Monday, December 3, 2012

Piko in December

The fifth battery powered locomotive to join the Ponderosa Lines is one of the newer Piko moguls, which is starting to grow on me. I suppose I'm leading here to a short review, followed by some photos. This Sunday (yesterday) the decent weather continued in Flagstaff, allowing for an outdoor session with a short freight. Similar to the review in Garden Railways Magazine, this loco is rather noisy, and the motor actually chirps like some of my older HO-scale locos did in the past (it may be lessening as it breaks in). But it runs smoothly back and forward, unless heading down hill with a full load, when it tends to jump and hesitate a bit (also in the written review, if I recall). The tender's wheels are a disappointment, as they are plastic, but that's probably partly why the German Piko company can sell its products at less cost than LGB. It runs fine, metal wheels or not. With all the details applied - easily assembled - it's a cute engine, and it looks fine with larger or smaller cars. Its main strength is, well, its strength. It's a heavy little engine, and it pulls five freight cars easily around the challenging grades of the Ponderosa Lines. If we don't get any snow this year, looks like this scrunched-up Mogul is going to see more light of day in coming months!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Flagstaff G-Scalers Pay a Visit

Here are some photos of "October Trains" visiting the Ponderosa Lines over a month ago. A still un-detailed Piko Mogul owned by the PL made its debut performance, looking a bit drunk with its headlight dangling out front. Meanwhile, Stan provided the first 1:20.3 scale locomotives - a K-something and a Galloping Goose. Their larger size made the track really look like narrow gauge. Darting around the other trains was Ed's retrofitted Annie 4-6-0 with an incredible sound system (first photo below) and a trailing box car, certainly the loudest train to serenade the neighbors and dogs as of this writing. Impressive! Enjoy the photos!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Railfan Day sees New Trestles and....Rabbits!

Photo crews joined railroad crews on Sunday to unveil the newest additions to the Lines: three trestles that improve visual interest and drainage in this monsoon-prone region. Equipment from the nearby Rabbit Valley Railroad joined in the celebration, with free rides offered to anything with long ears. Only a few mishaps were recorded on this day, including a box car rollover and an apparent gondola crime scene, still under investigation by the railroad police. The photos will tell the rest of the story. Enjoy the new Ponderosa Lines, summer 2012 edition - the Old Bridge Route.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

New Bypass to Reduce Steepest Grade

The first section of new trackage
(curved track section indicates original route)
After a lengthy (15 minute) deliberation with Linda and her Dad earlier today, track crews (me) decided to undertake a new main-line track project that would involve shutting down the PLR for a few days to a week. Although Twin Pines is one of the more intriguing places on the railroad, where the railroad cuts between two young trees, it involves the steepest grade on the line from both directions. A new bypass was thus planned, followed by an evening of new construction Sunday evening. Not only should the grades be reduced, but the main line itself will be lengthened as the route is expanded to parallel the track in the back corner of the yard (not my first choice, but it should allow the advantage of watching trains pass each other). Photos included here show the progress as of the last daylight. Some rock "dynamiting" and "cut and fill" will be necessary projects in the next few nights, as well as a run to Dewey to secure some new track.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

First Train Over New Trestle

With not a few screams and gasps, a passenger extra was the first to rumble across the line's new curved trestle, after a 3-day (6-8pm each night) installation process - and some massive mountain-moving. More landscaping will follow, but for now it really opens up that end of the yard again, without much of the former "earthen dam". Not sure how old this bridge is, purchased used last week, but in Flagstaff such wood should last awhile. A similar trestle (two years old) at Palmer Gulch is no worse for wear.

Several cement blocks and paving stones already on hand were conveniently used for the base and ends.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

First Curved Trestle Install Underway

Looks like a good fit!
Sometimes things fit just right. After acquiring a used length of 10-foot diameter curved trestle on Saturday, it was promptly placed in the first location envisioned for it. And that's where it will go (see photos here). Today I began to dig out the fill dirt that was placed there two years ago, at the downslope end of the back yard. While dodging rain drops (I was daring it to rain, though I was wary of the lightning), I discovered that 1) This would be a multi-day project, 2) I would obtain a good amount of upper-body excerise hauling dirt once again, and 3) We can use the excavated dirt within a shovel-throw away, for a new "privacy" tree or two near the fence, and 4) We're going to reclaim a sizeable chunk of "real estate" back from the area where the fill mound had been created originally. This is all good news (including the opportunity for exercise).

Thinking about geometry for a minute, one recalls that the circumference of a large circle is much longer than the "C" of a smaller circle embedded within in the larger one. No brainer there. Still, on the ground it was a revelation to realize that the veritable earthen dam I had created to raise that end of the railroad was much larger on its outer circumference than the right-of-way itself. I could therefore reclaim a lot of fill dirt for use elsewhere without having to truck new stuff in. The trestle will create a wonderful addition to that end of the layout, allow the ponderosa pine tree roots to breathe a little more, and a good amount of original real estate will surface again. Not sure when the final install will occur (either this week or at the end of July), but what a great use of a used trestle!

First day of work to move the earthen "dam".

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Railfan Day brings Rabbit Valley RR Equipment

The RV Railbus meets the Forney at Boulder Point.
The Ponderosa Lines welcomed a guest appearance from the Rabbit Valley last week, offering regular railfan trips and photo ops. A Rabbit Valley railbus and steam passenger train were featured in the midst of Ponderosa Lines favorites, including an SR&RL Forney, a Baldwin 10-wheeler, and the tireless C&S mogul.
An SR&RL passenger train takes the siding at Blumenthal to allow the faster RV train to pass.
The otherwise uneventful day was interrupted by a few close calls, including a head-on scare and a rocky railbus derailment at Viterbo that shook up a few passengers and added to the excitement. Such debacles are rare on the Ponderosa Lines, though officials attributed the issues to a shortage of railway employees. Dispatchers and yard masters were required to double up as engineers and conductors, making for the extra challenge of dispatching (and yelling frantically) from passing trains. Such is life on the Ponderosa Lines of northern Arizona!
Nearly a cornfield meet by the Rabbit Valley visitors.
Incident at Viterbo
The C&S Mogul leads a short freight down grade into Blumenthal.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Road to Paradise: Expansion to the Side Yard

More "March Madness" has occurred off the basketball court and in our back yard lately. After months of deliberating about how to engineer fly-overs, a PVC ladder for a raised roadbed, and other options, I acquired some used track which motivated me to make a choice.

Trackage finally reached the deck landing, the first "island".

The goal is to access the much lower side yard for the eventual town of Paradise, since I unceremoniously relegated that place away from Boulder Point (see previous post). The creativity of this is half the fun, I've determined. Two trips to Home Despot (as a friend lovingly calls the place) have provided several lengths of pressure-treated lumber, some pre-formed concrete piers, and various retaining wall blocks and paving stones. Basically I decided to use 2-by-6 pressure-treated lumber placed atop partially buried concrete piers, just to get the main line over to the side yard fence. Instead of messing around with (very tempting) PVC ladders or even poured concrete piers (overkill, I think), I decided to go the simple route. Ask me next year if this was wise. There are three "chasms" to cross, the first one of which is pictured here, essentially hidding under the deck. The second is not photographed yet, but takes the track some 12 feet from the deck landing (pictured here) to a raised garden area.

The "Road to Paradise" (thanks, Strasburg Railroad!)
seen here disappearing under the deck.

The third chasm might be built tomorrow (no promises), and will take it the final few feet to the fence posts. In an "ah-ha moment" last week, I determined that the fence posts are already cemented into the ground! Why not use those to attach a shelf for a couple of tracks? No messing with the ground at all that way! And, as the ground slopes to the west (closer to the front of the house), the track can remain level along the fence and serve as a raised shelf to "fiddle" with trains and to ease the addition of trains coming in from other local railroads. The final phase of construction (if not this year, next year?) is a "Y" track that leads from the fence trackage directly into the crawl space of the house, with a drop-in piece to connect an under-house yard. As for the side yard expansion, it is tempting to call the town "Key West" instead of Paradise, given the numerous chasms and "islands" that need to be bridged to reach it!

Back to Work! Here comes the 2012 Edition

Following a lengthy break for teaching abroad in the fall and early winter, it's back to work (or fun) on the Ponderosa Lines. This post provides a brief update on progress at Boulder Point as of mid-March, 2012. First, the revised track plan for the back yard:

Boulder Point is getting an "extreme makeover," initially conceived as the end-of-the-line destination, and finally designed to be just that. No more sharing trackage with the other end of the line at Paradise, and the Viterbo siding has moved over to a separate location at a small wayside town of that name. All of this should be visible in the map and images here. Boulder Point now has a freight siding, a house track, a passing siding with two tracks in front of the station (recently acquired), an extended reverse loop, and a "tail track" to allow for switching the sidings. The tail track doubles as the "continuous loop" connector allowing trains to run in show-off circles if desired.

Thanks to wonderful weather and using part of spring break, the Boulder Point track plan is now in place, with four new Piko switches (8-foot diameter) and fresh ballast.

The "New" Boulder Point, with paving blocks for platform for station area.

An early March snowstorm suspended work on Boulder Point.