Saturday, September 13, 2014

100 years of Dodge


The Dodge Brothers medallion.

As of November of this year, Dodge is 100 years old.
The November issue of my Hemmings Classic Car magazine is making a big thing of it, a special commemorative issue.
Seems not too long ago Chevrolet made 100 years, and Classic car celebrated it. But not as much as this.
Perhaps they’re trying to correct their mistake, although Dodge was pretty important.
Dodge is about the only identifiable Chrysler brand remaining.
The Chrysler Corporation of my youth is gone.
That was when Chrysler was marketing competition for every GM make; five marques.
Plymouth competed with Chevrolet and Ford, Dodge more-or-less with Pontiac, and even Oldsmobile and Buick, Desoto competed with Oldsmobile and Buick, as did Chrysler.
It could be said Chrysler was trying to match Cadillac, but then Chrysler fielded Imperial, at first an offshoot of Chrysler.
But then Chrysler Corporation made Imperial standalone to compete with Cadillac.
It didn’t work. Imperial lasted a little while, but tanked.
Desoto’s last model was 1960, and now even Plymouth is gone, a victim of Chrysler’s bail-out.
There are Chrysler products being made, but I don’t see them trumpeted as Chryslers. —Not as much as Dodge products.
And now Jeep is a Chrysler product, and is a smashing success.
Go back far enough and Jeep was a Willys (“will-is”) product.
Then it was bought out by American Motors, and Chrysler bought Jeep when American Motors tanked.
To me, the new Chrysler Jeeps can’t compare to even the American Motors Jeeps, which although larger, were still Jeeps.
I can’t picture Eisenhower or Patton parading in a Chrysler Jeep. They’re way too big. Where’s the Jeep?
Dodge goes back before Chrysler Corporation. At first it was Dodge Brothers (there were two).
In fact, Dodge Brothers was instrumental in Old Henry’s Model-T Ford.
But then Old Henry decided to expand his Rouge plant, which would have cut out Dodge Brothers as a supplier.
So Dodge Brothers decided to make their own car.
That was 1914.
And most importantly, the new Dodge was the first all-steel car, pioneered with Budd Company of Philadelphia.
But Walter P. Chrysler needed the manufacturing facilities Dodge Brothers had.
So Dodge Brothers became part of Walter P.’s mighty Chrysler Corporation.
And now about the only brand left of Chrysler Corporation is Dodge.
Desoto, Imperial, and even Plymouth are gone.
And Chrysler seems to be a withering brand. A lot of cars carry the Chrysler logo, but don’t seem to be marketed as Chryslers.
I haven’t seen a Chrysler dealership in years — not too long ago it was Chrysler/Plymouth.
I bet I could find a Jeep dealership. Even Dodge lost its dealership identity, or so it seems. Quite often I see Dodge and Chryslers cars on the same lot.
I only have one Dodge-story to relate.
It’s about my Uncle Ricci (“Rich-EEE”), who went through various jobs, all of which seemed to involve driving, often trucks.
His last job was as chauffeur for the Pew family (“pyooo”) west of Philadelphia. Sun Oil is Pew.
Mr. Pew had many cars, including a Rolls-Royce and Cadillac limo.
My Uncle Ricci was his chauffeur.
Mr. Pew also had a Pontiac he used to commute — with Uncle Ricci driving. It was about ’51 or ’52.
What Uncle Ricci had was a postwar Dodge, ’47 or ’48. He thought the world if it, and kept it up into the ‘60s.


A postwar Dodge sedan, much like my Uncle Ricci’s car.

I don’t know what attracted Uncle Ricci, but as far as I know the postwar Dodges were stone-reliable. Just about everything else had the reputation of breaking-down.
A postwar Dodge was a turkey, but you could depend on it.
And there would be my Uncle Ricci driving it, looking majestic and chauffeurial.
(And he was usually wearing a hat. Chrysler chairman K.T. Keller desired all his cars have enough ceiling-clearance to allow hat-wearing.)
I bet my Uncle Ricci enjoyed that Dodge more than Pew’s Rolls-Royce or Cadillac.

• “Old Henry” is Henry Ford, founder of Ford Motor Company.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Well, I had a blog in mind........


Chief Pontiac. (Google Image.)

....So here goes, despite not having the local-art intended.
“Local-art” is from my newspaper days. “Local-art” is photographs or graphics generated by the newspaper.
The front page of the newspaper sometimes had an Associated-Press photograph or graphic: “art.”
But sometimes a photograph was by our own photographer, locally generated. Or sometimes we ran a locally-generated color graphic, a bar-chart or pie-chart.
The national Flat-head Pontiac club was gonna hold a “reunion” at a motel near Canandaigua.
I figured I’d go, and take along my camera. I’d come away with “art” for this blog.
What a mistake that was!
When I got to the motel, only two old Pontiacs were there, and one was covered.
The other was a dark-green ’54 four-door sedan with a visor; nice, but in need of doll-up.
It looked original.
When I was a child, the family behind us got a new dark-green ’54 Pontiac four-door sedan. This car was identical.
But I left right away. Only one car to photograph wasn’t worth my time.
I was about to give up blogging this event, but the blog was already in my head; so here goes.
I figure I’d load up my blog with Google-Images.
Pontiac was an offshoot of GM’s Oakland division. It was a marketing ploy: lower-priced versions of GM brands. I think Oldsmobile and Buick may have had lower-priced versions, but I forget what they were named.
Cadillac had its LaSalle, which lasted a while, but eventually tanked.
Oakland’s low-priced version was Pontiac, although Pontiac outlasted Oakland.


Mega-chrome. (Google-Image.)


Ditto. (Google-Image.)


Ditto again. (Google-Image.)

Pontiac is no longer made. The brand was dumped with GM’s rationalization after bankruptcy.
Along with Oldsmobile and Saturn.
Oldsmobile had a storied history. It’s founder was Ransom E. Olds.
Saturn was GM’s attempt to build an import-quality car. It was pretty good, but soon became part of the hum-drum GM legacy; that is, a Chevrolet rebadged as a Saturn.
The other Big Three automakers also dumped brands.
Ford dumped Mercury, and Chrysler dumped Plymouth.
“Plymouth” was Chrysler’s attempt to market a low-priced car to compete with Ford and Chevrolet.
Suddenly the “Low-Priced-Three” became the “Low-Priced-Two.”
Before the 1955 model-year, when Pontiac debuted its first V8 engine, Pontiac was a “Grand-Pop’s car.”
Bunkie.
Semon Emil "Bunkie" Knudsen (“NUDE-sin”) was made head of Pontiac to spice up the brand, and make it appealing to the youth-market.
Knudsen had a hard time changing stodgy old Pontiac, but by 1959 he succeeded.
That V8 helped. Prior to the 1955 model-year, Pontiac’s engine was a flat-head inline eight.
Flat-heads were as inspiring as lawnmower engines — and most small lawnmower engines are flat-heads.
“Flat-heads” are side-valve with flat cylinder-head castings. Side-valve is in the cylinder-block, usually parallel to the cylinder-bore.
Cheap to manufacture, but they don’t breathe well. Intake-charge and exhaust have to twist and turn every-which-way, and then migrate over to the cylinder-bore.
It’s not a direct shot, as is overhead-valve.
Buick used overhead valves to get more performance. Even Chevy’s old “Stovebolt-Six” was overhead-valve.
The fact the engine was an inline eight is also debatable. That long crankshaft could whip. The shorter V8 crankshaft didn’t.
The Buick engines were inline eights, but overhead-valve.
Pontiac’s V8 of 1955 brought Pontiac into the overhead-valve camp.
But the old flat-head Pontiacs are collectible and worth seeing.
But only two cars ain’t much; there were more earlier, perhaps two or three more.
Also later more in downtown Canandaigua — perhaps they were there, instead of the motel.
One was a ’50 or ’52 woody wagon, although by then it was probably wood applique on steel.
One was a ’62 Pontiac; hardly a flat-head. That’s one of Bunkie’s cars.
Pontiac adopted a “Silver-Streak” on its hood to give itself definition.


Note Silver-Streak atop hood. (Google Image.)


An earlier Silver-Streak. (Google Image.)

The “Silver-Streak” was eventually fluted steel — the first Silver-Streaks were just individual trim-bars like above — much like Budd Company’s streamlined railroad passenger-cars, which were sheathed in fluted steel. (Budd also supplied car-bodies, and pioneered all-steel auto construction.)
For years every Pontiac had the “Silver-Streak” on its hood. It lasted until the 1956 model-year. Both the ’55 and the ’56 had small twin Silver-Streaks, known as “suspenders,” on their hoods.
By the 1957 model-year the Silver-Streak was gone; Knudsen had triumphed.
Every car I’ve pictured has the Silver-Streak on it. And that hood-ornament of Chief Pontiac was perhaps the best ever made.
Chief Pontiac was lit; not strident, but a soft amber glow.
Glowing Chief Pontiac and the Silver-Streak compared to Buick’s port-holes. GM products seemed to have some identifying icon, at least Buick and Pontiac.
With Buick it was the port-holes; and Pontiac had Chief Pontiac and the Silver-Streak. —Chief Pontiac and the Silver-Streak were how you knew it was a Pontiac.


A 1941 Silver-Streak. (Google Image.)

There were various Pontiacs in my past; although my family never owned one. We always bought Chevrolets.
The family two doors from us in Erlton (“EARL-tin;” as in the name “Earl”), whose father got my father a job at Texaco, had a ’49 or ’50 Pontiac sedan. He repainted it with a brush; which looked okay, if you overlooked the brush-marks.
The car also had a windshield-visor and spotlight.
My father was thereby prompted to repaint our ’39 Chevy with a brush. He had to repair a crack in the right-front fender first, which he did with some metal pieces he purchased at a hardware-store.
He then repainted the whole thing dark-green with a brush.
The crowning achievement was a yellow pinstripe on the molding under the side-windows.
My father was an artist, and did it perfectly. The entire pinstripe was over nine feet long, and was perfectly straight. Not a wobble or paint-blob, and about an eighth-inch wide.
I was impressed. Too bad there were brush-marks otherwise.
And that ’39 Chevy broke its timing-chain, smashing valves into pistons.
We had to junk the poor thing. A ’39 Chevy in the early ‘50s was a bit of a stretch, but my father was always pinch-penny about cars.


“Puke-green” fastback. (Google Image.)


A ’48. (Google Image.)

Another Pontiac I remember is that owned by George, who graduated in my high-school’s first graduating-class, 1960. I’m Class of ’62.
George’s car was a dark-green Pontiac convertible, about ’51 or ’52.
He always drove it top-down, and hadn’t customized it. You couldn’t customize a Silver-Streak Pontiac.
The fact it was a convertible made it incredibly appealing. He’d sit atop the driver’s seat-back and steer with his feet.
Rain-or-shine, he always drove it top-down.
The poor thing probably had to be junked.


’52 two-door sedan. (Google Image.)


A fastback Silver-Streak. (Google Image.)


A ’53 two-door hardtop. (Google Image.)

A third Pontiac was a stationwagon owned by our newspaper-boy’s father.
The newspapers would get tossed out of a delivery-truck late afternoon at a gas-station.
Father-and-son would be waiting in the Pontiac.
Together they’d fold the newspapers for distribution, after which they got put in the back of that Pontiac.
Son would position himself atop the closed tailgate with the rear-window open.
He’d reach inside, grab a newspaper, then hurl it toward the target house.
One afternoon as they left the gas-station, father backed that Pontiac into a telephone-pole, killing his son, crushed between the pole and the open rear-window.
We were devastated! That newspaper-boy was a hard-rock greaser, a ne’er-do-well, but we were devastated just the same.
The accident was so random and stupid.
I don’t think that wagon was an actual woody. As I recall, it was two-tone blue on faux wood molding.
At the motel I had seen a wagon with wood applique on the molding.
That was what I wanted to photograph more than anything.

• “Erlton” is the small suburb of Philadelphia in south Jersey where I lived until I was 13. Erlton was founded in the ‘30s, named after its developer, whose name was Earl. Erlton was north of Haddonfield, an old Revolutionary town.
• The Chevrolet overhead-valve inline “Stovebolt-six” was introduced in the 1929 model-year at 194+ cubic inches. It continued production for years, upgraded to four main bearings (from three) for the 1937 model-year. In 1950 the Stovebolt was upsized to 235.5 cubic inches (from 216), and later upgrades included full-pressure lubrication and hydraulic (as opposed to mechanical) valve-tappets. The Stovebolt was produced clear through the 1963 model-year, but replaced with a new seven-main bearing (as opposed to less — like four) inline-six engine in the 1964 model-year. The Stovebolt was also known as “the cast-iron wonder;” called the “Stovebolt” because various bolts could be replaced by stuff from the corner hardware.
• RE: “Puke-green.....” — An expression specific to our family, referring to a light grayish-green color tinged slightly yellow that looked the color of vomit.

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Sunday, September 07, 2014

Isaac Heating & Cooling

Ray Isaac.
Over a week ago I got a postcard from Isaac Heating & Cooling, saying a service-contract had not been renewed, and was about to expire.
Isaac services two things: -a) my tankless water-heater, which they installed, and -b) my stand-by generator.
A tankless water-heater is just that; it doesn’t preheat a tank of water and let it stand.
It heats water on-demand; that is, as water passes through it’s heated. Mine is set at 120 degrees.
Our house was originally tankless, although it was Swedish, and nearly impossible to get parts.
It also had a pilot that liked to blow out. It wasn’t electronic-ignition.
We replaced it with a tank-type water-heater, and over maybe 18 years we went through two.
But then our gas-supplier offered a rebate to install a tankless, so we did. It cost a fortune, but was partially offset by that rebate.
Isaac installed it. Isaac is probably the premier HVAC (heating-ventilation-air conditioning) contractor in our area.
Our stand-by generator was installed by someone else.
That was years ago.
What it does is self-start and generate electricity for our house if the grid fails, like in a thunderstorm or ice-storm.
The installer was servicing it at first, but we switched to Isaac when that installer became difficult, and then more-or-less disappeared.
I had no idea which thing Isaac was referring to.
They’d just serviced my stand-by, and the tankless a few months ago.
And it seemed I had just renewed a service-contract, but I forgot for what.
Things are madness around here since my wife died.
Things pile up. and the service-contract the postcard was referring to may be in a pile.
I’d hafta call Isaac, and I don’t like doing that since my stroke.
My stroke was over 20 years ago, but it slightly compromised my speech. Writing still works fine, but that ain’t speech.
People tell me my speech is fine, but they never knew me before the stroke. —My brothers hear the difference.
It’s slight, but I have difficulty assembling words for speech. I hesitate, and silences occur. Lock-ups.
So I don’t like making phonecalls.
Often I have to inform the other party I had a stroke, that I may lock up and not get the words out, and if they talk too fast I may not be able to follow.
My wife used to make phonecalls for me, but now that she’s gone I do it myself.
And I can; I haven’t crashed yet.
But I’m hesitant to make phonecalls; I kind of stumble through them.
So, call Isaac and see what this postcard refers to.
At least a week passed before I got the gumption.
I rang up Isaac and a machine answered. It was a recording of smiling Ray Isaac, CEO of the company, sonorously telling me how he valued my call, and what a wonderful company Isaac Heating & Cooling is.
“Oh yeah, Isaac,” I thought; “I forgot.”
This is what always happens.
Rather than hire the staff to parry phonecalls, he shoves you on hold, and then tells you what a wonderful company Isaac Heating & Cooling is.
A never-ending litany of deals and offers galore.
So, put down my cellphone, put it on speaker-phone, and start eating breakfast.
You’re liable to be on hold for hours. —I’ve hung up before.
Minutes passed, but then I got a real person, and not in India. She had a local accent, and spoke English.
Heaven-forbid you call some software help-desk. It’s like all the English they’ve learned is “I’m deeply, deeply sorry.”
My expiring service-contract was for my stand-by, and we renewed it over the phone.
She had to call her Service-Department to verify the amount, which put me on hold again, and there was Ray yammering at me again.
When my wife died it was like she decided she could die; that is, I could do this. Which was right after my parrying Strong Hospital’s telephone runaround to retrieve stuff I had left in her wheelchair.
And I did.
My wife was in bad shape, so I made the phonecalls myself.

• My beloved wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.
• I had a stroke October 26, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Monthly Calendar-Report for September 2014


Here it comes! (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

—The September 2014 entry of my own calendar is another photograph by my brother Jack Hughes.
It’s a view I’ve avoided, mostly because my views down tangent (straight) track never work.
My brother made it work, mainly by letting the train get close enough.
Views to the south (railroad west) are backlit if the sun is out.
That is, the front of the locomotive won’t be lit.
But I still think his picture looks pretty good, enough for me to try the same view from other locations.
If the locomotive is backlit, as it is here, we get modeling, shadows on the locomotive.
And photography is good enough any more to look great in shadows.
It’s not like years ago, when anything in shadow was pitch-black.
We were standing on an overpass in Summerhill, PA, where the view railroad-west is what we see; a long straight stretch from South Fork to Summerhill.
I have other views at Summerhill, mostly looking north (railroad-east).
There is an old Pennsy signal-bridge in Summerhill, and Norfolk Southern still uses it.
It makes a nice silhouette against the sky.
View north in the afternoon, and I lose the modeling, which is what I think makes this picture look excellent.
Looking south from this overpass I lose the silhouetted signal-bridge, but I still think Jack’s picture looks excellent.
I’ve seen another picture, not shot by us, that’s shot opposite from where I shot earlier, that silhouettes the signal-bridge, but mine includes a church = distraction.
I’d like to try that side. Maybe that view will be in next year’s calendar.



The greatest railroad-locomotive OF ALL TIME. (Photo by John Dziobko.)

—Can there be an All-Pennsy calendar without a GG-1 in it?
The September 2014 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is a GG-1 powered passenger-express threading Dock Bridge over the Passaic River into Newark (NJ) station.
Dock Bridge is one of the most intricate and impressive structures on Pennsy’s old New York City-to-Washington, DC line. A Port-Authority Trans-Hudson (“PATH”) commuter railroad river-crossing was also incorporated into Dock Bridge.
Dock Bridge also has an interlocking; the train is negotiating it.
Add overhead catenary (“KAT-in-air-eee;” the wire) and things get extremely complicated.
Seems like only Pennsy could afford such extravagance.
As I’ve said hundreds of times, the GG-1 is the greatest railroad locomotive EVER.
A single GG-1 could put 9,000 horsepower to railhead, and that’s 50-60 years ago. Current diesel locomotives are rated at 4,400 horsepower.
It couldn’t crank 9,000 horsepower continuously without overheating the traction-motors. But it could do it long enough to rocket a heavy train out of a station.
And the GG-1 is a Pennsy design, although not what was originally intended.
The GG-1 is Pennsy’s interpretation of a 4-6-6-4 New Haven electric locomotive. Pennsy built a 4-8-4 locomotive at the same time — sort of an eight-drivered version of its P-5 electric (4-6-4).
The R-1.
Pennsy expected its R-1 to be triumphant, but the GG-1 tracked better at speed.
Pennsy was so impressed they called in industrial-designer Raymond Loewy to make the original GG-1, renumbered to the R-1’s number, #4800, look better.
Loewy convinced them to go with a welded body-shell instead of riveted. He also dickered a tiny bit with the headlight and front body-door to give it a Cyclops-eye.


The original Loewy paint-scheme. (Photo by Tom Hughes.)

Loewy’s GG-1 is gorgeous.
Old Rivets (#4800) still exists; it’s at Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, PA.

“Old Rivets,” #4800, the original GG-1 with a riveted body-shell (as opposed to welded).
Time to trot out my GG-1 pictures.
I was lucky enough as a teenager to live hard by Pennsy’s New York-to-Washington line through northern DE, what is now Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
I saw many GG-1s.
And it seemed every time I did they were doing 80-90 mph!
In 1959 when I was 15, I and my 16-year-old neighbor-friend, who was also a railfan, went up to Philadelphia to do some railfanning.
We had to get back, so we took Pennsy’s Afternoon Congressional, Philadelphia to Wilmington (DE), our home.
By then the “Congo” was no longer a premier all-Pullman train; it had coaches.
Our train was powered by a single GG-1; 26 cars.


Our train is behind that Baldwin switcher. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

It’s approaching Philadelphia’s 30th-Street station in the picture.
We boarded the train, and its engineer put the hammer down.
Off we went, boomin’-and-zoomin’.
Within minutes we were cruising at 80-90 per!
My second GG-1 picture is at Claymont (DE) commuter-station.


STAND BACK! (Photo by BobbaLew.)

I had set up trackside with my father’s old Kodak Hawkeye camera.
The railroad is four tracks wide through Claymont, and I was expecting passenger-expresses to be on the inside tracks.
No; here came one at 90+ mph on the track I was next to. I was about 10 feet from it.
Had I not had my arm hooked around a cast-iron light-pole, I wouldn’t be here. The suction was tremendous.
And my father’s old Hawkeye managed to stop it, and its fastest speed was 1/125th of a second, not very fast.
That train was really boomin’; it scared me to death.
But I will never forget it; and I managed to snag it.
My third and fourth pictures are of GG-1 passenger-expresses crossing Shellpot Creek.


Over the creek. (Photo by BobbaLew.)


On the flyover over Edgemoor Yard-entrance. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

My first is a GG-1 express crossing the Shellpot Creek bridge.
My second shot is a northbound GG-1 express over the flyover over Wilmington’s Edgemoor yard-entrance.
The flyover is just north of Shellpot Creek. Only Pennsy could afford flyovers.
GG-1 passenger-expresses weren’t too hard to photograph.
But you had to be ready.
They’d sneak up on you, and all-of-a-sudden there it went!
They were also silent. Electric-powered trains only make car-noise, not locomotive noise.
You dared not cross the tracks without looking both ways. And if you saw anything, like a headlight in the distance, you waited. At 90+ mph that train would be on top of you in seconds.




A “double.” (Photo by Don Woods.)

—The September 2014 entry of my Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar is what my friend Phil Faudi (“FOW”-deee;” as in “wow”) calls a double — two trains at once.
Phil is the railfan extraordinaire from the Altoona (PA) area who has led me on train-chases. He calls ‘em “tours.”
I’m a railfan myself, and have been since age-2; I’m 70.
Phil was doing it as a business at first; all of my first tours were with him as a business. He’d do the driving, railroad-radio scanner in his car. We would drive all over the area chasing trains. He also knew what was scheduled and when.
Phil had to give up his business; too many near-misses, and a newer car he didn’t wanna abuse.
So we’d chase trains in my car with me driving. It was no longer a business, but we enjoyed chasing trains.
But his wife has Multiple Sclerosis, and he’s worried about not being around if she falls.
So now he no longer leads me around in my car.
He stays home, yet monitors his railroad-radio scanner and calls my cellphone if I’m chasing trains myself.
This works pretty well; perhaps not as well as if we were together chasing trains — in which case we snag nearly everything.
Fortunately the railroad is busy enough to do well on my own.
So instead of him being in my car to suggest we go somewhere to beat a train, I often go to a location, call Phil, and he tells me if anything is coming.
He also can suggest I drive somewhere to beat a train.
This calendar-picture looks like something we’d shoot. It’s not especially inspiring, although Phil and I have snagged some really great stuff.
I don’t know as I’d use such a picture in my calendar, plus I’ve never been to this location, which is an ex-Pennsy stone-arch bridge over the Little Juniata (“june-eee-AT-uh”) River near Spruce Creek, PA.
The original Pennsy pretty-much followed the Juniata River Duncannon (Harrisburg) to Tyrone (“tie-ROWN;” as in “own”). From Tyrone it goes into Altoona, then crosses Allegheny Mountain.
At Spruce Creek the river goes around a ridge. Rather than follow the river, which would have been circuitous, the railroad decided to tunnel straight through the ridge.
As far as I know, it was the only tunnel on the original Pennsy beside the summit tunnel. There was another toward Pittsburgh, but that has been daylighted.
It’s a two-track railroad; it used to be three.
At Spruce Creek Pennsy had two tunnels; one is now closed.
The second tunnel was added to accommodate the deluge of traffic.
The remaining tunnel had to be enlarged to clear double-stacks.
Apparently both trains were stackers.
I like hearing Phil say “We’re gonna get a double, Bob” or “Hey Bob, look at this!”
I’ve snagged quite a few doubles — they’re fairly common on this line.
But to me a double is two front-ends; with Phil a double may be a train passing another train.
So far I’ve snagged two front-end doubles, my first side-by-side, and my second face-to-face.


My snag of the century! (Photo by BobbaLew with Phil Faudi.)





BAM-BAM-BAM-BAM! (Photo by Jim Shaughnessy©.)

—The September 2014 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is the tower-operator, a woman, standing tall in the face of a pounding Pennsy Decapod (2-10-0), preparing to hoop up orders to the locomotive’s fireman.
The Dek is on Pennsy’s Elmira branch, where Deks fell into heavy use.
The Elmira branch is the old Northern Central line up into New York state that went through Williamsport from Baltimore and York, PA.
Pennsy got control of Northern Central in 1861.
The Elmira branch was tough; it had grades, and Pennsy was sending heavy coal-trains up to Lake Ontario at Sodus Point. A wharf was at Sodus Point where coal could be transloaded to lake-ships.
The Dek was Pennsy’s response to needing drag-engines.
The Dek is mainly driving-wheels.
Only one railroad had larger Deks: Western Maryland. And Pennsy had 475, a huge number.
Yet the Dek wasn’t that successful; it couldn’t move at speed.
That heavy siderod assembly pounded the rail, and small drivers didn’t allow much counterbalancing.
That siderod assembly would also slam the locomotive cab up-and-down. 50 mph was only if you could stand it.
But dragging heavy trains slowly up torturous grades was perfect for a Dek.
The Elmira branch is now largely gone. Segments remain, used by shortline railroads.
The wharf at Sodus Point burned; it was a wooden trestle.
I don’t think the line to Sodus Point exists any more. A segment to Newark (NY) still exists operated by Ontario Midland railroad, a shortline.
And the old line to Penn Yan (NY) still exists, operated by Finger-Lakes Railway out of Watkins Glen (NY).
But taking coal from Williamsport up to Lake Ontario can no longer be done.
Standing in the face of a Decapod could be frightening, but this lady is doing it.
If she couldn’t successfully hoop up orders, the train had to stop so someone could go back and get the orders.
It happened. Imagine doing it with a train hammering at you at 40-50 mph. That Dek is probably doing 10-20 mph.




A 1970 AAR ‘Cuda. (Photo by Peter Harholdt©.)

—The September 2014 entry in my Motorbooks Musclecar calendar is a 1970 AAR ‘Cuda (Barracuda), essentially the car raced by Dan Gurney’s All-American-Racers (AAR) in Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) Trans-Am series.
#42 was the car raced by Swede Savage; Gurney raced #48.
Other cars in the Trans-Am wars were the Z/28 Camaro, the Boss-302 Mustang, and AMC’s Javelin. Also a Dodge version of the AAR ‘Cuda, plus a couple Firebirds.
The AAR ‘Cuda was debatable.
As I understand it, this car’s firewall and roof were essentially the mid-size Chrysler car, Plymouth’s Satellite, and Dodge’s Charger.
An AAR ‘Cuda could be heavy compared to a Z/28 Camaro or a Boss-302 Mustang. The Camaro is based on Chevy’s Nova, the Mustang on Ford’s Falcon — not the mid-size Chevelle or Torino.
Prior to 1970, the Barracuda was based on Plymouth’s Valiant. In fact, the first Barracuda came to market just before the Mustang.
But they lacked the Mustang’s long-hood short-deck look.
One has to also remember the pony-cars were essentially downsized NASCAR stock-cars.
They lack independent-rear-suspension. They still used the Model-T layout of a solid rear-axle with center differential — all of that suspended.
But if you firmly located that rear axle with track-bars, as did old NASCAR racer Bud Moore with his Boss-302s, a Trans-Am racer could handle quite well.
Moore was using NASCAR practice. He was probably also cheating: his Mustangs were more aerodynamic.
A stock Boss-302 Mustang was nowhere near as good as Moore’s cars.
SCCA’s Trans-Am was a joy to witness; bellowing V8s at wide-open throttle.
And the AAR ‘Cuda contributed, although I don’t think it ever won a race.
Moore’s Mustangs and Roger Penske’s (“penn-SKEE”) Z/28 were that good.
During the summer of 1970 I witnessed a Trans-Am at Bridgehampton road-course out Long Island. (Bridgehampton is no more.)
The Moore Mustangs were front-row, Parnelli (“parr-nell-EEE”) Jones on the pole, with George Follmer next to him.
Jones had won the Indy 500 in 1963.
I had stationed myself outside a blind downhill curve after the pit-straight, also the start-straight.
All-of-a-sudden Jones and Follmer were wide-open-throttle as the race began.
They flew side-by-side over the top of that hill at 165+ mph!
Sparks flew as the cars’ rear-suspension track-bars bottomed on the pavement at the bottom of that hill.
I will never forget it; that’s goin’ to my grave.
As Jones used to say “If your car’s not outta control, you’re not driving fast enough.”
But I think the Penske Camaro won. Both Jones and Follmer dropped out.
And the Penske Camaro won without brakes; they had worn away.
The car’s driver was Mark Donohue, who had a lot to do with development of the racecar.
Before I stop, I think this car was in a previous Motorbooks Musclecar calendar, October of 2012.
Perhaps photographer Harholdt is burning out. I tried to find a 2015 Musclecar Calendar at Motorbooks, and didn’t find one.
Last month’s Boss-429 Mustang was a rerun.
You’d think a calendar-publisher would try to avoid reruns — I know I do.




Gooney-bird. (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—I’ve never been able to think of the Douglas C-47 as much of a WWII warbird.
The 1941 Historical-Aircraft Group in nearby Geneseo (“jen-uh-SEE-oh”) has one, their only remaining WWII warbird. They used to have a B-17, plus other WWII warbirds.
“Whiskey-Seven,” the 1941 Historical Aircraft Group’s C-47.
Their C-47 flew all the way to Normandy for the 70-year D-Day remembrance. Apparently paratroopers jumped out of it.
The September 2014 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is a Douglas C-47, a “Gooney-Bird” (so nicknamed).
Apparently the Gooney-Bird is a warbird of sorts.
I’m told the Allies won WWII because of three things. One was the C-47 (DC-3); the others were the Jeep and the GMC six-by truck.
The C-47 is a little different than the DC-3 airliner; it had a strengthened floor and larger cargo-door.
The C-47 (DC-3) wasn’t really a warplane. It was more a transport.
Thousands of paratroopers jumped out of C-47s. In fact, the D-Day invasion was as much paratroopers jumping out of C-47s as invasion from the sea.
And of course the humble C-47 carried a lot more than paratroopers.
One of their greatest contributions was ferrying supplies over “the hump” (the Himalayas) into China.
Rehearsal for the Berlin airlift, although eventually larger planes came into use.
The C-47 (DC-3) was known as “the SkyTrain.”
A TWA DC-3.
You could say the DC-3 was the first successful airliner. Ford’s Tri-Motor saw airline service, but it was mainly the DC-3 that made airline service serious.
Essentially the DC-3 was the first nail-in-the-coffin of railroad passenger service — that is, using railroads to get across country.
The DC-3 was just the beginning. Soon airlines were using bigger airplanes with more range.
Airports that could only accommodate the DC-3 became moribund if they couldn’t lengthen their runways.
Before she got married my mother lived near the airport that was Philadelphia’s first airport, although it was in south Jersey.
But that airport couldn’t lengthen its runways. Philadelphia had to relocate its airport to where it is now, south of Philadelphia, where runways could be longer, and lengthened if need be.
Originally it was three runways, but now it’s only two. The west-east runway couldn’t be lengthened, the Delaware River blocks it.
I’ve seen runways lengthened out over water, especially at New York’s JFK.
But doing that out into the Delaware River blocks river navigation. The Delaware can handle ocean-going ships.
The airport in south Jersey became moribund, just small private planes, and RCA’s first executive airplane, a Twin-Beech.
I think now that airport is gone. I remember its hanger converted into a military-surplus store, but that is gone too.
The land was converted to suburban development. It was centrally located, and too valuable otherwise.
In 1958 jet-airliner service began.
The jets could cruise far higher than a DC-3, and a lot faster.
But the DC-3 remained in passenger-service a long time. Mostly on short secondary hops.
DC-3s were also converted to Executive-service, owned privately by companies.
I’ve seen DC-3s converted to turboprop engines, with more modern empennage surfaces of different shape.
Only recently was the DC-3 downgraded from passenger-service, That was because they didn’t have the inflatable escape-slides found on modern jetliners.
The DC-3 is also a taildragger. They had so much wing they only required about one-eighth the runway of a jet.
The DC-3/C-47 was also stone-reliable. I’ve heard of C-47s taking off with a shorter DC-2 left wing, a battlefield repair.
The C-47 isn’t much to look at. Furthermore it’s slow — a turkey.
But it was instrumental to the Allies winning WWII.




Slammed ’40 Mercury coupe. (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—UGH! One of the greatest-looking cars of all time UTTERLY RUINED.
The September 2014 entry of my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a drastically chopped ’40 Mercury coupe.
A stock ‘39 Ford five-window coupe.
Ford’s ’39-’40 five-window coupe — and the Merc was about the same — is one of the BEST-looking cars of all time.
In other words: leave it alone!
Don’t chop the poor thing, or else you end up with what we have here: a travesty.
And Ford didn’t have the styling-section of General Motors.
Nor did it have a Harley Earl, first head of GM’s styling-section.
What it had was E.T. “Bob” Gregorie, along with Edsel Ford’s penchant to make Fords look good.
Old Henry thought styling a waste, that what sold cars was function.
But GM saw that styling sold cars too.
The automobile market had moved beyond mere function; a car had to look good to sell.
And Old Henry was glaringly obstinate. It was Edsel, his only son who he badmouthed as a dandy, who made Fords look good, along with Gregorie, a one-man styling-department.
Chopping the top of  heavily-curved coupe like this is a challenge.
Do that and you’re working sheet-metal this-way-and-that.
Another difficult top-chop is the ’49-’51 Mercury, the so-called “Jimmy-Dean Merc.”
A “Jimmy-Dean Merc.”
Here was another car that should be left alone.
I’ve seen radically chopped ’49 Mercurys, that look nowhere near as good as this “Jimmy-Dean Merc.”
All this “Jimmy-Dean Merc” has is nosing-and-decking (probably), and fender-skirts.
“Nosing” is to remove the hood-ornament, and fill in its mounting-holes.
Same with “decking;” remove the ornamentation, and fill in the holes.
Just about every young car-owner in the ‘50s was doing this, and it looked great.
Even on a turkey Chevy or Buick.
Chopping the top of a Model-A or ’32 Ford was fairly simple. All you were doing is chopping vertical side-window surrounds, sheet-metal around the rear window — also fairly vertical — and windshield-posts, not far from vertical.
Start hacking away at a car like this, and you’re left with panels that no longer meet.
But of course there were body-men that took on the challenge.
I once saw a Jimmy-Dean Merc that had been radically chopped, and lowered, and channeled, and sectioned.
“Channeling” is to fabricate channels into the car-floor, so the car-body can be lowered on its frame-rails.
“Sectioning” is to hack out body side-sections, so the doors, for example, are shorter bottom to window-sill.
The car was so radical it had to be driven from where the back seat had been.
Plus it was so low it scraped lower body-sills just getting out a driveway.
Which brings to mind I wonder about getting this thing out a driveway.
I bet it scrapes its running-boards.
I bet it’s a trailer-queen, never used on the highway.
The ’39 Ford five-window coupe with a modern V8 engine looked much better, and could be used on the highway.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Things are different in Altoony!


Empty grain-train west at Cassandra Railfan Overlook. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

(“kuh-SANN-druh;” as in “Anne”)
Another foray to Allegheny Crossing in the Altoona, PA, area, where the mighty Pennsylvania Railroad crossed Allegheny Mountain in the 1850s.
Pennsy, once the largest railroad in the world, no longer exists. Although its railroad does, operated by Norfolk Southern Railroad, which purchased most of the ex-Pennsy lines from Conrail when it sold.
Norfolk Southern is a merger of Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway in 1982.
Pennsy had merged with arch-rival New York Central in 1968 to form Penn-Central, and that went bankrupt in 1970, the largest bankruptcy ever at that time.
Conrail, a government operation at first, was formed to keep northeast railroading going. Other northeast railroads beside Penn-Central were going bankrupt.
Conrail, which included both the NYC and Pennsy mains, succeeded and eventually went non-government. It was broken up and sold in 1999.
CSX purchased most of the ex New York Central lines; which is interesting because this is what was desired in the 1950s: Pennsy was trying to merge with Norfolk & Western, and Chesapeake & Ohio (now CSX) was trying to get control of New York Central.
Quite a few Conrail branch lines (former Penn-Central, etc.) were turned over to shortlines or abandoned, and much of its commuter-service was turned over to government authorities.
The current arrangement of CSX operating NYC and Norfolk Southern operating Pennsy is what was at first not allowed.
I’m a Pennsy-fan, and always have been.
I’m a railfan, and have been since age-2; I’m now 70.
I started with Pennsy, actually Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines (“REDD-ing;” not “READ-ing”), which was still operating steam-locomotives in the late 1940s and early ‘50s, when I first visited.
I was scared to death of thunderstorms, but I could stand right next to a steam-engine!

Things are different in Altoony compared to the world I come from, which is western New York.
People talk with the Philadelphia-accent, which is where I came from originally, actually south Jersey.
But I’ve been in western New York so long, almost 50 years, only a smidge of my Philadelphia-accent is left.
I embarrassed the check-in lady at my motel. “I’ve lived here all my life,” she said, when I pointed out her accent.
Like what accent?
“Well of course your accent is not an accent to you, but people in western New York don’t talk like that,” I said.
Flashing signs are everywhere, and giant roadside billboards that flash or change every couple seconds.
You don’t see that sort of thing in western New York, just small roadside entreaties to repeal the S.A.F.E.-act: “Protect our 2nd-amendment rights.”
Years ago we passed a hospital in Altoona with a flashing sign out front.
My wife, now gone, picked up on it immediately.
“Today’s special,” she said. “Liver transplants, only $895.”
I got lost this visit driving back to my motel.
I turned around in a shopping-mall parking-lot. At the exit onto the highway I faced a funeral-home.
It had a mausoleum attached.
A flashing sign was out front: “Ask about our specials!”
You don’t see things like that in western New York.
“No fancy funeral for for me,” my mother-in-law bellows, still alive at age-98.
“Just stuff me in a Hefty-bag, and drag me out to the curb.”
“Arrangements by Pratt Disposal and Flint landfill,” I once wrote into a suggested obituary at my newspaper.
“I better delete that,” I said; “lest it get printed.”
“Pratt Disposal” is my trash pickup. Out where I live trash is disposed of privately, not a gumint function.
“Flint landfill” is a giant trash landfill in the nearby Town of Flint. My trash ends up in that landfill.

Previous train-chases at Allegheny Crossing were led by my friend Phil Faudi (“FOW-deee;” as in “wow”), a railfan extraordinaire from the Altoona area.
He was doing it as a business at first; he called ‘em “tours.”
My first tours were with him as a business. But then he gave that up. Too many near-misses, and a newer car he didn’t wanna abuse. He had been driving me around in his car per his railroad-radio scanner.
But he continued leading me around in my car with me driving. He’d monitor his railroad-radio scanner and tell me where to go.
But his beloved wife has Multiple Sclerosis, and he was afraid of her falling while he and I were chasing trains.
So now he stays home monitoring his railroad-radio scanner, and calls my cellphone while I chase trains myself.
This works pretty well, although not as good as he and I together, in which case we snag nearly everything.

Congratulations if you’ve read everything previous.
The art starts here.
Since I checked in my motel by 3 p.m., I figured I’d begin chasing trains Wednesday afternoon, unlike usual.
I figured I’d try to find the location in Altoona where my brother and I shot last January.
In Altoona the railroad splits into two groupings I call “the express-tracks” and “the drag-tracks.”
Fast trains take the express-tracks, and heavy coal-trains the drag-tracks.
But I was unable to find the location where I shot a coal-extra negotiating the drag-tracks last January.
So instead I shot an eastbound stacker on the express-tracks.


Eastbound stacker threads the express-tracks through Altoona. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

That was the only location I went to on Wednesday afternoon.
That stacker stopped to clear a westbound train of auto-racks, but that’s not a successful picture.

Day Two, the day of my full-on train-chase, Thursday (8/21):
I began at Cassandra Railroad Overlook (I call it “Cassandra Railfan Overlook”), an old overpass over the main.
The bridge is on the original highway alignment into Cassandra, and is supposedly the original highway-bridge.
The highway was rebuilt bypassing Cassandra, but that old overpass was a way for Cassandra residents to get to jobs across the tracks, without actually crossing the tracks at grade.
The bridge is iron and concrete, single-lane, wide enough to pass a Model-A.
From west the railroad threads a deep rock cut approaching the bridge.
Previously the railroad went right through Cassandra, but that was bypassed by a straighter route in 1898.
Cassandra Railfan Overlook is better than Horseshoe Curve, since it’s shady.
Horseshoe Curve is part of Allegheny Crossing, a trick to ease grading over Allegheny Mountain.
Horseshoe Curve is a railfan pilgrimage spot; the BEST I’ve ever been to.
I set up on Cassandra’s park-benches, hoping to repeat a view I saw in a Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar.
I carry a railroad-radio scanner myself, and heard a grain unit-train being cleared at Cresson (“KRESS-in”).
Norfolk Southern delivers a unit-train of corn to a shortline in Cresson.
That shortline then takes the train up to an ethanol plant in Clearfield, PA.
What’s pictured (lede picture) are the empty covered-hoppers going back for another trainload of corn.
From there I began chasing trains with Faudi; he called about 9:45.
Unfortunately Faudi is on the east side of the mountain, and can only monitor that side. I was on the west side of the mountain.
All he could tell me about was westbound trains up the east slope. Eastbound up the west slope I was on-my-own.
But I figured I’d do all right, because -a) there are many, and -b) I have a railroad-radio scanner of my own.
I figured I’d go to the small town of Portage, Portage and Cassandra being the two locations I wanted most.
Portage is where the 1898 bypass starts. It’s a long straight to Cassandra Railfan Overlook.
Actually the original Pennsy went right through Portage, and that railroad still exists.
It passes a coal-tipple, so is used as a branch.
I had to wait a while, but Phil had told me a westbound was coming.


Westbound stacker at Portage. (Photo by BobbaLew.)


Helpers push mixed east through Portage. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Then came an eastbound string of coal-hoppers, with SD80-MACs at each end.
The SD80-MAC was the premier EMD (“Electromotive Division”) locomotive a few years ago. It has the V20 engine, and AC (Alternating-Current) traction-motors. —Most road diesels are V12 or V16 and Direct-Current.
It’s rated at 5,000 horsepower, and the “M” stood for “modified cab,” a wide-nose cab.
The V20 engine was first used in the SD-45 of the late ‘60s, and had a habit of breaking that long crankshaft.
The V20 worked fine in a boat, but not in railroad operation, which subjects it to heavy vibration.
EMD fixed that.
Conrail got the SD80-MACs hoping to reduce locomotive use over its storied Middle Division by one locomotive.
The Middle Division is Pennsy’s old Middle Division: Harrisburg to Altoona.
That didn’t work. But the SD80-MACs were excellent for slow heavy coal-drags.
They were transferred to Allegheny Crossing, where there are coal-loadouts.
You might see those MACs moving heavy coal-trains up The Hill.
I took pictures, but they’re blurred. I was using strong telephoto which I mount on a single-leg pole.
Actually, a tripod might make more sense, since that single-leg pole is as unstable as hand-held.
In Portage Faudi suggested I go to Carneys Crossing, a road-crossing at grade. north of Portage.
But then the westbound he predicted was slow getting going, so he suggested I go to the Railfan Observation-Deck in nearby Cresson.
The railroad goes straight through Cresson, and is where that shortline, once a Pennsy branch, intersects.
The railroad also services its helper-engines there, along with the MACs. That service-terminal is visible from the Observation-Deck.
I’ve never done very well from that Observation-Deck, but Faudi said a westbound was coming.
After Cresson, it was after one o’clock, and during the afternoon until maybe 3 p.m. activity slows on the railroad. So I drove back to Portage, a McDonald’s, to get lunch.
I was going to eat lunch in the restaurant, but Faudi called and said a very important train was coming, that I should immediately get trackside. It’s a new train, a Fed-Ex hotshot, trailer-on-flatcar, even some Fed-Ex ground trailers.
So I had McDonald’s change my order to “to-go,” which was really just bag it.
And off I roared into Portage to find the location Faudi suggested.
I saw the hot-shot, but I didn’t have my camera on.
Then another westbound came, but it snuck up on me while I was changing lenses.
A third westbound came, but I managed to snag it.


Westbound mixed at milepost 258.8. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Take note the train has foreign power, a BNSF unit, the orange second unit.
A GP-38 was also in this consist. That’s the third unit.
GP-38s aren’t even turbocharged.
“Not enough power, Boss; it’ll stall on The Hill.”
“Take that GP-38. That’s all I got.”
GP-38s usually serve local-freights; they’re not road-power.
A railroad service-truck goofed up my view of westbounds through Portage.
An eastbound coal-extra came.


Eastbound coal. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

I snagged that.
Apparently I had gone where Faudi suggested, but he said there was another location in Portage.
It’s where the long straight from Cassandra ends.
He said it was next to a road-trailer, but I’d have to knock down weeds.
View goofed up by that service-truck, I began looking for the trailer location.
I found it, without Phil, but the weeds had already been chopped down.
But the location only works westbound, and I only got two eastbounds.
After that I decided to go to Summerhill, to try to repeat a view I saw in Trains Magazine.
But before I did I tried the Jamestown Road Bridge, a highway overpass over the 1898 bypass.
Madness began as I left Portage. One of the eastbounds was still passing, but a westbound mixed Phil had predicted flew by doing at least 50 mph!
Mixed-freights are usually almost draggers. They often get stopped so more important trains can pass.
At Jamestown Road I took my telephoto out as far as it would go: 300 mm.
The westbound UPS-train was coming, another hot-shot of mostly UPS trailers on flatcars.
On that long straight I got the entire train, although the UPS-train is fairly short.


The westbound UPS-train. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

I then headed to Summerhill, which has an old Pennsy signal-bridge Norfolk Southern still uses, and it silhouettes the sky.
It’s a great picture, but my previous shots also had a church in them = distraction. They were from across the tracks.
The Trains picture was from a side I hadn’t tried yet. It silhouettes the signal-bridge, yet avoids the church.
When I finally attained Summerhill, a long wait began; over an hour.
I was about to leave; no scanner-chatter — and all Phil could predict was westbound. My Summerhill shot is eastbound.
Suddenly the flood began. A predicted westbound passed, and suddenly here were the SD80-MACs heading west on Track One.
Track One is usually only eastbound. The MACs were headed for the South Fork Secondary, location of four tipples.
An eastbound snuck up on me, but my best Summerhill shot is the MACs pushing their train west on One — A cheat-shot.


MACs the wrong way at Summerhill — the engines are actually pushing. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Having snagged my Summerhill photo — it’s lousy; I need to try again — I decided to give up for the day; it was after five.
Phil felt bad I had missed a few trains, but I was happy.
“You hafta remember I’m on the side of The Hill you can’t monitor, and I’m making sudden decisions without your counsel, which compromise my success, like that service-truck for example.
And if I don’t have my camera on, that’s not your fault.”
So I headed for Altoona, down the east slope of The Hill.
Along the way I decided to try a location where my brother shot last January, the Main St. bridge in Gallitzin (“guh-LIT-zin;” as in “get”), where Main St. crosses Track One.
The idea was to see if I could shoot from the other side of the tracks. But I can’t. It’s lawn, and obscured by trees. The only place to shoot is from where my brother shot.


Empty slab-train under Main St. in Gallitzin. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

THE END; from there back to Altoony.

Day Three; Back to Reality — back to bereavement.

• “Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines” (PRSL) is an amalgamation of Pennsylvania and Reading railroad-lines in south Jersey to counter the fact the two railroads had too much parallel track. It was promulgated in 1933. It serviced mainly the south Jersey seashore from Philadelphia.
• The New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act of 2013, commonly known as the NY SAFE Act, is a gun control law in the state of New York. The law was passed by the New York State Legislature on January 15, 2013, and was signed into law by Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo on the same day. The legislation was written in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. Cuomo signed the bill into law half an hour after it passed the legislature. The act severely limits gun-ownership, and requires background-checks just to purchase ammunition. High-capacity magazines are also barred, and the definition of “assault-weapons” was also expanded, to include weapons that weren’t previously “assault-weapons.” Assault-weapons also have to be registered. —Gun-owners are upset with the SAFE-Act, that it contradicts the Bill-of-Rights Second Amendment, the right to bear arms. Small printed lawn-signs have been liberally distributed, and you see them everywhere.
• My wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.
• For 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]) I worked for the Canandaigua Daily-Messenger newspaper, from where I retired almost nine years ago. Best job I ever had. (“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.)
• “BNSF” is Burlington-Northern Santa Fe, a fairly recent merger of Burlington-Northern Railroad and Santa Fe Railroad.
• “UPS” is of course United Parcel Service.
• The “South Fork Secondary” is an old Pennsy branch out of the town of South Fork; it’s owned and operated by Norfolk Southern.

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Friday, August 15, 2014

Get with it, Bill!

So here I am placidly bopping east on the N.Y. state Thruway toward Boston when all-of-a-sudden “If you wish to perform a vehicle-health report now or later, please press ‘enter’ now.”
To me that’s a Hobson’s Choice, but only in the sense I get no option to decline.
Beyond that it’s asking me “now or later,” not specifically “now” or specifically “later.”
“WHAAAA......” I always exclaim.
“How about ‘Shaddup?’” I say, after which I press the only ‘enter’ button I can find, which is on the radio search console.
In other words, “Quit bothering me, Bill!”
Such are the mysteries of Microsoft “Sync,” which my car has.
Sync also does voice-recognition, and Bluetooths my cellphone.
“Please say a command.”
“Call Cleaning-Lady.” I have “Cleaning-Lady” in my cellphone-contacts.
It then calls my mower-man.
“Get with it, Bill!” I say, hanging up.
“Call Faudi,” I say, the guy I chase trains with in Altoona, PA.
It calls my sister Peggy in Lynchburg, VA.
I’m sorry Bill, but Apple’s Siri (“sear-eee”) does much better. I disconnect my Bluetooth so Siri will call Faudi on my iPhone.
Apparently Sync will also do GPS navigation, but it’s not the display-screen with map. It’s just voice-commands.
I’ve never used it. I’m not about to have some disembodied female voice lead me into the ozone.
Once I was following a BMW out of nearby Canandaigua.
We came to an intersection where I normally turn. The BMW was ahead of me, and it turned too.
But then the BMW pulled over, its driver looking feverishly at his dashboard. As if to say “Do I really wanna turn here?”
Sorry Garmin, but the GPS-navigation has to be in my head in advance.
That is, I hafta know where I’m going before I start.
I can print maps from Google, so I ain’t dependin’ on some ‘pyooter-program, or someone’s idea of what they think is the best route, if I think my route is better.
My car will also get Sirius satellite-radio. Like what do I need that for, when I never listen to radio when I drive?
I purchased my car over a year ago, and for about a year Sirius kept trying to sign me up.
I kept refusing. Finally they gave up — I hope.
So I’m driving a Sirius-enabled car without Sirius.
But what bothers me most is Bluetooth to my iPhone.
I’ve given up trying to make calls.
Although if I make a call to “Jack,” my brother, it will actually call my brother.
If I ask it to call “Kevin,” my niece’s husband, it will actually call Kevin.
Congratulations, Bill. You won’t have to work on them.
The fact it also takes incoming calls is convenient, although I have to stab around to answer them. —I hardly get any.
And I’ll be a son-of-a-gun if I know how to close out a call.
I push what I think is the correct steering-wheel button. There may be a delay. So I never know if it was me hanging-up or my caller.
Then there is the keypad problem. If I’m Bluetoothing I don’t have a keypad. Like NOW WHAT if an incoming call wants me to “press one now?”
And then there is the text-function. I fire up my car, and the Bluetooth display says “text.”
“WHAAAA......”
It will do voice-recognition texts? Voice-recognition is bad enough as it is.
The voice-recognition on my iPhone is pretty good, but I usually have to edit my texts.
I’m sorry but my iPhone is better than Microsoft’s Sync. I always end up saying “Get with it, Bill.”
If my car starts talking to me I say “Shaddup!”
I guess I come from the old-school.
I like technology, but leave off the blabbering.
Just get me from Point-A to Point-B, reliably without drama.

• “Bill” is Bill Gates, head-honcho of Microsoft.
• My car is a 2012 Ford Escape (that’s not the new Escape).
• “Siri” is the voice-recognition assistant on an iPhone. I can command “Siri” to call someone, and my iPhone does.
• “‘Pyooter” is computer.
• RE: “You won’t have to work on them.” —Gates’ response to the technical hairballs that usually accompany Microsoft’s applications is “We’re working on it.” If you drive a Windows PC, you get updates galore; otherwise known as “fixes.”

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Houghton College

(“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”)
Despite graduating as a ne’er-do-well, that is, they didn’t kick me out, although they nearly kicked me out twice, I don’t regret my attending Houghton College.
And I have friends that tell me Houghton was worst experience they ever endured.
Once I was nearly kicked-out for wearing tight pants, a-la-Rolling Stones — the dreaded “tight-pants” rap.
The second time I was nearly kicked out for scrawling “Cheap American Trash” in the salt-encrusted flanks of the Dean’s son’s Pontiac G-T-O.
There may have been other contretemps; I forget. It seemed I was always riding the ragged-edge.
Such was the life of a free-thinker who dared mock conventional-wisdom.
With me it’s because Houghton was the first place that took me seriously.
That is, adult authority-figures there valued my opinions. I wasn’t automatically declared “Of-the-Devil,” as I had been before Houghton.
Houghton was a compromise with my father, who wanted me to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, like he did. And become a Bible-beating zealot, loudly preaching at and passing judgment on vagrants.
At that time Moody wasn’t a college; I think now it is.
My father wanted me to attend Moody first, then transfer to a college.
But I wanted to attend a four-year college.
Such a college was Houghton, which like Moody was evangelical.
I also wanted no part of Chicago. We stayed there once to visit Moody, and it was frightening.
During my high-school summers I worked at an evangelical boys camp on Chesapeake Bay in northeastern MD. I taught horsemanship and worked in the stables.
During the summer of ’61, that boys camp had many on its staff that were Houghton students.
One was David Droppa (“DROH-puh;” as in “owe”), Houghton Class of ’64.
He was enthusiastic about Houghton, and made it sound interesting.
I also visited Houghton, perhaps in my senior-year of high-school.
Houghton is extremely rural, yet it’s an extension of the east-coast megalopolis, where it got many of its students.
It was an island of suburban values in a vast sea of rurality.
Years ago a canal passed through the town, at that time named “Jockey-Street,” since renamed after the college. The college was part of an effort to clean up Jockey-Street, a bawdy canal-town. The clean-up man was zealous Willard J. Houghton.
I also applied at Wheaton College near Chicago. It’s the alma-mater of Billy Graham, and also the premier evangelical college.
Houghton was number-two.
Wheaton turned me down — I wasn’t very interested anyway — but Houghton would only admit me if I proved I could do college-level work at their summer-school.
So much for boys-camp, I would do six weeks of Houghton’s summer-school.
Which makes me part of the vaunted Summer-School gang; about 10-15 people who got into Houghton by attending summer-school to prove they could do college-level work.
My six-week summer-school course would be Bible-Introduction. I had no idea how I’d ever pass that, since my Bible background was nil.
But it was either that or ‘Nam. At that time our nation had a military-draft for the Vietnam War, but college-students were deferred.
I did pretty good in that Bible-Intro course; I almost aced it.
I would matriculate into Houghton College.
And so began my Freshman year, through 1963. Various members of our Summer-School gang flunked out, or were tossed out, but I did okay.
I chose Physics as my major, although my college-advisor, who also happened to be my Physics professor, counseled against it.
I almost aced Physics; I was the only one in our class who got the hang of it, mainly the math (algebra). The math was essentially a tool. I used it like a socket-set; I’d drive it every-which-way, which I could.
Others, trying to memorize Physics formulas, were utterly lost; and that was despite their megadollar slide-rules slapping their thighs. (Remember slide-rules?)
Mine was only a cheesy appliance held together with Scotch-tape, plus its hairline was missing.
The answers it gave me were only close, but it was clear I knew what I was doing. The others didn’t.
I could have aced college-Physics if I’d known I had an A-average going into the final.
My study for that final was scattershot, which lowered my final grade to “B.”
By then I had also lost interest in Physics. The Physics labs were in “the Dungeons,” musty basement laboratories in an ancient building, since torn down.
I had also been doing a History-requirement, and came across a professor I thought the world of.
His name was “Troutman” (same as the fish); and he valued my opinions.
He was always in trouble with his cohorts, since -a) his wife wore jewelry (gasp!), -b) he was a Democrat (double gasp!), and worse yet he was a liberal-Democrat (“Get thee behind me Satan!”).
I had run into such tolerance in Summer-School when my Bible-Intro professor said he was sorry I couldn’t have faith.
What to me was the faith that reversed all the tenets that worked against religion; like so-called scientific fact.
But he wasn’t loudly passing judgment on me telling me I was “Of-the-Devil.”
He just wasn’t as inspiring as Troutman.
I changed my major to History; I was majoring in the good professors.
During my sophomore or junior year (’64 or ’65), a second professor came to the History Department named Katherine Lindley.
She was also as good as Troutman. Now I had two excellent professors in my major, so I stayed a History-major.
Usually a department had only one good professor; the History-Department had two.
By then I was wondering what I’d do after college, so I decided to train for Secondary-Education.
The Sec-Ed minor was stupid, gut-courses. I used to say “If you can’t do it, teach it. If you can’t teach, teach others how to teach.”
I eventually did trial student-teaching as a junior in a nearby high-school, but it was awful. My mentor teacher was a droll politician. I remember a girl-student I wanted to take under my wing, and try to inspire, but he claimed all she needed was a spanking. In other words, he cut me off; and in so doing he cut off my efforts to become a teacher.
My “under my wing” bit was an extension of my successes at that boys camp.
But it was obvious the educational establishment had no room for such altruism.
What it wanted, apparently, was military order, that is, independent thinking was stomped.
The official student-teaching I was supposed to do at the beginning of my senior-year went by-the-boards —I didn’t do it.
Toward the end of my junior year I befriended a philosophy-professor named Miller.
He was a good argument, always poking holes in any assertion, just like Troutman.
Which is what I was doing.
He convinced me I should do an extra year at Houghton so I could major in both History and Philosophy.
I began various Philosophy courses in my senior year, one of which was logic. I was utterly buffaloed. I could have probably done well in logic if that was the only course I was taking. I had to drop it.
Earlier a math-professor wanted me to take Calculus, aware I had nearly aced Physics. I deferred. I decided the only way to make sense of Calculus was to only do Calculus.
But I also had a full course-load. How could I make sense of Calculus when I also had to memorize the beginning of Canterbury Tales in Olde English? Also the name of Napoleon’s horse. (“It’s on page 1024 of the text, class, as a caption.”)
I was also tired by then, tired of studying so hard. Professors were telling me I should be  scholar; the bane of a questioner.
But I had had enough — I was just cruising anyway. It seems all a liberal-arts college teaches you is the history of western civilization. Master it, and you can ace just about anything.
I felt like I wanted to move on, and live my life.
So that proposed Philosophy-major became a minor, and I only did four years.
I also had to do summer-school again, because I did poorly in two previous courses. In the end all that stood between me and a degree was passing second-year French.
They graduated me; an August graduate.
They also refused to issue transcripts, since I owed them money — which I soon paid.
So my college-education ended a whimper.
But I’ve never regretted it. They were the first ones to not tell me I was “Of-the-Devil.”
I have since decided college is mainly your mastering time-management; being able to crank out a gigantic amount of work, or at least what appeared to be gigantic, in not enough time.
I cranked out a gigantic annotated-bibliography for Troutman; I was the only one that did. His grading it took years; even he was time-challenged.
He gave me an “A,” but I doubt he actually read it. If he had, he would have seen what a cheap-shot it was — mainly a display of superb time-management.
To do an annotated-bibliography you’re supposed to read all 89 bazilyun books on a topic; for reviewing. Uh, all I read were the first few paragraphs of each. 15-20 minutes per day for weeks.
I figured out the time-allotments needed.
People also tell me the whole point of a college-education is getting a good wife, which I did.
But I think Houghton was more than that.

• RE: “His wife wore jewelry (gasp!).” —At that time, Houghton was run by Wesleyan-Methodists, who were against wearing jewelry. Later Troutman’s house burned out, and the Wesleyan-Methodists who ran the college loudly declared that a sign from above. —I don’t know as Houghton is Wesleyan-Methodist any more.

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