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.