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
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
firstname.lastname@example.org 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
We are very excited about the upcoming 2007 Ione
Railfair & MOW Expo in May. Here are some highlights from the 2006
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
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
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
2007 IONE RAILFAIR
& MOW Expo.
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
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
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.
information contact Dave Balestreri, 916-531-7536 or Larry Bowler 916-686-5950.
to ask about use of this article.
Have an idea for an article? We need your article on
Issues such as problems and solutions associated with , steam locos,
hydraulic drives, electric drives. track laying and maintenance, signal
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?
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.
Railroads. How about a little background and a tour of your railroad or one
Please share what you know with us.