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The Devil's Shingle

Born out of need, the Devil's Shingle or slideboard came into existence during the early days of the railway's construction. These simple home made devices allowed workers to descend the mountain rapidly after a days work. Made of wood and hand forged iron, the slideboards fit over the cog rack and had enough room for a worker and his tools. Remaining slideboards show that probably no two were exactly alike. Old photos and stereoviews confirm this. Careful review of these old photos show many variations and some of them seem to have been upholstered. The basic construction was common throughout. The board was approximately 10"wide by 36" long and often there was a small compartment on the down-mountain end for tool storage. Two long, hardwood handles were attached usually on the down-mountain end, although pictures seem to indicate that were some variations of this. Attached to these handles were thick iron plates which fit under the edge of the cog rack. Because the slideboards were barely wider than the cograck, the handles and braking plates had to be able to be spread apart and then be brought back together under the rack. This was accomplished by a large square nut on the through bolt which hold the handles to the board. A piece of "L" shaped round stock was inserted into the nut and provided leverage to loosen and tighten the nut when putting the slideboard on or taking it off the rack. By pulling up on the handles, the plates would come into contact with the cog rack. This friction and that of the wood on top of the rack would cause the slideboard to slow down. Remaining slideboards show deep grooves in the down-mountain end of the wood bottom as well as wear on the plates. Two forged iron guides were fitted on the up-mountain end and these fit into the cog rack and rode on the round spools or pins in the rack. This kept the slideboard in the rack between the angle iron and on top of the spools and provided support for the riders weight upon the board.
Common times for the descent of the mountain were about 15 minutes. However, as in many things, competitions developed and one account reports a descent in just over 2 1/2 minutes! This would mean that speeds of over 60 mph would have been necessary in some locations to descend the 3 miles of track.
Slide boards were used "officially" until 1906 when the death of an employee brought about the banning of the Devil's shingles. Some unauthorized use no doubt took place, but the fate of the slide board was sealed when the design of the way the rack was attached to the wood was changed. There was no longer a flange of steel on which the braking mechanism could grip.

More Pictures to come!