California Dreamin’

by Debra Dobbins

California has beaches and we just love them!  Cold or warm, rocky and sandy sunny beaches.  The smell of the Pacific Ocean is intoxicating!  The salt air on the tip of your tongue as you breathe in the other flavors of the sea.  Divine!  There is no place else like it.  Seagulls, sea lions and seaweed.  Santa Cruz has it all!  Cypress trees, Redwood trees and wineries.  Delicious!

Old town Santa Cruz is a pleasure.  Unique shops abound.  Food for the gourmand and a world famous boardwalk nearby.  Walk over to the municipal pier and gaze down through the spy holes, cut in the pier, at the sea lions lounging the day away.  Check out what the fisherman are catching and smell the amazing aromas drifting out of the various restaurants along the way.  Sumptuous!  All of this is a tiny reason to come to Santa Cruz.

Along the way there, we will stop and visit a fabulous collection of antique, vintage and classic cars with a few Packards on display “Ask The Man (or Woman) That Owns One”.  The Larry Carter Collection promises to be a wonderful tour, personally led by the owner.

We are going to eat, drink and enjoy the Redwoods.  Ride a Historic Narrow Gauge Steam Train.  Have you ever done that?  How about a Shay Locomotive?  What’s that?  Here is what is in store for you:

Excerpts from Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Historical Society website:

Ephraim Shay (1839-1916) was a logger himself, and like those who try to build a better mousetrap, he decided to build a better logging locomotive.  In 1880, he constructed a successful prototype, basically a flatcar with a steam boiler mounted amidships; fuel and water on opposite ends.  What set this locomotive apart was the unusual cylinder arrangement.  Two vertical cylinders drove a crankshaft, which in turn drove a pair of geared trucks through a system of universal joints and sliding shafts (jackshafts). On most Shays, the boiler is offset to the left of center, to balance the cylinders on the right.

Shays produced a distinctive sound; due to the rapid firing of the cylinders it seemed they were going about 60 mph, whereas they were actually chuffing along at 12 mph! This slow speed, high tractive effort locomotive could climb grades as great as 14 percent.  One other advantage the Shay had was the exposed cylinders and running gear. This made repairs relatively easy, as everything was accessible.

Shay production lasted until 1945. There were 2,771 Shays built, of which approximately 83 still exist. It’s a testimony to the Shay design and construction quality that many of these remain in active service many decades after they were built. Most of the survivors are in tourist railroads.  Several Shays live and operate at the Roaring Camp and Big Trees Railroad near Felton.  Not all are operational as some are undergoing renovation and extensive refurbishing.  The Dixiana, Roaring Camp Engine #1, is one of three engines designated a National Mechanical Engineering Historical Landmark.  The Dixiana has a historic and varied past. The “Dixie,” as she is affectionately called, was built by Lima Locomotive Works, Shop No. 2593, on October 12, 1912. She served on six different short line railroads before coming west to California. Although she saw service on the famous Smokey Mountain Railroad in Tennessee, it was a little narrow-gauge mining railroad (now abandoned) in Dixiana, Virginia, that gave her the name “Dixiana.” A two-truck engine, the Dixie weighs 42 tons with a tractive effort of 17,330 lbs. and has 29 ½” drivers. Three 10 x 12 inch cylinders can maintain 180 pounds working pressure. The beloved Dixie was dubbed Roaring Camp Engine #1 because it was the first locomotive acquired by founder, F. Norman Clark, who inaugurated steam train service from Roaring Camp on April 6, 1963.

The second operational shay is the Sonora, Engine #7. She is a three-truck, 60-ton Shay engine built in 1911 by Lima Locomotive Works, factory number 2465. The West Side Lumber Company purchased the engine from the Butte & Plumas Railroad, where it was engine #4, and renumbered it #7. After long years of service, it was retired and stood in a county park in Sonora. It was refurbished to operate in 1977 as engine #7 for the West Side & Cherry Valley Railway, part of Quality Resorts of America Inc. Purchased by Roaring Camp in 1985, the engine was retained as #7 and nicknamed “Sonora,” in honor of its gloried past.  The “Sonora” is one of only 83 Shays left in North America, and one of the few fully operational Shay engines in existence today.

After our ride, enjoy local made fare for lunch at a winery just out of Santa Cruz, atop the Costal Range.  From there, if you wish, we have another winery or two close by on our way back to town for a tasting visit.

We do have a meeting planned and then let the frolic begin!  Dinner with an ocean / boardwalk view.  Intriguing treasures to out-bid your best buddy for, in a silent auction.  Awards will be given to those worthy souls that we all love and adore!

On the very last day, after all is said and done, when the new president has been anointed, and breakfast has been devoured, we have the sublime pleasure of walking amongst the Cypress Grove at Natural Bridges State Park in Santa Cruz, while we hunt for the elusive Monarch Butterfly, King of the butterflies.  They return each year to the Monterey Peninsula and Santa Cruz to show off their splendor.  There is a $10 per car fee for parking.

Wow, what a weekend!

Discounted rooms have been reserved for ACBS at the Dream Inn.  Call them at 831-426-4330 for your reservation.  Be sure to tell them you are part of the ACBS group for the tremendous discount!  There are more hotels in the area to choose from.  They can be found online or through the Santa Cruz Visitor’s Center.