The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading
  NUMBER 114

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© September 02, 2008   

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Steam Locomotives of
Roaring Camp & Big Trees RC & BT
( part 2: "Disaster Strikes" )
 


Dixiana crossing Indian Creek trestle

 

Written by Jim Kliment
 

continued from part 1

Disaster Strikes

Disaster hit Roaring Camp a week before the 4th of July “ Bicentennial” in 1976. That year both Dixanna and Tuolumne were having mechanical problems. Kahauku was pressed into service to make the regular runs to “Bear Mountain”. Due to the heavy weight, Roaring Camp’s diesel switcher, ex- Denver & Rio Grande Western Davenport #50 was assigned helper duty. (Several companies have made scale models of the D&RGW Davenport #50). Late that fateful afternoon, a special run with just the Kahuku and car 106 was scheduled. When starting their return down the mountain, the Felton Depot radioed, “why is the engine smoking so much”? An arsonist had set fire to the wooden corkscrew trestles! The train was trapped at the top of the mountain and the passengers had to walk back to the station. The Kahuku had to be trucked out a week after the fire.

Faced with the lost of revenue and the great expense and time to re-build the trestles, the decision was made, “to do what a logging company would do”. Work immediately commenced to build a “switchback”, which took three months to complete. One of the challenges was the grade required to reach the top. The switchback has an estimated 9 1/2% grade, the steepest passenger grade in North America! Several attempts were needed to just get the first locomotive to the top, but when they did reach the top, the engineer said “hallelujah”. The top of the switchback is now known as “Hallelujah Junction”!

The following year 1977, Norman was able to accomplish another goal. He was able to purchase a Climax locomotive from the Carroll Park and Western Railroad rounding out his collection of the geared locomotives “Big Three”. This locomotive was the last Climax out shopped in 1928 and operated originally for the Elk River Coal and Lumber Company in Swandale, West Virginia. As purchased, the locomotive has 48”gauge trucks and was not usable on the narrow gauge tracks. The locomotive was assigned the number 5 and named the “Bloomburg”, but had to be parked behind the engine house.


"Bloomburg" #5 It’s new boiler is close by.

The Kahuku and the diesel Davenport would continue working as a team “as needed”. But in 1977 the Davenport broke down and it was replaced by a 12 ton Plymouth. The following year Norman found a second plantation engine that he “leased” from a board member. This locomotive was also a Baldwin, but was built in 1897 and had a 0-6-2T configuration. “Waipahu” was also from Oahu, Hawaii and was a more appropriate helper for the Kahuku. Waipahu was numbered 4 of the fleet and was occasionally seen “double heading” up the mountain with Kahuku and the Plymouth diesel pushing from behind. All three locomotives could only get four cars to the top of Bear Mountain!

In 1985 Norman Clark achieved a long sought after goal. He was able to purchase the nine miles of Southern Pacific track from Felton to Santa Cruz. The standard gauge line would become a separate company, the “Santa Cruz Big Trees and Pacific Railway”. The day before the 110th anniversary of the original Santa Cruz & Felton Railroad (Oct.12, 1985), passenger service to Santa Cruz was resumed! Beach trains generally run during the summer months, but there are special night trains especially during the Christmas season. The line can also carry “revenue” throughout the year using (2) ex-Santa Fe CF-7’s.

Unfortunately tragedy once again hit Roaring Camp in 1985. Norman Clark unexpectedly took ill and passed away. His wife Georgiana was vice president of operations and became the CEO of both railroads. She is still working hard to keep Norman’s dream alive! Her daughter Melani also helps with railroad operations and is Georgiana’s “mechanical assistant”.

The railroad kept moving forward and in 1986 Roaring Camp was able to obtain their largest locomotive the “Sonora”. Another veteran of the West Side Lumber Company, #7 is a 60 ton, 3 truck Shay weighing in at 105600 lbs. Outshopped in 1912 this Shay was built for the Truckee Lumber Company and was originally assigned the number 4. It spent most of its career working for both West Side Lumber and Pickering Lumber where it was #7. Roaring Camp decided to leave this locomotive numbered 7. The new Shay basically took over the lead roll of hauling the heaviest of trains up to Bear Mountain.


"Sonora" #7

Kahuku was starting to show the wear and tear of years of service and the need for the Kahuku-Waipahu team as “stand by” was basically eliminated by addition of the “Sonora”. Waipahu was put up for sale and in 1988 it was sold to “Western Village” in Nikko, Japan. Kahuku was removed from service in 1993 for restoration. The Kahuku was reborn again in spring of 2000 sporting an official Baldwin #3 smoke box plate found in an antique store in Los Gatos. Since then, Kahuku comes out for special occasions.


"Daisy" #6 waiting for its chance to return to the rails.

Four years later another number 7 was purchased. This number 7 was saved from the scrap heap by a rail fan named George Morrison in Maryville, Tennessee. Morrison’s locomotive is a 1912, 32 ton, 2 truck Shay built for the Elk & Little Kanawa RR Co of Gassaway, West Virginia. In 1920 this engine was converted to 42” gauge and saw service with W. M. Ritter Lumber Company. It was last operated and retired in Daisy, Kentucky. Most of the crew refers to this locomotive as “Daisy”, but an official name has not been given to the locomotive. It can also be refer to as the “Morrison”. This locomotive is assigned RC&BT fleet number 6 and shares the similar problem as the Climax with 42” gauged trucks; it too is currently parked behind the engine house.

In the meantime some work has been done to the Climax. Its original boiler is gone but a new one is sitting under tarps. A decision has been made to convert it to narrow gauge for use by the ”RC&BT. It is currently caught in “restoration time” like many of our own projects. The problem is time and money. Hopefully this locomotive will be back on the rails soon.

Today the Dixiana, Tuolumne, or even the Kahuku can make an appearance on any scheduled run day. During the busy summer months it’s not uncommon to see two trains running. The Sonora is currently residing in the engine house where it’s getting its trucks rebuilt and line shaft bearings replaced. It will be back in service later this year.

On certain weekends Roaring Camp host special events such as Civil War Days, Thomas the Tank Engine, Harvest Festivals, etc. They are also currently working on offering “Guided” nature tours back down the trails that originated from the top of Bear Mountain; for those who really want to see nature up close.

Roaring Camp and Big Trees Narrow Gauge Railroad definitely provides a unique opportunity to view real logging locomotives in their natural environment. I am grateful that the Clark’s, their staff and stockholders had the determination and drive to preserve a piece of true American history for all to enjoy! Being a live steamer myself, I find railroads such as this one a true inspiration. They are wonderful research libraries for the scaled down projects we love to build. The important thing to remember, tough economic times make it difficult for these privately owned organizations to survive. They definitively depend upon the general public to come visit and go for a train ride!

The Steam Locomotives of the RC&BT

 # Engine Builder Type Class Drivers Gauge Shop# Date Cylinders Status
1 Dixanna  Lima Shay B42-2 29.5” 36” 2593 1912 3-10x12 Active
2 Tuolumne Stearns Heisler 37-8-36 36” 36” 1041 1899 2-10x15 Active
3 Kahuku Baldwin 0-4-2T 6-10-1/3C 36” 36” 10756 1890 2-6x10 Active
4 Waipahu Baldwin 0-6-2T             Sold
5 Bloomburg Climax Climax B50-2 33” 48” 1692 1928  2-12x14 Restore
6 Daisy Lima Shay B32-2 29” 42” 2519 1912 3-8x12 Restore
7 Sonora Lima Shay C60-3 32” 36” 2465 1911 3-11x12 Fall 08

 

I would like to thank Roaring Camp, John Bush, Georgiana Clark, Joanne Hirasaki, Kent Jefferys, Stathi Pappas and especially Tom Shreve for helping with information for this article.

For more information, photos, activities and train schedules go to roaringcamp.com. They also offer more area historical information in their “newsroom” section.

Other reference websites to look at are; climaxlocomotives.com, eamonnideas.net/kahuku/historyframe.htmgearedsteam.com and shaylocomotives.com.
 

 

Written by Jim Kliment
Photos by Jim Kliment

 

©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.

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