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December 1997 - Page 56

ABOVE: The Schellville Hauler crosses Sonoma Creek outside Schellville yard on July 22, 1 997. BELOW: Spring flowers dust the landscape at Lytton as the Schellville Hauler trav els south on March 1 3, 1 997.

ence. Simas would like to have enough employees and l oc o m o t i v e s to r u n 24 h o u rs a day. T h i s wou l d smooth the flow o f cars in and out o f Wil lits Yard, and keep his train crews from having to work such long and strenuous shifts. The railroad is leasing five former SP SD9s to re p l a c e t h e G P 9 s wrecked at Wi l l i t s and ease i t s chronic shortage of power. The leased units were to be placed into service, as Simas was anticipating, in September and October, primarily on the Wi l l i t s H a u l e r o v e r R i dge H i l l . They w i l l remain in S P paint since N W P does not have t h e $ 2 5 ,000 needed to paint five S D 9 s . In the same spiri t of economy, the locomoti ves are being repaired as 8-units-use able and more or less reliable-but not point-wor thy. One exception may be former SP 4436. Laid down on some of the most remote, barren, and hopeless land in the Wes t , the tracks of t h e N e v a d a , C a l i fo r n i a & O regon Ra i l ro a d were said to have been built ei ther 3 00 miles too long or 300 years too soon. In the opinion of many peo ple and apparently of na ture i t s e l f, t h e N W P i s about 1 60 miles too long, and its survival north of Willits becomes more im probable with each win-

tel'. The blue clay that oozes over the railroad during winter downpours continues throughout the year to slowly shove the tracks towards the river or push them skyward from below. As the southbound freight approached one such bulge-th e notorious B u rger Creek Hump-the old-timer from Dos Rios said to me, as casually as if he were pointing to the buz zards circling overhead, "Watch t h i s . You ' l l get to see a train derail . " The engineer slowed the train to a crawl; he and his conductor leaned out the win dows t o w a t c h t h e t r a c k a he a d . The locomotive crept up the rise, rocked heavily back and forth and, as the rails groaned beneath the weight, came gently to rest on the gravel roadbed. Just another summer i n the canyon. RailNews
S ean Zwagerman teaches writing at USC where he is working on a PhD in A merican Literature. His evoctive prose graced our July issue in the "Amador Central. "

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