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Four gauges in one day in San Diego County 4/5/2003

A return to the Descanso, Alpine & Pacific, Campo then on to the Poway Midland RR

by Chris Guenzler

PC 1-4 are post cards

After I finished the Descanso, Alpine & Pacific story, Roy asked me if I wanted to come down for another visit. We had planned for the third Saturday in March but a major rainstorm washed away that plan. We rescheduled for April 5th. In the meantime, I checked the Poway Midland RR and they were also running their steam engine that day. With Campo running every weekend a plan was quickly put together, Alpine first, Campo second and Poway third. Now if the weather would cooperate it would be a great day of train riding. A storm was nearing Southern California the night before my trip but as it turned out it dropped little or no rain. So on that Saturday morning, I left Santa Ana under clear skies driving towards San Diego. As I neared Sorrento Valley I came to the trailing edge of the passing storm. I drove under one very dark cloud and hoped it would not let go. Turning east onto Interstate 8, I passed construction of the San Diego Trolley extension from Mission San Diego to La Mesa. The line when built will be fun to ride with its bridges, rock ledge running and tunnel under San Diego State University. I drove on to Alpine getting sprinkled on. By the time I had stopped for gas and snacks the sprinkles stopped. I drove the rest of the short way to Roy's place.

Descanso, Alpine & Pacific 4/5/2003

As I drove in I spotted Roy and I parked my car. Roy was working on a switch lantern. We went into the Shade Depot where we got reacquainted out of the chilly air. We talked and he showed me a photo album of the construction of the line plus some very interesting pictures as well. We walked towards the shop building stopping off at his newly built caboose which I toured. Next we went to the shop building where Roy showed me his new blacksmithing equipment which was very useful in building the caboose.

While Roy started up the 2.5 ton Brookville Locomotive I went off for some more pictures. I met him back at the Shade Depot where I boarded the ore car for another trip and tour of the Descanso, Alpine & Pacific Railway 20 inch line.

We ran out to the road crossing where I drove in earlier this morning Roy had a surprise to show me. He had purchased an Overhead Wigwag crossing signal which he can operate with a garage door opener until he installs the contact points in the track. It did my heart good to see one of these operating again and brought back boyhood memories for me. When I was a kid living here in Santa Ana, the Southern Pacific had one of these at Washington Street and over at what became Civic Center Blvd was my favorite Upper Quadrant Wigwag. When the SP abandoned their line into Santa Ana due to the widening of Interstate 5 for trackage rights on the Santa Fe, both of these two wigwags went the way of the "Great White Buffalo". It did my heart good to see this one alive and well.

We headed back along the Tom C Dyke Fill to the Shade Depot by the caboose and over the switch to the lower line. We went through Garden by the Section House and the Loco and Car Shop climbing the grade towards the loop at High Pass. At the switch we stayed straight.

We made our way the rest of the grade and curved out onto the high trestle at High Pass.

We did not stop to admire the view and made the loop with Roy jumping off to throw the switch before heading back down to Garden. At the switch there, Roy repeated his switch tending duties and we were lined for the lower level of tracks. We ran below the Tom C Dyke Fill and around a horseshoe curve as we dropped through the overhead trees. At the bottom end of that curve we turned to the left taking us to the next junction where we stayed straight but then came to a stop at New Marnel where Roy wanted to show me his latest acquisition. He now has an 18 inch gauge train we can run and once he uncovered it he gave me a demonstration of how it works. He next gave me a chance and I operated it back and forth. I really enjoyed operating this unique piece of railroad equipment.

He has a short section of dual gauge track at New Marnel. His plan is to build a line up to a switchback which will end up at the No Hope Mine. The engine called Little Trammer was manufactured some time prior to 1930 by the Mancha Storage Battery Locomotive Company, St Louis, USA. The builder plate indicates "Mine Locomotive Motor, Type M 8, Amps 94, Volts 40, Speed 925, Serial number 20791." The locomotive is powered by two 725 batteries, 20 volts, in series.

We got back on our train taking it through the Bobcat Cut, made by a Bobcat Tractor and down to the Howe wooden through truss trestle patterned after the one at Hermosa on the Durango and Silverton {DRGW}.

We stopped and Roy told me of the construction it took to create this beautifully made trestle. We headed by El Pozo before we headed up to the junction but had to back down in order to go through the switch to head back upgrade. Roy will put in a wye track here so his trains could just loop around the lower loop in the future. We climbed the grade back up to Garden and with a throw of a switch, we returned to the shade Depot ending another journey on the Descanso, Alpine & Pacific. Back inside the Shade Depot I bought the post cards and Roy showed me pictures of the Garret locomotive he will be visiting in Texas very soon.

After we said our goodbyes I was off to Campo. It was an easy drive to Buckman Springs Road. As I drove south into a darkened sky, raindrops started to fall and my wind shield wipers were needed. I pulled into Campo with the rain stopping but the wind really beginning to blow cold.

On the road into the museum, I came to the Carrizo Gorge sand unloading facility finding the CGRR 4324, a GP-9 ex Chicago Northwestern along with CGRR 1065, an ex Relco S-4. I drove on over to the museum's parking lot.

San Diego Railroad Museum 11:00 AM Miller Creek Train 4/5/2003

Getting out to Campo with about an hour fifteen minutes before train time allowed me to walk through the collection as I am a museum member. I saw the ex California Western 46 and one of my favorite engines, the Baldwin AS616 Oregon Northwestern 1. I then went to the Box Car Theater and watched a history of the San Diego Arizona and Eastern keeping me out of the wind that was blowing strong and cold. About fifteen till eleven I went out and got in line to board the train. It had SD&A 7285, a 70 tonner built in 1943 for the US Marines. It served at Camp Pendleton and was donated to the museum in 1983. The train consisted of the coach 250, an ex Lackawanna built in 1930 and the open window coach 350, built in 1945 as a hospital unit for the US Air Force and donated in 1981. Everyone boarded the enclosed coach while I took pictures of our train before boarding the open window car, a very cold place to sit. After we waited for a few late comers, we finally departed for Miller Creek.

We headed by the yard with all the museum's equipment and where the restoration all takes place. We passed the Campo Jct and headed across Campo Creek to Barrett where we crossed Highway 94. There are place signs at all the sites along the line. It was just another nice trip but cold trip in the open air to Miller Creek passing the sign posts of Brown Dog, Sports Curve, Clover Flat, Spencer Crossing and Miller Creek. Along the way the Campo Creek Viaduct was visible off to the east. Once we arrived at Miller Creek, the 7285 uncoupled and ran around our train as I enjoyed a Coca Cola I brought along. For the return trip I took shelter in the Lackawanna Car listening to Black Sabbath's "Early Live" and did a few word fill in puzzles as my body warmed up. Back at Campo Jct, they let people off for a walking tour of the shops and I stayed on for the final destination of the Campo Depot. I thanked our conductor for the excellent trip before detraining for my car and my next stop of Poway so I thought!

I drove back to Interstate 8 up Buckman Springs Road and had a good trip to El Cajon where I took CA Highway 67 towards Poway. As I was driving up the major grade, suddenly my car died. My first thought was oh no! Not again! Thinking back to the trip, back from the Verde Canyon RR when my engine died and I got towed home from west of Indio. I got the Geo off the road and hit my flashers on. A guy in a pickup truck stopped and let me use his cell phone to call the Auto Club. She said it would be 45 minutes at least to reach me. As I handed the phone back, this nice guy told me to check for a loose wire. He drove off and I opened the hood. I saw a distributor cable off so I reconnected it and tried to start the engine. Nothing, so if one is off maybe another one was. Guess what? Two were off and once I reconnected them I was good to go. The car started and I was off to solve a new problem, canceling the tow truck. I drove ten miles to Poway where I found a pay phone and got the same women. She canceled the call and asked me what the problem had been. When I told her she said that is the most common problems drivers have in this area and one the driver can always fix. New lesson learned, always check the wires before calling. I went into the store and got directions to the train in Poway.

Poway Midland RR 4/5/2003

I pulled up and saw the Steam train sitting ready to go. I got out of my car for a quick picture right before the train left. It went north around their loop and I went across the park for an action shot. The little steamer puffed by and I was off back to the other side of the park for another runby. The train slowed at the depot before it started its second loop around the beautiful laid out park which the tracks circle. I went to the southwest corner and shot the train crossing Rattlesnake Creek before returning to the depot crossing for another shot. The train stopped and while the passengers detrained, I bought a ticket and post card before boarding the train for my first steam train ride ever here.

The Engine 3 was built by Baldwin in 1907 as an 0-4-0 with 28 inch driving wheels, oil fired and designed to run on 42'' gauge for the Henry Lowell Lime and Cement Company. In 1952 it was sold to the South San Francisco Scrap Line where it sat for 8 years. In 1960 Charles Polland of Vista, CA. bought the engine, built some track and ran it on his property in Vista. He gave the engine an 1870 appearance and built an 1870 style passenger coach which could carry 32 passengers. Polland died in 1966. John S. Porter bought the railroad lock, stock, engine and car and moved it to his land in Poway calling it the Poway Village & Rattlesnake Creek Railroad. He built a station house and shed for the engine. Mr Porter died in 1980 after which the little railroad sat unused for seven more years. In December of 1987, the City of Poway purchased the property including the railroad and turned it into the wonderful park you can see today complete with a Farmer's Market. It's one of the few city owned and run railroads in the nation.

The ride started with a toot of the whistle and we moved slowly by the engine house. They have a Southern Pacific Caboose and a Santa Fe box car inside the loop. We passed the turntable and then crossed Rattlesnake Creek for the first time. We ran along the outside of the park with family's picnicking, having birthday parties or just out enjoying a great day in a great park. We ran in the shade of some large trees along the west side of the park before we curved over Rattlesnake Creek before two grade crossings each with crossing gates. Inside the loop here are shops which do a good business by the looks of the people visiting them. We curved back to the north and ran by the loading area but continued on a second trip around a very nice railroad. I detrained after a most wonderful trip and met the engine crew who was busy servicing the engine Tom and Steve. They invited me up for a cab ride and we talked as we made two more delightful loops around the park.

With that done, I said my goodbyes and headed home to Santa Ana via Interstate 15 to CA 78 to Interstate 5. I was home for only two hours before I hopped on Surfliner 784 to Solana Beach and came back on Surfliner 593 ending another great and very interesting day of train riding.