Wednesday, January 21, 2009

MLK at JT January, 2009

January 21, 2009

MLK Weekend at JT, running and working.

What a beautiful weekend to be out in the high desert of California this past weekend. Of course the wind had blown for over a week previous and sooner or later it was bound to stop. The temperatures throughout the nation were in the single digits while we wore single shirts throughout the day, the evenings got down to the low 50’s and the skies were clear and the waning moon was still bright. The early evening activities were waiting for the International Space Station to streak across the sky. With two showings Friday night and one pass on Saturday and Sunday evening as well, it was quite a sight seeing the floating mass arc across the evening sky. How do I get a window seat on that puppy? How the view from a lawn chair strapped to the wing of the shuttle and a cool pack of beverages along side, watching the world go by. I could imagine the stories that could be spun on that trip.

Bill Shepherd was back in town and Bruce Thompson was right behind him through the gate. I followed less then an hour later on Friday afternoon. Mike and Nathan Thompson bounced up the road by late afternoon and Greg, Becky and Sydnie Ratliff found their way in before it was too late. Rumors of a crowd from San Diego way brought Matt Zacharzuk, Darren Saylor and Amber Palomino from that way on Saturday, Matt stayed till late on Sunday. Terry Watson cruised in every morning to see the action and help where needed, he even spent some time in the shop car working on the mill in there. The Tolans arrived Saturday morning and spent the weekend also.

Saturday was a steam up day for the Heisler and it ran till the packing gland decided to do a counter clockwise spin from its place of rest. Jeff Tolan steamed up his Chloe as well. The Saturday project was to add another row of block to the retaining wall for the lift project and to place the cap upon that so that we could calculate the this weekend. Of course the new row of block needed filled before Bill could place the cap, so a mixing crew was formed to do that project as well. Greg ran the spot stick while Bill looked through the eyepiece and calculated what needed to be known.

The mound of fill dirt that was impeding the visual aspect of where we needed to grade was bisected with shovels to aid us in seeing where we needed to go. Most of it was used for back fill against the new wall; the rest was Moses’d to each side of the road bed. After much, very much, discussion it was agreed to leave the wall at its current height and live with the fact that this railroad is built on a hill. For there is a two foot rise from the retaining wall to the frog of the new switch off the upper loop to the new yard, ninety feet away. Do we raise the wall and push a locomotive and cars above your shoulders to a long level yard, or do we shorten the flat section of the yard to the ease of unloading and the steepness of a grade to the switch? I hope you’ll agree on our compromise and plan to attend the upcoming Narrow Gauge Meet Cocktail Party at the lift in March. The lift will be at a perfect height.

Sunday we tackled the grade and cussed and discussed the alignment for the yard. A frog was cut into the upper loop, a switch was starting to take place and track panels that had been stored down in the car barn were brought up and bolted into place. By early afternoon ballast was in place and things were looking really good that this effort was taking root. Of course four more tracks need installed as well as their switches, the grades need worked on and etcetera. But, it’s looking good!

Jeff and Kevin Tolan had made there way up to the cut on the 15” and were clearing the debris from the latest ‘Dexpan’ placement. It is amazing what that stuff will do and two weeks later the stuff is a powder in the drill hole, nothing but fractured rock in its wake.

All but Bill and I left by late Sunday afternoon and things got down to quiet. By the time the ISS passed around 7:00 in the evening it was real quiet, peaceful and serene, it was great time to reflect on the accomplishments of the past weekend, the past years and even the past decades. It has taken a lot of people a lot of time, talent and toil to make what we have out here. And some times it is just amazing to just sit back and reflect on what we have out here to enjoy, count our blessing for what we have, and what we don’t have to endure as well.

Monday was quiet till I got up. Trying to do more then one thing at a time, I fired up the Heisler, put things away that we didn’t need out anymore. Returned things to their rightful spots and tidied up the place in general. After steaming up it was a load of trash to the front gate, by train of course, put cars back in the barn and coil up the hoses. Run a few laps and put the Heisler away as well. After the morning run, I worked on the new switch, leaving the points work for a later date. Bill was busy on the culvert south of the Station for the Yard tracks there; he also worked on the walkway on the north side of the station too. By Tuesday he had the rock wall placed back around the Tedder garden area east of the station, he never stops I tell you.

Bill is going to be in and out of town through March and I’m trying to get with Greg to get a day or two extra out on the lift project. Greg stopped by on Tuesday to show me the steel work for the lift trolley; it is going to be nice. Being we have power for a welder at the lift that will make things easier too. Things are looking good out there, plan on attending soon; hope to see you, Brian.

Friday, January 9, 2009

New Years Weekends 2009

January 9, 2009
The 2009 New Years Weekends on the Real Narrow Gauge

From December 26th, 2008 to January 4th, 2009 was a busy 10 days out at Joshua Tree. After the Christmas rush it was time to head out to the digs to enjoy the season to the fullest. With a heavy, early season snow blanketing the area on December 15th, the lure of snow running was on every ones mind. The pass west of Yucca Valley was still showing signs of the past storm as I crested the hill on mid day Friday. The snow piles were dotting the parking lots of the big stores in town. But as I neared the property the hills were their usual winter brown, nary a snow bank in sight, on the hills let alone along the road bed.

The snow erased all signs of foot and vehicular prints from the past fall and all that was left was animal tracks and the crusty soil from melting snow. That was to change soon. By evening the whole family was out and enjoying the cool December air, from the warmth of the fire at the patio.

Saturday was one of those slow days, took us till after 10:00 to get the trains unloaded and well after lunch before we returned from the hardware store with the supplies for the weekend task. The plan was to trench from the power pole west of the patio to the hoist site, a modest 140 feet, even further if one was to go around the bushes. Direct always works best, so it was through the bushes. Greg and dad spent the rest of the daylight hours rearranging the car barn parking situation while I found a good fitting shovel.

There are good things about trenching after a good soaking and in sand too, once you get past the crust it’s pretty easy going. A lot easier digging then in some of the places I’ve had to trench before. By the time the sun dropped behind the hill I was half way across the first road. After the sun returned in the morning and again graced the campground it was time to complete the task. But the ground was now frozen about three inches deep from the cold and the wet soil. Greg helped out with the pick and the project inched its way west. By breakfast time we had reached the buried conduit from the hoist pad that Bill Shepherd had placed for us. After breakfast we laid out the conduit and threaded the wire through it and put it on the bottom of the trench. By noon we had it all covered back up and packed back down. One of those projects that needs done but no one can tell it when you’re done.

Sunday evening Greg and I headed back to the salt mines while the folks and Becky and Sydnie enjoyed their winter vacation. Monday, Kevin and Jeff Tolan came up for a few days and Paul Westover was in town for a few days too. Paul brought out another load of ties from Tehachapi; his dad is going gang busters on the drill press pre drilling the ties. Jeff brought out his ‘Chloe’ for a winter run and right off the bat Kevin decided that the turntable needed a little attention as it has been taking two men and a boy to turn it. Kevin found that two of the four rollers were frozen and the center pin needed a little TLC too. Far warning if you move it now, it might just spin around and get you now. While every one was down near the steaming bays the track on Gazsi’s bay was removed so the rock could be removed in anticipation of the cinder block retaining wall instead. And of course the cinder blocks needed placed close by too. After that was done Kevin went off on a chainsaw spree trimming up and off branches that were broke off from the wet heavy snow, it does a number on the greasewood bushes.

Kevin, Jeff and Paul also made a trip up to the 15” and made quick work of the ruble from Brendon’s recent ‘Dexpan’ job in the big cut. One or two more drilling parties and there could be some iron in that cut. Jeff even got in a night run too, as the evenings weren’t as cold as the past weekend. The redwood planks also got moved for the upcoming project of erecting the hoist on New Years day.

Paul was busy putting together track panels for the new hoist lead tracks; he even put in the last ten feet of track on the Panama Canal end of the Wye, now the track goes clear up to the end of the cut. Makes room for quite a train through the Wye now. Kevin and Jeff left before New Years Eve and Paul made it till then before heading off back to work. Greg showed up on the eve with a trailer full of hoist parts that were loaded up earlier in the week in Corona from the secret hiding place. I arrived back on New Years day and the ‘erection of the hoist started about 9:00 am. Good thing the OSHA inspector had the day off, he wouldn’t of liked how we cribbed the cross piece up to height, but if it was good enough to build Stonehenge its good enough for us. Terry Watson borrowed a hammer drill from his buddy Sam Lehman and that sure made quick work of drilling the anchor bolt holes. Gary Conley also had a hand in the assistance side of things as by midday the Hoist was erected and bolted in place, and one ramp was installed to ease in measuring where and how the other ramp would go. The other ramp will roll side to side across the entire width and have the track attached too. A big thanks to Nick Gray Trucking for the use of the trailer to get the hoist out and thanks to Bill Wilson of the ‘Bike Shop” for hauling the trailer back home.

Tom Artzberger and his wife Sandy made a trip over from Pagosa Springs to deliver a locomotive and to test run another. A GE 47 tonner was going to its new home in Chico and where other then JT to give it a test run and see how well it performs at that. Tom also had a RGS #20 on steam for the first time over the weekend. The smell of baking paint was permeating the steaming area on Friday and Saturday. After Tom had run it a while on Saturday he said it was running in nicely and it rolled a lot better now then it did Friday morning. Tom is building another batch of 20’s and a few of the prospective new owners were out to see the test run of this one.

The rest of the weekend flew by quickly and soon it was time to load it all back up and leave. The hoist project is coming along nicely and thing got a little spruced up along the way. The weather was not an issue and we faired well with the rains and snow. Spring time just might be a colorful time this year as we didn’t have much rainfall last year. Save a few days in the spring for flower watching.

Next time out will be MLK weekend, hoping to get a few switches started for the unloading area as well as some train time in too. See you there, Brian