to its present scope has taken many more different sets of finger prints to evolve to what we have today.
Some people’s finger prints lay below the surface where they are not as readily seen. Some people’s finger prints might lay behind the scenes, and yet we only see those that are on the surface, those that created through what has been called ‘sweat equity’ the physical plant of the organization; the roadbed, the track, the facilities that make a railroad more then just a circle on the ground. So in honor to one that has left many a ‘finger print’ about the place, we dedicated the new hoist as the Shepherd Lift. Fittingly Bill even wore a blue shirt to match the hoist’s color well. Thank you Bill, from all of us, for all you have done and for many things yet to come we are very appreciative of your time, toil and techniques.

On the operation side of the meet we had a very good turn out. Ron and Peter made a light load trip south with one C-16, #278, in tow. The Burns Family made it down with the whole train behind the RGS #41. The Thompson boys had C&S #13 out for the weekend as well. The Tolans made a light trip as well, only stuffing the van to the gills, no trailer, had the ‘Chloe’ along. Erin Swain and his growing family made the trip from Flagstaff with the Fitchburg Mogul.
On Saturday Jeff Tolan and Erin had double headed with Paul Lavacot’s string of log buggies in tow, power to weight ratio for that drag was pretty low. Allan Ratliff had GE 47 tonner #17 polishing the rail as well, hauling log cars around all weekend, even had a new load to pull; stacks of untreated ties for the soaker.
The days were warm and the nights delightful, Terry Watson had the Museum open all weekend for those that wanted to see the sights. Peter Moseley had not been inside since Gary Conley and Terry had spruced up the exhibits and stated that his Father would have been impressed with what and how they have arranged the Museum. A new addition to the shirts available at the Museum is a nicely embroidered hat with the JT&SRR logo on the front, and for the Narrow Gauge Meet a special run was made with that on the back hoop. All 36 went quickly and could be seen throughout the area all weekend.

Many new faces were seen about the place over the meet as well as many old ones that haven’t been out for a while. Paul Westover invited his folks from Tehachapi to see the place for the first time. Paul’s dad has been cutting the ties for us for quite some time, now it all makes sense. Paul’s brother Richard and his family was up from Santee and has vowed to be out again to help in the ‘finger prints’ with some sweat equity of his own, Paul says he hasn’t stopped talking about the place yet. Kim and Linda Beard spent the weekend and stayed in the ‘romantic’ Pullman car, this is the first time Kim has seen his peddle car set out track near Burns Spur, it was well used over the meet with his and Shepherd’s peddler filling the track. The Chula Vista club had many make the trek to see the sights as well as Ron Wilkerson from Riverside.

A new addition to the layout was the new place signs that the Burns have started making, the original is at Burns and is ceramic from Liz’s art class, the newest and how the others will be made are wooden and double sided. The first new sign fittingly was placed at Tedder, just in front of the Tedder Mansion, below the same named trestle. The placement of the signs adds yet another ‘finger print’ to the railroad.

A great time was had by all and it was over all too soon. Next time out will be Easter Weekend so find all the eggs early or bring them out to hide between the cacti, see you there, Brian

Saturday, March 7, 2009

March 7,2009 Special Workday Again

The Romans had a working plumbing system about 50 A.D. Joshua Tree gets air and water to the steaming bays in 2009, just in time for the meet. Imagine if you will; six water spigots and twelve air valves for your steam up pleasure, leaving the much improved over its' predecessor, the air manifold, as a forgotten piece of equipment of yore. No more dragging the water hose around, as it was always as far away as possible when you needed it and leaking as well, and with a kink in it to restrict or shut off flow to boot. And the air manifold, as much as it was an improvement over individual air compressors thumping at one's feet and under them as well, being able to just reach under the bay or to the one beside yours like one does at all other facilities will be great.

Saturday, Greg and I left the big city in the rear view mirror and came out for completion of two important projects. Greg's' project was to finish painting and installing of the finger guards for the hoist trolley. And to spray some paint on the welded areas of it as well. That last finishing touch before the meet. His handy work looks fine and you are sure to notice it when you unload.

My project was to finish the water spigots and piping at the bays. Time did not allow me to finish as well as I ran out of piping too. So it was trenching time early in the morning as soon as Bill Shepherd finished welding the air risers to the legs. Bill had run a temporary electrical line so the welder could reach to the far bay. The water lines were connected and tested, Bill welded these riser to the bay legs as well. The trench was back filled and tamped and we even had water to use to compact the soil back to level.

With those two things over it brings to a close three great improvements to the physical plant at JT. Water, air and a larger, safer way to unload. With the coming months we will finish the yard tracks above the hoist and it will serve us well in the coming years as a temporary storage area during busy operations.

Bill Shepherd has been busy this past week too. The front gate has a new look. The electrical is completed for the hoist and air compressor there. Today he was pouring the floor for the deck and steps were you will gain access to the yard area above the hoist. He has finished the wall around the hoist area and is soon going to work on the viaducts over the wash. There was a flurry of activity around the place today as the 15" crew was working up on the plateau. And there was activity around the campground as well with pruning and watering. Things are greening up, the trees are starting to bud out and the grass is poking its way up everywhere, Spring is on its way. It promises to be a good wildflower season real soon, don't miss it.

Well, I certainly hope it is in your plans to make it out for the Narrow Gauge Meet it promises to be a great weekend in many ways. See you there next weekend, March 12, 13, 14, 15, 2009

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Extra Work Weekend, February, 28; March 1, 2009

Having just a few things to get done before the Narrow Gauge Meet coming up in March, Three Companies decided to call an extra weekend to finish and polish some construction projects around the tracks. First on the list was to get the air lock controls for the lift operating. Temporary tubing was run to see how well it would work and replace the two by four blocks that were being used. Of course as soon as we got the tubing installed a better way was thought up and in time we will convert the system to reflect those ideas.

After getting the lift in full operating condition the ceremonial first unloading was staged. Dad backed up his truck and as everybody was assembled for the fete, Greg and I uncovered and unstrapped the GE and flats so it would be a speedy affair. With the video going; the engine and cars were off loaded and on the new lead track in less then two minutes.

The Thompsons made it out for the weekend too, Bruce just had to stop and donate money to the Indians at Morongo on his way out and Mike and Nathan got out before the sun set on Friday as well. Mike's project has been to extend the track north of Palmer Bridge and we have found a suitable spot to wrap up the extension so we can all focus on the high Line in the near future.

Paul Westover stopped in on his way back to work in the Tucson area and was seen moving boulders on the upper High Line most of the day on Friday. He found out first hand how tricky the Jays are once they see what you have to feed them. After sharing his trail mix with the beggars, he put the bag back in his truck. Being it was a warm day he rolled the windows down about two inches to let the hot air out, and to let the nosy Jay's in too. Soon there was a Jay in the truck but he couldn't figure out how to get out. Paul figures next time he'll let the truck get hot instead of getting pilfered by the birds.

Bill Shepherd is back in town, he made the long trip down Friday and rolled in to camp about late:30. After resting up and unloading all sorts of new goodies for the club he proceeded to complete the block work on the 'Gazsi Bay'. Sunday afternoon we ran a mud train from the hoist area where the mixer was to the bays to fill the cells of the wall. The track will be secured down to the wall on the 7th as well, giving us a full complement of bays for the meet. Bill's next project was to complete the steps at the hoist area and I'm sure that is curing already in the High Desert springtime air as we speak.

Brendon and Ace Hilton came out for a spell on Sunday and Brought Along Kim Ziepke to work on the old Ford tractor. Not taking long to figure out all the problems it was soon heard running around. The bucket that has for years sat along the road is now at home near the tractor. They spotted an old Cat D-4 on the way out and it is now in Hesperia at Brendon's. Took 'Zip' no time at all to figure it's problems out and now there is another piece of heavy equipment to carve up the landscape.

Westover started trenching for the air and water risers at the bay over the weekend and by Sunday afternoon the air risers were in place ready to weld to the steaming bay legs. The water risers should be finished up on the 7th, during a last ditch effort to have all ready for the Narrow Gauge Meet. Things are shaping up nicely and anticipation is building to see how well things work for the up coming meet. The Narrow Gauge Meet will be a play weekend for Three Companies and I hope you all come to enjoy yourselves too. See you there, Brian

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Presidents Day Weekend, February 2009

Presidents Day Weekend at Joshua Tree

The weather man was right it was going to rain this weekend, at 9:00 am on Monday it started raining. The rest of the weekend was the standard; cold nights and T-shirt days as long as the sun was out.

Paul Westover came down from Tehachapi Thursday afternoon and offloaded another one hundred feet of track panels for the 7½”. I meet him at Barr Lumber around 11:00 on Friday, as I came into town, to pick up a few items that we would need to finish off on the hoist project. It sure is neat to get out a little early for a long weekend and even better when you get to stay a day longer too.

Terry Watson was up and waiting when we hit the gate, eager to see what was in store for the coming day. Al and Lynn Ratliff came in the gate not twenty minutes after we did; it is nice to have Mom and Dad make it out after not being able to the past couple of times. We got the trailers set up and even unloaded the GE before the sun dropped over the edge and the cool started to take over. Tom Arnold was up for the weekend too, and we put him to work the whole weekend.

Saturday dawned with nary a cloud in sight and soon as the sun reached the valley floor the temperature rose as quickly as the sun. By 10:00 it was not necessary to have more then a t-shirt on if you were in the sun. Saturday night I had a pretty good sun burn going on the nape of my neck, I completed it on Sunday. Greg made it up pretty early Saturday morn’ with the non-used section of the hoist, it will be used about the hoist area, just not on the lift. The end track sections of the hoist were fitted and refitted before welding them in place.

The header plate on the block wall was secured to the block work with the remaining fasteners. After that was done the track crew could build the remaining track panel to length and grade it. They also started on the two outer lead tracks from the lift, as there will be three tracks to choose to off load to from the lift. Terry Watson brought out his hammer-drill motor to put the holes in the wall for the header plate. Gary Conley assisted with the drilling and tapping of holes to secure the rail to the hoist trolley.

And visitors in the gate during both days, Ray and Sunny Martin, their son Matthew assisted in the work of the weekend. He is a member of So Cal Live Steamers and was camping down the road. I do believe we will be seeing more of them in the future. By Saturday evening all that remained to see the hoist operate was electrical and air. The air could wait and could be bypassed but the electrical was Sunday’s project. On the track side of things the track crew had laid sixty feet of panels and had rough graded them as well. The grading for the third lead was pretty far along too. And it too would get attacked come Sunday as well.

Sunday morning the Heisler got a steam up and ran for an hour or so, she is developing a lope and needs a little more attention then she has been getting, so back to the bays she went. After the sun hit the hoist area it was back on the project, with the fish tape in hand we ran the electrical to the pump motor and ran the air line inside the conduit as well. After filling up the reservoir for the hydraulic fluid we soon found out that the lines were crossed; it had been a year since we disassembled them, at least everything is now well lubricated.

After we figured that out, we ran the hoist up and down a few times to get the air out of the line and it was time to give it a test. Everyone was to pick a spot a go for a ride. Pictures were taken at the lowest setting; on the ground. And then I raised it to the top and took another shot for posterity. Top of rail is 11 3/16” at lowest and 6 foot 5 ½” at highest.
Gary and Allan worked on the sheet metal for covering the wheels as to keep from running over fingers during movement. All the new track panels got rail joiners attached before sundown on Sunday. And most of the track got at least a token ballasting before dark. Quite an accomplishment for all that lent a helping hand, a big pat on the back for all.

Sunday evening saw all leave except Mom, Dad and I, quiet came back to the campground and the evening was warmer then the two previously. The cloud cover was coming in and by mid morning Monday the much talked about rain was finally coming down. Being antsy to do things while having a morning about the place, I figured with the string line and a few stakes, the radii of the existing curve and duplicated it on the other lead track. That made the yard look better. Soon I was digging out along the upper side of the lead tracks for a tie retaining wall to keep the sloughing sands at bay and to give one a decent walking path while traversing the area. The GE and a few flats did the yeoman work of transporting the heavy ties to the worksite.

The rain was getting serious by now and the first break in the clouds Dad and I loaded things in the respective trucks and secured them for the trip home. We picked the right time as it really never let off again till after I left at least and it rained all the way home for me. It even was trying to snow at the top of Morongo grade on the way out of Yucca Valley.

A great weekend, with a lot accomplished by those that made it out for the weekend, one more session on the yard switch and grading the lead tracks and we will have a functional, larger and safer way to load and unload equipment. I’m looking forward to seeing it in use as I’m sure you are too. See you at the Narrow Gauge meet March 12-15, 2009.

Photobucket Album

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Hoist Workday Photos, February 7, 2009

Photobucket Album

These are the pictures for the below story, some day I'll figure out how to get them where I want them. Sorry about the Baloney from Photobucket wanting you to post a comment, that's what we get for free, Brian

Hoist Workday, February 7,2009

Greetings all, young and young at heart,

Saturday was wet and the weather man said; more wet to come. Greg and I got an early start from Corona and the weather cleared up more as we traveled easterly. Snow dusted the upper reaches of the mountains as we passed through the Banning pass. The fans were turning in the desert keeping the place cooled off as if it wasn't cool enough. It never really rained on the trip out but you spent most of the time adjusting the intermittent wipers to keep from hearing the screech of dry blades on the windshield, then turning them up for better visibility.

Brendon Hilton and his son Ace spent Friday night out there and he said it rained all night. The place was wet, but water had not run in the roads or either of the washes, so the precipitation was soaking in well, anticipate a good crop of wildflowers this spring.

An Easy-up was one of the things loaded in the truck, as well as everything else we thought we would need for the day. It was the second thing to be set up at the hoist location when we arrived, the first was the fire barrel for some heat. First project was to wire up a receptacle for the welder. The second was to go to Barr Lumber and buy a new pigtail for the welder so it would fit the receptacle. The welder still had a plug from when it was used by the Romans to re weld chariots. Then would you believe that one of the tabs in the breaker box was dead and of course that was the one that we plugged into when we ran wire to the hoist in January. With all the start up fits out of the way, we started welding the trolleys on the transfer table.

Not being the most proficient welder in town the easiest way for me to get a decent weld was to flip the table over and weld the bottom first then turn it on its side to weld them.

After we flipped it back over, installed the rollers and placed the roller track on the cross supports it became evident that our planning and engineering had paid off. She rolled with the greatest of ease. We bolted the sheet metal guards over the lifting ram and put the cover over the hydraulic controls. A few hydraulic fittings to go to get them to work and wiring for the pump as well as the plumbing for the air system is pretty much all that is left in that area.

The day was cool, but the turnout for the 15" boys for their workday was good. People drove by in and out most of the day. We even had a Cadillac with Illinois plates on it show up, Nick Kallas from the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL was in town and spent the morning trying to find us, he was also looking for an open observation Pullman car the was supposed to be around here he said. I sent him up to Pioneertown to go see it after he left. Terry Watson gave him the cooks tour of all the cars and the Museum too. It sprinkled a few times during the day as the clouds scudded past on their way east. The fire barrel keeping us warm and the cover keeping us dry.

The bridge plates to the yard and the rail on the transfer table will get welded up this week and put in place next weekend. We will be able to finish the center track to the hoist and start on the two outer tracks as well over the Presidents Day weekend run. There should be no reason that the hoist will not be ready to be put in use for the Narrow Gauge Meet. The Yard will not be complete, only one track will be in service up to the main line. We have a few switches to complete before that happens and we are looking into finding some switch parts to ease this along.

The rest of the day went quickly and soon the sun was dropping over the edge. Greg and I made a trip up to see the progress on the 'hernia' gauge, they had welded up some pieces on the turntable and had started grading the roadbed towards the big cut. The temperature was sure to be lower as the evening progressed as the sky was clearing. A group formed around the patio area and it was getting time to leave even though to fun was just starting to pick up. The ride back home was uneventful and we didn't see rain again till we were almost home. A lot accomplished for a day that was supposed to be rained out. Keep an eye out for the invitation to the cocktail and dedication party at the 'Hoist' at the Narrow Gauge Meet.