Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Early Days, as told by John Mueller

As some of you might know, there were five original partners in the Joshua Tree &Southern land acquirement. Joel Tedder, Charlie Barnes, Tom Coffey, Bob Palmer and John Mueller. Time and water have passed under the bridges of Joshua Tree and for a number of years I have slowly prodded John Mueller about the early days of Joshua Tree. Well, out of nowhere came a few emails and in them were a few stories of the days of yore. A few stories of when and how the full size equipment came to be and how it got where it is. I've kept it pretty much how John sent it to me, to keep the flavor as it is told. Enjoy a look back. Thank you John.

Hi Brian,
     I thought that I would attempt to give you some background about JT&S, so here goes.

    The first piece of equipment that came to J.T. was the caboose.  Joel bought the car from a scrap dealer in Mojave.  He got there just as the scrapper dropped a ball on the roof.  Thus breaking several of the ceiling/roof rafters.  That is the reason that Joel always propped up the roof.  He also bought some rail and a few ties.  He hauled the rail and ties in his trailer and truck and laid the rails himself.  I came on the scene just about that time.  The rail was laid approximately where the RPO car stands today.  At the time I was working at Diesel Control in Wilmington and had met a few high up people from Harbor Belt Line RR.  They laid the track for the OVERFAIR equipment, and we got to talking RR stuff and mention was made of the JT&S project and the need for rail, and ties.  The Superintendent of the RR was a very close friend of the then president CEO of the SFE, and he got permission to donate some rail the HBL had remove from a SFE siding.  I cut the rail in shorter lengths so that we could haul it to JT with out having to have a flatbed.  Got a load of ties also.  Next available chance I got Frank Venolia in the truck and he and I went to JT with the rental truck.  Unloaded the JUNK and returned home.  The next weekend we laid rail.  Tom and Lynnian came out, Aunt Ida, Joel and Pauline, and I.  We had a party to celebrate the railroad extension, steaks done on a cleaned off shovel held in the fire of the pot belly stove, delicious.  In the morning, we decided that the caboose should be moved to the end of rail because Joel was looking for more equipment.  We put Tom Coffey on the brake wheel, and Joel and I leaned against the caboose and it started to roll a little faster than we wanted it too and Tom was a little SLOW in winding the hand brake, and off the end of the rail she went, one axle, and everyone was in a tizzy trying to figure out how in the world we were ever going to get it back on the rail.  I went and got a tie, stuck it under the axle and using Joel’s hydraulic jack lifted the axle up high enough to roll it back onto the rail. Naturally the hand brake was not set and the Caboose went the other way.  I had a piece of chain that I managed to swing it under one of the wheels and that stopped it from rolling off the OTHER end of the RR.  This time I worked the hand brake while Joel pushed with his truck.  Then we all had a couple of beers, some hamburgers, and went to bed for the evening.  Next morning I left because I was working second shift a Redondo roundhouse.  Soon after this, Joel somehow managed to get a hold of the RPO car and in a short time, he had the Diner also.  So, there was more RR to build.  The end for now, but what comes next is really gonna tickle you funny bone (what, wherever that is). 

 Second installment came a few days later, so I’ll just add it in as the second chapter.


 I got things a little messed up in the first installment.

  The rail that the caboose sits on and the end of the RPO car also was the rail that Tedder bought from the scrapper.  The rail that Frank and I hauled up there came from Harbor Belt Line.  Everything else is pretty much as I imagine it.  The first thing in the caboose was a refrigerator that had a patch on the freezer coils, kept things cool but never cold.  We used ice chests for all the perishables.  Next thing was the electric range.  Aunt Ida sewed the covers for the foam rubber mattresses using denim for covers.  Then there is the caboose stove,  I don't remember if that was something that I picked up at ATSF, but anyway it did not have grates and did not have a base.   I had someone at ATSF weld up the base that it sits on, and I machined the stainless steel grate.

   Now about the roof---- If you look under the caboose and on top of the ties you will find, I believe, 4 pieces of 14 guage steel plate that was crudely cut to the shape of the roof.  These never were installed because there was so much "junk" on the surfaces that needed to be body ground off before installation.  It never got done because Tedder had a hard head, and I didn't own a body grinder at the time.  If you were to clean-up the ugly, and install one of them on each of the worst broken ribs, and drill 1/4 inch holes in the steel and the rib and install the proper length bolt and nut, you would not have to prop up the roof. 

  When I moved from Gardena to Williams in 1979, I took the big brownish colored refrigerator that I had in my apartment to JT and installed it in the caboose.

  The next venture was to put down the rail the RPO and Diner now sit on.  This was a lot of fun, especially with the ties we had gotten.  But, it was worth all the effort.  When the diner and the RPO were delivered to the siding at East Palm springs, it was exciting day.  The S.P. local had to move out some MOW equipment that had been stored there for several years so that the RPO and Diner could be set on the end of track for the movers to be able to get to them, and nothing wanted to roll.  So, it was move one car at a time, set them out on the siding, get another one, and so on.  Then they shoved the RPO and diner out there, one by one had to put the MOW equipment back.

  I believe it was a couple of weeks before Tedder arranged for the move.  That was a real happening.  You could hear those diesel engines (Truck type) from all the west of Joshua Tree.  They had dollies under the cars, and the car trucks were on another truck.  They had two tractors on the head end and one on the back end.  They moved both cars at the same time, but on separate trucks.  They brought the trucks up first and set them on the rail. Then put the RPO body on the trucks, and repeated with the Diner.  This was done in One day.

  Of course, there was a celebration.

  Then Tedder got busy and brought electric power over to the newest additions.  The caboose had electric from the first weekend after we moved it.  I was not around when they moved the Palmer's car in so I can not tell you anything about that.

  They only bent under the 15” gauge trestle (at the time) was pressure treated lumber that came from the sand tower at Redondo roundhouse.  I paid $25 and had it stored in the shop in Gardena for awhile. One day I got a wild hair and chalked up the outline of the trestle on the floor in the shop and began cutting things up.  Next weekend Tedder and I mixed up a batch of cement and poured enough stuff to make a footing for the bent.  In a couple of weeks we had the trestle in and had started to lay the circle of track.  I built the switch and the points and we put that in.  This was done so that we could connect the two ends of the stub track.

    Tom Coffey's Shay was the first engine to run on the rail although Tedder had built a "speeder" and used to play a lot.

  More on this later, it is getting late and I need to go to sleep.

  Have fun with this, John

Monday, November 30, 2015

Thanksgiving Weekend amongst the Joshua Trees.

Thanksgiving at Joshua Tree can be a weather crap shoot. Bet on cold, or colder. But the days can be nice too. Wednesday was COLD, Thursday was chilly with frost on things in the morning and was okay till about 3:00, then it cooled off again. Friday we wore the fire barrel out putting fuel into it. Even had a snow flurry or two, flakes that is. Saturday was great and we thawed out. Sunday was a bit warmer.
Attendance was decent for the holiday that it was. We didn't expect many and we weren't disappointed. George Lavacot rolled in Friday and spent the day with us. A pleasant surprise as he does live in Oregon. It was even a bit chilly for him too. Leone and Larry Fisher came out Saturday and spent the day, He took a couple of neat videos of their trip up the high line on Allan Ratliff's train. Allan's caboose, West Side Lumber #4, is star of the show in the first one as they back up the grade, enjoy them for their unique perspective and view.

  Bill Shepherd and Mary re-arrived and Bill is busy already on a few projects about the place. We had two trains running at times, The GE 47 tonner and JTSRR #7 ran a bit.
We moved rocks out of a campsite down to John Griffins wall project and even took rock down from the rock breaking project at the end of track down to the wall project on the Station curve.
 We'll be out again after Christmas to enjoy the New Year. The trestle portion of the high line should get a kick start then, looking forward to it, see you there.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

2015 Rudy Run at Joshua Tree

Veterans Day weekend is our annual Fall Meet, or as it has been for a number of years now in honor of Rudy Van Wingen, the Rudy Run. There was a picture that surfaced showing Rudy's C&S #10 with a couple of cars behind, on the section of the upper loop where the old unloading track switch is. The unloading track was also the steaming bay as seen in the picture the paraphernalia around the area. November 1981 is the date on the old slide. A young Greg Ratliff as engineer and Allan Ratliff riding shotgun. This was the weekend that the Big Rock in Big Rock was blasted and the track only at the time reached to either end of the boulder as it impeded progress. Our first Fall Meet at Joshua Tree.
  Fast forward a few years and down to the current site of the steaming bays and the view changes quite a bit. Over the years the Meet has grown and this year was no exception.
Over twenty pieces of motive power and 60 plus cars & cabooses on the line. Things started happening Wednesday this year and went on in some manner till Tuesday making the meet or for some the trip to Joshua Tree a week long affair these days.
 The weather was cool Wednesday and Thursday, warming quite nicely for Friday and Saturday. The breeze kicked in Saturday night and Sunday it calmed down to acceptable for the most part. The Sun played peekaboo in the afternoon and deteriorated to a rain by nightfall Sunday. Running the full gamut of conditions as the high desert can do. Non running visitors were light on Saturday and upon returning home to the Southland one learned the weather down below was not as nice as up in the desert.
 Ray and Becky Bjerrum brought out the South Park 2-8-0 for its first trip down here. It is a beautiful sight to see and Ray said it ran great up the hill as well as control down the hill when they ran up the high line over the weekend. RGS 41 made it down from Salinas and the whole Burns Family with it. Ron and Peter flew down and enjoyed the quick trip, letting Anthony do the driving as he brought down C&S 10 from Portola Valley along with a trailer full of rolling stock. Good to see 10 back on her old home rails. Maywald's had RGS 20 running, Mike Thompson spent the weekend with the Mich-Cal Shay pulling the family. The Barters met in the middle, John showing off his new 2-8-0 which still is sans tender, but it interchanges with the ten wheeler tender easily. Both engines did run at different times. Steve Nelson and his C-21 with a string of cars made it from Tucson. Eber West has his West Valley Consolidation to round out the 2-8-0 list of all sizes. Erin Swain rolled out his 2-6-0 J.W. Sessums a Mogul that has been slowly transforming into a really nice looking engine, he's hoping to get the tender finished soon. The Davenport list is long, JT&S #7 under the eye of Matt Z. ran all over the place and often. John Barter had his 50 too. Burns had their Construction motor going, Art Barter ran his Pacific Electric Juice Jack with cars that he and his new bride picked up in Washington on their Honeymoon, congrats on both. Stites and Allan Ratliff covered GE with both their 47tonners. The list goes on and like said before, over twenty engines. Quite a growth from the old days.....

A few more pictures got added to the picasa site. for a few pictures of the weekend, Thanks Anthony, Erin, Matt, John and Allan for their pictures

Next time out is Thanksgiving Weekend for the Turkey Run. If you get the chance, come on out.


Monday, November 2, 2015

2015 Opener Weekend October 31, November 1

After a Summer off and away from the railroad, the vacation is over. A weekend to make sure everything is operable and ready for visitors in two weeks. That is what this last weekend used to be. With our faithful and ever-present Summer crew the weeds that would be six foot tall in the middle of the track never get a chance to grow that high. The rodent burrows never hollow out the embankments and need refilling to be able to get a train over the line. The switches all are blown out and work as they should. And the grading project up on the hill has progressed miraculously over the months that us lowlanders have been away.  
 So the Opener weekend is a chance to catch up on the progress and run a train or two around for the weekend. and we did just that. I got a message that John Griffin sent me that Bill Shepherd was back in town. Bill will be in town for a short while and it afforded him a chance to bring his iron teepee with him. A good place to sleep is always in order. Saturday when I met up with him he had a good start on where he had finished up last Spring; the last of the rock work before we get into the trestle district on the High Line.  John Griffin has done and has almost completely made the Gibraltar Boulders disappear from their locations of in the way on the High Line as well. Another good seventy five feet of grade is ready for track to be laid on our march up the hill. John's tenacity for boulder busting has to be commended. He tried a few new tricks this Summer that he said improved his ability to get things accomplished.
 Greg and Becky rolled into camp mid afternoon and Colette was right there with them. Matt made his trek up from Chula Vista. A train could be seen crossing the grade crossing as Shelli and I rolled in about 9:00 Friday night to round out the arrivals. A warm night and the new fire stack wasn't getting much of a break in burn on the no rust coating they come with. Jerry McPheeters picked up a new stack from our steel guy, Vagabond, as the old one didn't survive a Spring Unwanted Rapid Air Movement. The Picnic Shelter fire barrel is back in operation if and when it gets chilly.
 The #7 came home to stay after Matt with some help from Greg pretty much completed the transformation of her into a really nice and useful piece of equipment. She was run at three different railroads to test her ability and utility over the past season. Quite a transformation since October, 2012 when Matt and Greg started the project.
 Art Barter rolled in on Saturday morning with his new engine and spent the weekend too. Saturday we had three trains operating mid day and all went smoothly. The weather cooperated all weekend, and it was just like baby bears porridge, just right.
Saturday being Halloween the ladies had a pumpkin carving contest and the jack o lanterns were very interesting and varied in sizes and decoration. A fun time was had by all who attended and we are looking forward to the Rudy Run in two weeks. Hope to see you there, any questions you can certainly contact the 7 1/2" Project Supervisor at

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The 7 1/2" Calendar of Events

Well, it's about time. Time to start heading out to the high desert for the weekends and enjoying the railroad. Getting the calendar straightened out is just one of those things that just seems to get lost in the shuffle, and I have plenty of things to shuffle around. Trying to make things fit and to make everyone happy does not work. There are only so many weekends as they haven't stretched the calendar since the Roman days, oh, they just kept sealing days from February. Which reminds me, February 29, 30, and 31st have been cancelled again this year, I checked.
 Most dates are centered around our holidays as in January, February, and Easter. Narrow Gauge Meet is before MLS so that those that travel can get in a long trip. That doesn't work out for January, sorry. Of course November's meet is on Veteran's weekend and Thanksgiving and New Years go where they go.
It is always amazing what can get done in eight weekends a year, and what can't I imagine too. Hope to see you out sometime over the next year and as much as you can make we enjoy seeing you. It sure is neat in our little corner of the high desert and we hope to get some more accomplished in the season to come. Our resident workaholics have been plugging away when they can and are ready for a little show and tell what has happened over the summer. See you at the tracks, Brian

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Summertime workings

Just because it is getting hot in the High Desert doesn't mean the work stops. John Griffin has been chiseling away at a few big boulders in the way of progress. Liking to work on projects at his own pace and direction, John gets quite a bit done while we are all away. And like everyone else, I like to see that John gets a good pat on the back for his silent efforts. John has a new toy, an iphone, and has found it to be the perfect tool to take a picture or two of progress. It helps keep us up to date on things and doings about the property for those that are interested.
John's summertime exertions have sped up progress by years in my estimations. Real soon we will be out of the rock breaking for roadbed and into trestle building. His practicing on big clumsy boulders is going to payoff when we have to surgically slice through a spine of rock in the next hundred feet of High Line.
     The fire currently in the mountains South of Big Bear, which are no way close or in danger of making it to us, has filled the Morongo Basin and the rest of the High Desert with smoke. Keeping the temperatures down a bit but costing in smoky hazy days and nights.

John took a video of a trip up the High Line with the Edward's Freight Motor which he uses in a work capacity to shuttle supplies up the hill, and either fill dirt up the grade or rocks and debris down the grade in our quest for higher ground. It is a very interesting video, for the purist's you are in trouble. But for those of us that are willing to see the world through someone else's eyes, for an interesting perspective, take a journey with John. It shows very well the reason we are partaking the endeavor of making as little a footprint as possible up the side of the mountain. You can see how the track blends well with it's surroundings and doesn't leave a scar upon our view.
 Our journey starts at the switch to the High Line, traverses the curved trestle and back behind Tedder. Over the lower trestle as we look to the sides and get a peek at the views as we pass. Over the Trestle to the Sky and a brief stop at the switchback before reversing and going over the upper trestle. We end our trip at the site of Pauline, where our passing siding will be located. Now it is where we are staging supplies for the soon to be trestle district which will start soon.
 I loved it from the first viewing as how someone else sees our work, and saved it from obscurity and for all to see the raw uncut beauty in a video of that which we call the High Line.

Here is a link to more of John Griffins pictures on my Picasa albums, you just might have to go to the link to get the video to play, I never professed to know anything about websites.
You all have a great day, hear from you soon, Brian

Monday, June 8, 2015

I'll try to play a little catch up. Things have gotten busy in my part of the world as if yours wasn't. We did make it out for Easter and the small crew moved all the fill dirt we could find that weekend with two trains working the hill, a crew loading buckets and a dump and grade guy at the top. 300 buckets on Saturday, on top of almost that many on Friday too.
The grade has been adjusted from the upper trestle on up to help us gain elevation for our trip up the hill. So we had to fill in the siding area about nine inches throughout the length of it, and it's width too. Those buckets of fill just kept disappearing the more they brought up. By the end of Saturday the fill pile was gone and one could move around up on the Pauline siding a lot easier with a flat grade.
Bill Shepherd had moved a lot of rock and created a wall clear to our end of grading cone, the marker from where we start in the trestle district again. We have two big boulders that John Griffin is whittling away on. He has been at it as much as he can get out too. The watering of what is green takes a bit of time and it is appreciated.
 The wind we had in April finished off the stack for the fire barrel at the picnic shelter. It has been around a few years and we are looking for a replacement.
  This Sunday past we had a get together at the Air Museum in Palm Springs and afterward we made a trip up to check the place out. Knowing that the summer locals had been doing some work it is always good for the moral to grade the grading. Jerry McPheeters refilled our fill dirt pile and John has been moving it up the hill. A pleasant surprise on the progress since we last saw it back in April.
  With some cool weather this fall we could well be measuring for trestle bents by Christmas. I'm sure the spirits that watch over our progress on railroad construction out here have been smiling.

Summer is fast descending on the High Desert and most of us stay in cooler climes, but the locals are clicking along during the cooler times of day. A couple of off site events coming up in the next few months for the runners. I'm sure we'll be around to at least a few of them, enjoy your summer. Brian

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

2015 Narrow Guage Meet

Great weekend, you missed a good one if you missed this one. Weather, people, trains....
It was a very busy weekend from Thursday through to Monday. Bill Shepherd is in town working on a project up on the 15" but spent some time on the high line mid week and we are getting close to being through the rock moving section above the Tedder Shed. Things around the steaming bays started Thursday too. The Burns', with RGS 41 rolled in from Salinas. John Norquist with his RGS Goose 7 all the way from Upstate New York or Phoenix. The Stites' GE 47 Tonner and Steve Nelson's C-21 fresh out of the paint shop made some track time Thursday. The Thursday night crowd was in full swing by the time Shelli and I got in. Greg and Becky weren't too far ahead of us.
Friday Morning Five of us made a run to Palm Springs Air Museum to see FiFi, presently the only flying B-29, we stayed long enough to get a walk around her and watch the lumbering beast take off; then back up the hill to play trains. Friday I got a chance to get out the 4-4-0 and the Alco but didn't get to run till Saturday. Paul and Celeste Lavacot brought out Goose 6 to round out the RGS faction with the addition of Maywalds #20 to 6,7,20 and 41. Colorado and Southern was well represented with Thompsons 2-6-0 #13 which spent a lot of time out running flawlessly. Anthony Duarte had his 0-4-0 out and ran the wheels a little smaller. Out for it's debut in its new electric drive system and Sumpter Valley Yellow paint job was the Joshua Tree Davenport. After a few years of neglect and attempts to at least stay on the track Matt took the project under wing and got her to roll, and it spent a weekend a while back in tow just to see that it would do that and it was off to the next segment. Greg and Matt worked out an Artzberger drive that works well on the GE's so they adapted that to the Davenport. Right now it is running sans side rods but it still did wonderfully all weekend. It has four batteries under the hood and in the cab so she has some weight to go with the torque. The paint and body work were done by Matt and JT&S #7 starts it's next assignment ready to go.
     The weather was almost too warm the whole weekend, and a jacket was too much for when one was by the fire. The place was green as the wildflowers were still in the growing stages. The Mullberries were pushing out buds and fresh green leaves. By the end of the weekend little yellow flowers were starting to emerge in the sunnier of areas. Wildflower season is near. It was a busy weekend and I do believe most everybody had a good time, plenty of old familiar faces and quite a few new ones too. I hope I didn't miss many. Of course there is a link to my Picasa for a few pictures, not bad for an iphone, and I stole a few from others if I could. Off to Maricopa Live Steamers for a road trip.

Friday, March 6, 2015

All Sorts of Progress

Our resident workaholic, John Griffin, has been tirelessly plugging away on the rocks in our way on the High Line. Affectionately called Gibraltar Numbers 1, 2 &3, John has been trying different methods on each to see which way is best, easiest and looks the most on what we are trying to achieve.
 First and foremost is aesthetics. We are trying very hard not to make our trek up the hill look like a Caltrans project, with a scar up the side of the mountain. We are only trying to move as little as we need to traverse the countryside. Second, we don't mind sweating a little to reach that goal. John likes to get out in the fresh air and has with very little micro management on my part done a prenominal job with what he has chosen to work with. His go at it alone and at his own speed method has shown great progress. Today I was sent many pictures of his latest achievement. Gibraltar number three has now a new name of Half Dome,

as the offending half is now being split up into moveable sizes. The other half, with no need to move will stay put. It's drill marks a lasting testament to only removing what need be.
  Gibraltar number One was taken care of by only removing what was in the way by slowly chiseling away at it till it was below grade or out past our parameters. Number two is still a test bed for a different way of  removing the offending granite. John has had good luck with what are called Wedges and Feathers. A series of holes are drilled in line and the feathers inserted with the wedges in the center of the hole. by hammering the wedges further and evenly the rock splits and becomes a more manageable size. Great work John, see you next weekend.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The End of Track

The end of the year does not signify the end of anything but a calendar. Time marches on and life continues. Just like the end of track over the years out here at the tracks. It is just a line in the sand that we have reached, and after time, unless we look back upon our archives we do not realize how far we have progressed over time; be it a year or a decade. For some of us grey beards that have a few years in this place we talk about things that have been in the ground for ten, twenty and even longer than thirty years. The 7 1/2" started in the hot Summer of 1979. There are pictures of young and even younger working on this railroad. Some are still with us, and some have gone on to other places. But after every time we have gone home from here the end of track is somewhere. Some years it moves often and other years it inches along. Some times it isn't even at an end but where we are working to make this place better for the next time we come out. Enjoy a look back at the progress.

Shelli's View Through the Viewfinder

One of Shelli's interests is photography, and more the process after the picture is taken. The shading, cropping and the like to bring more out of the subject. You know me....good enough picture and it gets the message. Shelli spent a while the last trip out and took a load of pictures, came home and went through them and gave me two dozen to put into her own report of sorts. I do like to use other peoples pictures and to see them because they look through different eyes then mine. Hopefully this will be an ongoing segment in the Joshua Tree files, as wildflower season will be upon us soon and be in full bloom during our upcoming trips to play trains. Enjoy the view from beyond the tracks.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Visitors Surveying the Railroad

John Griffin was out at the tracks yesterday afternoon and had a few visitors pop in to check the place out. I've never seen them in a herd before, it is nice to see them in our area. Enjoy.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

President's Weekend at the Tracks

February in the High Desert is a joy and the weather usually cooperates nicely. This year was no exception and it was T-shirt weather all weekend, and we all know I have a few of those. Shelli and I made it out Thursday night and had the place to ourselves. After a very busy couple of weeks with the airplanes it was nice to get down to a good old lo-tech steam engine. Friday morning the Sun over the hill beat us up and out of the trailer. I forgot how bright that door window can get and how quick. John Griffin was out early and we surveyed the recent progress. The guy works four or five days a week out there and apologizes that he can't get more done; he's got us beat, no worries. Great job John, your pace of getting things done is fine with me and I'm sure all will agree.
 Allan and Lynn made it up in the afternoon and it is good to see Mom out as she and Dad haven't been out since Thanksgiving. Friday flew by and soon it was evening already. A fire for not much more than effect flickered till after Greg and Becky showed up around their usual time. Saturday morning Art Barter rolled in with his Shay and a few flats and stayed till after dinner. At times he had the track to himself which with a Shay was a pleasant repast to not have those pesky rod engines climbing up your backside.
 I'll admit I did the romantic thing as it was Valentines Day, Shelli and I went for a drive through Joshua Tree National Park. I did go in the least accessible way, Berdoo Canyon, but we had a blast bouncing around rocks, boulders and little four wheeled drive vehicles in the big ol' Blue Truck. Dinner in 29 at the Rib Co. to top it off as well. Sunday was another beautiful morning and the 4-4-0 got a workout in the morning and the Alco in the afternoon. The Alco sure runs better on that 100 Low Lead from the airport. It starts good after it has set and the gas doesn't separate like the crud you get for automobiles these days. Things got put away in the afternoon and by Monday we all bugged out for one's each respectable homestead. A good low key weekend where we all enjoyed the weekend weather and company. Next month is the Narrow Gauge Meet and it will be a bit busier. The wildflowers should be coming out soon so bring the camera too.
  Shelli took a lot of pictures of plants and animals this weekend and when she gets them all sorted out I'll make a blog post just for that. I might have taken ten pictures all weekend so you'll have to use your imagination when it comes to pictures. See you in March. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mid Winter Run, January 17,18 2015


Mid Winter at Joshua Tree usually is a great time to be in the High Desert. This last weekend was one of those, a great time to be out. Shelli and I made it out late Friday night as usual. Greg and Becky were out already. The folks kept it close to home. Our plan to get up the hill and move as much dirt off of the grade so John Griffin could focus on rock breaking was our goal. The Plymouth came out but we ended up using the Alco for yeomen duty of running the loaded buckets from end of track to our growing dirt pile at the far end of the switchback siding area. Till we get to a better place to stockpile rocks and such that is the better of dragging it all the way down the hill to below Tedder. We have plenty of room for pile of big rocks, little rocks, sifted roadbed and plain old fill dirt.
  Saturday dawned a nice morning and soon it was off with the sweaters. A batch of buckets and up the hill we went. Terry Watson said a donor might be up to drop off a few things and low and behold he showed up. Terry took care of the visitors and Greg and I started into earthmoving. A good old pick axe was getting better results and soon we were taking 8 bucket train loads down the hill. Memories of the days when we were excavating for the lower trestle. After we retired a tired old bucket because the bail failed we soon had a ten bucket train. I attempted to take note of trips and loads including a picture of progress every trip. That plan worked great and as you can see from the below pictures we advanced a good ten feet or so up the hill. We are in fact far enough to go back to a single track width for roadbed as the siding distance is long enough for our requirements: if you can turn your train on the wye you will fit in the sidings.
 Saturday afternoon before heading down the hill Greg and I with the help of Shelli ran 50 full buckets off of the hill. Saturday Night Steaks were delicious and we attempted to find the Lovejoy Comet to no avail. Sunday was another beautiful morning with a high overcast to keep the Sun from bearing down too much. We added another 40 buckets to the total and even did a little scouting of the future grade up the hill to ease some nagging doubts that were popping up.
 We had a visitor from the Inyokern area that is interested in building his own railroad around his property and had questions on building on a hill such as ours. He probably left with more questions than he came with, but that what happens when you start out around here. He'll be back. We did run trains for pleasure too and it was a very fulfilling weekend. Looking forward to the Standard Gauge Meet February, 13-15. Time to bring out the skinny wheeled ones to play on the hill. With the Alco and the 4-4-0 I have been addressing the wide spots as they widen out. Of course there is a link to photos below, but more important, an invite to get out here and see the place again. We had a visitor that hadn't been out in 15 plus years. That is too long a span to see the place. See you next month. Brian

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tight quarters on the high line.

An early shot of work on the high line, of course we have widened the right of way a little since this picture was taken.
Okay, the picture really is the Mystic Lake Railroad above Billings, Montana, 1927

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Years Weekend at the Tracks

If the weatherman was right we would have needed plows and chains on the truck from Calimesa to get out here. If.....oh wait. The reality was we got a dusting of snow because it never really even rained on our side of the valley. It was pretty while it lasted and thanks to John Griffin for braving the elements, he really was just checking out his new car. He said the heater works great. It looks as if the G scale had the most snow, scale wise.

Thursday morning there was enough snow to blanket the area and the storm clouds rolled away leaving another beautiful weekend to enjoy the High Desert. The temperatures rose a bit every day. It froze Thursday night enough to ice up the hoses and after that it was just cool. Great vapor running in the morning but the coffee was warmer so I waited till mid morning to boil water in the 4-4-0.

 Greg and Becky made it out first this time and Sydnie and Caleb spent a couple of nights with family before returning home. Colette made it out and Steve Nelson and Chris Burns rolled in from Tuscon. The party was howling by the time Shelli and I rolled in about 8:30 New Years Eve and the annual hourly train rides had just started. I even engineered the 10:00 roll. It was cold out there. With no Matt to officiate the Poker game, the rules looked a little sketchy. Al and Lynn didn't make it out this weekend either so it was a bit subdued. Enough visitors came up to keep one busy. Matt and Pat Swain came up for a while and even got a hike in to the top of the ridge to see the Joshua Tree way up there. Jerry McPheeters brought up a few shirt tailed relatives up for tour too. The Snowbirds were in force with their ringleader Rick Senkler being down for a month or so we saw them two times over the weekend. Bob Buckle and his wife Dorothy were up the first time along with Kurt and Saturday Rick and Kurt came up and we conscripted them into some work on the high line.

It was kick back in the operations area as we had four engines but no more than two at a time. My 4-4-0 was ready to tackle the snow but ran around with nothing to plow. Greg brought out the Plymouth for some exercise. The Edwards Freight Motor did a lot of sitting but did run on two occasions and The Alco RS-1 plied the rails on a few days as well. Up on the High Line we assembled 120 feet of track to get John a little closer to his project. We have three decent size rocks to tackle and things look brighter after that on our 165 feet of cut we have be fore the trestles start again. with 100 feet out of the way and graded progress looks good. It was a real moral booster to add the track on the hill. It shows that even slowly, we are progressing. There is plenty more, don't feel that you've missed it. See you the next time, Mid Winter Run. January 16-19, 2015.

Of course there are pictures, follow this link.