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!