Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Could it happen again?

Twelve years ago this weekend we had a pleasant Thanksgiving surprise. Could it happen again?
The Station in a coating of snow

Clearing the Station Tracks

Greg clearing the High Line

Now Dad could get around in the Plymouth

The snowplow fits all the Pomona South Riverside & Elsinore engines.
Only one way to find out. See you there.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Rudy Run, November 2016

Usually, the weather breaks between the Opener and the Rudy Run. T-shirt weather the first weekend , and where did I leave my jacket weather the next. Not so, this past weekend out here at the tracks. Friday's temperature was down right toasty and Saturday was just a bit cooler. It made for some real enjoyable times for the annual Rudy Run.
The people and trains started to come in early, Thursday, the crew from Salinas showed up. The Burns and RGS 41 with their trailer full of train. And from the other direction Steve Nelson and his bevy of rolling stock and C-21 loaded in his trailer. By the time Friday afternoon had rolled around when we showed up; The Thompsons were in with C&S 13 and the Swain's had The Fitchburg, the Davenport and the peddle things out and about. Friday rolled around to Saturday.
Another beautiful day and it was not lost on activity either. My 4-4-0 polished a rail or two. Jerry McPheeters ran the Edwards Passenger Motor and Matt Z. with JT&S 7 ran and ran to add to the list. The Maywald's were out for the weekend sans engine but not without enjoying the time anyway. Mike Thompson had a few long time friends out for the enjoyment, as usual for me, I forgot their names right after introductions. The Stites' were out albeit briefly to the tracks, always good to see Gary and Margaret. His Caboose project is quite a sight to see. Allan Ratliff was out for a visit in the morning Saturday, it sure is different not having him and Lynn first in and last out around here. Plenty of other folks out for a day to see things and people.
A good time all day and into the afternoon with plenty of action to keep one entertained. With the time change the week before instead of this weekend, it was all too soon before it became Steak Night. I counted over twenty five around at one time while grilling steaks, it looked like everybody was having fun.
Sunday was a little light on operations as the Annual Meeting keeps everyone occupied for most of the morning. But it picked up a bit before everybody started to pack it up for another time. All in all a great weekend with outstanding cooperation from the weather and plenty of railroading fun. See you Thanksgiving Weekend for the Turkey Run.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Another Great Weekend. Joshua Tree Opener

This time of year out in the High Desert is wonderful. It can change in a heartbeat, but it is still wonderful. A Friday mid day departure from down below got us to the tracks in the mid afternoon and with plenty of time to decompress. A few clouds to speak of and none did anything more than look pretty up above. Friday nights BBQ kept everybody fed and nobody was expected in late, time to sit around the shelter area and catch up.

Saturday morning dawned just as nice as Friday, an inspection of the area and kicking of the ties commenced and soon it was time to fire up the engine. We had a few visitors from the Low Desert and the Pass area to show around, they were O Gauger's and looked as if they would be back to see more of the operation. We had three trains going at one time during the day. I had the 4-4-0 and Matt was running the JT&S #7 with a train and Jerry McPheeters had the JT&S Edwards Passenger Motor going as well.
 The leasing of the club locomotives to a responsible party for the operation and maintenance of each piece of equipment has done well. Instead of a piece of equipment that gets used and abused with no thought of maintenance by individuals, One person is responsible for the upkeep and operation of said, individual pride and care for the equipment is fostered and if somebody would like to operate that piece of equipment, arrangements are made through the leaseholder. Unexplained problems and issues have dropped to zero as equipment is tethered while in the car barn and new keys were issued last Fall as to reign in the unauthorized access and use of all equipment inside the building.  Now if we could get the mice to move out we would have it made.
A few projects were kicked around and should get in full swing soon, The big dirt pile East of the Station has gotten smaller, and plans to spread it around to needy places was the main topic. The railroad is a good shape and no foreseeable problems await the Rudy Run in two weeks. Hope to see you then, come on out.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Opener This Weekend

After most of us have spent the Summer in cooler climes, the locals kept at their tasks and planned activities. Our resident dirt mover, tree watering guru and security detail; John Griffin has been busy as usual.

All the rocks that were moved off the hill to make way for the grade up the high line have been piled down and around the station curve for some time. Over the course of the summer John has built up the wall around that curve, and using the fill from the Conley Mansion excavation, has filled it in. Giving us a curve you will not feel the need to hang on as you pass the precipice. As seen in the photo we still have fill to remove before the station track gets extended. But, we know how quickly a pile of fill can change places around here.
The opener weekend is upon us and soon the weather will be more favorable to cool nights around the patio shelter and nice days around the tracks.
John has kept the flora and fauna at bay around the railroad these past years. So the opener weekend isn't like the days or lore when six foot weeds had to be wrestled from between the tracks before operations. And bridge abutments filled back to level from varmints making home in the embankments. John keeps it up to standards so he can zip around on the Freight Motor and check out the railroad with ease from aboard the railcar.
Looking forward to getting back out to Joshua Tree, hope to see you out there too.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

This past week I learned that we lost a frequent visitor and friend of the Railroad and Museum. Rick Senkler wintered from the 'Great White North' as his emails would greet when we talked. Always asking what he could do to help and he lent a hand many a time on the yard building as well as up on the High Line. His wife Joanne was often with him and they both enjoyed their times out at the tracks. Rick was planning to winter his engine some year down here so he could travel to other tracks with it. Rick always asked if we needed anything whenever he was down and he wore his Joshua Tree Black Hat all the time. Rick will be missed by those that knew him, and a thought for those he left behind, Godspeed Rick.
 Bob Buckle, a good friend of his and a visitor with Rick one time too, wrote a nice page for the newsletters up their way.

In Memoriam

Rick Senkler, March 1, 1945 – March 9, 2016



Rick was born March 1, 1945 and raised in Victoria’s Oak Bay area.

He became a Certifed Accountant by about 1970 and went to work for

various public entities such as Victoria Water Board and B.C. Transit,

guiding them through the computerization of their accounts.

I frst met Rick as a member of the Juan de Fuca Railway Association in the mid 60’s. This was a small group of

folks who got together once a month to show our pictures and view flms on railway subjects. We also organized

excursions to various points of interest.

By the early 70’s Terry Fergusson had purchased the 4'-8-1/2” gauge Hillcrest #10 Climax locomotive and was

moving it to Victoria for his Victoria Pacifc Railway. We were all involved in giving him a hand and doing a lot of

the bull work and having a lot of fun doing it.

About this time Rick married Mary Nation and they bought 2+ acres on Quayle Road in Saanich where he built

the Pheasant & Quayle 7 ½” and 3 ½” ga. track of about 700 feet. In 1972 the Vancouver Island Model Engineers

[VIME] was formed and Rick became a member in 1973. He ofered the group the use of the track once a month

in exchange for help in building it. Members of Juan de Fuca Railway Association also pitched in. During this

time Rick bought Joe Brown’s incomplete but running CPR D10 loco. VIME operated there with great success

until about 1980 when VIME moved all operations to the Saanich Historical Artifacts Society grounds in Central

Saanich where they had been building raised and ground level tracks since 1976.

Sometime after Mary died in 1991 Rick moved to the Vancouver area to take up a position with B.C. Ferries at

Horseshoe Bay. There he became an active member of BCSME for a number of years until moving back to

Victoria in 2002 where he rebuilt the house on Quayle Road and did a bit of work on rebuilding the P & Q. After

a few years he sold the Quayle Road property to another VIME member and moved to a North Saanich view


Over the next years he became increasingly active in other community organizations such as the Saanich

Historical Artifacts Society and their foundation as well as the Horticultural Centre of the Pacifc and Gyro

International. During this period he also became V.P. Finance for VIH Aviation Group, a large helicopter and

fxed wing aircraft operator headquartered at Victoria International Airport. He really loved this job and its

perks. Rick has, over the last year or so, slowly retired from this position and taken to regularly visiting

Maricopa and Joshua Tree clubs in the winter months.

Rick also purchased the ‘Mogul’ 2-6-0 built by Allan Halliday after Allan’s death. Rick’s son Phillip can be seen

running this loco all around the Pacifc Northwest.

Rick and his new love, Joanna Drewry, bought another nice home in North Saanich where they developed

beautiful gardens and held many garden parties, the greatest of which was their wedding in August 2014.

Rick was elected president of Saanich Historical Artifact Foundation in February and was on the board of the

Horticultural Centre of the Pacifc. He was the Chair of the Board of Variance for the Municipality of North

Saanich for the past 3 years and served on the Board since 2008. He also assisted VIME with its fnancial


Rick became ill on March 7 at a Gyro executive meeting and passed on March 9. He will be missed by a great

many friends and associates all over the west, particularly his wife Joanna, son Phil and daughter Heather.

The Whistle Page 7 April 2016

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Narrow Gauge Meet 2016

Despite some ugly weather around the Southland Friday, the weekend was great. This years Narrow Gauge Meet saw 14 different pieces of motive power and plenty of visitors as well. Early arrivals enjoyed Thursday and Friday running before the weather deteriorated Friday afternoon. Allan and Lynn Ratliff with the trusty GE 47 tonner. The Burns with RGS 41 and consist made the trip from Salinas. Their Contractor diesel plied the rails all weekend as well. Steve Nelson with his C-21 and growing train made if from Tucson. Jimmy Booth made the trip South with his trailer full of goodies, Grant C-16 #223, #50 and a few cars. Ryan Shepherd even had his peddle bike out of the truck. John Norquist roughed it in a tent and RGS Goose #7 all in the little car of his. Art and Claudia Barter rolled up with their PE Steeple Cab for the weekend. All the Joshua Tree engines made runs with their caretakers. Davenport #7 worked and played throughout the event piloted by either Matt Z. or Greg Ratliff, it even had a few other engineers over the weekend.. Edwards Motor with trailer is coming along nicely under the direction of Jerry McPheeters. John Griffin was seen checking out Progress throughout the system Sunday on the Edwards Freight Motor Sunday afternoon. The Maywald's made it a family weekend too, and RGS 20 saw plenty of steam time. Heck, my 4-4-0 even polished the rails on Sunday for a time.
 The early folks had a good time setting up and running Thursday and Friday, always time to visit too. Greg Ratliff and Matt Z. installed a switch at Pauline on the High Line Friday with finishing touches and ballasting Saturday. The breeze was blowing after the brief rain event Friday evening. The rain only last about 90 throughout the Southland during its course Eastward. It rained plenty good in that time as seen in Cucamonga Friday before getting of work. Those getting out Friday mid day followed the storm eastward the whole way. Shelli and I only had wind on our travels out late Friday, but saw the lake that had formed on the Interstate in Cabazon as it passed through there. By our arrival time with the delay only the wind was left and Saturday dawned calm and quickly warming to an enjoyable level. Mike Thompson spearheaded the realignment of the Wye tail trackage on Saturday in anticipation of the trackage going South of the Station when the Conley Mansion is completed. That project is coming along wonderfully as Bill Shepherd plugs along in its construction. The roof is on and the interior walls are roughed in. The boardwalk in front, even though concrete is a work of art. The porch was going up over the weekend between tours of the project to all that wanted to see it. Bill has been working on the unloading area handrails as well. They should be done as of writing, heard he was working on the finishing welding after most left after the weekend. Thank you and great work Bill.
Saturday night around the patio and grill went off great, plenty of different items were grilled up after dark and no one left hungry. The temperatures on Saturday night were delightful and Sunday was more of the same. Running on the railroad at times was quite busy and things went smoothly, at many times there could be seen from the High Line up to eight trains at one time about the trackage. Quite a few visitor throughout the weekend also up to see things, all in all a great time. Ready to go on a road trip next weekend, and then back for Easter, so you then.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Sweetheart of a Weekend at Joshua Tree

This past weekend had Valentine's Day in it too, and the weather cooperated like a sweetheart. A t-shirt was good enough and even at night one did not need to bundle as they did earlier. This years Standard Gauge Meet was about standard; those that came out had a blast, we had up to six running at one time. John Barter brought out both the Ten Wheeler and the Consolidation for runs on the track. He even brought his Davenport 50 for dragging things around. All three saw some time on the railroad. Art and Claudia Barter pack the Shay in their truck and it ran around all weekend as well. Allan and Lynn Ratliff of course had the trusty GE 47 tonner, Jerry McPheeters has the Edwards Motor Car all dialed in and it ran quite a bit. Greg Ratliff was running JT&S #7 and it continues to run like a top. I hadn't ran the 4-4-0 since New Years and it was time to run. With six on the track at one time and all heads up operators we had everybody spaced out and as one pulled into the siding your approaching train was doing the same. It was running smoothly, and then of course it's lunch time, butt break, a trip up the high line and enough for a while and the rhythm falls apart....but is was neat to keep up one's end of the schedule and keep things running smoothly.
Bill Shepherd is back in town and it did not take him any time at all to be back at the task of the Conley Mansion. Saturday the Mud Sills were drilled and bolted down after he put the finishing touches of the concrete tops. By Sunday evening two of the wooden walls were standing, by Monday afternoon there was sheeting on two walls to keep things square and plumb. Doing a great job Bill. Tom Arnold was out for a few days and left Sunday morning.  John Griffin has been working on the station curve retaining wall as we have plenty of fill dirt real close by.
The Saturday night Steak Night burned well, Jerry had brought some of his Nipomo Red Oak for the fire and the steaks were great tasting too. Saturday after running we got together and mixed concrete and filled the wall cells of the retaining wall at the loading area. Bill Shepherd will be putting hand rails on the wall for keeping us from stepping into the wrong level of the wash. Continued nick nack clean up of the area and housekeeping chores that have been neglected were the order of things to do. Sunday Shelli and I ran loads of rocks and boulders from the switchback siding area down to the retaining wall project at the station curve so John Griffin didn't have to. The siding area is all cleared now and when we get all the pieces for switches and time and talent they can go in.
Sunday night was Trash Can Tri Tip night and I tried out my new quarter barrel for only doing one or two tri tips. It was a success and the six for dinner polished off two tri tips and put a real good dent in the fixings too.
It was a great weekend and plenty of good people, great trains, and beautiful weather. Things are greening up and the flowers are starting to grow, the Joshua Trees are starting to bloom we noticed on the way out Monday; the Narrow Gauge Meet on March 10-13 should be colorful. See you then.

Here is a link to pictures from John Griffin and I taken over the weekend. https://goo.gl/photos/ZYFoKUcdtjZBJmVC7

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Progress on the Conley Mansion

This past week great strides happened on the progress of the Gary Conley Building, the Conley Mansion will hold the displays from Gary's HO empire that was in one of the rooms of his house in Joshua Tree. It was quite a layout and the detail of the scenery was the real gem of the layout. The museum is building a structure to house the exhibit, the building will be behind the Moseley Station and below the 7 1/2" loop to the station. A western themed building in lines with the era of the station to blend in with the other buildings nearby. During the last two weeks the area was cleared, compacted and the foundation formed and concrete poured. Bill Shepherd is the lead on this project and he has had help from Bob Whitt on excavating the site, and I'm sure with other things as well. From the pictures we see that Tom Arnold was out to see the progress and John Griffin too. An other interesting addition to the Railroad and Museum.
As always with concrete project around here, Bill tries to make the most of the truck load if it is coming out. Bill excavated for a retaining wall on the South side of the 7 1/2" loading area also. This will allow us to put in another track for parking trains at busy times. Great work all of you. With the Standard Gauge Meet coming up in two weeks you too can come out and see the progress. Here is a link for a few pictures of the pour day.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Mid Winter Weekend 2016, January 15-18

It was time to get out of the damp cold Southern California lowlands and dry out. It might have been cold at night , but the days were enjoyable. Thursday evening Shelli and I made the run out. Allan and Lynn hadn't been there too long and the Industrious Bill Shepherd was back in town on top of that. A nice time around the fire and off to dreamland.
 Friday dawned beautiful and clear, with just a few high Cirrus, Horsetails telling us that the breeze might just be blowing elsewhere, but it was okay here.
Everybody seemed to have a project in mind and started into it early. Bill was exercising with his shovel at the loading area, the South wall is going in for the yard tracks; an erosion, aesthetics, accessibility, capacity project.
Enabling another track to be completed at the loading yard, a completed walkway to the raised area of the loading yard and a start to the two, close, steaming bays for short term visiting steamers. Allan was tackling a shrubbery issue that was soon to be gone, and continued the rearrangement of the wood pile. I hauled track panels up to the high line for installation over the weekend. Soon Bob Whitt arrived and the morning project evolved into the mid day projects, the area was cleared and leveled for the site of the new Conley Mansion; a building being erected between the south side of the station museum building and the 7 1/2" loop below the Car Barn to house the exhibits of Gary's HO scale railroad empire that was in his house in town.
A fitting tribute to the mini modeler, craftsman and tinkerer that he was. The dirt excavated was placed east of the station for easy removal by rail to any point on the 7 1/2" that needs good quality aggregate products. Another shipping point on our busy pike. A thirty bucket shipment to the end of the high line was squeezed into operations over the weekend for use in the last of the retaining wall that Bill is creating for us. Rumor has it that much of it will be used to complete the wall on the station curve too, a John Griffin project.
 There was time to run a railroad too, we unloaded Allan's trusty GE 47 tonner and train, the 4-4-0 was hauled to the steaming bays by the Davenport #7 as well as a string of utilitarian Westside 24' flats. A few circuits of railroading throughout the day to make the weekend as enjoyable as possible. Greg and Becky rolled in Friday night and that ended up to be the extent of faraway arrivals for the weekend.
Sixty feet of track panels were assembled and we are within 15 feet or so of the trestle abutment, it made for an easier route for that shipment of fill for the retaining wall/trestle abutment area.
The days got a little warmer all weekend as this time of year the days are mild if the breeze is low or non existent. The survey crew did a bit of trampling through the canyon above the trestle area, getting ideas and dreams aligned for the ascent of the mountain. Nothing is impossible, it promises to be interesting. A link for the pictures is here: https://goo.gl/photos/nej4AbwKrZJt3jdz9
All in all a very nice and productive weekend. Next month is the Standard Gauge Meet. February 12-14. Bring that sweetheart of an engine out too.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

A quick trip

Saturday, Greg, Matt and I made a quick trip up to The Tracks with a load of firewood for the picnic shelter. The winds of Christmas in the Southern California area blew a few branches off of Greg and Becky's problem tree. A plan to cut up the fallen wood, and split it and load directly into the dump trailer with a quick trip to dump it was hatched. Quite a pile it was before we split it and it filled the trailer to the top after with a full pickup load yet to go.
The rains we had in the low lands were much appreciated and after not having really any rain for two years a welcome sight. There was even snow on the mountains as we traveled out in the morning. The upper mountains had snow and the lower hills did as well. The upper elevations of the property had a dusting of snow but was gone by Saturday. A much deserved rain fell at the Club and it is hoped that we get more so it will be a very colorful Spring with wildflowers and shrubbery blooming. The weather was still on the lower numbers as we rolled into Yucca Valley, what water still around on the side of the road was covered in ice. After a stop for breakfast in town we drove up to The Tracks and unloaded the bounty.

The wood pile was given a lot of attention the past trip out, we sorted, stacked and burned a bit of it. Knowing we had a big load coming this weekend we made room for it. Even took some away to be split as the big pieces get neglected with so much easier pickings around. This load is already split so it will dry quicker and just needs loaded on the cart come next season. We did a quick trip around the railroad to see and show Matt the progress as he did not get to come out New Years and this years real job schedule will not allow him to be out for a while. We took the forms off of the new abutment and gave it an approval.
Next weekend at the Mid Winter Weekend we should be able to do a little back filling and our rock wall builder should be around so track can be laid right up to the precipice. Surveying and forming of the trestle piers is on tap for the weekend too, so plenty of opportunity for getting one with the railroad can be had.
Always something to see out in the desert, even a puddle of water can grab ones attention if one so desires.

The ice upon the puddle tells of the chill about, the water itself tells of the much needed rain fell in a quantity that will do well for the plants and animals as well. And the reflection of the sun gives us promise that it will warm as the days continue. Hope to see you next weekend, have a safe trip. Brian

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

New Years, 2016, at the Tracks

I've written one check and screwed up on the date already. Happy New Year from us at Joshua Tree & Southern Railroad and Museum. 2016 might have started with a big, but it wasn't big enough to wake me as I went to bed earlier then that. Thursday night was cold enough to crack a few hose bibs in the steaming area. And the popsicles from the repair stayed there in the shade for a day more. It was okay in the Sun and the skies were clear and bright on Friday.
Steve Nelson came out with Sydnie for the weekend and brought along the C-21 and a string of cars. Chris Burns rolled down from the North and had the Navajo Construction Cab for something to ride around on. Allan and Lynn Ratliff were out before us kids and Dad had the GE and enough flats to make his WSL #4 caboose look good. Greg and Becky brought out the Skeletons so his load of empties looked even better. Sydnie and Caleb even were spotted all weekend, and Colette and the pups had the Curve staked out. Shelli and I made it out after work on Thursday, a whole pickup load of goodies for the railroad, concrete and firewood.
Around the railroad John Griffin finished off the rock breaking project on the High Line and the grade is almost to the abutment of the next trestle, sans rockwork for a path up the spine of the mountain from the end of the curved trestle up to the Pauline siding area. So one does not have to walk the whole High Line to get up to the top. Bill Shepherd did the path work and this weekend it got a lot of foot traffic, so a well placed path it is. Even saw a few people up on Bill's path to the top of the mountain that heads off from the firebreak road too. The view is getting better the higher we go, and from the top you can see quite a panorama.
 Thursday and Friday the Tolan's were out, Jeff put in a few miles on his Chloe, he spent the summer doing a lot of bearing work and even painted her up, sure is looking and sounding good. It was good to see the whole lot of Tolan's Kevin and Lori, Jeff and Tiphani...and the dog.
Jerry McPheeters has taken over the repair, maintenance and operation of the Edwards Motor Car and 'Trailer', his first project was to get it back into good running condition with a going over of the drive system including the chain drive and idlers. It really has just been sitting in the back of the Car Barn for a number of years waiting for the right time. Jerry has done wonders with the girl and it is good to see it out and about. Having one person in charge of it and responsible for it keeps it from being neglected and not maintained. Enjoy Jerry, it looks good. John Griffin has been using the Freight Motor for a work engine for a few years now and of course he keeps that one in top shape as well. Bill Shepherd helped him with a nagging fuel leak on it over the last month or so.
Saturday was a bit warmer that Friday and we had quite a few visitors too. It is amazing how many find out about the place from the internet and drop on by. A few genuinely interested folks too, we just might see them back again, The 4-4-0 ran around on Saturday, The Nelson C-21, Burn's Construction cab, the Edwards and the GE 47 tonner; we had a track full of operations for a while. Over the weekend there was plenty to see at times, and sometimes nothing, that's just the way it goes.
Saturday afternoon Jerry offered a hay ride to those interested for a trip around his neighborhood in Landers, of course everyone made it back in time for Steak Night.
Sunday we spent some time up on the High Line and made the forms for the first abutment and even poured the concrete for it. The new location of the Batch Plant makes the distance the mixed concrete has to travel significantly shorter than it was getting to be, hence the move from down at Tedder. The raw material still makes the trip up the hill and we have enough room to move around the plant when we are a mixing. Right now water comes up in buckets, but the plan is a water line, and eventually a water plug for the steam engines. Wouldn't an old tank car like Tank Creek on the Silverton branch look okay?
The trestle piers will be located and formed and filled  in the next couple of sessions, and soon we will have another trestle to get us further up the mountain. Come on out and enjoy the scenery, the railroad and the high desert. See you in two weeks for the Mid Winter Weekend January 15-18.
A Picasa link for pictures of the weekend at, https://goo.gl/photos/dSbjtsijNMYF9XY97  any questions the usual E-mail is ratsgarage@yahoo.com