Category Archives: Columnists

‘They’ve Been Workin’ on the Raaail-road…’

By Judy Salamacha ~

Today the San Luis Obispo Amtrak Station welcomes people traveling north and south — from Seattle to San Diego — on Union Pacific-owned tracks, often with a view corridor of the Pacific Coast.

Located just a few steps south of the station, visitors can immerse themselves in railroad history at the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum — transported back in time to the late 1800s and early 1900s — when a booming Central Coast economy hauled more goods than people.

Judy Salamacha
Judy Salamacha

The museum recreates the Southern Pacific Freight House, circa 1894, and features rail equipment that sparks stories from the past.

On the tracks near the museum entrance is their newest restoration project, a 1926 Pullman parlor car named “La Cuesta,” and donated in 2006 by Railroad Museum member, Gordon Crosthwait.


Originally based in Fresno, it is one of five built as a café/observation car and is currently being restored as funding allows. Membership supports operations and restoration. Museum details are online at:

Judy S-01

Museum Manager, Diane Marchetti, said the development committee launched the museum in 2013 intending to restore the freight house to its original appearance as much as possible. Even its slate black flooring – created from bitumen once mined in Price Canyon — replicates what was used before. A few modifications, including more bathrooms, were needed to make sure the City of San Luis Obispo’s attraction would meet all codes to host visitors and historians interested in learning and preserving the railroad history of California and the Central Coast.

Visitors discover a mock-up of the freight agent’s office next to a historical photo exhibit by John Roskowski depicting a working freight line. It features a “butterfly contraction,” a primitive devise used to poke a handwritten note towards the train engineer as the locomotive chugged by. It revealed when to pause on track or risk a collision with an oncoming train.

An antique, signal POT light was restored by Cal Poly engineering student, Stephen Hagen. Two locomotive bells demonstrate operating mechanisms that produce unique sounds.

Photographer Brian Lollar shot and donated a color panorama of today’s San Luis Obispo railroad area, duplicating the image in an early 1900s, black and white photograph.

Also featured is the Santa Maria Valley Railroad, owned by Rob Himoto, which today moves crops out of San Maria Valley. Children flock to enjoy the railroad museum’s interactive area.

John Marchetti, a CCRRM and SLO Model Train Association board member, has been creating models since the 1970s and is a font of knowledge about railroads. He encouraged his wife Diane to get involved in the museum as manager after she retired as a math teacher in Atascadero. It is the couple’s daily passion, although the museum is only officially open Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The SLO Model Train Association is an affiliate organization working within SLORRM. Upstairs, members are producing two, fully operational, mega model train exhibits. One features the Pacific Coast Railway that took-on and off-loaded freight from ships docking at the Avila Pier. Artisans are modeling historic buildings like the Olde Port Inn and Hotel Marre. Board member Andrew Merriam has completed much of the artwork.

The other project features 1930s Southern Pacific Railroad from Paso Robles to the Surf Station in Lompoc, including Santa Margarita and Cuesta Grade.

The 6th Annual Central Coast Railroad Festival is set for Thursday-Sunday, Oct. 1-4. Curtis Reinhardt, currently on the museum’s events committee, said, “I created the Central Coast Railroad Festival in 2009 primarily to help promote all the regional railroad and history organizations. I also believed that it could be a fun family event that would enrich our local culture. I am confident that the Festival will flourish and grow under the management of the San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum.”

Most of the events are free at numerous locations in San Luis Obispo and Northern San Barbara counties. The major venues include the Railroad Museum, the SLO City/County Library, the History Center, Thursday Night Farmers’ Market and Arts Obispo’s Art After Dark that Friday.

Children can participate in a coloring project at county libraries and adults can enjoy a Friday night rail excursion to Pomar Junction Winery on Amtrak’s Coast Starlight. A detailed schedule of all events is online at:

Judy Salamacha’s Then & Now column is special to Tolosa Press. Reach her at: [email protected] or 801-1422.

Made in China, Made Handmade

Story and photos by Gareth Kelly ~

How many times have you picked up some knick-knack, tool, piece of clothing or simply a random pair of gas station glasses only to see ‘Made in China’ emblazoned on the label? As trade relations

Gareth Kelly
Gareth Kelly

between the US and China have grown, people have become used to seeing that label, and some don’t always associate those products with quality.

One lady hoping to change that perception is Ann Wu, owner of Impressions located at 845 B on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay.

Continue reading Made in China, Made Handmade


By Carroll McKibbin ~


A deafening explosion nearly knocks me off my feet. A huge fireball mushrooms skyward, momentarily turning night into day and leaving behind a blazing apartment building. My evening stroll along New York’s Lexington Avenue has erupted into Hell.

Stunned and transfixed, I watch hungry flames eat at helpless structures. Sirens blare. Lights flash.

Continue reading Terror

Unlocking the Ankle is Key

By Michele S Jang, PT ~

One joint that is often overlooked when dealing with back and any lower extremity pain is in the ankle. The name of this secret “culprit” is the tibiotalar joint. This tibiotalar ankle joint is formed from the

Michele Jang
Michele Jang

distal part of the tibia and the top of the talus bone. The talus is the bone which sits on top of your calcaneus or heel bone.

It is imperative that this joint have adequate motion because it helps with shock absorption every time you place weight on your foot which is basically every time you take a step to walk. As you take a step, your ankle quickly goes into dorsiflexion whereby your talus glides posteriorly under the tibia. Such action allows the rest of your foot to then become pliable to absorb the forces of the ground as you take a step.

Continue reading Unlocking the Ankle is Key

Sports Shorts

By Michael Elliott ~

A Sporting Chance
Please forgive me for veering off the beaten sports path today. Oh, we’ll still get our fix in. A sporting event shall be portrayed and as is wont from this column, a part of rock-and-roll shall affix itself.

Granted, the latter subject matter is going to be somewhat of a stretch. Thank God for the rock part. Cody does!

Afghanistan. Helmond Province. June 6, 2011. United States Marine Lance Corporal Cody Elliott, my brother Gary’s grandson, and his support platoon are making their way towards lending backup for another platoon patrolling the area against the Taliban. In route, the company engineer (leader) sustains a mortal wound via an improvised explosive devise (IED). As Elliott runs to his leader’s aid he engages another invisible IED. The Central Coast native remembers coming to for a bit there at the site of human destruction. The 21-year old’s next recollection is of awakening at a military hospital in Germany for initial repairs to his war-ravaged body, wondering if he would ever see his grandpa again.

The general public is acutely aware of our country’s forages into war. Especially the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq. As war rages and the newspaper headlines trumpet the activities, we all somewhat become jaded to what is actually taking place as it, unfortunately, becomes commonplace in our lives and minds. Until it hits close to home. Once a relative or friend is injured or has fallen in war, one is catapulted emotionally into the fray. It’s a terrible, helpless feeling.

Cody spent the next six months in the Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland. His list of injuries: amputation of left leg just above the knee; compound tibia and fibula fractures to his right leg; 50% of muscle and tissue lost on the right leg; dislocation of wrist on left hand; loss of index finger on left hand; jaw and orbital bone fractures; 2” wide x 8” long x ¼” deep permanent facial laceration on right cheek; approx. 30% hearing loss.

Family members took turns, if you will, going back to visit Cody in Bethesda. My daughter Savannah and I were fortunate to have been in Cody’s hospital room the day a high-ranking military official and his team presented Cody with the distinguished Purple Heart medal. It was a very emotional moment. Heartbreak overruled joy.

After the stay in Maryland Cody was flown to the Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego for a two-month stay. He estimates that over 40 surgical procedures were administered overall, from the time of his accident until he left Balboa, in order to repair his body as best they could. Bless the boy.

For the next two years Cody attended grueling therapy sessions to learn how to walk again and was fitted for a prosthesis for his left leg. As you might expect, pain medication was a major part of his rehabilitation and Cody eventually had to go through a two week drying out period due to an addiction to the meds. The kid has more grit than a sheet of sandpaper.

Now, to the point of this column. I may be biased, but to me Cody symbolizes human resolve. He has resurrected his life and risen from the ashes like a Phoenix to find a purpose in his life. Instead of wallowing in pity or drowning out the injustices of his life with liquor he has taken pursuit of a sport which gives his life a new, fresh meaning–rock climbing!

Several months ago Cody and a friend went rock climbing on a lark in San Diego and he found his lot in life. He immersed himself in the event as it helped to promote his healing, physically as well as mentally. Locally he has climbed Madonna Mountain (or is it Mission Prep??) and Bishop’s Peak. He has competed in several adaptive (for the physically disabled) rock climbing competitions in Colorado and Wisconsin. He traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland for a competitive climb. In the Yosemite Valley he jugged (climbers parlance for scaled) the nose of El Capitan. This consisted of 32 pitches up the nose led by Cody’s climbing partner who also served in Afghanistan. Climbs in Bishop, CA and upper Nevada and Utah are on the horizon.

It is hopeful that the story of Cody’s new life shall be heard by others whom may be wounded physically or emotionally, and see that it is possible to pull themselves up off of the ground and to greet each day with a new, profound meaning. Perhaps to give oneself a sporting chance. Perhaps to find a better day and to run with it. Or climb it, as Cody has.

Please share comments at [email protected]