WALNUT CREEK -- A historic beacon atop Mount Diablo was trucked off the mountain Tuesday to begin a $100,000 restoration to keep it shining over the Bay Area each Dec. 7 on Pearl Harbor Day.
Initially turned on remotely in 1928 by aviator Charles Lindbergh, the rotating beacon in Mt. Diablo State Park has grown dimmer and crankier, stirring fears among veterans and others that it would fail.
To avoid that, the Save Mount Diablo conservation group got the restoration on the road Tuesday, with help from many volunteers and donors and oversight from state park officials.
A crane loaned by the Shell Oil refinery in Martinez lifted the one-ton beacon off the top of the summit building and onto a trailer bound for loaned Concord warehouse space for the overhaul.
"The beacon has provided a guiding light, and we want to keep it shining," said Ron Brown, executive director of the conservation group. "We want it ready in time for the next Pearl Harbor ceremony on Dec. 7."
Save Mount Diablo stepped in because the financially strapped state park system can't afford the restoration.
Several retired industrial engineers and scientists have volunteered to work with a mix of hired and loaned experts for the overhaul. Restorers will fix the creaky rotating mechanism, upgrade wiring and repair broken glass slats on the beacon cover.
The big mirror that focuses the light into a beam will be left alone, as state historical experts worry about the risk of damage if the mirror is unbolted from its protective structure.
"We are striving to keep the historical integrity of the project as much as possible," said Dick Heron, a retired food company manager from Danville and member of a panel of volunteer experts helping plan and oversee the project.
Save Mount Diablo has raised some $76,000 toward the $100,000 restoration, and will accept more contributions at www.savemountdiablo.org. The Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation is matching donations up to $50,000.
Any money left after the overhaul goes into a maintenance fund to care for the beacon.
The beacon initially was used for aviation navigation, but since 1964 has been lighted only once a year -- each Dec. 7 to commemorate victims of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Contact Denis Cuff at 925-943-8267. Follow him at Twitter.com/deniscuff.