Monday, May 11, 2009

2008/09 End of Season Report.

Another season in the desert has come and gone. We can all be proud of what has been accomplished this year, and our Spring Meet over the weekend of May 2nd-3rd was our best ever. We are finally through the Rock Cut, our railway has been expanded significantly thanks to Brendon Hilton and his track crew, and the turntable is painfully close to being functional thanks to Ken Eells, Mike and Josh Brehm, Bill Souder and a host of others. The picnic shelter now has power provided by Bill Shepherd. Thanks again Bill!

Through the cut during the Spring Meet.

Ken Eells punches tickets while Mike Brehm attends to the Shay.

The Spring Meet on the Grand Scale was well attended. We were once again joined by Rita Allan's Girl Scout troop, as well as noted magazine publisher John Sayre, whose publication, Large-Scale Railroading has featured the JT&S Grand Scale Railway in past issues. Our Shay #6 ran all day Saturday, a few minor problems cropped up, but they will be easily repaired in the Fall. Such is the way with steam. The traditional beer-brat dinner feast was well recieved. In fact I was lucky to get a couple before they were all scarfed down!

Brendon Hilton brings the train out of the Rock Cut.

I would like to think that the Grand Scale is just now hitting it's stride, and I am sure much more will be accomplished next season and in subsequent seasons. I wish to thank Tom Arnold for his patience and support, was well as everyone who has encouraged me these past ten years, especially in the early days when progress was slow. With the momentum that has built up, and the capable bunch of guys now dedicated to building this diminutive railway, things can only get bigger and better. Thanks also to my wife Rita who has been the most patient of all. This has been a truly unique experience. We have taken an abandoned railway in the middle of nowhere and turned it into what it is today, through no small effort I might add.
That's about it, I'm outta here. The Grand Scale is adjourned for the season. Have a great summer and stay safe. - Chris Allan

One ticket to the end of the line.

Monday, April 6, 2009

April work day report.

The seasonal winds blew with gusto all last week, and we were anticipating the same for Saturday April 4th. Happily there was only a light breeze during the morning and relative calm prevailed during the afternoon and evening.
Those in attendance accomplished a great deal. Mike and Josh ably bolted down the turntable deck and end timbers. Kevin and I moved several yards of ballast material over to the turntable lead, and while a lot more needs to be added, we definitely made a dent. I raised a pretty good blister in the palm of my right hand, which is now reminiscent of a stigmata effect.
Ken and Dick built a loading platform next to the newly named station stop of "Split Rock" (thanks Liza!); it is evocative of one of the little team track docks on the old Carson & Colorado narrow gauge in the Owens Valley of California. The dock, built of recycled materials, has both form and function and is a welcome addition to the loop area's theming. Some grounds cleanup was also performed. A great deal more needs to be done.
Remember the date, Saturday, May 2nd is our annual Grand Scale get-together. Please let me know if you are planning on joining us for the evening brat-fest, so we don't run short. Bring a small appetizer or salad if you wish to throw into the fray. Just like last year, alcoholic beverages will be curtailed until after 5pm., unless you plan to be running the locomotive then alcohol is prohibited - no exceptions. We will again be joined this year by Rita Allan's Girl Scout troop, a fun bunch.
Have a joyous Easter, I look forward to seeing all of you for our season ender! - Chris

Thanks for the pictures Ken!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Spring has arrived.

Hello everyone, hope that you are enjoying the first signs of Spring now that it has officially arrived. Our next workday on the Grand Scale will be Saturday, April 4th. The project in the forefront should be cleanup of the area for our meet in May, as we will be hosting many new people, and we need to make a good first impression.We will also be working to make the turntable functional for the May meet. Ken Eells has been up working a couple of days each week on the pit rock work and filling and contouring the pit to conceal the concrete work. We may start laying down the loop rail during the meet, which would be a great demonstration for our visitors.

In addition, here is what we need to accomplish in the short term, and continue after the Summer break:

  • Cleanup of the "Boneyard" area, including moving the sand house back up into place, sorting and piling the rail, either down there or staging it up above to go across the bridge, and moving the tie piles back up next to live rail.

  • Get the speeder functional, which can be done at Brendon's over the summer.

  • Get some wheels back under the ballast car, which can also be done over the break.

  • Get the track that we have down ballasted, lined and tamped.

  • Weld on the steel walkways onto each side of the bridge, which we will hopefully convince Roger to do in the Fall. ;)

  • Re-stake the centerlines for the Mule's Relief fill on the west side, Rick can help us to remember where the current buried stakes are.

  • Re-contour the area in the wash and terraform to get rid of the "construction zone" look. Remove the road up to the loop, and replace it with an unobtrusive footpath.

We need to have the majority of these projects complete before we move on to the next "big" project, whatever that may be. Working as a team, most of the above projects can be done in a couple of weekends, so they shouldn't affect our Manifest Destiny too terribly.

Have a great week, and I hope to see you on the 4th! - Chris

Pic by Bill Souder

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

March workday report.

Ken Eells poses with the turntable, note the first lead reached the pit wall during the March workday.Thanks to everyone who pitched in on the project, including Ken, Mike, Joseph, Bill, Tom, Paul, and Brendon. The next workday, April 4th we will ballast tamp and line. With some luck we will be turning by the May meet.- Chris

Thursday, February 26, 2009

More turntable progress.

Yesterday, February 25th, Ken Eells and I traveled to Joshua Tree for a day of work on the turntable. We were joined by the ever-affable Bill Souder. The modified overhead trolley wheels donated by Mike Brehm were welded into place and a start was made on the deck. Treated 4x4's were placed and 2x6 planks were screwed down as edging to hold the bridge timbers in orientation. Two handy sticks of rail were thrown on for demonstration purposes. It now has the look of a proper turntable. Thanks to Ken and Bill for their excellent efforts!

The weather was gorgeous, as it can be this time of year. A bit of wind kicked up later in the day but didn't hinder our efforts. We stopped into Don Jose's in Anahiem Hills on the way home for our evening meal, which topped off our productive day.

Our next workday is coming up on Saturday, March 7th. I would like to continue tuning up the turntable, as well as work on the lead track coming into it. Remember to save the date, May 2nd, which is our big annual meet on the 15" gauge. With a little luck we may be able to debut the turntable then! If enough people show up we can also start putting the Shay back together now that the hard freezes are over. Work on the balloon track through the cut can also progress when ready.

Until then, be safe and I hope to see you all in the desert soon!
- Chris Allan

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Cold February Day.

Saturday February 7th was cold at Joshua Tree, thankfully the fire built in the Franklin stove at the Pullman picnic shelter was enough to stave off any minor discomfort. More was accomplished on the structure thanks to Bill Souder, Mike and Joseph Brehm, Rita Allan (who lit the fire) and Tom Arnold. The north wall is now sheeted, and the refrigerator is up on the slab poured by Bill Shepherd (Thanks Bill!). The sheeting generously procured by Eric Bauer is being put to good use.

Ken and Mike worked on getting the turntable end wheel assemblies fitted in preparation for attaching the wheels provided by Mike. Tom Arnold rigged up power for my wire feed welder (Thanks again Tom!) and the assemblies were tacked in place. A bit more work remains before the table is wheeled, but we are getting close! Ken and Judy Eells managed to make it up despite having to move out of their house the week before, as well as Judy having just been through throat surgery. We applaud their efforts during these adverse times, and wish Judy a speedy recovery.

Tom, Brendan, and Robert continued grading for the balloon loop using a tractor provided by Robert. They also hauled some rock down to the mini-train loop for, I would assume, retaining walls. The little puttering carts full of material popped up and down the hill all day.

Several esteemed guests dropped by to view our collection of railcars, including Nick Kallas, General Manager for the Illinois Railway Museum, the largest and most diverse railway museum in North America. Nick and I have crossed paths a few times over the past 25 years, and it was a pleasure catching up and comparing notes on our museum preservation efforts.

A friendly contingent from the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum stopped in, led by their president, Diana Hyatt. They toured our railcars and we spent some time getting to know each other. If you have the chance to get down to Campo, near San Diego, don't miss a visit to their railroad museum, and even better yet take one of their trains to Tecate, Mexico. It is, I am told, a rather unique experience not to be missed. I hope to do this with the family in the near future.

We will be back out for the workday on March 7th, 2009. I look forward to seeing all of you then! - Chris Allan

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A Turntable "Themed" Report.

Today's post is from our intrepid Roundhouse Foreman and designer Ken Eells. Ken's report brings us up to date on turntable progress and plans. -Chris

15” Gauge Turntable Report Part II

First of all allow me to express my gratitude to everyone who has commented on how nice the rockwork on the turntable pit wall is looking so far. That part of the project is about halfway done and thanks to the excavation crew on the Cut, we are using some very nice bluish rock material that they “dug” up.

Thankfully, we have definitely turned a corner with the turntable and are getting set up for a huge February 7th assault with Chris’ wire-feed welder. The turntable crew will be welding on the “training wheel” assemblies, 4 X 4 steel crossties and if time allows, they will be welding down the 12# rail.

From that point forward, I will be directing the theming aspect of the turntable which will impart that nice rich rusty, crusty, aged and grained look that the Rio Grande Southern railroad was so very famous for. It will be a thing of beauty.

Our current construction schedule has us completing Track-4 (inbound track) up to the turntable by early April. That gives us plenty of “tweaking time” before the May Spring Meet in order to make certain that railroad operations are both safe and successful.

From there we will be spring-boarding off of the turntable and onto the roundhouse. By that I mean that we be building from the success of the turntable and step up the call for donations in order to get the wood framing going on the roundhouse by November ’09. Our initial goal is to put together an amount of $10,000 to get things started with, but more on that later.

In the meantime, we will finish up the turntable for this season which will definitely put a new spin on things for the 15” gauge railway. -Ken Eells