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
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
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.