The trestle may have been near the end of its life as a trestle as the 1960s started, but its story had just begun. The 1960s through the early 1990s brought over thirty years of well-deserved rest from the heavy train traffic of its almost 60 years of service. Nature was not so kind. The wind and the waves accompanying the intermittent fierce storms on the Great Salt Lake began to take their toll on the trestle, which was no longer being maintained as it had been when it was the railroad's only means of crossing the lake. Piece by piece, handrail and deck materials were broken free and blown or washed into the lake. In not too many years, the trestle was no longer fit to be even a back-up means of crossing the lake.
The trestle was given new life in the early 1990s. In March of 1993, Cannon Structures, Inc. obtained salvage rights to the trestle from T.C. Taylor Co., Ltd., which had previously acquired these rights from Southern Pacific. Cannon soon thereafter established its Trestlewood Division, through which it has been salvaging, remanufacturing and marketing the wood from the trestle ever since.
A 48' x 165' work barge (itself salvaged and restored to serviceable condition after being abandoned decades earlier following the building of the causeway that replaced the trestle), freight barges, cranes, a pile extractor attachment, excavators, tugboats, workers and a subcontractor have all played key roles in Trestlewood's trestle salvage efforts.
The basic salvage process is a relatively simple one: men and equipment, working off the work barge, load salvaged wood onto the work barge and/or freight barges; when these barges are full, they are pushed to shore by a tugboat, where they are unloaded and pushed back out to the trestle for another load.
Trestlewood has conducted the salvage of the trestle in two stages. It first salvaged the above-water Douglas Fir timbers and Redwood decking. It then turned to the salvage of the Douglas Fir piling. A subcontractor, Hein Timber Products, has salvaged most of these piling.
The pile driver/extractor attachment plays an important role in salvaging the piling. This crane attachment is placed over the butt (large diameter) end of the pole to be pulled. It vibrates the pole until the suction between the tip (small diameter) end of the pole and the sediment on the bottom of the lake is broken. The pole can then be pulled out of the lake by the crane and placed on the work barge for eventual transportation to shore.
Trestlewood has faced many of the same issues in its salvaging of the trestle as Southern Pacific faced in building it. The most difficult issues always seem to come back to the Great Salt Lake.
Weather is a big issue. The Great Salt Lake sponsors some fierce storms, the fiercest component of which is typically the wind. The only real option in dealing with storms of any magnitude is to get off the lake and wait them out. Even this option does not eliminate the risk of damage-Trestlewood has had docked boats sunk by these storms on five or six occasions. Spring's south winds are especially tough on the trestle salvage operation. Winters have been surprisingly mild: (1) the Great Salt Lake and Promontory Point have received less snow than the Wasatch Front in general (the dreaded "lake effect" does not seem to impact the lake as much as it does surrounding areas) and (2) the salvage operation is largely protected from winter's north winds by the causeway.
The Great Salt Lake also exacts its tolls in the form of increased maintenance costs. The fluctuating levels of the lake result in significant ongoing dock maintenance costs. The lake's salt has a very corrosive impact on metal equipment, barges and boats. Boat electrical systems have been especially hard hit.
One of the largest challenges posed by the Great Salt Lake is transportation-related. The lake does not make it easy to get men to work or salvaged wood to shore. Getting workers out to the trestle in the morning typically takes thirty minutes to an hour; getting them back to shore at the end of the day takes a similar amount of time. Pushing barges full of salvaged wood to shore can take several hours.
If it were not for the work barge, piling transportation would be an even bigger issue. Salvaged poles are typically 50 to 80 feet long, with a few poles longer than 100 feet. A "typical" 65 foot pole weighs about 4,000 pounds. It would take only 12 such poles to reach the 48,000 pound maximum payload of an over-the-road tractor-trailer. Fortunately, the work barge can typically handle loads of 200 to 250 poles. The barge's million pound payload has been a real boon to Trestlewood's piling salvage efforts.
By mid 2000, over seven years into its salvage efforts, Trestlewood has brought essentially all of the Douglas Fir timbers and Redwood decking to shore and about three-quarters of the Douglas Fir piling. In other words, it has taken Trestlewood over seven years to take down less than Southern Pacific put up in one year. Of course, Trestlewood's two to six person salvage crew (less than 1% of the number of men Southern Pacific typically had working on trestle construction) has something to do with this disparity. The trestle salvage schedule has also been impacted by (1) a desire to handle the salvaged wood as carefully as possible in order to preserve its value and (2) remanufacturing and marketing issues.