Thursday, July 28, 2016


The Mighty Curve. (Photo by Robert Malinoski©.)

—“Vacation huh? Where ya goin’ this time?
“Mighty Curve of course.”
“What is it about that place? Yer always goin’ there.”
“Trains man. Wait a few minutes and here it comes. Sometimes two or three at once. And climbing they’re assaulting the heavens.”
The August 2016 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is an eastbound daily merchandise freight in 1952 rounding Horseshoe Curve.
The above discussion took place maybe 15 years ago.
Horseshoe Curve is a trick by the railroad to get over Allegheny Mountain without insanely steep grades.
The railroad crosses from one side of a valley to the other, reversing direction.
Involved was a lot of pick-and-shovel. A rock-face had to be blasted off, and two valleys filled.
It’s where two valleys merge into one.
The railroad could ascend one side of the merged valley, then cross over to the other side.
Prior to the railroad, 1800s, Allegheny Mountain was the main impediment to trade with the nation’s interior.
The mountain didn’t go to mid NY, so NY could dig a cross-state canal, the Erie, from Albany to Buffalo.
With Allegheny Mountain Philadelphia and Baltimore capitalists faced a near impossible challenge.
Philadelphians got the state to build a combination railroad/canal. Railroad from Philadelphia already existed. Allegheny Mountain couldn’t be canaled.
In fact, the railroad over the mountain had to use inclined planes — there were 10. Canal packets got put on flatcars for winching over the mountain with stationary steam-engines.
Baltimore capitalists founded the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in 1827, our nation’s first common-carrier railroad.
“Common carrier” meaning it carried whatever freight showed up. It wasn’t a dedicated railroad, some of which ran by gravity, like for a coal company.
In all cases the goal was the Ohio River valley.
B&O actually attained the Ohio River in the WV panhandle. But its route was difficult; it still exists, but has two steep summits.
Pennsy wouldn’t allow B&O into Pittsburgh at first, but finally did.
PA’s system (“Public Works”) only attained Pittsburgh, where the Ohio River began.
Public Works was so slow and cumbersome, Philadelphia capitalists decided to bypass the state and found their own common carrier railroad, like the B&O. —The Pennsylvania Railroad.
Allegheny Mountain awaited. John Edgar Thomson was brought in to engineer an Allegheny Crossing.
Prior experience told him to take on the mountain suddenly, yet easy enough to not be slow.
Instead of using a long slow approach across the state, he decided to locate in a river valley, the Juniata (“june-eee-AT-uh”), pretty much the same valley the canal used.
His Allegheny Crossing required helper locomotives. The mountain could have been impossible, but Thomson noticed a valley west of Altoona where Kittanning and Glen White runs merge into Burgoon run.
He could leap across Burgoon, completely reversing direction, to keep the climb up Allegheny Mountain manageable.
It needed helper locomotives, but traffic was down in the valleys, not up on mountainsides.
Thomson’s Horseshoe Curve is still used — same route as 160+ years ago.
Pennsy was proud of Horseshoe Curve. Trains would stop mid-Curve so passengers could view it. An engineering triumph!
Pennsy carved a viewing area into the apex of the Curve, and eventually a road was built to it.
Horseshoe Curve became a park, and as far as I’m concerned is the BEST railfan pilgrimage spot I’ve ever seen.
I first visited Horseshoe in 1968. It was still four tracks — now it’s three — and the railroad was no longer Pennsy. It was Penn-Central, the merger of Pennsy and New York Central in February of 1968.
Penn-Central shortly went bankrupt, and the government stepped in to save northeast railroading.
Penn-Central became Conrail, along with other northeast bankrupts.
Conrail eventually privatized, and sold in 1999.
Two main systems returned to serve the northeast. CSX has the old New York Central main across NY, and Norfolk Southern has the old Pennsy main across PA.
My first visit to Horseshoe I barely managed to find it.
All over Altoona I drove, but finally up 40th Street, which had signs to the Curve.
I drove slowly up 40th St., looking all over.
“We’re right in the middle it,” I screamed. “It’s up there pinned to the mountainsides.”
In 1968 Horseshoe wasn’t what it is now; a museum and funicular railroad up to the viewing area have been put in.
The funicular is sort of a glorified elevator — except it’s on rails — to climb to the viewing area. (The funicular cars are built like tiny railroad coaches.)
The viewing area is still way above the road, 198 steps on a new walkway.
In 1968 we still had to climb steps on the original path. No funicular.
The new museum is probably on the original parking-lot. The road past was rerouted, and new parking installed.
In this picture it’s the old site. The horseshoe emblem is atop the original stairway. In 1968 that horseshoe was still there.
What a place! a grand amphitheater with its viewing area right in the apex.
Trains rounding the Curve are right in your face.
Fortunately railfans are taking care of it.
Pennsy did, although its steam-engines kept the shrubbery down with their ash.
Norfolk Southern let the place re-foliate, so it was no longer possible to view the Mighty Curve in entirety.
Recently railfans took down most of the foliage. The Curve returned, a majestic view in the Allegheny highlands.
With trains galore; a railfan delight.
This picture is a daily scheduled merchandise freight from Chicago to Altoona, The Reliable.
It rated EMD F-units, the most reliable early diesels.
Pennsy couldn’t get many. Their demand for diesels was so large EMD couldn’t fill it.
Lookit the picture readers. The two westbound tracks, uphill, are white with sand. Eastbound, down, aren’t.
Locomotives sand the railheads to keep from slipping.


Sorry railfans. The train-pictures aren’t very good this month.

In the beginning.... (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—The August 2016 entry in my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a hot-rodded 1930 Model-A five-window coupe.
It could be said hot-rodding began before WWII; people were modifying Model-T Fords for racing and speed-trials on southern California’s vast dry-lakes. —Even the four-cylinder Model-T engine.
But after WWII is when hot-rodding found full flower. A huge supply of surplus fittings and bitsa was available on the west coast. Plus favorable weather.
What’s pictured above is how it began. Old Henry’s great-looking Model-A and ’32 Fords turned into hotrods.

Useless facts

“Name our nation’s first secretary of state,” said Brenda Tremblay (“trom-blay;” as in “trombone), morning host at WXXI, the classical music radio-station out of Rochester (NY) I listen to.
“Thomas Jefferson,” I snapped.
“Stay tuned and Garrison will tell you in our next ‘Writer’s Almanac’.”
“We’ll see if I’m right,” I said. I majored in History in college, and questions like that sound like one of those useless facts I had to know for exams.
“It was on this day in 1789” (Wednesday, July 27th) “that the United States Department of Foreign Affairs was created,” Garrison began.
It was later renamed the Department of State.
“After American independence and the adoption of the Constitution, President Washington appointed Thomas Jefferson as the first secretary of state.”
How ‘bout dat!” I gloated. “Toy not with The Keed!”
I wasn’t sure — college was 50 years ago. But it’s a useless fact forever etched in my brain.
Our History Department had three professors. Two were good = analytical. The other obsessed with useless facts. That was Dr. Frieda A. Gillette, who we nicknamed by her initials: F-A-G.
FAG was an old biddy who knew it all. She could give the complete lineage of the English kings.
We used to say the reason she could was because she was so old she lived through every one.
She also was obsessed with Indian trails. So we concluded she was there when they were laid down.
One time a student wondered what the lineage of English kings had to do with Far Eastern history. It was a test question.
Well, she knew it, so her Far Eastern students had to know it too.
The painting.
Another time a student asked where in the text was the name of Napoleon’s horse.
“Dr. Gillette, you said everything would be in the text.”
“Now clahss,” she solemnly intoned. “Look on page 1064 of the text and you will see a picture of the painting of Napoleon on his horse ‘Marengo’. There’s your answer.”
Google the question and you get a slew of answers. Napoleon had many horses. “Marengo” was his favorite.
Her favorite student was a guy named Clyde Young; I think from the class before me: 1965, I’m ’66.
We concluded Clyde had a photographic memory = that he photographed a page in his mind, and could thereafter spit back all the useless facts contained therein, as if reading his photograph.
Clyde died not long after graduating; I forget why.
I avoided FAG; I majored in the two good professors, one of whom counseled me to become a scholar.
I didn’t. After four years of college I had enough. Scholarly pursuit seemed like belly-button picking. Every theory I proposed had an equal and opposing theory.
I had a life to live; and many other things were interesting, like cars and especially trains. —I’m a railfan.
But after four years I’m left with facts of little or no importance.
I can still recite the openings lines of the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, our first secretary of state.

• My college was Houghton College (“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”), about 80 miles south of Rochester.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Handicap Tag

“What a consummate joy,” I said to myself; “to no longer hafta park in the hinterlands, and hike 50 miles to the grocery, uphill both comin’ and goin’, barefoot in snow eight inches deep.”
Yrs Trly has finally deigned to get a handicap tag, illustrated at left.
I had authorization the past three months, but was unable to get to my Town Hall.
It’s not like I desperately needed it.
I had a complete knee replacement, so am hobbling a little. I also feel somewhat clumsy.
If I parked far from the store, I could do the hike. No cane yet.
It seems like anyone and everyone can get a handicap tag.
Supposedly you hafta be disabled.
I don’t feel disabled. I don’t rocket about like these young millennials. But I get around.
Ask me to do a long hike and I don’t look forward to it. A few years ago I attended an airshow of antique airplanes.
I had to hike all over the airport, miles at a time.
Sun beating down; it was beastly hot.
That was before my knee replacement. Bone-on-bone, limping.
I suppose it’s not wanting to get old.
I was in no big hurry to get that handicap tag.

• I’m 72.

Monday, July 18, 2016

BEST job I ever had

Waterfront on Canandaigua Lake at Onanda Park. (Photo by Lynn Brown.)

“If I were to write anything for this newspaper at all,” I said to Kevin Frisch (same as “fish”), a hippie longhair editor at the Messenger newspaper in Canandaigua.......
“It would be about the fact presidents don’t wear hats.”
“So write it,” Frisch said. Instead of “Don’t be silly. You had a stroke. There is no way you could write.”
So I did, and the Messenger published it as an OpEd piece. Thus beginning the next phase of my recovery after a stroke.
I was still an unpaid intern at that time.
Joy Daggett is at right; her husband Roger is beside her. Joy is the one who hired me for actual paid employ.
Yr Fthfl Srvnt with Severe-head (Mark Syverud) at left.
Peggy Carroll with Steve Circh (“K”). I started with Peggy, and Circh and I would switch the office TV to Teletubbies so we could lob nerf-balls at it. Kenny Carr, who I really didn’t know, is at left. He worked out back.
Kathie Meredith with Chris Goverts. Goverts was office handyman, and I did a lot with Meredith, known by Matson as “the Detail-Queen.”
Two of my all-time favorite people: Syverud and Lenore Friend, both editors. The little boy is probably one of Lenore’s children.
Fabulous Fritz Cermak (left), talking to Elsie Race. I don’t know what Fritz did, but he was great to have around. I think he was Distribution — he worked out back.
Another one of my favorites, Sarah Allen, now Connor, a newsy I occasionally worked with. At right is MaryAnn Gumaer, an office-person.
We attracted police attention. Anne Johnston, at right, was police-reporter at the Messenger, so she and the deputy knew each other. The deputy was doing marine patrol.
The organizers of this shindig: AJ (Anne Johnston) and past reporter Rachel Dewey. Rachel is holding the vaunted “Quote-Book,” full of salient phrases uttered by Messenger staff. —Organization was mainly Anne; Rachel came in at the last minute to help.
I had driven bus 16&1/2 years for Regional Transit Service (RTS), the supplier of transit bus service in Rochester, NY and environs.
My stroke October 26th, 1993 ended it. It was because of an unknown heart-defect, a patent foramen ovale (“PAY-tint four-AY-min oh-VAL-eee”), that has since been repaired.
My entire left side was paralyzed, I was crying constantly, and my speech was monotone gibberish. I was talking way too fast — my timing was ruined.
Bus-driving was supposed to be temporary while I continued searching for employ as a writer (“word-slinger” I call it).
But I stayed with it because the pay was pretty good, and the job wasn’t awful.
As a bus-driver I was pretty much on-my-own, free of office politics. The only danger was our clientele, but that could be avoided by judicious run picking.
Toward the end of what turned out to be my final year, I fell into producing a voluntary newsletter for our bus-union. I was doing it with Word© on our home computer.
Our union more-or-less walked away from it, so it mainly became an outlet for my writing. A fellow union-member passed it out to politicos who funded Transit, and they loved it because I could spin a pretty good tale = my bus-stories.
It was an immense amount of work, but I loved doing it.
I’d scribble my bus-stories on whatever scrap-paper I could find: Transit time-sheets, even the tiny transfer slips we issued to our riders.
It ended up being the house-organ Transit often lacked.
Transit Public-Relations was supposed to publish a bimonthly house-organ, but often failed.
And of course my newsletter was pro union. Those politicos would call Transit Public-Relations wondering about something they read in my newsletter: muggings of bus-drivers, etc.
“What’s going on down there?” they’d ask. “You told us everything was hunky-dory.
“Don’t read that newsletter!” Transit Public-Relations screamed. “It’s written by union activists!” (Gasp!)
My post-stroke rehab wanted to get my job back driving bus.
I wasn’t interested. That newsletter was too much fun. It was the writing I always wanted to so.
So instead of going back to Transit, I was taken to the Daily-Messenger newspaper in Canandaigua to be considered as an unpaid intern.
“Seems okay to me,” said fellow Houghton grad Bob Matson (1980; I’m 1966), Executive Editor, head of the news department.
Despite how messed I was — although I wasn’t costing him anything.
I started with Peggy Carroll, typing “Names and Faces” into their system. Organizations sent us press-releases, which we converted to page-filler.
Of course the newspaper ran as much as possible, since that was what readers wanted.
Then editor Kathy Hovis-Younger learned of my union newsletter, that it was “paginated” in my home computer.
Hovis did the weekly “Community-Page,” the only paginated page in the Messenger at that time.
“Pagination” means generating an entire newspaper page within a personal computer.
For my newsletter I used Microsoft Word®; the newspaper used QuarkXpress® 4.0 I think, on a Windows 486.
Kathy had me try it. “Wow!” I said. “This here Quark runs circles around Word.”
I was assigned the Community-Page.
“Kathy, are you sure you want me doing this? I might crank something that shouldn’t be.”
Off we went. Kathy approved what I did, and when she went on vacation I was on-my-own.
Still unpaid of course.
The above exchange with Frisch took place and my column began.
Soon Messenger photographer Rikki VanCamp was taking a mug-shot to run with my column.
My column wasn’t costing them anything either, but apparently they thought well enough of it to publish it.
It ran once a week until I got the local flag-police upset by saying my dog was more alive than Old Glory.
I rescued my dog first — my flag blew to the ground, and my dog got herself hung on my 5-foot chainlink fence.
I was finally cleared to drive, so was no longer using a cab to get to the Messenger.
The newspaper’s paste-up department was looking to replace one who’d left.
Our newspaper was done an old way. News-galleys from a mainframe computer were waxed and “pasted” to full-size cardboard page dummies.
Complete, the dummy was photographed to make a page-size negative with which to “burn” a printing-plate.
I said to Joy Daggett, the newspaper’s production manager, “I bet I could do that paste-up.”
Did the Mighty Mezz have the moxie to hire a stroke-survivor?
I worked for that newspaper almost 10 years. I’ve said it many times: BEST job I ever had.”
During that time paste-up was disbanded, and the Messenger went to full pagination within personal computers.
The Messenger also merged a local newspaper chain, and doubled its space by adding on.
My initials are carved into the concrete subfloor under the new entry. Along with many others.
With paste-up disbanded, some left, but I hung around because I was interested in computer-junk.
“I don’t know what he’s doing, but this macro is saving me hours.”
Before I retired I was doing the newspaper’s website, which I figured out on my own.
“Grady,” (see blurb at right); “yer doing too many photos.”
“It’s a visual medium,” I’d say. “10-15 minutes per picture; easy as pie!”
After I retired the Messenger had to transfer ownership.
It was owned since 1956 by George Ewing, Sr. (“you-ing”). No one within the Ewing family could make the investment needed to take the Messenger to the next level of computerization.
Senior also retired, and has since died, as did Bob Matson, the guy who took me on. Heart-attack.
The Messenger is no longer the great place it was for me; I’m sure I woulda been laid off.
Last weekend two long-gone Messenger employees organized a reunion of old Ewing employees.
I went — how could I resist?
The Mighty Mezz was the BEST job I ever had. The main reason I recovered as well as I did from a stroke.


Thursday, July 14, 2016


“Well,” I thought to myself. “Just another aging geezer not hip to using Facebook fer communicatin’.”
The only child of my brother in northern DE, my nephew Tom, and his wife Beth, have a new baby, a son named William Michael, born June 16th.
Um, that’s almost a month ago. I never knew it.
No doubt this was blown all over Facebook, but I hardly ever look at Facebook.
Serves me right; old geezer that I am.
I’m the first-born of my family; part of the first wave. The only one left from that first wave. My brother in northern DE is part of the third and final wave; one of three siblings, the only three beside me that remain.
There was a second wave too, but none of them are left either.
I was born in 1944. The final three were born in ’57, ’58, and ’61.
I have a Facebook, but feel I was snookered into it. I only have 50 Facebook “friends,” not 4,000; proving yet again what an utter and complete dork I am.
Facebook has also locked up this rig, although not recently.
Supposedly even the techno-geek teenyboppers have left Facebook behind, that it’s become the preserve of Boomers.
Seemed like a nice idea at first. Post news to the Facebook “wall” of a friend.
Since then it’s become overly complicated. “Friends” screened out, etc. etc.
I never can make sense of it.
I’ve tried. I ask questions, but usually things go bonkers on-my-own.
“You hafta play with it.”
As if I had time.
My wife died four years ago, so now I do what the two of us once did: laundry, cooking, bookkeeping, bill-paying, etc.
And the torrent of medical appointments I get with my age.
“It’s in your home-page,” I’m told.
Sure, fire up my home-page and get deluged with dancing-cat videos.
No doubt Tom’s new baby was in my home-page; i.e. no wonder I never saw it.
As if I had time to weed out news from all the junk?
“Anyway, why should I line Suckerberg’s pocket?” I ask.
“I didn’t invent Facebook,” an actual friend says.
“Anyway, It’s free.”
“Sure,” I say; “as long as I don’t click the targeted right-side ads.
The ones that swamp me with scantily-clad hussies because Facebook targets me as a dirty-old-man.”
Important things happen in my family I never hear about because I don’t feel like weeding through all the dancing-cat videos.
My brother in DE has constructed a family Facebook only my family can see.
I look at it occasionally prompted by Facebook e-mails.
But I don’t remember a notification about Tom’s baby, or another nephew finishing military training.
Since my Smartphone also gets my e-mail, I get ‘em on that too.
But I never get anywhere, because it wants me to -a) log in, or -b) set up a Smartphone Facebook.
My log-in, same as this rig, never works. And my attempt to set up a Smartphone Facebook ran into a mysterious negatory hairball.
“Don’t blame me,” I’m told.
“What’s wrong with e-mail?” I ask.
At which point my 100-year-old mother-in-law would ask “What’s wrong with the telephone?”
So I guess I gotta make time for cat-videos if I wanna know what’s going on in my family.

• “Suckerberg” is Mark Zuckerberg, founder and head-honcho of Facebook.


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Monthly Calendar-Report for July 2016

Long ago at Cassandra Railroad Overlook. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

— The July 2016 entry of my own calendar was taken ten years ago.
It's eastbound freight on Track One about to go under Cassandra Railroad Overlook ("kuh-SANN-druh;" as in the name "Anne").
It's climbing the west slope of Allegheny Summit, coming off the bypass built by Pennsy in 1898. It's threading the gigantic rock cut next to Cassandra.
The original railroad wiggled through Cassandra.
2006 is before I started chasing trains with Altoona railfan Phil Faudi ("FOW-dee;" as in "wow").
It's also before my wife died, but I had my radio scanner then.
If the sun is out, anything eastbound through the cut has to be at the exact right time.
The sun is shining directly into the cut.
Any other time the cut is in shadow, and a train is lost.
At that time I wasn't as conscious of lighting as I am now. Nor did I understand my scanner.
All I understood were defect-detectors, and the parade began.
My wife and I were fixin' to leave, but "Norfolk Southern milepost 253.1, Track Three, no defects."
We sat back down; westbound approaching.
Then "Norfolk Southern milepost 258.9, Track One, no defects."
Back then the detector was at 258.9; now it's at 258.8.
Here comes another; then another, another, and yet another.
We couldn't get away.
A railfan doesn't leave if he hears a train coming.
And anything eastbound is run-eight; assaulting the heavens!
They're climbing The Hill.
So now if the sun is out, my brother and I time it to be at Cassandra when inside the cut is lit.
And we are much more cognizant of what we hear on the scanner.
I can thank Faudi and the Station Inn radio-feed for that.
I listen to that radio-feed over the Internet here at home.

Tiger-shark! (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—Another fabulous photograph by photographer Makanna.
Only this time it’s not the P-51 Mustang.
It’s one of the triumvirate of WWII warbirds, the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and the Mustang.
Perhaps the Bell P-39 Airacobra should be considered too. But that was mid-engine so it could shoot a cannon through its propeller hub.
Does that make it a fighter?
The July 2016 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is a P-40 Warhawk painted in the famous Flying-Tigers scheme.
The Allison V12 was water-cooled. It needed an intake for its radiator.
That radiator scoop was painted to look like shark’s teeth.
Flying Tigers.

Claire Chennault’s American Volunteer Group of Army and Navy pilots defending the Chinese against the Japanese painted their P-40s with this shark’s teeth scheme, the Flying Tigers.
They were the only defense against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor; and had presidential imprimatur.
I’ve seen this Tiger-shark scheme on many airplanes — even a lowly Piper Cub.
But the P-40 is what looks best.
I’ll let my WWII warbirds site weigh in:
“The P-40 fighter/bomber was the last of the famous ‘Hawk’ line produced by Curtiss Aircraft in the 1930s and 1940s, and it shared certain design elements with its predecessors, the Hawk and Sparrowhawk.
It was the third-most numerous U.S. fighter of WWII.  An early prototype version of the P-40 was the first American fighter capable of speeds greater than 300 mph.
Design work on the aircraft began in 1937, but numerous experimental versions were tested and refined before the first production version of the P-40, the Model 81, appeared in May 1940.
By September of that year, over 200 had been delivered to the Army Air Corps. 185 more were delivered to the United Kingdom in the fall of 1940.
Early combat operations pointed to the need for more armor and self-sealing fuel tanks, which were included in the P-40B (called the Tomahawk Mk IIA in the U.K.).
These improvements came at price: a significant loss of performance due to extra weight. Further armor additions and fuel tank improvements added even more weight in the P-40C (Tomahawk Mk IIB).
Curtiss addressed the airplane’s mounting performance problems with the introduction of the P-40D (Kittyhawk Mk I), which was had a more powerful version of the Allison V-1710 engine, and had two additional wing-mounted guns.
The engine change resulted in a slightly different external appearance, which was the reason the RAF renamed it from Tomahawk to Kittyhawk.
Later, two more guns were added in the P-40E (Kittyhawk Mk IA), and this version was used with great success (along with their mainstays, the earlier B-models) by the Flying Tigers in China.
Some additional models, each with slight improvements in engine power and armament, were the P-40F (with a 1,300 horsepower Rolls-Royce Merlin engine), the P-40G, P-40K (Kittyhawk Mk III), P-40L, P-40M and finally, the P-40N, of which 5,200 were built, more than any other version.
While it was put to good use and was certainly numerous in most theaters of action in WWII, the P-40’s performance was quickly eclipsed by newer aircraft, and was not considered one of the ‘great fighters’ of the war.”

BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM! Double-headed Deks on Pennsy’s Shamokin branch. (Photo by John Krause ©.)

— The July 2016 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is how it was on Pennsy during steam’s final years.
Two I-1s Decapods (2-10-0) are slamming past Weigh Scales, PA on the Shamokin branch with a Mt. Carmel ore train. Two more Deks are pushing on the rear.
The tower-operator has just hooped up orders to the rear crew of the lead Deks.
Steam-engines can’t multiple like diesels.
Each steamer required a crew.
The Mt. Carmel ore train was always heavy; iron-ore being delivered to Lehigh Valley Railroad in Mt. Carmel, PA. The ore was destined for Bethlehem Steel’s furnaces.
The ore was probably delivered in ships to Pennsy’s giant unloading facility in Philadelphia. From there it was delivered up to Northumberland, PA for the Shamokin branch.
Pennsy enginemen referred to Deks as “Hippos,” since they were so big and heavy when developed, which was 1916.
The Decapod is the Pennsy Consolidation (2-8-0) maximized: a gigantic boiler on a 2-10-0 frame, essentially a drag-engine.
Almost all the engine weight is on the drive-wheels, and they are only 62 inches in diameter — mere pie-plates — nowhere near the 80 inches of a boom-and-zoom K-4 Pacific (4-6-2).
The I-1 Decapod is riddled with compromise.
With drive-wheels that small you can’t effectively counteract side-rod weight. The heavy side-rod assembly, and counterweights, pound the rail as the drivers rotate. They also slam the cab up-and-down.
Take a Dek past 50 mph and you were slamming the crew. Crews hated ‘em.
It’s also hard to imagine the Decapods were at first hand-fired.
Coal demand of a full-on Dek was so high even two firemen couldn’t keep up. The Deks were the first Pennsy steamers with mechanized stokers — and Pennsy loathed “gizmos.”
The Mt. Carmel ore train was a final stomping-ground for Pennsy steam.
Another was the old Northern Central across NY up to Sodus Point on Lake Ontario.
Deks were used there too; heavy coal trains up to Sodus Point wharf.
The Dek is an old design, not as modern as steam-engines in the ‘30s and ‘40s.
But it was very sell suited for torturous railroading like the Mt. Carmel ore train.
Northern Central was also torturous, especially up to Penn Yan.
The last steam-engine used on Pennsy was a Dek, coal to Altoona in late 1957.

Stacker in the outback — it’s all about setting, dudes. (Photo by Mark Shull.)

—Another Mark Shull picture.
Shull has had six pictures in the Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar.
Many include flowers — this one blooming morning glories.
At least someone knows the importance of setting in a train picture.
The July 2016 entry in this calendar is a Norfolk Southern doublestack through the rural outback of NC.
Red farm-implements are in the picture as well, primarily an ancient plow to the right.
The pile of stones is a fireplace, probably once part of a house.
An old railroad rail was used as a pot hanger.
I wonder if I see Photoshop© here? Like Shull increased the color saturation of that plow?
It almost seems too red. Photoshop can do that; I rarely do it myself.
Apparently the plow was just painted — perhaps even for this photograph.
So it’s hard-to-say: Photoshop or not.
The lead locomotive is a General-Electric Dash9-44CW road unit, 4,400 horsepower.
In my observation the GEs are more likely to be used on intermodal trains, and the EMD SDs on heavy unit-trains, like coal or crude-oil, or trains of corn in covered hoppers for an ethanol plant.
Unless a doublestack is extremely long and therefore heavy, it may go over Allegheny Mountain near Altoona unassisted. A heavy unit-train usually gets helpers, sometimes a double-set (four units), Norfolk Southern’s SD40Es.
A heavy unit-train may get three or four helper-sets; two units per set. That’s in addition to the road units pulling the train.
My guess is photographer Shull also used multiple exposures as the train passed. I do it myself, and probably would have picked the same frame.
Maybe not. I might have used a frame or two earlier.

Helpers attached at Altoona. (Photo by Jim Buckley.)

— Altoona, PA; nexus of the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad.
The July 2016 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is two Alco diesels being attached to a passenger train in Altoona to help it up The Hill.
Altoona is at the foot of Pennsy’s greatest challenge: Allegheny Mountain.
Altoona became the location of vast marshaling yards, plus shops and facilities for building and maintaining locomotives and cars.
Altoona is mid-PA. About the only natural resource around is coal.
Altoona seems out in the middle of nowhere. A bustling city in the rural outback, whose only outlet was the railroad.
It’s interesting to consider if Altoona would exist if the Pennsylvania Railroad had followed the route of the original cross-state canal.
The canal diverged at Petersburg to face Allegheny Mountain at Hollidaysburg.
Instead the railroad continued northwest toward Tyrone (“tie-ROWN;” as in “own”), then turned south down the valley toward Altoona.
The railroad crossed Allegheny Mountain in pretty much the same location as the State Public Works System, which also used railroad to cross the mountain.
Allegheny Mountain couldn’t be canaled.
Perhaps part of the reason for Altoona was to hook up with Public Works’ railroad at first.
That hookup continued only a few years, until Pennsy completed its own Allegheny Crossing.
Pennsy’s original alignment over the mountain is still used, including mighty Horseshoe Curve, the trick to get up the mountain without insanely steep grades.
Altoona was originally a couple farms the railroad purchased. As the railroad grew and succeeded, Altoona became a focal-point.
Much of Altoona’s railroad facilities no longer exist — in fact, the railroad is no longer Pennsy.
But the challenge of Allegheny Mountain is still there. Helper locomotives have to be added.
Alco’s FA units —  FB is the cabless B-unit —  weren’t as successful as EMD’s F-units, the locomotive that dieselized railroading.
Part of the reason the helpers are Alcos is because Pennsy’s demand for diesels was so large EMD couldn’t fill it.
Pennsy had to dieselize with unreliable orphans, like Baldwin, Pennsy’s main supplier of steam locomotives when it couldn’t build its own.
A Baldwin diesel might cripple and block the railroad.
Alcos were pretty good, and supposedly more fuel-stingy.
I notice the passenger train has EMD power, probably E-units.
Most of the buildings pictured are now gone.

Bread-and-butter. (Photo by Dan Lyons©.)

—A columnist in my most recent issue of Classic Car magazine, August 2016, bemoans the fact no one seems interested in collecting the most basic bread-and-butter cars.
The July 2016 entry in my Tide-mark Classic-Car calendar is a 1961 Ford Falcon Futura, a most basic bread-and-butter car.
What people collect are Mustangs, the ’57 Chevy, Model-As, and muscle-cars.
If they’re loaded they do classic Packards, Duesenbergs, Auburns, and Cords.
The Mustang is little more than a re-bodied Falcon. Shove the firewall back to give it the long hood and short trunk of a sportscar, but underneath is a Falcon.
People complained the Falcon was totally unsporty. At least the Mustang tilted toward a V8 with four-on-the-floor.
1963 Falcon Sprint.
Before the Mustang the Falcon could be had with the same V8 and four-on-the-floor later available in the Mustang. It was called the Sprint.
Someone had one when I was in college, and I lusted after it.
But I was smitten by Chevy’s SmallBlock.
The Futura model was Ford’s first feeble attempt to make the Falcon sporty. People were comparing Chevrolet’s Corvair to Porsche.
The Futura had bucket seats, a center console, and floorshift for manual transmission models.
My neighbor-friend’s first car was a Ford Fairlane two-door, ’63 I think, 221 V8 with four-on-the-floor. He later traded for a Mustang.
Ford’s 221 Small-Block was a copy of Chevy’s SmallBlock, better late than never, and was later enlarged to 260 and 289 cubic-inches. It could even be said Ford’s Boss-302 Mustang was a variation of the 221, but it had different cylinder-heads for better breathing.
The columnist had a point. No one seems to be collecting the bread-and-butter cars. Ford’s Falcon, Plymouth’s Valiant, Rambler’s American, and the Studebaker Lark.
They seem to prefer Chevrolet’s Corvair, which was totally unordinary, and ended up being much more than el-cheapo bread-and-butter.
Yet here we have evidence to the contrary.

— The July 2016 entry in my Jerry Powell “Classic-Car” calendar is a grand Cadillac convertible.
It’s not identified. I think it’s a ’54, but it could be a ’55. Both look the same, so I’m always confused.
My sophomore year in college, ’63-’64, I roomed in the house of a guy who owned a green ’55 Cadillac four-door sedan.
He worked in the college kitchen, and his wife’s parents lived next door in a trailer.
His house was on the town’s outskirts.
Every Sunday morning he’d pile his family and his wife’s parents into that Cadillac, and parade serenely to church.
I roomed in a room next to their bedroom, and every Sunday afternoon after church they’d leave their kids with the wife’s parents, repair to their bedroom, lock the door, and go at it; yells and squeals.
It was part of my education at that hyper-religious college.
One night it was snowing profusely, a blizzard.
The guy suggested I drive his Caddy to a local pizza shop in town for pizza.
I was dumbfounded.
“Sy,” I said; his name was Sy.
“You think the world of that Caddy, and it’s snowing terrible. What if I crack it up?”
He sent me anyway, so off I went, plowing serenely through the blizzard.
It steered like the Queen Mary, slow and ponderous.
Back on the main highway I goosed it. It began a big slow drift.
Everything was so majestically slow, the drift was easy to control.
I steered into it and continued forward.
No wonder the guy loved it. It was so big and heavy it seemed friendly.
And there was no denying the class it exuded.
So here’s Sy’s car again, only this time it’s a convertible.
I can still picture returning from the south Jersey seashore, top-down Cadillac convertibles full of yelling, beer-swilling teenagers passing us.
We were on an arrow-straight two-lane through the pineys, where Caddy convertibles full of degraded, beer-sodden youth could easily pass.
With Caddy’s new overhead-valve V8, introduced in 1949, a Caddy driver could shake his fist at the heavens.
My father passed judgment, as he loved to do. “Bound headlong fer Hell, I tell ya! Tsk! Tsk!”
So what does this Caddy do now?
Probably parade a bare-shouldered festival-queen atop the back seat in a strapless gown.
Cue Ma Kettle: “Too bad she couldn’t finish her dress!”
(“Jerry Powell” is my niece’s boyfriend, a car-guy like me. He gave me the calendar as a Christmas-present.)


Saturday, July 02, 2016

Another trip to Altoony

Yr Fthfl Srvnt and his brother visited Altoona, PA again to chase and photograph trains.
I’m a railfan and have been 70 years.
Altoona is where the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad attacked Allegheny Mountain; the railroad is now owned and operated by Norfolk Southern Railway.
Since mainly you’ll wanna see what photographs we got, I’ll skip detailing every step of our chase, and only post some of our photos.
I’ll only mention three things:
—1) Even though I know my route, I engaged Google-Maps on my iPhone to GPS me to Altoona.
“What you been smokin’, girl?” I asked the GPS lady when she directed me onto a dirt-track.
The madness continued. I include interstates on my route, and the GPS lady directed me to pass Interstate 390.
It got worse when I got on 390. GPS began continually rerouting, trying to direct me to side-roads.
Google-Maps finally gave up and went blank.
Back in my pants-pocket went my iPhone. I knew the way anyway, so didn’t need GPS.
I found out later the reason for the madness.
Google-Maps was giving me a route for a 22-hour bicycle trip. Which uses dirt tracks and avoids interstates.
—2) Not too long ago some know-it-all, all-knowing, knower-of-all-things — there are many in my family — told me tankcars when white are for ethanol trains, and black for crude-oil trains, or white with a black center-stripe.
We engaged Altoona railfan Phil Faudi (“FOW-dee;” as in “wow”) to help us chase trains.
He was calling my cellphone, and told me we’d soon see 65E, an ethanol train headed west.
Right about then a westbound unit-train of black tankcars hove into view, so we photographed it.
The train’s engineer identified on the radio as he passed a signal. My brother claimed he heard 65E.
“So how come the tankcars ain’t white?” I asked. Plus Faudi was telling me 65E hadn’t left Altoona yet. That’s 20 miles east of where we were.
Confusion reigned with me refereeing my hyper-managerial brother, who brooks no questioning, versus poor Faudi, who knows much more than either of us.
And behind it all was my thinking ethanol tankcars are white, whereas the tankcars were black, which to me says crude-oil not ethanol.
My brother looked it up on at home on a train-sheet he carries, and now claims it’s 67Z. I ain’t sure what it is.
Not that I care — I just wanna see trains. I don’t need train-numbers.
And Allegheny Crossing is the BEST train-watching venue I’ve ever been to. Extremely busy, and climbing The Hill they’re assaulting the heavens! Run-eight.
—3) My brother kept having battery trouble.
His scanner and camera both use batteries purchased from a store.
He’d go to snap a picture, and all-of-a-sudden his camera would fail.
Or he’d glance at his silent scanner, and it had died.
“These el-cheapo batteries are junk!” he’d scream.
“What I see instead is ‘Family Dollar,’” I said.
His poor wife will bear the brunt.
She purchased 89 bazilyun batteries at a reduced price.
They were good for about three hours per battery.
My camera never failed.
My earlier D100 threw curves at me, and would stalk sullenly into the ozone.
I now have a Nikon D7000, and it hasn’t failed me yet.
It’ll motor-drive perhaps 7-8 frames of a passing train; my D100 stopped after three.
I considered e-mailing his poor wife to take cover, but didn’t. To me that’s meddling.

My brother left work in Boston Wednesday afternoon, and drove to a motel in PA where he stayed the night.
The next morning he drove to Tyrone (“tie-ROWN;” as in “own”) arriving about 11 a.m. where he snagged the following photograph:

591 charges past Tyrone’s tiny Amtrak station. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

Tyrone is where the railroad turned east toward Harrisburg. It’s following the Juniata River (“june-eee-AT-uh”) which also turned east through a notch in the mountains.

Our chase began,  first my brother, alone:

64K, crude-oil, charges McFarlands Curve. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

By Fostoria I arrived:

23Z blasts Fostoria. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

Next we went down to Altoona:

The Geeps that led local CP10 push it back into the yard. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

“I suggest Brickyard,” I said.

Double-stack 23M approaches Brickyard Crossing. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

Up the mountain to where the tunnels are, and Track One descends The Slide (2.28%).

66D, all potash, descends The Slide. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Back down to The Mighty Curve, following 66D.

66D rounds the Curve (the sitting photographer is me). (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

Back to Altoona, and a big shower came. Fortunately we were inside a covered pedestrian bridge over the tracks at the Amtrak station.

21M in pouring rain. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Back up to Cresson (“KRESS-in”) at day’s end:

A single unit moves 11J, all empty auto-racks, through Cresson. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Friday in earnest. (7:30 a.m. until 7:30 p.m.)

First Brickyard:

Doublestack 24W east on Track Two. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Many trains in Tyrone. Local C42 has come up from Altoona with cars for Nittany & Bald Eagle Railroad, the old Pennsy Bald Eagle branch. A Nittany & Bald Eagle local, #005, has come down its main with cars to swap to C42.
Norfolk Southern has trackage-rights on Nittany & Bald Eagle, and occasionally runs trains.

26T passes the congregation. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

25Z westbound on One through Tyrone. Usually One is eastbound. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

For years I’ve wanted to include gorgeous old Tyrone station in a train picture.
To do that I need eastbound on Track Two, which is usually westbound.
Amtrak’s eastbound morning Pennsylvanian, 04T, uses Track Two past Altoona and Tyrone station so it can load near the station(s).
That gives me a train on Track Two headed toward me past the station = station in background.

04T accelerates after its Tyrone station stop. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Railroad-west toward Altoona to the overpass over “Rose,” the crew-change point in Juniata.

Local C42 from Tyrone comes into Altoona yard. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Down to Ninth Street overpass in Altoona:

26T through Altoona. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

South (railroad west) to Cassandra Railroad Overlook (that’s a link to a YouTube video, dudes).

Doublestack 22W east on One. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

“I don’t care what ya say; Cassandra is better than Horseshoe,” my brother said. (No shade at Horseshoe.)
“Tried to tell ya,” I said.

Grain-hoppers go back west on 55K. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Up to the summit, then down to the area overlooking the approach to the east mouth of Allegheny Tunnel. The path was awful; I fell once while jawing with Faudi on my phone.

60N, the “slab-train,” west on Two. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

(The “slab-train” is all open gondola cars loaded with steel slabs being moved to a mill for processing.)

Back up to the summit, to Gallitzin (“guh-LIT-zin;” as in “get”), where Track One goes under the Main Street Bridge:

20T under the Main Street overpass in Gallitzin. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

Out to Carney’s Crossing off PA State Route 53, a road-crossing over the tracks railroad-west of Cresson.

590, a loaded coal-extra, approaches Carney’s Crossing. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Railroad-west down to Summerhill. The eastbound signals are up high so they can be seen above an overpass.

21M passes eastbound tables on 20Q at the Summerhill signals. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

Farther railroad west toward South Fork, PA, to the Oak Street overpass toward Ehrenfeld:

Confusion reigns, an empty westbound ethanol train. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

07T, the westbound Pennsylvanian. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

My brother hung around Saturday morning and took one more picture:

64R, another loaded crude-oil extra, approaches the Riggles Gap Road overpass north of Altoona. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

• My brother is 13 years younger than me, age 59.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

14G in emergency

“14G to Pittsburgh-East.”
Yrs trly is listening to the railroad radio down near Altoona, PA over the Internet.
I’m a railfan, and have been since age-2.
14G is mixed freight eastbound. Pittsburgh-East is the railroad’s dispatcher in Pittsburgh. He dispatches the railroad from Pittsburgh to Altoona. The railroad is the old Pennsy main, now owned and operated by Norfolk Southern.
“I’m stopped in emergency at about 240,” the engineer reported.
Milepost 240 is 240 miles from Pennsy’s original terminal in Philadelphia, Broad St. Terminal, long gone.
The mileposts are about a mile apart, but often not exactly.
The railroad straightened curves, which affected the mile distance. Miles were frequently shortened, or in some cases extended.
“Emergency” means all the train-brakes are fully set. Each freightcar has brakes, which can be mechanically set by chain-wheel on each car, or engaged by a train-length air-line from the locomotive.
That’s Westinghouse’s great air-brake invention, which made train operation much safer.
Prior to air-brakes, brakemen had to walk the car tops to set the chain-wheels, difficult in bad weather, and unsafe.
There was a chance the brakie might slip and fall — and be run over and killed by the train.
In the early 1800s, the main impediment to trade with the nation’s interior was the Appalachians, particularly Allegheny Mountain.
The Appalachians didn’t go as far north as central NY, so NY was able to dig a cross-state canal, the “Erie,” Albany to Buffalo.
South of Albany, canal-packets could use the Hudson River. Thanks to that canal, New York City became this nation’s premier east coast port.
With the Erie, Philadelphia and Baltimore worried. They wanted to be premier ports too, but faced the Appalachians.
Baltimore capitalists founded the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, our nation’s first common-carrier railroad. “Common-carrier” meaning it carried whatever freight showed up. It wasn’t a dedicated operation owned by a coal or lumber company.
B&O got over to the Potomac River valley, then followed it inland paralleling the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal to Cumberland, MD.
After Cumberland it continued west over what is now called “The West End” to Grafton, WV, then north to the Ohio River.
The C&O canal never got past Cumberland.
The railroad, still used, is especially challenging; it has two summits.
An easier routing to the Ohio River came later, to Pittsburgh. But at first B&O wasn’t allowed to Pittsburgh.
Philadelphians engaged the state to build a combination canal and railroad, the “Public Works System.”
It used already built railroad from Philadelphia to the Susquehanna River, then canal to the foot of Allegheny Mountain.
Allegheny Mountain couldn’t be canaled, so a railroad was built to portage canal-packets over the mountain.
Horses were used at first.
The railroad had 10 inclined planes, since grading at that time was very rudimentary. Stationary steam-engines winched the cars up the planes.
Once over the mountain, Public Works returned to canal from Johnstown, PA to Pittsburgh.
But since -a) Public Works was so slow and cumbersome, and -b) railroad technology had advanced, Philadelphia capitalists decided to bypass the state, and build their own common-carrier railroad, from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh.
This was the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad, soon to become the largest railroad in the world — mainly because it merged so many western lines to feed its main stem at Pittsburgh, plus outlets east of Philadelphia.
Like before, that railroad had Allegheny Mountain to conquer. So the developers brought in John Edgar Thomson to engineer an easy climb over the mountain.
Thomson’s alignment is still used, and includes Horseshoe Curve, his trick to ease the climb.
His climb up the east slope of the mountain is not impossible, but required helper locomotives.
It only averages 1.8 feet up for every 100 feet forward, 1.8%; not steep enough for Granny to consider it a hill.
But it’s a grade. Trains climbing are assaulting the heavens!
Climbing is dramatic, but harder is coming safely down.
Not properly braked, a train might run away.
Boom through Altoona at 70-80 mph, unless it derails and crashes somewhere.
“I rounded Horseshoe Curve, and my train took off,” 14G’s engineer told Pittsburgh-East.
“So you dumped it yourself,” Pittsburgh-East said.
Usually a train goes into emergency only if the train-line breaks.
“Dumped” means letting all the air out of the train-line, thereby setting all the train-brakes.
It was either that or 70-80 mph through Altoona, trackside ditches waiting, locomotives exploding in flames (sorry, that’s a movie), 14G’s cars continuing on momentum until they derail and pile into each other.
So what did I hear?
Fortunately it wasn’t a movie. Them train-guys take their job very seriously.
I think I heard 14G’s engineer save Altoona from a runaway.