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