May 172014

Come along and enjoy our ride on what’s left of the “The Impossible Railroad.”  Our tour begins on the San Diego & Arizona vintage train in Campo, California.

The designing engineers originally dubbed it “The Impossible Railroad” because of the mountainous terrain.  After 13 years and almost 19 million dollars, this became a monument to the challenges and determination of the last of the great railroad builders.

In 1907, John D. Spreckels, a sugar heir, developer and entrepreneur, ceremoniously broke ground in San Diego for the railway. The route went south across the Mexican border to Tijuana, east to Tecate, then back to the United States. It then traveled north through Carrizo Gorge, and east to a connection with Southern Pacific near Plaster City at El Centro, California. San Diego & Arizona railway map
The builders experienced delays in the ruggedly beautiful, but difficult, terrain of Carrizo Gorge from cave-ins, fires, floods, and hard rock. Other delays came from a scarcity of labor during harvest seasons.

Then World War I threatened to halt completion of the rail. John D. Spreckels successfully argued that the line would benefit the war effort, because of San Diego’s military installations.
San Diego & Arizona RR Mexico border
Finally in 1919, the golden spike was driven to open the first modern line between San Diego and the East.San Diego & Airzona RR international border
As the train moved along past the international border fencing, we asked the guide about the border patrol station at Campo. He sadly shook his head and said the border is an ongoing dangerous problem and drug trafficking is a major concern for the town. Self-appointed Border Militiamen protect their ranches along the border.

Also, the guide explained that Border Angel volunteers constantly re-stock plastic containers with water at stations. They are marked with wooden crosses to offer relief to the desert crossers. He said many don’t realize how harsh and dangerous the climate and terrain becomes when attempting to cross the border areas.
San Diego & Arizona RR Trestle at Border
As long as we stayed on the train, we didn’t need passports to enter Mexico. The volunteer guides are certified to unlock and open the gate, so the train can cross the border. We only went far enough into the tunnel to say we crossed the border and then started the journey back to Campo.

In the Carrizo Gorge, the railroad crosses 14 trestles and goes through 21 tunnels in only 11 miles.  The final passenger run on the San Diego and Arizona Eastern was in 1951. A brush fire burned two trestles in 1983 and, coupled with diminished freight traffic, terminated freight runs to El Centro.
Carrizo Gorge Trestle
There is hope for a joint continuation of the route into Mexico one day again.  It depends on Mexico’s meeting some agreements and refurbishing a section of track.
Golden State Limited
The Pacific Southwest Railway Museum in Campo has many trains and locomotives outside in various stages of restoration.  Several restored trains with their bells and horns of yesteryear are stored in a large building to comfortably walk through as well.

This train ride can now be crossed off our bucket list. What train ride is on your bucket list?

Jan 082014

It’s no secret we love trains and have taken the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge train trip many times. Hollywood discovered this spectacular scenery and made many classic movies there, including: Around the World in 80 Days (1956), How the West Was Won (1963), and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).
Silverton to Durango
This is weird, but supposedly General Palmer used narrow gauge passenger cars because he wanted to prevent men and women from being able to sleep in the same bed on the train.  The most obvious reason is that narrow gauge tracks are less expensive to install.  It’s easier to blast out a narrower track on the side of a mountain and allow trains to make sharper curves around them.Silverton Downtown
When train passengers arrived in Silverton they stepped onto notorious Blair Street.  The street was home to 32 saloons, gambling halls and houses of ill-repute in a three-block stretch.  The street was named after Thomas Blair, a prospector, town designer, and a saloon owner.  Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp played cards at his gambling hall.
Silverton Motorized Gasoling Engine
There was a fleet of eight Galloping Geese.  It was cheaper to bring small groups in these motorized buses than by train.  They were eventually scrapped and only two geese have been restored and promoted by the Galloping Goose Historical Society. Silverton Speeder Following Train

A railway motor car, also known as a speeder, putt-putt, and jigger is mainly used as an inspection car.  The Speeder got its name because it’s faster than a human-powered vehicle.  The Silverton Speeder follows the train to watch for any spark started fires and also to pick up the baseball caps lost by gawking tourists.

This is a great YouTube video showing the train trip while listening to C.W.McCall’s song – The Silverton Train. Silverton from Wikipedia
Are you wondering what to do and see in Silverton, Colorado?  Visit the Museum, Jail and Mining Heritage Center for an historical tour of its bold and bawdy past.  After lunch in a 100+ year old restaurant, take the Old Hundred Gold Mine Tour.  Standing inside the mine gives a sense of what it was like to work in these dangerous and dark surroundings.

Jun 112013

As previously mentioned, my husband and I became volunteer managers of an HO Scale train room, at our area’s Senior Recreation Center last year.

This room had been a four year work in progress by another train lover, so we are dealing with what was already built.  What we jokingly called our seven foot chocolate cake/blob, is the cover for a (circular track) helix that’s designed to bring the trains to the upper or lower level of tracks.

Model Train helix

To reflect how we would have wanted our town to look in the 1950’s, we added a Ski Lodge and Skiers on the mountain.
Model Train Ski area

Model Train Ski LodgeWhen people cleaned out their dusty, spider infested boxes, they donated the HO scale model items to the train room,

Luckily for me, all the spiders were dead and one of the great finds was this saloon.

We kit-bashed it into a ski chalet and painted winter Model Train Ski Hill 1clothes on the patrons.

Kit-bashing sounds destructive, but it is really a gentle method of creating what you need to fit a theme.

A fence was cut, shaped and painted to become ski racks.

Coal dust was used for the blacktopped road and the rock retaining wall was molded from plaster.

Model Train Ski Hill 2More trees were added and hot glued into place to finally stand up straight.

Our research on adding snow to the mountain was entertaining.  One suggestion was to add crystal sugar for the sparkle.  How cute would it be, to have ants snacking on our sugar mountain?

We haven’t been historically true to how our town looked in the 1950’s.  We’ve captured some interesting sites of Utah and compressed them into scenes of what we hope everyone will enjoy seeing in our train room .

May 152013

As previously mentioned, my husband and I became volunteer managers of an HO Scale train room, at our area’s Senior Recreation Center last year.  Besides fixing the railroad track so the trains can run smoothly, we are remodeling the room to reflect how our town may have looked in the 1950’s.
Train Room waterfall full length

Originally, the waterfall was just a blue strip, with wads of cotton stuck on to simulate water.  I found some tutorials explaining how to create waterfalls by using clear caulking.
Train Room caulking gun copyLuckily our bathtubs aren’t in need of a re-caulking just yet, cause making waterfalls seemed like a lot more fun.

caulking linesI spread the caulking on clear plastic wrap with enough lines to match the width of the waterfall area and about 15 inches long.  I made five of these caulked sections, to cover the length of the waterfall.caulking merged

Then a tooth pick was used to blend together the caulking lines.  By twisting and lifting the toothpick, the roughness of water splashing was created.

The next day, the caulking strips were dry enough to attach to the train room wall, by using more caulking as glue.

By accident, I found that the pressure from the caulking gun made long drips which were perfect to simulate the waterfall’s streaming water.

After the strips were attached, more long drips were added since this looked so cool.  Sparkle Paint was dabbed sporadically and wisps of cotton added for a clear, rushing water effect.Train Room waterfall bottom portion

Apr 012013

The legacy of the Golden Spike Ceremony lives on at Promontory’s National Historic Site, even though both engines were scrapped and sold for $1,000 each by the early 1900’s.

Jupiter 3 crop119 copy cropped 2

A four year labor of love completed the accurate replicas of the Central Pacific (CP) Jupiter and Union Pacific (UP) No. 119, in time for the 110th anniversary of the Golden Spike Ceremony.  Disney employees did the painting and lettering of the gas burners, and the wood in the tender served only to hide the natural gas tank.  In 1991, the engines were converted to burn their original fuels, wood for the Jupiter and coal for No. 119.

two enginesWatching the trains rolling along the tracks and viewing the exhibits and pictures in the Visitor’s Center took us back to that time when the 1st Intercontinental Railroad was completed.  What really gave us a deeper historical perspective,  was the 1.5 mile walking trail.  We viewed evidence of construction methods used by simple tools, sweat and an amazing amount of endurance.  We walked on the original track railbed and saw drill marks where workers blasted the rock away, which brought to life the pictures displayed in the visitor’s center.

The 14 mile auto drive on the railbed allowed us a closer view of the dirt fills, a stair-step cut, rock and wood culverts, and a distant glimpse of the Great Salt Lake.  The self-guided drive includes the spot where the CP workers completed 10 miles of track in one day and the Union and Central Pacific’s parallel grades. 20-Engine & Sign copy

Interestingly, the parallel grades continued for 250 miles without any track being laid down.  Congress forced the two companies to agree on a meeting place.  They finally chose the midway point at the end of the track for each railroad company, which was at Promontory Summit.

Golden Spike National Historic Site is located near the ATK Aerospace Center where you can walk among the rockets on display.  Also, another unique site is the Spiral Jetty which is 16 miles to the southwest.

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