Saturday, October 03, 2015


(That’s Myers & Watters, but that’s how the boss, a Greek, pronounced it; as in “at.”)
After my freshman year at college, I needed a summer-job, supposedly to make money for college.
During the summers of 1959, 1960, and ’61 (college is ’62-63 to ’66), I worked at a religious boys-camp in northeastern MD on Chesapeake Bay.
it was a really neat place, horseback-riding, swimming, and canoeing on the bay.
I was a Counselor-In-Training (CIT), 15 through 17, high-school age.
We lived in open-air screened cabins, not tents. We ate meals in a common dining-hall, not cooked outside over an open fire.
How I got that job I wonder, since I’m not religious.
I suspect it was my ability to sling words — what I’m doing now.
I spun a delicious story about finding redemption at that camp, a dramatic religious conversion, as it were.
This actually happened, but only lasted a week. Fear of being caught: a legacy of my parents.
I was a stablehand; also questionable, since I was no good at horseback-riding.
But the stable-guys loved me because I mucked the stalls. I also became a horsemanship teacher.
Our camp had a paradigm, that every camper should be able to ride a horse.
That being the case, horsemanship was one of the camp activities.
A camper could choose horsemanship, and hopefully get to make a trail-ride.
This rarely happened, since campers were terrified on a horse.
So to kill time — I had to do three days for each class — I did horsemanship training: parts of the horse, parts of the saddle, parts of the bridle, how to saddle a horse, how to bridle the horse, how to get on and off, etc.
On the last day of the class we did “ring-riding.” That’s when you ride a single horse around a 100-foot diameter fenced riding ring.
The riders were usually terrified. “Don’t hold the horn, Johnny. That’s what’s making you bounce.” —We rode western, not English.
After that we chose a few campers for a trail-ride, those not terrified.
The stable-guys loved this. It meant they didn’t hafta teach horsemanship to the campers. So even though I was no good at riding horse, they loved having me around.
Also that I mucked the stalls (horse-manure, urine, hay, mud, etc.), meaning they didn’t have to.
My horseback riding got better over those three summers, so by the last summer I was leading trail-rides. I was also named the Assistant Horsemanship Director.
I didn’t work at the camp in 1962, the year I graduated high-school, since I had to attend summer-school at the college to prove I could do college-level work.
The camp’s director was also head of the college kitchen-staff, since both the college and camp were religious institutions.
So he was lining up his camp staff from college students, and we struck a deal: I could join the college kitchen-staff if I agreed to be his camp stable-director.
(And thereby have additional income while at college.)
But my father had other ideas. No way in a million years could that camp pay me a good income.
Counselor pay might have been $50 per week. For 10 weeks that’s $500. One semester of college cost about $1,700 back then.
The idea was that faith would make up the difference — that was often your parents, and my father was a skinflint. No son of his that refused to kowtow to is self-proclaimed Godliness deserved any money. That was for his missionary friends!
So much for the deal with the camp-director.
Faith was not enough; my father worshipped the almighty dollar.
At that time my father worked in an oil-refinery in northern DE. He was an inspector; he’d inspect the work of contractors.
At that time the refinery was having its tanks and high-steel painted by Myers & Watters, an outside painting-contractor based in Philadelphia.
Myers & Watters had a crew of about 15 at the refinery. A few were actual employees of Myers & Watters, but most were hired out of the union local in northern DE.
The crew had a local foreman named “Billy Gardiner,” and his boss was “Vic,” the Greek, out of Philadelphia.
My father asked Vic if he get me a summer-job.
There were hairballs, but Vic presumed it was “you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours.”
The biggest hairball was I wasn’t union, but that meant they could pay me less. Yet way more than I’d make at camp.
So Vic paid off the appropriate union-officials, and hired me on.
Eight hours per day at my father’s refinery for Mahz-n-Wawdzzz.
I didn’t do any painting — I was a helper, a laborer.
What I did at first was sanding pipe-bottoms on the pipeline from the refinery to the docks.
Making love to the pipes. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
I used to call it “Making love to the pipes.”
They were about a foot off the ground, so I’d sit on the pipes, bending over to sand their bottoms. —In the hot sun.
Painters came along later to prime the bottoms with a roller on a stick, which my father inspected with an outside car rearview mirror screwed to a broomstick.
The painters all hated my father, who they called “Tommy” — his name was “Tom,” and he could be a jerk.
What they hated was having to extinguish their cigarettes when “Tommy” showed up. Smoking wasn’t allowed on the pipeline.
I did that pipe-sanding for maybe six weeks.
After that Gardiner decided to try me at sandblaster tender.
The exterior shells of large heaters were being sandblasted and then painted. The heaters would heat hydrodesulfurization feed, and burned natural gas from the refinery.
Sandblasting the heaters. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
I looked through a peephole once, and it was the fiery furnace-from-Hell. No sign of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. But it was Lebenty-Times-Seben.
Two Myers & Watters employees, using extension-ladders, climbed up on the heaters, and sandblasted the shells, which probably encased firebrick inside. It was hot work.
My job was to keep two three-bag sandblaster canisters full of sand.
When a blaster ran empty, I’d lift and dump three 100-bags bags of sand into a funnel atop the blaster.
Then I’d seal the canister shut, and turn it on.
Both blasters were being pressurized by a 100 cubic-feet-per-minute Schramm air-compressor.
They worried I might be unable to lift a 100-pound bag of sand, but I got so I could do it.
And every couple weeks a semi would come with 180 bags of sand. We had to unload it, and stack it near the blasters.
Mahz-n-Wawdzzz became my summer-job the entire time I was in college.
Gardiner loved having “Little Bobby” (me). I was a good worker, more dependable than most. I even got so I could work heights, although Gardiner made allowances for me.
After my sophomore year we were painting a tank-farm in south Jersey.
They were floating-roof tanks; that is, as the tank emptied, the roof, which floated atop the contents, also came down.
What we were doing was brush-blasting the inside walls of the empty tanks. The owners had the tank full at first, then partially emptied it to expose about eight feet of the tank-wall.
We had four large six-bag blasters pushed by a gigantic 650 cubic-feet-per-minute Schramm air-compressor powered by a V8 bus diesel.
I was the Operating-Engineer, much to the dismay of the local Operating-Engineer union.
I’d start it, let it warm up, then engage its four-foot clutch-lever. IMMENSE POWAH!
Gardiner also loved that I was blaster-tender. I’d have the six-bag blasters filled and back online so quick his coworkers couldn’t finish their cigarettes.
Which was illegal of course; the tanks held av-gas.
“Bobby, ya gotta slow down,” they’d say.
But of course Gardiner thought it was funny.
I was inadvertently making those guys work.
After my junior year at college Myers & Watters rehired me, and agreed to my request for $2.75 per hour.
That was all of one semester, plus part of the second.
I remember watching my college business-office suck an entire summer’s savings.
Plus I worked an extra week by not doing student-teaching — I felt it was a waste = too political.
We did the neatest job I ever did, just brush-blasting and painting a brand new golfball water-tower on the south Jersey seashore.
Ventnor’s new golfball. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
There were only three of us: Gardiner, and me, and a Myers & Watters employee named “Jerald.”
It was in Ventnor, south of Atlantic City.
It replaced an old water-tower that was too small, and leaked profusely.
And it was only 125 feet high. We tried a 175 foot golfball in Baltimore, and it was frightening.
We painted both the inside and the outside; inside with a ladder-rig we made, and outside with a spider.
My job was to help, and also tend a small three-bag blaster, pushed by a 100 cubic-feet-per-minute Schramm. That compressor also powered the spider, and Gardiner’s spray-equipment.
Gardiner brings the spider down. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

Gardiner sprays. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
All the painting was spray, which meant at least half blew away in the wind outside.
And we were applying all kinds of paint, including ship’s-bottom. Ventnor could afford it.
Atop the water-tower. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
Neatest job we ever did. It took over an hour to get to it, and over an hour to get back. Often me and Gardiner and Jerald stopped for breakfast along the way.
And the scenery was fantastic; pretty young teeny-boppers in skimpy bikinis headed for the beach.
When I left Gardiner and Jerald had to finish that water-tower themselves; I was sorely missed. But it was back to college for me.
What my father didn’t realize was he was exposing me to every kind of sin.
I drank my first beer with the Mahz-n-Wawdzzz crew in a Sinclair refinery in Marcus Hook, PA.
We’d often stop for a six-pak on the way back from Ventnor.
My father was trying to offset the money drainage that would have occurred if I continued at camp while at college.
He was also trying to expose me to worldliness.
What happened was I became more worldly, as it were, working for Mahz-n-Wawdzzz.
And some of the neatest persons I ever met couldn’t read nor write, and smoked, for God’s sake.
(I never have.)
Mostly all hated my father so much their goal was to deflower “Little Bobby.”
And they did, although my father probably never knew.

• I went to Houghton College (“HO-tin;” as in “oh,” not “how” or “who”) in western New York, from where I graduated with a BA in 1966. I’ve never regretted it, although I graduated a Ne’er-do-Well, without their blessing. Houghton is an evangelical liberal-arts college.


Thursday, October 01, 2015

Moving on

At long last I feel like my season-of-grief is over.
That is, the grief that came with losing my beloved wife to cancer three years ago.
We were married more than 44 years, despite the nattering nabobs of negativism in her family.
They said I’d got her pregnant, and we’d never last a year. I wasn’t the blonde idiot they wanted, whose name was “Dave Green.”
I snagged a really good one.
She put up with me, so I accepted her for who she was.
I feel like my grief ended with my prostate operation.
It was a HUGE distraction; I had little time to think about the death of my wife.
I haven’t cried for a while.
So now I feel like starting over; going back to my roots, perhaps.
I’m a native of south Jersey. All my siblings feel like Delawareans. But I was 13 when my family moved to Delaware. (I’m the oldest.) I feel like I grew up in south Jersey.
I’ve always said New Jersey is comprised of two parts.
North Jersey is the dump for New York City, and south Jersey is the dump for Philadelphia.
Beyond that, PA is/was a hyper-religious state. One had to buy liquor at state-stores. Therefore, Pennsylvanians driving back from the Jersey seashore would stop at a south Jersey liquor store.
And there were plenty, along with nightclubs, bars, and houses-of-ill-repute.
South Jersey was a den-of-iniquity. My upbringing reflects that. Not a participant, just an observer — of madness.
I always say the world indeed has an asshole, and it’s south Jersey.
Since my wife’s death I’ve been sort of a hermit. I didn’t feel like going anywhere.
But now I feel like I should go visit south Jersey; see my original home.
My first home at 625 Jefferson Ave. in Erlton (“ERL-tin;” as in name “Earl”) is still there according to Google Street-Views. As is “the Triangle,” a vacant lot across the street where kids played baseball.
But I feel like I need to see it in the flesh.
Perhaps see the first-floor addition to our house my father designed with his tee-square.
Our next-door neighbors also built an addition, but it wasn’t as good as my father’s.
Our house was built about 1940, which makes it pre-plywood. It was sheathed and roofed with tongue-and-groove.
I’d like to visit “Christopherson’s Woods,” and see if it’s the same as when I played there. Back then the Christopherson children had to cross a creek in that woods to get to school. Last time I visited that bridge was gone.
I’d also like to visit Camden County Park and Cooper Crick. Erlton is in Camden County. (“Crick” was how “creek” was pronounced.)
Last time I visited the park was different.
A dam had washed out, or was removed.
And my elementary school is gone; apparently torn down.
TERRIFIED in corduroys and StrideRites. (First day in kindergarten, September 12th, 1949 — Erlton School has been torn down.) (Photo by my mother.)
I was terrified when I started kindergarten there. Never before had I been away from my parents. —There was no Pre-K back then.
And in the background was always the threat of nuclear annihilation. We practiced “duck and cover,” but how does one survive a direct hit from an atom bomb?
And in the early ‘50s it became even worse, the hydrogen bomb.
Isil beheadings seem tame compared to being vaporized by the Russkies.
I feel like I need to make that climb up Kings Highway to Haddonfield (“ha-din-FIELD;” as in “at”) to pass the old high-school where my father took me to a Thanksgiving football game.
We hiked to it.
And pass the stately Haddon Fortnightly near Grove Street, and the house where my piano-teacher lived. She was choir-director at our church, and would get my sister and I crying over Clementi exercises. Then blow her nose in triumph into her soggy handkerchief, which she then stuffed into the front bodice of her dress.
And find Centre St., where I went sledding with my father.
That hill was so long, they only closed the bottom third.
I’d continue south on Kings Highway past ancient Indian King tavern, where supposedly George Washington once stayed. Haddonfield is an old Revolutionary-War town, and has a cemetery with grave-stones from the 1700s.
I’d continue south and cross Haddon Ave., the main east-west drag from Camden, south Jersey’s extension of Philadelphia.
Hard by the intersection on Haddon Ave. was the Haddonfield Fire Department, with its incredibly loud fire-horn, that terrified me every day at noon. Auditory hallucinations, plus parents that raged when I got scared.
After Haddon Ave. I might pass the building that housed the old Acme (“ak-mee”) supermarket, where my mother refused to shop because it was “Of-The-Devil.”
Farther along I might pass the building that housed the A&P supermarket where my mother did shop, and where my maternal grandfather stole plums.
If you think I’m making this stuff up, I’m not.
My grandfather also begged, stand on the corner in his frumpy suit and fedora shaking a tin cup. How many times did we have to rescue him from the police-station?
Supermarkets are now 10-15 times bigger than that old A&P.
Finally I’d come to where Kings Highway crossed the railroad-tracks, though no longer at grade. That railroad is now a rapid-transit to Philadelphia. When it was converted, it went through Haddonfield below grade.
Kings Highway crosses the Haddonfield transit-station on an overpass.
It was that or elevate it. That grade-crossing was a bottleneck, both for drivers and trains.
After that I’d drive east out South Atlantic Ave. next to the tracks. When I was a child, S. Atlantic was a dead-end — now it’s through — and the railroad was Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines to Atlantic City.
South Atlantic is where I first watched trains at age-2 with my father, and became a railfan for life (I’m now 71).
Where it all began in Haddonfield. (Photo by Robert Long ©.)
So ends my visit to my roots, although I’d also try Pakim Pond, where a Navy Corsair fighter-plane from Willow Grove Naval Air Station crashed and disappeared.
Plus eight Campbell Soup tomato-pickers drowned when their top-down Oldsmobile convertible sailed into the pond.
I was also told a railroad-locomotive was in that pond, but last time I visited, the dam that backed up the pond had washed out, and the pond was empty. No Corsair, no Oldsmobile, and no locomotive, although I wondered how it could get there with no railroad nearby.
So now I think I can go back.
A lot has happened since my childhood, including sublimation of myself in order to get along with a really good wife.
But now I am back to being unmarried, so I can be the person I once was.
This involves starting from scratch: going back to the madness that was my childhood.
I can’t say I’d wanna live there, but south Jersey is who I am.
If anyone wonders why I have a jaundiced-eye, it’s my south Jersey upbringing. Nothing like having your hopes dashed by finding that little hottie I lusted-after was nothing but another south Jersey slattern — sunning naked on Bare-Ass Beach.
I think I can make the visit.

• “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.
• “Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines” (PRSL) is an amalgamation of Pennsylvania and Reading railroad-lines in south Jersey to counter the fact the two railroads had too much parallel track. It was promulgated in 1933. It serviced mainly the south Jersey seashore from Philadelphia.
• RE: “Bare-Ass Beach.........” —There actually was a Bare-Ass Beach (“B-A-B”) south of Christopherson’s Woods, a sandbar along a north branch of the Cooper River not far from Kings Highway. And I did see my little hottie there sunning herself bare-naked. But I’d say that was more the social pressures of south Jersey; she may not have been a slut. —No hanky-panky was going on, at least not during my viewing. And this was despite some hard-rock greasers also sunning themselves bare-naked.


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Monthly Calendar-Report for October 2015

I know exactly where this is. (Photo by Don Woods.)

—The October 2015 entry of my Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar is phenomenal.
It’s strident fall-foliage, and I know where it is.
That’s the Jamestown Road bridge in the distance, and I’ve photographed off it.
From the Jamestown Road bridge. (Photo by BobbaLew.)

One of my BEST photos has that bridge in it, which is also used as an eastbound signal.
Eastbound on Track Two at Jamestown Road bridge. (This location is now “No Trespassing.”) (Photo by BobbaLew.)
The calendar says it’s in Portage (PA). Well, the Town of Portage, but just north (railroad east) of the village proper.
The train is on the bypass built in 1898. The bypass begins in Portage.
The original Pennsy main through Portage was kept as a branch because it passes a coal-facility north of Portage.
That branch connects to the bypass at both ends, in Portage, and also that switch visible at left, which is the north end of the branch.
The original Pennsy main crossed this area on its way to Cassandra (“Kuh-SAN-druh;” as in “Anne”) village, an old coal-town, the next town north of Portage.
The bypass ended toward Lilly, the next town after Cassandra.
It took out many torturous curves.
The locomotive is a General-Electric Dash-9-44CW, rated at 4,400 horsepower. Norfolk Southern got earlier Dash-9s downrated to 4,000 horsepower, the Dash-9-40C.
They’re now being uprated to 4,400 horsepower.
“C” is three powered axles per truck (six axles per locomotive), and “W” is wide-cab.
The train is a “stacker,” double-stacked freight-containers, and is on Track Two. The tracks are One, Two and Three left-to-right.
One is eastbound, Three is westbound, and Two can be either way.
One wonders how much longer we’ll see three tracks at this location.
It’s a busy line, and the train is climbing Allegheny Mountain. You often see two trains at once, a faster train on Two passing a plodder on One.

RoadRailer. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

—The October 2015 entry of my own calendar is a Norfolk Southern RoadRailer (Train 261) westbound through Lilly (PA).
RoadRailer is a special train, an attempt to make highway trailers railroad compliant.
Highway trailers are pretty much the correct width for railroad transport, which is why you see so many trailers-on-flatcar.
Railroads have been transporting trailer-on-flatcar since at least 1950.
The RoadRailer experiment is to fit the trailer with what’s needed to install rail bogies — railroad wheels.
A rail-bogie is in position on a RoadRailer trailer.
The bogies attach to the rear of the trailer, and then the front of the following trailer.
Sling together a slew of these trailers, and you have a train.
The bogies lift the trailer high enough for its road-wheels to clear the track.
The bogies also have brakes.
My brother and I had gone to Altoona last October hoping to get fall foliage.
It can be dramatic, but I think the peak had already passed.
Trying to get fall foliage in Altoona is always a crap-shoot. We have to reserve months in advance. We can’t just drop everything and go when the webcams indicate we should.
My brother is still working, and has to get clearance to leave. I have to reserve boarding for my dog.
RoadRailer will be discontinued, although I saw one on the Station-Inn webcam Saturday, September 19th.
Station-Inn in Cresson (“KRESS-in”) is the railfan bed-and-breakfast where I often stay.
RoadRailer is too unlike regular railroad equipment. It can’t be humped or switched; the trailers aren’t sturdy enough.
It can’t even be backed, and can’t be pushed from the rear.
You can’t yard it together into a train. It has be especially assembled in a paved facility that can drive trailers.
Once assembled it can only be pulled to its disassembly location.
The weather was perfect every day, but the trees weren’t.
I did see this RoadRailer before leaving — we had chased trains the previous day.
Before leaving my brother drove out to Lilly, the next town south after Cresson.
I left, but my brother hung around to see what he could get, and that’s despite a nine-hour drive for him. The light was perfect, and here came RoadRailer; two engines pulling a long train. And one locomotive, the Union Pacific engine, is shared power.
The U.P. engine is probably returning to Union Pacific. It had probably brought a cross-country train east to Norfolk Southern. and NS just coupled one of its own engines in front of the U.P. engine.
Railroads often share power, since all the locomotives are pretty much the same. But a Norfolk Southern engine usually has to lead, since only it will correctly interface with NS’s track-control and signaling-systems. Norfolk Southern has in-the-cab signaling as well as lineside.

Winged-Warrior. (Photo by Peter Harholdt©.)

—The October 2015 entry in my Motorbooks Musclecar calendar is a 1970 Plymouth Superbird.
The Superbird is Plymouth’s version of the Dodge Charger Daytona, the most extremely bodied muscle-car of all.
The Daytona, and Superbird, are essentially responses to Ford’s special-bodied Torino Talladega, and Mercury’s Cyclone Spoiler II, for NASCAR’s super-tracks like Daytona and Talladega Super-Speedway in Alabama.
Ford applied a more aerodynamic front-end to increase top speed, so Chrysler grafted a special nose to its racetrack Dodge Charger. They also added a rear wing, up high the clear the trunk-lid.
Race-driver Richard Petty, who raced Plymouths, wanted the same aerodynamic improvements, so viola: the Plymouth Superbird.
Chrysler had to sell 500 of each car to race them in NASCAR.
They already had the phenomenal 426 cubic-inch Hemi (“hem-eee;” not “he-mee”) engine. That motor dominated drag-racing, where you wouldn’t need those aerodynamic improvements.
Imagine showing up in such a car at the Tastee-Freez. It wasn’t designed for the stoplight drags; it was designed for top-speed on a gigantic 2.5-mile racing tri-oval like Daytona — Talladega is 2.66-miles.
Race-driver Buddy Baker averaged over 200 mph at Talladega in a Daytona.
“Ritchut” (Petty) needed such a car to be competitive. With the Superbird he was.
The Hemi motor was eventually outlawed, and now even Plymouth is gone.
“National Association of Stock-Car Auto-Racing.” They’re hardly stock any more. They weren’t back in 1970. A builder would start with a stock body, add a roll-cage which stiffened the chassis, plus other non-stock alterations.
Builders often did bodywork to enhance top-speed aerodynamics, although the cars were required to match a stock-body template.
Granny would hardly buy groceries with a Superbird.

I’ve seen scenes like this. (Photo by Don Wood ©.)

—The October 2015 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is another Don Wood photograph.
It’s a Pennsy M1b steam-engine (4-8-2) trundling a southbound freight through Sunbury, PA. The train is bound for Enola Yard near Harrisburg.
Wood’s photographs were the basis of the first Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar in 1966. Audio-Visual Designs owner railfan Carl Sturner, who founded his company in 1964, got together with Wood to display some of Wood’s fantastic photographs in a calendar.
Next year will be 50 years since that first calendar.
Both Sturner and Wood are gone, and the Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar moved beyond just Wood’s photographs.
There have been various owners, but I’ve gotten the calendar for years.
I’m a Pennsy man; my first calendar was probably 1968.
There also were a few years the calendar wasn’t published.
But some of the best photographs published in the calendar were Wood’s.
He was from north Jersey, and liked to photograph Pennsy K-4s (4-6-2) on their final stomping-ground, Jersey Central’s New York & Long Branch, where Pennsy had trackage-rights.
It was commuter-traffic toward New York City. The K-4s would bring commuters to Bay Head, where the K-4 would be replaced with usually a GG-1.
That is, electrified power for non-electrified power.
The GG-1 would take the train to New York City over Pennsy’s electrified main.
But the steam-engine Wood liked most was Pennsy’s M-1 Mountain.
And Pennsy used its Mountains in mainline freight-service until the end of steam in 1957.
Of particular interest was Pennsy’s continued use of Mountains on the “Middle Division” of its mainline, Harrisburg to Altoona.
And also the line up to Buffalo and Erie, which this train is on.
Wood would chase Mountains all over Pennsy, especially its Middle Division.
What I find most interesting about this picture is the crossing-guard watchman at left.
When I was a child — late ‘40s — we still had a crossing-guard watchman in Haddonfield (“ha-din-FIELD;” as in “at”), the town in south Jersey near where I lived.
Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines went through Haddonfield, and crossed the main drag, Kings Highway, just west of the station. When a train was coming, or about to start at the station, the watchman would come out to flag the crossing. He was also cranking down the gates.
Trains were frequent.
The railroad had to hire a watchman. He stayed in a little shanty near the crossing between trains.
I think that watchman also controlled gates at other crossings in Haddonfield. There were at least three, maybe four.
Too bad watchmen disappeared with the coming of automation. Perhaps a watchman could better stop the idiots trying to beat the train.
Our family moved out of south Jersey in 1957. And Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines became part of Conrail, and was eventually replaced by government commuter authorities.
The line through Haddonfield was converted to a rapid-transit connected to an earlier rapid-transit over Delaware River Bridge to Philadelphia, now Ben Franklin Bridge.
That rapid-transit was taken below-grade through Haddonfield. Kings Highway no longer crossed at grade. It’s on an overpass that leaps over the tracks below.
The line from Philadelphia to Atlantic City is also down there. It’s operated by Jersey Transit.

A brand-new Alco C-630 begins its first run. (Photo by Dave Sweetland.)

—The October 2015 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is a brand-new Alco C-630 in the lead with a westbound freight leaving Pitcairn Yard east of Pittsburgh, PA.
It’s 1966, the year I graduated college.
“C” stands for “Century,” the locomotive series, and “630” is six drive-axles, 3,000 horsepower.
Alco (American Locomotive Company) is of course long-gone. It tanked in 1969 when General-Electric started building complete diesel locomotives.
General-Electric had been supplying electrical components like traction-motors to Alco, but stopped in 1953.
Which is a shame, since American Locomotive Company, a long-time supplier of railroad steam-locomotives, had successfully made the transition to diesel locomotives. In fact, its RS-1 road-switcher of 1941 pioneered the concept, which railroads still prefer. Cab-units are no longer made.
But by the ‘60s Alco was foundering. Electromotive (EMD) had taken over the diesel-locomotive market. Other manufacturers, like Baldwin and Fairbanks-Morse had already failed.
When General-Electric started marketing locomotives, EMD had competition that imperiled it.
Even now many Alcos are still running, although mostly on smaller railroads, especially shortlines.
Alco eventually closed its plant in Schenectady, but continued production up in Canada at Montreal Locomotive Works, with whom it long-ago merged.
At least one more six-axle behemoth was fielded after the C-630, the C-636, 3,600 horsepower instead of 3,000.
Penn-Central #6320 (a C-630) used as one of two pusher-units around Horseshoe Curve. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
Penn-Central 6320, pushing at Horseshoe curve about 1971, is a C-630.

The way it was in the ‘50s. (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—The thing most wrong with this car is the color.
I prefer yellow as on the Milner coupe from American Graffiti.
The Milner coupe.
The October 2015 entry in my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a 1932 Ford five-window coupe with an early Buick V8 engine.
If it were yellow, it would have been ahead of the Winged Warrior.
I also prefer the three-window coupes, and I’ve photographed a stellar example with a SmallBlock Chevy V8.
What I desire most. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
Well okay, red is not yellow, but it ain’t as bad as the color of the calendar-car.
Nevertheless, this car is pretty much what hot-rodders were doing in the ‘50s.
A ’32 Ford with a souped V8 from the junkyard.
I especially like that it’s Buick’s first V8, its “nail-valve.”
“Nail-valve” because it’s valves were tiny. They were vertical, all in-a-row on the top side of a pent-roof combustion-chamber.
What possessed Buick to do this I have no idea, since it aims the exhaust-valves far away from the cylinder-head exits, which were on the cylinder-head sides.
Yet the dude who built this car got a Buick V8, probably from a junkyard crash-victim.
No doubt the car has had several owners, but they all kept that Buick Nail-Valve.
How many were tempted to replace it with a SmallBlock?
Supposedly these motors were superior torque-generators at low revs.
Well of course, with tiny valves it’s a low-rev motor.
I also notice the motor has a lot of carburetion, six unfiltered Strombergs.
Open ‘em all at once, and you won’t get much airflow.
I put giant toilet-mouthed 40-mm carbs on my Ducati (“dew-KAH-dee,” as in “ah”) motorcycle. But an identical motorcycle with 32-mm carbs accelerated faster. 40s were okay to do 150 mph, but too much at 30-60.
So I wonder if all six carbs work? Or if it’s just a trailer-queen?
Quite often a hotrod will have triple deuces, but only the center carb works.

“I can still see that oily, black pillar of smoke TOWERING above the Arizona.” (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—The October 2015 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is a Japanese Zero.
Putting the Zero last in this calendar-report seems unfair, since it was a surprisingly good airplane.
An excellent dogfighter, though short on armor. The Japanese seemed to think their pilots expendable.
Shoot up a well-armored Navy fighter, and its pilot was more likely to survive.
As per usual, I’ll let my WWII warbirds site weigh in:
“Fast, maneuverable and flown by highly-skilled pilots, the Mitsubishi Zero-Sen was the most famous Japanese plane of WWII, and a big surprise to American forces.
Ignored by British and American intelligence (who had access to design plans for the aircraft years before the war) the ‘Zero’ (it was the Navy Type O carrier-based fighter) was armed with two 20-mm cannon, two 7.7mm machine guns, and possessed the incredible range of 1,930 miles using a centerline drop tank.
Though outclassed by more powerful U.S. fighters after late 1943, the Zero remained a tough opponent throughout the war.
First flown on April 1st, 1939, the A6M1 prototype was powered by a 780-horsepower Mitsubishi Zuisei radial engine which gave it excellent performance except for its maximum speed, which was below specifications.
A second prototype, the A6M2, was powered by a 925-horsepower Nakajima Sakae engine, which was so successful that in July 1940, the type was ordered into production as the Navy Type ‘O’ Carrier Fighter Model 11.
Pre-production Zeros were used in China from August 1940. This outstanding aircraft could travel at speeds up to 350 mph in level flight (the A6M5 version, 1,130 horsepower) and reach 15,000 feet in five minutes.
Contrast this with America’s front line fighter, the Grumman F4F Wildcat, which had a top speed of 325 mph, was not as maneuverable, and which had four .50-inch machine guns. No wonder the few Wildcat pilots rising up to defend Pearl Harbor in December, 1941 were surprised!
By late 1944, with most of its aircraft carriers sunk (and its most highly-trained aircrews gone), Japan resorted to desperate measures. These included ‘Kamikaze’ (divine wind) suicide raids, wherein green pilots would turn their early-model Zeros into aerial bombs for attacks on Allied ships. Truly an ignominious end for one of history’s great warbirds.”
So I wonder if this Zero has its original Nakajima Sakae 12 motor.
Only two Zeros are airworthy, and the one pictured in my WWII Warbirds site has a Pratt & Whitney.
It’s easier to get Pratt & Whitney parts.
The Zero was made by Mitsubishi.
When I worked at the Messenger newspaper years ago, I mentioned buying a Mitsubishi SUV. Mitsubishi had allied with Chrysler.
“Mitsubishi?” a friend screamed. “Weren’t they the manufacturers of the Japanese Zero?
I can still see that oily, black pillar of smoke towering above the Arizona.”

This is my kind of car.

—The October 2015 entry of my Jim LePore muscle-car calendar is a 1966 Chevy-II Nova two-door hardtop.
“Zippity-do,” I thought. “What’s so special about this thing?”
It’s the type of car I would buy. It has the top-of-the-line 327 cubic-inch SmallBlock with four-on-the-floor.
It’s the Chevy version of Ford’s Falcon Futura “Sprint,” except a 327 SmallBlock is more desirable.
The calendar calls it a musclecar.
Well, sorta.
350 horsepower!
Not a Big-Block Chevelle, but the sort of car I’d want to replace the car-of-my-dreams, a SmallBlock ’55, if I’d ever had one.
The car-of-my-dreams, a six-inline Two-Ten hardtop converted to a 283 four-speed. —All through high-school, college, and even after. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
Unlike the Big-Block Chevelle, or a G-T-O, this car makes sense. Practicality hadn’t been sacrificed to produce the fastest car.
As the late ‘60s progressed into the early ‘70s, musclecars became more-and-more extreme = impractical.
I probably would have hung onto a 327 Chevy-II a long time.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Pat Brown

Long ago, 1955, when I was in fifth-grade, all the little boys in my class lusted after classmate Pat Brown.
That was because she was extremely well-endowed with a gigantic rack.
That is, all the little boys but me.
Gigantic rack or not, she had a large moon-shaped face, always scowling, was built like a center for the New-England patriots, and seemed a mite portly.
I was more attracted to Shirley Stenghem (“sten-jum”), who lived in a large nearby apartment-complex, and sunned herself strapless outside on a blanket.
She wasn’t as well-endowed as Pat Brown, but she was a tart.
She was the sexpot daughter of an Air Force daddy, and they lived in the apartment-complex because he might get relocated.
I’m a graduate of the Hilda Q. Walton School of sexual relations.
Hilda was the Sunday-School superintendent of my parents’ church. She also lived next-door.
She convinced me as a pants-wearer no female would have anything to do with me.
My parents concurred by also convincing me I was “Of-the-Devil.”
Yet there was Shirley Stenghem, but she lived on the wrong-side-of-town, in an apartment-complex, for cryin’ out loud.
I also got the attention of a cute Jewish girl named Joan Kupzoff, who despite going steady with a dude named Mike, chased me on her bicycle.
I biked away scared, no idea what I’d say. It’s the Walton legacy.
Shirley even sent me a cryptic note inviting me to a dance. I still have it; it’s in my safe-deposit box. (A dance, with my father?)
Joan was cute, but she was also from the wrong side of town, north of Marlton Pike. She was also Jewish (gasp), the wrong religion.
The girls Mrs. Walton would have me interested in were all older than me, somewhat boring as church-members, and hardly sexy.
There was only one non church-member from the right side of town, Vivian Arcinese (“ARE-sin-eez”), same age as me, and two doors distant.
But she had become a trollop. She bleached her hair blonde, and would parade through our neighborhood in her skimpy yellow bikini headed for “Bare-Ass-Beach.” (“BAB.”)
I’d heard all about “Bare-Ass-Beach,” but wasn’t sure it existed until I walked to it one afternoon through the woods.
Sure enough, there were Vivian, Shirley, and buxom Pat Brown sunning themselves bare-naked on a small beach next to a muddy creek.
The beach was a tiny sandbar; no poison-ivy. How Vivian avoided poison-ivy walking through woods in her skimpy bikini I’ll never know.
A few hard-rocks with greasy DA haircuts were also sunning themselves bare-naked.
Plus a tall gangly girl named Barbara — I can’t remember her last name. She looked embarrassed to be buck-naked.
Such were the social-pressures of south Jersey.
I don’t recall any intercourse.
That Walton legacy is still with me, as it has been over sixty years.
I still feel intimidated by girls. And that’s despite all the girls that chased me when I drove bus.
So now I wonder if Vivian and Shirley and Joan and Pat are still alive.
Pat Brown is probably overweight, and Shirley is probably upset she’s a fading sexpot.
Vivian still lives in my old neighborhood. She’s alone, and has divorced a few times.
Too bad I didn’t visit her when I visited Hilda back in ’92.

• “Q” stood for Quincy, her maiden-name.
• “Marlton Pike” was the main east-west drag through our little town. Anything north of Marlton Pike was “the wrong side of town” to faire Hilda. We lived south of Marlton Pike. — “Stenghem’s” apartment-complex was far east of where I lived, thereby making it “the wrong side of town.”
• For 16&1/2 years (1977-1993) I drove transit bus for Regional Transit Service (RTS) in Rochester, NY, a public employer, the transit-bus operator in Rochester and environs. My stroke October 26th, 1993 ended that. I retired on medical-disability. I recovered fairly well.


Saturday, September 12, 2015

Monthly Calendar-Report for September 2015

(This here calendar-report woulda flown earlier, except I had an operation, and have been zonked out at least two weeks.)

21J westbound through Altoona. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

—In my humble opinion, this is the best photo my brother ever took.
The September 2015 entry of my own calendar is westbound Norfolk Southern train 21J threading downtown Altoona.
It’s not exactly what he wanted. That giant warehouse at right, with the vertically corrugated steel siding panels, is “Altoona Pipe and Steel.” “Altoona Pipe and Steel” is atop the siding panels. He got one photo with “Altoona Pipe and Steel” in it, but cut off the locomotive pilot.
This photo was not long after my brother broke his leg. He was on crutches, and had to sit in a folding-chair while waiting.
He broke his leg getting off the bottom rung of his ladder. He was trying to dislodge a hornets’ nest.
He hobbled up two flights of stairs to this footbridge over the old Pennsy main through Altoona.
Altoona has a long and storied past for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
It’s at the base of Allegheny Mountain, once a barrier to trade across PA.
Helpers get added to help trains over the mountain.
Altoona is half-way across PA, half-way between Harrisburg and Pittsburgh.
Pennsy built shops to build and service locomotives.
Vast marshaling yards were also installed.
Locomotives specific to duty were assigned. Faster locomotives ran to Harrisburg, since it wasn’t so challenging.
Powerful plodders were assigned to get trains over Allegheny Mountain (“The Hill”). —Plus the additional helpers.
Things are slightly different with dieselization.
But “The Hill” still intimidates.
Often a lighter train can conquer The Hill without helpers. But if the train is heavy, helpers are needed.
The helpers are serviced at Cresson (“KRESS-in”), just west of the summit, but get dispatched down to Altoona.
And helpers often run all the way to Pittsburgh. They provide extra braking (dynamic-braking) for a train going downhill.
With dynamic-braking, the locomotive’s traction-motors are switched to generators.
So now Altoona is a city out in the rural outback.
Beyond Altoona civilization gravitated near the railroad. Many of the towns are old coal-mining towns, and coal would get shipped on the railroad.
The towns heave this-way-and-that over mountainous terrain.
And most still have streets only 19th-century wide.
South Fork is a prime example; South Fork being south (railroad-west) of the summit, and also the junction of a coal spur.
South Fork is the south fork of the Conemaugh River, which Pennsy followed to Pittsburgh. South Fork was the starting-point of the Johnstown Flood.
Through Altoona the railroad splits into express-tracks and drag-tracks, the drag-tracks being for slow heavy trains.
21J is on the express-tracks.
Altoona is no longer what it was with Pennsy. —And of course Pennsy is long-gone, owned and operated by Norfolk Southern Railroad.
But Altoona still has a large shop in adjacent Juniata (“june-eee-AT-uh”), to maintain and rebuild Norfolk Southern locomotives.
And that second unit is not a wide-cab.

I’ve been here, but things are much different now. (Photo courtesy Joe Suo Collection ©.)

—This picture is not dramatic, but I know exactly where it is.
The September 2015 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is a train not far from the summit tunnels of The Hill in Gallitzin (“guh-LIT-zin;” as in “get”), PA.
Next to the tracks is the dirt road my brother and I call “Cemetery Road.”
It goes to a rural cemetery called “Bennington Cemetery.” —Google calls it “Bird Eye Road,” and it goes past the cemetery. I’ve never been to the cemetery.
But I’ve driven the road to get pictures for my calendar.
To the left of the train is The Slide, the ramp Pennsy built to get up to Portage Tunnel.
The New Portage Railroad was part of railroad the state built for its Public Works System. As first built the Public Works crossed Allegheny Mountain with a difficult inclined-plane railroad. Stationary steam-engines would winch cars up the planes.
Public Works was a combination canal and railroad. Canal packets would get put on railroad flatcars.
New Portage Tunnel was part of the New Portage Railroad. Pennsy got it when PA’s Public Works System failed. Pennsy had put it out of business.
Private capital triumphed over public capital — plus newer technology.
A railroad could run any time in any season. Canals froze in Winter, and Public Works did not operate at night.
Pennsy decided New Portage Tunnel would give them a second summit tunnel.
But they had to ramp up to it, since New Portage Tunnel was higher than Pennsy’s original tunnel.
“The Slide” (the ramp) is 2.36% — or was. Now it’s 2.28 %. the grade was decreased slightly when the floor of the tunnel was lowered to clear doublestacks. That’s 2.28 feet down for every 100 feet forward, fairly steep, but not extremely.
The Slide and New Portage Tunnel are eastbound. The train pictured is westbound, approaching the original Pennsy tunnel at Gallitzin.
A third tunnel was also built. So much traffic was on Pennsy the original tunnel became a bottleneck. Only one track could be in it. —It was originally two tracks, but railroad equipment became large.
Recently that third tunnel was abandoned and closed, and the original Pennsy tunnel was enlarged and widened to clear doublestacks and two tracks.
An eastbound descends The Slide. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)
Shrubbery has grown in around everything, and almost obliterates The Slide. But if a train is descending The Slide it’s obvious.
That swale beside the road is grown over.
The locomotives are Baldwin’s distinctive Sharknose cab-units.
The Sharknose is industrial designer Raymond Loewy (“low-eee”) from 1949 on.
They’re attractive, but even the Sharknose couldn’t save Baldwin.
Baldwin diesel locomotives were too unreliable. And when a locomotive cripples, its train blocks the railroad. You can’t just go around the cripple.
Not on a railroad, where everything is using the same track.

Ram-Air. (Photo by Peter Harholdt©.)

—The September 2015 entry in my Motorbooks Musclecar calendar is a 1970&1/2 Pontiac Firebird Trans-Am Ram-Air IV.
That’s the incredibly powerful, and heavy, 455 cubic-inch Ram-Air motor. A scoop is on the hood to ram cold-air into the gigantic four-barrel carburetor. Cold air is denser and renders more horsepower.
You could watch the scoop vibrate as you revved the engine. It was on the carb, independent of the hood.
I used to think the Endura-bumpered 1970&1/2 Camaro was one of the best-looking cars ever made.
An Endura-bumpered Z-28.
But then I remembered this Firebird, that it doesn’t resort to a Ferrari egg-crate grille.
And the best-looking car ever is the early Jaguar XK-E.
An early Jaguar XK-E. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
Both the Camaro and Firebird are a little too big. They also have gigantic sedan doors.
That heavy 455 cubic-inch engine is a bit much. Too much weight on the front-end. A humble two-liter BMW 2002 could out-corner it.
Sadly, the Firebird got worse-looking as the decade progressed. So too did the Camaro. The 5-mph bumper-requirement ruined both.

A Pennsy 0-4-0 switcher in Atlantic City. (Photo by Charles Houser, Sr.)

—The September 2015 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is a tiny Pennsy 0-4-0 switcher in Atlantic City yard.
Pennsy never got into heavy 0-8-0 switchers like other railroads.
They developed one but only built just a few.
What they’d do is reassign Consolidations (2-8-0) retired from road-duty.
Ya might find an H-6 teakettle yarding cars.
Pennsy did build quite a few smaller switchers, particularly 0-6-0.
Usually when I saw a switcher they were 0-6-0. They had slope-back tenders to improve rearward engineer vision.
A Pennsy 0-6-0.
But there was one application where a smaller driver wheelbase was required, an 0-4-0.
That was the docks and piers in Philadelphia. Curves were so tight only an 0-4-0 would do ‘em. An 0-6-0, even with flangeless center drivers, might derail.
So Pennsy developed 0-4-0s instead of giving up on the dock-tracks.
Reading (“REDDing;” not ”READing”) had ‘em too. Reading also served the Philadelphia waterfront.
And Pennsy’s 0-4-0 was fairly modern. They’re piston-valve, not ancient slide-valve, and have the same locomotive-cab as Pennsy’s K-4 Pacific (4-6-2).
Of course this locomotive is in Atlantic City, NJ, not the Philadelphia waterfront. Atlantic City isn’t major yard, so switching cars could be done by an 0-4-0.

1950 Merc lead-sled custom. (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—The September 2015 entry in my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a modified 1950 Mercury custom.
Such customs were called “lead-sleds,” because so much molten lead was paddled to smooth body-welds.
The ’49-’51 Mercs are perhaps the most desirable custom-car of all time.
Ford Motor Company, without a styling-section, produced some of the greatest looking cars ever; e.g. the Model-A Ford, the ’32 Ford, the ’34, the ’39/’40 five-window coupe, and these Mercuries.
Customizers loved to exercise their craft on these Mercuries, although in my humble opinion they don’t need much.
A Jimmy-Dean Merc. Just nosed-and-decked and skirts; and lowered a bit.
This car looks only chopped and lowered.
I’ve seen these things with perhaps  a four-inch section taken out of the doors and side-sections.
I saw one as a high-school teenager. It was flat-black primer, yet very well done.
But it was so low it scraped the ground just leaving the burger-joint.
Plus it’s driver had to sit on the floor in the back.
Imagine getting it into a driveway, or into a parking-lot. So goes your 89-bazilyun dollar paint-job — the bottom will scrape the pavement.
This car has air-suspension, which supposedly raises the car enough to not scrape.
If I am correct, these Mercuries were supposed to be Ford’s 1949 Ford.
A 1949 Shoebox Ford.
Except Henry Ford II, “The Deuce,” shoved through Ford’s revolutionary Shoebox Ford.
As far as I know, these ’49-’51 Mercuries also use pretty much the same chassis as the Shoebox — no more buggy-springs.

Dawn over Bellevue Yard in Ohio. (Photo by Jermaine Ashby.)

—Another Jermaine Ashby picture, which I don’t think is that good.
It seems all this picture displays is Ashby’s proficiency with Photoshop©.
The September 2015 entry of my Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar is dawn at the yard in Bellevue, OH.
Ashby aimed his camera into the dawning sun.
Then he dodged the front of the train so it would render not as dark as other locomotives in the picture.
“Dodge” is an old darkroom term. It refers to limiting the amount of enlarger light through a negative so the area “dodged” is exposed less than the surrounding area, and therefore renders lighter.
In that case the “dodging” tool was something to block out the enlarger light, like a piece of cardboard.
Photoshop has the computer equivalent of a “dodge” tool. You mouse the area you want lighter with the tool.
I imagine my Photoshop-Elements-10, a cheaper and less powerful Photoshop, has some version of the “dodge” tool, something to lighten the area selected.
I don’t use it. I’m one of these fustian old users who think a photo shouldn’t be heavily treated.
I use my Photoshop-Elements to do a little, mainly to crop and resize. My PE-10 also has an “enhance” function to lighten shadows. I use it, if it looks better.
But I don’t do what Ashby did, to lighten just an area of the picture: namely the front of the central locomotive. If I can “lighten shadows” in an entire picture, I might.
But with this picture only the front of the central locomotive is lightened. Other locomotives off to the left are dark-city.
Plus Ashby couldn’t be too precise about selecting out just the central locomotive — which he probably tried. Instead, it looks like he only used the dodge-tool, and had to be careful with the locomotive number-boards atop the cab.
He couldn’t get too close to the top edge lest he start lightening the sky.
To me all this horsing around is only photography because that’s what you started with.
At the Canandaigua Daily Messenger newspaper, from where I retired, Ashby’s photograph would be called a “photo-illustration.” It looks pretty good, but only because Ashby horsed around with the file.

“Peashooter.” (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—The September 2015 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is Boeing P-26A “Peashooter.”
I’ll let Wikipedia weigh in, since my WWII warbirds site rightly doesn’t think the Peashooter is a WWII warbird:
“The Boeing P-26 Peashooter was the first American all-metal production fighter aircraft and the first pursuit monoplane used by the United States Army Air Corps. Designed and built by Boeing; the prototype first flew in 1932, and the type was still in use with the U.S. Army Air Corps as late as 1941 in the Philippines.
The project, funded by Boeing, began in September 1931, with the Army Air Corps supplying the engines and instruments. The design, which included an open cockpit, fixed landing gear and externally braced wings, was the last such design procured by the USAAC as a fighter aircraft.
The diminutive ‘Peashooter,’ as it became affectionately known by service pilots, was faster than previous American combat aircraft. Nonetheless, due to the rapid progress in aviation design in the 1930s, its design quickly became an anachronism, with its wire-braced wings, fixed landing gear and open cockpit. The Curtiss P-36, Messerschmitt Bf 109 and Hawker Hurricane, with enclosed cockpits, retractable landing gear and cantilever wings, all flew for the first time in 1935, just three years later than the P-26.
However, the P-26 was easy to fly, and it remained in service until the U.S. entered World War II.
Deliveries to USAAC pursuit squadrons began in December 1933 with the last production aircraft in the series coming off the assembly line in 1936, designated the P-26C. Ultimately, 22 squadrons flew the Peashooter, with peak service being six squadrons in 1936. P-26s were the frontline fighters of the USAAC until 1938, when Seversky P-35s and Curtiss P-36s began to replace the P-26.
The first Boeing P-26 to experience major combat operation was a Chinese Model 281. On August 15th,1937, eight P-26/281s from the Chinese Nationalist Air Force 3rd Pursuit Group, 17th Squadron, based at Chuyung airfield, engaged eight out of 20 Mitsubishi G3M ‘Nell’ medium bombers from the Kisarazu Air Group sent to attack Nanking.
The Chinese Boeing fighters helped shoot down two of the four Japanese bombers destroyed that day without suffering any losses. Subsequent engagements between the Chinese Peashooter pilots and pilots of the Imperial Japanese Navy flying the Mitsubishi A5M ‘Claudes’ were the first aerial dogfights and kills between all-metal monoplane fighter aircraft.”
I’m only vaguely familiar with the Peashooter.
It looks like a turkey, hardly the fabulous airplane a Mustang or Lightning is. Or even a P-40 Warhawk. How far aviation advanced in just a decade.
It’s hard to think of the Peashooter as a fighter-plane compared to what came later.
But after the biplanes of WWI, the Peashooter was an advance.

1970 455 Buick GS.

—The September 2015 entry of my Jim LePore muscle-car calendar is a 1970 GS (Grand Sport) Buick, 455 cubic-inches.
I had to call my brother-in-Boston. He’s an authority on GS Buicks, since they’re from his time as a teenager, and after my time.
Plus the musclecar he likes most is a GS Buick, the GSX, which is the most extreme GS.
Years ago I took a photo of a GS Buick at an antique car-show, but it’s the small motor.
350 GS Buick. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
I didn’t realize at that time you could get a GS Buick with their small V8, 350 cubic-inches.
Apparently there were four versions of the 455 cubic-inch GS Buick, up to and including the “Stage-IV,” the GSX.
The car pictured is a Stage-I, only 370 horsepower, but still a lotta torque.
It’s only a single four-barrel carburetor. A Stage-IV had two four-barrel carbs, cold-air induction, etc.
GS Buicks generated the highest torque-rating of any musclecar, although not by much. The car pictured is 510 foot-pounds.
And the drag-guys know, torque is what matters, especially at the start, and halfway through the quarter-mile.
For those not hip to drag-racing, it’s start to the end of a flat quarter-mile drag-strip, side-by-side, two cars.The first to finish is the winner, which means a lot of factors are at play. A car might be faster, but might have started shortly after the winning car.
If you jump the start (start early), you’ve “red-lighted,” and your run doesn’t count.
Winning drag-racers were usually consistent starting, and could get a jump on their competitor.
Once the cars get rolling, perhaps half-way through the quarter-mile, horsepower becomes pre-emanate, except that’s just maintaining a heavy torque-input at higher engine-speeds.
In which case how well an engine can breathe may limit the horsepower generated. Chrysler’s “Hemi” (“hem-ee;” not “he-mee”) was an excellent breather.
A 455 GS-Buick had big valves, helping it breathe well at high revs.
My guess is this car local, as are all cars in the calendar.
Its license-plate is New York, obliterated with Photoshop.
Well, it ain’t the hyper-extreme GSX, but it is a 455 GS Buick.
And convertible GS Buicks are rare.
In fact, I wonder if it’s actually the 350 GS Buick I photographed long ago, and the calendar is claiming it’s a 455. It’s the same color.
But the side-medallion on the car says “GS 455.”


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

100 years old

This is the 1915 installation, the main line from Philadelphia to Paoli; no towers. (An out-of-service signal gantry is in the picture.)


This catenary is not the original installation; it’s what came later, and is most of PRR’s electrification.
(“kat-in-AIR-eee;” not “cant-in-AIR-eee”)

The Pennsylvania Railroad’s first mainline electrification is 100 years old.
Pennsy did earlier electrifications: the tunnels into New York City from north Jersey, and there was an experimental installation in south Jersey that preceded the tunnels.
But they were third-rail direct-current.
The installation from Paoli east into Philadelphia was more serious, although the Manhattan tunnels could be considered serious.
It was 12,500 volt 25-cycle alternating current delivered by overhead wire, same as earlier installed on New York, New Haven & Hartford, the pioneer.
And it was on Pennsy’s mainline out of Philadelphia that was originally part of the state’s Public Works System, a response to the Erie Canal.
Public Works, a combination canal and railroad, eventually failed. Pennsy put it out of business.
Public Works was time-consuming and cumbersome, and its canals froze in Winter.
When Public Works failed, Pennsy took over the railroad out of Philadelphia.
Suburban development grew up out along the railroad, and the railroad encouraged it.
Residents used the railroad to commute into Philadelphia.
Electrification was an attempt to improve commuting into Philadelphia.
Pennsy’s original terminal in Philadelphia, Broad Street Station, not 30th-Street, was stub-end. Locomotives had to get turned around and recoupled to commuter-trains.
Electrification allowed self-powered coaches that didn’t have to be turned.
Self-powered electric coaches could also accelerate better than steam-locomotives.
But electrification was more than that. Electric traction delivered constant torque to the drive-wheels, as opposed to piston-thrusts of side-rod steam locomotives.
Electrification would ease the climb over Allegheny Mountain, and Pennsy long considered doing it.
Pennsy never electrified west of Harrisburg, but even now electrification is considered.
It’s just that dieselization is electrification, sort of. An on-board diesel-engine generates electricity for traction-motors.
Most railroad diesel-locomotives are diesel-electric, and deliver the same constant drive-torque electrification would produce.
Electrification without wires.
But Pennsy’s first electrification was with wires.
Pennsy went on to electrify many of its lines east of Harrisburg, clear through 1938.
Probably the prime example was New York City to Washington D.C., now Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, our nation’s supposed high-speed railroad.
Segments are good for 150 mph, but some segments can’t exceed 40. It has tunnels in Baltimore that go back to the 1880s.
The Northeast Corridor’s equipment has to be sized to fit those tunnels, plus the tunnels into Manhattan.
Pennsy’s overhead-wire electrification was alternating-current, since AC transmitted better over distance.
Which meant the locomotives had to be alternating-current. The GG-1 is AC, as are the MP-54 commuter-coaches.

MP-54s line up in Paoli. (Photo by Frank Tatnall.)

The later E-44 freight-motors had to rectify the wire-current for their direct-current traction-motors.
So now Pennsy’s electrification is 100 years old. And it’s still up, although much of Pennsy’s later electrifications were taken down.
Maintaining catenary is time-consuming and expensive.
The old Pennsy mainline out of Philadelphia is now Amtrak, its “Keystone Corridor” to Harrisburg. It also carries commuters, although now it’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (Septa), not a railroad.
But it’s still electrified. Electrification of a commuter-district makes sense, as does the Northeast Corridor. Even when a line to Boston was made part of the Northeast Corridor, it was done with electrification by overhead wire.
It’s the same electrification Pennsy installed in 1915.

Guilty as charged! A Pennsy-man.


Saturday, August 22, 2015

Big doings

(Photo by BobbaLew.)

Just over three years ago, right after my wife died, I wrote up a list of things to do — I was told making lists was cathartic.
I don’t know as it was.
I lived with that lady 44 years, thereby surprising all the nattering nabobs of negativism that noisily declared we wouldn’t make a year.
Her mother growled when she first met me, as if to say “look what the cat dragged in.”
She actually growled; I’m not making this up.
One of the things I had on my list was removal of a giant poplar-tree, that had grown up as a weed over the 25 years I’ve been here.
There was a school up-the-street, converted to an American Legion.
They had a sodium-vapor light outside to light their parking-lot all night. It used to shine in our kitchen all the way into our bedroom.
But that poplar grew up to obscure that light.
I worried about that poplar. They have a reputation.
Supposedly they don’t last long.
I was afraid of it toppling over and messing up my fence.
Sometimes it would get whipped around during thunderstorms.
I have a gigantic five-foot chain-link fence surrounding about three acres of my property. It cost us $16,000 — best $16,000 we ever spent.
It allows my dog to run, without worrying about her getting into the highway.
Last Thursday (August 20th, 2015) would be the BIG DAY.
Despite my stroke-induced disinclination to make phonecalls, I had arranged for J.M. Tree-Service to remove the tree.
This was partly because their office-manager was eager to do e-mail, which I prefer.
Often businesses are still stuck in the 20th century, preferring phone business.
Since I feel unsure on the phone, I prefer e-mail.
I got up around 7:30, and could hear heavy trucks outside.
J.M. Tree-Service was already there, and a boom-truck with bucket set up on my lawn.
I stepped outside and met the foreman. “I’m waiting for my crane-man,” he said.
We then looked at two silver-maples right in front of the poplar. Silver-maples are a weed-tree.
Foreman suggested I take those out too, although they weren’t in the contract. $250 plus tax = take ‘em out.
They were actually a single tree with double trunks that split low to the ground. They were a threat to my fence too.
Crane-man appeared, a giant truck with crane attached. It’s in my lede picture.
He set up in my driveway, extending pads out to lift the truck and steady the crane.
The crane then extended high above the poplar.
Removal of the poplar began.
Foreman got in the boom-bucket with a chainsaw, and attacked the tree-trunk.
All-of-a-sudden the crane was lifting the top 30 feet or so of the tree.
It was slowly lowered to the waiting crew-guys, who took it apart so they could ram it through their chipper.
I was impressed.
Foreman made another cut, and suddenly the crane was lifting that part.
I went inside to eat breakfast, and when I came back out the poplar and silver-maples were gone.
Most of the crew had already left, including crane-man.
My driveway had been swept clean of chips.
All that was left were two giant logs, both of which may have been the trunk of the poplar — I know one was.
They could have removed them, except it poured rain later that afternoon.
When I mention this to my bereavement-group — a grief group — they’ll call it progress.
The fact I managed to arrange all this despite losing my wife.

• My wife died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.
• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993, and it slightly compromised my speech. (Difficulty finding and putting words together.)