Friday, June 5, 2015

The Doodle Trail

I have been doodling around lately.

Yep.  Doodling.

Let me explain.  Running between my town of Easley South Carolina and Pickens, about eight miles away, is a former railroad right of way that has been converted into a recreational trail.  Rails-to-Trails, as they say. 

It just opened on Memorial Day weekend, so I had to try it out.

Why "Doodle?"  Well, the railroad that used to run here was officially the Pickens Railway.  According to Wikipedia, the Easley-Pickens line was chartered on December 24, 1890.  In its early years, it was nicknamed the "Pickens Doodle" because the train would run backwards to Easley and forward to Pickens, which "looked like a doodlebug," according to area residents. The Pickens Railroad, at the time did not have turning facilities until the line built two wye sections of track at each end of the line years later.

Now you know.  

Since I have been trying to get out and exercise more often and for longer periods since I retired, I had to try it out.  I picked up the trail in Easley and went part way and back -- around 7-1/2 miles, then on another day, started in Pickens and explored from that end -- about six miles total.  I covered most of the trail in the two visits.   

Like most such trails, the grades are gradual, so it is mostly an easy walk -- or ride -- if you happen to be a bicyclist.

Come along and see some of the sights.  ...and I promise, there are some motorcycle tie ins.

The trail starts out in Easley, in the center of this map. Someone has cultivated a little garden, complete with birdbath and dog watering bowl. 

And right across from this is the only bench along the way. 

The trail runs through several neighborhoods and industrial areas.  Then it enters some more rural terrain.  Like this. 

Nice.  Quiet.  Enjoyable.  

I spot an ancient bagger behind a former car lot.  Its license tag says it was street legal as late as 2014. (First motorcycle tiein.) 

I wonder what the story is about the gaudy green of the speaker and engine case, among other things. 

And this Harley.

There is at least one other old bike, shown here at right.  

Bike on the left is the same one as the one in the picture
above, but taken on another day.

There are many places where stuff has been stashed near the former railroad tracks -- in backyards and behind industrial buildings.  Much of it isn't worth much.  Included are a few treasures, though.  Probably amongst the rarest is a 1952 Nash-Healey automobile. Only 407 were made all together, and they are quite scarce as a result.  According to the Wikipedia article, it is a two-seat sports car that was produced for the American market between 1951 and 1954.  Marketed by Nash-Kelvinator Corporation with the Nash Ambassador drivetrain and a European chassis and body, it served as a halo (or image) vehicle for the automaker to promote the sales of the other Nash models. It was "America's first post-war sports car", and the first introduced in the U.S. by a major automaker since the Great Depression. The Nash-Healey was the product of the partnership between Nash-Kelvinator Corporation and British automaker Donald Healey. Later on, the car was restyled by Pinin Farina and subassembly begun in Italy.  The car along the trail is one of the latter.  When new, it looked like this: 

The car was quite expensive.  As an example, the 1953 model sold for $5,908 sticker price, while the new Chevrolet Corvette was only $3,513.  No wonder it lasted only four years. 

I gaze down at some goats lounging around under this little tractor. 

You really shouldn't be walking on your food, you know. 

They seem content as I walk by at a brisk pace.  Maybe they are wondering why I am in such a rush. 

A picturesque barn provides the focal point of a satisfying vista. 

Several miles further along, I go under Ireland Road where the railroad runs through a small cut. 

Being an engineer, I check out the supporting structure and find it "interesting."  The roadway is supported on wooden pilings, but the soil has eroded enough that some railroad maintenance department decided to shore it up to keep mud off the right of way. 

Nice work, don't you think?  Here it is from a different angle, in case you have not made a judgment. 

Yep. Those are highway signs and railroad ties holding the soil back   

Just after this overpass, I see -- and hear -- a fearsome racket. It is a bunch of dogs barking fiercely at me from the deck of this house on Welborn Road.

Here, I have a flashback.  A few months ago, I was riding the bike in front of that house.  (Second motorcycle tiein.)  The dogs were not confined and all of them ran after me.  I barely escaped without wrecking.  I can't imagine what they would have done with me had I fallen off the scooter.  I might not be writing this account for you today. 

I did have one consolation, though.  One of the larger dogs tried to intercept my front wheel.  There were so many others that I couldn't use the usual technique of accelerating before they intercepted me.  If you accelerate before they get to you, their calculation is thrown off and they end up behind you instead, with a "how did that happen" look on their faces.   As it was, my footpeg hit the big dog pretty hard.  I'll bet he thought twice about the wisdom of chasing me that day.  I hope so. 

Anyway, they are confined today, so, despite some initial trepidation to walk by, I am saved by their deck railing and a secondary containment system -- their yard fence. 

Further along, I spot this old steel boxcar.  It has windows and must have been used for work crews. 

I later learned that when the Pickens Railroad was struggling to make money on rail operations, they started building boxcars near this old work car.  They built the cars and took them into Pickens to be sandblasted and painted, ready for sale. 

I walk a few hundred yards further and find there two hopper car end sections sitting side by side and jutting out of the embankment with a steel house on top of one of them. 

Compare the end of this complete car. 

I can't imagine what the side-by-side arrangement might have been used for. 

A few feet from there, is a steel structure built of boxcar or hopper car sides stacked three high.  You can't see it very well.  I'll have to come back in winter for a better look.  This must have been the car assembly building, though I am guessing. 

These things are about here on the map. 

A few days after my foot trip, I mounted up to view this structure from nearby Dublin Lane.  (Third motorcycle tiein.)  It was very hard to see, but the building is being used for storage of round hay bales. 

The other structure made of hopper car ends and the work railcar were not visible from the road. 

This steel tank at Turner Road was not owned by the railroad.  It was brought in by a hoarder of metal tanks and other heavy metal items.  I suppose he expected to sell it at a profit one day. 

I spotted a motley mix of stuff in the nearby woods including an early 70s full-size Chevrolet hemmed in on all sides by trees about a foot in diameter.  It'll rust there in its prison, I expect. 

That was the end of my travel from the Easley end of the Doodle Trail.  A couple of days later, I started at the Pickens end and saw the sights described in the following section. 

First, I have a pet peeve.  At every road crossing, they installed those rubbery mats with the bumps on them so blind people can sense that they are approaching danger. 

Unfortunately, they are already loose and sticking up more than a half inch, presenting a major trip hazard to anyone, blind or not. 

I have written about this before, where in the town of Newry, they installed them where there wasn't even a sidewalk.  Where is the wisdom in spending our hard-earned money on such projects? 

A few days later, I find that they have begin replacing the rubbery bumpy things with concrete bumpy things like this. 

It still costs the taxpayer a lot of money to put these things on every street corner and possibly dangerous juncture.  Surely people have some responsibility to watch out for themselves. 

Moving on. 

This ancient Fordson tractor and two-bottom plow are sitting alongside the trail.  They appear to have been retrieved from having been sunken into the mud somewhere, judging from the look of the steel wheels. 

The radiator shroud. 

The four-cylinder engine is designed to run on kerosene. 

It uses a Holley vaporizer. 

To get it started, you switch it over to use gasoline.  That is why there is a cast iron gasoline tank nearby. 

Once it is running and warmed, you turn it over to kerosene.  I think the tractor was sold new in the early 1920s.  

Here is a list of patents that are included in this tractor, all cast into a part of the frame. 

Here is a picture of a similar tractor, and here is a fine 1/4-scale working model of one.  

You can hear one running in this video.  Many of these tractors were sold by Ford in Europe.  This one is in Italy. 

Note that when you start a hand-cranked engine, you always position the crank to pull up on it.  You never push down or crank it around and around.  This can result: 

Not my arm.
And you never wrap your thumb around the crank handle in case the crank does not disengage from the crankshaft when the engine starts. You only cup your four fingers under the crank handle with the thumb out of the way. 

Next along the way are three Troy Engberg vertical steam engines in a makeshift steel shed. 


I wonder what they were used for. 

Still more engineering marvels await along the trailside. 

Here is a tracked power crane. 

It is also becoming hemmed in by forest growth. 

Fortunately, someone has left a bow saw hanging from a convenient branch of a nearby tree. 

I am sure it would make short work of extracting the crane from the tentacles of the trees. 

I have reached my limit for walking today.  (Remember I have to go back the same distance I have come.)   I turn on my heel and start back.  When I reach Pickens, I explore the trailhead a bit.  There is a portable potty here, and the building that housed the former Pickens railroad shop. 

This diesel locomotive and several boxcars sit on a short section of trackage here in Pickens.  There is no way for them to get out, since all of the rails between here and the main line in Easley have been removed. 

The locomotive was purchased in 1947, replacing steam power.  It is a Baldwin VO-660.  It was numbered 2 and was later named T. Grady Welborn.

The building next to it is mostly empty now, but there is a sign of future hope for it. 

As I am prowling around, this fellow rides by on his powerful moped.  (Fourth motorcycle tiein.)  The muffler was without a packing I am pretty sure, based on the noise level it produced. 

If I were inclined to ride a moped, I think it would be one like his with the large wire wheels.  You straddle it and it looks more like a real motorcycle.  Maybe that is my next step -- when I get old! 

I sit in my car for a few minutes, eat a granola bar, and gulp down some water.  It has been a satisfying couple of days of hoofing it along this new route. 


I couldn't resist taking some pictures of flowers along the way.  Call me soft, but I call them pretty. 

An ant looking around. 

See you next time. 


1 comment:

SonjaM said...

I love this little exploration of yours, so much curiosity, and attention to detail. And although equipped with an engineer's mind, an eye for the flowers.