To this point in my five-year tour with the El Dorado Western Railway, I'd never seen one up close. If you'd asked, "What's a Trackmobile" last month, I'd given a blank stare.
That changed about a month ago when the railway learned of an opportunity to accept the donation of a 1964 Model 3TM Whiting Trackmobile from Aerojet in Folsom, California. The transaction was completed Monday when railway president Keith Berry and board member Ed Chuna picked the unit up in Folsom.
The railcar mover is a lightweight combination road-rail vehicle that's used to move railcars on industrial spurs. Trackside operators typically use the Trackmobile as a cost-saving alternative to the costlier locomotive switcher.
The Whiting Trackmobile has two sets of drive wheels. The operator drives it on the rubber tires on normal road surfaces. To move one or more railcars, the operator mounts the Trackmobile on the rail and couples the unit to lead car. At this point, it becomes a locomotive.
The El Dorado Western will use the Trackmobile on the Southern Pacific Placerville Branch and the new El Dorado County Historical Railroad Museum. According to Keith, the the Trackmobile will function in a variety of roles:
- Maintenance-of-way tug to pull cars on the right-of-way
- Rescue tug that'll pull stranded locomotives and cars back to the engine house
- Crew training vehicle