Volunteers workin’ on the railroad
PLACERVILLE — Fifteen volunteers from two railway organizations recently joined forces to clear several tons of rock and dirt from the Tunnel No. 1 cut on the historic Placerville Branch rail line.
In an era of austere government budgets, crews from the El Dorado Western Railway Foundation (EDWRF) and the Folsom, El Dorado and Sacramento Historical Railroad Association (FEDS) donated more than 75 hours of personal labor on Nov. 13 to ensure safe passage through the cut for pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians and trains.
“Saturday’s work day on the Placerville Branch is a stark reminder of how the railroad was built and how we can overcome the need for tax dollars by using volunteers,” said Ed Cunha, EDWRF vice president. “In less than five hours, this small army of volunteers was able to reopen the Tunnel No. 1 cut and reestablish drainage in the cut where standing water had prohibited passage for as many years as anyone can remember.”
A key aspect of the project was the reclamation of excavated rock and dirt from the cut. EDWRF President Keith Berry identified a washout one-half mile west of the cut where the material was used to shore up an eroded drainage ditch. Using the FEDS’ large Fairmount speeder and flatcar to transport fill material from the cut, the crew laid a rock foundation over a donated eight-inch steel culvert pipe. To facilitate passage on the existing unimproved hiking and mountain bike trail adjacent to the tracks, the crew built a trail crossing over the repaired drainage ditch.
This project brought volunteers from two distinct railroad associations together to preserve El Dorado County’s rail legacy for current and future generations. It’s a testament of the value these volunteers bring to the project. Using picks and shovels and a backhoe, volunteers cleared an important passage on the rail corridor without spending one dollar from county coffers.
“This project serves all corridor venues, thereby providing a fine first example of developing a commonly held resource,” said Berry. “This project is extended toward the entire community and is only the first step in demonstrating a viable and successful approach within very limited financial times.”
The foundation is working in partnership with El Dorado County officials and the El Dorado County Historical Museum to develop the El Dorado County Historical Railroad Park in El Dorado and to preserve the historic Placerville Branch rail line.