Volunteering — Blog Post #3

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway
Posted: August 12, 2015 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

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January 31, 2015

The MOW crew met at Brightside at 8am, gathered tools and materials and switched Mongo and the ballast car out from the string of MOW vehicles. With Mongo and the ballast car on the mainline, it was time to head east. Stopping near the east end of the yard to fuel Mongo, we headed off for Verona.

The plan was to pick up ballast for the new track east of Verona and to install a drainage pipe along the track just east of Norad crossing. Just west of Verona, near the Union Pacific interchange at Hearst, we stopped to load the ballast car. Being a new MOW volunteer, I was wondering how I would get the piles of ballast into the ballast car. My shovel looked small. I was relieved to hear that a front loader would arrive soon to load the ballast. With a fully loaded ballast car, we flagged the Verona crossing and moved to the end of track just east of Norad Crossing.

Dumping the ballast I learned that one full ballast car doesn’t go very far. Next up was digging the trench for the new drainage pipe. We had moved the metal and PVC pipe sections from Brightside two weeks ago. The centerline for the trench was marked off and the backhoe started digging. Another volunteer started digging behind the concrete wall of the culvert at Norad crossing and then used a spike as a chisel to carve out an opening where the end of the drainage pipe will come through into the culvert. During the digging, we got called from Brightside and asked if we needed any additional supplies. These were delivered later in the afternoon. The trench was finally complete and it was time for lunch.

After lunch, we arranged the pipe sections and rolled them into the trench. The next challenge was to join the pipe sections. We had metal connectors for the metal pipes sections, but for the PVC sections, we had to improvise. We had sheet aluminum, heavy gauge wire and some well used plastic buckets. For the PVC pipe sections, we wrapped each joint with the sheet aluminum. Cutting the bottom off the buckets and slicing down the side we had a strip of plastic that we wrapped over the aluminum. Using steel strapping to hold the joint together, old communication wire was wrapped around the joint and twisted tight.

While much had been accomplished, the shadows were lengthening and concerns were expressed about getting done before dark. We filled in gravel and dirt and tamped under the pipe sections ahead of the backhoe as the pipe was buried. We gathered rocks and placed them around the east end of the drainage pipe as a headwall to keep the pipe open during heavy runoff. The last section of pipe that will extend into the culvert at Norad crossing will have to wait for the next MOW day.

We cleaned up and headed west, stopping to fill the ballast car again. Nearing Sunol we dropped off the ballast car for next time, and arrived in Brightside just as sunset came to the canyon. Another MOW adventure was complete, and the build east was one step closer to completion.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

Early morning at Brightside.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

Mongo and the ballast car at the end of track, looking east.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

One car load of ballast doesn’t cover much track.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

The plastic sleeve joining sections of PVC drainage pipe.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

The metal sections of the drainage pipe.

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