PacificNG Header
PacificNG Header 
Printer-Friendly Format

The Bloggery.

May 25, 2014

Report from the road… research in the desert

By: Randy Hees

I am currently in Tucson… I took my time getting here, spending the night and much of one day in Daggett chasing the Calico & Daggett, the Borate & Daggett, the American Borax Railroad and the Palm Borate Company site… I visited the Mojave River Historical Society museum

I found remains on the ground of each… and found at least one new photo of the mill associated with the Calico & Daggett… I found some surprising evidence of the route of the C&D, as it climbed to reach the mills near the Mojave River, sufficient to redraw the maps…

From there I followed old Rt 66 to Kingman, visiting the Mohave County Historical Museum and the Mojave History and Cultural Society library in Goffs… and tried with limited success to find evidence of the Mohave & Milltown on the ground… The two archives proved wonderful… I found copies of the Needles paper (the Eye) as well as a 1903 map of the M&M and a pile of interesting letters from the Santa Fe, both about the M&M but also about their proposal to build a standard gauge railroad into the area earlier… and one very spectacular photo (found above under “prototype locomotives”) which nailed down the history of one of the M&M/LA&R loco… and has sent Brian Norden off to update his LA&R research.

We should have decent write-ups for the Daggett railroads soon, and eventually get one on the M&M… the research in addition to answering questions suggested a couple of additional sources… and maybe another research trip (or 2)…

I stopped by Coronado Hobbies for a quick visit with the Schwedler brothers and found not just the two of them but the Farmer brothers, owners/restorers of a Colorado Southern – Denver South Park & Pacific caboose while passing through Phoenix… We had a wonderful if hurried talk and the Schwedlers showed me a spectacular 1880’s paint book which by itself deserves a return visit…

The final piece of research will take place today… it turns out the surviving fragments of Lincoln’s private railroad car built for him by the US Military railroads late in the war, and only used by Lincoln as his funeral car are in Tucson… and I get a change to visit and look at them…

The contacts (and likely in time friends) made at the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association in Goffs are particularly noted… http://www.mdhca.org/ Their library is wonderful… their site was a surprise…

Once again, we are reminded that you still need to visit libraries and archives to find information even in the age of Google… and never underestimate the significance of walking the site…

 

Randy

May 13, 2014

The Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Conference

By: Randy Hees

Some of you may have been aware that the SPng Historical Society held its annual meeting (Dennis will say… “not an annual meeting, a conference”) last weekend… A few of you may even have attended… If you didn’t you missed a wonderful time… if you have never attended a railroad history symposium you might not understand what you missed…

Andrew and I traveled together… We were the Official Pacificng Delegation… Andrew spent the night in the new Casa de Hees guest room (the first to do so)… Team Pacificng left San Mateo a bit before 8:00 am…

We traveled east… across the bay… across Altamont Pass… across the Central Valley… crossing Tioga Pass (there is little or no snow in the Sierra not Nevada mountains… this is a drought year… )… stopping in June Lake to inspect the restored Bodie & Benton flatcar… the flat car is well restored… the trucks stand-in’s… but in general a very good effort…

We arrived in Ione Pine about 3:00… had pizza and a pitcher of beer… The gathering started Thursday afternoon over pizza… people dropped by… some ate… some sat and talked… everyone checked in and picked up their badges and the information packet with schedule… We don’t need no stinking badges but we had them if it turned out we needed them… we saw and spoke to friends… then made our way to the Quality Inn at the south end of town to check in and make plans…

Later that evening our group gathered at the Lone Pine Film Museum for programs on the history and preservation of SP 18 in Independence CA… (personal observation… this is a good project… they are spending more on preservation and a permanent home than on the restoration to operation… a really good sign… donations to help them are well spent…)

The Lone Pine Film Museum is surprising… lots of good displays… some on old westerns, some on newer westerns, some on science fiction… one display on Tremors… complete with giant deadly earthworm monster…

Back to the motel… sitting about in the room, looking at photos… there might have been beer… there may have been visitors… there was conversation…

The next day (aka Friday) we get up… see people we know at breakfast at the motel… head out to the film museum parking lot to gather… then off to the north to explore right of ways and mines…

We start a cut associated with the Tinemaha reservoir bypass… then up to Zurich and south following the right of way to Beneme… where the bypass began, site of a wye, the tail of which served a mine… We backtracked to Zurich where we ate lunch before heading south… to Mock…site of a marble and aggregates mine… There the formal program ended… instead of immediately heading back, we visited Keeler to search for the turntable site and generally explore… then back to Lone Pine for a shower and dinner (at The Grill, where we shared a table with the infamous artist and railroader, John Coker… ) then programs at the film museum (movies made near here and Cerro Gordo…) We might have shared a beer afterwards at Jakes… (Jakes is the local Clamper bar… the owner might be a volunteer with the locomotive 18 project… support your local railroader…) Coker might have been there… Then time for bed…

The next morning… up again… (this is not a bad idea… not getting up is not a good option) then gathering at the film museum parking lot…. This time headed for the mining/ghost town of Cerro Gordo… up 8 or so miles of dirt road off the paved road… with a gain of 5,000 feet… Here we are honored guests… with full access… this is the thing you find at such a meeting… our group gets access to places you otherwise don’t… There are stories… don’t ask about baby miners… we might propagate a lie… then back down the mountain… first gear territory… back to town and the motel… then to dinner… this time at the Merry Go Round… a Chinese resterant without Chinese waiters and with some of the best Chinese food I have found… I had hot and sour soup… Andrew had cheese won-tons and a stir-fry… you need to eat here if in the vicinity… really…

Then back to the film museum where there was an annual meeting and my talk (snore) on valuation survey maps, followed by a presentation on the Jaw bone line by Phil Serpic on the Jaw Bone…   Afterwards Andrew attended the board meeting and as his driver I got to attend too… then back to Jakes for a drink… this time with Brian Norden… then to bed…

The next day… the gathering started at Lone Pine Station on the Jaw Bone… there was a C&C hand car shed and a long stock car nearby…

Afterward the group headed to the site of Black Rock as in “Bad Day at Black Rock”… afterward folks dispersed… Andrew and I drove a sandy dirt road to Owenyo… where we found others who had driven the paved road… and one of our number who found the transfer trestle pit with his van and was thoroughly stuck… we pulled his van out… exploring along the way…

Then, done with the meeting we found a burger in Lone Pine and headed north… we tried to visit Laws, but found it closed, the entrance chained and a sign saying “closed on mother’s day”

We had never heard of a museum closed on Mother’s Day…. So we loaded our measuring tapes, cameras, and tripods and implements of destruction back in the Jeep, and drove off in search of other railroad artifacts…. There was a rumor of a box car body in northwest Bishop… Andrew had spotted it on Google Earth, but had not brought the details along… we made a half hearted search then headed north up 395… to Lee Vining then East over the Sierras and home…

Now home… I find myself with more research projects… I want to know about the SPng line relocation around the Tinamaha Reservoir… and the wye at Beneme and the mine at the end of the spur made by the tail of that wye…   We have still not found the Keeler turntable… since home another map showing Keeler without turntable, this dated 1906 has shown up… but the invoice for repairs by the V&T shops still haunts us… and photos of the Owenyo turntable show no ring rail as would be typical of a C&C turntable but not a SP turntable…

So, the conference was a success… because of the tours and explorations, because of the presentations and information shared, and particularly because of the friendships…

Randy

May 3, 2014

Research frustrations and the danger of dependence on Common Knowledge…

By: Randy Hees

I have been working on several railroad write ups for the site… Mostly railroads found in the Mojave Desert, the Daggett lines, with an occasional trip to cement hauling railroads… It has been fun but also frustrating… In general we know a bit about each of the lines, either via Myrick, or a Western Railroader… There is likely something on locomotives owned in the various manufacturer’s lists… The advent of the digital newspaper movement has helped… or not…

It seems as I research each line, there is a piece of information missing, or some piece of “common knowledge” that just doesn’t work… and more research is required… likely something either hard to find or only found off line in a remote archive with limited hours of operation…

Most recently (as in the last two days) I have been trying to write up Old Mission Portland Cement… It has long been on my radar… It’s covered in a 1964 Western Railroader, as well as in Rich Hamman’s California Central Coast Railways… (it appears that much of Hamman’s information was derived from the Western Railroader) The Western Railroader article included a roster of the narrow gauge equipment… one of their Plymouths is in the collection of the SPCRR at Ardenwood… I keep clipping files on the various railroads… Old Mission included… in that file was a note about a 2nd less known Plymouth… a locomotive not included in the published rosters, which is later used at Plaster City on the US Gypsum railroad.

This second locomotive was purchased in 1936… the issue being that the generally published sources say the plant shut down in 1929, then only reopened in 1941, without the quarry railroad…   I suspect that our common sources have confused the cement plant and its quarry railroad with the California Central Railroad, a standard gauge short line owned by the cement plant and operated by them… a railroad that did shut down about 1931… via Google I have found a history of cement in California that says “The plant operated intermittently”… So now I am planning a trip to the a archive in Hollister which may have local papers and business directories which hopefully will better document the plant’s presumed on again, off again operations…

A write up for the Mahave & Milltown is similarly waiting a trip to the Needles/Kingman area in search of copies of the Needles Eye… the local paper… Research beyond Myrick suggest the railroad had a much longer life than the generally reported 9 months… Most of the exisiting information comes from the Arizona side of the Colorado River… the view from Needles, the railroad’s effective western terminus is missing…

By the way, Myrick is not the villain here… he writes about the railroad twice, originally in 1963 in Railroads of Nevada & Eastern California, then again in his 2010 Railroad’s of Arizona, Vol 6… the later information is much expanded… but the earlier reports seem to better reflect the “common knowledge”

Trips are planned, research continues… comments and thoughts are always welcome.

Randy

 

April 25, 2014

A long overdue update…

By: Randy Hees

Too often we wait for the next big thing to drive a blog post… Instead this post is an amalgamation of notes and such… Kind of a occasional status report…

First sad news… Recently Bill Barbour long time narrow gauge enthusiast died of a heart attack suffered while working on Nevada Central No 2, the Emma Nevada. He was best known for his association with the Grizzly Flats collection at Orange Empire. He had also authored articles for the Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge Society and was seen driving the first truck delivering the first ties to the then new SPCRR at Ardenwood in 1984 or so. Reports suggest he was inside the boiler of Emma when struck down… we can all hope for such a proper fate…

Regular users may have noticed that the forum has been slow… that the site can occasionally be slow… this in part a server issue, but is also an issue with the template which gave the forum its custom appearance… for now we are using default appearance while Andrew reworks the code… It’s not as pretty but it will work. Andrew continues to monitor it, adjust it, reset and repair it. Though on occasion Andrew can be tied up elsewhere and may not notice the slow downs immediately. If you have any issues, please use the Contact Us page to send us a bug report. Don’t underestimate Andrew’s efforts to make this site what it is… this is the big bad world of the internet and electronic communications….

Even with the work on maintaining the forum, there have been and will continue to be updates… particularly adding write ups on various narrow gauge railroads… In February we posted reports on the California & Nevada Railroad. by John Hall as well as two on Hawaii railroads, the Koolau Railway & Oahu Railway & Land Co. both by Jeff Livingston. I am working on write-ups for the Calico & Daggett, the Borate & Daggett and the American Borax Railroads as well as Old Mission Cement, Andrew is always working on Colusa & Lake and Nevada County Narrow gauge, along with any and all Prismordial railroads. Others are encouraged to submit articles on railroads to be added

Coming soon (“soon” being a poorly defined concept):

Sumpter Valley Railway (w/ Map)

Yellow Pine Mining (Nevada, w/Map)

Copper Creek Railroad (w/Map)

US Navy Pearl Harbor by Jeff L

U.S. Gypsum (w/Map)

Andrew would like to promise Eureka Mill… but history suggests that might be a mistake… but, someday when you least expect it, it too will appear…

Finally, we have two upcoming events… first, on May 3rd we will have a group visit to the North Western Pacific Historical Society archives and library in Petaluma.   There are currently three of us attending, but more would be welcome. Sonoma Valley seems to be one of the many targets mentioned. A week later, May 8-10 we will join the SPng Historical Societies annual conference in Independence California.

We expect to announce additional events… Railfair at Ardenwood over Labor day looks like a likely target…

Beyond that, we would welcome other’s contributions… The site is valuable because of the information it holds… You can contribute to the information…

Thanks for now… Randy