The Headlight

Southern California Scenic Railway Association, Inc.

The mission of the Southern California Scenic Railway Association is to provide and administer volunteers and to raise and manage funds to support the mission of the Travel Town Museum and its Master Plan

Volume 15, Number 3............................................................................Fall 2000


By Bryan Reese, M.177 Project Manager

Hats off to Doug Stephens for designing and building a substitute ignition system for M.177. I call it “substitute” because at some point it may be possible to repair the original coil. Careful readers of these pages will recall that the motorcar’s Winton engine is a “double dual” ignition system, meaning it has four spark plugs per cylinder. This was done to facilitate the burning of an early alternative fuel, distillate. The distillate fuel, something similar to today’s naphtha, required a great deal of ignition. The experiment failed, and by the early ‘30s, Santa Fe was running gasoline exclusively in the cars.

The original spark coil is unique; it looks a bit like a neon sign transformer and contains a single primary or low-voltage coil, and four secondary or high-voltage coils. It became apparent after the engine became operational that only two of the secondary coils were functioning. While this original coil is probably repairable, I made the decision to replace it, at least for now.

Doug designed and constructed a system using four automotive spark coils, very carefully making sure that it would be compatible with the existing hardware. On September 9, the new system was tried out, and it worked the first time. That was not to say that there were not other difficulties. The only think that can produce a large enough volume of air to start the Winton engine is the Baldwin locomotive. Unfortunately, the Baldwin wouldn’t crank. A quick inspection of the batteries revealed a critically low water level. Dan Price, Jeff Barrow, Tim Riley, and Doug Stephens sprang into action, and the batteries took several gallons of water.

Meanwhile, the welding trailer was wheeled into position to jump-start the Baldwin, only to itself have a dead battery. The forklift was used to jump-start the welder, only just in time before running out of fuel. Thanks to Gordon Bachlund’s ministrations to the Baldwin’s battery charger, the locomotive cranked with vigor and started easily on subsequent weekends.

Earlier in the quarter (in fact, during the summer’s hottest days), Alan Weeks applied a fresh coat of paint to M.177’s battery boxes, and promises to come back this fall and touch up paint in the engine room.

I’d also like to welcome a new helper, John Gardner. John is a retired aerospace worker and was sent my way by Nancy Gneier. In the short time John has been volunteering, he has made some parts for the Winton, organized a lot of stray information into a timing procedure for the engine, and has made a good start on rewiring the engine room. He’s been working from an old and confusing diagram, and has been making diagrams for individual circuits that reflect modifications that we’ve discovered. Welcome aboard, John!

In the coming months, it’s hoped we can crack the last big problem with the motorcar, the generator. If we can get the funding, we’ll be in the home stretch. There is also a possibility that the needed parts may be available, but it’s too early to mention any details.

I hope to see you on Saturday.

Don’t forget M.177 when you consider your year-end charitable contributions


By Sue Kientz, SCSRA President

This quarter has demanded a lot of patience, as many issues like track work and arranging for in-house equipment operator training await City approval. Bryan Reese and I have been working with Linda Barth of Recreation and Parks and hope that track work will begin again soon. In September we learned that Tail Track work had to take a back seat to Track 7. This was not much of a surprise, considering that Track 7 must be done before work can begin on the Locomotive Pavilion. Maintenance of Way Foreman Dan Price submitted a detailed plan for Track 7 in early November and is just now finishing some supporting documentation Linda requested so she can render her decision.

Meanwhile, we are still hoping to provide in-house skip loader training to be led by Greg Ramsey (who took the certified training) so that other volunteers can train from him and be considered "certified." The official training costs money and entails attendance during business hours, so we of course prefer to have a Saturday, associate-led free training plan. We await definitive word from Linda on this arrangement.

During this break in activity, however, and in the spirit of Thanksgiving just recently passed, I’d like to thank all of you who have supported the SCSRA and our efforts towards restoration of M.177 and all our other rail equipment during this past year. Without your support, whether financial or by working at the park, we could never have come so far towards our goals. I hope all of you have a wonderful holiday season and a very happy new year!

SCSRA SCRAPBOOK: Moving the Crane ... Again!

Read the whole story in Restoration Notes:

Photos by Steve DeVorkin

The Hearty Crew The hearty crewmembers who helped move the crane recently: Mike Vitale, Mike Ramsey, and Greg Ramsey.

Crane from behind The Crane sits at Costco, where it has to leave since the spur has been sold.

Here is comes...
Comin’ down the street...
It gets the funniest looks from
Everyone it meets...

HEY, HEY, it’s the CRANE!

[with apologies to The Monkees]

Crane Crossing Crane Crossing!

On the move part 1 On the move!

On the move part 1 -- detail Greg Ramsey is in the cab, Mike Ramsey just outside, and Mike Vitale hangs onto the front, pointing the way?!

On the move part 2 Keep on truckin'!


“Little Ranger - Railroad Restores Passenger Service” Part 3 of 5

By Gail Martin, reprinted from the El Dorado Times

This article, originally written in 1995 for the 50th anniversary of The Little Ranger, is reprinted with permission. In this segment, riders of The Little Ranger recount their memories

. . . But wrecking crews and 50 flitting years couldn’t destroy the memories of all those people who came in contact with The Little Ranger and its crew so long ago. Their varied experiences have made The Little Ranger’s story come alive. Don and Patty Grove of El Dorado have fond memories of The Little Ranger. Both remember in their grade school years of trips to visit relatives.

Before her marriage Patty Jo Parry lived at 1006 South Emporia in El Dorado and she attended Washington Elementary School three blocks away. Many weekends in the early 50s were spent with her Van Horn grandparents, who lived south of Augusta on a City Service oilfield lease. Patty relates, “I was the oldest granddaughter, and I had a small suitcase for my clothes. After an early lunch Mother would take me downtown to the Santa Fe station because the train left at 12:35 and I would ride all by myself to Augusta where Grandmother Mamie would pick me up about 20 minutes later.” The kindly conductor, ‘Fritz’ Peters, probably made sure she was treated as an honored guest, even if she was a little girl and only going a short way.

In 1946 Don Grove went on a trip of a lifetime when he rode The Little Ranger all the way to Arkansas City and made a transfer to Silver Chief. A long trip for a small boy but great rewards at the end with two weeks of fun with his cousins in Oklahoma City. His first trip was in the company of his older sister Pat, but his next one was all by his lonesome. Boy Scouts of America in El Dorado became involved with The Little Ranger in the early 50s when Hazel Bankey of El Dorado was a Den Mother for a cub scout group of young boys, many of them attending Washington Elementary School. In the summertime for a year or two in 1951/52 era, Hazel and her assistant Irene Gruver would take the trip with eight excited cub scouts around the age of six and seven years old to the neighboring city of Augusta that always ended with a treat of ice-cream cones at a downtown drugstore.

The boys would dress in their bright blue scout shirts, blue jeans, and flashy yellow kerchief around their necks. The Den Mothers wore navy blue skirts with pale yellow shirts and perky blue hats making a memorable sight for the other travelers on the funny little train. The leaders’ husbands, Roy Bankey and Jack Gruver, would drive their cars to Augusta and pick up the happy, fired-up youngsters for the return trip home. After such outings many of the boys would dream of being railroad engineers when they grew up.

Susan Patterson was a member of a Brownie scout group in the 50s in El Dorado and took similar trips on the doodlebug with their scout leader. She said the train ride was the highlight of their scouting year.

Aline Thompson fondly recalls riding downtown in the summer evenings when she was five or six years old, with her father George Lambillotte, who was a train enthusiast, just to watch the Doodlebug come in. They stopped at Young’s Ice Cream Store in the first block of North Gordy for her favorite chocolate ice cream cone. They enjoyed this form of recreation until they bought their first television in 1952.

Carolyn Borgardus’ memories of The Little Ranger range from the age of four through all of the Doodlebug’s 13 years of service. She was Carolyn McMillan then and lived at 620 South Star in El Dorado a short block west of the Gordy tracks. Her fondest memories were of the engineer, Mr. Crandell, who became known as THE RAILROAD SANTA to all the neighborhood children because he threw handfuls of candy and gum out near the intersection of the railroad spur and Kansas Street. Children from blocks around would gather to wait for the train and their treats.

Carolyn Dwire relates a horror story about The Little Ranger. She was only two years old at the time but the tale never failed to instill its terror of trains, as it was retold time and time again by family members. Her uncle, Ernest McMillan and his family had an automobile crash with The Little Ranger on September 29, 1946, at the intersection of South Gordy Street and West Kansas Avenue about 5:30 p.m. Carolyn’s Aunt Lenora was killed and her cousins six-year-old Delores Marie and two-year-old Leroy Glenn suffered cuts and bruises as did their father. The family was rushed to the Susan B. Allen Hospital in the Byrd ambulance only it was too late for 27-year-old Lenora, who died enroute.

The wonder is that they weren’t all killed. The car was hurled over the end of a four-foot culvert about 20 feet to the north, coming to rest in a ditch, about six feet east of the track, still on its wheels but facing south instead of west. The McMillan family had been headed west and it was believed that Ernest was blinded by the setting sun. According to J.E. Lawrence, who witnessed the mishap from the front door of his home at 704 South Gordy, The Little Ranger did sound its whistle as it approached around the curve in the track just south of the scene of the collision.

The Wichita family had spent the day visiting Ernest’s sister Alice Dwire and family, who lived south of town on what is known as the Airport Road. They had enjoyed Sunday dinner and were on their way home to Wichita when the crash occurred.

Next Issue: El Dorado businesses prospered because of The Little Ranger, and other memories told


Welcome aboard to all of our new friends who have signed up this past quarter:

SCSRA No.NameHome Town
313JoEllen DoeringLos Angeles, CA
314George DoeringLos Angeles, CA
315Bill GustafsonDavis, CA
316William Dale, JrPasadena, CA
317John GardnerPacific Palisades, CA

If you haven't already, be sure to drop by and introduce yourselves the next time you are near Travel Town!


By Gordon Bachlund, Mechanical Superintendent

Battery Servicing - Dan Price, Tim Riley, and the writer serviced the caboose batteries and the M.177 batteries in late June. The Baldwin’s batteries were serviced as reported in Greg’s Diesel Shop article below.


By Greg Ramsey, Assistant Superintendent, Diesel

Batteries and more batteries. It doesn’t seem like an issue can go by without discussing our work on batteries, and of course, this one is no different. As I mentioned last month, the batteries in Charley had exceeded their warranties and had started to fail. The City ordered a new set and we got a delivery date from the vendor. To minimize on-site storage of Hazmat, the plan was to remove the batteries one weekend, have the vendor exchange the batteries during the week, and then we would reinstall them the following weekend. We got them out on schedule, but of course, the new ones never arrived. Turns out the vendor was basing his delivery estimates on when he thought he would have them from the factory. Moreover, the factory was back-ordered. The old batteries sat on a pallet in the service yard for almost two weeks leaving Charley unavailable for training in the interim weekend. With the new batteries still not available and with August Operations coming up, we had to reinstall the old ones. By agreement with the City, though, we decided we would not try to schedule another swap until the vendor actually had them in their local warehouse.

I received an e-mail telling me that the batteries had finally arrived on August 30. Not having time to exchange them prior to the September Operations, I arranged for help and scheduled to do the swap on my next Friday day off on September 15. The plan was to take them out in the morning, have the batteries exchanged around noon, and then have the new ones in and ready for training that night. To complicate things, though, Metrolink contacted me that morning and we had scheduled a mechanical inspection of the crane for that afternoon. It was too late to cancel the battery delivery, and the inspection was essential to our moving the crane, so I had to make that, too.

Jim Vicars and I met at the park around 10:30 a.m. By 11:30, we had the old ones out and on a pallet. I then called Tom Breckner and he advised the batteries would not be delivered until 2:30 p.m. Unfortunately, to get to the crane in time, I would not be able to wait until then to reinstall them. We paged Darlene to let her know Charley would not be ready for evening training. I returned later that evening hoping to reinstall them for morning training, but found that the terminals of the new battery were turned 90 degrees from the old ones. We were going to have to modify the cables or come up with new ones. By Saturday, we had fabricated bus bars and reinstalled them in Charley.

As I mentioned above, I met with Steve Collins from Bombardier who inspected the crane on behalf of Metrolink. He found the crane generally in good condition. He suggested we take up the slack in the brake rigging on one truck, make and install the two missing stirrups, and to straighten the bent one. He also noted that the brake hoses were out of date and that the couplers had been painted. In addition, he recommended that we have a marker light of some sort as well as a fire extinguisher and flagging kit when we moved.

The following morning I picked up some ½” bar stock from Industrial Metals and with the help of Danny, Jeff, and Greg Gneier, we bent it to shape. After drilling mounting holes at home on Sunday, Yvonne and I went back to the crane on the 20th. Using a half-ton chain fall and the adjacent track, I was able to straighten the bent stirrup. I was also able to take up one link on the front truck’s brake rigging and mounted the new stirrups. Unrelated to the inspection, I had also tried to adjust the air compressor governor a few weeks before. Unfortunately, rather than adjusting, the aluminum governor froze. I was able to get a new one donated by Tim Pitt of Fleet Pride in Burbank.

On Saturday, September 9, Bryan wanted to use the Baldwin to supply starting air to the M.177’s Winton engine, but the Baldwin would not start. Gordon found that the batteries had suffered from more than expected dehydration during the recent spate of hot weather, so a large crew (Dan Price, Jeff Barrow, Tim Riley, Doug Stephens, and Gordon) descended on the two battery boxes to top off the thirsty cells, while Greg Gneier and Tim Riley used the forklift to jockey the welding trailer (aka ground power supply for starting recalcitrant diesel-electric locomotives) into position to give the Baldwin a 68-volt “jump.” Naturally, the welder’s cranking battery was dead, so they “jumped” it from the forklift’s battery. After the Baldwin started, they stopped the welder and were ready to move it with the forklift when the forklift ran out of propane! It was an interesting Saturday.

As always, I can be reached at home (805-984-0332), work (805-982-9720), or via the Internet.


by Bryan Reese

As many of you already know, or perhaps have learned from elsewhere in these pages, Gordon Bachlund decided to take a break from Chairman of the Board of our Association. We all owe Gordon a deep debt of gratitude for the role he played in founding the Southern California Scenic Railway Association and guiding its growth and development.

As your new Chairman, I thought it was appropriate to reflect on where we have been, and comment on where we are going. Long before I became a director, our board passed a resolution outlining this organization’s “Long Range Goals.” Here is the resolution in its entirety:

“In keeping with the specific purposes for which the Corporation was organized, the Board of Directors of the SCSRA does hereby establish the following long-range goals for the Association:

Throughout the years, our Association has grown and evolved and done many remarkable things, yet I feel that these Long Range Goals are still substantively the same. These five items effectively address everything we do at Travel Town, and this is the framework in which we operate. Having specific goals such as these on which to focus is critical to our future. In the coming months, I hope to guide our Association down a path that leads to fruition, but I’ll need the help of everyone to make that a reality.


By Tim Riley, Motor Pool Manager

This was somewhat of a strange quarter for Motor Pool. There were not very many accomplishments to report, but a lot of small things happened. The main issue resolved was with the Forklift Propane Tank. Thanks to some phone work and financial assistance ASRA, we now have two brand new propane tanks from Amerigas in Gardena, CA. While I was obtaining the tanks, I discovered some Amerigas employees who are rail fans and who have had run ins with Charley and the Rail Crane in the past before they were donated to Travel Town and the SCSRA. This encouraged me to petition for donations and for volunteers. To make this story short, we received free Propane for the two new tanks. Due to lack of spirit (or laziness) there was no progress made on the dump truck. I have all of the necessary items to complete the job, I just need to get off my rump and complete the task that I started. Thanks to Jeff Barrow and Dan Price for their offer to assist in this area.

The City Loader disappeared recently; I'm assuming that it was getting a new battery. The last time I saw it in the restoration yard, it was missing a battery.

The Welding trailer's battery died this quarter. The battery was discovered dead when Bryan Reese and Gordon Bachlund attempted to jump-start the Baldwin Locomotive (Number 56). The trailer was jump-started by the forklift, which in turn jump-started the Baldwin. The battery was so weak, the jumper cables from the Forklift to the trailer had to remain connected so that the trailer would continue to run. Later that day (after assisting with the service of the Baldwin's batteries), I removed a battery from the 6 X 6. The replacement battery for the trailer will not start it, but at least it will keep running on its own now.

That's all the news I have for this quarter; stay tuned for the next quarterly update.


By Gordon Bachlund

We were saddened to learn that Helen Ridenour passed away on December 18, 1999, in Grants Pass, Oregon.

She and her late husband Clarence (Associate No. 1 and honorary life member) moved to Grants Pass in 1988 to live with their daughter and son-in-law, Helen and Don Jensen. In May of this year, the family held a Memorial Service and scattered Mrs. Ridenour's ashes in accordance with her wishes. In attendance, in addition to the Jensens, were her younger sister, eight grandchildren, 16 great grandchildren, and 3 great-great grandchildren.

Long time Associates will remember Clarence for being an active volunteer on the M.177 project in the late 1980s, when he, drawing upon his many years of experience as a machinist, rebuilt the air starting check valves on the Winton engine.

Clarence passed away on September 1, 1991, and we transferred his life membership to his wife.

The Association expresses its sincerest condolences to the entire family.


. . . Greg Gneier's father passed away on November 11. The SCSRA extends its sincerest condolences.

. . . Tammy Jones, Associate #311, gave birth October 15th to a baby girl, Kourtnee Ann Kimbrough, 7 lbs 5 oz and 18.5 inches. Welcome aboard planet Earth, Kourtnee!

. . . Al Di Paolo is leaving the California Western RR in early September and will be going to work for the State of California at the Jamestown Historic Railroad Park (Sierra Railroad) as a Restoration Specialist. He will be making more money and will be expected to work only 40 hour weeks, a nice change from his Fort Bragg work schedule. Al says he is excited about the new opportunity and about the prospect of visiting Travel Town on a more regular basis than his old job allowed. He also notes that the firm that now operates the Durango & Silverton is taking over operation of the California Western, a change that bodes well for the railroad's future. The SCSRA is pleased to see Al's career as a "steam locomotive specialist" really taking off, er, building up steam??

. . . There’s an e-mail distribution list which anyone can join to discuss railroad topics called Travel Town Today. To join, you send an e-mail to with the following line in the body of the message:

SUBSCRIBE TTOWN-TODAY firstname lastname

and substitute your first and last name in the appropriate places.

On Travel Town Today, you can chat with associates from SCSRA and ASRA as well as with other railfans who have joined to discuss rail matters. List members can ask questions or share news about anything that is railroad related.


By James G. Hoffmann, Operations Superintendent

We continue to soldier on under the operating restrictions placed upon us by the City of Los Angeles. So far, we have not had to cancel any operations due to lack of full crew, including two flagmen, but we have come close. We have however reinstated Friday evening training under the supervision of a qualified Dispatcher.

At long last Timetable No. 3 is ready for issue, and will take effect with the October operations. I have decided to continue with the present lunch schedule for now, and the changes in the new Timetable reflect our revamping of the Special Instructions to correct some errors, which crept in during its metamorphosis to timetable format. We have also expanded the Yard Limit speed restriction to include the future operation across the Live Steamers' west loop. Is this positive thinking or what!

Student docents were not available during August and September due to school vacations. My thanks to Nancy Gneier and Darlene Sexton, who have developed the CAT (Caboose Attendant Training) program. Linda Barth has now allowed student docents to serve as flagmen due to the quality of training they will receive under this program. Thanks also go to Bryan Reese for arranging this.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Darlene Sexton as Assistant Superintendent. Darlene replaces Gordon Bachlund, who recently resigned. My sincere thanks go to Gordon for his invaluable contributions to the Department. Gordon has agreed to continue in the role of Chief Instructor, for which I am most grateful.

On the training front, Nancy Gneier is now a Train Service Engineer. Congratulations, Nancy!

Our public operations were held July 1st and 2nd, August 5th and 6th, and September 3rd and 4th.

Saturday, July 1509$ 116.10
Sunday, July 2569153.16
Saturday, August 5288100.58
Sunday, August 6486 229.50
Saturday, September 3 635223.78
Sunday, September 4844 229.07
Total: 3,331 $1,052.19
Total to date:97,053$42,501.34

Operating Days: 155

On June 4th we started a bit late due to lack of staff. Guess everyone had a good time at the Associates Dinner!

And now for this quarter's Honor Roll. Those with recorded times included the following:

Docents — Sue Kientz, Annette Sevigny, and Ashley Wolsefer.

Operators — Jeff Barrow, Andy Evans, Mike Flaharty, Jim Fontenot, Nancy Gneier, Charity Lawrence, Dan Price, Greg Ramsey, Yvonne Ramsey, Tim Riley, Don Schuster, Darlene Sexton, Jim Vicars, Mike Vitale, and Alan Weeks.

Thanks to all of you and to anyone whose name I missed!


By Greg Ramsey, Acquisitions Manager

The Crane has moved (see photos and story). As I reported last quarter, our lease on the spur behind Summerville Plywood was ending. I examined a number of possibilities for relocating it, including asking for estimates from several trucking companies to take it directly to Travel Town as well as looking for a new on-rail parking location in Burbank, Glendale, and various parts of LA. After uncounted telephone calls, e-mails, and several letters, we finally received permission to move the crane under its own power from Hawthorne to the old Levitz Spur. The move involved the permission and assistance of BNSF, Amtrak, Metrolink, Bombardier, and the Union Pacific. BNSF relied on our successful move last November and only required us to schedule the move at a convenient time to them. Amtrak provided a temporary weekend parking location and the Pilots in cooperation with Metrolink. Metrolink allowed us to operate on their track and arranged for the necessary flagman, mechanical inspection by Bombardier, the pilot, and the dispatching.

Because of the level of effort involved with the crane’s movement, I have not been able to do any significant update to the inventory. I have continued to add or update minor items as they have been brought to the Museum and/or brought to my attention.

Current copies of the inventory will be available in the office building. Please take a look through it and see if I have misidentified anything. If you need an electronic copy, let me know via e-mail.

2001 SCSRA/ASRA Calendar of Events

is published quarterly at Los Angeles, California, and is the official publication of
P.O. Box 39727, Griffith Station, Los Angeles, CA 90039-0727
(323) 667-1423 and via the World Wide Web at

A California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation, Incorporated January 4, 1984
IRS Tax Exemption No. 95-3947766

Editor: Sue Kientz

Any article or feature published in The Headlight may be reprinted in whole or in part provided that proper credit is given the source.





Associates with inquiries regarding project work schedules
may contact any of the above by leaving a message at (323) 667-1423.

Questions and comments to Sue Kientz, SCSRA Publications Manager