Eccentric, Eclectic California Culinary

Who Are You Crazy People?

I personally find the word “crazy” to be highly subjective. Nevertheless, here’s who we are, and how we came to share our mutual insanity:

Phil Reader

…is a professional steam railroader who learned the tools of the trade from Southern Pacific “old heads,” many among the last generation to run revenue steam in the 1940s and 50s.  A 6th generation native of Santa Cruz County, California, his father and grandfather logged the Butano redwoods for Santa Cruz Lumber Co., making his career expertise among the foremost geared locomotive mechanics all the more appropriate.  On the job at the Roaring Camp & Big Trees Railroad in Felton, California, Phil became the original Iron Horse Chef, taunting many a trainman with tantalizing backhead feasts—the aromas of which would waft down his train to the caboose. A lifetime of scouting and being immersed in the Central Coast culinary scene during tenure as Chief Mechanical Officer at the Pacific Coast Railroad inspired him to design the first Cowboy Hibachi grill at the Santa Margarita Ranch in 2005, of which some two dozen have followed.  His travels have since taken him to the Georgetown Loop Railroad in Silver Plume, Colorado, where he can still listen to KPIG via online radio stream and continue cranking out barbeque creations.  He currently makes his home in Clear Creek County, Colorado, with his wife Karell and their three pugs.

Jeff “Grumps” Badger

…builds a mean live steam engine and, for the good of himself, others and mankind should probably be banned from cheeseball online joke sites.  Born and raised in the Inland Empire, he has been badgered all his life, and it sometimes makes him grumpy.  His buffet line to becoming Iron Horse Chef began with a scoop of G-scale, seconds with ride-on 1-1/2″ scale trains and, finally, thirds on 12/12 scale equipment—and when all was done, he was still hungry!  Even being a vegetarian didn’t stop him from cooking off a mean steamed and smoked smorgasboard.  He arrived on the Roaring Camp & Big Trees on the ’90s where he met Reader and later Kelley, a trifecta which would later land at the Santa Margarita Ranch and take their many-tracked food and steam-loving minds run wild.  In December, 2007, he filmed the debut episode of Iron Horse Chef from the cab of Pacific Coast Railroad No. 3 and has awaited to hear from The Food Network ever since.  Jeff lives in Santa Cruz County with his wife, Debbie, and their two sons, and may be available for bookings in a steam locomotive cab near you if the price is right.

E.J. “Oil Can” Kelley

…is a writer, graphic artist, helpless caffeine addict and the guy who edits, designs and maintains this blog. Raised in Los Gatos, California, he first became hooked on railroad history at age 5, when a tired hoghead named Phil Reader graciously showed him around the shop after putting his engine to bed and shared the story of an old SP steam man named Billy Jones. At age 12, he volunteered on that railroad for school community service hours and broke into journalism by publishing an article about his experiences. After three or four dozen more published articles and constant run-ins with that Reader guy, he scored a summer spot on the shop crew at the Roaring Camp & Big Trees—and after a summer of hearing more “old head” stories, he became determined to document fading recollections of his hometown’s railroading past, researching old photos and recording railroaders’ memoirs to tell a story some Silicon Valley transplants struggled to see beyond its white-collar visage.  He spent his freshman year in art school doing this, partnering with Arcadia Publishing and Los Gatos Library Director Peggy Conaway to write Railroads of Los Gatos (Arcadia Publishing, 2006) while simultaneously volunteering on the Niles Canyon Railway and wasting the bulk of his food budget on triple espressos. Later, he served on engine crew with Reader and The Badge at the Pacific Coast Railroad, where he designed and built his own modified CBH to anchor at the family beach house for righteous clam bakes. Kelley graduated liberal arts college in New York with a useless degree and continues to reside there. He also hates writing his own bio in the third person and feels incredibly pretentious doing so.

One response

  1. Julia

    I have one! Sad to say, Phil has not come over to give me my orientation so I have not used mine yet.

    November 24, 2010 at 1:35 am

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