Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The work of keeping an attraction on track.

There's a lot of work involved in keeping a popular attraction going, especially one that features vehicles that are nearly a century old. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Rail Road in Fish Camp, just south of the Highway 41 entrance in to Yosemite National Park, features two authentic Shay Locomotives. The "youngest", Engine 10, was built in 1928 while Engine 15 made it's first run on the rails in 1913.

After the heavy snows that the railroad saw last week, they unfortunately been forced to delay their opening. The information below is from owner Max Stauffer who gave us an update on what he's working on:

     "We finally got power yesterday! We began clearing the track in the afternoon. Lots of trees to  clear.       We got about 1/2 mile, so back at it today. We had a climber shovel the snow off of the engine house roof and remove the tree so that we can begin repairs. Electricians repaired the wiring damage to the shop so we now have power there also. 

PG&E crews are still occupying our parking lot, with lots of work to do in our area yet. Some folks are still out of power. 

Tons of snow and slow going, but we are determined! I will advise as soon as we get a tentative

opening date. Lots depends on the number of trees down. Many are buried deep in the snow."

Several feet of snow dropped on Fish Camp with this storm. While roads are now clear, the sides still have a lot of snow, as you can tell from Max's statements. The Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Rail Road is one of the most popular attractions in Madera County and we're looking forward to Max and his crew starting the season. We know Spring has arrived when you can head on up the road and hear the mighty whistle of one of his Narrow Gauge Shay's.

 Just a little snow on the roof...
This branch went through the roof of the Engine House.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Spring returns to Madera County

Spring is a beautiful time in Madera County. Green grasses cover the valley floor, broken up only by the brilliant colors of wildflowers. The mighty oaks of the foothills burst forth with vividly green new leaves, as the warmth brings renewed life to flora.

Spring can sometimes take a pause, however, as it did this year. An unprecedented procession of storms marched their way across central California, dropping several inches of rain in the valley and feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada.  While this moisture will fuel an unbelievable wildflower display very soon, the immediate result was more water than the ground could handle, and more snow than many tree branches could bear.

Many people were without power for many days, the main Visitor Center in Oakhurst included. Access to Yosemite was closed for days, an almost unheard of situation. But instead of residents complaining, they pitched in to help each other with fallen trees, keeping frozen foods fresh and friends and neighbors warm. Instead of worrying about their vacation plans being altered, visitors eagerly sought information on other things to do.  We told them of our wineries, our museums, our art galleries and more.

Through it all were the crews with PG&E and other utility companies that PG&E brought in to help with the thousands of people without power. They worked long hours in the inclement weather to restore electricity to people while many of them had no power at their own homes. Their tireless effort and dedication should be thanked.

The sun as now returned, and life is returning to normal for most people. The storms of 2011 will be talked about for many years as the signs are already fading. We can now turn to the positive sides of all the precipitation that fell, and look eagerly towards brilliant displays of wildflowers that will be springing from the soil, putting on an impressive display of colors.

Happy Spring!