Friday, September 30, 2016

Panama Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco

Thank goodness I'm not old enough to have attended the exposition in San Francisco in 1915 that touted the opening of the Panama Canal.  Among the exhibits was the C. P. Huntington, the first steam locomotive purchased by Southern Pacific Railroad and now on display at the Sacramento State Railroad Museum.  Did you know there was another train exhibit?
This one was an exact 1/3 replica on 19" tracks that moved passengers around the exposition.  The Overfair Railway was built by Louis MacDermot for the Exposition.  Louis came from an extremely wealthy family due to his fathers wheeling and dealing swindles.  Louis did however, have a penchant for building things, like a steam powered motorcycle and an entire light system for his mothers house, not to mention a dress she could wear that lit up like a Christmas tree.

When the PPIE requested he supply a people mover for the fair, he built four locomotives, the 1912, 1913, 1914 and 1915 along with 60 passenger cars.
Fast forward to 1962 when Al Smith became President of Orchard Supply Hardware.  After purchasing quite a bit of property around Davenport, just North of Santa Cruz, he became fascinated with the 19" railroad.  Eventually, he purchased all the locomotives and one remaining car.  You see, when the little railroad finally went broke and Louis MacDermot died penniless, most of the cars were burned.  Amazingly, the metal parts survived and Al bought those too.
Very few people in the world know these facts, but Dan Chance got a line on this setup and was able to add it to our agenda.  On this little ranch named Swanton outside Santa Cruz, Al Smith built a roundhouse and a repair shop, along with a couple miles of track.  The story doesn't end here however.  Wanting the little railroad to survive, he donated all his land to Cal Poly State University for instruction and classes in Agriculture, included the railroad and an endowment to make sure it lived forever.  Now THAT's a story!!
Not really open to the public, it is run mostly by volunteers.  They are currently in the process of rebuilding the locomotives, one of which is almost complete.  Whenever manufacturing parts or bridges or even buildings are required, Cal Poly's classrooms go to work supplying design plans.
One of the little locomotives never was completed.  When the Sacramento State Railroad Museum wanted to buy one, Al Smith gave them that one, which now sits on the entry floor of the museum.  1914 is the completed engine above, with 1912 and 1913 under repair here.
This is a look inside the boiler.  Eventually the tubes will be replaced and this baby will be back on the tracks.
This is the one remaining car that's still intact ... sort of.  There's a little rot here and there, but that's being repaired.  If you want to volunteer to work on her, you're more than welcome to come for the weekend and help out.
This barn houses the little diesel engine that pulled the train for us.  They only bring the steam engine out a few times a year.  Once for a fundraiser and once for a big party for the locals in the area.  That doesn't mean you can't show up ... just give them a call and find out when the volunteers are working.
They do have a regular restroom in another building, but this caboose is closer should you need to use the facilities.  I'd like to warn you however, it's the ORIGINAL bathroom in this caboose, which means it's barely two feet wide, pitch black (no lights) and the door doesn't close so well.  Don't worry about the tracks below, it IS connected to a sewer line.
All forty of us met at the little train station where we loaded up and went for a trip across the creek and out to their pumpkin and Christmas tree farm.  You too can ride the train to pick your pumpkins or your Christmas tree (which they will cut for you), then return with your prize to your car.  Check for dates and times.
Here's the 1/3 size diesel engine that could.  It's got a tractor engine and backhoe parts and pieces that make it work.  Don't bother asking to ride in the cab, us old folks won't fit inside.  
The bridge was engineered and built by Cal Poly students.  Volunteers and students are allowed to camp and fish on the ranch should they so desire.
Even Ida thinks riding the train is fun!!  She went the entire way with us .... TWICE!  Dan talked them into going a second round!!
The people mover cars are replicas, but most of the metal parts are the real deal.  Everyone was fascinated with this little train setup, not to mention California's largest buckeye tree which stands in their yard.  I'm sure there will be some volunteers from our group showing up to work on the train.

We had Safeway sandwiches on the property while one of the volunteers gave the group a detailed description of every single member of MacDermot's family.  Thank goodness I sat at a far table to be in the shade and didn't hear any of the 90 minute talk that went on forever and ever, even as we got in our cars and drove away!!

In more current news, the gardner's father showed up to replace two of the dead plants, saying they were killed by roundup.  I know that's what happened to my rose bush in back too.  From now on, there will be NO roundup in my yard.  Not that he did a great job of it, I'm going out this morning to dress it up a little.  

My first day back was a day of putting out fires ... I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.


  1. Nice YouTube of you all passing by on the train ride, saw it on their Facebook page.

  2. That's cool Dave ..... thank you! I saw him taping, but never thought it would end up on YouTube!!