Updates on the restoration of Western Pacific 0-6-0 number 165 at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum at Portola, California.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Summer 2009 Workweek Report

Pre-dawn on Saturday morning, July 25th, 2009. I made my usual run across LA in an attempt to get to the Grapevine while traffic is light and the temps are still cool, in this case, in the low 70’s. Quite a few finished locomotive components were packed for the trip, and given the size of my garage shop; it was good to reclaim the space for new endeavors. After the requisite stop at Harris Ranch for a restroom break, the next stop was the 15” gauge Redwood Valley Railway in the Berkeley hills. The RVRy is where my little 0-4-0 is currently stored, and whenever I pass through town I stop to tinker a bit on it. Dana was to meet me here for lunch, but he was not up to it. Sadly, he passed away the next day. My eulogy, which most of you have already read, is here. I received word of his passing from Craig Ferguson Sunday night at my parent’s house. Shocked doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.

Monday morning, and the week is beginning with a pall of sadness at Dana’s passing. Not much a person can do at that point but press ahead. It doesn’t pay to dwell on such things; there will be plenty of time for mourning in the weeks to come. I met Roger Stabler in Woodland, and took a quick tour of his progress on the restoration of his private railcar, the Two Rivers. He has to renew a good deal of steel around the windows on the car, a tedious process to say the least. I admire him for his persistence. We stopped to pick up a new refrigerator for the shower car at the Stabler families appliance store (another generous donation by Roger and Gloria, let’s hope it stays CLEAN!) and we were off up the hill. Just about every road to Portola was being paved, poured or otherwise being ripped to shreds so it took a bit longer than normal, but we did make it eventually. Steve and Charlie had already moved the wood caboose out of the shop by the time we arrived. This allowed us to roll the engine back and forth a bit, and get the siderods off. Not a bad start to the work week. Charlie left for home soon after, and Roger and I dined at the Mexican place, plenty of cold beers to go around.


Needlescaling progress on the brake cylinders and frame.

Tuesday we got the jacks under the frame and lifted some of the weight off the spring rigging. The idea was to get one of the leaf spring packs out so Roger could take it down to his “spring guy” for estimates on rebuilding and/or replacement. The engine was in the air; unfortunately the driving boxes went right up with the frame. In order for the spring rigging to go loose the boxes would have to drop. Roger spent the next two days in the pit running down the wedges on the rear driverset so the boxes would come down. They were quite stubborn, but after lots of heat, porta-power applications, and Kroil, the wedges submitted. In the end the two rear springs were removed, or at least what was left of them. That evening a brisk thunderstorm blew through and cooled us off a bit, which was welcome. Later Matt Parker joined Roger and me on the deck for my beer brats. They started talking Union Pacific-speak, so I left them to it and retired into the air-conditioning and my comfy berth.

Nathan (call sign “Maverick”) made it up on Wednesday, he was a welcome sight. His compatriot, James, had to attend a wedding the next weekend so he was, regrettably, absent. We will make sure he takes double needle-scaling chores next time! Just kidding, Nathan and James have been making extra trips to the Museum to further the progress on the thickness mapping of the boiler shell. To date they have completed the first and second courses, as well as the steam dome. Good work, guys! Roger had to get back to his life and the railroad on Wednesday night, so he left us. Thanks to him for spending three full days, in which time a great deal of progress was made. The two Bills, Bill Jackson and Bill Clark, spent lots of time during the session needle-scaling paint off the driver centers and frame. Nathan joined in later and scaled the brake cylinders. Thanks to those guys the 165 is finally starting to look like an engine under restoration. Even better, more of that accursed blue trim paint from the fairgrounds has “left the building”. We look forward to seeing both Bills back again soon for more fun with air tools.

A rare view of the tender outdoors.

By Thursday the heat was on. Nathan took the opportunity to photo-document the tender while it was outside and in the sunlight. Thanks go to Charlie who had previously pumped out around 300 gallons of oil, which will help weight-wise when we go to lift the bunker off the frame. Mid-morning I decided to drive over to Quincy and have lunch with my old friend Rick Mugele, a BNSF engineer who was in town on his rest. It was nice to see him and catch up a bit. Rick and I worked together at the now defunct Westside and Cherry Valley Railway in Tuolumne, California back in the early ‘80s. It was a neat little narrow-gauge operation that ran on the mill grounds of the old Westside Lumber Company. Nowadays Tuolumne is an Indian Casino, and the railway and mill are but faded memories.

Almost immediately upon my arrival back from Quincy, an old friend from even further back in my life stopped by. Jim and his daughter Christine were out from Pennsylvania visiting family in the Bay Area. I gave him the tour, he joined up, and we went over to the Log Cabin for dinner. Jim is a long time member of the Reading Company Technical & Historical Society, which is the only other privately funded all-volunteer group in the US dedicated to preservation of a single class one railroad, in addition to the Feather River Rail Society. He marveled at our facility, especially the diesel house. Jim wished they had something similar. He was also interested to see our boxcab diesel on the flatcar, evidently the Reading Company had a similar locomotive from this builder on their roster at one point. Jim's remarks remind us that we are lucky to have what we have. All in all Thursday was not a big day as far as progress on the engine was concerned, but certainly good for my spirit to see so many old friends and recount so many good memories.


My friend Jim and I take a break.

The Wallace boys, David, along with his sons Patrick and William were up Friday to work on their Santa Fe caboose. I have mentioned in previous posts that David is, like me, a former Rio Vista steam department member, dating from the days when we were running the Western Pacific 94, a ten-wheeler, and restoring the Robert Dollar 3, a 2-6-2T that now resides at Niles Canyon. David got some floor torn up in his car, as well as the diesel tank removed. The strong fuel odor in the car is starting to dissipate; he is in the market for a coal-burning caboose stove if anyone has any leads. Charlie soldiered on and got some needle-scaling done in the interior of the boiler shell, as well as applying a new head to the model-T railcar engine, and of course taking up the slack running locomotive rentals. He was a busy guy, but still managed to smoke his delicious ribs on the deck, which we did scarf down during the Friday evening feast.

By Saturday we were all fairly crisp from the heat. I was down to the last of my clean laundry. David and the boys went over to the city pool for a dunk which was easier than talking the boys into bathing. Nathan continued the needle-scaling on the frame and brake cylinders. I gave my report at the board meeting which began with a moment of silence for our fallen comrade Dana. Nathan and I also did some layout on the piece of the front tube sheet that is in need of replacement. The lower portion below the superheater flues has numerous cracks and welds from over-rolling. In the short term, removing this piece will give us better access to the shell interior. Many measurements and photos were taken so it can be drawn up on CAD and “hopefully” be cut out on a waterjet cutter, saving untold hours with the magnetic drill press. Our traditional Saturday night dinner at the Pizza Factory was followed by cocktails in the Pullman car with David, Seth and Nathan. Thank you again to the management for the air conditioning!


Charlie during a quiet moment on the shower car deck.

Nathan finally got a picture of Roger Stabler from the front!

The cleanup Sunday morning went quickly thanks to our combined efforts, and I was out by 08:30. No major obstacles other than an overturned Honda pickup on I-5. I was home by dinner. Thanks again to everyone who made for a week of good progress and camaraderie! And thanks to Nathan for the photos used in this post. See you all in October! -JCA

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Saying Goodbye to Our Friend Dana.

WPRM Steam team member and good friend Dana Greeley passed away suddenly Sunday, July 26th, 2009. He was 49 years old. Cause is yet to be determined. His only surviving family is his brother, Doug. I spoke with Dana that Saturday before, and he was feeling poorly. I urged him to get to a clinic but he was determined to put his doctor visit off until Monday. I could be angry at him for being so stubborn, but that would be fruitless. Dana’s stubbornness was actually one of his more endearing qualities. His being argumentative and opinionated led me to more thoughtful decisions, or just shook me out of my supposed “Tree of Knowledge” at which point I would land on my butt, which would in turn cause me to rethink whatever I thought I was doing.

Dana and I met in the late 1970’s at the then California Railway Museum, now the Western Railway Museum near Rio Vista, California. I was involved in the steam program there, and he was primarily involved in maintaining the diesels. Of course in an environment like that, with so few volunteers, everyone did everything, so Dana and I would work together on track projects and the like. In those days Dana seemed a bit brusque. That might be attributed to the museum environment, youthful exuberance, or many other things; however later in life, removed from the Museum we became great pals. I would look forward to our driving trips over the mountain to Portola, or the gatherings in our friend’s backyards watching G-Scale trains going in circles.

Back in the day we really did think we were immortal. Shoving cuts of cars around with electric locomotives in the dark gave us a sense of empowerment, I suppose. Now we know this not to be true. Dana’s passing is a moment of great sadness for all of us, not only do we mourn this great guy, but also the passing of our youth.

David Wallace related the following: “Dana left this world within 20 feet of where he entered it....he was the only person I met who was born in his parent’s living room!”

No doubt his parents were there to welcome him back home. Goodbye old friend. - JCA