News from August 2008

Western Railway Museum

Occurred August 22, 2008 (Permalink)
Changing Trolley Poles at the End of the Line
Changing Trolley Poles at the End of the Line

After nearly 40 years of being in production, the Vernon Sappers book about the Key System trolley lines was finally published! I picked up a copy at Powell's, read through it, and decided that a visit to a trolley museum was in order. The Oregon Electric Railway was closed the weekend I tried to visit, so I ended up going to the Western Railway Museum (offsite) instead. I had last been there some 15 years ago, back when the museum was basically a loop of track and a few sheds. Now there was an actual parking lot, visitor's center, and several big sheds for storage and restoration of old trolleys. Needless to say, I took Dad's camera and shot a few pictures.

In the old days, the Sacramento Northern mainline went through Rio Vista Junction on its way between Sacramento and Oakland. The last time I visited the museum, Union Pacific still owned the right-of-way and the streetcars were relegated to running around in a circle around the picnic area. Not so anymore; the museum bought the right-of-way, electrified 5 miles of it, and now takes people on long trips out in the countryside. In October they pull the big Key articulated units out and haul large masses of people to the pumpkin patch. For the rest of the year, you get to go out to see the grass and now the wind farm that they're building out there. It's about a 40 minute trip out to the end of the line, though they said they'd like to run a few more miles towards the Delta.

As I mentioned before, their facilities have grown quite extensively. There are now three car barns--the old open one that people can go into (but slowly rots the cars away), a new one that's closed up and climate controlled, and a third one with a bunch of decrepit cars hidden inside. The first car barn had all the old favorites that I remembered--two Key articulated units (182/187), the two Key streetcars, some MUNI PCCs, and even a fast streetcar from Indiana that was rated for 75mph operation. There were a few other cars under canvas that I didn't get to see.

According to the fellow who runs the streetcar rides, normally the second barn is only open on Saturdays... but since there was nobody else around that day, he said he'd take me in anyway. We went in, and wow (p8220028-54)! About half the second car barn is filled with cars that have been painted and at least somewhat restored. Cars in all sorts of conditions were in there--SP big red bodies sitting on flatcars, fully restored Shipyard Railway cars, a rare Oregon Electric observation car, the pre-JPB (i.e. SP) Caltrain cars, and enough equipment to make a small freight train. Alas, they also admitted that the steam engines were painted, oiled, and in no condition to run.

The third car barn ... wasn't really open. There I found the third Key articulated unit (186), and quite a few other (p8220066-72) car bodies that looked like they were in various states of repair. I had never been inside one of the Key articulated units, but luckily for me someone had left 186's door open, and in I went (p8220067-70). The conductor had remarked during the trip that 186 hadn't gone anywhere since probably the late 60s, and it showed. Rust and dust, but at least I got to go in and sit down for the first time. From the interiors I can see how the BART cars that replaced Key's borrowed design elements--big panorama windows, slanted sides, etc. (Yes, I know there were a few that had straight sides and small windows.) They had also left the operators cabin open, so I snapped a picture of that too.

On my way out, I took a picture inside the restoration shop. It's never open to the public, so I only saw that they're working on a PCC and a few other things under the plastic. Rambling out on the grounds, I found a few other big red bodies, and a huge yard full of various streetcar debris. Well, so much for this visit; we'll see how much happens until my next visit.

Coyote Hills Hike

Occurred August 24, 2008 (Permalink)
Woodley and Darrick atop Coyote Hill
Woodley and Darrick atop Coyote Hill

Steven took us nerds on a hike up in Coyote Hills Park in Newark, CA. It was a good stroll for a few miles, and I borrowed a camera to take a 360-degree panorama, which is in the picture bin. Enjoy!

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