Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Thanksgiving; Turkey, Trains and Temperature.

Thanksgiving weekend, all four days, in any location in Southern California this year was close if not record breakers in the temperature field. Out at Joshua Tree was no exception. It was beautiful, clear and calm. And Friday was better, Saturday was the third day of great times.
 Allan and Lynn came out and caught John Griffin at it making the place look great. Greg and Becky got an early start on the ride and made it out before dark. Shelli and I made great time and even with a store stop we were in the gate before nine. Sydnie rode in the morning out with Colette to round out the family. Thursdays operations were light with Turkey the main focus. We did roll out the rolling stock and get in a lap or two but the Turkey started early so we could enjoy dinner before the Sun dropped over the hill. Brendon Hilton spent the most time on the track and his full crew enjoyed the track to themselves on their Atlantic till early afternoon. A feast was laid and all partook.
Turkey Coma set in after dark and dreams of a good day Friday to match the one we just had were in all's prayers. It must have been heard because Friday dawned clear and crisp with the mercury in the bulb rising fast. It was time to boil water and run trains. Brendon was out early and ran for a spell in the morning before heading up to do a project on the 15". The GE looked good with it's short string of flats and the Westside Caboose. Matt Z rolled in and it didn't take long for the PE freight motor to start growling about. The 4-4-0 smoked about the trackage and the Alco got some time in as well. Terry Watson was around the museum and marveled at the great day it was becoming. Five trains on a late November weekend, a good show.
  Saturday Tom Downing rolled up the road with his GP-60 in the back of the truck for a day, his son Wyatt and a guest spent the whole day running and picture taking. Leone and Larry Fisher drove out from Chino Hills and spent the day on the Alco, they had a blast running and we expect to see more of them out here in the future. The 4-4-0 was again steaming away and with the PE Freight motor and the GE we had five trains running about at one time on Saturday. The boys from Yuma made it up and picked up a delivery for their railroad from when Bill Shepherd was in town last month. They've been busy on their own track down that way and really haven't been up to see the progress on the high line in two years they said. another beautiful day followed by a great time around the shelter. The barbeque turned out another delicious steak night. During the night the breeze picked up and Sunday was a blustery day. It was a pack up day anyway so the morning was spent putting it all back away and most of us got an early start back to the salt mines of our home towns.
 I can't say we did much in the way of progress on the hill other than marvel at the work John Griffin has done. It was a family weekend and our whole railroading family had a good time out here this weekend. Looking forward to a long New Years Weekend coming up. Hope you can join us.
 Of course there are a few pictures to look at. A link to them is right about here:   https://picasaweb.google.com/Ratsgarage/ThanksgivingAtJoshuaTree2014?authuser=0&feat=directlink enjoy.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

Just a quick note before the Thanksgiving weekend. If you get the chance to come out and enjoy the desert this weekend, that is great, we will see you and have a great time. If you don't make it out, I, and all the rest want to wish you a great day wherever you might end up. Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Rudy Run 2014

This years annual Fall Meet, the Rudy Run was a spectacular event with over a dozen locomotives in attendance and visitors from near and far too boot.
 The Thursday arrivals are getting more and more. Allan and Lynn Ratliff spent the week and with Bill Shepherd's work time in town. Many little projects and clean up items were tackled during the week. I'm sure a lap or two happened with the GE 47 tonner, we'll call that a given. Gary and Margret Stites unloaded the new 'baby'; a few weeks back they travelled up to Utah to make final arrangements and bring home a Mason Bogie 2-6-6T.
She was a steaming bay queen this weekend but promises to be running and gracing the rails soon. There was always a small crowd around it in the steaming bays and turntable area, great acquisition. RGS 41 made it down from Salinas with the Burns'; the transformation of the museum caboose is coming along nicely. Kim Beard even made it down for the weekend and peddled the recumbent around profusely.  Steve Nelson is in the middle of painting his 2-8-0 so the rolling stock made the trip from AZ, and was gladly exercised throughout the weekend. The whole lot of the Maywalds rolled in and their RGS 20 steamed all weekend as did the  SW1500. Paul and Celeste ran their Goose 6 to fill out the roster of RGS equipment. The Colorado & Southern was well represented with the Thompson 2-6-0, Mike and Bruce both made it out and stayed late too. The Barter's met in the middle again, Art rolled out his gondola from the West, and John brought his ten wheeler and train from the East. Erin Swain and family filled out the Flagstaff railroaders. There was a D&RGW 50 in the mix somewhere.
 Friday was a beautiful day and the sweaters if you had one were shed early. Plenty of action on the railroad, with up to eight running at one time. Trains were waiting at all points for their chance to run on the single track sections and things ran like a well oiled watch for a time there.
  The American ran with two different tenders this weekend. Wanting to do some work on the original tender, the tender from my Mogul was brought out. It coupled up nicely as both are Allen products, giving the engine a completely different look. Jerry McPheeters even got to exercise the Alco for a while on Saturday, adding to the engines running at one time on Saturday. Greg Ratliff ran the Plymouth around at some time over the meet, it was busy with something going on at all times.
  Dinners around the railroad are getting popular and on the grill Friday night it was 'Carne Burn', it was bring your favorite Carne Asada and it was cooked over the Oak fire and each built their own tacos from the fixings.
Nobody walked out hungry there. Saturday night was of course Steak Night and again; You bring it, I'll grill it. I think I might have been off on the count, but I got 25 in one head count around the tables at one time. The picnic shelter was throughout the weekend a busy spot unto itself. Always a group of varying size either in conversation over something or a quick respite from the warm weather. Many 'show and tell' items graced a spot on the tables with a group of interested around them throughout the weekend.
 The place was busy with quite a few out for activities on Friday to see the action, they were not disappointed. Saturday was very busy. Terry Watson had a tour of 50 in the early morning, even he admitted that that was like herding cats with a group that big. With another function going on around the full size equipment over Saturday and the 15 inch having a good time on the mesa with a visiting engine in the midst, it was a well utilized space Saturday.
  A good weekend with great weather, people, equipment and attendance. One for the books now, the season has just started for us at Joshua Tree, so plan a time from the calendar and enjoy the High Desert this winter, find out way so many winter around the area from those places that have to shovel snow. If you want to hold a shovel we always have something to do if you are so inclined. Next time out is Thanksgiving and we are planning to get a bit of track laid on the hill. My attempts on Sunday failed other than figuring where the switch will be placed on the next siding. Bill Shepherd moved a few big rocks on our quest uphill and John Griffin has made plenty of good roadbed for us to put down rails. Come out and see the progress and be a part of it as well.  
 A link to my Picasa pictures; https://picasaweb.google.com/Ratsgarage/RudyRun2014November79?authuser=0&feat=directlink

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween Opener at Joshua Tree

  I left the porch light off and headed for the High Desert. The Calendar wasn't very kind to us this year and didn't give us two weeks between Halloween and Veteran's Day, this year they are back to back.
   The annual opener has gotten easier over the years with our full time, in his words, 3rd Generation Immigrant Track Worker, John Griffin. He spends all the hot months out here keeping the weeds at bay, filling in the squirrel holes, repairing any rain damage and getting a few miles in on the Freight Motor. Untold trips up and down the High Line slowly excavating or filling as the terrain dictates in our quest to move up the hill. Thanks John, for your activities you have taken on.
   Friday was arrival Day and it looked like a family weekend at the railroad. The day before Friday Allan and Lynn rolled in. Matt "Z" brought up my trailer as he had the big truck and partook of festivities around my house Thursday evening. Greg and Becky made it out in the afternoon too. I got the late start, but Shelli and I made it out by 9:00 and enjoyed a bit of time around the fire barrel before the night ended. The breeze blew a bit Friday night as a storm was rolling in in the low lands. It rained in the Southern California area but not up this way. Saturday morning the breeze abated and the Sun was out much of the day. Some big clouds scudded over, but nothing fell out of them. We kicked a few ties and ran about a bit but for the most part just a nice day to check things out.
  The new gasoline situation, with all its additives that don't fair well with small motors and even more with small motors that sit a while between use has been plaguing my Alco. An upgrade to some of the stuff found around my occupation has solved the problem. After using my Oklahoma credit card to drain the old concoction out of the tank, a fresh tank was refilled and testing resumed. It didn't start missing and stalling after it warmed up and it did start running smoother and stronger. It was even fun to run it as one didn't feel like they didn't know where or when they were to start pushing it to get it back to the barn. The boys were up working on the big stuff, so we went up and offered our support on their project. Enough fun for the day, it was Saturday night, so Steak Night it was. The evening was decently pleasant and not as blustery as the night before.
  Sunday awoke to a beautiful High Desert Day. Probably ordered by the local Chamber of Commerce as it was their Art Tour Weekend and had good connections somewhere. Time was not wasted too much and the 4-4-0 was soon warming to a fire in her belly. Activities around the steaming bays. and lube racks, was busy. The sight was like a full size museum, the turntable aligned with Short line and oddball locomotives, not a mainline high visibility or cookie cutter type engine in the mix. A 4-4-0, an Alco RS-1, Plymouth switcher, GE 47 Tonner, Pacific Electric Steeple Cab Switcher. The worker locomotive that toiled their years in obscurity, not bounding from shore to shore pulling the fastest freight or shiniest varnish.
 The smell of coal smoke filled the compound and soon it was time to run. With four trains running most of the day it was good to see some action around the place. A trip up the High Line with all the trains yielded a convention at the end of line. Then it was back down to the Car Barn to pick up track panels to haul them to the end of track.
Eleven panels made it to the top and we will get to work on them this weekend to extend the track a bit further and to start the siding in that location. A lunch time break found all the trains at Moseley Junction for beans. We ran awhile more till the sun started to head for the edge of the sky and started to hide beyond the hill. It was a great day and we are all looking forward to this weekend for the Rudy Run. Hope to see you there.
 A link to some photos of the weekend, https://picasaweb.google.com/Ratsgarage/JoshuaTreeOpenerNovember122014?authuser=0&feat=directlink

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Weekend on the Central Coast

August is always the Narrow Gauge Meet at Bitter Creek Western Railroad in Arroyo Grande. The weather is just a bit cooler there than on the High Desert and really is a central meeting point for most of the California Live Steamers to congregate. This last weekend was no exception to the great time that can be had at Karl's. All the usual suspects and a few new ones and a few that we haven't seen in a while made the weekend.

RGS 41 was down from Salinas, all the Burn's boys and Kim Beard was in attendance too. Bill and Holly Boller had the Bumble Bee 268 out, Ron Schmidt and Peter Moseley had the Durango Switcher 268 in their truck. Allan  and Lynn Ratliff with their GE 47 tonner as was Gary and Margret Stites'. Allan debuted his recently completed Westside Caboose #4, plenty of memory card was dedicated to documenting that occasion, Paul and Celeste Lavacot had RGS Goose 6 in the back of their truck for the weekend. I got an exemption to run my American just in case Gene Allen could make it up from Goleta to take it for a run; there is an 2 1/2" coupler on the tender so I was pulling narrow gauge cars.
A first time engine out was Ray and Becky Bjeerum's newly completed 2-8-0. A beauty beyond words and it seemed to run quite well on top of the looking fine. Great job on a long time project. Also out for the first time was Steve Nelson's C-21 Consolidation. A first time on the track it seemed to run better and better as it got a little more broke in as it ran many an hour over the weekend. Great job Steve.

As for the engines we haven't seen in a while , that distinction goes to Dave Rohrer's Sandy River & Rangley Lakes #5. The Sandy River two footer and it's string of gondolas with caboose make a beautiful consist and it is a dream to run. At almost 1/3 size it is a big model of a small engine.

I know I have forgotten a few and sorry for that. Below is a couple of links to pictures so you can see the fun we all had.
www.bcwrr.org is the website for Bittercreek, it is worthy of saving somehow. The site has won many an award in live steam circles for it well put together format. Check out the pictures from last weekend and once inside will be Curtis Ferrington's pictures as well

http://mikemassee.com/gallery/v/livesteam/Bitter_Creek_Western_Railroad/BCWRR_NG2014/ is the link to Mike Massee's site and always has a great selection of shots from the weekend.

If you are really bored I have a few pictures on my Picasa at: https://picasaweb.google.com/Ratsgarage/BittercreekWesternNarrowGaugeMeet814?authuser=0&feat=directlink

It was a great weekend playing trains and enjoying some great company. Looking forward to the next time already.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Early July at the Tracks

I have not totally fell off of the face of the Earth, I am around and semi sorry that I did not post anything about Memorial Day Weekend at JT. Those that came out enjoyed it, it was a bit warm but many things ran, I do believe six was the locomotive count. Anyway, this is a little more up to date.

   Dad, Mom, Shelli and I made a quick dash out to the digs Friday morning. Dad rattled up at 6:30 and we were off for breakfast at the Country Kitchen in JT. John Griffin caught up with us at breakfast too. The gal that runs the place was asking about Gary and we had to break the news to her of his passing. She gave us one of her handmade flowers to put somewhere for her as a memorial. You will find it in the Station Cacti garden. Hopefully in enough shade as for it to not fade to much too quickly. And maybe the local hoodlums won't destroy it either.

  Yeah, local hoodlums, seems we have some locals that have nothing better to do than to destroy things or cause havoc. We have security cameras and maybe we can coordinate and get pictures to the local authorities and at least build a file so when they get caught red handed they might get more than a slap on the wrist like here in the megalopolis. Seems bigger things off of trailers have disappeared as well, hope progress on that capper is not getting the ostrich treatment. Fortunately things have not been aimed toward the railroad, we can only hope they stay away from that.

 Anyway, we took at trip out to see how progress is coming via John Griffin. He gets out quite often and between watering trees and investigation work rolls boulders and hauls dirt off of the hill. We could easily add another forty feet of track on the main line and if I got off my butt and built a switch another 100 feet could be laid down there too. Great work John, we all appreciate it. That goes for all you have been doing. He has and is been in contact with some of the neighbors and they too are not happy with what is happening so we have many eyes looking out for us from many windows. I did spend a little time and ran the Alco up and around to see the progress. The grade before where the siding will be really levels out as you approach. And Shelli and I spent a little time and picked up the wood pile that decided to spread itself around the area. Doing our part to keep this place looking nice. The trees are doing well with John's care and he was telling of giving them a little nourishment too. I didn't know trees liked bacon.

 Just a quick note to let you know things are slow and it is hot out there. We have a road trip in August and The Boys at Portola Valley and Alpine have again invited us up for a run in September. 27 and 28 is the dates, give me an email if you need more information, my address is somewhere on this blog many a times. I'm working on being there and it is a great railroad overlooking the lower peninsula and the bay, if the fog doesn't roll in. And if it does, it is fun to watch it roll on through.

 Well, see you in August, and plan on the Rudy Run in November. Till then, fire in the corners and watch the water. Brian  

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Easter 2014 on the Railroad.

April 18-21, 2014
Easter Weekend is normally a light weekend but usually one of the best weather wise. Warm days and nice nights make the patio at night just enough fire for ambiance. The whole desert was in bloom from the Cholla to the paddle Cacti and little flowers of varying colors and sizes. It was a family weekend; Mom and Dad, Greg and Becky with sister Colette, the other brother Matt and I. The Stites made it for the show as well. Saturday afternoon Brother in law and sister, Rex and Judy Bullock came out to see the family and enjoy the desert, it was nice to see them.
 Work on the high line has been steady with John Griffin plugging away at it many times a week as he gets in time. The early weekenders said he plugged at it all day Thursday and I saw and helped on Friday. Saturday the younger ones worked on the heavy stuff and we cleared thirty feet of roadbed in this rocky terrain. Rough grade was also completed that far so next time we can lay down a little track. Might even start on the switch so we can move the batch plant up the hill readying us for the next round of trestles. Of course we still have some heavy rock work to get through yet.
 The Stites brought out their GE and Mom and Dad had theirs out too. John had the freight motor rolling around on the bookend days and Matt had the PE juice jack hitting the rails. I actually ran the 4-4-0 most of the time but the Alco made a trip just to keep it freed up. Not a bad weekend; six different locomotives, lots of family and friends and plenty of progress. See you Memorial Day for a little track laying.
 Of course, a link to the pictures below. any questions you can find me at ratsgarage@yahoo.com

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Volunteer of the Month

One of the neat perks of my position at the place of employment is 4-10's, the regular eight hour, five day work week never worked too well. Or should I put it like it really is, a three day weekend. Some of my hardest decisions during the week are what am I going to do come my day off? The decision for Friday actually depended on the weather and it got made Thursday afternoon.
 The oil change was started when I got home by pulling the plug on the pan of the Harley. It drained all evening. Friday morning I slept in, till 6:00, did the usual and hit the Garage for the finish up on that oil change. Spin on a new filter, replace the plug, pour in some overpriced Harley oil, fire it up, let it get all going inside, check the level, top it off. Put on my jacket and parts, put the Garage door down and head to breakfast. Traffic is a bit heavier at 7:00 than it is at 6:00, but I'm not going that way today. Up the hill to Pinon Hills is a great spot to get great food, and those extras that make one ride 45 miles for breakfast. After too many cups of coffee and a great Chicken Fried Steak it was time to head towards Joshua Tree.
  Now I just spent 45 miles not going exactly towards my destination so it was across the High Desert communities around Hesperia and towards Lucerne with that big swing around called Old Woman Springs Road towards Yucca Valley. Right after you drop down Bob's Economy Hill by Pipes Canyon Road one can turn left on Aberdeen and bypass all those signals on 62. A quick stop at the Convenience store for ample supplies it was up the hill and a right turn to go up Willow. That sandy little road is getting tricky on a motorcycle, especially fat heavy hogs. All the way across the high desert the flowers of different colors and sizes were evident. Miles of purple on one side of the road and yellow ones on the other. As one comes up Willow to the tracks it is the yellow ones that own the real estate around here. That picture above is just inside the front gate.
 I had sent John Griffin a note to see if he was going to be around as he keeps us posted on goings on in and around the place. He indicated that he would most likely be in the vicinity around the time I thought I would arrive. Luckily he left the gate unlocked, a thing he normally doesn't do so people don't walk up behind him when he's deep in work related things. Luckily I said because somewhere out halfway between nowhere and east of that I remembered I didn't pack my keys to the gate. I didn't have to hike in. As I pulled up to the picnic shelter John was coming down the high line in his work train.
Now John has been doing quite a bit of work around the place, if you don't think so you haven't seen the G scale layout and you haven't noticed we don't have to spend all our time on the weekends filling in squirrel holes that used to swallow the roadbed at spots. John found out that exercise doesn't have to be in a fancy fluorescent lighted high priced gym, it could be outside enjoying the surrounding outside, moving a bucket or twenty of dirt to fill in a low spot along the track. That's Johns style, make your exertion pay of in accomplishments. John was doing all his track improvements from a pedestrian standpoint and a wheelbarrow. We set him up with the Edward's Freight Motor, after he gave it a once over and some TLC that it needed, John has been zipping around with a shovel and a bucket or two seeing the roadbed from above it. Even he says it has helped him notice where things need attention. After a time running around he stated that he could get more done if he had a flat car to carry more buckets, a tool or two, an ice box, a wheelbarrow. So we hooked, coupled, him up with a flat car and as the freight motor doesn't play well with things coupled behind it he pushes it from in front. Now he can haul rocks and boulders and dirt anywhere along the track he needs to go.
  John and Allan Ratliff have been eyeing the curve before the Station as it needs some attention and the retaining way completed in some fashion. John has been eyeing this as a project that he can get into, and now he has the tools needed to get those pesky boulders up on the high line down to the Station for a wall. He might not move them all in a day but over the last couple of weeks he has moved plenty, with plenty more growing out of the hill side as he removes them. Rocks have a way of multiplying.
  So, that was one of my projects of the day off was to go see how John was doing. He is doing great!! He took me on a tour of what has transpired and we spent a few hours enjoying the morning as it slowly warmed up. It was really nice to see the things he had done since just three weeks ago. All the time apologizing for not getting more done. Everybody has a life and sometimes it gets in the way. This is our hobby, we do it because we like it. I call it playing trains but not one person that I have brought to this place finds out where the play is. This place is being built in sweat and toil, free sweat and toil, the most expensive sweat and toil there is because first you have to make the time to give it.
 Over the last few years it looks great what has evolved. it is all because of peoples commitment to make time to make something happen out here. Some days when we come out here it seems we didn't get anything done. No, we didn't get anything done on the list we had in our head; but other things made precedence.  Sometimes people think that we are there to do their work; Hey, I'll show you where we keep the shovels babe! A lot of things that do get done are because somebody wanted to do something extra. Burn's siding was an idea that grew out of thin air one afternoon and was in place soon after. The extension below the wye grew out of running off the end of the bridge and Thompson was started. We needed a better unloading/loading arrangement, the answer presented itself. and the yard around it is used quite well on busy weekends. People come out and want to move dirt up the hill with their train. Now we are in a position that we need to move dirt off of the hill for a few hundred feet. I'm looking forward to the next time out in two weeks. I saw some challenging loads that need to be moved and it will get done by train.
 Wow. Imagine that, I got off track. Sort of, I was talking about people coming out and doing things, things they want to do not have to. It is great that we have a core of members that see that it takes effort, exertion and exercise to get things accomplished. Over the years we have expanded this railroad much further than I ever imagined it would be in this length of time. I have also learned that to build this railroad it really isn't that hard either. One rock at a time, one track panel at a time, every bucket moved is just one of a lot of buckets. Friday I came out to see the work one person had done by himself and to thank him for doing it. He isn't a board member or in charge of anything out here. He does a lot of the work though and I found a way to thank him. John Griffin got a pat on the back, a hand shake and a big thank you. You are our Volunteer of the Month on the 7 1/2" Division.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Road Trip to the Maricopa Live Steamers Spring Meet, March 13-17, 2014

For years, the family has gone to Arizona to visit and play trains for the Spring Meet at Maricopa Live Steamers. the first time I went was 1980, they're on their third track since then. The current track at Adobe Mountain Recreation Area is big to say the least. Or Meet is always planned so as not to coincide with theirs so people could hit them both or at least plan it that way. This year the moons must have aligned quite well is there were 27 people and five engines that made it to both tracks over the two week time.

 The weather was most enjoyable for us not used to the heat and the clouds that they had kept the edge off of things for the weekend. The Narrow Gauge was well represented and they had fun at the same time.
Three 2-8-0's, a 47 tonner, a Davenport and a 4-4-0 pulling narrow gauge cars kept the rails shiny. Those of us that had been there before had our usual good time and the new ones marveled at the choices of direction and the vastness.
 They have had rains to this Winter and it is shaping up to be a green Spring for them too. Out around Far Flung Flats the wildflowers had just about taken over.
Rumors of Golfing at Far Flung and Parties at Pardee Point had to be witnessed to enjoy fully. The Swap Meet on Saturday is worth the price of admission to check for rail related bargains in the smaller scales.  It is always good to visit other places and see how they do it, it also puts the bug in their ear to come see us. I didn't take a whole lot of pictures as I was enjoying running the 4-4-0 around three days. The water tank plumbed into the tender worked like a charm and I could run for hours without the need to refill.

We'll be back out at JT for Easter weekend. going to try to move a few rocks and boulders on the High Line, the stakes are in and we need to move material out of the way instead of bringing it up the hill. Last week in digging on the High Line we found an old remnant from the days when we could do a little blasting. Things have changed since those days, but that was the way it was done. Hope to see you out around Easter, enjoy the Spring in the High Desert. Brian

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Narrow Gauge Meet 2014, March 7-10

Well, at least you can look at the pictures from an amazing weekend. https://picasaweb.google.com/Ratsgarage/JoshuaTreeSouthernNarrowGaugeMeet37102014?authuser=0&feat=directlink  And if I get more I can blend them in too. Thanks to Allan Ratliff, Mike Masse, Anthony Duarte, John Griffin and who else I've gleaned photos from to show the rest of you what a great weekend it was.

    The story will come as I find time, this week is going to be real short as I spent Monday out at JT and we leave for AZ on Thursday afternoon. It doesn't give much time for washing, loading, fixing and sleeping before we do it again.

    We had a blast. The weather was the kind you wanted for the weekend and it got better every day. Thursday evening there was five engines sitting at the bays already. All total counting all types of flanged wheels there was 21 for the weekend.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gary Conley

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Gary Conley

Usually about eight o'clock in the morning if you were out at Joshua Tree for the weekend you would hear an old Toyota Diesel pickup rattle through the gate and the brakes would squeak it to a stop right in front of the patio/picnic shelter. Out would tumble a tall thin man with a more salt than pepper  beard and a pair of glasses. Gary was up for the morning, to see what was going on. Sometimes he would bring his crossword puzzle and do it in the shade on the table. Gary was a man of many talents; from the outside one would never know, but get to know him, visit with him and you would learn many things about him over time.
   Gary spent his working years in the electronics field, making components that went into aircraft and spacecraft was some of the things he worked on. Some parts that had worked on even went to the moon. Always liking the desert he ended up in Joshua Tree where he spent many a year before and after retirement. Back when the desert was wide open, wild and sparsely settled. Gary collected things and his house is a showcase for those such things. His many talents are showcased there as well; jewelry, model making, imaginative creations of the mind and soul, the beauty of the desert through material and plant life have a place at Gary's too. Being of the generation that experienced the early 60's music had a special place as well as the art associated with it. His collection of 'licorice pizza' is extensive and take prominence in both the house and garage.
    A talented modeler in the smaller sizes a room in the house has a train layout that is detailed beyond most peoples wildest fancies. The extent of the scenery is mind blowing and every time one saw it they would see more and more details that were unnoticed before. A gifted woodworker he along with Terry Watson built all the cabinetry in the Museum for displays as well as Gary building the dioramas that are in the back room of the museum. He with Terry turned the museum into an interesting collection to see and enjoy with both their talents for arrangement.
  Gary had a fascinating imagination, the things that he would build up or put into his detailed works were off the charts at times. His coffee table piece of work would be a cross between Jules Verne and Who knows where; if he were forty years younger it would be 'Steampunk', I guess he was ahead of his times. Pictures of his iron workings took a slanted eye or a Salvador Dali eyeglass, I have a chain mail piece that he made years ago that he gave to me a while ago. He was always bringing a gift to someone who might enjoy it.
   On of Gary's latter fancies was the Cacti Garden in front of the Museum and Railroad. In working with the 7 1/2" railroad in trying to find a way to funnel foot traffic towards the walkway and not up the embankment a Cholla Garden was planted and tended to by him as first a blockade but later a showcase of the different varieties that thrive in the area, and thrive they have with his green thumb behind them. He and Terry also were working in the interior of the Espee wooden caboose for the Museum and in cleaning it up for presentation and tours along with the rest of the full size equipment we have out here.
   Gary enjoyed seeing the progress of the entire Museum and both it's railroads. He took many a picture and I was very fortunate to be able to download his pictures on a quite regular basis for use in any of the blogs and updates. The above picture was one of the ones I found while looking through his collection this evening.
   Always up for a ride up the hill to see the progress we had recently made since his last trip, Gary enjoyed seeing the progress made and helped where he could. He made new Through Truss Bridges for the 'G' scale as well as a display trestle for the flat car in the museum. And was always at least a cheering bystander on many a project, many a time he would wield a shovel in assistance on our march up the hill.
   Gary was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor about a year ago and decided that the treatment was not worth the risk of what the odds were. Like all of us who have watched friends and loved ones go through what they did, some for better and some for worse his decision was to bypass the radiation that would not guarantee him a cure or longevity at best, surgery was not an option for what was diagnosed, but to face the demon through hospice and live it out the best he could. Gary enjoyed his limited time on this plane, he set up his legacy to go to those that he wanted it to go to and who would enjoy it. When I was last at his house in January, Dad and I visited him and he was in great spirits and talkative and enjoyed the visit. Everything in the house had a label on it to as who it was going to. Be it family, friend, museum, etc... He had it under control, his sister was coming out to visit, they hadn't talked in years, he was in contact with his brother as well. He was right with the world and going out on his terms. Gary was brought up in February for the meet and the monster was taking a toll, the meds were controlling him but he made it out and visited. It was good to see him again. Gary passed away last night the 3rd of March, peacefully in his sleep his sister along side him these last few days. I'm going to miss that diesel rattle and the squeaky brakes, he was a good member, friend and man. We will miss him, we no more possess him, our hearts and memory bare. Gary, till that day we meet again, peace be with you friend.     

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Fine Winter day in the High Desert

 Punxsutawney Phil needs to move to the High Desert. He would care less if there was six more weeks of Winter if he was sunning himself on a rock at Joshua Tree.
  It was a beautiful weekend among the budding trees including a few Joshua Trees. The Mulberries are a tad confused and by next time will be in leaves; what the Quail don't get to as they are running around with new broods too. Lizards of all sizes had found a favorite rock for the day. Spring is on its way out here.
   President's weekend is the Standard Gauge Meet and we had six of them running and of course the GE 47 tonner too. The Barter boys came from both directions for a weekend of running dirt up the hill. I had to call off the drop bottom Barter Coal loads as we had raised the track far enough above the upper trestle. Bill Shepherd was back at building the turntable wall so it went there instead.
  John Barter came west with his 4-6-0 and Art came east with his 3-truck Shay. Of course plenty of cars as well to fill out the vehicles; the wooden drop bottom gondolas are always a hit around here. We can't wait for the 2 1/2" scale versions to go behind the 2-8-0's they are working on. I brought out the American and the Alco got a running too, the Barter boys used it Saturday afternoon with the drop bottoms and it looked good. Matt Z' had his juice jack pulling more than it's far share and a new visitor from the LA area with a little four wheeled electric locomotive as well as an engine he ran on the "G" scale for the day, Robert Guzman and his son.
  Greg and Becky made it out for the weekend to round out the Ratliff family. A surprise visit from Tom Gazsi was even in the works for the weekend. John Griffin has been hard at work with the Freight Motor as the upper High Line ballasting job has come along nicely. Bill Shepherd has been in town a few weeks and projects throughout the facility are surfacing the longer he is here. Expect to see him through the Narrow Gauge Meet.
 As mentioned the Narrow Gauge Meet is coming up, March 7-10, it is building up to be quite the show, Allan was roped into the Wagonmaster job and he says that all spots to camp are full. If you aren't on the list you better talk real nice and you might get to stay south of Hwy 62.
   We did do a little work on the hill, as John his been adding fill along side the track and ballasting the grade, we kicked the track a little closer to the mountain and it looks wonderful. A quick run with the Laser Level has us within acceptable tolerance's and the next 135 feet of track has steel stakes driven to help the grading process. We are into an area we haven't been in for a while; we need to cut out and remove rock so we can keep a close to flat grade for a siding before we get into the trestle district coming up. This is the last of the pre-graded high line before we get into terra incognito as we work ourselves up the side of the mountain. The grade was completed rough about thirty years ago an we have finally gotten there. We have done quite well working ourselves up the high line with a lot of help from the members, I'm sure we will get a lot further with continued help.
 A link at the bottom for pictures and as usual if you have any questions an E-mail at ratsgarage@yahoo.com will most usually get you an answer. See you at the Narrow Gauge Meet. Brian

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Mid Winter Run January 17-20, 2014

    Mid Winter...that's what the calendar says, it was a nice weekend to try out sunscreen and t-shirt styles for the summer months. There wasn't even much snow to look at on the back side of San Gorgonio on the way home. It was a light turnout but a lot of things were taken care of.
    Over the years we have called our weekends out at the tracks "Runs" to attract visitors, naming them "work weekends" shies people away from bringing out their equipment and running the railroad. We only have eight weekends normally during the season to accomplish things around here. We work during most of them, if someone wants to haul buckets of fill up the hill during a meet am I going to say no you can't? Bring it on, making your steam engine or train do more than run in circles is actually fun to do. If folks want to help out laying down fifty more feet of track up the hill, I'll find the track screws and joiners real quick, and a bucket of refreshments too. This place wasn't built over one weekend and it takes a lot to keep it going, and always plenty more to do. Limited time and limited workers; the sweat only spreads so far. So I'd call it a steamapalooza, railfest or what ever it takes to have interested parties roll out here for a day or weekend and see our railroad thru the rocks.
   Lots of things over the weekend, from Dad's list we had;

John: while We were gone: Hauled Dirt to end of track. To increase grade,
Leveled Spot by "G" Gauge for Don's Parking. Dug Trench to move water
spout to inside the Upper Ballon (Big Rock).
Emptied fire barrel,
cut a load of wood.
Visited Gary, great visit, he was in great spirits and trotting the attributes of medical alternatives
Hit the Hardware store and picked up supplies for water plug move.
Moved water line and discussed water leak that we had no idea about except second hand,
refilled water line.
Delivered wood for retaining wall at lift, leveled out area before so no one falls in.
Delivered wood for Don's Landing.
Dumped ashes, lifted track at end of track were John had dumped fill.
Fitted in and welded three lift out tracks in Engine House; Brian and Greg.
Blew out sand and leaves out of lift area.
Changed the garden valve by the Bird water.Stopping a leak; Greg,Brian
We started isolating different areas to find leaks; Greg, Brian, Brendon
Dug up shut off by trash can. Valve would not shut off.
Old wood stop ,that holds the Blue Bell together was rotten . We replaced
the stop and push the Blue Bell back together.  Went to town to by fittings
to bypass valve that would not shut off.
Refilled both dirt piles for loading up the hill with Brendon's Bob Cat.
Brian and Brendon installed bypass valve we bought Saturday.
More Isolation testing.
We found a wet area by the shut-off valve at the Pullman.
We DID NOT Dig in that area.
Brendon took out thrash barrel Sunday .
Drive in rods to retain RR tie on south side of lift. Fill to be added later.
Cut Rods 48" 42" 30" for retaining wall north side of Station and for RR tie wall already installed in camp space at Horseshoe.
Emptied Fire barrel. Cleaned BBQ out and ready for next time.
Cleaned up around Tie area.
Brian painted flashing around Engine House.
Washed down posts of Lift. BLUE again.
As I write this JOHN G is making multiple loads of girt and rock up the Hill

That's quite a bit of stuff done on a "Run", We did unload the engines, the GE and the American Friday morning as well, ran the GE and picked up and did the Friday stuff by rail. Saturday the welder was delivered by rail. Brendon brought out 3030, and we actually had all three trains running Sunday afternoon. Sunday morning Brendon got an early start and we listened to steam in the early morning. There was time to play too. But, is getting to spend time out in the High Desert and enjoying the great weather really work?

Next month is the Standard Gauge Meet, February 13-16. Bring the skinny wheels out and run the hill. I can bet you the Barter Boys will spend at least a day 'working' loads of fill up the high line. Smiling the whole time. This Winter either hasn't got here or is going to be a mild one. Plan on mild and plan on being out for the Standard Gauge Meet.

Link for pictures down here and any questions give me a rattle at ratsgarage@yahoo.com .

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New Years Weekends at the Tracks

With New Years Day falling on a Wednesday this year it makes for a staggered holiday, or a real long one. Some of us chose the long one and others came out for a few days before or after.

Of course Mom and Dad headed out as soon as the Yule Log burned out and Greg and Becky made it out Friday, I tried something new and drug the trailer to the Ranch in the morning so I could make a quicker getaway on Friday myself. Dad had the GE 47 tonner and Greg brought out the Plymouth which hasn't been to JT in a few seasons. I brought out the 4-4-0 with it's new trim. Saturday Jeff and Kevin Tolan rolled in with a Suburban full of rolling stock and the Pacific Electric box cab. John Griffin has been using the Edwards Freight Motor for maintenance and hauling fill up to the turntable sight, a lot has been ran up the hill in the last month. Saturday we had four trains running for a bit, never any pressure to do anything but enjoy the weekend. Saturday Night was the Carne Burn, Jerry McPheeters furnished the Carne Asada for a local Market  and we all gorged on that for the evening.  Sunday the Tolan's rolled up shop and went back to town, two days was enough.
 Monday rolled around and a trip into town yielded a phone number of our roofer that did the station. We needed to do something about the engine house before it got to far away from us. The Maywalds rolled into town for a few days of fun at the tracks with their new RV. Doug and Bailey can handle the trailer floor but Mom and the girls like it a little fluffier. RGS 20 was in the trailer as well as their MP1500. Monday afternoon we set up a picture in the Van Wingen Yard as we had six locomotives to fill the tracks down there. Monday afternoon Matt rolled in from Chula Vista by way of Nacimiento.

Tuesday Lonnie from Elite Roofing rolled in and we talked roofing for a bit and agreed to get the roof finished on the engine house. We had to finish the front trim yet and peel the old tar paper and nails off and out of the way for them as they would be back Friday. Lonnie wasn't out of sight down the road and a crew was on the roof stripping the roof. It took a little longer to get the materials for the front trim but we had it all done except for paint in a little over two hours. Still plenty of time to run a train or two before sunset. The hourly train rides on New Years Eve started at 7:00 and lasted till 12:00 I made a few. New Years Day was just a nice a day as all the rest, in fact the whole week had been beautiful. Warm enough for a t-shirt during the day and not frightfully cold at night either. The breeze that tormented the Southland was not evident where we were.

Thursday it was just Matt and the folks as most of us had jobs. The paint was applied on the front of the engine house and Friday morning the roofers came. The job was impressive and done quickly. Saturday was another beautiful day as I rolled in Friday night again for one last day or two of the week. We did a lot of little projects throughout the week and enjoyed ourselves in the process. We got in a little surveying on the high line to get a feel for where we have to be on the hill. It is going to be an engineering feat as they say. With the Mid Winter Meet coming up real soon we hope to see you out there. See you then.

Here is a link to the pictures. I have found it best to right click and open a new tab for the link. I never profess to know these computers, I just find ways to work around their quirks. https://picasaweb.google.com/Ratsgarage/NewYearsWeekends2014AtJoshuaTree?authuser=0&feat=directlink