continued from part 1
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
"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.
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
The Steam Locomotives of the RC&BT
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;