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Tinkering School

The Blog of the Sleep-Away Program at Elkus Ranch – Updated every night during camp

Category / 2012 Session 2 – Seniors

Session 2 – Railboats

What would have happened if the industrial revolution had suddenly run out of coal? Would those vast networks of railroad gone unused and rusted away to nothing? We think not. Picture yourself, riding on the open deck of a new-fangled railboat – a vehicle simultaneously ridiculous and graceful, whisper-quiet and rolling so smooth it almost […]

Day Six – Breakdown Cruise

This is the day we’ve all been working towards. The day that we will truly put our railboats to the test. I wake the house up early and we get everybody fed and up to the barn by 9. It’s a miracle.

As a group, we exude a heady mixture of excitement, trepidation, bravado, and cautious anticipation. The prospect of racing along, driven by the winds, skimming just a few shy inches above the ground seems to predispose us to fits of giggles.

But, we must first make repairs and modifications based on the results of yesterday’s shakedown cruises. The tools come out and we get to work. The barn soon fills with the sounds of cordless screwdrivers, hammers, the sewing machine, and technical chatter.

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First order of business is to figure out how to stop chewing up the guide-wheels. One team plans to adjust the height of the wheel so that it contacts a better part of the rail, and the Kablooi decide to replace the rollerblade wheels with tubeless wagon wheels. Continue Reading

Day Five – Shakedown Cruise

Our goal today is to take the railboats out on the rails to see what breaks, what doesn’t work, and what could work better – shakedown cruises. It takes a bit of work to get the boats really ready, so we head up to the barn early (by this Seniors session standards – 9:30) and start loading the boats and parts that are ready to go.

Editor’s Note: I’ve been misspelling Nicki as Nickie, and I mis-identified yesterday’s beach as San Gregorio when it is actually Tunitas Creek. Thank you for your patience.

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Serena wrangles the mast, boom, and sail into the trailer. Continue Reading

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