Weed Burner



Operating Weight: 




Builder #: 

Status:  Display




Very little is known about the WPMW 71.

If you have material or stories about it, please contact the webmaster@wplives.org .

On October 13th, 2017, Dennis Servia visited the museum and shared some memories he had about working with the WPMW-71, the Weed Burner, while he worked for the Western Pacific Railroad at Portola.
Dennis joined the WP on May 4, 1965 and worked in Portola until 2001. His father, Leo Servia, also worked for the WP starting about the time of World War II in the Water Service and also operated the Weed Burner. The Weed Burner was originally part of the Water Service and later moved to the Maintenance-of-Way department.

Dennis remembered that the Weed Burner was "neat, when it worked right." He went on to explain that the unit used #2 diesel as the fuel for the five burners, each at the end of a long boom. Each boom could be raised or lowered individually and moved left or right. Each boom had a foot-pedal lock/release and a wheel that the operator would manually use to move the boom. The wheels are clearly visible in some of the photographs.

To light the burners, the air compressor would be started and the fuel oil would be "cracked" for only the center burner. A lit fussee (a red flare used for flagging or warning purposes) was placed under the center burner and would ignite the fuel/oil mixture. Then the outer burners on each side would be activated and would ignite from the center burner.

The unit could be self-propelled or pushed by a track car. It also sometimes towed small flat cars, which when being used to burn weeds would carry a water tank. The water from the tanks would be used to put out tie fires or small unintended right-of-way fires.

In addition to burning weeds along the railroad right-of-way, the Weed Burner was used in the winter to melt snow in the yard and thaw frozen switches. When melting snow, Dennis recalled, they would start well before the frog while moving through the switch and then melt the snow well past the points. He said it was "used a lot" in the winter. As far as Dennis knows, the Weed Burner never went down the hill, but worked eastward from Portola to Gerlach, Nevada.

The Weed Burner was used to melt snow up to about four feet deep. If the snow was deeper than four feet, they would use the "8-Spot," another Portola-based MOW piece of equipment. Dennis provided us with photographs either he or his father had taken of the Weed Burner and the 8-Spot. Their home was adjacent to the main, and two of the photographs are from their backyard.

Dennis thinks the Weed Burner was used until sometime in the 1970's and then was retired.

We thank Dennis for sharing his memories about working with the WPMW-17.


Photo by - Mike Mucklin


WPMW 71 - melting snow in Portola Feb. 23, 1966
Photo by - Gordon Glattenberg


Photo by - Paul Finnegan


Photo by - Paul Finnegan


Photo by - Paul Finnegan


Wheels at extreme upper-right were used to raise/lower the burner booms.
Photo by - Paul Finnegan


Photo by - Paul Finnegan


Photo by - Paul Finnegan


Photo by - Dennis or Leo Servia


Photo by - Dennis or Leo Servia


The Weed Burner passing behind the Servia residence.
Photo by - Dennis or Leo Servia


Photo by - Dennis or Leo Servia


Photo by - Dennis or Leo Servia


Photo by - Dennis or Leo Servia


Photo by - Peter Arnold