Volunteering — Blog Post #8

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway
Posted: August 17, 2015 at 4:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

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Jul 11, 2015

Saturday, 11 July, was not a regular brush cutting day. I was told we were removing some bushes around the pond. I couldn’t recall any bodies of water at Brightside, but, after checking my California drought dictionary, indeed, that large empty pit next to Blake’s Palace is a pond.

After we had pointed out the specific bushes were going to remove, we discussed the need for caution as the slope into the pond was very steep, and he began chain sawing. My job was simple, drag whatever was cut down to the pickup truck, and when full, we drove to the chipper setup near the MOW container. The chipper was running and we were in business.

The bushes didn’t look all that big at first, but as I dragged more and more branches to the truck, it became clear how much work it takes just to get rid of one bush, and that is just one of many. Once we were done with the specified bushes, it was time to climb down into the so-called pond, no swimsuit needed, and cut up some tree sections that had been cut down recently. As the chain sawing was done on the bottom of the pond, the cuttings were thrown up onto the back edge of the pond. I dragged whatever landed topside over to the chipper. Back and forth, it seemed endless.

The fallen tree was quickly reduced to one last large limb. I went down into the pond to help bring this piece up. I wasn’t sure we could climb the side of the pond, but we did. I wasn’t sure the chipper would deal with this large piece of tree but it had no problem getting it shredded.

With the work done in and around the pond, it was time to do something special. I was told I was going to witness something not very many people get to see; an almost secret MOW ritual. The chipper is normally mounted to a MOW hi-rail dolly so it can be taken out on the railroad to wherever it is needed. Recently there had been a number of brush clearing activities that had to be done away from the tracks so the chipper had been converted to ride on a pair of road tires. Now it was time to convert back. It was interesting to see how one uses a backhoe, strongback, chains and many hand signals to lift the chipper, remove the tires, place the chipper on the rail dolly and secure it. I am now experienced in re-railing the chipper. I am expecting my merit badge in the mail. Now the chipper was back where it belongs, in the string of MOW cars ready to go out on the line as needed.

Next up was a field trip to Signal Hill. A large pine tree was severely damaged during a wind storm about 3 years ago, and finally felled and bucked up last Winter. The remaining 30 feet of the trunk needed to be cut up into small enough pieces that they could be taken away for firewood. This trunk was very large, about three feet in diameter. The larger and largest chain saws were brought out and I kept my distance. A slice about a foot thick was cut off the trunk, then cut the slice into quarters. As with the pond experience, it was impressive to see how much time and energy is needed to process one tree.

While this was happening, the steam excursion train went by, headed for Sunol. Hearing a steam whistle echoing in the canyon is something you really need to experience. It is magic. I wonder what it was like when cab forwards ran along the same route? As I was walking back to my car I felt good that I had contributed to the endless ongoing effort that is needed to keep all forms of vegetation under control along the railway. You should join us, 4th Saturday every month. Just appear at Brightside and see how you can help.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

Before we started, you couldn’t see most of this building due to overgrown brush.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

This is what Brightside looks like from the bottom of the pond.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

In between the tracks of the yard at Brightside a California poppy makes its way through the ballast.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

When the chipper rides the rails it is coupled to a MOW flat car as seen here.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

The chipper has been put back on its rail dolly ready for work along the right of way.

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway

The fallen pine tree on Signal Hill ready to be cut up for firewood.

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