A Visit to Christmas Past
It’s been a busy and successful week at the Santa Margarita Ranch. This weekend saw the first and potentially annual “Visit to Christmas Past,” a fundraiser for a local food bank which was centered around a craft show/holiday boutique held in the Asistencia. Perhaps the best attended public event in recent ranch history, it was also the P.C.R.R’s second operation for the general public (the first being the 2005 pumpkin trains). The general reception and turnout suggested a positive outlook for the railroad’s potential viability as a commercial tourist operation.
The 2nd doubleheader
Some of the crowds that showed up to ride
Preparations — and contingency plans — began well in advance. With a Christmas-y red, high-drivered American on the roster, the office had requested Harpur #1, if possible, be used for the event. Unfortunately, years of running circles in an amusement park have taken its toll on this (actually not-so-) old hoss’s running gear, and it was decided to take her out of service last May after some issues developed with the no. 2 fireman’s side driving box. For those who attended this year’s Round Up, this is why, this is why the locomotive was not in service during the second day of the event. Despite valiant efforts to repair it, the “ambulatory surgery” by CMO Reader and Asst. CMO Badger was unsuccessful, and the locomotive was pulled back out of service after double-headed test runs on Friday. This locomotive is in line for a complete running gear overhaul before returning to regular service, which given the current resources at the ranch cannot be accomplished at this time.
Public runs commenced in the absence of the CMO on an blustery, overcast Saturday morning, with Jim and Karl on the engine, Jeff and Ed on mechanical, Karell stoking the stove, and Paul, Patti, Brad, and Dennis on the train. The electrical work was completed on #3, which made for a neat sight as the “FrankenPorter” (credit goes to Karl on that one!), headlight blaring through the fog, charged and echoed up the grade. Special guests in the cab included Rob Himoto, President of the Santa Maria Valley Railroad, and our old friend Art Laidlaw, who now resides in the Las Vegas area and was escaped for the weekend. Other than some brief down time to tend to deal with some minor mechanical issues, the train ran continuously all day.
The main event in the Asistencia
The Badger-Kelley hostling team returned around 7AM on a beautiful Sunday morning in anticipation of an even better turnout. After lighting off, these Iron Horse Chefs® made no haste in cooking up a piping hot oil pan-fried, peephole-roasted backhead breakfast, complete with trycock coffee (hey, it never killed anybody!) The cab was stocked with salt, pepper and A1 for lunchtime, along with some Toll House cookie dough commandeered from Karell’s train crew commissary table. Cab riders seemed to get an exceptional kick out of seeing and smelling the backhead smorgasboard. A phenomenal attendance made for 20 runs, with our same trusty train crew herding passengers while Jeff, Ed, Jim, Karl and Phil cycled through on the locomotive.
On the last public run of the day, we paced an experimental plane (the pilot of which having surely waited for us, or just really good timing!) as it took off from “Santa Margarita International.” Student engineer Dennis “Cookie Conductor” Thurman then took to the throttle for a training run and some switching in the yard, then spotted the train at the granary for the evening.
In all, a great event that will hopefully be even better next year!