Sunday, November 23, 2014

If I don’t see a traffic-light, it doesn’t exist!

Sometimes I’m thankful I drove Transit bus 16&1/2 years.
It made me overly conscious of idiots, and some of the things they do.
This has saved my ass hundreds of times.
I find this to be especially true at the supermarket on Saturday afternoon.
Not just the crammed parking-lot, but also Granny in her battery-powered shopping-cart charging the freebie-stations.
Bam-slam: “Oh my golly!” Apples all over the floor.
“Gimme that dip, if you please, honey! SHLURP!”
I look both ways before I start into an intersection, traffic-light or not. And I expect anything from other drivers.
Just because someone has their turn-signal on, doesn’t mean they’re gonna turn.
I also check my right-side mirror in locations where some glowering intimidator might pass me illegally on my right, middle finger upraised. All because I was only doing 10 mph over the speed-limit, not 50.
And I don’t follow the advice of back-seat drivers. The one driving is me.
One morning my wife was driving me to work at Transit.
We were motoring blithely down the street, when suddenly back-up lights winked on in a car 75 feet up its driveway next to a house.
“LOOK OUT!” I screamed. “This idiot is liable to back out right in front of us!.”
He didn’t, of course, but that’s the old bus-driver jones.
We’d notice things like back-up lights flashing on — and go into defensive mode.
I was motoring with another retired bus-driver — I too was retired by then — down an extremely busy street in a nearby suburb.
We’d advance about 100 feet, then stop, then advance another 100 feet, and stop again.
“Do you see how much slop I have in front of me?” I observed. “That’s my bus-driving experience,” I said. “I wanna be able to stop without throwing my passengers out of their seats.”
I had maybe six car-lengths, yet we were crawling at about three mph.
All-of-a-sudden a black Lexus changed lanes right in front of me, unsignaled of course.
“Did you see that?” my friend cried. “He cut you right off!”
“Yep,” I said; “which is why I have so much slop in front of me, to allow for idiots like that.”
The fact I had six car-lengths ahead of me left him a hole to charge into. But no drama or histrionics were needed on my part.
And I’d say I was gonna get to my destination about the same time as him. Assertiveness might save him two-three minutes.
So he changed lanes. He was gonna have to stop just like me.
One of the supermarkets I patronize has its parking-lot exit into a main road protected by a traffic-light.
The light changed — I had a green light.
But a semi was in the process of running the light. His light probably changed to yellow as he approached.
So my light changed to green, and like the old bus-driver I am, I looked both ways before driving into the intersection.
Yep, here comes Granny in her CR-V, blithely following the semi. So by now she’s running a red-light.
Did she see the light at all? I doubt it; she didn’t act like she did.
If you can’t see a traffic-light, it doesn’t exist. —Ahem, I’ve lived in this town long enough to know where the traffic-lights are.
If a semi is blocking my view of a traffic-light, I don’t just blithely follow the semi.

• “Transit” equals Regional Transit Service, the public transit-bus operator in Rochester, NY, where I drove transit-bus for 16&1/2 years (1977-1993). My stroke October 26, 1993 ended that. I retired on medical-disability.
• A “glowering intimidator” is a tailgater, named after Dale Earnhardt, deceased, the so-called “intimidator” of NASCAR fame, who used to tailgate race-leaders and bump them at speed until they let him pass. Glowering intimidators usually shake their fist at me, blow their horn, and give me the middle-finger salute as they roar past.


Saturday, November 22, 2014

It’s a phone

(Photos by BobbaLew.)

My neighbor’s son lives across the street with his father.
He’s in his fifties, and still pretty spry.
His father is 79, and inherited his house from his father, who died some time ago.
Son has become a pretty good friend. He helped repair my lawnmower a few times.
His father is also a good neighbor, although we’re always making snide remarks, and giving each other the business.
Son apparently attended an estate-sale, yard-sale, whatever. He knows I’m a railfan, so bought what’s pictured above.
It’s a model of a Southern Railway Ps-4 Pacific (4-6-2).
But it’s also a telephone. Plug it in, and it makes whistle, bell and chuff-sounds when it rings.
The Southern Ps-4 is perhaps the prettiest steam-locomotive ever.
And it’s actually green. The president of Southern Railway wanted green-painted locomotives, just like in England.
Most railroad steam-locomotives were black, with a silvered smokebox.
Although Union Pacific had a series that was gray; its 800-series of 4-8-4 Northerns.
Only one (#844) is left, and it still operates. It was never retired. But it’s no longer gray.
#1401, which I’ve seen.
Only one Southern Ps-4 is left, #1401 on display in the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
It’s not operable.
The fact it’s not outside keeps it from decaying.
My model looks pretty good.
It’s fairly large, not O-gauge, but larger than “S.”
What impresses me most is the side-rods and valve-gear.
It’s very well done, and looks just like the real thing.
Baker valve-gear, which the Ps-4 had, is right out where you can see it. It’s outside the drive-wheels, not inside like earlier Stephenson valve-gear.
Baker is relatively intricate to model.
Yet every rod and lever is there; I’ve seen some models that scrimp on valve-gear.
Of course, its just a stationary model; it doesn’t hafta work.
Look hard, and you see flaws.
The reverse cylinder, a plastic casting, isn’t attached to the valve-gear. And I notice both sides have the driving-wheels in the rods-down position.
Rods-down was the most photogenic view, but rod location wasn’t identical side-to-side.
The rods for one side were 90 degrees ahead of or behind the opposite side.
And that reverse-cylinder is what reversed the valve-gear so the locomotive could back up. It was attached to the valve-gear by an actuation rod.
Details — details.
It still looks mighty good.
The rods are even carved away inside, just like the real thing.
I don’t know what I’ll do with it. My smartphone also has a locomotive whistle as its ringtone.
My brother-and-I recorded it long ago.
I’ve been tempted to dump my landline. I never answer it any more; I don’t have caller-ID on it, and it’s usually someone after my wallet.
I give out my cellphone-number any more; if someone important, like a relative, calls my landline, they’ll leave a message.
But for now, this Ps-4 telephone keeps my landline going.

• “O-gauge” is 30 millimeters (1.181 inches) to 33 millimeters (1.3 inches) between the rails, S-gauge is 0.883 inches (22.43 millimeters) between the rails. Lionel toy trains were O-gauge; A.C. Gilbert’s American-Flyer trains were S-gauge; which I preferred because American-Flyer was two-rail, as opposed to Lionel, which was three-rail. —My phone is one inch between the rails.

U.P. #844 in gray.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Trains of the ‘40s

Trains of the ‘40s.

Since I was so pleased with “Trains of the ‘60s,” I decided I should get “Trains of the ‘40s,” a more recent magazine-format booklet by Classic Trains magazine.
But “Trains of the‘40s” ain’t “Trains of the ‘60s.” What I liked about “Trains of the ‘60s” is it had many articles by David P. Morgan, editor of Trains Magazine in the ‘60s, a really great writer, and the reason I subscribed back in 1966.
I’ve subscribed ever since.
David had pretty much same appreciation of railroading I had, and also made me think.
“Trains” was first published in 1940 by Al Kalmbach as an adjunct to his Model Railroader Magazine, first published as the January 1934 issue.
It could be said “Trains of the ‘40s” is pretty much Kalmbach, although there are other writers from that time that Kalmbach published in Trains.
But there are multiple articles by Kalmbach, and he ain’t Morgan.
I feel like “Trains of the ‘40s” is required reading. It ain’t the fabulous stuff of Morgan.
The ‘40s was a very important time for railroading. It could be said our nation won WWII because of the railroads.
Huge amounts of freight and passengers gravitated to the railroads. And unlike Germany, our railroads weren’t being bombed.
A vast ocean insulated our infrastructure. We were slow to get rolling, but once we did we were unbeatable.
Hitler tried to sabotage our railroads, but the plot fizzled. Targets were Pennsy’s tunnels over Allegheny Mountain, and Hell Gate Bridge in New York City, among other locations including Horseshoe Curve.
But the tiny band of saboteurs got caught.
I don’t know as the saboteurs would have made much difference. The tunnels would have been reopened, and Hell Gate rebuilt.
Too much remained, and was put to heavy use.
Destroyed tunnels and bridges would have slowed things, but detours would have been found.
“Trains of the ‘40s” does a giant treatment of the saboteur plot. But I can’t get much interested; it’s not Morgan.
Despite railroading’s contribution to the war effort, there was more at play after the war ended.
Railroading thought it was gonna be pre-eminent; but didn’t notice the car and airlines.
Railroads were switching to diesel locomotives, and investing heavily in streamlined passenger-cars.
“Trains of the ‘40s” recognizes that. There’s a giant article on GM’s “Train of Tomorrow.”
Like HELLO; it’s General Motors. They manufacture automobiles.
It seems all business organizations follow a cycle, rise followed by decline and fall.
In the late ‘40s the railroads began falling apart. Now even GM has declared bankruptcy. Awash in the good fortune of their technology, they become targets, then falter of their own weight.
The railroads performed miracles during WWII, but then declined after the war and collapsed in disarray.
There is one article in “Trains of the ‘40s” I’ll read, a treatment of Spuyten Duyvil interlocking north of New York City, published by Kalmbach long ago.
Spuyten Duyvil is the junction of the Hudson and Harlem rivers north of Manhattan. It’s where New York Central divided into freight and passengers into Manhattan Island.
Freight went down Manhattan Island via the West Side Line, and passengers continued along the Harlem River toward Grand Central Terminal.
But I probably won’t read much else.
There is one article by DPM I’ll probably read, about coming dieselization.

I have read the article by Morgan. It’s 1949, so before his finding full flower.
I’ll publish the first paragraph; it seems to have the flash he later developed.

“The courtship of the diesel locomotive by the railroads has run it’s erratic course from a shy flirtation on the back porch of Jersey Central to a formal wedding, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.
The question is no longer one of proposal but simply, ’How long will the honeymoon last?’’’

But it’s more like an assignment, not a reflection. Like Kalmbach told him he needed a report on dieselization by the railroads.
Morgan had a similar long report on Denver & Rio Grande Western in “Trains of the ‘60s” that was much better — more interesting.
And this was from a steam-junky, which Morgan was, and I still am.

Oh my goodness! (Photo by BobbaLew.)


Monday, November 17, 2014

Exner Imperials

A ’61. (Photo by Richard Lentinello.)

The January 2015 issue of my Hemmings Classic Car magazine has a giant treatment of what it calls “the Exner Imperials.”
That’s Chrysler’s Imperial, fielded to compete with GM’s Cadillac.
Virgil Exner was Chrysler’s chief stylist in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s.
He was hired by Chrysler in 1949, and became Chrysler’s styling-director in 1953.
He was responsible for Chrysler’s “Forward-Look,” an attempt to make Chrysler styling competitive with GM and Ford.
The magazine says the “Forward-Look” began in the 1955 model-year, but to me it began in 1957.
The ’55 Chrysler products were a step beyond earlier Chryslers, but in 1957 the “Forward-Look” came into full-flower.
I also remember the “Forward-Look” as being trumpeted first in 1957.
The “Forward-Look” seemed to involve giant fins.
The 1957 Plymouth was much larger than previous Plymouths, and had giant fins.
My wife’s parents bought one, and my wife said it was worst car they ever owned.
It rusted out immediately.
It also was the car my wife learned to drive on, a gigantic barge.
My wife was intimidated, and her mother not least bit understanding.
Like her father, my wife was “automotively challenged.”
There is no way she could have learned standard-shift. Thankfully the Plymouth was automatic.
I didn’t understand her myself at first, but came to. I regret wanting to take over for her father early-on.
When my wife drove, I felt I was driving too.
“No, we got plenty of time. They’re not going to sideswipe us. You don’t need to back off.”
The “Imp” has been around since 1926, but always seemed to be a stepchild of the mighty Chrysler brand, especially in the ‘50s.
I became aware of Imperials because the Mayor of Erlton (“ERL-tin;” as in the name “Earl”), the suburb of Philadelphia in south Jersey I grew up in, who lived across the street from us, got one, a black ’55 model.
It was impressive, but shared body-panels with Chrysler.
Imperial didn’t start standing alone until they mounted the taillights atop the fender-fins, which began in 1956.
Imperial began using its own body-panels by 1957, and even moved into its own assembly-plant.
But shortly it moved back to Chrysler’s main plant in Detroit to take advantage of rust-fighting measures that began there.
To my mind, the standout Imperials are the 1961 model-year on, when the standalone headlights began.
At last the car looked as good as intended, a competitor to Cadillac.
As I recall, a fellow-student’s father had one while I was in college. It was a ’61, a grand car, and also pretty. The standalone headlights looked good — and there were four, as was the styling-custom at that time.
Of course now a ’61 Imperial looks ridiculously large, a giant land-barge.
And just about all of Chrysler’s offerings back then were as large. Only Valiant and Dart were small.
Exner lasted until replaced by Elwood Engle in 1961.
But the Exner Imperials lasted through the 1963 model-year.
And now, of course, Imperial is gone.

• RE: “automotively challenged........” —means difficulty driving, unable to do it confidently. The supposed antidote was to “take charge,” but my wife, and her father, couldn’t.
• My beloved wife of over 44 years is now gone. I miss her dearly.


Sunday, November 16, 2014

Nellie Bly

Nellie Bly.
I happened to miss the radio airing of Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac the other morning (November 14th, 2014).
The classical-music station out of Rochester (NY) I listen to, WXXI, airs it at 8:20, and I turned on my radio at 8:20.
So Garrison was already on. I had missed his treatment of Nellie Bly. I would have to Google “Writer’s Almanac” to see what he said. I would also Google “Nellie Bly.”
The morning host at WXXI, Brenda Tremblay (“trom-BLAY;” as in “trombone”), who I occasionally e-mail, mostly because unlike some she responds immediately, told me she thought the world of Nellie Bly.
Nellie Bly was actually Elizabeth Cochrane (May 5, 1864 - January 27, 1922), an intrepid female reporter for various newspapers, mainly the New York World.
She was an adventurer, and would try anything.
“Nellie Bly” was her pen-name.
She had various adventures, time living in Mexico, her insanity-asylum exposé where she feigned insanity, and circumnavigation of the globe alone in 1889.
She began November 14, 1889, and finished January 25, 1890; 72 days.
Tremblay’s veneration of Nellie Bly reminded me of my childhood fascination with Amelia Earhart.
Earhart was the first women to successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean flying solo, a repeat of Charles Lindbergh’s flight in the “Spirit of St. Louis” in 1927. She did it in 1932.
And I’ve seen video of Lindbergh’s takeoff from Roosevelt Field in Long Island. He barely got it airborne; his plane was heavy with gasoline.
Earhart also disappeared attempting an around-the-world flight in 1937. She was never found.
Nellie Bly became so famous the Pennsylvania Railroad named a train after her; New York City to Atlantic City.
And I think it was still in Jersey when I was born (1944), which meant it ran the old Camden & Amboy between Philadelphia and New York City, although there were ferries at each end.
The Camden & Amboy later become Pennsy’s Bordentown Branch.
The Camden & Amboy was the first railroad in New Jersey.
Not too long after, the Nellie Bly was switched to partially in PA south of Trenton. In Philadelphia it headed toward Atlantic City.
That’s a dog-leg, but via the Camden & Amboy was also a dog-leg.
There was no direct railroad from New York to Atlantic City. Central of New Jersey was fairly close; it went down the center of the state, and New Jersey is narrow. But CNJ wasn’t Pennsy.
I think the Nellie Bly was still running in the ‘60s when I got married (1967).
But now of course it’s gone.
And I doubt many people know who Nellie Bly was.
She was the first investigative reporter.
Has anything been named after Dr. Phil or Oprah?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Bluetooth follies

As I finished next month’s calendar-report, which I try to do in advance, and am well ahead this time.....
.....I worried I may not have any material to blog.
But as I said to Marcy once, my cohort at the Daily Messenger newspaper in Canandaigua, when she asked how I had so much madness to blog:
“Marcy, it’s everywhere!”
So here I am yesterday blithely motoring toward Canandaigua to work out at the YMCA.
My cellphone rings. My car has Bluetooth, so I fingered the answer-button on the steering-wheel.
After the usual surfeit of “hellos” that seem to come with cellphone use, a bubbly chipper girl started feverishly yammering at me at the speed of light — except it was a machine.
Oh, a call I wouldn’t have answered, except my cellphone, which has caller-ID, is in my back pants-pocket.
Something about reducing my student-loan debt with some program recently introduced by “Obama.”
Um, I graduated college 48 years ago, and paid off my student-loan debt in about two-or-three years. Including my National-Defense-Student-Loans (NDSL), a program initiated by President Johnson.
And people quite often ran from their NDSL debt.
“Obama?” Do you mean “President Obama?” The mention of “Obama” seemed hard, like she could hardly say it.
I get stuff like this all-the-time on Facebook and in my e-mail. Scotch your credit-card debt, refinance your mortgage, do a reverse-mortgage to get immediate cash.
For what? To buy a speedboat or Corvette?
Not interested! What interests me is not owing anyone anything, which I don’t.
I own my house and car, and pay my credit-card balance in full every month.
I was reminded of a fellow-worker’s comment: “Welcome to Ontario Honda. Please deposit your checkbook, wallet, and all credit-cards on our table, and we’ll happy to help you.”
It was “Ontario Honda” because this guy’s father worked there as a salesman.
I always did well at Ontario Honda.
“If you wish to speak to our representatives, please press ‘one’ now.”
Can’t! I’m Bluetoothing. My cellphone is inaccessible. My car-radio has 10 “preset” keys; perhaps they’re the same as a telephone keypad. I don’t know; never tried it.
“If not interested, please press ‘five’ now.”
Again, Can’t! I can’t do nut’in’.
“Beep-beep-beep.” Deafening silence from me; the call ended.
I don’t answer my landline any more. No caller-ID; and it’s always someone after my wallet.

• The “Messenger newspaper” is the Canandaigua Daily-Messenger, from where I retired almost nine years ago. Best job I ever had — I worked there almost 10 years (over 11 if you count my time as a post-stroke unpaid intern [I had a stroke October 26, 1993, from which I recovered fairly well]). (“Canandaigua” [“cannan-DAY-gwuh”] is a small city nearby where I live in Western NY. The city is also within a rural town called “Canandaigua.” The name is Indian, and means “Chosen Spot.” —It’s about 14 miles away.)
• “Marcy” is my number-one Ne’er-do-Well — she was the first I was e-mailing stuff to. Marcy and I worked in adjacent cubicles at the Messenger. The “Ne’er-do-Wells” are a group of people I e-mail my blogs to.
• I work out in the Canandaigua YMCA Exercise-Gym, appropriately named the “Wellness-Center,” usually three days per week, about one-two hours per visit.
• RE: “My car has Bluetooth.....” —For those not technically savvy, my cellphone will radio to a Bluetooth receiver, in this case my car. I can thereby answer cellphone calls while driving, through my car-radio. I could also make cellphone calls, but I don’t because it’s unreliable.


Thursday, November 06, 2014


David. (Trains Collection.)

A while ago, in a blog titled “Trains of the ‘60s,” I decried the fact I couldn’t find a picture of David P. Morgan, the one-time editor of Trains Magazine.
DPM is pretty much the reason I subscribed to Trains back in 1966. I’ve subscribed ever since.
DPM seemed to have the same view of railroading I had, that it was very dramatic.
70 mph behind a steam-locomotive is something I’ll never forget.
I once was trackside on the old New York Central west of Buffalo.
It was slightly upgrade.
By then I think it was Conrail.
So here came a westbound freight-train, assaulting the heavens as it climbed the grade.
I was blown away, and I think DPM would have been too.
DPM also showed me how incredibly efficient a railroad was. That it moves so much more freight than trucks, and used a tiny right-of-way compared to an interstate.
He also showed me those wanting continued rail-service were often begging welfare; that the cost of continued rail-service wasn’t borne by them, it was borne by the railroad.
I wrote a Letter-to-the-Editor of the Rochester (NY) newspaper because it wanted continued rail-delivery of newsprint via a subway connected to Penn-Central.
Obviously I’m not DPM, but I consider him my mentor.
His influence is immense.
To me, railroading is very dramatic, and I try to convey that drama just like David.
I write fairly well, but it’s mainly my rail-photography. And also the photos I steal from my brother. When he snags a photo better than mine I use his.
The February 2011 issue of my Trains Magazine has a pretty good photograph of David looking up from his typewriter.
Things sure have changed, and I’m glad they have.
Years ago, in the early ‘70s, I was covering motorsport for a small weekly newspaper in Rochester called City/East.
I was doing it on my wife’s Smith-Corona portable I still have.
It was a struggle.
I’d hafta add something, or correct errors, and I had to toss my first report and start over.
Then there was the typesetter problem. Someone would typeset my story on a Linotype, and I’d have to proof it to make sure they spelled “Ferrari” right.
Now things are much better. My “typewriter” is this here laptop, and I’m using a word-processor. Would that I had that back in the early ‘70s.
That word-processor has a spellcheck. It flags misspellings and mistypes.
And I can correct things right in this ‘pyooter. I don’t have to start over.
Rudimentary as his operation was, DPM generated some incredible stuff.
He’d witness some drama, and then convey what he’d witnessed.
But David didn’t like to be photographed; I don’t either.

• My wife died April 17th, 2012, but I still have her typewriter.
• “‘Pyooter” is computer.