Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Trains And Life At The Oasis ...

This is Jack, walking Trixie early yesterday morning ... he says Trixie is a chic magnet!!  What can I say, it worked!!
Just a sample of the rain we got on the way in to the park, which caused us no problems at all.  It's all asphalt and gravel, along with a few too many puncture vines or goat heads, depending on where you live.  Bright and early, half the group left to tour the Marine Base while the rest of us slept in!!
Our first stop was the Joshua Tree and Southern Railroad Scenic Line.  This is an amazing site to see!!  It's actually a club that purchased half a section of land, where they proceeded to build 7-1/2" to 15" rails for steam train fanatics.  If you are a member, you can bring your trains here to ride and help expand the rail line.  
Terry Watson was our tour guide, meeting us at the gate.  I think he's one of those characters of Twentynine Palms our docent was talking about.  If interested, you must call ahead to tour this facility.  The trains run on these tracks and they travel all around the surrounding mountains.  The building, built like a train station, is actually a museum with all sorts of cool stuff.
This is one of two turntables, along with one of MANY trestles built along the mountain and over the gullies.  They have a couple of lifts to remove your train from the back of your truck also.  
All of this has been built by hand.  The rocks are too big and hard for a backhoe, or any other type equipment, so all of the railways have been built with expanding concrete.  They drill holes a couple of feet deep, fill them with the concrete mix and wait for a day or two.  The concrete expands, cracking the rocks, allowing them to be moved and the roadbed completed.  Now THAT's a lot of hard work!!
They have a very complete machine shop with everything you need to repair cars and engines and build track.
This is the outside of the machine shop ... a train car, of course!!  There are quite a few of these old cars around the property, used for storage of supplies and engines.
They also have an entire town of G Scale Railroad.  You can bring your own engines and run them on this track if you wish.  The detail is amazing and it's a very large setup!!  You only see a small part here.
These train cars were brought in on flatbed trucks and placed high on the hill.  One is privately owned ... a cabin in the mountains of sort ...
while the second one is an old dining car, which they have used for club meetings and even weddings.  It's is GREAT shape with original carpet and chairs.  Walking through this car brought back lots of train memories!!
At the back of the dining car is of course the kitchen.  Now THIS is an amazing piece of history, complete in every way, including the old coffee pots.  Rather a tight space to negotiate while cooking, but apparently it worked when on the rails.
This is the grill ... it's coal burning, which heated the firebrick, which cooked the steaks.  There is even coal left in the bin below.
This is where they burned the coal to heat the cookstove on top.  Ashes were cleaned from the bottom door.  I just can't imagine how hot it would be in here during the summer time!!
This is one of TWO turntables, the other one ending in a five stall concrete block barn, not finished at this point.  I told Dan Chance I would split the cost of an engine with him so we could join the club and ride the rails, but he said that would be about $10,000 each for the cheapest version.  YIKES!!!  Okay, maybe not!!
Inside the museum, I saw this huge mangle iron.  I couldn't imagine why it was here, until Terry said this was what they used to press the linens used in the dining car and the sleeper cars.  This does NOT look like fun to me!!  I used a mangle iron as a kid, pressing our sheets ... but at least it was electric.
With a club application in hand, we headed back home, stopping at Walmart for some groceries.  Patty and I then drove a short distance to the Oasis of Mara.  This was a major water stop on the wagon train and stage coach route through this area.  Originally, the Indians lived here for hundreds of years.  Once the white man found their beautiful Oasis, the Indians moved out.  This is what Twentynine Palms is named for ... these palm trees that grow in the swampy ground water that surfaces here.  Since the Landers earthquake, most of the water has disappeared, resulting in many dead trees for lack of water, or maybe just old age.
There's lots of wildlife around here, but birds were the only critters we found.  I'm not used to looking for birds to photograph ... it requires too much attention.  With Patty's sharp eyes however, we did find several among the palm trees.
They were all quite vocal about our presence.  Can't blame them, it's a beautiful site I'm sure they would like to keep to themselves.  The cottontails, snakes and lizards were all hiding from the cold.  One huge tarantula did find it's way into my car however!!
These two were chattering away loudly and playing footsie in the bushes.  The rust colored stuff is actually mistletoe, killing the trees, but providing berries for the birds to eat.  It's a natural thing, so the Park Service lets it grow wild.
The ranger told us about the bird that looked like a cardinal, but was all black, who apparently LOVES the berries.  Wouldn't you know I lucked out and caught a picture of one, not even knowing what it was.  In fact, at first, I thought it was just a blackbird.  This guy's name is Phainopepla.  I know, I've never heard of it either!!  I had to look it up in my trusty bird book I found at the Salton Sea last year.
There's lots of jumping cholla around ... as you walk by it jumps out and sticks you, so be careful when in the desert!!  These guys are hard to get OUT!!
I rarely take black and white pictures, but the branches of this tree/bush were pretty interesting.  There lots of good hiding places for bunnies in this stuff!!
On the way out, the clouds behind this beautiful church caught our eye, so we stopped for one last image.  
Being close to 5:00, it was time to head home for the college football championship.  I watched until Oregon got a couple of touchdowns behind and went to bed.  Today is the Marine Base tour and we have to be there by 8:00 am!!  Flashes of "work" went through my head at the thought of being somewhere by 8 in the morning!!  Hope I get some great images for you!!