Buster and Hobo- the Sierra Railway Dogs

One of the most well known celebrities of the late 19th century was a little dog known as Owney the Mail Dog. For nine years and 140,000 miles, Owney travelled the country by rail, always riding in the mail car and cared for by the mail clerks. His fame grew as he traveled across the country and later around the world. Owney is one of many dogs that have taken to rail travel over the years. In Italy, Lampo, rode the trains and his story was told in the book, “Lampo the Traveling Dog,” by Elvio Barlettani. Pepe Marvel, a young dog who regularly rode the   commuter train in Valparaiso, Chile, became an instant celebrity when pictures of him sleeping on a rail car were circulated on the internet.   Pepe was adept at avoiding the transit security and sneaking on board the trains. His traveling days ended when he was finally apprehended and later adopted by a Buenos Aires family.

Buster the Sierra Railway Dog- artist's rendition by Karen Kling

Buster the Sierra Railway Dog- artist’s rendition by Karen Kling

Tuolumne County and the Sierra Railway were not without their own  canine celebrities. Old Bob was a well-known local dog who regularly rode the stage coaches that traveled between Sonora and Milton.  Besides being a friend and companion to the stage-drivers, he was also an eyewitness to several hold-ups. When the coaches were replaced by the railroad, Old Bob was lonely and despondent. One day, he hopped aboard a train to Stockton for a little change of scenery. Not being a city dog, Bob quickly became disenchanted with what Stockton had to offer. Then he spied a hack driven by Frank Robinson and jumped aboard and made himself comfortable under the front seat. From that day on, he was cared for by the hackmen of the city.

Hobo, arrived in Jamestown about 1898 with Station Agent F.T. Boyd.  Hobo found railroading to his liking and made the train station his home base. He loved everyone, but was particularly fond of the rail workers. Hobo was a wanderer and never one to stay in a place for too long. When he grew bored with Jamestown, he hopped aboard a train and rode up the rails to make new friends and see new sights, returning to Jamestown when the mood struck. Hobo didn’t care much for warm temperatures and would make his way to Sugar Pine or Strawberry each year to spend the summer months, returning each fall to Jamestown. Hobo was a village dog and he was fed and cared for by the many members of the community who loved and admired him.

Bummer, was a very intelligent shepherd dog who lived above Sonora with rancher Joseph Barron. Besides his ranch hand duties, Bummer took it upon himself to fetch the daily paper. Rain or shine, Bummer made his way to the Black Oak Station each night and awaited the arrival of the mail train. After receiving the paper from the express messenger, he would hurry home to his master.

Bummer’s career almost ended when he chased a squirrel across the train tracks and derailed a small motor rail car. Badly injured, he crawled home and was nursed back to heath by Barron.

When you are riding the train at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park, don’t forget to bring your own canine companion, and remember the history of the Sierra Railway dogs who came before.

 

 

 

Removal of Firebox Pieces for Replacement

The goal of this project is to replace corroded staybolts, and thinned sections of the firebox.  While we have the locomotive disassembled, we are also completing the 1472 day inspection.  It is helpful to understand the anatomy of the boiler in order to follow along.

The firebox is a compartment, within the boiler, where combustion occurs.  It is surrounded by sheets of steel on five sides.  It is through these sheets of steel, that heat is transferred to the water on the other side.  For heat to transfer efficiently, the sheets need to be relatively thin (about 3/8″).  The firebox is subject to up to 13 tons of pressure per square foot.  To prevent collapse from dramatic changes in pressure, the firebox is tied to the outer portion of the boiler (wrapper sheet) by hundreds of bolts which span the distance between the wrapper and the side sheets.  In oil burning locomotives, like the No. 28, the bottom and sides of the firebox are lined with firebricks.

Side view diagram of locomotive boiler showing the location of the firebox, and rear view of firebox.  J.F.Gairns, illustrator

Side view diagram of locomotive boiler showing the location of the firebox in relation to the boiler, and rear view of firebox. J.F.Gairns, illustrator.  (This diagram does not specifically represent the No. 28, so there are some minor differences)

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In his book, A.F. Huston makes the argument in favor of a new kind of boiler, due to the inherent flaws of the radial stay boiler.  The new design never took off, but these photos demonstrate how common these issues are in steam boilers, and underline the challenge of continuous operation of historic boilers today.

x Over time, changes in pressure, as well as exposure to water, condensation, and scale, corrosive forces will prevail.  When the annual inspection was conducted on the boiler in 2010,

Top (water side) of the No. 28 boiler. Over time, the effects of stress corrosion can be seen. When the annual inspection was conducted  in 2009, pitting like this  on the water side of the crown sheet was observed.

 

Butt welded patches are a common repair practice.  This is an example of a previous repair on the No. 28.

Butt welded patches are a common repair practice. This is an example of a previous repair on the No. 28

Staybolts, removed by acetylene torch.  Some removed due to corrosion, others because they were attached to firebox portions that were removed.  In all, approximately 500 staybolts were removed, and will be replaced with new material.

Staybolts, removed by acetylene torch. Some removed due to corrosion, others because they were attached to firebox portions that were removed. In all, approximately 500 staybolts were removed, and will be replaced with new material.

crown sheet being removed

Removing pieces of the crown sheet that have but cut with a torch.

The piece was lowered through the firebox and removed from underneath.

The piece was lowered through the firebox and removed from underneath. lifting eyes welded to crow sheet, handy electric chain hoist– 200 lbs.

The tube sheet bottom being removed

Grinding where tube sheet bottom was removed, in preparation for application of the patch .

To repair the No. 28, it is necessary to remove patches of steel under the tube sheet, under the firebox door, and the crown sheet, including the knuckle where the sides and crown meet, over the door.  On this boiler the rear corners have been repaired twice before, the front once, as the material has been consumed by use.

Next Step:  is to fabricate the patches, and weld them into place.

Previous Sierra No. 28 Update: Removal of corroded staybolts; firebox & tube sheet inspection.

Working on the Railroad- Celebration of Workers- Sept 20th

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park (SHP) is planning a festive and fun community celebration on Saturday, September 20, 2014, to recognize and honor the hundreds of current and former Sierra Railway, Sierra Railroad and Railtown 1897 SHP workers, their descendants and family members. The celebration will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will include special photographs, temporary exhibits, live music by the Black Irish Band, and more.

The Black Irish Band will perform from 11-2, under the Tulip Tree

As part of the Celebration, the Black Irish Band will perform from 11-2, under the Tulip Tree

Designed to celebrate all the workers who built, maintained and operated the railroad, the special event will include a behind-the-scenes tour of the Historic Shops, Roundhouse, Warehouse and other areas with a focus on sharing information and interpretation about the workers who practiced their trades, their job duties and who they were as individuals and community members.  The special event will also include a “Memory Wall” in the Carriage Room where Park visitors will be invited to post stories and photographs of past railroad workers that will become part of the permanent Park collection.

Tickets to “Working on the Railroad: A Celebration of Sierra Railway Workers” event are free with regular Park admission:  $5 for adults; $3 for youths ages 6-17; and free for children ages 5 and under.  In addition, steam train rides behind the “Movie Star Locomotive” Sierra No. 3 are available hourly that day from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and cost $15 for adults; $8 for youths ages 6-17; and are free for children ages 5 and under (train ride tickets include Park admission).

For more information about the “Working on the Railroad” reunion event or to share family stories or photos, please contact Karen Kling at 209-984-8703 or karen.kling@parks.ca.gov.  For more information about Railtown 1897 SHP in general, please call 209-984-3953 or visit www.railtown1897.org.

The Polar Express Train Ride is Coming to Railtown!

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THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is coming to Railtown 1897 State Historic Park! The popular train ride, based on the book and movie – The Polar Express – has made its way to Tuolumne County. Now children of all ages will be able to relive the magical journey of THE POLAR EXPRESS on an hour-long train ride to the North Pole. Guests enjoy hot chocolate and cookies as they ride along with some of the story’s characters such as the Conductor and Hobo. Upon arriving at the “North Pole”, the jolly old elf, Santa himself, will come on board to give each passenger a silver sleigh bell, the “first gift of Christmas”.

Traditionally, tickets for this exciting family holiday event sell out very quickly. Members of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park will have the opportunity to purchase a limited number of tickets in advance of the general public. There are several categories of membership to suit every household – from $35 – $250, as well as business memberships. New members must join by September 5 to participate, and current members must be active through October 31, 2014 in order to participate in the Member Advance Ticket Sales. Trains departing Railtown 1897 are scheduled for 4:00 pm, 6:00 pm and 8:00 pm; Fridays through Sundays December 5-7; 12-14; 19-21. (Railtown 1897 State Historic Park will not be offering train rides on Thanksgiving weekend, 2014, as Polar Express is replacing those train rides).

Tickets are: Coach – $40/person; First Class – $55/person. Children under 2 years of age are free and must be seated on an adult’s lap during the ride. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on October 9, 2014 and will be available for purchase online only at http://www.railtown1897.org. Prior to the general public sales date members of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park will be eligible to participate in Member Advance Ticket Sales. For more information about tickets or membership, please visit www.railtown1897.org.

THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride is a fundraiser for the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, which supports Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.

Sometimes it’s the Little Things

The accessibility of the shop operation is a unique feature of Railtown 1897 State Historic Park.  Most of the maintenance, repair, and train operations are on full view in the roundhouse.  When a malfunction occurs, it can be an opportunity to demonstrate these activities.  Working with historic equipment gives us lots of opportunities to demonstrate!  Today, for example, it was a malfunctioning gauge that was giving us some grief.  During hostling, the crew noticed that the gauge was reading 25 lbs, even when the air reservoirs were empty.  Some troubleshooting led to the diagnosis of a misbehaving gauge.

While most of the crew transitioned to a back-up diesel to keep the trains on schedule, David Ethier and Dave Tadlock worked to coordinate the repair.  All of this work was done on public display, with a stream of visitors touring the roundhouse and the cab of the locomotive.

Step 1: Remove the Air Brake Gauge from the cab (hot!)

Step 1: Remove the Air Brake Gauge from the cab (hot!)

Step 2: recalibrate the gauge on the dead weight tester

Step 2: recalibrate the gauge on the dead weight tester

Duplex air brake gauge- indicates two separate functions.  The red hand indicates main reservoir pressure and the black hand indicates equalizing reservoir pressure.

Duplex air brake gauge- indicates two separate functions. The red hand indicates main reservoir pressure and the black hand indicates equalizing reservoir pressure. The sticker denotes the date of calibration.

Step 3: Reinstall the gauge and give it a whirl!

Step 3: Reinstall the gauge and give it a whirl!

Final Step: Switch crews between locomotives

Final Step: Switch crews between locomotives

And the trains go on.

And the trains go on.

So, sometimes it’s the little things, but they provide an opportunity to share some of the details of running an historic railroad.  And if you were a visitor today, you were able to enjoy seeing two different locomotives in action, maintenance activities in the roundhouse, and tours of the cab of a steam locomotive while the repairs were occurring, all without missing a scheduled train.  Almost makes you hope we’ll break something when you visit, doesn’t it?

 

 

For a complete discussion of how Westinghouse air brakes work we suggest this article.

‘Crew for a Day’ Program at Railtown 1897 State Historic Park

Taking on water at the historic water tank

Taking on water at the historic water tank

Railtown 1897 State Historic Park is proud to offer a special “Crew for a Day” program perfect for those interested in a unique, hands-on experience.  The exciting new offering helps to raise much-needed funds for the Park, and makes a memorable gift.

As honorary Railtown 1897 SHP crew members, “Crew for a Day” participants learn about historic steam engines in an up-close and personal style, engage in hands-on locomotive start-up procedures — that include lighting the locomotive with a burning rag, lubricating, fueling, and taking on water at the historic water tank — and have the opportunity to watch the operation of the historic Sierra No. 3 steam locomotive from the engine cab.  The fun-filled experience ends with participants joining the fire crew and tailing the steam engine in a vintage track car.  All “Crew for a Day” participants receive a special “Crew for a Day” certificate and have their photograph taken with the members of the Railtown 1897 SHP crew.

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The day-long VIP program is available to adults ages 18 and older and can accommodate up to two guests at one time. The cost to participate in the unique “Crew for a Day” program at Railtown 1897 SHP costs $500 for one person or $750 for two individuals.

More information about the new “Crew for a Day” program offered by Railtown 1897 SHP is available at www.railtown1897.org/crew-for-a-day or by calling 209-984-8703.

End your shift with a run with the fire patrol in one of our historic 'speeder' cars.

End your shift with a run with the fire patrol in one of our historic ‘speeder’ cars.

Just an Average Thursday

The SIerra No. 3 being prepared for 4th of July weekend

The Sierra No. 3 being prepared for 4th of July weekend

The Sierra Railroad passing through on the main line, hauling empty lumber cars to the mill in Standard.

The Sierra Railroad passing through on the main line, hauling empty lumber cars to the mill in Standard.

 

Park volunteers making lunch for other volunteers.

Park volunteers making lunch for other volunteers.

Railroad Restoration Lead Worker George and Senior Maintenance Aide Phil getting some office work done

Railroad Restoration Lead Worker George and Senior Maintenance Aide Phil getting some office work done

Maintenance Aide Ray murdering weeds in the pond

Maintenance Aide Ray murdering weeds in the pond

Volunteer Laverne collecting sign in sheets to record volunteer hours

Volunteer Laverne collecting sign in sheets to record volunteer hours

Volunteer David working on valve repairs for the No. 3

Volunteer David working on valve repairs for the No. 3

Volunteer Tim leading a tour of the historic machine shop for park visitors.

Volunteer Tim leading a tour of the historic machine shop for park visitors.

Volunteer Coordinator Dave!  Working on the volunteer schedule.

Volunteer Coordinator Dave! Doing what he does best.

 

Park Maintenance Aide Scott working on boiler repairs on the No. 28.

Park Maintenance Aide Scott working on boiler repairs on the No. 28.

 

Volunteer Leroy working on repairs to the first-class car ceiling.

Volunteer Leroy working on repairs to the first-class car ceiling.

 

 

Volunteers Bill & Bob decorating for the 4th.

Volunteers Bill & Bob decorating for the 4th.

Volunteer Al cleaning out the cars for the weekend

Volunteer Al cleaning out the cars for the weekend

Volunteer Jeannie- car cleaning!  One of the most important (and under-recognized) jobs at the park.

Volunteer Jeannie- car cleaning! One of the most important (and under-recognized) jobs at the park.

Volunteer Hal and Park Maintenance Worker Rob- working on a broken water pipe.

Volunteer Hal and Park Maintenance Worker Rob- working on a broken water pipe.

Just another Thursday at Railtown.