The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading


©APRIL 21, 2007   

©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be republished, rewritten or redistributed without written permission of the author and this web site. 

 | Read other articles Send in an article |

MOW Group Saves Historic Rail Corridors

Written by John Perry


The decision was made. The Amador Foothills Railroad was to be closed down due to the substandard condition of the ties and the rails. Once described as the most beautiful, mountain railroad contained within one county. The rails, known for decades as the Amador Central Railroad and for its first year as the Ione & Eastern Railroad, were expected to be removed and sold for salvage.

Residents of Amador County who have an appreciation for historic icons were unhappy with the future of "their" railroad. The eleven mile long AFRR was the only link to the national railroad network. Itís closure and salvage would forever isolate Amador County from the rail services to the outside world.

Recreational Railroad Coalition, Inc. (or RRC) is a consortium of rail buffs with a special interest in saving historic old railroads from extinction. As rail-preservationists, these rail fans seek rail corridors like the AFRR and negotiate lease arrangements for the purpose of preserving the antiquated steel ribbons for recreation, education and for purposes of the communityís history. Comprised of volunteers, these recreational railroaders return life to the otherwise dead rails in their antique maintenance of way cars as they go about maintaining the rails with vegetation control, enhancing security with their work to control unlawful garbage dumping, trespassing, theft and vandalism.

A recent and visible example of vandalism control is the sudden appearance of graffiti on the trestle across highway 88 at the old East Ione Trestle. A crew of volunteers arrived recently to paint out 90% the offending symbols. The graffiti that was painted over the highway was not covered as it was deemed to be too dangerous for the volunteers of RRC.

Drivers on highway 88 wave at the colorful little gasoline locomotive-like track inspection vehicles, frequently stopping to take pictures of the equipment and the operators as they travel on the AFRR.

The AFRR (see website) is the second historic railroad corridor to be saved by RRC. The Linden Branch of the ST&E Railroad in San Joaquin County is the first such railroad to come under the lease auspices of RRC.

Grant Vogel, RRC Roadmaster for the AFRR and a resident of Plymouth said that they are engaged in the re-construction of the turn-around wye at the western terminus of the railroad in Ione. The steam engines used the wye as they turned for the return trip to Martell. The last steam engine to use the wye was "Iron Ivan," currently on display in the park behind the Ione City Hall. Persons who would be interested in helping with this project are invited to contact Vogel at to learn more about the wye rebuild project and to offer their volunteer help and equipment.

RRC is the only rail preservation organization in the western United States. Their interest and work are crucial in protecting historic rails from being destroyed and sent to the smeltering ovens.

We are very excited about the upcoming 2007 Ione Railfair & MOW Expo in May.  Here are some highlights from the 2006 Railfair.

Some of the MOW equipment on display consisted of cranes, spike pullers, etc. They have been restored and we use them for normal every day track maintaince to maintain both branch lines.

Last year at the Ione Railfair we had over 25 Maintence Of Way Speeders attend. All the speeders were restored to factory new condition. Several video displays were presented and local old timers participated in educating on lookers of the History of the Amador Foothills Railroad. Numerous participants camped out trackside for the 3-day event at the site of the Ione Depot. Recreational Railroad Coalition leases and maintains this rail corridor along with another branch line in Stockton, the Linden branch of the Stockton Terminal and Eastern Railroad.

Numerous static displays will be set up again this year, MOW equipment and demonstrations of operating MOW equipment we use to maintain this corridor.

This Beaver Car was very nicely restored, a lot of chrome and a hydraulically operated mechanism to tilt the cab up for access to the engine and drive train.

A Track Mobile was on site and demonstrated movement and mobility. This unique piece of equipment moves freight cars around small yards and terminals. Donít let its size fool you as it can move 5 loaded cars on level ground. The tires shown are how the machine moves when not on rails.

Custom Speeders were also in attendance. Beaver Cars and other custom Speeders.

The focal point for social activity was the campground "Hobo Camp" behind the High School next to the Ione Railroad Station where numerous Speeder operators camped out for three days.

Prior to crossing the main Highways all speeders were accounted for and there were safety procedures in place in case any speeders had difficulty maneuvering the grade crossings.

A Safety Meeting was conducted prior to each run. Dave Balesteri, Superintendent of the Ione Branch was the Event Coordinator.

Along the way there were numerous grade crossings and a lot of scenery to look at. One run was done after dark set in, our Saturday evening Night Run. A Flagging Crew provided safe crossing of the four Grade Crossings, two of which were heavily congested with automobiles. In addition to the Flagers we also had the ability to activate the Railroad Grade Crossing lights and bells. This year we will be able to actually operate and drop down the Crossing Arms along with the lights and bells to provide a safe grade crossing environment.


Written by John Perry
photos by John Perry

the end



May 12-13, 2007

Ione Railyard, 339 S. Mill St., Ione, Ca.

The Western Terminus of the Amador Foothills Railroad

Antique "speeders" will be featured along with other, rarely seen and no longer used, mechanical muscles of the nations railroads. See these pieces of railroad history move on the rails of the historic AFRR.

A Skagit car, a track mobile and a Whitcomb locomotive have been invited to participate in displays and/or demonstrations in their natural habitat, the railroad tracks of Amador County.

There is no charge or entry fee to see these historic old machines in action. Owners of rehabilitated speeders will participate in a series of excursions eastbound and return in their privately owned track inspection machines.

A Living History presentation will be made with former employees of the railroad in cooperation with the Amador Historic Society. Railroad history buffs will find this particularly interesting and informative. A special railroad media presentation will be made using video.

The "Hobo Camp" for RV dry camping has been arranged again at trackside. A $10.00 fee will be charged for this unique opportunity. RV parking is available in the "Hobo Camp" to all who wish to live in recreational vehicle civilized comfort in the center of the RailFair for the weekend of the event.

For additional information contact Dave Balestreri, 916-531-7536 or Larry Bowler 916-686-5950.




Write j.i.m.1.@.d.i.s.c.o.v.e.r.l.i.v.e.s.t.e.a.m...c.o. to ask about use of  this article.

Have an idea for an article?  We need your article on ....

Technical Issues such as problems and solutions associated with , steam locos, hydraulic drives, electric drives. track laying and maintenance, signal systems.

Construction Projects, mostly looking for car projects (let's leave the steamer building to the print magazines). How about scenery construction or building a hand car?

Full scale railroads and museums.  If you work for or volunteer for a railroad, if you've visited one recently and have a few photos and can write up a half dozen paragraphs on it, we'll be happy to put it up on the web.

Live Steam Railroads. How about a little background and a tour of your railroad or one you've visited.

Please share what you know with us.



The On-Line Magazine of Ridable Model Railroading

Read Other Articles

| Live Steam Railroads | Suppliers | Postings | For Sale  |
 | Events Calendar | Books | Magazines | Videos  | Photo Contest |

Hit Counter