The 2007 Round-Up
And that success was shared by many; from those who made it the most successful fundraiser to date for the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum to those who broke their backs for weeks prior (quite literally, in the case of our tireless CMO) to pull it off. By the latter, I speak not only of our crew, but another certain band of amiable steam heads who, along with a certain locomotive in their care, were our “special guests” for the weekend.
Okay, enough with the crypticism, but I’m proud to say all were successful in closely guarding the secret until Saturday morning, providing a nice surprise for our guests! Sean Bautista and crew from Hillcrest Shops crew had recently restored the 1901 Porter 0-4-0 “Marie E.,” owned by Disney animator Ollie Johnston, for Disney/Pixar’s John Lasseter. Built for the Wilkeson Coal & Coke Company of Puyallup, Washington, the former 0-4-0T had been lovingly restored by Johnston – one of the “Nine Old Men” of Disney animation – and run between he and fellow animator Frank Thomas’ Julian, CA, vacation homes. With only a few hundred feet of 3′ track on their Reedley property, the Hillcrest gang, who had just completed a second round of work on the Marie Estelle, sought a place to stretch the locomotives’ legs before their client. P.C.R.R. President Rob Rossi has been open to the idea of visiting equipment at the ranch, and with the added attraction of an authentic Disney engine at the SLORRM fundraiser weekend, the idea, pending the crossing of t’s and the dotting of i’s, was a go – err, highball!
Sporting a fresh coat of Imron paint, the diminutive peanut roaster and it’s two car train – a four-wheel flat and “bobber” caboose – arrived around 1PM Wednesday, when KSBY-TV (our local NBC affiliate) was also present to shoot a spot for the local news. While the Marie E. saw occasional operation at Reedley and, in 2005, became the first visiting locomotive to run at Disneyland, Sean and company worked relentlessly over the preceding months to complete a second round of work to the trainset in time for the event. The most notable improvements were the rebuild of the “bobber”-style caboose, a formerly four-wheel crummy which now sits atop a pair of new arch Hillcrest-manufactured arch bar trucks, and setting up the consist with an automatic air brake system. This included the locating, rebuilding and placement of a Westinghouse 9-1/2″ single air pump and the plumbing of the entire train, which previously operated only with hand brakes. Combined with link and pin couplers, it was very true to the practice of the era it represents! Our thanks to the entire Hillcrest crew – Sean, Dave, Dave, Curtis, John, Kell, K.J., Richard, Bill, Melissa, Kris, Raeanne, and Belle (hopefully I didn’t miss anyone!) – and, last but not least, John Lasseter, without whom little Marie might still been sitting in Julian; bored and missing out on all the fun! To quote Operations Manager Jim McEntire, “You guys are truly professionals and deserve to be commended!”
Jim also did a professional job taking over rulebook instruction and testing from Bill Farquhar, whose job on the standard gauge kept him in parts southeast for this year’s event. Thumper sends her regards.
Speaking of the devil, another major accomplishment which took place prior to event were noteworthy improvements made to the No. 3; our resident shop queen (or, as we don’t have a shop, simply “boat anchor.”) Ol’ “Thumper” fired notoriously hard and couldn’t draft to save her life – or rather that of her distraught fireman! But on Thursday, we were graced by the presence of our good friend Tom Shreve – senior engineer of 35 years at Roaring Camp – who wasted no time jumping right into the project of making whatever improvements he could before the event. After opening up the front end, Tom and Phil, who had been devising the best courses of action but hadn’t previously the time to undertake them, came up with an idea. The exhaust nozzle was too low, and the petticoat as it was was too high; plus, rather than the usual arrangement of two branch pipes feeding to each cylinder, a single dry pipe fed into the saddle, inconveniently butting up against the petticoat with the location of a union limiting where the petticoat could be placed.
Phil and Tom decided to try a Shay-style double petticoat and, as it lacked one, fabricate a baffle for the firedoor. With the improvements completed in just a few hours and being shoved into the hole to allow trains 1 and 2 to start making their rounds, we lit ‘er off that afternoon with plans to try her with a four-car freight. She still fires hard, but can keep and even make steam – on her own draft – coming up the 3%. An 150% improvement and a milestone in making No. 3 a reliable hoss for our railroad. All she needed was a good beating by an “Iron Bar!”
With all crews qualified, a round of training runs commenced on Friday, though was cut short at 3:55PM upon the appearance of a large boom four carlengths up from the spot! The crane was called in to unload a historic marquee, which rolled in moments later, which Rob Rossi salvaged from a Santa Barbara theater razed that morning. Rob hopes it will someday grade the façade of a new theater he plans to construct in the area, but for now it will remain stored at the Ranch.
The hostlers got to work at 6:15 Saturday morning, encouraging our CMO to sleep in ’till 8 and give his back a rest. While waiting to get off the peg, Jeff Badger wasted no time executing his plan to make the Harpur into a mean, lean backhead cooking machine! Our vegan “Iron Horse Chef” set out a spread of soy sausage and hash browns for his breakfast, latter tossing some homemade tamales, Corralitos sausage, and the most infamous P.C.R.R. backhead cuisine – White Castle sliders – onto “The Backhead Grill.” (Jeff’s wife still doesn’t know how her baking pan got scorched, nor is Patti aware where that new roll of aluminum foil went!)
Jeff Badger, The Iron Horse Chef, cooking breakfast on Harpur’s backhead (…and below, some payback for a certain song he wrote regarding the last P.C.R.R. backhead cookout!)
Runs on Sat. started around 10AM, with Jarret and Jeff on No. 1, Jim and Karl on No. 2, and the Hillcrest guys and John Lasseter each taking turns on the Marie Estelle. Phil and I were
assigned to keep No. 3 on standby with plans to bring out a photo freight later in the day. By noontime, the three locomotives which had taken water from the new system developed foaming issues, though nothing a little castor oil couldn’t solve! (The “castor oil cure” is an old SP remedy for foaming which works in the same manner as a chef pouring olive oil into a pot of pasta. Manure also works, and there is certainly no shortage of that at the Ranch!)
Unfortunately, on Saturday afternoon, Jeff also had to take the No. 1 out of service after discovering about 3/8″ lateral motion on one of the driving boxes and finding the shim which was holding the box in place somewhere along the ROW.
No. 2 took on the extra Retlaw cars for the last one or two runs of the day and, on Sunday, it looked like good ol’ No. 3 would bail us out once again. Meanwhile, the No. 2 went out for some night runs until almost 10:30 Saturday night.
On Sunday morning, I fetched Jeff’s spatula and hanger from the cold No. 1 and transferred it to the new M.L.B.C.M – No. 3. The baffle-type firedoor offered more cooking surface, and the warming tray was a perfect fit for Mrs. Badger’s cake pan! (I can attest it does a fine job at searing breakfast burritos, adding a hint of backhead flavor!)
Nos. 2 and 3 held down passenger runs throughout the day with our new operating routine – one-way trips to ensure everyone gets a ride – which resulted from the previous day’s learning experience. Getting the 3 out of the hole gave her the chance to really strut her much improved stuff. I daresay that, now that she’s not only able to keep steam but also make it, she’s almost fun to fire. A 250% improvement from the ugly duckling which, when it arrived, had plastic tubing plumbed to the mechanical lubricator and, as Phil says, could barely pull its own shadow!
Dave Kope, Melissa Bautista and John Bishop take
John Lasseter’s Fairmont S-2 for a spin. This speeder
was once owned by Walt Disney. (Belle Kope)
We made our last public run around 4PM Sunday, but the fun wasn’t over yet. After waiting all weekend, it was finally time for the improved No. 3 to make another run with the photo freight (the first was done Fri.) And with all the switching going on, Phil and Jeff came up with the idea to try one of the Retlaw coaches (as Phil says, “a match made in heaven”) – coincidentally, the one which just returned from Reedley – for a run around the Loop. John Lasseter did the honors on the Marie E. while Rob Rossi jockeyed the throttle on Vulcan No. 2, following closely behind. This was the first time Rob has run one of his engines.
After making some Disney history on the Santa Margarita Ranch, our red-letter weekend, featuring four narrow-gauge steam locomotives hot and running – not to mention two steam tractors, a Donkey, and an 1-1/2″ live steamer – finally came to a close. On Monday came the task of re-loading the Marie E. for its trip back to Reedley, which will be followed shortly by another of the Retlaw coaches.
To sum it all up, a grand time was had by all, and we look forward to another successful “Round Up” in ’08! Thanks to all who helped make it possible.
Marie E. and Crew: (left to right) Kell Schmidt, Sean Bautista,
John Lasseter and Dave Derfelt. (Dave Kope)
needing his own rebuilding! (Dave Kope)
John Lasseter, Rob Rossi, and Sean Bautista. (Dave Kope)