Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Things, They are a Changing

Oh my! an update! As the title says, things will change on the Joshua Tree blogs.

If you want general information, that will still be up here to find. If you want the juicy details then you will have to send me, Brian, an E-mail at and give me a little information on you and I will send you my updates when they happen.

The Board of Directors has decided to limit the scope of what can be found on the website but it doesn't stop you the interested party from asking for more through our individual accounts. I little more work for me, but a lot more personal contact for you.

We are going to try this and see if it solves the difficulties that had appeared in the past. I welcome your comments and look forward to a few requests for the updates.

The new dates for activities is over there on the right, now you can plan that trip out to see the place.

See you soon, Brian

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Storm Watch 2010: January Rains in the Desert

High Definition HD2010 Live Doppler Radar Action News takes us to the railroad and museum in Joshua Tree where massive rains and flooding have decimated the roadbed and embargoed the railroad from the outside world! Film at Eleven!! Oh! that is right, the talking head on the news would not use a word like embargo. Let's try cut off.

Well it is not that bad, but: I got a call from Terry Watson and he said that sometime late last week the rock wall above the turntable collapsed and fell into the turntable pit,the turntable is not functional as the wall fill is in the pit. The high line track would be out of service till we repaired the embankment. I asked if he could take a few pictures and this is what he sent for all to see.

Here is the plan: February 5th, is a Friday and I'm planning on going out and getting ready for a massive dirt moving day on Saturday so that we can utilize the turntable for the Presidents Day Run the next weekend. We can move the fill dirt to the end of the tail track at the steaming bays and the rock can be set aside for rebuilding the wall after things dry out. I've talked to the resident engineer on wall rebuilding and he is seeing these pictures just as you are for the first time. A plan of attack will be formulated and by March for the Narrow Gauge Meet we should see trains again on the High Line.

Rain does not come often in the desert but when it does it can come all at once. No one was around when this happened so we can only guess that the rodent population might of had a helping tunnel in the collapse. Relief efforts are underway to rescue any trapped rodents and reestablish them in a less prone area. Federal Disaster Funding will not be available for this private railroad.

The disaster news team interviewed the division coordinator and he said: that he was increasing the daily 'grog' rations till this catastrophe was alleviated. Come on out and partake in this rarity of Mother Nature. See you next weekend.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Martin Luther King Weekend at JT

January 15,16,17,18, 2010

Something a little new this report, I am going to write this as time permits during the weekend for a different perspective, allowing me to try out this new lap-top device. Last time I had a personal electronic device at all times was an ankle bracelet courtesy of the county. Enjoy a different approach, if it makes you want to come enjoy the railroad then it works, Brian

Saturday morning: With the three-day weekend and the promise of Southern California finally getting a little more rain this is turning out to be a great time to be here. The weather in the Southland is clouding up, Friday it was grey around here all day until late afternoon, this morning the high clouds are across the desert with a little blue off to the west over the 15” mesa. Mom and Dad are here and I showed up around three o’clock yesterday afternoon with Greg, Becky and Sydnie rolling in after dark to round out the arrivals so far.

Greg had worked on the new switch frogs during the week, getting us prepared to work on the yard tracks above the Shepherd Lift area. Jimmy Booth donated four sets of switch parts from Train Mountain for this project and now it is time to get them in. It will be a great asset to the railroad to have that yard fully functional before the next session of playing trains out here.

Earlier in the week, Paul Westover made a trip down from Tehachapi with a load of full sized railroad ties for our landscaping and stairway projects, Thanks Paul, and Uncle Pete too.

The sun has finally edged over the hill to help warm the day, the Cactus Wrens are warbling, they sort of sound like someone trying to start a car that won’t fire; ying, ying, yingyingying. The new firewood is doing great, and I hear life start to stir in the other trailers. It is a beautiful day at JT.

Saturday afternoon: As the dinner fire is starting to get a good bed of coals, it is a good time to update. After the morning breakfast, we unloaded Greg’s truck and took out the steel for the front of the engine house. We needed to do some measuring to make sure that it was right before cutting expensive steel. The next project ended up to be a Better Homes and Gardens job. We worked over the defacto walkway from the lower end of the campground up to track level at the engine house lead. With the new ties that Westover brought up, we made a stairway up the hill so everybody could walk up a real walkway instead of picking their way up and over the rock embankment. Of course, we cut them in half so the walkway is four foot wide instead of looking like the approach to the Supreme Court Building. In moving the ties from the storage area, the storage area got a once over to clean it up and organize it as to be able to get the rest of the cinder blocks moved to here. Matt Z. made it out about noon today, we had been waiting for ‘sparkplug’ to arrive all morning, glad to have him come out and lend a hand, he is a great asset to any organization, thanks Matt. Off to cook dinner…

I’m back: had a great steak, cooked on oak coals of course. The evening is cooling but isn’t too cool, great time around the fire. This afternoon we started working on the switches at the Shepherd lift lead, we have a frog cut in and are working on the rails working up to the points. Tomorrow we will continue and hope to maybe finish another switch too, making all three tracks accessible. So much for a stormy weekend, no rain yet. The GE 47 tonner has made a few night laps, the headlight's beam bouncing off one side of the canyon or the other as it winds its way up and down the grades.

Sunday Morning: We are moving the cinder blocks from below the dining car to the narrow gauge storage area below Tedder, a project we can do till it warms up a bit and we can go back to work on the switches. Matt and I loaded El Pepe the omnibus, Brendon Hilton’s electric flat bed, with 36 cinder blocks and brought them down to the upper crossing where they are trans-loaded to the flat cars, at 12 to a car, for a trip down to the storage area. Dad was at the engineer’s potentiometer on the GE and soon Greg made it out of the trailer as well. The big split face blocks are heavy and do not stack as well as regular block owing to their irregular outer face. Once we had that pallet of block moved, we had two pallets of regular block and we could move them at fourteen blocks to a car. We had all the block moved by nine thirty and we had done our part to clean up the area. The pallets will soon be back at the block company in San Bernardino.

Soon after it was back to the switch project, and by lunch, it was progressing well. With the close proximity of the three switches, it was necessary to pretty much work on all three at the same time being the longer switch ties might traverse all tracks. We had plenty of help, physical and moral during the project. The girls all came out to sit on the wall and watch as well as Kevin Kane and Terry Watson. New Members Bob Whitt and his friend Miles kept an eye on us while getting the G-scale track back in condition too. We had a visitor, Bill Mallard, from the Burnaby Central Railroad, British Colombia, down and he really liked what he saw.

The Day was warm and quite clear for an approaching storm, but by about three o’clock the weather started to deteriorate and soon it was time to find the earlier discarded extra shirt. As the day went on it got colder and after dark, about five thirty the rain started. Nothing much, just a steady drizzle for and hour or so, but this is the desert.

Monday is here and it is time to make sure all is packed up, and put away where it belongs. Matt and I did a little dirt moving around the new switches and retamped the completed sections of track so the rain would settle in the track where we wanted it instead of just where it was. We even moved some of the 7 1/2" storage items from the inner loop area to get out of the way of the ever expanding 'G' scale outfit. We made some progress over the weekend; started work on the switches in the Lift yard tracks. A better walkway to the steaming area and cleaned up around the open area with the moving of the cinder blocks. Good progress, good people and a good time, see you President’s weekend in February.

Things I forgot to include in the last Report

Sitting here enjoying the early morning clatter of the Scrub Jays and the Cactus Wrens as the newly started fire at the patio crackles and pops, I can see through the Bailey’s and coffee that there were a few things omitted from the New Years Eve weekend report.

The Mulberries among the upper camping spots got a little trimming done, as January and February are the best time to trim deciduous trees. Just a little off the bottom and some minor clearing to help with their canopy and make it so they don’t scratch up the trailers below them and does not take out a window or such in the process.

The Stites Landscaping company of Gary and Margret trimmed a few bushes encroaching the right of way and cleared out from under the trestles for aesthetics as well as not to catch a stray cinder from a passing steam engine.

The wood pile got a sprucing up with the addition of a trailer load, large trailer load, of 2”x12” material from a Mobile Home Park in Huntington Beach: Rancho Del Rey (thanks again guys). Also the removal of the big stuff that wouldn’t fit in the barrel without the use of a splitter, back to my domicile for splitting and carbon disbursement from my incinerator at home, making the trailer work both directions.

The Hiltons’ had played musical trailers and rearranged a few spaces so that Bill’s fifth wheel trailer would fit. The little Terry went to where the Big Terry was and the Big Terry is going to Hesperia, hold your applause please, as a spare bedroom at the remote shops of the 15” behind Brendon’s shop. The tree next to that space needed trimmed, not in a circle, but in a parallelogram to be able to allow parking. Geometry and Algebra in school finally paid off.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Wringing in the New Year

New Years Weekend started the weekend before. With Christmas and New Years on a Friday this time it made for some quality time off for us working stiffs. Of course in retirement it just means the stores are closed for some reason.

I made it out first by getting out to the digs on Friday evening, the moon was getting bright enough one didn't need a flashlight to get around. The folks made it out mid-day Saturday and Greg and family were out not too much later then that. Trains and cars were unloaded but not much of anything else was accomplished, just a nice relaxing weekend.

The Heisler even got to see the sun for a change and Sunday she was steamed up long enough to make two laps. I guess I needed to remember how worn out she is and to make a new mental list of things to be done; I ran out of paper for that list quickly. Sunday evening came all to quickly and the worker bees had to get back to the hive for Monday.

Not seeing a list of what got done during the week I do know that Al Ratliff made a trip to see Gary Coneley and picked up a load of firewood from his abode down in town. It always is an experience to see Gary's HO layout at his house, and to see what other project might be taking place as well. Gary and Terry Watson had been building a 'contraption' for some time. It is loosely based on ideas from Jules Verne with heavy influences from local liquor stores. It is quite a work and I haven't seen it since it has been finished, time for me to get back down there.

New Years Eve saw Greg make it back up the hill; with Sydnie off for Christmas break Becky took a few days off and stayed out with Mom and Dad for the week. Greg probably made good time running light up the grades. Matt 'Z' came up from Chula Vista and had the run of my trailer for a place to stay as I had to leave again for an other obligation on Saturday morning as well. The trains, one GE 47 tonner, ran late and the last train was as the ball dropped at midnight. Greg and Matt ran a lap every hour and spent the rest of the hour by the fire. New Years Eve morning I made a trip into Huntington Beach and picked up a trailer load of firewood for the patio area. I finally made it out by late morning Friday and the first order of business was to unload it.

With Matt 'spark plug' Zacharzuk in town dirt started flying. Work on the station switch projects got a great shot in the arm and by Friday afternoon the switch at the crossing pad which had stalled in dormancy for way too long was finally completed. After I finished with my gig in Corona it was back out for the rest of the weekend. As I cleared the rise just down the road for the front gate I could see action taking place on the Palmer Bridge as I approached. Greg and Matt were installing a switch throw to the lower switch of the Wye. Gary and Margret Stites had come out for the weekend as well and Terry Watson was up for the day as he had a few Museum tours to handle. Al Ratliff was running for parts and keeping the work train close to the action. They had already fixed the station bypass switch throw and soon were working on the throws for the upper Wye switches. The count was one new switch in and working, four repaired and working switches with the three way switch the next on the list. Saturday afternoon's project was just that, get that thing working again so one could travel across it without bouncing down the ties halfway through.

Two guard rails were installed that had long ago been tore out by derailed pilot wheels, and the switch throws were replaced and installed on the other side of the track for easier pedestrian access. We even bent and tweaked a few rails to help align the rails for ease of both the eye and the flange too. Soon the south leg of the three-way switch was reinstalled for the first time in quite awhile and by the time the sun fell over the edge of the hill signaling the end of workable temperatures the frog was in place on yet another switch in the station.

Saturday night came and went and Sunday morning it was back to work on the last switch in the station. By noon it was complete, two new switches built, rebuilt the two switches that make up the three-way switch and all the switches around the wye had working throws as well. That for a total of eight switches working. Great job guys, the station looks good and we can focus on a different area as this project is in the bag.