Caboose #50 Restoration Project

August 18, 2012 1:03 am Published by Leave your thoughtsSan Joaquin & Eastern RailroadCaboose #50HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDThe San Joaquin & Eastern Railroad (SJ&E) was constructed in 1912 to furnish transportation for men, materials and equipment bound for Southern California Edison’s (SCE) Big Creek Project, the largest hydroelectric construction effort known to the world at that time. The railroad was built from it’s El Prado connection to the Southern Pacific’s Friant Branch, north of Fresno, to Cascada (pronounced k ã-skãd´a), California (known as Big Creek since 1926). The SJ&E was built in 157 days between 5 February and 10 July 1912. It extended a distance of just over 56 miles, containing 1078 curves up to 60 degrees, 43 trestles (the longest being 576 feet in length) and 255 grades (the steepest being 5.2 percent). Additionally, there was a spur built to the Shaver Lake area, as well as inclines to the various power plant locations and “The Basin,”now known as Huntington Lake. Prior to the construction of Huntington and Shaver Lakes, therewere temporary rail lines built within those confines to support the clearing of trees, moving thetimber to on-site lumber mills, transporting crushed rock to dam sites and performing other tasks as necessary. The railroad ceased operations in 1933, and was sold for scrap and disposal soon thereafter. The SJ&E, also known locally as the “Slow, Jerky and Expensive,” was an important factor in the development of Southern California hydroelectric power and in the communities which grew up along the railroad. Portions of the SJ&E road bed can still be seen today, and even traversed by car. If the reader desires to know more about this wonderful railroad, Hank Johnston’s book, The Railroad That Lighted Southern California, may be purchased at the Central Sierra Historical Society (CSHS) store. The information above is from Mr. Johnston’s. A rancher by the name of Harry Ball acquired caboose #50 when he heard that the scrappers were going to burn the low-value wood items not sold and moved it to his property where it became a family ranch office for the next 67 years. In March 2000, the Harry W. Ball family donated the caboose to the CSHS, and it was moved up the hill by SCE to a maintenance and storage yard near Camp Edison at Shaver Lake. There it resided minus all the major metal components; i.e., trucks (wheel sets), brake assembly and couplers; until moved to the new CSHS museum site in August 2007.Two sister cabooses were similarly saved by other ranchers (#51 now owned by the Eastern Fresno County Historical Society located just to the east of Sierra Union High School and #52 owned by the Lesher family on Copper Avenue between Willow Avenue and the Auberry Roadin Fresno County).CHRONOLOGY OF RESTORATION2004In September 2004, CSHS member Major Brooks Wilson was asked to come on board to participate in the caboose restoration and preservation process. Brooks started the ball rolling by researching the caboose origin, locating replacement parts, and preparing a scope of work, milestones and guidelines for an historical survey. The archives of Southern California Edison and the California State Railroad Museum were visited, but not much was available. There were no operational or maintenance records of any kind, nor was there much in the way of pictures. Of interest, Hank Johnston’s book reported that the three cabooses of the SJ&E were purchased from the SP in 1912. Subsequent research by Brooks suggested otherwise. Kyle Wyatt, Curator of History and Technology, California State Railroad Museum (CSRM), believed the cabooses were modified by the SJ&E shop crew from SP box or flat cars. Chris DeWitt, Restoration Supervisor, Nevada State Railroad Museum (NSRM), however, expressed the opinion that they were probably built from scratch in the SJ&E shops. After an exhaustive, on-site historical survey 20 July 2005, Chris’ opinion prevailed.Major acquisitions for the restoration include a set of trucks (from an 1870’s era box car) purchased from the Connecticut Trolley Museum, and couplers, leaf springs and the major components of an air brake system from the Durango & Silverton Railroad in Durango, Colorado. Modifications to the couplers and brake system were subsequently made by the Wasatch Railroad Contractors of Cheyenne, Wyoming, in 2006, to make them fit the caboose and resemble the one original caboose photo, as closely as possible.2005Chris DeWitt, Restoration Supervisor, Nevada State Railroad Museum, was asked to conduct an historical survey of the caboose, and provide his expertise and guidance for the conduct of the restoration. This survey took place 20 July 2005 and provided a starting point for the restoration process. Subsequent Scope of Work and Milestone projections were prepared and modified as the work progressed . Hundreds of pictures were taken by Ed Selleck and Brooks Wilson for documentation purposes, and several hours of video were taken by John Harshman during the work sessions with Brooks narrating.2006During the summer of 2006, after having photographed the caboose from all angles for an archival record, most of the metal fixtures were removed, tagged and moved to Brooks’ shop. The “B” end was left intact, however, so that it could be used as a guide for cutting new timbers and drilling the holes for fittings in the right place for both ends. Virtually all of the fittings which were missing were returned by those that took them originally, which was a major accomplishment in itself. During the winter months, all the parts were sandblasted, repainted and tagged. Bolts were straightened, sandblasted and rethreaded or replaced with like material. Nuts and washers were purchased, bagged with their corresponding bolts, the bags marked and attached to their corresponding metal fixtures. National Hardware in Fresno had a treasure trove of old square headed bolts and lag screws.Due to the necessity of waiting for the CSHS Museum to be completed it was decided not begin the restoration until after it had been moved to the museum site where water, power and storage facilities would be available. Moving it intact was much easier than moving it in a disassembled state.During this time Ed Selleck was offered a caboose stove by the Minkler family. It was in great shape and merely needed cleaning and blacking, which will be done during the winter. It even came with two sections of stove pipe. The nickle silver fittings were re-plated and a grate was made to replace the missing one. The stove was restored to work, if desired.Two period correct Dressel railroad lanterns were acquired during 2006. One came from a trade Brooks made with the Eastern Fresno County Historical Society and the other was purchased/ donated by the Questers. Both were cleaned, sandblasted and repainted. New kerosene tanks were made to replace the original ones which were bad and wick assemblies were acquired to make the lanterns fully operational. They fit the corner brackets on the caboose perfectly.2007In August 2007, the CSHS Museum was completed and a grand opening conducted. Just prior to this event the caboose was moved from the SCE storage and maintenance yard to the west end of the museum where the restoration would take place. All of the metal fixtures, which had been restored the previous year, were moved from Brooks’ shop to the storage available in the museum building. They were displayed for the grand opening along with a slide show of pictures taken thus far.Once the museum was officially open, the disassembly of the caboose was begun. Due to there being significant dry rot throughout the caboose, it was necessary to take the caboose completely apart and rebuild her from the ground up, using original pieces where possible. During this process, hundreds of pictures were taken and numerous drawings made for later reference. As the disassembly progressed, all the pieces were marked and stored for later reference as necessary. Just prior to the onset of winter, all that was left was the bottom of the caboose: underframe, sub-flooring and finish flooring. These were tarped for the winter. While the disassembly progressed, measurements of everything were taken and Shaver lumberman Jeff Young cut white fir timbers for all the framing. The winter of 2007-8 saw the timbers stored under cover to allow the wood to dry and cure.2008The disassembly process was completed in June of 2008. A second work session was held 16-22 All the underframe timbers were cut to size, planed, milled with mortices and tennons, and made ready for reassembly. Side and end wall framing was cut and stored for subsequent fitting and installation. Redwood siding provided by Jeff Young was sized, milled and stored. The brake hydraulic reservoir and air tank were installed at this point since it was easier to do so while the under frame was apart than to do it later from underneath the caboose.2009In May, work began in earnest. The side and end sills were replaced, and the center and intermediate sills, which had dry rot at both ends, had new pieces made, fitted and fished in place with bolts. Once the underframe was assembled, the tops of the beams were coated with an elastomeric material to help prevent future rot by preventing sitting water to do its’ damage. Though this was not historical, it was believed that such process was necessary to reduce possible future rot, as suggested by restoration expert, Chris DeWitt. The elastomeric would not be seen once the car was completed.The needle beams (cross timbers towards the center of the car which support the rigidity of the frame) were painted and installed. Draft timbers were rough cut and left to dry a bit before they were milled to dimension. Draft timbers hold the couplers on each end.In July, a second work session was conducted. The crew completed all the wall and roof framing reconstruction except for that of the cupola. All of the roofing material for the cupola and approximately two thirds of the roofing material for the main roof was milled and stacked to dry.The storage compartment under the center portion of the underframe was worked on; i.e., steel strapping made, and the wood was milled and stacked to dry. Corner and door posts were milled and installed, and all door headers milled and installed. The bottom frame of the cupola was started, but time ran out.The tops of the side and end framing, and roof rafters were coated with elastomeric to help prevent future dry rot.Some of the 1-1/2″ piping from the air brake system was installed, but would not be completed until later. The “A” end of the caboose had its’ draft timbers, end sill and coupler equipment installed. The installation of these items on the “B” end were delayed until the trucks have been received, modified and missing body bolster parts manufactured.A third work session was held 3-8 November. The draft timbers and end sill for the “B” end were installed, and the coupler was then mounted. Next, the roof end and cupola framing was cut, milled and completed. The cupola sub-roofing was then installed and made ready for the future installation of tar paper next year.An interesting note here is that the original roof of the caboose was all 1″ x 4″ boards grooved lengthwise in a double layer extending from the centerline of the car. These grooves channeled the rain water off the car.Sometime circa 1920, the cupola was added. Initially, there was no tar or tar paper installed to prevent water from leaking through. The railroad apparently realized that the wood roofing wasn’t enough to prevent leaking water from making the inside feel like a rain forest during wet weather. When the cupola was constructed, metal flashing was added along with tar paper to make the roof more weather tight. In trying to keep an historical balance, it was my intent as advised by Chris, to show both the original roof and the modified roof. The cupola would have a tar paper roof using a newer product that looks like tar paper, but lasting a lot longer than the original product. The main roofing on either side of the cupola would be two layers of grooved, 1″ x 4″ boards. Once the cupola framing and sub-roofing was completed, most of the 1″ x 4″ roofing on either side of the cupola was installed. We ran out of roofing boards about 60 pieces shy of completion and had to wait until Jeff Young had time to cut more. Also completed was the installation of redwood siding on both ends of the car. I had not originally intended to progress this far, but we had the manpower and time to do it. Lastly, we covered the caboose with two 20′ x 40′ tarps to protect it from the coming winter.2010A two week work session was held 10-21 May 2010. Once the winter tarping had been removed, volunteers installed the remaining exterior redwood siding. Next, the four exterior corners where shaped for the lantern brackets positions. Truss rod support blocking and forged iron pads were installed and the truss rods tightened. Window sills for the sides and cupola were completed as were end door sills. The roof was completed as was the exterior of the cupola. Roof walk supports were installed and the roof primed for painting.Over the winter, master carpenter Bob Conry remade the end doors and window frames. These were primer painted during the work session by Austin Lysight. After the cupola window sills were installed, David Nehring fashioned new galvanized metal flashing to fit around the bottom of the cupola and then new fascia was installed along with cupola arm rests. The roofing installation, which had not been completed during the November 2009 work session due to the wood material running out, was finished during this session.Originally, the roof had been constructed on the caboose in 1912 as a single, pitched entity with two layers of 1″ x 4″ boards grooved lengthwise to facilitate drainage. It is thought that circa 1920, the cupola was added. When the caboose was being disassembled for restoration in 2007, numerous layers of tar paper were removed to reveal the original wooden roofing described above. The roof of the cupola, however, did not have the same wooden roofing that the main roof did. Instead, there were 1″ x 12″ planks covered by the aforementioned tar paper. In discussing the restoration of the roof with Chris DeWitt, Restoration Supervisor of the Nevada State Railroad Museum, it was decided to rebuild the main roof as originally constructed and the cupola roof as mentioned above with tar paper.This would offer a perspective of two different periods of the caboose’s active life. The main roof would be painted the original color which was close to a box car red, and the tar paper would resemble the original red tar paper. The replacement tar paper, however, was a more modern version which would offer the original look, but have modern qualities and provide a 25 year life span rather than a three to five year life span. The new material was manufactured by Tarco. Tarco’s LeakBarrier EasyStick Plus is a premium, SBS modified, granule surfaced, polyester reinforced, self-adhesive modified bituminous cap sheet membrane for use in most low slope and steep slope roof system applications. EasyStick Plus was a perfect alternative to the application of roofing using conventional application methods of torching, hot asphalt mopping, or using cold applied adhesives. Prior to applying this material, a sub-base material was installed to give extra strength, durability and protection. Roofing nails were added around the edges to make the roof look like the original.When the caboose had been saved from the torch in the mid-1930’s, it is assumed that Harry Ball, upon whose ranch the caboose resided for 67 years, took off the roof walk along the center line of the roof to facilitate the application of corrugated metal roofing. Though metal roofing was not a part of the original caboose construction, it did serve to protect the caboose during its’ time as a ranch office. Though the roof walk (sometimes called a “cat walk”) was gone when the Central Sierra Historical Society received it as a donation from the Ball family in 2000, the screw holes for the roof walk supports were discovered and catalogued. New supports were cut, primer painted and installed on the new roof during this work session. End brackets, which supported the overhang of the roof walk ends to the caboose roof, were made by David Nehring using an actual bracket from SJ&E caboose #51 belonging to the Eastern Fresno County Historical Society as a template. Square head bolts were purchased from National Hardware in Fresno to attach these supports when the time came.In looking at original pictures of cabooses #51 and #52, there appeared to be some sort of a storage rack under the middle of the side not having the brake cylinders. Inspecting the original needle beams (two of which crossed the stringers and sills of the underframe at right angles), bolt holes and outlines of some sort of bracket were observed in a particular pattern. Having no records to indicate how the original storage shelf was actually fabricated, steel brackets with 2″ x 12″ planking were bolted together from scratch using the original pictures as a guide. When one views the right side of the caboose, this shelf is a prominent feature. Volunteer David Nehring called it a “hobo shelf” and it certainly could have filled that need at one time or another, but it was mainly used to carry tools, cables and other implements often needed for train operation. After two years of trying to figure out how the brake air lines were located, Brooks finally figured out a way to make it look right. Though the original air line would have been bent steel piping, Brooks used sections of pipe with pipe connectors, 45 and 90 degree elbows, unions and other fittings.Though the materials used weren’t historically accurate, it was a viable alternative to show how the original brake system looked, and both the brake cylinders and valve cocks on each end are .Up until this work session, all of our wood needs had been filled by Jeff Young of Shaver Lake. This included the large timbers for the underframe, side and roofing frames, redwood siding and assorted pieces for all the work done to date. At this point, Patrick Emmert stepped in and used hiscontacts with Sierra Forest Products (SFP) of Terra Bella, CA. SFP donated the lumber for the interior flooring, siding and ceiling.On a separate note, but of equal importance, the project received a $2,000 grant from The Bertha and John Garabedian Charitable Foundation. This went a long way towards helping this project reach its’ conclusion.During the summer between work sessions, volunteers David Nehring and Austin Lysight painted the outside of the caboose with gray primer.During the 16-27 August work session, the interior siding, ceiling and flooring (sub-flooring and finish flooring) were installed. The lower body bolster straps were installed. The air line was completed under the car and the caboose was then ready to go on its’ trucks after the display track was laid. The first coat of red paint was applied and made a huge impact on many of the people visiting the museum. Doors and windows were primer painted and a first coat of paint applied on them. The original glass that had been saved was cleaned up and that which had been broken was replaced by similar “old time glass.” The glass was installed once the windows and doors were painted. Roof walk boards were cut and painted prior to being installed on the roof. The display track was laid by Doug Koerper and his crew of Huntington Construction. In November, the trucks arrived from Cheyenne, WY, and offloaded onto temporary tracks next to the museum.2011A two week work session was held 9-22 May. The second coat of paint to the exterior was applied with the exception of the roof. The cat walk wood installed the previous year had not dried fully at the time and a lot of pitch seeped through the paint over the winter. This had to be addressed before additional coats of paint were added. The interior bench work was repaired and restored. It was then painted and installed in its’ original locations. All the windows and doors were trimmed and painted. The painting of the interior was begun and continued through the summer months. The roof walk installation was completed. Though a roof walk existed during the caboose’s working days, it was gone by the time the CSHS obtained it. It was restored as close as possible to an original photo of the caboose. The side grab rails and sliding door post protectors were re-installed, as were the corner lantern brackets.The trucks were moved to the display track the first week and the journal boxes cleaned and regreased. Some touch painting and minor repairs to the trucks were made as well. The highlight of the session was the movement of the caboose to the display track on 21 May and put on her trucks. Measurements were taken and a template made for the step stringers. These were made by Bob Conry over the summer prior to the fall work session. The fall work session occurred 20 October – 3 November. The end and side doors, interior and exterior metal fittings, side windows, steps [stringers, steps, risers and support rods], sink, and the backer board and sheet metal for the stove position [floor, sides and ceiling] were all installed. Extensive painting and touch up was also completed.Note on paint: originally the car was painted haphazardly with no particular scheme. Chris DeWitt, Restoration Supervisor, Nevada State Railroad Museum, told me that whatever paint was available was used and that time was of the essence in 1912. He suggested I would be correct in painting whatever scheme I desired as long as the colors were accurately represented. I chose to paint the interior in a two tone scheme. The exterior paint on the caboose when it was received was extremely faded from sitting 67 years on the Ball Ranch. As the caboose was disassembled in 2007, we found the original color under roofing boards which had been covered with tar paper and corrugated metal. All these colors are original representations and standard colors of the time.Inside the caboose there is some bench work with stairs to the cupola area on the north side of the car. It is believed that there was a similar bench on the right side, but it was decided not to recreate it in order to allow more room and easier access for wheel chair bound visitors and larger numbers of visitors.2012The last work session was held 8-16 May. The cupola windows, finish molding, door hardware and locks, stove with pipe fittings and end decking were installed. The painting of the caboose was completed and the flooring given two coats of stain. The flooring may have been painted originally, but it wasn’t positively determined. The decision was made to apply two coats of stain to help protect the floor from heavy traffic. This will make it easier to refresh when necessary. Graphic artist Rick Morgan volunteered to complete the restoration by lettering and numbering the caboose using stencils made by Terry Woolsey. Over the active life of the SJ&E, its’ cars were lettered and numbered with varying fonts and styles according to pictures presented in Hank Johnston’s book. The font and style of lettering recreated on caboose #50 came directly from the one original photo of the caboose. Terry determined the size and font of the lettering/numbering by taking scale measurements from the photo on his computer and making Several types of railroad tools have been donated to the CSHS. It is believed they were found along the SJ&E right-of-way and came from this railroad. One pry bar is stamped with “SJ&E” lettering. They are secured on a wall inside the caboose with identification plaques describing their nomenclature and usage to visitors.As previously mentioned, there are two period Dressel lanterns which have been restored to use. There were no clear photographs available to determine the style of lantern used on the SJ&E. These lanterns are quality relics from the same time period and fit the corner brackets. They will be displayed on the caboose for special events.VOLUNTEER HOURSA total of 4,473.25 volunteer hours have been logged by the caboose restoration crew. The hours spent researching, traveling in search of and acquiring parts, and to/from the restoration site, conducting dinner /auction events and making presentations were not counted for this article.FUNDINGFunding largely came from private donations made by individuals, local companies and private organizations [please see the list of supporters below]. Shaver residents Tom and Shirley Kepler organized, along with v.e.s.t. and Quester assistance, several dinner/auction events which garnered good returns.DONORS OF THE CABOOSE TO THE CENTRAL SIERRA HISTORICAL SOCIETYHarry Ball Family:Wilma BallWarren BallJoe EricksonKent MillarVOLUNTEERSJohn Bacorn Gordon Bone Bob Conry Patrick EmmertMatthew Eskender Vernon Fogderude Bert Greeley Dr. Dan GriffinJohn Harshman Kathy Hawkins Terry Johnston Larry KarabianRobert Knapp Doug Koerper Austin Lysight John MountRick Morgan Tom Mozzetti David Nehring Tom NelsonPaul Odermatt Jim Pittman Wes Qualls Jerry SandstromDave Schiefen Joe Ubbink Dennis Vasquez Chuck WestDr. Rod Wiens Brooks Wilson Colleen Wilson Terry WoolseyJeff Young*NOTE 1: There were others who contributed indirectly through donated company time, etc. for whom I have no name. Still, they are appreciated!SUPPORTERS & DONORSAuberry Intermountain RotaryBirthday ClubJeff BoatmanJeff Crews & Bill IcklerJohn BartholmewCalifornia State Railroad MuseumKyle Wyatt, Curator of History & TechnologyKathryn Santos, ArchivistDon Casperson – Old Doc’s LiquorsConnecticut Trolley MuseumGalen Semprebon- PresidentDavid WorthShirley ConteLinda CottinghamCrown City Hardware – Pasadena, CAChuck West IndustriesChris DeWitt, Restoration Supervisor, Nevada State Railroad MuseumDurango & Silverton Railroad – Durango, COSteve FarrisFresno Valves & CastingsThe Bertha & John Garabedian Charitable FoundationVernon Glover – Friends of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic RRRay HolmHuntington ConstructionRusty Heck, Doug Koerper & crewBob & Sue JohnsonTom & Shirley KeplerDoug Koerper – Doug Koerper ConstructionKenny LongMerrill LynchMelton Air ConditioningRick MorganNational HardwareTom & Marge NelsonPeter OgleBud OlsenBill PaloutzianJim & Sandy PittmanPonderosa Telephone CompanyLuanne Silkwood, OwnerCheryl Frank, Public Relations & MarketingBob Gilman, Internet ConsultantProduction Services Company (machine shop) – Del Rey, CADuane “Bodie” Farnsworth & crewQuesters – Valley of the Vines ChapterQuesters – Sierra Searchers #1305 ChapterWalt ReinhardtEd SelleckYon SongSierra Forest Products – Terra Bella, CAKent & Larry Duysen & crewSouthern California EdisonCharlie BashamVivian PerezRick Johnson, retiredRoss Landry, retiredSteve ByrdPatrick EmmertUnknown crewsJudy StatlerElizabeth SullivanSunset Foundry, Inc. – Valley Springs, CADave Frietas & crewDr. John Vasconcelosv.e.s.t.Wasatch Railroad Contractors – Cheyenne, WYJohn Rimmasch & crewRichard WilsonBrooks & Colleen WilsonTerry Woolsey*NOTE 1: Apologies are given for not having all the names for the members of the Questers and V.E.S.T. who gave of their time. They were all magnificent in their support!*NOTE 2: Support ranged from financial aid to putting on dinner/auction fund raiser events, providing information, making parts, modifying equipment, donating artifacts, etc.It is all greatly appreciated!*NOTE 3: Again, there are those that may have possibly been left out, but this was inadvertent since some things just happened in spite of our awareness or lackCENTRAL SIERRA HISTORICAL SOCIETYBOARD OF DIRECTORSJohn Mount – PresidentLinda Clague – Vice PresidentPatrick Emmert – SecretaryCurtis BlasingameDr. John BoogaertGerre Gurland JonesRobert KnappJames G. PalmerWalt R. ReinhardtJohn StholJeff YoungBecky Davis – Administrative AssistantFormer board members:Steve FarrisMatthew HoffmanDr. Carolyn HunsakerKirby MolenBrent PiusP.J. Machado-SilvestroElizabeth SullivanPatricia A. Towne, CPA – Treasurer 

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