Monday, September 29, 2014

Monthly Calendar-Report for October 2014


21J westbound on the controlled-siding. (Photo by Bobbalew with Phil Faudi.)

—One of the best shots I’ve ever snagged!
At least I think so.
The October 2014 entry of my own calendar is a westbound trailer-train on the controlled-siding into McFarlands Curve, railroad-east of Altoona.
Three tracks here are all that’s left of Pennsy’s fabled four-track “Broad-Way” across PA.
And the grade is wide enough for four tracks.
And Pennsy’s premier “Broadway-Limited” passenger train wasn’t named after Broadway in Manhattan.
It was named after Pennsy’s “Broad-Way.”
The tracks, left-to-right, are Two, One, and the “controlled-siding;” “controlled” because it’s signaled.
Westbounds hardly ever use the controlled-siding. I have pictures of eastbounds on the controlled-siding.
The railroad across PA is mostly just two tracks. For Altoona and Allegheny Mountain it widens to three.
In fact, just west of Allegheny-summit there is a section of four tracks.
Look down at it from a highway overpass, and you see five tracks.
But that fifth track is a storage-track. Heavy coal-drags get stored on it before being slugged over the summit.
Apparently Track Two here was closed for maintenance. So the dispatcher shifted this westbound over to the controlled-siding.
And here it came, me with my strong telephoto, not fully maxxed, but fairly strong.
A westbound on Two would have been okay, but not as good as the controlled-siding.
My friend Phil Faudi (“FOW-dee;” as in “wow”) was with me, the railfan-extraordinaire from the Altoona area who leads me around.
I had been wanting to try this shot for some time. I’ve done it before, but not with telephoto.
The fact the train was on the controlled-siding is EXTREMELY lucky.
This shot was also the best I could do for fall-foliage; the trees had already turned.




A REAL hot-rod. (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—To me this is a REAL hotrod, what hotrods usually were.
The October 2014 entry of my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a ’32 Ford roadster with a Buick “nail-valve” engine.
“Nail-valve” because the valves are kinda small.
“Nail-valve” in cross-section.
The valves are vertical in a pent-roof combustion-chamber, which aims the exhaust the wrong way.
The exhaust had to twist-and-turn very-which-way to attain the outside exhaust-headers.
Which restricts engine-breathing.
But hotrodders weren’t fussy.
The idea was to crank much more engine into that humble Ford body than what was there originally.
If you could get a Buick “nail-valve” engine fairly cheap, that was way more than what was in there originally.
Buick eventually redesigned its V8 engine to be more like the typical overhead-valve V8.
The “nail-valve” was Buick’s first V8. Prior to the 1953 model-year Buick had done overhead-valve inline eights.
A “nail-valve” might be less costly to manufacture.
So in the ‘50s, hotrodders were dropping “nail-valve” Buick motors into their hotrods. And the new Cadillac and Oldsmobile overhead-valve V8s.
“Nail-valves” were extravagant torque-generators.
That ended with Chevrolet’s SmallBlock of 1955. The SmallBlock was a better V8, plus they were cheap and plentifully available.
“Nail-valves” were built through the 1966 model-year, out to 425 cubic-inches.
And this nail-valve is a 425. Which leads me to believe this hotrod was built with an earlier nail-valve. Nail-valves were introduced at 322 cubic-inches.
That earlier nail-valve wore out, yet the car’s owner had enough class to replace it with another nail-valve instead of a Chevy SmallBlock.
A ‘60s engine in a ‘50s hotrod doesn’t sound plausible.




Stacker approaches Conway Yard near Big Beaver, PA. (Photo by Jermaine Ashby.)

—This is the best photograph photographer Ashby has ever had in this calendar.
And it’s his third.
The October 2014 entry of my Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar is a stacker negotiating a cut toward Conway yard near Pittsburgh.
Ashby’s prior two photos were both shot in darkness.
They looked okay, but not very dramatic.
They were more displays of technical prowess: the ability to get pictures in the dark.
Which usually involves time-exposure, except the trains were standing.
One picture had a darkened lump off to the side. It was an old E-unit stored for restoration.
But for the captioning I would have never known. That lump was also somewhat distracting.
So Ashby does a photograph in daylight, although it appears cloudy.
I guess he’d been through this cut on trains.
The picture was shot from an overpass high above the tracks.
I’ve been attracted to overpasses myself.
Many of the photos in my own calendar are from overpasses.
Conway is a major yard near Pittsburgh. It was built by Pennsy in 1905. But later it was enlarged. Just about everything eastbound on Norfolk Southern’s Pittsburgh-line (to Altoona) goes through Conway. Conway is HUGE; built to handle a flood of traffic.
This location is not one I’m familiar with. What I know is Allegheny Crossing, Pennsy’s old crossing of Allegheny Ridge. Railroad operations there are very dramatic; ASSAULTING THE HEAVENS climbing, and holding back a train descending.
Allegheny Crossing I know extremely well; I’ve been there many times.
Allegheny Crossing is 250 miles away, yet I know it better than local railroads — which include CSX’s main across New York state, the old New York Central.
“Norfolk Southern milepost 258.8, Track One, no defects” transmits a defect-detector on the railroad-radio. I know precisely where 258.8 is. It’s in the little town of Portage.
Yet Ashby has snagged an exceptional photograph, one I’d be proud of myself.
It gives me hope Ashby has “the eye.” His two earlier photographs were not that inspiring.
I feel like the only “eye” I’ve got is to pore through the 89 bazilyun photos I shot, and pick out the good ones.
Although a photographer-friend told me that’s what a photographer’s “eye” is, in which case I shaddup-and-shoot — and hope I snag some good ones.
So far only one photograph I planned was successful, others with similar input bombed.
Many of my pot-shots are extraordinary.




A screaming-chicken (1974 Trans-Am). (Photo by Peter Harholdt©.)

—The October 2014 entry in my Motorbooks Musclecar calendar is a 1974 Pontiac Trans-Am.
“Screaming chicken” because of that decal on the hood of the car. All Trans-Ams had that.
The “screaming-chicken.” (Photo by Peter Harholdt©.)
It’s not the 1970 Trans-Am, which I think is one of the best-looking cars of all time.
A 1970 Firebird Trans-Am. (Photo by Peter Harholdt©.)
But it’s based on the 1970 body with updates.
I just did a long blog on Pontiacs. Prior to the coming of Bunkie Knudson (“nude-sin”) Pontiacs were turkeys, a “GrandPop’s car.”
Knudson was brought in to spice up Pontiac, make it appealing to the youth market.
He succeeded. By 1959 Pontiac was a performance-car and the 1961 Pontiac “Bubble-Top” is one of the best-looking cars of all time.
A 1961 Pontiac “Bubble-Top” Catalina. (Photo by Richard Lentinello.)
Pontiac was GM’s performance-car until its demise with the GM bailout.
Witness the Pontiac G-T-O, which made musclecar performance affordable. It could be said the Chrysler 300s were the first musclecar, but they were beyond the price-range of the average buyer.
Even the G-T-O became pricey.
A ’69 RoadRunner.
Plymouth’s RoadRunner was a smashing success, since it made musclecar performance affordable.
Pontiac’s other musclecar was the Firebird Trans-Am.
The Firebird was Pontiac’s version of the Chevrolet Camaro.
Both the Camaro and Firebird could be good, but Pontiac’s Trans-Am seemed better.
My neighbor up the street once had a Trans-Am. He still tells me about it, comparing it favorably to his Corvette.
A Pontiac Trans-Am is a desirable car. And to think, prior to 1955 they were turkeys.
This car has the gigantic 455 cubic-inch Super-Duty Pontiac engine, which to me is too much weight on the car’s front-end.
A 455 Trans-Am would be just about unbeatable in a straight line, assuming you could get the rear-tires to hook up.
Throw a curve at it, and a BMW 2002 would leave it in the weeds.



A great passenger locomotive downgraded. (Photo by Fred Kern.)

—The October 2014 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is what the Pennsy E-6 Atlantic (4-4-2) gravitated to as it aged.
The E-6 Atlantic was Pennsy’s attempt to build  a better passenger-locomotive without more driving-wheels. That is, an Atlantic (4-4-2) instead of Pacific (4-6-2).
The E-6 was a reflection of Pennsy’s locomotive philosophy at that time, the philosophy of Alfred W. Gibbs. Pennsy was building its own steam-locomotives.
Alfred W. Gibbs was Pennsy’s Chief Mechanical Engineer at that time.
Gibbs thought he could build a better passenger locomotive without adding driving-wheels, an Atlantic instead of a Pacific.
About the turn-of-the-century most railroads were using Atlantics. But they were teakettles, much like the 4-4-0 Americans they were using from about 1860 through the end of the century. Pennsy had an E-2 Atlantic.
Gibbs thought he could make a hairy-chested Atlantic work; whither the E-6.
The E-6 is a big boiler on Atlantic running-gear, not a teakettle.
The E-6 worked for a while, until train-weights exceeded what an E-6 could pull.
E-6s were originally assigned to pull passenger-trains over what has become the Northeast Corridor. At that time, Pennsy’s line only went to New York City, and wasn’t electrified.
The line is now Amtrak, is electrified, and goes to Boston.
The E-6 was replaced by Pennsy’s famous K-4 Pacific, really only the lighter K-2 Pacific improved.
Even the K-4 became unable to cope with increasing train-weights, but Pennsy didn’t develop a 4-8-4 in the ‘30s like other railroads.
It was pouring capital into electrification, and could afford doubleheading or tripling its passenger-trains; two or three K-4s — that’s multiple crews.
The E-6 Atlantic fell to light-weight local and commuter-duty, which is what we see here; three coaches — a commuter-train on Pennsy’s Norristown branch.
The picture was taken in 1953, when no doubt photographer Kern was shooting anything-and-everything with 35 mm color-slide film — probably Kodachrome.
Kern has certainly had plenty of photos in this calendar.
But I end up wishing his camera was like my digital Nikon D7000, so he could render a better photograph.
Color photography was in its infancy back then. I tried to lighten that E-6 with my Photoshop, but it’s lost. In fact, the whole train is too dark.
Lighten too much and it looks weird.
This calendar-picture is lightened a little.
I’ve had this problem with other photos in the All-Pennsy Color Calendar.
The fact it’s a 35mm slide also doesn’t help. A 35 mm slide is a bit too small to render edge-sharpness in a big calendar-picture.
Pictures taken years ago don’t render as well as they do now.
But that red keystone number-plate looks pretty good. It’s what I was always looking for. It signified a Pennsy locomotive, and Pennsy’s locomotives looked fabulous.
Only one E-6 is left, #460, at Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania near Strasburg, PA. It’s being restored for display.
#460 is the locomotive that beat the airplanes getting movie-footage of Lindbergh’s return to Washington, D.C. up to New York City theaters.
The train had a darkroom in a baggage-car. The airplanes got there first, but their film still had to be developed.




—In your face! (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—14 giant cylinders, 1,830 cubic-inches.
A roaring monster, and this wasn’t the apex of radial airplane-engine development.
That would come later with the 2,000 horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-2800-10W Double Wasp 18-cylinder radial of 2,800 cubic-inches — the engine in the Grumman Hellcat.
Later versions of the Double Wasp got as much as 2,800 horsepower with very high-octane fuel and water-injection.
Typical American V8 car-motors of the ‘60s and ‘70s displaced 300-to-400 cubic-inches.
I saw one of these Double-Wasps powering a pulling-tractor. It was mind-blowing!
The Wildcat wasn’t Grumman’s premier aircraft-carrier fighter-plane.
Only its first.

Friday, September 26, 2014

iPhone follies

I let my iPhone update its operating-system.
Others I know don’t.
My allowing this is what I do with my laptop. Apple® is always sending me “software-updates,” usually security-upgrades and patches.
Used to be I didn’t allow them, but then a friend did it for me.
I decided I shouldn’t be so suspicious, despite a long-ago update that lunched apps I was using.
A while ago iPhone upgraded its operating-system, I think to iO7.
It installed a completely new user-interface, which included a security log-in to make your iPhone inoperable without your password.
A friend was incensed.
She couldn’t text without logging-in first.
It was okay for me. I don’t text that much anyway, and logging-in is maybe two seconds, more if you mistype, which I do occasionally.
So I plugged my iPhone in last night to charge, and it awoke saying a “software update,” iO8, was available.
Oh, dread!
I’m trying to go to bed.
Apple is requiring me to leave my phone on all night, so it can download and install a new operating-system.
What if some Granny misdials her rotary dialer, and calls me in the middle of the night? I’ve had wrong-numbers galore on that iPhone.
I like shutting that iPhone off; I don’t want it waking me at 3 a.m.
Okay, let the upgrade download, and I’ll let it install when I let my dog out around midnight.
So I clicked “install” when I let my dog out.
When I awoke my iPhone this morning, it was saying “hello” at me.
More set-up required. I couldn’t just check my e-mail.
Something about configuring iCloud.
WHAT?!
I guess I could use iCloud as an e-mail server as well as RoadRunner (which is here on the planet).
Leave me alone! All I wanna do is check my RoadRunner e-mail. I haven’t time for all these shenanigans.
Finally I got my RoadRunner e-mail, but not before canceling iCloud log-in.
One of my e-mails needed response, so I used my iPhone’s voice-recognition.
I spoke my response, and it immediately typed in each word as I spoke it.
That is, each word as it deduced it. I usually hafta do a tiny bit of editing.
Nice! Nice idea, Apple. A worthwhile software update.
There were other tricks iO8 did that were nice.
But every time I wanna check my RoadRunner e-mail, I gotta cancel iCloud log-in.
What a pain!
Another software update both good and bad.
Can’t they just leave well-enough alone?
My iPhone worked pretty-good before iO8.

• “RoadRunner” is Time-Warner’s e-mail.

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Ain’t doin’ nuthin’

Over a week ago a tab from PayPal appeared in my Internet-browser.
I have open 16 Internet tabs.
PayPal claimed my cookies were off, that they couldn’t complete a transaction unless my cookie-acceptance was on.
So I looked.



My cookies were on.
In other words, what were they crying about?
There was a link in their tab, so I fired it up.
“Select a topic!” it blared.
Then, “Select a sub-topic!”
Nothing applied to my question, so I clicked the most general topic and sub-topic I could find.
I figured I could explain my question to their “contact-us” box.
Later, at bedtime, I fired up my iPhone, and PayPal had e-mailed me.
It was some sort of computerized response to the topic(s) I selected, or so it said.
I was presented a HUGE list of 89 bazilyun “FAQs” — heaven-forbid they actually spell out “Frequently-Asked-Questions.”
They then instructed me how to change my e-mail address at PayPal — as if that had anything to do with my cookie-mystery.
Of course, they noisily insisted that was what my topic-selection indicated.
How so? My topic selection wasn’t pertinent to my question; in fact, it said nothing about changing my e-mail address.
So I responded to their e-mail. They encourage response if their e-mail doesn’t correct the “issue” (problem?).
“Your topic-selection wasn’t pertinent,” I said; “and I ain’t doin’ nuthin’ unless my PayPal charges don’t work.”
Interesting; the charge that supposedly didn’t work, to Walmart*, apparently worked. The stuff I ordered was at my door this morning.
Have the crooks figured out how to dicker your Internet browsing?

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Two hobbling cripples chase trains in Altoony




Westbound mixed passes Station Inn. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Yrs trly is hobbling.
I have a problem with my left knee.
It’s just about bone-on-bone; bone-on-bone in some places.
It has me hobbling, and now I’m getting muscle-pain on my right side, probably due to my hobbling.
I have a hard time climbing steps.
I have to just about pull myself up.
My brother-from-Boston is even worse.
He broke his left leg a few months ago stepping off a ladder-bottom.
So he has a leg-brace, and is on crutches.
Yrs truly chops down weeds that might obstruct our picture.

The people who daycare my dog would be away for a week, so I decided to go to Altoona (PA) to chase trains.
My brother is a railfan too, and does pretty good with his camera.
I’ve used some of his train-photos in my calendar.
So he was interested in joining me.
We are at Cassandra Railroad Overlook (“kuh-SANNE-druh;” as in the name “Anne”) over the Norfolk Southern main across PA — the old Pennsy “Broad-Way.”
We are scanner-less; my railroad-radio scanner would work about five seconds then quit.
And that’s despite charging it all night. It’s over 15 years old, including its rechargeable battery.
We also were without Phil Faudi (“FOW-dee;” as in “wow”), the railfan extraordinaire from the Altoona area who has led me around.
He was in Maine, and no longer leads me around. His beloved wife Rita has Multiple-Sclerosis, so he prefers to not leave her alone.
What Phil would do is monitor his railroad-radio scanner in his house, and call my cellphone.
I could hear some other railfan’s scanner at the overlook-bridge.
“Norfolk Southern milepost 258.8, Track One, no defects.”
I hobbled quickly over to my brother, who was sitting in his chair out on a hillock overlooking the tracks.
“An eastbound is coming,” I shouted. “I heard it on another scanner, and that gets the tail-end of the train. It’s probably already in sight.”
“Do I have time to fold up my chair?”
“No! I’ll get it. Get moving!”
Suddenly we could hear it coming. Eastbound on Track One is climbing The Hill (Allegheny Mountain); assaulting-the heavens, really hammering.
So there was my brother, hobbling as fast as he could on his crutches, trying to get to the overlook-bridge before the train.
The train beat him, and this is the way it was the entire train-chase.
Us hobbling at breakneck speed after long intervals of waiting.
We’d go to some location, my brother would set up his chair, and we’d wait.
Something might indicate a train was coming, like a locomotive-horn at a faraway grade-crossing, or a signal-change.
Don’t forget we were scanner-less.
Or we’d see a headlight, or a train might just appear.
We’d spring into action,
hobbling.
I was staying at Station-Inn in Cresson (“KRESS-in”), a bed-and-breakfast for railfans.
My brother was staying at a motor-lodge down toward Altoona.
Being at that motor-lodge was to my brother’s advantage. It’s all on one floor.
The first-floor of Station-Inn is at least 10 feet above grade. You have to ascend a giant staircase.
My room was on the second-floor; another climb.
I could do it, but hobbling.
The hard part for my brother is going down; he has to do it one step at-a-time.
Station-Inn is right next to the railroad, but would have been near-impossible for my brother.
My drive there takes five hours; my brother is nine.

DAY ONE: Wednesday, September 17th, the day I drove there, but my brother was already there, chasing trains himself.
He managed to snag a pretty good picture at Brickyard Crossing.


Eastbound on Track One at Brickyard. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

Brickyard Crossing is where Porta Road crosses at grade, the only grade-crossing in Altoona.
There used to be a brickyard adjacent, but now it’s gone. Both railfans and the railroad still call it Brickyard Crossing.
My brother called me as I was driving down; my car has Bluetooth.
I said I was gonna check in at Station-Inn first, but “You don’t wanna do that. Station-Inn is 20 miles away.”
Well, I don’t know about 20, but at least 15.
So I decided to join him, and found him at a location we had previously used.
We took a few pictures there, then headed towards an uncovered walkway near Altoona’s Amtrak station.
We drove down to it, and parked illegally in an Altoona parking-lot.
The walkway was about 25 feet above the tracks, up three flights of stairs.
“We are climbing Jacob’s Ladder,” my brother sang, as he slowly climbed the steps, reprising my 350-pound Aunt Ginny at my sister’s wedding in the ‘60s.
“Are you crazy?” the nattering nabobs of negativism would say. “You got a broken leg, Jack!”
But I understand.

Sitting at home you go crazy. This is fun!


Westbound from the walkway. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

We took some photographs from the walkway, my brother trying mainly to include “Altoona Pipe & Steel” lettering atop their building. He did get it, but also cut off part of the locomotive. So the picture I’ve run has the building at right, but not the lettering. I still think it looks pretty good.
“Where to next?”
“You’ve probably never seen Rose, the crew-change point.”
So we drove up to Rose, but it was kind of dull. It was late afternoon, so the light was wrong, even though the sun was out.
Passing Altoona the old Pennsy main is essentially northeast to southwest, so the sunlight is on the eastern side of a train.
In late afternoon, it switches over to the west side, so throughout the day you try to be at locations where the face of the locomotive is lit. Eastbound is mornings, westbound is afternoon.
So we left Rose, but not before I shot a “shaddup-and-shoot” picture.


Crew changed, off-we-go. (The train has foreign power.) (Photo by BobbaLew.)

“Shaddup-and-shoot” because those are often my best pictures.
Just take the picture; it might look pretty good.
We then drove up to Gallitzin (“guh-LIT-zin;” as in “get,” west of Altoona, atop the mountain), to take a single-lane public dirt-track down to trackside.
My brother had never been there, and the road goes to a faraway cemetery.
It’s great shot for late afternoon.


07T (the westbound Amtrak Pennsylvanian) climbs the west slope of The Hill, almost to the tunnel. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

Finally 07T, Amtrak’s westbound Pennsylvanian, hove into view, as it does every afternoon about 5:30. The Pennsylvanian is the only passenger-train left on Pennsy’s fabled “Broad-Way.”
And Norfolk Southern tries to keep it on time.
We both snapped pictures, and then about 7 p.m. as our light faded, my brother snagged a picture at “The Slide.”


Norfolk Southern freight descends “The Slide” on Track One. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

“The Slide” is Pennsy’s ramp up to New Portage tunnel, which Pennsy bought from the state when the Public Works System failed — Pennsy put it out-of-business.
The Public Works System was the state’s attempt to counter the phenomenally successful Erie Canal. It was a combination canal and railroad; railroad over Allegheny Mountain — a portage railroad; Allegheny Mountain could not be canaled.
That original portage railroad included inclined-planes; so was cumbersome and slow.
A “New Portage railroad” was built without inclined planes, and included a tunnel at the summit of Allegheny Mountain.
Pennsy bought Public Works because New Portage tunnel could be added to their existing tunnel.
But New Portage tunnel was higher up the mountain than Pennsy’s existing tunnel, so they had to ramp up to it.
“The Slide” was originally 2.36% — 2.36 feet up for every 100 feet forward.
But it was eased a little when New Portage was rebuilt to clear doublestacks. The Slide is eastbound only, so trains are always descending.
So I got to Station-Inn at almost 9 p.m., which made things somewhat difficult.
Station-Inn is not affiliated with some big motel chain.
The owner is on the premises, and has to wait until I show up.
And I think he told me he’s 84 years old.
I had wanted to show up earlier, but there were my brother and I out there chasing trains.

DAY TWO: Thursday, September 18th, the day of my all-day train-chase.
My brother met me at Station-Inn, so we went out to the little town of Lilly on the western slope of The Hill.
Instead of shooting from an overpass, which we’ve done before, I suggested we go down to trackside, far western side of town.
Amtrak’s eastbound Pennsylvanian was coming, so we set up, me with strong telephoto on my new tripod.
But my brother got the better shot. It was still low morning light, so the railroad was in tree-shadow.


04T (the eastbound Amtrak Pennsylvanian) approaches Lilly. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

But then the train bursts into sunlight, which my telephoto was missing.
Telephoto into a long straight never works. The railroad curves into Lilly, and my telephoto was missing that.
We then drove to Gallitzin, to beat an eastbound mixed we saw at Lilly.
We beat it, and photographed it crawling under Gallitzin’s Main St. bridge.


Top of The Hill. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

We then drove down to Altoona, trying to beat the same train. We figured it would take the drag-tracks. The railroad splits into two alignments through Altoona, the express-tracks, and the slower drag-tracks.
We beat the train, but a local-freight was working tracks next to the drag-tracks, and blocked our view.
Eighth St. bridge is not far, so we went to it.
Eighth St. is one of four bridges over the tracks through Altoona. Eighth St. is east, Seventh St. west, and 17th St. both ways. The fourth bridge is out at 24th St, is also both ways, but more a city street.
My brother wanted the shoot from Eighth St. bridge, another long walk and climb.
I used the staircase up to the bridge walkway; my brother wanted to avoid the stairs.
He hobbled out to the bridge-end.
So here he comes, hobbling on crutches up the tiny road-verge — no walkway until the staircase.
We then hobbled slowly out to the bridge-center.
“This shot reprises one I ran in my calendar,” I said.
“Faudi took me out here, but the sun wasn’t out.”


The train is on the express-tracks; the drag-tracks are at left. (Photo by BobbaLew.)


Another “shaddup-and-shoot” (more foreign power). (Photo by BobbaLew.)

I also took another “shaddup-and-shoot” of a westbound coming under Seventh St. bridge.
From there we drove up to 24th St. bridge, but out onto railroad property instead of the bridge.
It’s at Slope interlocking, where the railroad begins its entrance into Altoona yard. It’s also where the climb up The Hill begins.
We stayed far from the tracks, about 60 feet.
It’s a shot of a westbound my brother took a few months ago. It works fairly well, because -a) the light is right, and -b) it gets the train.


Eastbound at Slope (note Canadian National locomotive). (Photo by BobbaLew.)

But I shot an eastbound — we saw a couple. My westbounds don’t work as well.
I’m always leery of trespassing on railroad property, and doing so isn’t that productive at this location.
I’m also leery of getting near the tracks, and I’ve seen pictures taken from the tracks — which I can’t do.
We were looking for railroad-police, “po-po” as my brother calls them. If we had been confronted, I’m sure my brother feels he could smile his way out of it — and he probably could.
I, on the other hand, am not a smiler, and would only get the “po-po” all protective.
My brother is friends with quite a few policemen anyway, and seems to know the drill.
I’m more concerned with being able to continue railfanning, me and others.
I would have let him do the talking.
From there we went to Cassandra Railfan Overlook, which I mentioned earlier.
The light was okay, but not as good as morning.


Eastbound uphill on Track One at Cassandra Railfan Overlook — ASSAULTING THE HEAVENS! (Photo by BobbaLew.)

“Where to next?”
“You’ve probably never been to the trailer.”
“What are you talking about?”
“It’s an abandoned highway-trailer parked next to the tracks in Portage. Faudi took me to it long ago, but I missed how good it was. That long straight from Cassandra ends at that trailer.”
‘How far do I hafta walk?’
“Nothing! You’ll be right at it.”
So we drove to the trailer, which only works westbound. Eastbounds are obscured by trees.
It seems uninspiring until you see what you’re shooting. The light is perfect; the train on that curve off that long straight.


Westbound past the trailer in Portage. (More foreign power.) (Photo by BobbaLew.)

“Now I see what you’re talking about.”
From the trailer we drove yet again down that cemetery dirt-track, since the light would be perfect there.
Our longest wait was probably there.
Finally a westbound appeared, passing an eastbound off The Slide.


A “Double.” (Photo by BobbaLew.)

A “Double;” two trains at once, but not the first we saw — although I forget any others.
The line is fairly busy, so we we saw many trains, despite no scanner and no Faudi.
From there we drove back to Cresson, a location across from Station-Inn.
By then it was 5 p.m.; the sunlight had shifted to the west side of a train.
But when I went to shoot — and we saw two westbounds — my camera’s auto-focus twice went bonkers and blew my shots. (I shouldn’t even be using auto-focus, since I’m shooting at infinity.)
We also saw an eastbound with many locomotives, but only the first two were running.


Only the first two units are running. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

From there we drove down into Altoona to eat supper at a so-called “spaghetti-joint,” but not very Italian to me.
My brother doesn’t like the “spaghetti-joint” I usually eat at, so declared he would find us a proper “spaghetti-joint.” (Ho-hummmm.........)
Next time, my “spaghetti-joint.”

DAY THREE: Friday, September 19th, back to reality.

• ”Jack Hughes” is my brother-from-Boston. He’s 57; I’m 13 years older — I’m the first-born. I’ve been a railfan since age-2; he became one over-the-years. He also has got better at using a camera. His camera is less capable than mine, but we’re doing pretty much the same quality. —Chasing trains is always great fun, and on Norfolk Southern’s “Allegheny-Crossing” we do quite well.

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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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