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