September 20, 2010

All Aboard - The Folsom Rail Festival

by Kati Garner

Track that was laid to be part of the Trans-Continental Railroad did not fulfill its destiny but it was celebrated as the oldest railroad track west of the Mississippi River this weekend during the Folsom Historic Railroad and Transportation Festival .

"130 years ago the track ran from Sacramento to Folsom. The route was changed and now it runs from Sacramento to Auburn and beyond," said Larry Bowler, one of the Festival's organizers.

It became only a local freight line and travelled just beyond Placerville. Many years ago the track was torn out five miles west of Placerville.
This is the first time the festival has been in Folsom. The past four years it's been held in Ione on a smaller scale.
There were lots of things to see and do.
Walt Freeman, Sacramento Regional Transit, prepares passengers for a short trip in Sacramento Regional Transit’s own #35 PG&E Streetcar at the Folsom Historic Railroad and Transportation Festival at Folsom Pointe. Designed to run on the rails, the streetcar was built in St. Louis, MO in 1913, servicing Sacramento from 1914 through 1948. The old Folsom Powerhouse supplied power to a power plant in Sacramento at 6th & I Streets and ran the system.
Conductor Eric Olds collected passenger's tickets.
The historic streetcar ride took passengers south of Hwy 50.
One of the characters along the way.
A man and his two sons depart from the streetcar.
A festival visitor stands by a Railroad Motorcar, sometimes called a “Speeder”. Smaller models, like this one, were used routinely to inspect the many miles of track for defects. Larger versions would carry half a dozen workers and pull a few trailers loaded with spikes and tools, to handle track maintenance.They have a top speed of 30mph and are faster than handcars. ( from
Ric Hornor was on hand with 'Books by Dead Guys', books full of photos and stories created in the 1800s. (
This is the passenger side of San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway Fire Truck MW No. 1003. It was built by the Ford Motor Co. in 1931 and was based near the Mexican border at Jacumba, CA. It fought fires that plagued the railway's many wooden trestles and timber lined tunnels of the Carriso Gorge. It is in full operational condition.
A father and son inspect a Track Mobile. It has rubber and steel wheels so it can travel on land as well as the rails. It is mainly used in industrial settings.

A huge wrench is carried in a Mudge "Special", an all-around car that can carry three men, yet it is light enough to be handled easily by one person. It has a one cylinder, 4-hp engine and is used by linemen, signal men, claim adjusters, patrolment, station agents and inspectors. It has removable guide arms, wheels and tray, and can be loaded into baggage cars.
Indoor Model Railroad Displays were up and running.
 SacPress Photos | Kati Garner

September 15, 2010

Railroad groups lay tracks for transportation festival

By Brad Smith, Telegraph Correspondent

This weekend Folsom residents and others will experience firsthand how important rail travel was to the region.

The Railroad Education and Preservation Society, along with help from the Folsom, El Dorado, Sacramento Historical Railroad Historical Association, will present the Folsom Historical Railroad & Transportation Festival. Bill Anderson, president of the FEDSHRA, said the event is one that anyone can enjoy.
“It has something for everyone,” he said. “People can come to the event and have fun, ride a train or street car or check out the car show. And, it’s educational — people learn how much of vital part the rails played in our history.”
Anderson said the event started after the FEDSHRA was contacted by a railroad enthusiast group from Ione.
“They’ve been putting on their own rail fest for some time,” Anderson said. “However, this year, they weren’t going to be able to do it. So, they contacted us.”
The Ione group wanted to use the Folsom area to stage a similar event. That, Anderson said, was how everything started.
“A number of us (FEDSHRA) volunteered to put the event together,” he said. “Over a period of time, everything started to come together.”
Marty Donahoo, an FEDSHRA board member, was one of those volunteers. He thought it was a “great idea” when he had heard about it.
“I love the history of this town and surrounding area,” Donahoo said. “Some people have lived here for a long time and still haven’t learned a lot about local history — especially how vital the rail lines played a part. It’s like hidden treasure.”
Anderson said that the two-day event will have a lot to offer visitors,
“The Sacramento Regional Transit’s PG&E No. 35 trolley will be available for people to ride,” Anderson said. “There will be handcar rides and Skagit rides too. I think folks will love the rail speeders.”
Donahoo said that a number of of model train displays will be setup and running during the event.
“Kids love model trains and so we’ll have some on hand,” he said. “Of course, adults are more than welcome to watch the model trains. We’ll have some vendors lined up as well”
Another part of the event will be the Cops and Rodders display, Anderson said.
“There will be a number of antique police cars and motorcycles on display,” he said. “We’ll have a number of presentations on Folsom’s rail and transportation history. We want this to be fun and educational at the same time.”
Donahoo said on Sunday there would be a salute to members of Folsom’s National Guard unit, the 49th National Guard Military Police Brigade, returning from active duty.
Anderson said that while the Ione group will likely resume having their event in their hometown, it is possible that Folsom will see another event next year.
“Working on this event has been a learning curve for some of us,” Anderson said. “But, overall, I think it will be a great draw for people living in and around Folsom. There will be plenty for people to see and do — and if we have a strong turnout, we’ll do it again next year.”
Donahoo hopes that this event will be the start of something new and different.
The event will be held this weekend from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the rails along East Bidwell Street and Placerville Road at Iron Point Drive. Admission is free.
For more information call (916) 764-5110 or (916) 502-2667.
* * *
What: Folsom Historical Railroad & Transportation Festival
When: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sept. 18-19
Where: Railroad tracks behind In-n-Out on East Bidwell Street in Folsom
Cost: Free admission

September 08, 2010


By C.W. Reichert

Few places are more uniquely beautiful than the Western slope of the central Sierra Nevada. Adjacent to Shingle Springs, the town of Latrobe is situated in the heart of these hills in the southwestern section of El Dorado County. The gentle slopes, outcroppings and springs add a certain flavor that continues to attract people of nearby cities. Perhaps the Nisenan or Southern Maidu Indians appreciated the valley's diverse splendor when they inhabited this region in aboriginal times.

The Indians' homeland stretched across to the Bear River and south of the south or middle fork of the Cosumnes River. The Nisenan tribe was made of a primary, permanent village surrounded by several secondary villages and seasonal camps. The villages encompassed family dwellings, acorn grenaries, bedrock mortars, a dance house and sweat house with 15-500 people living there at a time. The usual village sites were along knolls, ridges or streams with a southern exposure. Here, the Nisenan ground acrons as their main meal and also caught fish with their hands or spears. Salt was obtained from the springs and with the use of fires and snares, they hunted deer, rabbits and other small creatures. Ants, grasshoppers, lizards and frogs were also devoured. Manzanita berries were used to make a cider like beverage. The Nisenan were wiped out by a malaria epidemic in 1833, and the gold miners also took over their land.

Latrobe owes its roots to the Placerville and Sacramento Valley Railroad, which established a station for the tremendous benefit of neighboring Amador County.

The history of the area is further connected to the Gold Rush of the 1850's, the agricultural and economic development of El Dorado County and commerce between Clarksville and Latrobe. In 1849, one year after gold was discovered in California, thousands of hopeful gold seekers arrived in the "diggings." Many of them came through the area to settle in Latrobe.

The railroad station was located at the intersection of Latrobe Road and South Shingle Road, in what became the town of Latrobe with Shingle Springs as its eastern terminus.

The railroad was completed in 1884. The town was named after the civil engineer who was instrumental in the construction of the first railroad in America.

J.H. Miller, a locaql rancher and hotel owner, opened the first store in Latrobe in 1863. The population grew to 700-800, with the number of stores increasing to six or seven. Latrobe supported four hotels, three blacksmith shops and a single wagon and carriage factory. Latrobe also offered a bakery and several butcher shops.

There were only three doctors along with two drug stores to take care of the medical needs of the entire community. The public school building, which still stands today as part of Latrobe School, is a two story building that contained all public meetings.

The Masons and Odd Fellows organizations each had their own halls.

By 1864, rails had been laid to the new town of Latrobe, as the first trains rolled in. From then until June 1865, as the line reached Shingle Springs, it was an important way station for the great deal of business that flowed over the Placerville Road to Virginia City. About 23 years later, the railroad extended to Placerville.

Families living along the course of the railroad saw some immediate benefits. However, the acquisition of the right-of-way by the railroad made many other residents angry as they had homesteaded the area but were forced to give up some of their land for the railroad line.

In 1866, hotels were located in Latrobe and Michigan Bar, supplying train passengers and local residents with dinner and overnight accommodations.

For a long time, Latrobe controlled all trade activities of Amador County. The town became the focal point for many travelers, providing eight daily stages in connection with the trains. However, because it wasn't a mining town and the railroad construction continued east, business suffered. The state of prosperity came to a grinding halt in 1883, when the population dwindled down to about 80 people with one general store, one hotel, a telegraph officde, two blacksmith shops and the lone carriage and wagon shop.

In 1981, El Dorado County adopted the Latrobe Area Plan, which covers the west side of Logtown Ridge to the Cosumnes River, boasting such landmarks as picturesque Sugarloaf Mountain and Indian Creek.

Today, the businesses no longer exist, and the town consists primarily of multi-acre rural residential parcels such as the Shadow Hawk and Sun Ridge Meadow subdivisions. Another subdivision is currently being built next to Miller's Hill School.

Also still standing is Oddfellows Hall, and what has become one of the highest rated grade schools in California today-Latrobe Elementary School.


The Folsom Historic Railroad and Transportation Festival will take place Sept. 18-19 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. behind the Hampton Inn, 155 Placerville Road, Folsom. Admission is free, but there will be charges for speeder and streetcar rides to raise funds for maintenance on the 35-mile stretch of railway.

By Gina Kim

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010 - 12:00 am
Page 1B

Last Modified: Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2010 - 9:02 am

Steel wheels hit the tracks in rhythmic cadence as six rail cars wound out of Folsom through the golden fields of late summer, past lazing cattle, sprightly jack rabbits and the occasional red-tailed hawk.

But it wasn't a train on this recent day bumping along the railroad, sounding the requisite two toots to go forward and three to reverse. The individual cars were golf-cart sized, gasoline-powered vehicles known as speeders – used by railroads to repair and maintain tracks during the second half of the 20th century.

Speeders are the growing passion of hobbyists who salvage them from dusty barns, install luxuries like cushioned seats, intercoms and picnic coolers, and chug off to experience the winding rails at a leisurely 15 mph.

"You get to see a lot of the country from a viewpoint no one else sees," said Warren Froese, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, president of the North American Railcar Operators Association. He organized a speeder trip a few years ago through a part of northern Manitoba accessible only by plane or train.

About 1,100 people in North America secure insurance for speeders through the association; the number grows about 5 percent each year, he said.

The boxy cars set off recently from behind the Hampton Inn in Folsom, just beyond East Bidwell Road and Highway 50, in preparation for a Sept. 18-19 railroad festival that will raise money to maintain the historic track.

The 10-mile section was built in the late 1800s or early 1900s to bring Placerville lumber and stone down to market in Sacramento, said one of the festival organizers, Larry Bowler.

The stretch is no longer used by rail companies, leaving it vulnerable to disrepair and development. But the local speeder group has negotiated for use of the run, cutting back weeds, tightening bolts and replacing ties and rails in exchange.

"Inside every man's breast beats the heart of a steam locomotive," said Bowler, 71, of Elk Grove, a retired Sacramento County sheriff's deputy and state assemblyman.

Bowler's two-seat 1960s Fairmont speeder – which often tows a cart carrying maintenance tools – was originally used by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Railroad companies have since replaced speeders with hybrid trucks that can drive on roads as well as ride rails.

Bowler's speeder now boasts upholstered van seats, racks and shelves, brake lights and an antique oiler can. He bought it for $2,000 a few years ago and thinks its value has increased to $5,000.

"This is preserving history," Bowler said, "and it just happens we have fun doing it."

Speeder enthusiasts get permission from track owners and travel in groups of at least two – the aging vehicles inevitably break down and having two guarantees a ride back, Bowler said. His speeder carries six gallons of gasoline, fuel enough for the better part of a day.

Don Lee, 76, of Lincoln, bought a speeder for his railroad-loving grandson. That grandson is grown, but the retired mapmaker for the California Department of Transportation continues to climb aboard his four-seater with the California flag flying from one side and the American flag from the other.

"It's like a disease," said his wife, Diana.

Chuck Ratto, 46, owns a speeder that starts with the turn of a hand crank. Tinkering is requisite – there's no catalog for parts and creativity is a must to keep it running, said the medium-equipment mechanic from Calaveras County.

"You turn the crank and start the engine, put it in gear and go," he said. "Not many people get the opportunity to do that."

Tom Correa, 62, of Jackson, bought a speeder that once ran along the Soo Line Railroad in Minnesota and was discovered in a snowbank. He dismantled it down to the axles, and then the retired Xerox technician installed aluminum running boards, new forklift seats, a wood console with cutouts for drink cups … and shiny truck horns.

"We're always little kids," he said. "We just happen to get old."


The Folsom Historic Railroad and Transportation Festival will take place Sept. 18-19 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. behind the Hampton Inn, 155 Placerville Road, Folsom. Admission is free, but there will be charges for speeder and streetcar rides to raise funds for maintenance on the 35-mile stretch of railway.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more: