Friday, August 26, 2016

Guile and cunning

9:11 p.m.
“Looks like I may actually get to bed at a decent hour,” I said to myself.
“Wait just one cotton-pickin’ minute!” I said. “This Escape mileage spreadsheet is wonky. What happened to the chart?”
How come every time getting to bed early seems doable, I get a stinking ‘pyooter hairball?
The Escape is my 2012 Ford Escape. I keep track of its mileage on a spreadsheet.
It’s only two rows: date-of-gas-purchase, and mileage, which I figure on my calculator.
I know I could have my spreadsheet be the calculator. Four rows: date purchased, miles since last purchased, gallons, and calculated mileage in the bottom row.
I could write a formula dividing miles by gallons to get the mileage.
But I got better things to do than figger out a formula. Zippity-do. Engage calculator, my iPhone.
My mileage spreadsheet is Apple’s “Numbers,” Apple’s competition to Microsoft Excel®.
My other spreadsheets are Excel-for-MAC. My knowledge of Excel is better than Numbers.
The main thing is Numbers lets me easily do a line-chart: mileage over the year.
Excel will make charts too, but not as easily as Numbers, or so it seems. I hafta keep what I do within my limited computer-savvy.
Plus my Excel charts weren’t useful, so I tossed ‘em.
So something strange and unknowable happened to my Numbers mileage chart.
What to do here?
Down-and-dirty time.
ENGAGE GUILE-AND-CUNNING!
I dickered the erroneous chart. It looked like it compressed into a vertical row of traffic-lights at the beginning.
I tried expanding; nothing.
I never had no manual; I have no idea how to do anything!
So how can I salvage all the info in those two rows and not lose it?
Maybe I can copy it all and save into a new Numbers spreadsheet, and then make a new chart on that.
Two ways:
—Copy both entire rows; not needed.
—Copy just the info in those rows.
Then PASTE clipboard contents into a new spreadsheet.
Of course, my new spreadsheet has 89 bazilyun rows I don’t need. I only need two.
I tried “delete,” but it only deleted one row at a time.
What a pain!
Then I noticed “delete rows;” I ended up with only my two rows.
But wait a minute. My rows end at June 6th. Where’s July and August?
How do I work around that? Maybe I could copy/paste from June 6th on.
Then I noticed my new spreadsheet could expand.
I took it out to more columns than August.
Meanwhile, I used “Command-X” to copy my earlier content, which emptied my erroneous spreadsheet. Which I trashed because my new spreadsheet had the content — but only to June 6th.
Bad mistake. I needed to copy all the content in my earlier spreadsheet, and its rows were now empty.
Drag erroneous spreadsheet back out of trash, but the rows are empty.
Last resort: “Edit” in the menu bar. “Undo” the “Command-X” = put all the info back.
It restored the content, but I didn’t know that until I happened to scroll back to the beginning of the erroneous spreadsheet.
Unbelievable! I’m snatching redemption from the jaws of fate.
“Copy” restored content, “paste” into new spreadsheet, generate chart, and toss erroneous spreadsheet.
10:06; not too bad.
And I no longer have my computer-programmer wife around to hold my hand. She died over four years ago.

• My computer is an Apple MacBook Pro; supposedly “of-the-Devil” to my Windoze siblings.

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Monday, August 22, 2016

Alumni picnic

Another Alumni picnic recedes into the filmy past.
The “Alumni” are retirees of Regional Transit Service (RTS), a public supplier of transit bus-service in Rochester (NY) and environs.
The Alumni are a club affiliated with Local 282 of the nationwide Amalgamated Transit Union.
282 is our union at Regional Transit.
For 16&1/2 years Yr Fthfl Srvnt drove bus for Regional Transit.
It was supposed to be temporary while I continued searching for employ as a word-slinger (writer).
But I stayed with it. The pay was pretty good, and I enjoyed getting the hang of driving large vehicles.
As a driver I was pretty much on-my-own, free of office politics.
If anything memorable occurred at this shindig it was toward the end, when fellow college graduate Dominick Zarcone (pronounced exactly as spelled: “Zar-KONE;” as in “cone”), who had just retired, told me I was the atheist he loved most.
“Wait one cotton-pickin’ minute,” I said.
“‘Atheist’ no; the word you want is ‘agnostic.’”
We discussed that, and then he said “If you wanna become Catholic (he’s Catholic), call me up.”
“Catholic for you, tub-thumping Baptist for Chip Walker, Latter-Day Saints for Harriman, Jehovah’s Witlesses for a guy I knew at the newspaper.
How come you guys never tried to convert thugs? Ronnie Culp, or George Weber. Two hulking bar-bouncers hot to bust heads.
No, yer always after me — the guy who listened instead of telling you to buzz off.
A Liberal (Gasp!), unable to pass judgment, lest you say something that might answer questions.”
Zarcone turned toward his car.
Zarcone and I were always friends, a devout Christian versus an agnostic.
He’s younger than me, but hired on right after me.
I had a stroke after 16&1/2 years, in 1993, which ended my bus-driving.
Zarcone completed 39 years; a lifetime of bus-driving.
I was tiring of it: our clientele, and also the idiot fat-cats that ran Transit.
You have to be a people-person, which Zarcone was.
He also could speak multiple languages, so people wondered why he drove bus.
He could gush love on his passengers, and witness to them.
I tried to be helpful, but could be a jerk if necessary. If a blowhard became angry, I’d say “suit yourself,” for which he paid dearly.
Zarcone might shower the guy with more love.
I did that too: my “guile-and-cunning” strategy. I ain’t Attila the Hun; threats of violence or the Police never worked.
Push too hard and yer liable to get shot.
So my stroke pushed me toward the BEST job I ever had, working for a newspaper in nearby Canandaigua (“cannon-DAY-gwuh”), The Daily Messenger.
My post-stroke rehabers wanted to get my job back driving bus, but I wasn’t interested.
Bus-driving woulda paid much more, but the Messenger was fun.
Word-slinger at last.

Dominick continued driving bus, relishing every day.
He also become a union official. Transit managers found themselves dealing with someone more intelligent than them.
I used to want Dominick to become president of our Local, but mainly to be a spokesman for Rochester labor.
The camera would have loved him; always smiling.
Rochester labor has a spokesman of sorts, the president of the local teachers’ union.
But he comes across like a Gestapo agent. Does he ever smile?
So now finally Dominick is retired; he can attend Alumni meetings.
But to my mind the Alumni is faltering. Our previous sparkplug died years ago, and our current president recently died.
So now the sparkplug is our Financial Secretary, who puts out a newsletter and organizes things.
At this picnic perhaps 10-15 were outside, and another 10 were inside the lodge. Contrast that with how many attended previous picnics.
And I always feel out-of-it, like not one of them. Bus-drivers are loud and assertive, which I’m not.
I had to be assertive to drive bus — it did wonders for my self-confidence.
But much as they always welcome me, I feel I don’t fit.

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Sunday, August 21, 2016

Alone this time

Yrs Trly visited Allegheny Crossing near Altoona (PA) alone this time.
My brother-from-Boston was unable to come. He had other commitments.
He could have come later, but that was inconvenient for me.
The number of appointments I have seems to have ballooned with increasing age: retiree picnics, and especially medical and rehab appointments.
I had to reschedule just to make this trip; and rehab waits until next week.
I’ll get right to it, mentioning I had two hairballs:
—1) I forgot my hairbrush and comb.
Not a problem; I always leave saying “what did I forget this time?”
I’ve made this trip so many times I rarely forget anything, but I hafta work things just so.
—2) My railroad-radio scanner had given up.
It has a rechargeable battery, and would not hold a charge, or charge, whatever.
Plugged in it worked, but not away from a plug — like trackside.
This is serious; my scanner tells me if I should wait for a train.
Fortunately the railroad is busy enough to not have to wait too long.
But without my scanner I couldn’t tell if one was coming. It was sit and wait, sometimes over an hour.
Nor could I identify a train that passed — the engineers call out the train-number as they pass a wayside signal.



I only have two photographs from my first day, the afternoon after I arrived:


Stacker down One at The Mighty Curve.

One is at Horseshoe Curve, down near the parking-lot, with the railroad up on the mountainsides.


Out of the tunnel atop the mountain.

The other is at Gallitzin (“guh-LIT-zin;” as is “get”), where the railroad tunneled the top of the mountain.
The two lead locomotives are a helper-set.
It was cloudy with occasional rain.



The next day, Thursday August 18th, was sunny = much better for photography.
So my chase began; although it wasn’t much without a scanner.


A CHEAT-SHOT; it’s actually the helper-set on the rear of a train down One (left-to-right).

(This location only works with trains on One.)
Off to Gallitzin, noon-to-2 p.m. light, the only time it works.


Shaddup and shoot! (Eastbound on Two).


Westbound stacker exits tunnel on Three.

Now up north (railroad-east) toward Tyrone (“tie-ROWN;” as in “own”).
Trains have to be westbound into afternoon sun.
My brother and I wanted to try the old Route 220 bridge near Tyrone.
It’s fenced (chainlink) looking west, but not on the east side.
Major problem; to shoot here ya hafta stand right next to the traffic-lane. Cars zipping by at 40-50 mph. One pedal-to-the-metal dude blasted by doin’ about 60-65.
I tried, but it made me nervous.
I walked back down, but got the following pik of solid empty auto-racks. Returning for more fodder for the junkyard behind — is there ever an auto junkyard that doesn’t back up to railroad tracks? How many times have I viewed glittering wrecks from trains?


Solid empty auto-racks. (Photo by Chicken-man.)

It’s probably 11J; seen it before. One unit is usually enough.
Now, up to Plummers Crossing, just east of Tyrone.
Tyrone is where the railroad turned east toward Harrisburg, through a notch in the mountains.
Plummers Crossing is where a private road crosses the tracks. No gates, no flashing lights. Look both ways before crossing.
I been tryin’ to get a westbound at Plummers for years.
The railroad wiggles back-and-forth through the notch, and a signal-bridge is before the crossing. It’s in my pictures.
A picture has to be 4-5 p.m. light, and to get that signal-bridge is telephoto.


Westbound stacker approaches Plummers.

Finally got it, and a second picture was Amtrak’s 07T, its westbound Pennsylvanian.


Westbound Pennsylvanian approaches Plummers.

07T at Plummers is a calendar-pik; my calendar is becoming Amtrak.
Anything from now on is not a requirement.
I finally got my Plummers.
But it’s late afternoon. Trains hafta be westbound into the sun.
I drove to McFarlands Curve, where an old Pennsy signal-bridge is over the tracks.
But I had to shoot the other direction.
The signal-bridge silhouettes the sky, and frames an eastbound.
The only way I know works is cloudy;  I haven’t tried morning sunlight yet.
So what I have is the eastern approach to McFarlands Curve.
A local with GP40-2 power came past Plummers as I left, and I beat it to McFarlands.


Small local on the controlled-siding at McFarlands.

But just barely.
I didn’t have time to set up my tripod.
So it’s handheld telephoto. The local is on the controlled siding returning to Altoona.
Amazingly it worked. Steady as a rock! A probable calendar pik.


Eastbound passes McFarlands.

Later an eastbound roared past. But all I could shoot was it going away.
(I’m trying to repeat a picture I took in Lilly once. SD80-MACs looking very imposing.)
I drove to the tiny village of Fostoria.
Final attempt.
In Fostoria there is another old Pennsy signal-bridge with six targets.
Sit and wait.
After a half-hour I left. By then a train woulda been dodging shadows.



The best thing is I managed this entire sojourn without falling. Not even once.
Dreadful footing (rock ballast) combined with lousy balance. I hafta pay attention.
I lost my balance once, but caught my fall = hooked a railing with my arm.

• All photos are by BobbaLew.

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Saturday, August 13, 2016

Talking pants pocket

“Bob?”
NOW WHAT?!
A semi-familiar voice was emanating loudly from my right-rear pants pocket.
Must be my cellphone, which I keep in that pocket.
Seconds ago I hung up a call from Urology Associates of Rochester, which I fielded a half-hour earlier, because wondrous technology decided I never hung up — like I didn’t swipe the hang-up icon hard enough.
I guess — ya never know with these things.
At which point Urology Associates of Rochester kept blabbering their introductory recording at me.
Which I finally stopped a half-hour later when I heard it from my pants pocket.
“Are you all right?”
My caller-ID said it was Cheryl Anne Brewer, my aquatic-therapy coach at the YMCA.
“This one a’ them butt calls?” I asked.
I never called Cheryl Anne, or at least didn’t intend to.
Cheryl Anne had just e-mailed a response to my e-mail about future appointments.
Her card had appointments scheduled next week, when I had appointments galore, and was also gonna be outta-town.
Regrettably I wouldn’t be able to continue therapy until the following week. Her e-mail rescheduled to that.
So now, to her, my butt call seemed follow-up to her e-mail.
I guess I don’t have the proper attitude. I consider things like this to be foul-ups instead of blessings.
I hope Cheryl Anne doesn’t think I’m crazy, although at my age I suppose that’s plausible.
Part of it is the sheer madness my iPhone keeps lobbing at me. I guess I’m from the wrong generation.
So how did I inadvertently call Cheryl Anne?
Butt calls are history, or so it seems.
I decided I never put my phone to sleep before putting it back in my pocket.
It was on “recent calls,” one of which was Cheryl Anne.
So if I breathed on it — whatever — it could call Cheryl Anne while inserting in my pants pocket.

• Almost a year ago I had a complete knee replacement, and it seems my balance has degraded since — or before. We started aquatic therapy (in the YMCA pool) about two weeks ago, hoping to reverse that.

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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Monthly Calendar-Report for August 2016


Shaddup and shoot! (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

— “Just shaddup and shoot!”
That’s the philosophy I always propound, and my brother was practicing it despite my counsel to the contrary.
The August 2016 entry of my own calendar is Train 12G on Track One in Portage, PA.
We were next to the abandoned trailer trackside in Portage, and were setting up to shoot the other direction.
I was setting up my tripod and big telephoto.
In Portage the railroad diverges onto a bypass built in 1898. We were going to shoot westbounds curving off that bypass.
The bypass took out many torturous curves, and included grading that couldn’t be cheaply done when the railroad was originally laid down; mainly a long fill and a gigantic rock cut.
Much of the original railroad still exists, since it passes what was once a coal-mine outside Portage, but is now just a loadout.
The main now bypasses the loadout. It also bypasses the tiny village of Cassandra (“kuh-SANN-druh;” as in the name “Anne”). It used to go through.
Cassandra is the location of Cassandra Railroad Overlook next to the rock cut.
I told my brother this direction was a waste because about 100 yards back Track One is obscured by trees.
So here comes 12G east on Track One.
My brother shot anyway. “Just shaddup and shoot!”
Fortunately he waited until the locomotives were past the trees.
I noticed that night; we were poring through his pictures.
“That’s a calendar shot,” I exclaimed.
It was taken in October, not August. My Post-Office lady noticed. My Post-Office uses my calendar.
“Look at that tree,” she said.
9862 is a General-Electric Dash 9-44CW, and I think 12G is mixed freight. I can’t tell for sure because the trailing cars are obscured by trees.
“Just shaddup and shoot, ya never know what ya’ll get. It may be extraordinary.”




Whistling Death! (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—Photographer Makanna does it again!
The August 2016 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is a Chance Vought F4U Corsair, one of two Navy fighter-planes that beat the Japanese in the Pacific Theater.
The other was the Grumman F6F Hellcat.
What we see here is the view most feared by a Japanese fighter-pilot, a Corsair on your tail with machine-guns blazing.
The Japanese nicknamed it “Whistling Death” because of the sound it made.
Every time I go to a classic warbirds show there are two planes I wanna see: a P-51 Mustang, and the F4U Corsair, hopefully with a four-bladed propeller.
I haven’t seen a four-bladed Corsair yet. Most Corsairs are three-blade. Four is a hotrod Corsair, it could be the Pratt and Whitney R-2800 Double Wasp radial at 2,400 horsepower.
Three-blade Corsairs were also the Double Wasp, but not 2,400 horsepower.
There even was a Corsair with the 28-cylinder Corncob engine, 3,000 horsepower or more. So four-bladed may be only that.
The Corsair has the signature bent wing.
At 14 feet diameter the propeller was so large it could hit the deck. That wing drop was Chance Vought’s el-cheapo fix.
Corsairs could operate from an aircraft-carrier because they had a tailhook that snagged a cable that kept the airplane from rollout into the sea.
In 1951, at age seven, my Cub Scout troop visited Willow Grove Naval Air Station outside Philadelphia.
A fighter-jock strode out to practice tailhook landings in a Corsair. A tailhook cable had been strung across the runway.
He mounted the cockpit to fire up the engine. Giant sheets of yellow flame cascaded down the fuselage.
“Won’t it catch fire?” I fearfully asked.
Our guide laughed.
Soon the Corsair was roaring over our heads.
That’s goin’ to my grave, dear readers.




PACKARD! (Photo by Dan Lyons©.)

—The August 2016 entry in my Tide-mark Classic-Car calendar is a 1956 Packard 400 two-door hardtop.
Sadly, Packard’s ascendency as a premier luxury-car was drawing to a close. 1956 would be the final year for standalone Packards.
My paternal grandfather thought the world of Packard. He always wanted one, and finally got one after WWII.
But it was an el-cheapo Packard, a small six-inline sedan, 1937 or ’38.
He had to convert it into a truck for his tile business. He set ceramic tile on walls and floors.
When the addition was built into our first house, my father and grandfather set the tile in the new downstairs bathroom.
At that time tile was set in mortar on steel mesh on walls — I don’t know about floors.
My grandfather had to remove the rear seat of his Packard so he could carry tile, etc.
My sister and I, both about age-three or four, rode to the south Jersey seashore in that Packard, sitting on orange-crates. One time a thunderstorm occurred, and the windshield-wipers stopped working, as vacuum-powered wipers often did = not electric.
“FATHER STOP! WE CAN’T SEE.” my grandmother yelled. That’s goin’ to my grave too.
By 1956 automotive styling had moved away from the vertical waterfall grille that defined Packard.
In fact, the 1956 model is the new 1951 Packard re-engineered quite a bit, as was the ’55. Packard couldn’t afford a completely new model.
The top of the grille mimics the top skirl of earlier Packards.
After WWII the Big Three moved quickly ahead.
Because of new overhead-valve V8s from Cadillac and Oldsmobile, Packard also had to engineer a new V8.
Plus automatic transmission, although it may have been purchased from an outside supplier.
This ’56 Packard has the WrapAround windshield very much in vogue at that time.
But Packard was playing catch-up.
Packard had to merge with Studebaker, another independent. For 1957 Packard became a variation of Studebaker’s Hawk line.
It was an ignominious end for what was once a grand car.
I like this photograph. A ’56 Packard is sort of a downer, but here it looks pretty good.
When I was in seventh grade a girl’s parents had a white ’56 Packard.
A nice car, but I lusted more after the girl.
I would prefer a ’56 Chevrolet with its new V8.

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



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

—The August 2016 entry in my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a hot-rodded 1930 Model-A five-window coupe.
It could be said hot-rodding began before WWII; people were modifying Model-T Fords for racing and speed-trials on southern California’s vast dry-lakes. —Even the four-cylinder Model-T engine.
But after WWII hot-rodding found full flower. A huge supply of surplus bitsa and fittings was available on the west coast. Plus favorable weather.
What’s pictured above is how it began. Old Henry’s great-looking Model-A and ’32 Fords turned into hotrods.
The motor of choice was Old Henry’s FlatHead V8 from 1932 on; his refusal to build a six.
Even the stock FlatHead was sprightly, plus it responded well to “suping.”
“Suping” not “souping,” I’ve learned. “Suping” like “supering.”
The Flatty in the calendar is a bit overwrought; it has a S.C.O.T. supercharger.
Most suped Flattys from that time weren’t supercharged. Usually multiple carbs and aluminum high-compression cylinder-heads.
Inside was a re-contoured camshaft to make the engine breathe better by keeping the valves open longer.
Do that and you get racing performance — offset by poor idle.
Many Ford FlatHeads were around. They were dirt cheap.
Chevrolet’s new V8 of 1955 put the Flatty out to pasture. They were also dirt cheap, and responded well to hot-rodding.
Look carefully and you’ll see the main detriment of a Flatty, that it only has three exhaust ports per side.
The two center cylinders share a single exhaust port: three exhaust ports for four cylinders.
Beyond that, exhaust was routed through the block, which prompted overheating.
Chevy’s V8 had four exhaust ports per side, and the short exhaust passages were in the head.
Plus the Chevy was overhead-valve, which allowed a much tighter and better-shaped combustion-chamber.
The Flatty was about as sophisticated as a Briggs & Stratton lawnmower engine.
Despite all that Ford’s Flathead was the earliest choice for hot-rodders. Flattys were available, dirt-cheap, and responded well to backyard tinkering.
So what we see here is a representation of early hot-rodding: late ‘40s and early ‘50s.
But I wonder if the car is drivable.
The top has been chopped five inches — your head would hit the roof.
Years ago I saw a ‘70s Chevy pickup with a 10-inch top chop. The windows were gun-slits.
The body has also been channelled; seven inches in front, to five in the rear, so it would sit lower on the frame.
It looks butch, but where does that leave the driver?
Probably sitting on the floor!
A Flatty in a 1949 Ford custom; it had Offy high-compression aluminum cylinder-heads. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
At least it’s a Flatty, not a Chevy.
Although given the choice I’d take the Chevy.
A friend had the ’49 Ford pictured at left. It had the original FlatHead V8, although dickered a bit, like the Offy heads pictured.
Doing over 20 miles to my house, to fiddle the steering, it overheated, and puked antifreeze all over the road.
The calendar car also has period tires, bias-ply available at that time.
Tires are much better due to radial construction, and you can get ‘em as bias lookalikes.
A nice looking hotrod, but a three-inch top chop would be better.




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

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


At the Mighty Curve today. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

What a place! a grand amphitheater with its viewing area right in the apex.
Trains rounding the Curve are right in your face.
Fortunately railfans are taking care of it.
Pennsy did, although its steam-engines kept the shrubbery down with their ash.
Norfolk Southern let the place re-foliate, so it was no longer possible to view the Mighty Curve in entirety.
Recently railfans took down most of the foliage. The Curve returned, a majestic view in the Allegheny highlands.
With trains galore; a railfan delight.
This picture is a daily scheduled merchandise freight from Chicago to Altoona, The Reliable.
It rated EMD F-units, the most reliable early diesels.
Pennsy couldn’t get many. Their demand for diesels was so large EMD couldn’t fill it.
Lookit the picture readers. The two westbound tracks, uphill, are white with sand. Eastbound, down, aren’t.
Locomotives sand the railheads to keep from slipping.




Like father, like son. (Photo by Ryan Thoman.)

—The August 2016 entry in Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar is a Norfolk Southern mixed freight coming through Columbia, PA.
It’s passing the Bachmann & Forry Tobacco warehouse built in the 1890s.
I’ve never able to make sense of Pennsy in southeastern PA, from Philadelphia west to the Susquehanna.
As originally built Pennsy was from Harrisburg west after crossing the Susquehanna north of Harrisburg.
If I am correct Columbia, south of Harrisburg, was the destination of the first railroad west out of Philadelphia. It had to include an inclined plane to get out of Philadelphia.
Columbia was where the cross-state canal system began, part of the State Public Works System, meant to compete with NY’s Erie Canal.
That railroad from Philadelphia was incorporated into Public Works, and railroad was also needed to portage Allegheny Mountain, which could couldn’t be canaled.
That railroad also needed inclined planes — see Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar entry above.
Pennsy was so much better it put Public Works out of business. Public Works was abandoned and sold to Pennsy for peanuts.
Pennsy railroaded upriver from Columbia to Harrisburg. Pennsy became so successful Harrisburg became a bottleneck.
They built Enola Yard (“ay-NOLE-uh;” as in “hey”) in 1905, across the river to take pressure off Harrisburg.
I did some Google-Map satellite-view research, and it looks like a line to Enola left the Pennsy main west of Parkesberg (“parks-burg;” not “parkers-burg”) south of Gap, PA.
That line looks abandoned, but eventually merged with the river near Safe Harbor, then crossed on a bridge upriver near Locust Grove.
That allowed freights to avoid Gap with its sharp curves and elevation. It also put freights into Enola instead of Harrisburg.
I don’t feel sure about any of this.
Two railroad lines thread Columbia: one is Amtrak’s ex-Pennsy main, and the second is a line paralleling the Susquehanna down to Perryville, MD, where it junctions Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
It looks like this train might be on that river line through Columbia, which is now Norfolk Southern and no longer electrified.
That river line is also used to get Norfolk Southern crude-oil trains to northern DE via the Corridor.
Which might explain why the rail doesn’t look very heavy. Crude-oil tankcars aren’t 120-ton coal gondolas.
RE: “Like father, like son....” Apparently Ryan Thoman is the railroad conductor son of another Norfolk Southern employee who had Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar entries in the past.
That father advised his son about photography — my brother and I do that; we work off each other.
I’m not that impressed with this photograph. The light is good, but the angle of the locomotive I find too steep. The warehouse was a good choice, but stand back, with more telephoto. The face of the engine should not overpower the picture.
It may be the best he could do. Stand back and you lose the warehouse, especially that name.
It’s a picture I’d try, but probably toss aside.




STANDARDIZATION. (Photo by John Dziobko.)

—The August 2016 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is a Pennsy L-1 Mikado (2-8-2) shuffling light through Altoona’s yard.
What’s important here is the L-1 is the same boiler and firebox as the famous Pennsy K-4 Pacific (4-6-2).
Pennsy did that, especially after the turn of the century — same boiler and firebox for different wheel-arrangements.
The boiler/firebox used on H-8 through H-10 Consolidations (2-8-0) was also used on G-5 Ten-Wheeler (4-6-0) and the E-6 Atlantic (4-4-2).
The boiler/firebox on the K-4 Pacific (4-6-2) was also used on the L-1 Mikado (pictured above) freight locomotive (2-8-2).
The gigantic boiler/firebox of the I-1 Decapod (2-10-0) was also used in a K-5 Pacific (4-6-2), although only two were built, because they weren’t very successful — too slippery = not enough drivers for how powerful they were.
The M-1 Mountain (4-8-2) had the boiler/firebox of the Decapod, but with a long combustion-chamber added.
The M-1 was successful, but more a cruiser than a dragger.
The Middle Division of Pennsy across PA was a long uphill grade, but only slight.
Couple a merchandise freight to an M-1 on the Middle Division, and it could maintain 40-50 mph the entire way.
M-1s weren’t suited for drag freight, like a heavy coal train.
For that the Dek was great, or difficult climbs up steep hills.
The greatest challenge on Pennsy was Allegheny Mountain; for that you need as many drivers as you could get = the Dek.
Part of the engine weight of an M-1 is on pilot and trailing trucks — great for 50 mph and getting that firebox behind the drivers.
If the firebox is atop the drivers, bigger drivers confine the firebox.
Put the firebox behind the drivers, and you can have larger drivers.
Cruisers need large drivers; the M-1 is 72 inches diameter, that’s six feet.
A Decapod is 62 inches — I’ve seen smaller, mere pie-plates.
Drag engines need small drivers.
Passenger engines ran 79-80 inches — even as large as 84.
The M-1 was sort of a dual-purpose locomotive.
I don’t know how successful the L-1 was. It was the next step in freight-locomotive development after the 2-8-0.
But most railroads lacked an Allegheny Mountain. Many had long flats where a cruiser could get rollin’.
Pennsy had that west of PA. They had a 2-10-2 Santa Fe locomotive that rarely worked in PA.
What was happening was Pennsy developed its own steam locomotives. Usually Baldwin or Alco turned out a one-off experimental, which railroads ordered more of, or similar.
Pennsy, and Norfolk & Western, were special cases. Both had stiff mainline grades. And both were large enough to develop their own steam locomotives specific to usage.
Pennsy believed in standardization: different wheel arrangements using the same boiler/firebox.
Look hard at the L-1 pictured and you see a K-4 behind that circular number-plate.
On Pennsy freight locomotives had the black circular number-plate. Only passenger engines had the red keystone.
The L-1 also has footboards up front, and an air-tank on the pilot.
This K-4, stored unserviceable outside at Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, has the “beauty-treatment” and cast pilot. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
But both the K-4 and the L-1 got the front-end “beauty-treatment.” Locations of the headlight and generator were reversed.
Before the beauty-treatment, the headlight was on the smokebox front. The beauty-treatment put the generator where the headlight was, and the headlight atop the smokebox ahead of the stack.
A platform was also installed to ease working on the generator — in this case atop that air-tank.
In my opinion before the beauty-treatment looked better.
The K-4 also got a heavy cast-steel pilot with drop-coupler that replaced the famous slatted pilot.




Lambo! (Actually it’s a Maser; see parentheses at end.)

—The August 2016 entry in my Jerry Powell “Classic-Car” calendar is a Lamborghini (“lam-bor-GEE-nee;” as in “get”).
That is, I think it’s a Lamborghini; it’s not identified.
I did a lot of research, but I can’t find a Lambo that looks like this car.
It may be something else; Italian probably, but not a Ferrari.
Take over, car-guys. What is it? I humblee bow the yer superior knowledge.
Lamborghini made a two-seater grand touring car like this in the late ‘60s or early ‘70s. It had V12 power I think.
Lamborghini came about in 1963 due to Ferruccio Lamborghini’s anger at being dissed by “il Commendatore,” Enzo Ferrari.
Lamborghini manufactured farm-tractors, but decided to pay Enzo back.
There was a major difference. Enzo considered his road cars support of his passion for racing.
Lamborghini thought racing would defuse his passion for super road cars.
Lamborghini was at first one of many Italian supercar manufacturers.
Probably a Lamborghini 350GT.
Miura.
Countach!
1967 Bizzarini 5300 GT.
The first Lambo I remember is a front-engine rear-drive 350 then 400 grand-touring car, powered by a V12.
Competition for Ferrari.
Later came the Miura, a mid-engine V12.
Later still was the outrageous Countach (“coon-TOSH”).
Lamborghini continued to exist, outliving supercar manufacturers like Bizzarini, whose 5300GT had a Corvette drivetrain.
But Lambo had various owners, and is now part of VW Group under Audi (“ow-dee”).
Lamborghini also went through receivership for a while.
Its cars get more outrageous, totally unfit as daily drivers.
Capable of 200 mph, but where do you drive 200 mph?
They’ve turned into a badge of wretched excess — mega-rich Don Juans obsessed with showing off their wealth.
Enough said about Lamborghini. I wish I knew that’s what this is.

(My brother-in-Boston says “Maserati Ghibli” (pronounced “jee-blee”).
He’s right.
I thought “Ghibli” at first, but forgot Maserati. Thinking it a Lamborghini Ghibli.)

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

“No glitches yet”

“Please tell us more about why you gave this ‘excellent’ rating,” the survey asked.
“No glitches yet,” I answered.
Yrs Trly does online banking.
When I went to log out, the bank showered me with a bothersome survey similar to what I often get.
I’m pleased, so decided to do their survey.
“Please tell us how we can improve our features.”
“The only reason I didn’t click ‘excellent’ for ‘mobile-deposit’ is because I had to figger it out.
Now it’s excellent = saves going to the bank.”
“What functionality would you most like to see added to our online/mobile banking solution?”
(The old newspaper employee in me would reword that: “What function would you most like to see added to our online/mobile banking?”)
“Nothing, so far.
All I wanna do is pay bills and deposit checks = avoid writing and mailing checks to pay bills, and going to the bank to deposit checks.”
The most important thing is paying monthly bills electronically. All credits to my checking-account are electronic: my Transit pension, my Social Security, deposits from my IRA.
That IRA deposit only replaces my wife’s pension; she died four years ago.
So my bills should be paid electronically too.
All that written check is doing is prompting an electronic funds-transfer from me to the biller.
The phone company, my gas and electric, my cable, etc.
“No electronical bill-pays by some biller’s floozy in India fer this kid — I’d rather initiate that bill-pay MYSELF, and yer lettin’ me do that.
I’ve seen what can happen = accounts overdrawn due to multiple bill-pays.
Try to straighten out such mistakes with someone on the other side of the planet, whose only command of English is ‘I’m deeply, deeply sorry.’”
Years ago a girl I worked with at the newspaper set up monthly repayment of her college loan.
It went bonkers. Multiple charges overdrew her account, prompting penalties.
The poor girl was on the phone for hours with some service-rep in India trying to get him to correct things and pay the bank’s penalties.
If anyone makes a mistake, it’s ME; and I have.
Some time ago my credit-card charged me interest because of a one-penny mistype.
I always pay my credit-card in full to avoid interest, but this time triggered the vipers by mistyping the payment by a penny.
I can swallow that; that’s my mistake.
But I ain’t about to let some biller charge me into bankruptcy so they can keep paying for their Mercedes.

• The “newspaper” is the Canandaigua Daily-Messenger, from where I retired almost 11 years ago. Best job I ever had — I worked there almost 10 years (over 11 if you count my time as a post-stroke unpaid intern [I had a stroke October 26th, 1993, from which I recovered fairly well]). (“Canandaigua” [“cannan-DAY-gwuh”] is a small city nearby where I live in Western NY. The city is also within a rural town called “Canandaigua.” The name is Indian, and means “Chosen Spot.” —It’s about 14 miles away.)
• “Transit” equals Regional Transit Service, the public transit-bus operator in Rochester, NY, where I drove transit-bus for 16&1/2 years (1977-1993). My stroke ended that. I retired on medical-disability.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

100 days

“Remain calm, stay cool, be collected,” said the tee-shirt of a pretty young lady at the park where I walk my dog.
“Only 100 more days to the election.”
It was last Sunday. I was walking my dog at nearby Boughton Park (“BOW-tin;” as in “wow”) — and the guy who wrote what’s in this website was ME.
I walked up a short hill after crossing the West Pond sluiceway bridge.
Three young ladies approached; one had the tee-shirt.
Talking to pretty young ladies doesn’t come easy for this kid.
I’m a graduate of the Hilda Q. Walton School of Sexual Relations.
Hilda was my next-door neighbor growing up, and Sunday School Superintendent at my parents’ church, which she helped found.
She was ardently against men; they were filthy preverts.
So as a pants-wearer I was totally unworthy of female attention.
How she ever managed two sons by her chain-smoking husband I’ll never know. They musta been immaculately conceived.
I usually keep to myself, but how could I resist?
This election season has been depressing.
Noisy bombast and vitriol from one side. Stultifying conventionalism from the other.
“We’re gonna build a wall, and the Mexicans will build it.”
“America first; Muslims out.”
“I like Putin. I hope the Russkies find Crooked Hillary’s missing e-mails.”
We should hand over the nuclear codes to someone who will start Armageddon over a Tweet?
Has he read the Constitution?
On the other side it’s gumint-as-usual. Say the right things; placate all sides. Cut corners in Benghazi if needed,
“You got it,” I said. “100 more days of utter madness.”

• About 12 years ago, I was on the Board that administered Boughton Park, a voluntary position. During that time I created a  a brochure for the park.
• “Q” stands for “Quincy,” her maiden name.