Saturday, May 27, 2017

I Can Drive a Locomotive

We got up and excitement was running high that Thursday, May 18.  We were off to the Western Pacific Railroad Museum to drive a big, yellow locomotive. 

A great logo for a great museum.
We were scheduled for 11:30 a.m., but we got there about 10, beside ourselves to get up into the cab of that engine.  We went inside and there were some of the workers there, volunteers mostly, that work on trains for their real jobs and then volunteer here during their off time.  We got all the waivers signed, and then our instructor and we headed out to the tracks.
Our locomotive, the Southern Pacific 2873 GP9, was built in 1956 and her operating weight is 247,600 pounds.  The Southern Pacific and Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe railroads attempted a merger in 1983, and while it was denied in 1986 and 1987, the railroads had been confident enough that the merger would happen and began repainting the locomotives into a new unified paint scheme, which our locomotive sports.  While the railroads began repainting back to the original paint schemes, some were sold with the merger paint scheme.  The SP 2873 was found in a scrap yard in Richmond, California, and came to this museum in 1992.
Driving a locomotive weighing thousands of pounds is pretty exciting stuff after riding an 8-900-pound motorcycle.

Our instructor, Charlie, getting us up-to-speed on running this big machine.

We patched out in horn-blowing.
I'm thinking now that the best view from a train is from inside the cab.

What's not to like about driving a locomotive ...
These are very dedicated people who work and volunteer and as we were quite curious about the problem that might have prevented us doing our drive, so we got the skinny on what turned out to be a derailment.

They were moving some cars and with all the rain they had had, the ground was soft, and when the cars went over the rails, the rails moved, with some of the wheels coming off the track and hitting the ground.  It was going to take at least a few weeks to get them all back on the tracks, and the locomotive rentals going again.

We were very fortunate that we were so persistent the previous day, so we got do to our train driving.  What a thrill … a big locomotive going down the track, tons of metal doing what you asked it to do.  But maybe the best part was blowing the horn … multiple times.  We were like kids in a candy store, but this was even better than candy.  Woo woo.  Here we come. 

After we finished our driving we spent a few hours wandering around, looking at all the different trains there … and it’s quite a collection.  We were fascinated with how many are here, and what great restoration has been done on some.
There were so many railcars and locomotives it was hard to see everything, but we made an attempt.
Always a personal favorite, a rotary snow blower.

This little engine was totally captivating.  She was built in 1939 by the Electro-Motive Corporation (a division of General Motors), and weighed in at 201,000 pounds with a a top speed of 45 mph.  The WP 501 was the Western Pacific's first diesel-electric locomotive.  It went west in 1939 to demonstrate the virtues of diesel power and was liked so much the WP purchased this one (with an original cost of $64,525) and two others, marking the beginning of the company's push to eliminate the steam locomotives.  Less than 14 years later the WP became the first large western railroad to be completely dieselized.  In 1965 she and one of her sisters were transferred to Sacramento Northern and renumbered.  She became a "hangar queen," a locomotive from which parts are stripped to keep others running, and many believed she would never run again.  In 1980 she and her sister were repaired, eventually came to the museum and were restored to their original
Western Pacific appearance.   

This little beauty was used as a Sacramento shop switcher.  And what I like about this museum is that so many of these machines are operational ... yep, she is.  Built in 1950, she was donated to the museum by the Sierra Pacific and is perhaps the only surviving Model TR6A. 
My favorite logo, with the Feather River Route.

Stef was up and down all over these locomotives.  The WP 805-A type was called a "covered wagon" and was purchased to power the Western Pacific's California Zephyr passenger train.  It hauled the train between Oakland, California, and Salt Lake City, Utah from 1950 to 1970.  It was then put into freight service. The Feather River Rail Society wanted this locomotive for its Western Pacific collection as it was the last WP California Zephyr locomotive in existence.  It was purchased in 1987 and cosmetically restored by 1995.  In 2000 money was raised for a complete mechanical restoration. 
Another snow mover, a wedge plow ... zebra stripes rock.  This plow was built in 1949, and looks like it needs a little work yet, but sure is a cool looking machine.
It was time for a short break so we went back into the diesel shop, that is a working railroad shop.  It was constructed in 1953 to repair and service the locomotives and cars for the Western Pacific Railroad.  When the museum folks arrives, every pane of glass was broken, the plumbing disconnected and half of the track broken or missing.  What a job to rebuild all of this and make it into a working shop with grease, locomotive parts and tools around.  It was fascinating.

One thing in the shop was this old railroad light ... that still works.
We wandered down the track until we found the derailed cars and wandered around them.  Some were leaning quite badly, so we decided if the ground gave way it might not be a good place for us to be.  It’s going to be quite a job to get them back up onto the tracks as we could see where the track had moved as the cars had gone over them.  You could just picture what had happened. 

The name apparently fits.  Some of the derailed cars in the background.

You can see where the track moved from and to.

On the ground.
We finally figured we'd seen everything and we headed back to the lodge for a bite to eat, and a dip in the pool and hot tub.  What a great way to end a day.

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