Late in 1968 David Hall, since deceased, put an enormous amount of time into gathering a small group together to discuss the formation of a Live Steam organization. Starting with less than a dozen, meeting in their various homes, they made plans, pooled resources and grew in numbers until by 1971 there were more than 25 members. In the spring of 1972, after much scrounging and scraping for money, materials and space, construction was started in the Cordova Community Park. The blistered hands and aching backs were soon forgotten on May 20th, 1973 when all hands cheered as a solid gold spike sank into a polished walnut tie and a big 2-8-2 touched pilots with a diamond stacked American. The event was toasted with cold chocolate milk poured from a long spouted oil can and operations began on 2000 feet of 4 3/4 and 7 1/2 inch dual gauge track. In 1992, the organization acquired more land and expanded the track to more than a mile of mainline which now includes many yards, sidings, trestles and bridges. Our pike has been called a scenic railway, which it is in fact, for it rises and falls, curves and twists like a modified roller coaster and is set within a beautiful area. But enough of that, for the real romance for most of us is the heady fragrance of coal smoke and oil, the soft sounds of an engine pausing to take on water or passengers, the echo of a whistle down the line or the sharp bark of an exhaust pulling the grade. The ultimate reward for all the hours of planning, hard work and money spent is when a member plants himself firmly astride his iron steed and gently cracks the throttle open to move off the turntable onto the mainline as he starts his journey down the descending trestle through fields and hills, across several bridges and trestles. Suddenly on the right is the majestic and historic American River. Sound your whistle to warn bikers and hikers on the path as you sweep out onto a great grassy plain and thunder across a swift flowing stream. Continue onto a climbing curve then past the station siding or turn in to pick up passengers. Ease past the outbound switch and around a long curve and you are back to the yard.
When we are having a meet and running a prototype operation there are lots of jobs, running engines, being flagmen, brakemen, switchmen, conductors, etc., and it's all exhilarating and FUN! Whether it's our organization or another, join the action and enjoy life in a new and different way. You'll love it!!!
To see a video taken in 1973 and stories told by the early members on for our 30th anniversary in 2003 click here.
The Golden Spike Ceremony took place in the park on May 20, 1973 at 2 PM.
Golden Spike ceremony. Alan Shelley driving one of the golden spikes in place.
Ed Yungling hammering golden spike, with Milon Thorley holding the tie in place.
The Meeting of the engines after the driving of the Golden Spike. Engines from Milon Thorley (left) and Ken Spicer (right).
Barry Garland shooting 16mm movie of the first Golden Spike cermony.
Watch this historic film and learn the history from interviews with Alan Shelley, Dick Esselbach, and Ed Yungling. Click to watch video.