Saturday, May 28, 2016

Monthly Calendar-Report for June 2016


Mustang! (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—The June 2016 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is a the most desired WWII warbird of all, the North-American P-51 Mustang.
The July issue of my Hemmings Classic Car magazine came the other day, and its editor, Richard Lentinello, lists all his favorite cars.
He also lists his favorite airplane and railroad locomotive.
Queen of the skies.

I can do that too.
He says the Lockheed Constellation is his favorite airplane.
I agree, and have a model of a TWA Connie atop a cabinet.
But the P-51 Mustang is right up there. I bet thousands of propeller airplane fanatics think it best.
Lentinello lists the North-American B-25 Mitchell as his favorite WWII warbird. A good choice, but compared to a Mustang?
And the design is almost 76 years old.
P-51s are raced. Grace and beauty in a killer.
With a P-51 you’re only keeping one engine running as opposed to four.
And parts for that motor are probably easier to get.
I’ve stood in awe watching a P-51 fly aerobatics. Every American, by law, should see a P-51 fly — if only to understand why we beat Hitler’s Luftwaffe.
The sound is incredible. It’s on this You-Tube link.
I’ll let my WWII warbirds site weigh in:
“One of the most effective, famous and beautiful fighter aircraft of WWII, the P-51 was designed to fulfill a British requirement dated April 1940.
Because of the rapidly-mounting clouds of war in Europe, the UK asked North American to design and build a new fighter in only 120 days.
The prototype was produced in record time, but did not fly until October 26th 1940.
It was found that the 1,100-horsepower Allison engine was well suited for low-altitude tactical reconnaissance, but the engine’s power decreased dramatically above an altitude of 12,000 feet, making it a poor choice for air-to-air combat or interception roles.
After the RAF found the aircraft’s performance lacking, they tested a new engine, the 12-cylinder Rolls-Royce Merlin. This gave much-improved performance, and led to the USAAF fitting two airframes with 1,430-horsepower Packard-built Merlin V-1650 engines. Practically overnight, the aircraft’s potential began to grow.
The first Merlin-engine versions appeared in 1943 with the P-51B, of which 1,988 were built in Inglewood, CA, and the P-51C, of which 1,750 were built in Dallas, TX. Both new versions had strengthened fuselages and four wing-mounted 12.7-mm machine guns.
The Merlin-powered Mustangs were exactly what Allied bombers in Europe desperately needed, and they became famous for their long range and potent high-altitude escort capability.
The most significant variant, the P-51D, featured a bubble canopy, a modified rear fuselage, and six 12.77-mm machine guns. 7,956 were built.
After the war, the P-51 remained in service with the Strategic Air Command until 1949, and with the Air National Guard and Reserves into the 1950s. It became one of the first fighters to see combat in the Korean War.
In the last 40 years, surplus Mustangs have been modified and used extensively as civilian air racers.
But the latest trend is for private owners to restore them to almost perfect, historically-accurate condition. As public appreciation for the Mustang has grown, the monetary value of the few remaining examples has skyrocketed. War-surplus P-51s, once auctioned from storage for less than $2,000, are now usually valued at nearly a million dollars or more.
The restoration of existing airframes has become a small industry in the US, UK and Australia, and the total number of flyable examples, despite one or two accidents each year, is growing.”
I’ve been to many air shows that flew P-51s. I always say the next air show I attend will have a Connie in it.
But I‘ll never forget that Mustang flying aerobatics years ago. Power dives at over 500 mph, and hammerhead stalls.
That’s goin’ to my grave!




It’s chopped! (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—Proof the top can be chopped on one of the prettiest cars of all time.
The June 2016 entry in my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a hot-rodded ’40 Ford five-window coupe.
Usually I’m against top-chops on the ’39-’40 five-window, but this was very tastefully done.
In fact, only by reading the caption did I find out this car’s top was chopped, only two inches.
Look at the windshield, and yes, the top was chopped.
But the gorgeous curved lines of Ford’s five-window were maintained.
UGH! (Photo by Scott Williamson.)
I’ve seen worse: chops of 3+ inches that butcher the lines. I can think of one, the ’36 Ford five-window that was this calendar’s February entry.
Chop not!
And Ford didn’t have a styling section.
The ’39/’40 Ford five-window is one of the prettiest cars of all time.
I prefer the ’39. This car is a ’40 Deluxe, and the ’40 Standard has the ’39 Deluxe grill. The ’40 Standard looks better up front.
I notice this car has ’56 Oldsmobile Fiesta hubcaps, flippers. They are the hubcaps hot-rodders wanted until moons became the rage.
A moon hubcap.
The car is painted purple, which to me says trailer-queen.
I realized the other day no cars are painted purple any more. The few that were suffered early blotchiness.
This car has all the custom-car attributes: spotlights, flipper hubcaps, ’49 Plymouth bumpers, and skirts.
It even has a top-chop, and it looks great.




Pushers eastbound past Station-Inn. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

—The first thing to say here is the train is going away. The locomotives are helpers. They’re pushing the train toward Allegheny summit.
The June 2016 entry in my own calendar is an eastbound freight passing through Cresson (“KRESS-in”), PA.
It’s passing Station Inn, that white building at right, a bed-and-breakfast for railfans.
I’ve stayed there myself. It’s trackside; the old Pennsy main is about 150 feet across the street.
It’s the old Callan House, built in 1866 by Thomas and William Callan. It was a place for Pittsburghers to escape summer heat.
Cresson is the location of the old Cresson Springs resort.
It’s almost the whole way up Allegheny Mountain. The west slope is not as challenging as the east slope, but challenging enough to require helpers.
Station Inn is operated by railfan Tom Davis. Cresson residents thought Davis nuts to convert Callan House into a bed-and-breakfast for railfans.
“They gotta sleep somewhere,” he said.
Station Inn is awash in railfan paraphernalia. Books and tee-shirts are for sale. Each suite is named after a railroad: e.g. Erie, Baltimore & Ohio, Reading (“REDD-ing;” not “REED-ing”), and Pennsylvania. All were railroads common to PA.
They even have a copy of my calendar — it’s “Allegheny Crossing,” their area.
On the southwest corner of the building is a tiny dot that is Station Inn’s webcam. It’s aimed at the tracks.
I often have it on, viewing trains through Cresson. The video gets streamed over the Internet.
The railroad is now Norfolk Southern. Pennsy is long-gone, but its railroad still exists.




GG-1 powered express through Elizabeth, NJ. (Photo by Kermit Geary, Jr.©)

—Can there be an All-Pennsy Calendar without a GG-1 in it?
The June 2016 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is a GG-1 powered passenger express toward New York City through Elizabeth, NJ.
Elizabeth is the location of “Elizabeth Curve.” Many railfan photographs were taken on Elizabeth Curve, many with GG-1s.
(Photo by Don Wood©.)
I can think of one, It’s at left, and was taken by Don Wood. It was in this calendar years ago, as were many of Wood’s photographs — the basis for the first Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendars 50 years ago.
A GG-1 could be incredibly powerful. It could put 9,000 horsepower to the railhead. But not constantly. That would overheat the traction-motors.
But 9,000 horsepower could rocket a train from a station-stop.
In 1959 my railfan neighbor and I took the train from Wilmington, DE, our home, up to Philadelphia.
“Congo;” my thanks to the switcher. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
To return we took the train pictured at left, the southbound Congressional Limited, powered by a GG-1.
Within minutes we were over 90 mph; 26 passenger cars.
In my humble opinion the GG-1 is the greatest railroad locomotive of all time.
And I was lucky enough to see ‘em; and every time I did they were doing 90-100 mph.
Even now current diesel locomotives are rated at 4,400 horsepower. To equal a GG-1 ya’d need two.
The first experimental GG-1, “Old Rivets,” #4800, was so successful Pennsy allowed industrial-designer Raymond Loewy (“LOW-eee”) to marginally improve the locomotive’s styling.
He didn’t do much, but dickered it into one of the BEST-looking railroad locomotives of all time. His greatest contribution was to get staid Pennsy to ditch the riveted body-shell for a welded shell.
This looked much better, and was easier to maintain.
4896. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
I have #4896 as my computer desktop wallpaper. 4896 is the only GG-1 I’ve been through, back in 1966 in Washington DC.
This is the only picture of 4896 I have; although I saw it many times.
4896 has been scrapped.
GG-1s can’t be restored to operation. They had transformers filled with cancerous PCB-based fluid. The transformer downrated the 11,000-volt current obtained from the overhead wire.
Quite a few GG-1s are still around, but the transformer casings were drained and filled with concrete or sand.




This is more like it. (Photo by Brad Brenneman.)

—The June 2016 entry of my Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar is a westbound freight over the Little Juniata (“june-eee-AT-uh”) River on Pennsy’s original main line.
The photo is by Brad Brenneman, and is near Spruce Creek, PA, not far from Tyrone (“tie-ROWN;” as in “own”), where the old Pennsy turned south toward Altoona before attacking Allegheny Mountain.
Last month was dreadful, a train lost in shrubbery.
Spruce Creek is where Pennsy had one of its few tunnels.
Instead of following the Little Juniata around a ridge, the railroad tunneled it. There were eventually two tunnels, but one has since been abandoned.
The original Pennsy followed the Juniata across PA.
Brenneman is a Quality Assurance Supervisor at Pennsy’s old Juniata Shops, now Norfolk Southern.
Pennsy became immensely successful merging feeders to its main stem in Pittsburgh. It became a major conduit of trade with the east-coast megalopolis.
The other major conduit was New York Central.
Pennsy is long gone. It merged with New York Central in 1968, to become Penn-Central, and that went bankrupt in two years.
The government stepped in forming Conrail out of the old Pennsy and Central, along with other east coast bankrupts.
Conrail was broken up and sold in 1999, with most of its ex-Central lines going to CSX, and old Pennsy lines to Norfolk Southern.
Norfolk Southern’s line across southern New York is ex-Erie.
Many of the lines to Buffalo, like Delaware, Lackawanna and Western and Lehigh Valley, are gone. Lehigh Valley’s fabulous Buffalo extension was completely torn up — some converted to a hiking trail.
Erie to Chicago is gone.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Venlafaxine

“You may hafta take that pill the rest of your life.”
So said my counselor the other day.
“Really?” I exclaimed.
“Your hormones aren’t what they were when you were young, and your wife died,” she said.
Some time ago I started seeing a counselor regarding my wife dying, that I was devastated.
She was recommended by a friend who lost her husband.
Not too long ago my primary-care doctor prescribed an antidepressant, Venlafaxine, trade name Effexor®.
37.5 mg per tablet, the lowest dose. A full tablet per day at first, now only half.
“It may help you,” he said.
My wife died four years ago. I still miss her, but guess I’m over it.
I saw my doctor again recently, and we discussed -a) ending my counseling, and -b) dropping the pills altogether.
“Do you think she’s helping you?” he asked.
“She’s someone to talk to,” I said. “That’s what it’s come to.”
“You should probably stay with her, but I think you can try dropping the pills.”
So I did.
After two days, heavy crying. Not over the death of my wife, but the fact I can no longer give my spunky dog the life promised.
“This is silly,” I thought to myself through tears; “but I guess I gotta go back.”
So back to Venlafaxine. “You may hafta stay on that the rest of your life.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

My battleaxe


My battleaxe. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

“Oh, don’t call her that,” a female friend said.
I just said I missed my old battleaxe immensely.
My battleaxe is my beloved wife, who died four years ago.
I was attending the 50-year reunion of my class at Houghton College (“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”).
Like me, my wife was also a graduate of my class. We graduated in 1966. She didn’t make the reunion.
Houghton is a religious college. Very strict when we were there — I don’t know if it is now.
I wasn’t religious. I always am amazed I found a similar unbeliever, at Houghton of all places.
She ended up being the best friend I ever had. And after my childhood I sure needed one.
She died of cancer. I never got the full explanation.
I was devastated; still am somewhat.
I guess it was breast-cancer first, without a primary site.
It spread to her lymph nodes, so I was told it was lymphoma.
I thought she would survive. Every time we used the strong chemo, we snuffed it.
But it kept returning, and you can only use the strong chemo a few times.
Nothing else worked. We ran out of options.
“Old battleaxe” was a term of endearment.
She didn’t dislike it — I was referred to as “the old man.”
“Battleaxe” was offset by my telling her she had what mattered, which was what was between the ears.
She wasn’t a sexpot or tart, or even a wannabee.
But she was always a fabulous discussion.
Often we thought alike. “I was just going to make the same comment,” she’d say.
Long ago, when I was a teenager, we’d visit an uncle who had a daughter named Judy.
That made her my cousin, one of many.
She wasn’t cute, but had what mattered. She was a fabulous discussion.
I used to say I wanted someone I could talk to like Judy.
That was my old battleaxe, who stayed with me despite how screwed up I was.
44+ years.

• The uncle was Uncle Bill, actually Ethelbert. He was a civil engineer. He loudly claimed he built the entire Ben Franklin Bridge (a large suspension bridge over the Delaware River between Philadelphia and Camden NJ) single handed with only a toothpick. He also claimed he invented the submarine sandwich, except “them greasy Eye-talians ruined it by using ‘maters instead of cucumbers.” He also claimed to be “the world’s largest leprechaun.” (He was overweight.) —Is it any wonder I write like I do?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Click here

Strange things are happening to my iPhone.
I get showered with ads, all spam.
The other day I was poking around for a better weather app. I went to the NOAA weather app I already had, and it took over my phone.
They had done something, always a bad sign. An improvement, they told me.
So much for “try this and see what happens,” the way I figured out my ‘pyooter and iPhone.
It installed another “account” in my e-mail, a “weather” account.
Now I get bombarded with junk to my weather account, and it all looks the same. It ain’t weather.
Compare Chevy’s Cruze to Ford’s Focus. Click here. European river cruises and burial insurance. View scantily-clad hussies at Christian Mingle.
Is this what it’s coming to, all so Trump and his lackeys can pay for their jets?
I gotta blow ten precious minutes cleaning out spam?
My iPhone doesn’t segregate spam — my laptop does. I suppose I could get an iPhone e-mail app that automatically junks spam. I may hafta.
But who’s to say Trump and his lackeys don’t figure out some way to defeat it?

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Thursday, May 19, 2016

Friends

“You don’t go to college to become a bus-driver,” said my friend Jim LePore (“luh-POOR”) last night at our weekly Wednesday eat-out at a local restaurant.
Jim, like me, is a widower. His wife of 51 years died about a year after mine.
I met him at a church-sponsored grief-share. He was devastated. I thought I could help him.
He recovered fairly quickly, quicker than me, so tables turned. He ended up helping me.
For 16&1/2 years, 1977 to 1993, I drove transit bus for Regional Transit Service, a public employer, the supplier of transit bus service in Rochester and environs.
It also happened I graduated nearby Houghton College, and attended the 50-year reunion of my class the previous weekend.
Houghton is a religious college, so being an unbeliever I felt very out-of-it.
The same day as our dinner, retired bus-drivers from Transit held a breakfast meeting at another restaurant.
I didn’t fit there either, but noted I felt more comfortable with my Transit buddies than my college classmates.
I used to get this driving bus: “You have a college degree? What are you doing driving bus?”
“I majored in bus-driving,” I’d say.
“It was supposed to be temporary,” I told Jim.
“I was trying to find employ as a copy-writer, but was striking out.
My neighbor at that time, a bus-driver, said Regional Transit needed bus-drivers.
So I applied and was immediately hired.
I figured I’d do it a year or two, but it paid pretty good, and I enjoyed getting the hang of operating large vehicles.”
So I stayed with it, although at 16&1/2 years I was tiring of it.
It was our clientele, who could be rancorous and cantankerous.
We bus-drivers had a secret rule: “Don’t get shot!”
In the city, passengers could be threatening and unsavory. So I drove mainly rural and suburban routes.
I also drove school-work, but only in the morning. At that hour the kids, teenagers, were too sleepy to be trouble.
And they loved having me, because I wasn’t stickin’ it to my kids.
They were getting to school if I could help it. Better that than the slammer.
I drove one slum school-route the entire school year. Started with a full bus-load, about 50 — and ended up with about 20.
What happened? Prison? The grave? Was it my only rule: “Ass, pass, gas or grass; nobody rides free.”
My stroke, caused by an unknown heart-defect, ended my bus-driving.
I recovered fairly well, and ending up working as a “typist” at a local newspaper.
I never typed anything! I developed computer-tricks to quickly generate reams of copy.
A staunch REPUBLICAN was fixing to lay me off, but the Executive-Editor weighed in. “What do I wanna lay off him for? He’s giving me too much, and has a great attitude.”
My pay was a pittance, but I was having too much fun. They were letting what remained of my brain fly. They encouraged it.
A rehab-counselor wanted to get my job back driving bus — I told him fuggetabout it.
I always say recovery from my stroke is mainly because of that newspaper.
It’s been a long, strange trip. Difficult childhood, college at a school where I didn’t fit, bus-driving, and finally that newspaper, best job I ever had. —The sort of job I was looking for before I started driving bus.
My 12th-grade Social Studies teacher said I’d never amount to anything. I didn’t.
After four years of college I was sick of it. And that’s despite it being the first place adult authority figures valued and solicited my opinions, instead of automatically declaring me of-the-Devil.
Bellybutton picking for what? I had a life to live.
And I was always sort of out-of-it at Transit, but most of my best friends came from Transit.
My 6th-grade teacher bewailed I had so much potential. My parents were exasperated.
So now I drive this here Apple laptop — slinging words; a combination of my writing talent with computer-savvy I developed at that newspaper.
“You gotta learn how to budget your time,” Jim says.
“But I like slinging words,” I say.

• My wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her immensely. Best friend I ever had, and after my childhood I sure needed one.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Ringing in my head

In the summer of 1960, when I was 16 years old, my family took a vacation toward the Canadian Rockies.
By then we were living in northern DE, and we drove all the way to St. Paul in our ’53 Chevy.
It was the only vacation-trip my family ever made where the car didn’t break down.
My father never took care of our cars, and the ’53 Chevy, purchased used, was the newest car my father ever bought; purchased in 1954 with only 5,000 miles.
My hyper-religious father parked in a “no-parking” church parking-lot, loudly declaring the Lord would watch over our car.
From St. Paul we took the train up to Winnipeg, Manitoba; Great Northern Railway.
About 5 a.m. at the Canadian border. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
I remember the sun setting about 11 p.m., then dawning about four hours later.
It was impossible to sleep, plus we were in coach seats. Porters came by hawking pillows for 25¢, but my cheapskate father wasn’t springing for any such thing.
“We’re broke!”
From Winnipeg we took Canadian Pacific’s Dominion to Calgary, Alberta.
It was the week of the Calgary Stampede; the train was crowded.
It was the end of steam railroading on Canadian Pacific, so lots of inactive steam-locomotives were stored in Winnipeg for scrapping.
Canadian Pacific’s hotrods, Budd RDCs in Calgary, up to Edmonton. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
From Calgary we took Budd RDCs north to Olds, still on the prairie, about 100 miles east of the Rockies.
In Olds we were met by one of my father’s old Moody friends, a guy named Bastian. Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, wellspring of my father’s religious fulfillment. Bible-beaters.
Bastian had a farm about 10 miles west of Olds; he raised cattle and wheat.
They just got electricity, but still no bathroom or running water.
There were outhouses out back, and hot water was heated on the stove.
Water came from an old well under a broken windmill. It was pumped by Briggs & Stratton.
My sister and I would stay and help Bastian. My parents returned to Calgary, and took the train to Banff and Lake Louise.
We were there perhaps a week. Did haying and shot prairie-dogs with Bastian’s .22.
My parents return to Olds. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
The trip back was extraordinary.
Back down to Calgary in Budd-Cars. At least 85 mph — maybe over 100 — splitting the tall prairie-grass in giant waves. And air-horns that would wake the dead.
In Winnipeg we had to wait for Canadian Pacific’s Canadian, CP’s premier cross-nation passenger-train.
The whole day, enough time to take in a movie, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.
I was smitten. “Happy Talk”for the next 3-4 years.
“Younger than Springtime, are you.....”
“Bali Ha’i” with the wow-pedal on my family’s Lowrey electronic organ.
Then the train-ride back east to Winnipeg toward oncoming darkness in a thunderstorm.
The scenery was incredible. Table-flat desolation as far as the eye could see, and nary a tree anywhere.
At the edge of the horizon were prairie-fires, thin strips of flame lighting the horizon.
The Canadian had two Vista-Domes, and as a railfan I never left that dome all night.
Trackside signals were green as we approached, then turned red as we passed.
The next morning civilization, what there was of it out on the prairie.
The railroad ran parallel to the Trans-Canada Highway.
We were cruising about 60. As we approached a town, the highway would split off to go through the town, then return parallel to the railroad east of town.
Towns were marked by tall trackside grain elevators, visible in the distance.
My parents are both now dead; I’m 72.
But that vacation is still ringing in my head.

• “RDC” = Rail Diesel Car. The RDCs were made by Budd Company in Philadelphia. They were a self-propelled passenger coach, powered by two military tank diesels slung under the car-body. The RDC was an effort to replace costly commuter trains powered by locomotives. Often you’d see RDCs in multiple. They weren’t powerful enough to haul a train.

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Conclave of Heathens



Three of the heathens: Tom Eades (left), me (center), and Charlie Gardiner (right). (Photo by Tom Hiltsley [somewhat heathen].)

“I hafta remember to not blurt anything that could be perceived as hateful or snide,” I said; “even to you guys.”
I was attending the 50-year reunion of my college class.
“I hafta lay low,” I said.
50 long years ago, 1966, our class graduated Houghton College (“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”), an evangelical religious college about 75-80 miles south of Rochester.
Our class was labeled the “radicals” who supposedly turned the college around.
Houghton was very strict at that time; I don’t know as it is now.
Like, after us they gave up.
I visited my hairdresser the other day: “Yeah, I know Houghton. It has a nursing-home. I deliver coffee there.”
He delivers coffee for a coffee service.
“Girls weren’t allowed to wear slacks, they weren’t allowed to wear shorts or sleeveless dresses. Makeup and jewelry were verboten. Dancing was ‘of-the-Devil,’ as was television.”
“Wow, I never knew it was like that.”
“Were it not for certain professors, who were in deepest do-do for having televisions, we would have been unable to follow the Kennedy Assassination.
People at the college declared Kennedy had it coming.”
Certain of us were perceived as radicals: me, Tom Eades, and Charlie Gardiner, among others.
We resisted the strictures of the college. We were known first as “Da Cronies.”
Eades and Gardiner patronized bars — I didn’t. My sin was having a bad attitude, and I was strident.
We often got called on the carpet, threatened with dismissal, but they never canned us.
We all got degrees. I was first in my family.
So here we were again, 50 years later, a conclave of heathens.
“What can I say about this?” I kept asking.
Eades gave me the story line. “Hughzey you survived this entire torturous ordeal. Made the whole day without infuriating anyone.”
Eades invited me and Charlie to our Alumni Banquet. Cows had given their lives so we could pig out on steak, prime rib, whatever. Charlie’s was so rare it looked like ham.
The entire day I never felt as out-of-it in my life.
I’m not one of these people. I haven’t attended a church function in 50 years. I’m not a believer.
So why Houghton? It was a compromise with my hyper-religious father, who wanted me to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, like he did.
At that time Moody wasn’t a college, and I wanted a degree.
Furthermore, Moody was an urban school, which I found frightening.
So Houghton it was; and my father was mad as Hell it didn’t “straighten me out.”
But Houghton, for whatever reason, was the first place I found adult authority-figures who valued and solicited my opinions. Instead of automatically branding me “of-the-Devil.”
Nevertheless we heathens set the tone for our class. Cantankerous and ornery.Of-the-Devil, I tell ya!”
And here we were again to sew fear and loathing. Although that ain’t what happened.
They were not judgmental, as they were 50 years ago.
But they get to natter about my failure to clap, sing, close my eyes during prayer, or stand for standing ovations.
I just felt too out-of-it.
At least I managed to not excoriate the college president for shilling for a car-dealer.

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Monthly Calendar-Report for May 2016


Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

—The May 2016 entry in my own calendar is the only passenger-train left across PA, Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian, westbound in this case — there is an eastbound in the morning.
Westbound through Allegheny Crossing is late afternoon.
The mighty Pennsylvania Railroad once had many passenger-trains across PA.
Pennsy is long-gone, although this line is ex-Pennsy.
And Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian is state-sponsored.
If not for that, Amtrak might have no passenger-trains across PA.
Amtrak’s eastbound Broadway Limited years ago atop The Hill in Gallitzin. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
Amtrak’s Broadway Limited from Chicago to New York City once crossed the state, but the Broadway is gone.
Amtrak’s Broadway Limited was Pennsy’s Broadway Limited continued, named after the four-track main across PA, not the street in New York City. Now that main is only two tracks, three over Allegheny Summit.
The picture was taken by my brother at Cassandra Railfan Overlook (“kuh-SANN-druh;” as in the name “Anne”).
That colored text is a link, dudes. Click it with your mouse and your browser goes to a You-Tube video at Cassandra Railfan Overlook.
In my opinion Cassandra Railfan Overlook is even better than Horseshoe Curve. But only because at the Mighty Curve the sun beats down on you unless you snag a picnic-table under a tree.
At Cassandra you’re still trackside, but in shade.
Cassandra is one of many old coal-mining towns out along this line.
The railroad succeeded in PA because of coal.
The railroad first went through Cassandra, but in 1898 a long straight bypass was put in that cut out the many curves approaching and through town.
That bypass entailed a massive rock cut, beyond grading technology when the original railroad was laid down.
There also was a long fill west of the cut toward the town of Portage. The bypass ended in Portage.
Some of the original railroad through Portage still exists as a branch to a coal loadout.
Years ago the highway also went through Cassandra, and got there via a bridge over the bypass just north of the cut.
A bridge remains at that location, and I’ve read various reports that -a) it’s the original highway bridge, and -b) the original highway bridge was replaced by the one that’s there now.
If it’s the original bridge, it’s only one lane, and wide enough to clear a Model-A.
The road grade to it is still visible.
The Cassandra Railfan Overlook bridge. (Photo by BobbaLew with Phil Faudi.)
The bridge is sturdy: a concrete deck with heavy iron truss-work.
And it looks like it’s been raised over the years, perhaps even recently to clear doublestacks.
The bridge was raised by adding to the abutments.
Whatever, the bridge was kept to allow miners from Cassandra to cross over the tracks to coal-mines east of Cassandra.
There is a hillside excavation exposing coal just east of Cassandra.
Railfans started congregating on the bridge to watch Pennsy slug it out up the west slope of Allegheny Mountain.
The west slope is not as steep as the east slope, but still challenging.
The mines closed, but a Cassandra resident noticed railfans still using the bridge.
He started mowing lawn in the area, and brought in benches and old restaurant tables.
“Cassandra Railroad Overlook” was thus born, although I call it “Cassandra Railfan Overlook.”
The guy eventually became mayor of Cassandra.
Se here are my brother and I at Cassandra Railfan Overlook. Others were also there.
My brother and I had our railroad-radio scanners.
“Norfolk Southern milepost 253.1, Track Two, no defects,” the defect-detector just east of the Overlook.
“That’s 07T,” we concluded, Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian. The others started to leave.
“Don’t go yet,” my brother shouted. “Amtrak is coming. It’ll be here in a minute!”
We set up, and the others stayed.
Sure enough, Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian showed up, and we photographed it.
I photographed it too, but my brother’s picture was much better.




GORGEOUS! (Photo by Dan Lyons©.)

—The May 2016 entry in my Tide-mark Classic-Car calendar is a 1959 Corvette.
A ’57 Fuelly. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
It looks pretty good, although I think the ’56 and the ’57 are the best-looking early Corvettes.
For 1958 Corvette’s stylists caved to the sudden requirement for four headlights. The 1959 is essentially the 1958 with less chrome trim.
The motor was phenomenal, but it was still the same old chassis — a sportscar body on Chevy sedan underpinnings.
Enter it in a sportscar race, and you might be able to out-accelerate the Jaguars and Maseratis. But they were more likely to stay on the track than a Corvette.
In 1959 I was in ninth grade. And a friend’s friend bought a white Jaguar XK-E coupe, although that may have been 1961.
Corvette never got around to a decent chassis until 1963.
But Chevrolet’s new V8 of 1955 was a slam-dunk.
And Chevrolet got Borg-Warner to make a four-speed manual transmission.
Even a Corvette with its antediluvian chassis was attractive.
Dreams! (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Mitchell’s trade (note moons). (Photo by BobbaLew.)
A guy at a local store — his name was Mitchell — traded his really nice ’55 Chevy hardtop for a 1958 Corvette.
That ’55 Chevy had been converted to a 283 four-on-the-floor. To me that’s more attractive.
I pictured both cars at left.
But the lighter ’58 ‘Vette would probably beat the ’55 in a straight line.
And I doubt a ’55 Chevy hardtop could keep up with with it over a curvy road.
When Mitchell traded his ’55 Chevy hardtop for that ‘Vette I felt awful. By now both have probably been shredded.
This ’59 ‘Vette is gorgeous; assuming you disregard what it looks like, an over-styled Corvette.
It has that phenomenal V8, what is now called the “SmallBlock.” It probably also has four-on-the-floor.
Even the Big-Block Corvettes of later years get skonked by the new Corvette, which has a heavily dickered SmallBlock.
All through high-school and college I lusted after a ’55 Chevy hardtop along the lines of what Mitchell had. My parents got a 283 PowerGlide ’57 wagon, which tilted me toward the ’55 wagons, but with the SmallBlock four-speed, eventually at 327 cubic-inches.
Now the crate SmallBlocks are 350 cubic-inches. NASCAR limits to 358.




An E-5 Atlantic (4-4-2). (Photo by Bill Price.)

—Proof that Pennsy engines always looked great,  even though what we have here is a teakettle.
The May 2016 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is a Pennsy E-5 Atlantic (4-4-2) in Potomac Yard near Washington D.C. in 1948, ready for duty.
Probably pulling some commuter-train over a spindly branch not up to a heavier engine.
An earlier PRR E-5.

This Pennsy engine has a KW trailing-truck under the firebox-grate.
The engine has been modernized. I picture an earlier E-5 for comparison.
The calendar-engine is still the teakettle boiler, but the running-gear has been updated.
It has piston-valves instead of slide-valves. And the valve-gear is outside Walschaerts instead of inside Stephenson.
It even has a KW trailing-truck, used by Pennsy locomotives since the E-6 Atlantics (also 4-4-2, but with a much larger boiler).
The earlier E-5 pictured is not the KW trailing-truck.
The calendar-engine also has an electric headlight. I think the earlier boxy affair was a kerosene lantern.
An actual-size Pennsy number-plate (this one is plastic).

Pennsy’s E-6 Atlantic, also the KW trailing-truck.
The engine also has a Keystone number-plate.
I don’t know if this is true, but I suspect that Keystone number-plate is industrial-designer Raymond Loewy (“Lo-weee;” is in “low”). Loewy had had been engaged by Pennsy. He also improved the appearance of the GG-1, the greatest railroad locomotive of all time.
Loewy had a penchant for icons, in this case the keystone number-plate.
The E-5 wasn’t much of an engine after the century turned. Pennsy’s pinnacle of Atlantic development was the E-6, a locomotive used Washington D.C. toward New York City.
The E-6s didn’t actually access New York. That was through tubes under the Hudson River that were electrified. Ya couldn’t run steam through a long tunnel. It would asphyxiate the crew.
The E-6s got swapped for electrics at Manhattan Transfer in north Jersey across from New York City.
Pennsy could have developed Pacifics (4-6-2) for the service. But their philosophy at that time was as few driving-axles as possible. Hence the E-6.
At that time what is now the Northeast Corridor wasn’t fully electrified. Full electrification didn’t come until the ‘30s, a New Deal project.
So this teakettle looks great. Especially that Keystone number-plate.
I used to love the appearance of Pennsy’s last steam-locomotives. Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines used both Pennsy and Reading steam-engines.
The first steam-engines I saw were PRSL.
But I preferred Pennsy. I used to look for that red keystone on the front of approaching trains. It signified I’d see a great-looking steam-locomotive.




1932 Ford pickup hotrod. (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—I generally don’t like pickup hotrods.
The May 2016 entry in my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a ’32 Ford pickup, but tastefully done.
The top has been chopped 2&1/2 inches, then the body channeled five. The frame was also Z-ed 11 inches.
“Chopping” means hacking out part of the verticals, like the door-posts and rear window panel, to allow the top to sit lower — in this case 2&1/2 inches.
“Channeling” means fabricating channels in the body floor to allow it to sit lower on the frame-rails. In this case the channels are five inches deep.
“Z-ing the frame” means the frame was cut to reconfigure it. A vertical was welded in, the vertical of the “Z,” so the rear of the truck could be lowered, and permit coil-over suspension with a Posi rear.
“Coil-over suspension” means coil springs wound around tube-type shocks absorbers.
“Posi” is Positraction, a differential that locks a spinning drive-axle and wheel.
A normal differential allows all the power to go to a spinning axle, which makes negotiating snow near impossible. It also offsets a spinning axle in drag-racing.
My Vega had Posi; it would negotiate snow over a foot.
Four-speed, dual-quad, Positraction 409.”
The motor is 383 Chevy with triple Strombergs.
A lot of work is in this truck, mainly getting it to sit right.
At which point the practiced eye of the builder engages.
Z-ing the frame 11 inches is extreme, but that’s what it took to get it to sit right.
Anything less and the back-end sits too high.
It’s probably a trailer-queen, but it looks drivable.
As an old friend said “What fun is a hotrod, if ya can’t drive it?”
I remember seeing he and another guy in an open ’32 Ford roadster hotrod, top-down in 30-degree weather. My friend was the passenger, the other guy was driving.
They were shivering in the cold, but my friend was smiling ear-to-ear.
A nice truck, but I wouldn’t carry manure in it.

(Not very inspiring from here on.)



Transfer into Enola Yard. (Photo courtesy Joe Suo Collection©.)

—The May 2016 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is an M-1 (4-8-2) bringing a transfer from Harrisburg toward Enola (“Aye-NOLE-uh”) across the river.
Mighty Rockville. (Photo by Robert Malinoski.)
It crossed the river on Pennsy’s Rockville Bridge. The current bridge is number-three, and was completed in 1902.
I’ve read it’s stone casing on a concrete interior. It’s almost a mile long (3,820 feet), and can accommodate four tracks.
It would take a direct hit from a thermonuclear warhead to take it out.
(Will the nearby Interstate-81 bridge last as long?)
For years it was four tracks, but now it’s mostly two.
Enola Yard was built by Pennsy because Harrisburg became a bottleneck. The original Pennsy was Harrisburg to Pittsburgh, but became phenomenally successful. Pennsy became a major conduit for trade between the nation’s interior and the east-coast megalopolis. (The other was New York Central.)
The picture was taken in 1950 — I was six.
Pennsy was still using steam, but dieselization was gaining.
Pennsy, a coal-road, wanted to remain steam. Pennsy built post-war steam-locomotives that were successful — some weren’t. But dieselization was extremely well-suited for railroading.
Drive-torque was constant, unlike a side-rod steam-locomotive. And diesels didn’t hammer the rail with piston thrusts and rod weight.
Diesels were also much easier to use. All they needed was fuel, which unlike coal was liquid.
Steamers needed water as well as coal, requiring trackside water-towers and coal docks.
The pressure for dieselization was intense. Even coal-roads like Pennsy and Norfolk & Western had to dieselize.
Steam-engines also require heavy maintenance. Every few years a steam-engine has to be completely inspected and overhauled. A boiler can explode, and the rods and valve-gear are thrashing themselves apart.
The picture is not extraordinary. A westbound freight is also visible leaving the yard at right.
But that’s how it was on Pennsy.
And that M-1 pictured was the best steam-locomotive Pennsy ever had, and it’s from the ‘20s.
Diesel finally conquered steam on Pennsy in late 1957.




Another biplane. (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—And one I’m not familiar with.
The May 2016 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is a Bücker Bü 133 Jungmeister.
I can’t imagine being thrilled seeing one of these things fly. Not like a Mustang, a Corsair, or a P-38 Lightning. And also the Grumman Bearcat, a hotrod if there ever was one.
Although apparently the Jungmeister excelled at aerobatics.
I watched a Bearcat fly once. It was as thrilling as a Mustang. It seemed as agile. 2,100 horsepower in a tiny airframe.
The Jungmeister is not on my WWII warbirds site.
I hafta let Wikipedia weigh in, and even that ain’t much:
“The Bücker Bü 133 Jungmeister (Young master) was an advanced trainer of the Luftwaffe in the ‘30s. It was a single-engine, single-seat biplane of wood and tubular steel construction, covered with fabric.
The Bü 133 was a development of the Bücker Bü 131 Jungmann two-seat basic trainer. First flown in 1935 by Luise Hoffmann, the first female works pilot in Germany.
It was slightly smaller than the Bü 131. The prototype, D-EVEO, was powered by a 140 horsepower Hirth HM506 inverted, air-cooled inline-6 engine.
The main production type had the 160 horsepower Siemens-Bramo Sh 14A radial. The Bü 133C had a distinctive cowling and a 5.1 inch shorter fuselage. It had the same fine aerobatic performance as the Bü 133A.
The Bü 133C racked up numerous victories in international aerobatic competition, and by 1938 was the Luftwaffe's standard advanced trainer.
At the Brussels meet that year, a three-man Luftwaffe team made a strong impression on Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring, who ordered a nine-man team be formed. It dazzled crowds at the International Flying meet in Brussels the next year.
The Jungmeister design remained competitive in international aerobatic competition into the ‘60s.”
Sorry, but the hardest part in blabbering about this airplane is the “ü” character with the double dots.
There may already be a way of doing that with this standard Apple keyboard, or maybe I hafta hit the app-store to add to my font collection.
I haven’t bothered. My use of weird characters is so infrequent I just steal ‘em from Wiki, Google, whatever, and put ‘em in my weird character file. From that I copy/paste.
My dotted-u (ü) came from Wagner’s “Die Walküre.”
Not as fast as having them as an app, or whatever, but my need is too infrequent.
The Bü 133 became the Luftwaffe’s advanced trainer, but I can’t imagine easily transferring to a Messerschmitt.
Perhaps there was an intermediate step, like North-American’s Texan trainer.




A disaster. (Photo by Sabrina Butcher.)

—Spring has sprung, political correctness, etc., etc.
The May 2016 entry of my Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar is a photograph by Sabrina Butcher.
I’d be embarrassed.
The train is lost in shrubbery.
I think of another photograph by a woman.
I wish I could get it; it’s extraordinary.
It was a southbound Norfolk Southern freight skirting Lake Pontchartrain toward New Orleans.
She took it with her Smartphone.
They used it as a cover for the Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar a couple years ago.
Compared to that this calendar-picture is a disaster.
It’s that one branch more than anything. It comes out of the left and obscures the locomotive cab.
Take out that branch and the picture would be acceptable.
In Letchworth Gorge with a Smartphone. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

The barcode engine. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)
I’ve used Smartphone pictures in this blog myself. Smartphone pictures are pretty good. The picture at left is a Smartphone picture.
The only trouble is my camera is easier to use.
I saw a lady in Letchworth trying to take the same picture with her iPad.
1101 is an EMD SD70-ACe, 4,300 horsepower, AC traction-motors.
My brother got #1111, also an SD70-ACe, the so-called “barcode engine.”
This is railroad photography. It zeroes in on the locomotive. There’s drama and excitement.
My goal as a railfan photographer is to portray that.
Okay, it’s a train, but the locomotive is obscured by a branch.
The caption says the locomotive is framed.
It’s not.
It’s partially obscured by that branch.






—Another Sting-Ray.
The May 2016 entry in my Jerry Powell “Classic-Car” calendar is a Corvette Sting-Ray coupe. No idea what year — it’s not indicated — probably a 327 SmallBlock.
Many years ago, while in college in the middle ‘60s, I hitchhiked a ride in a Corvette Sting-Ray coupe, probably ’64 or ’65, not a Split-Window, which was 1963.
What a downer! I felt like I was riding in a barrel. Behind the seats was open to the rear of the car. That was to load luggage between the seats.
There was no trunklid. Not too practical. Luggage had to go between the seats, and ricocheted behind the seats once loaded.
The first thing I did was look for the steering-wheel. It’s on the left — at least they didn’t flop the picture, as they’ve done in the past.
And surely the Corvette experts would know what year it is by the venting on the front-fender sides. I’m not a Corvette expert. And the ‘Vette I prefer is the roadster.
Although that didn’t have a trunklid either.
What keeps a suitcase from rattling around the trunk?
Although that would be the case in a car with a trunklid.
But in a Corvette yer gonna hear it.
Strafe a corner, and yer suitcase clobbers the sidewall of the trunk.
Stab the brakes and yer suitcase hits yer seat.
I hope to own a Sting-Ray ‘Vette some day. 327 four-speed.
But it will be a roadster.

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