Volunteering — Blog Post #9

Volunteering, Niles Canyon Railway
Posted: February 11, 2017 at 6:57 pm   /   by   /   comments (0)

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Oct 24, 2015

With the Train of Lights coming soon, the need to have the right of way clear of any and all trees and brush was a time sensitive matter. We don’t want any of the lights on the outside of the TOL being pulled off as the scenery rolls by. There had been a lot of work done the day before to generate piles and piles of brush to be chipped and today the team had to complete the process. We assembled at Brightside and added oil to Mongo then tested and adjusted the bucket truck.

We had our safety briefing, confirmed our paperwork was in place authorizing us to be on the mainline, reviewed where we were going, what we would be doing and reviewed the need to be careful at all times. Getting the bucket truck on the rails, we proceeded east ahead of those of us that would be chipping what had already been trimmed. Before we headed east out of Brightside we added gas for the chipper and were under way.

Just outside the east gate of Brightside we see many piles of tree limbs waiting to be chipped. The chipper consumed the limbs and sent the chips up the embankment. As we completed the chipping of each pile, Mongo moved the string of MOW cars further east toward Sunol while we walked along the right of way to the next pile. As we left Brightside, the right of way curved gently to the left, the hillside to our left became steeper and we could see the highway on our right.

A long section of straight track, with many piles of material to be chipped, then a curve to the right and the trees on both sides of the railway are closer to the track, forming a shaded passageway. The shade was welcome as we kept moving and chipping and soon we could see Farmer’s Crossing. In the distance we could also see the bucket truck being used to cut even more for us to drag and chip.

We stopped for lunch in the shade near Farmer’s Crossing. The discussion included stories of close encounters of the rattle snake kind and why Brad Pitt’s personal life is way worse than George Clooney’s. The things you learn while helping with MOW.

As we progressed past Farmer’s Crossing, the trees were only on the left side of the track and the highway was level with us. The traffic was much louder than before.  We were finally catching up to the bucket truck and the semaphores west of the Sunol station were visible. The Sunol station is just out of sight as the track curves to the left in the distance.

The distance from Brightside to Sunol doesn’t seem like that much on the map, but when you are walking it, moving down and up the roadbed to pull the branches up to the shredder, it seems like a very long way. I was very happy to hear that our day of dragging and chipping would end as we arrived in Sunol. Some say nothing lives up to the hype, but when you are told joining the MOW team will eliminate your need for a gym membership, they are not kidding.

In a world that is overly connected, where every moment can be taken up with online activities, it is very therapeutic to ‘get out of your head’, to experience a real break in the rush of virtual events, to be completely aware of your surroundings and to be ‘in the moment’. There is nothing like walking the railway, feeling the sun and shade as the day passes to realize that there is a real world out there, a world where we can do things that we can’t do online.

While cell phones work in the canyon, clearing brush require you to focus on what you are doing. You don’t have time for texting or anything else. It is a welcome break from the modern world and it feels great to actually accomplish something real, after a week of answering emails and sitting through team meetings on the phone. I encourage you to join us, there are many real jobs that need doing in the Canyon, along the railway.

The beginning of another Saturday in Brightside yard.

Mongo will transport us along the line to where the brush cutting needs to be done.

Signs of intelligent life along the railway?

A closer look at the pile of rocks setup by one of our visitors.

Looking east near the Sunol station.

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