Volunteering — Blog Post #17

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway, NCRY, MOW
Posted: September 3, 2017 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

August 05, 2017

The first Saturday of the month came around again, as it always does, and it was time to head out to the east end of the line to continue our push toward Pleasanton. We put down and joined four more panels of 132lb (head free) rail as we progress toward the Happy Valley bridge. As reported elsewhere, we have a new chipper and it performed very well. It allows us to chip larger limbs that in the past would have to be cut with a chain saw into sections and hauled away, hopefully to be taken home as firewood. Now we can process just about everything we cut down right where we are working. We started in Brightside where we chipped some tree limbs cut at the pond previously.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway, NCRY, MOW

Chipping at Brightside before heading out to build track. Photo by Brian Hitchcock


Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway, NCRY, MOW

The new chipper even has a mascot! Photo by Brian Hitchcock

While laying down more track panels was our primary goal, we also needed to do some major brush cutting. Specifically there were two large live oak trees growing on top of and down into a culvert where we had recently installed track panels. These trees would eventually interfere with the culvert and they were also snagging the end of the boom of the Burro crane as we travel to the end of track. The two trees were also in violation of CPUC side clearances. These trees were too big to simply cut down. The plan was to use the bucket truck to setup a lifting strap around the upper part of the tree trunk and then have the Burro crane use that strap to lift the tree while the base of the tree was cut. Once the tree was cut, the crane would lift and move the entire tree in one movement and set it down along the track where we would cut the tree into sections and then chip all of it. This plan worked well. I learned that I don’t want to be downwind of the chipper’s output. I had to empty the chips out of all the pockets of my safety vest when I got home!

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway, NCRY, MOW

The Burro crane gets ready to lift one of two large trees.  Photo by Brian Hitchcock


Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway, NCRY, MOW

The whole tree is flying! Photo by Brian Hitchcock

We needed the Burro crane at the end of the line to lay down track panels, but we also needed it along the line to lift the trees to be cut down and we needed the bucket truck as well. This required a slow motion ballet to get the equipment in the right order at different times of the day. It was the first time the new siding at Verona was used to switch out the bucket truck so the Burro crane could move past. Having this siding will be very useful as we continue building track.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway, NCRY, MOW

The Burro crane passes the bucket truck. Photo by Brian Hitchcock

As the months pass and the end of track moves further east, it really isn’t practical to walk from the Verona crossing to where we are working at the end of track. We have to use the MOW train to move people, joint bars, tools and everything else used to build track along the line to where they are needed. Imagine all the planning it takes to get all the tools and parts needed to accomplish all these tasks out to the work site. On this day, we didn’t remember to bring the joint bolts, nuts and lock washers needed for the joint bars to join the new track panels. No problem, a cell phone call and the needed parts were brought to us.

In addition to the two trees we removed, we also found and cut down many other tree limbs that were interfering with the Burro crane. On the way home, we stopped to chip all the limbs we had trimmed. In the end, we chipped everything we cut down and we did so quickly. The new chipper supports a very efficient brush cutting operation. We also cut up a very large set of limbs that had broken off a tree near the UP bridge at the Verona crossing.

It takes a large team to get so much done. As always, the more people that join us, the more progress we can make. Please come out and join us, the few, the proud, the dirty on the first Saturday of each month.


Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway, NCRY, MOW

End of track at the end of the day. Photo by Brian Hitchcock


Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway, NCRY, MOW

The Burro crane rests before heading home. Photo by Brian Hitchcock

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