Found in the forest

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Greg_Lewis
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Found in the forest

Postby Greg_Lewis » Mon Jun 19, 2017 12:43 pm

I was hiking up in the central Sierra Nevada above Fresno near Big Creek when we came upon this relic. I thought I'd throw it out there for those of you who like this kind of stuff. This is a special car set up for use on an incline that was built for the construction of Huntington Lake dam and related power generating installations. The San Joaquin and Eastern railroad ran up to a point where an incline with up to an 80 percent grade had been built to haul gear up to higher elevations. You can see the bulkhead on one end which kept the gear from sliding off the car. At the top of the incline was a winch that pulled the car up via an attached cable.

We found this car at the foot of a smaller incline, the remains of which can still be seen but are out of frame to the right. At the top of the main incline above the Big Creek power house there is another, smaller car along with the hoist house. The rail is still in place but doesn't look usable.

At the time this was the largest hydroelectric project in the world. Hank Johnston wrote a book, The Railroad that Lighted Southern California, which I recommend, that details this amazing effort, started in 1912, that continues to supply electric power to Southern California.

IMG_1508pe.2.jpg
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Glenn Brooks
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby Glenn Brooks » Mon Jun 19, 2017 1:05 pm

Remarkably well preserved! Looks like tiny rail - maybe 4 or 8pound rail?? Did you measure the gauge of the track by chance?

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Craig
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby Craig » Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:36 pm

I was just reading about the RR yesterday. It was known as the crookest RR in the world with 1055 curves in 55 miles and it had 255 steep grades up to 5.3%.

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Greg_Lewis
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby Greg_Lewis » Mon Jun 19, 2017 5:30 pm

Glenn: Didn't check gauge but it looked like standard. The rail on the inclines looked to be something more than 8 lb. Probably some used rail from something else. There were other similar inclines in the Sierra, one up the Merced River canyon, which is one route into Yosemite, that was used for logging.

Hi Craig. It would be interesting to compare the data between this and the other railroads that make "crookedest" claims. (In terms of track engineering, not business practices!) There are several places where the r.o.w is still visible and/or hikable, and parts of it are now a dirt road above Shaver Lake. Too bad it isn't still running. What a great ride it would be. I've heard there is a caboose on private propeerty somewhere up around Auberry Road.
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warmstrong1955
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby warmstrong1955 » Mon Jun 19, 2017 5:59 pm

Cool find Greg!

These kinds of cars were common in the old mines in rough country such as Colorado & Nevada. I've seen them & the remains of many.
A mine where I worked in the 90's had several, 24 gage, that we gathered up from the old workings. It had shut down in the late 30's. Both flats and ore cars were still about, that were used to go from 900 FASL to 2050 FASL. Supplies up and ore down. The tugger was still there too. We had a clean up campaign, and with a chopper & slings & some super sacks, moved all the old stuff down to the camp. Plan was to save most of it for a museum.
It was steep enough, where going down was possible, though had to be done carefully. We put in ropes to climb your way up if need be. Helped with the repel down too. We usually got up there, and then back by chopper, but often slid our way back down at the end of the day. Steep....

So wish I had pictures.... :(

Nice! Thanks!
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Greg_Lewis
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby Greg_Lewis » Wed Jun 21, 2017 12:25 pm

Well, since it was 107 yesterday and will hit that today, I'm hiding inside, wasting time on the net looking for the crookedest railroad in the world. The definitive answer is:

It depends on where you live.

If you live in the San Joaquin Valley of California, it's the San Joaquin and Eastern.
If you live in Marin county north of San Francisco, it's the Mt. Tamalpais and Muir Woods.
If you live in the Black Hills of South Dakota, it's the Rapid City, Black Hills & Western.
If you live in Watson, Utah, it's the Uintah Railway.
If you live in Virginia City, Nevada, it's the Virginia & Truckee.

There are certainly more. I seem to recall one in India and one somewhere in South America.
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Loco112
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby Loco112 » Wed Jun 21, 2017 7:34 pm

So, did we reach a consensus on: is a known portion of that 55 miles of rail still there? What was its weight?
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Greg_Lewis
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby Greg_Lewis » Wed Jun 21, 2017 9:11 pm

Loco112 wrote:So, did we reach a consensus on: is a known portion of that 55 miles of rail still there? What was its weight?



Well we're bouncing back and forth between two different things. One, the San Joaquin and Eastern railroad, and two, the inclines that used RR rail and cars to hoist gear up some extremely steep hills. The rail is still in place on the main incline above the Big Creek powerhouse, as is its car and hoisting cable. I didn't have a camera the day I was up at the top of the main incline, and don't remember what the rail looked like. The car in the photo is at a secondary incline that is at a lower elevation up behind Shaver Lake. The remains of another very short incline can be seen at the powerhouse down in the San Joaqin River Gorge below Squaw Leap.

I have hiked parts of the r.o.w. for the SJ&E and have not seen any rail or ties or even remains of small runoff culverts. One photo cutline in Johnston's book refers to 60lb. rail. Johnston writes that the complete RR was sold to a scrapper for $50,000 in 1933 and, "Some of the more obsolete rolling stock was simply burned in a huge bonfire at Auberry." The ties were sold to farmers for fence posts.

The SJ&E had 7 Shays, 6 Climaxes, 5 rod engines, and 13 construction locomotives (although not all at the same time), a White motorbus, a Model T rail car, one other rail car, and a rotary snow plow, plus assorted passenger and freight cars.

Copies of Johnston's book show up on Ebay for between $10 and $20, and I highly recommend it. This was a most unusual railroad, built in 157 days through some challenging construction obstacles, solely for the construction of the Big Creek hydro project.
Greg Lewis, Prop.
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gwerhart0800
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby gwerhart0800 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 12:23 pm

Western Wheeled Scraper used to make side dump cars on a frame like that. They also offered a flat car version.
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Glenn Brooks
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby Glenn Brooks » Wed Jul 26, 2017 10:47 am

Always hard to determine scale from pictures? Looking at the picture of the car again, the rail might be 12# - maybe 16#. But more likely 12# rail. 12 # rail is 2" tall, with a 2" foot - similar to the thickness of the deck planking in the photo -assuming the decking is two courses of 1" by material.

12# rail was commonly used for mining and logging operations. Anything bigger would be very difficult to man handle and install up the steep slopes Greg encountered in his hike.

Go back out their Greg and sort this out!

Glenn
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Harlock
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Re: Found in the forest

Postby Harlock » Thu Jul 27, 2017 10:57 pm

gwerhart0800 wrote:Western Wheeled Scraper used to make side dump cars on a frame like that. They also offered a flat car version.


I was gonna say, looks like a western wheel dump car chassis. :D They have been rebuilt into many things by railroads that bought them. Nice find.
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