By Steve Barkkarie, General Manager, Niles Canyon Railway
Reproduced from the Niles Canyon Railway Crew Car newsletter.
Our intrepid tree trimming team of Steve Jones and Linda Stanley went out for a weekend of woodcraft at Vallejo Mills cleaning up an oak tree that split apart. Saturday was spent cutting wood and Sunday was to be for chipping, but that did not work out as planned. On the way to Niles, at Mile Post 30.25 they came across a stranded bovine. The errant cow had taken a tumble off the hill and fetched up against some large rocks 15 feet from the tracks that prevented the poor animal from getting to its feet. It was alive, alert, and laying on its side.
Fortunately, Steve has made a list of the landowners who abut our line and was able to track down the ranch manager to whom the cow belonged. The rancher sized up the condition of the 500-600 pound animal and found it basically sound, but exhausted. However, it was in a place inaccessible to trucks and trailers or horses to deal with the scenario using the traditional methods. Short of air-lifting the cow using a helicopter, there were no easy solutions to the problem. The rancher went to round up some cowboys and a trailer.
Steve Jones sprang into action. He got the rancher in touch with the new landowner between our ROW and the highway, reached me at home and with luck the hi-rail CAT backhoe was in Brightside, so I headed for the yard to gather tools and get down the track. With luck, Doug V. was at Brightside when I arrived, and we grabbed a couple of hoisting slings, a pry bar and shovel, Hi-railed the backhoe and high-tailed it to the West.
Upon arrival at the scene, all was as described. Cow was healthy, stuck, and unable to arise. The rancher was there with lots of hands, a truck and trailer near the track, and we had flat cars ready to transport the unintentional trespasser to safety. The ranch hands threaded a couple of nylon soft slings provided by the railroad under the cow, and attached them to the bucket of the backhoe.
We gingerly lifted her out of the predicament. She was laid on the flat car and hobbled to keep her calm. Three of the cowboys rode with her on the flat car to the transfer point, and shortly, all were headed for home.