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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2020 6:41 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
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Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
My family has lost two houses to California fires in 30 years. The first time, the thinking was, "once in a lifetime". The second time really forced some hard thinking, including a relocation.

The construction regulations have already been revised multiple times in the last 10 years. Some houses rebuilt in the family neighborhood 2 years ago are already grandfathered and not up to code.

It is an easy guess that the Swanton Ranch, built in the 1980's, was far behind current building codes. I have no doubt that the building codes will be tightened again as a result of these 2020 fires.

Any experts out there? Can the roundhouse be built in brick with a tile roof and be made fire resistant to an external wildfire?

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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2020 11:05 am 

Joined: Fri Dec 03, 2004 9:42 pm
Posts: 2710
Ok, built by one guy, not on a tight budget. The comment was related to the ability to pay for a sprinkler system, not the general design. But Cal Poly has been operating it for a long time. Plenty of time to install sprinklers like they’re doing at EBT. Maybe they did, and the fire was too much. That’s why I’m asking. I’ve seen massive fire protection systems at Yellowstone, both inside and on the roof to wet down the structure. They look both expensive and difficult to maintain. Likely that was the problem here. Are there cases where you simply can’t do enough?




Al Stangenberger wrote:
Bobharbison wrote:
But this is Cal Poly, not some backyard railroad built by one guy on a tight budget. I'm trying to not kick them while they're down, and it's obvious they would have at least considered it.

Cal Poly did not design or build the Swanton Pacific. It was "built by one guy" (Al Smith, the head of Orchard Supply Hardware) with volunteer help on his ranch. The property, including the railroad, was left to Cal Poly by Mr. Smith in 1993.
https://sprr.calpoly.edu/making-swanton-pacific-railroad


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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2020 2:31 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 8:51 pm
Posts: 1922
Location: Southern California
Al Stangenberger wrote:
It was "built by one guy" (Al Smith, the head of Orchard Supply Hardware) with volunteer help on his ranch. The property, including the railroad, was left to Cal Poly by Mr. Smith in 1993.
Orchard Supply Hardware issued railroad themed calendars for years, even after OSH was sold to other owners. Twelve reproductions of railroad paintings!

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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2020 2:52 pm 

Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2004 10:13 pm
Posts: 356
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Half the guys who built the railroad with Al (an SP brakeman until he lost a leg on the job) were ex-Coast Division steam men from his hometown of Los Gatos, and they all knew the Overfair equipment from their days at Billy Jones' place. Neil Vodden and Charlie Hoyle, in particular, were well-known in preservation circles from their involvement with Projects 2472 and 2467. What they created at Swanton took on the role of an old head's refuge, not unlike what Billy's ranch had been for them in the '50s and '60s. Al was also a friend of Roaring Camp's Clark family, and I believe a not-insignificant investor in the Big Trees & Pacific.

The losses here are unconscionable, but the university's stewardship and commitment to rebuilding seem genuine and admirable. They've launched fundraising for railroad-specific fund here, and (IMO) it's a worthy cause for your 2021 write-offs: https://crowdfund.calpoly.edu/project/22001/donate?des_id=104851

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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2020 10:59 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 29, 2004 4:49 pm
Posts: 444
Hopefully the people who run "Train Mountain" in Chiloquin, OR take heed of the experience of the Swanton Pacific with this fire. Train Mountain is surrounded by trees and their operation would be destroyed if a fire ever struck that area. And I don't see how they could ever protect themselves by anything like a sprinkler system. They would have to cut down a lot of trees, which do provide a very nice feel and setting to the operation, but at a potentially fatal cost if there ever was a fire.


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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2020 4:58 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 12:59 pm
Posts: 609
As a Bay Area native with a degree in forestry, I've been thinking about the destruction of the Swanton Pacific roundhouse in the recent wildfire. The moist forests around the ranch are not where a firestorm like those which destroyed houses farther from the coast would normally occur.

Google has lots of photos of damage to the Swanton Pacific by the CZU wildfire complex. Many of the photos are "railfan shots" which show the damaged locomotives but very little of the surrounding vegetation.

I found a photo of the damage from a different angle which shows the roundhouse fire damage and the condition of the surrounding vegetation. The vegetation in that photo shows very little fire damage.

https://california.liveuamap.com/en/2020/28-august-swanton-pacific-railway-was-hit-hard-by-the-czulighteningcomplex

It appears that the fire started inside the roundhouse (possibly by embers getting in through a vent or a broken window), rather from the outside by an advancing front of fire. Modern building practices will address this when the building is rebuilt.

Another article about the fire:
https://www.mercurynews.com/2020/08/29/historic-swanton-pacific-ranch-looks-to-pick-up-the-pieces-after-being-ravaged-by-fire/


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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2020 2:46 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 13, 2016 10:40 pm
Posts: 315
Location: San Francisco, CA
Folks,
The Holmes Brothers were mentioned up above. I knew them both. They were interested in everything on rails and beyond. I was invited to visit their back yard railroad and sadly never got around to it.

They were also active at the Western Railway Museum, where I am active. And still more, they volunteered aboard the steam tug boat Hercules at the SF Maritime Park. She was owned by the Western Pacific Railroad for part of her career.

Ted Miles, WRM Member


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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2020 3:01 pm 

Joined: Mon Jan 10, 2005 3:15 pm
Posts: 61
Location: Tualatin, Oregon
Looking at the cabooses it looks like the locomotives could have survived better by being left outside. I think that is what the Roaring Camp guys were planning to do. Tough lesson learned.

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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Tue Sep 01, 2020 3:30 pm 

Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2004 10:13 pm
Posts: 356
Location: Brooklyn, NY
ted66 wrote:
The Holmes Brothers were mentioned up above. I knew them both. They were interested in everything on rails and beyond. I was invited to visit their back yard railroad and sadly never got around to it.


It's still there, though all steam power was moved down to Reedley before Jim passed a few years back. The Glenwood property also fell within the CZU evacuation zone last week and was (thankfully) spared. There's a new owner, but he's a committed "train person" and still had the steeple cab operable, last I heard.

Hillcrest is tentatively planning to highball their pumpkin runs with social distancing measures in place, so you'll be able to catch the GSP&P 5 (Mogul) and/or 13 (Consolidation) in service next month, and a cross-sectioned glimpse at what years of high-sulfur Santa Cruz mountain water does to a locomotive boiler.

Image

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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 11:24 am 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 1454
Location: Back in NE Ohio
It looks like at least parts of the Oregon Train Mountain Museum and live steam railroad suffered fire damage in the last couple of days. No photos newer than Wednesday afternoon are on line, reports were that the power went out at that point and the security cameras quit. At that point all of the main station/servicing area was still intact, the fire looked to have only burned forest on the outer parts of the 2200 acre property. There were evacuations of people staying in the Chiloquin area, and SR 97, which goes by Train Mountain was closed North and South of town, so we'll see.


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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 1:26 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 12:15 am
Posts: 571
Randy Gustafson wrote:
One of the odder things about California (as observed by a Pennsylvanian) that I've seen evolve over the last decade is the full-blown legitimization of the marijuana growing business out there from hiding it to making it into a real industry.
In Humboldt county, what had been one of the largest redwood mills of all time - the Pacific Lumber mill at Scotia (which was humming back in 2001) is now chock-a-block with every imaginable kind of water reservoir, piping, irrigation system etc., for growers. Truck-sized tanks. And that's no little space, that's a big building.
So tanking up water for whatever reason has turned into a California thing, I'd think that having a big reservoir of water for fire protection would use the same technology.
The company is "Aqua Dam" https://www.aquadam.net/
And that's what happened to the bigger redwood mill in Scotia.
When I drove by it the last time I literally did a Steve Martin sketch... What the ###@! is THAT? It's clearly visible in Google Earth.


Biggest issue, I see, would be how to keep the sprinklers pressurized, as when a fire approaches the area the towns/state kill power to minimize additional fires and protect crews. So what ever would be installed would have to be either battery or generator powered and the whole system would have to be able to run without anyone in the vicinity. Sure it is doable, but is it financially feasible to install. Then you will have to hope that the fire doesn't hit during the driest time of year and your pond is full enough to run long enough, as you cant run it off a well, especially out there.

Really only solution is metal buildings in the middle of well mowed fields, to minimize the available fuel near the buildings. Also buildings would have to be so far from the trees that if one on fire falls, it doesn't get close to the building. Now is this even feasible for most places?? I'm not even sure if I would want to work in that type of building in California temperatures, 100 feet from the nearest shade, but that is a totally separate issue, from a Connecticut Yankee.

Rich C.


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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2020 2:11 pm 

Joined: Thu Oct 08, 2015 11:54 am
Posts: 967
Location: New Franklin, OH
It’s not just wind driven fire that’s a concern. Embers can be blown a long way and start even more fires. That is next to impossible to keep a handle on during wind events.

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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 1:17 am 

Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2007 2:54 am
Posts: 926
Location: Califoothills / Midwest Prairies / PNW
A recent article talks about how excited and eager Cal Poly is to have a "clean slate" at the Swanton Pacific Ranch for research and watching the forested ecosystem recover. There is no discussion about how the railroad might come back, although it is described as bleak:
"Many pieces of the ranch’s iconic train system, the Swanton Pacific Railroad, were lost or severely damaged."
https://magazine.calpoly.edu/winter-2021/out-of-the-ashes/?utm_source=emma&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=w21&utm_content=multi


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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 9:50 am 

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 2:22 pm
Posts: 1502
o anderson wrote:
There is no discussion about how the railroad might come back, although it is described as bleak:
"Many pieces of the ranch’s iconic train system, the Swanton Pacific Railroad, were lost or severely damaged."


Does the owner of the Swanton Pacific Railroad own the land under the site free and clear? Or do they have the legal right to rebuild the railroad on that site? What are their current plans to rebuild the railroad?


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 Post subject: Re: Swanton Pacific Railroad Destroyed?
PostPosted: Sat Feb 13, 2021 12:31 pm 

Joined: Fri Oct 01, 2004 1:33 pm
Posts: 455
Location: Oroville, CA
The land and the railroad are all owned by UC Cal Poly. There is a volunteer group that was caring for the railroad, including fund-raising. At the time of the fire there was great support for restoring the railroad, BUT given the California "green" climate, especially in the UC system that may have changed. Most of the ROW is intact, from what I've read.

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