Saturday, May 30, 2015

Monthly Calendar-Report for June 2015

(I did a wild effort to get this Calendar-Report done, since I was in the hospital last weekend, and that’s a blog-topic.
All because my May Calendar-Report had 149 readers (and counting), a record.
Come-on, guys, it’s only a blog. I get 10-20 readers on average, and most are from links I send e-mail.
And in my humble opinion, my Calendar-Reports are the most boring thing I write.
“Someone must have ‘shared’ it,” my brother said.)



Eastbound stacker charges Brickyard Crossing on Track One. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)

—When I first looked at the photo my brother took at Brickyard Crossing, I decided it was one I could never take, that it was too close to the tracks.
The picture is the June 2015 entry of my own calendar.
It’s not actually Brickyard Road. It’s Porta Road, the only grade-crossing in Altoona. It has little traffic.
The line is so busy Altoona and other towns built bridges under and over the tracks.
There used to be a brickyard adjacent, so the railroad and fans call it “Brickyard.”
But where my brother took this picture is not unsafe. He’s up against an equipment-box about 10 feet from the tracks.
It’s just that an approaching train looks imposing.
He showed me the area recently. I decided I could do that.
10 feet is as close as I wanna get.
The train is a stacker, double-stacked freight containers in wellcars designed for double-stacks.
Often the wellcars are three or five hooked together with drawbars, and they share a single truck at each end.
Sometimes you see empty wellcars going back for more containers. That’s called a “bare-table” train.
The stacker begins and ends at a depot that can load and unload containers.
Containers often come in ships from overseas, but they are 40 feet, so-called “international containers.” Containers can go up to 53 feet, the standard trailer-length. “Domestic containers.” Most wellcars can secure either length.
Southern Pacific was the first railroad to use double-stacks, and quickly all railroads were doing it, or at least wanted to. —Southern Pacific is no more; it was merged into Union Pacific.
Double-stacked containers require more overhead clearance than many eastern railroads had, like this Pennsylvania Railroad main.
Tunnels had to be enlarged to clear double-stacks, bridges raised, or tracks lowered.
On the CSX line in western Rochester is a footbridge. You can see it. The tracks dip so the bridge will clear double-stacks.
Not long ago the original Pennsy tunnels through Allegheny summit could not clear double-stacks, which put PA at a commercial disadvantage.
At that time the line was Conrail, so two tunnels were enlarged with state aid. A third tunnel was abandoned, and Pennsy’s original Allegheny tunnel made wide enough for two tracks.
The locomotive is a General-Electric Dash 9-44CW, 4,400 horsepower. I see three units. The engines at right are a helper-set, two SD40-Es.
The stackers don’t always get helpers, but they do if they’re long and heavy. A stacker can usually climb The Hill unassisted. There are no helpers on the front of this train.
Truckers are upset with stackers. But imagine 200 or more trucks clogging an interstate. That’s also 200 or more drivers.
A single double-stack can move 200 or more containers with only a crew of two or three.




Mighty Rockville. (Photo by Daniel Juhasz.)

—None of my calendar-photos are extraordinary, but the best is the one above, Pennsy’s Rockville Bridge.
It’s the June 2015 entry of my Norfolk Southern Employees’ Photography-Contest calendar.
Rockville is where the Pennsylvania Railroad crossed one of the main impediments to commerce across PA, the wide Susquehanna (“suss-kwee-HA-nuh”) River, but very shallow.
It’s not deep enough to pass ocean-going ships. About all it can accommodate is small watercraft without much draft.
Rockville Bridge is one of the signature engineering achievements of Mighty Pennsy, as much as Horseshoe Curve.
At least this third bridge, finished in 1902.
It was built wide enough for four tracks — 52 feet. It’s not four tracks now, but was for a long time.
Pennsy, of course, is no more. The line is owned and operated by Norfolk Southern, a 1982 merger of Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway.
Pennsy, once the largest railroad in the world, was affected by all the things that brought down east-coast railroading, expensive commuter operations, taxes, and airline competition and the Eisenhower Interstate System.
Pennsy had to merge with arch-rival New York Central, the other heavy-hitter to the east coast.
That was Penn-Central, which went bankrupt in two years — the largest bankruptcy ever at that time.
Penn-Central was followed by Conrail, at first a government attempt to rationalize east-coast railroad service. Other railroads were also going bankrupt.
Conrail became successful and eventually privatized.
Conrail was broken up and sold in 1999. CSX got the old New York Central main across New York, and Norfolk Southern got the old ex-Pennsy main across PA.
The train pictured will probably go down to Harrisburg where it will switch over to the old Reading (“REDD-ing;” not “READ-ing”) main toward the New York City Area.
The line becomes ex-Jersey Central, and doesn’t actually access New York City. The containers will get unloaded in north Jersey, then trucked into New York City.
The old Pennsy line to New York City is now part of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor. The old Pennsy electrified line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg is also Amtrak.
I used to say it would take a direct hit from a thermonuclear warhead to take out Rockville Bridge.
It’s concrete with stone facing, although I’m getting discussion about whether it’s all stone masonry.
But a small part washed out not long ago.
The Susquehanna can flood; it drains a very large area.
No matter. Rockville is impressive. 48 70-foot arches marching across the river; 3,820 feet, incredibly long.
And it was built for four parallel tracks.




1969 Douglass-Yenko Super Camaro. (Photo by Peter Harholdt©.)

—June 2015 entry in my Motorbooks Musclecar calendar is a 1969 Douglass-Yenko Super Camaro.
The Douglass-Yenko Super Camaro is a special car. Any Yenko Camaro is rare, and special.
But the Douglass-Yenko Super Camaro is one Yenko let dealer Jack Douglass build under license. It has the COPO 9561 L-72 427 cubic-inch high-performance motor. It also has the Endura bumper and a COPO 9737 sportscar conversion package. (COPO 9737 consisted of E70X15 tires on Rally Wheels, a 140 mph speedometer, and a 1 inch front stabilizer bar.)
People love the ’69 Camaro, and I think the ’70 Z-28 is one of the best-looking cars ever.
A ’70 Z-28 Camaro.

Pontiac’s Firebird. (Photo by Peter Harholdt©.)
Pontiac’s Firebird is even better, since it avoids the Ferrari grill.
Not too long ago I saw a ’69 Camaro with updates to its motor and suspension. They made it as good as the current Camaro.
Okay, but it was still a ’69 Camaro.
Every once-in-a -while I get the Camaro bug.
But it’s not the ’69.
I prefer the earlier Camaros, the ’67 or ’68, on which the ’69 is based. The sheetmetal is slightly different, but the top is the same. It’s pretty much the same as the earlier Camaro, and that’s a small Detroit sedan.
Not until the 1970 model-year did Chevrolet make big changes to the Camaro. And when they did they made it a great-looking car, although it was still a small Detroit sedan underneath.




Not your normal M-1. (Photo by Don Wood©.)

—The June 2015 entry of my Audio-Visual Designs black-and-white All-Pennsy Calendar is a photograph by Don Wood, the guy whose pictures graced the first Audio-Visual Designs All-Pennsy Calendars. Photographing Pennsy as steam-usage was coming to a close, he particularly gravitated toward Pennsy’s 4-8-2 Mountain engine, the best steam-locomotive Pennsy ever had.
Mountains were often assigned to the Middle Division, Harrisburg to Altoona. It’s an uphill climb, but not much. A Mountain could hold 40-50 mph.
This photograph is not one of Wood’s better photographs. It’s included because of the locomotive’s fittings.
Usually when a locomotive received the front-end “beauty treatment” of relocating the headlight atop the smokebox, and bringing the generator down on the smokebox front, along with a platform to work on it, the locomotive also received a massive cast-steel pilot.
This engine still has its original slatted pilot.
A recent slab-train (empty). (Photo by BobbaLew.)
I notice this train is all gondola-cars, which makes me wonder if it’s a slab-train. If it is, slab-trains are still being run on this railroad. That is, two steel slabs per car for delivery to a mill to be rolled into steel plate.




A Yakovlev Yak-3M. (Photo by Philip Makanna©.)

—The June 2015 entry of my Ghosts WWII warbirds calendar is an airplane I’m not familiar with.
It’s a Yakovlev Yak-3M, a Russian fighter-plane. Pretty much along the lines of the Curtiss P-40, the Supermarine Spitfire, and the Messerschmidt, a water-cooled V12 motor pulling a single-seat monoplane (one wing).
I’ll let my WWII warbirds site weigh in:
“The first attempt to build a fighter called the Yak-3 was shelved in 1941 due to a lack of building materials and an unreliable engine. The second attempt used the Yak-1M, already in production, to maintain the high number of planes being built.
The Yak-3 had a new, smaller wing and smaller dimensions then its predecessor. Its light weight gave the Yak-3 more agility. The Yak-3 completed its trials in October of 1943 and began combat in July of 1944.
In August, small numbers of Yak-3s were built with an improved engine generating 1,700 horsepower, and the aircraft saw limited combat action in 1945.
During the final two years of the WWII, the Yak-3 proved itself a powerful dogfighter. Tough and agile below an altitude of 13,000 feet, the Yak-3 dominated the skies over the battlefields of the Eastern Front during the closing years of the war.”
It seems every major power had to have a version of the WWII fighter-plane; for example, the Brits the Spitfire, the Yanks the Mustang, and the Russkis this Yakovlev Yak-3M.
The Mustang was the best of the lot — although it had the advantage of being designed later.
Apparently the Yak-3M was pretty good, good enough for flyers to have Yakovlev build examples long after the war.
The newer Yak-3Ms are powered by Allison V12s, the engines that powered the P-38 Lightning and the P-40.
Only five of the newer Yak-3Ms are left. All the WWII Yak-3Ms are gone.
Too bad the P-51 Mustang can’t be remanufactured like the newer Yak-3Ms, although by now the restorers are probably building P-51 components new.
Even old the P-51 is a fabulous airplane.



Not the first time. (Photo by Robert Olmsted.)

—The June 2015 entry in my All-Pennsy color calendar is three EMD E-units powering Pennsy’s Manhattan Limited out of Chicago.
This photograph has run before in this calendar, I think twice.
I’m stealing the picture from an earlier Calendar-Report, June of 2014.
That’s exactly one year ago. You’d think the calendar publishers would avoid previously published art.
Despite that, it’s a pretty good picture, and I guess I can look at it again.
The Es will come off in Harrisburg, replaced by a single GG-1.
Pennsy considered electrifying its railroad in PA — that is, Harrisburg to Pittsburgh — but never did.
I wonder if it would have lasted if it had been electrified; much of Pennsy’s electrification has been taken down.
Philadelphia-to-Harrisburg is still electrified, although it’s Amtrak.
Would the across-PA line have become Amtrak if the line had been electrified? There is no semi-parallel railroad route Harrisburg to Pittsburgh; from Harrisburg to the New York City area is the old Reading (“REDD-ing;” not “REED-ing”) route, which is Norfolk Southern’s (previously Conrail’s) access to the New York City area.
The old Pennsy line to New York is now Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
Who knows what would have happened if the old Pennsy line to Pittsburgh had become Amtrak.
Only one cross-PA passenger-train runs on it, actually two per day, Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian, one in each direction.
If it had been electrified the wire probably would have come down. Electrification is high maintenance.
A railfan friend poo-poos “What ifs.” He’s a fan of New York, Chicago & St. Louis (Nickel Plate).
Nickel Plate never attained New York City, but if it had merged the old West Shore it could have.
The West Shore was an effort by Pennsy to offset the power of New York Central, but was merged into New York Central to get NYC to stop investing in the South Pennsylvania Railroad, graded but never finished. South Pennsylvania Railroad crossed PA, and was intended to compete with Pennsy, which Andrew Carnegie was mad at because he thought Pennsy was charging too much.
The merger of West Shore into NYC was instigated by J.P. Morgan to stop the infighting.
But West Shore could have been Nickel Plate’s access to the New York City area. Nickel Plate was competition for New York Central. It pretty much parallels NYC, especially along Lake Erie to Buffalo.
Nickel Plate was eventually merged into Norfolk & Western, which became part of Norfolk Southern. Norfolk Southern now owns the old Erie mainline from Buffalo across southern New York.
So now NS is doing what Nickel Plate could have done; accessing the New York City area via the old Nickel Plate and the old Erie.




Well, at least it’s a Flatty. (Photo by Scott Williamson.)

—June 2015 entry in my Oxman Hotrod Calendar is a radically-altered 1934 Ford pickup. The front axle was moved seven inches forward, and the cab moved back three inches. The pickup-bed is hand-made.
Everything looks to be chopped and sectioned and channeled and lowered; begging the question how does one sit in such a thing? You’re probably sitting on the floor, scrunched under that top-chop.
Yrs Trly has never thought much of pickup hotrods, I suppose because they ain’t much of a pickup. About all you could carry is a bag of ice, or an 80-pound sack of concrete-mix.
You couldn’t carry a load of manure.
Well, it looks nice with all those chassis mods, but I wonder how it handles.
This ain’t what Old Henry marketed, not with the front-axle up where it is.
And the body is bare metal. What if it rains? Rust galore!
Offy heads. (Photo by BobbaLew.)
At least to motor is a prize.
A friend, since deceased, had a 1949 Ford hotrod with FlatHead V8.
The car looked nice, but we used to say the motor was worth more than the car.
FlatHead V8s, the foundation of hot-rodding, are becoming rare. And his car had the ultra-rare Offenhauser (“OFF-en-houze-er”) aluminum cylinder-head castings. Higher compression and finned.
He drove it out to my house once, since I have a pit, and it needed steering work.
At least it made it, but it spit coolant, etc all over the road.
The pollution-police would have gone ballistic, but Old Henry wouldn’t have cared.
I sat in it once and was scared. The steering-column was waiting to impale my chest, and the unpadded dash was waiting for my face. Seat-belts, are you kidding?
Fuzzy-dice were on the interior rear-view mirror, and the standard three-speed tranny was floor-shifted.
In its day the car was probably good for 100 mph. I feel much safer in current cars, and belted in.
Add a scrunched seating-position to all that, and you get the car pictured; just about undriveable.
With that bare-metal body it’s probably a trailer-queen. You dare not get it wet.




Another 4-4-2 Olds.

—The June entry of my Jim LePore Musclecar calendar is a 1967 Oldsmobile 4-4-2;  four-barrel carburetor, four-speed transmission, dual exhausts.
Jim LePore (“luh-POOR”) is a widower like me, and also a car-guy.
He bought a white 2010 Camaro SS, and named it after his late wife.
He drives it little, mainly to car-shows, where he shows it.
He’s a hair older than me.
True-to-form, the 4-4-2 is a GM product, due to the calendar being published by Farnsworth of Canandaigua.
Farnsworth is a car-dealer for GM cars, Chevrolets and Cadillacs.
And Randall Buick and GMC (Randall Farnsworth is the guy’s name).
The calendar purports to be a musclecar calendar, but it’s only GM cars.
Which is okay to my humble mind. The best musclecars were made by General Motors. Fords lost their tune quickly, and Chrysler musclecars were big.
Car and Driver magazine always claimed the 4-4-2 handled better than other musclecars. Who knows how reliable that was, since their business was selling ads.
I also think the 4-4-2 was the best-looking musclecar, but they’re big. A 396 Chevelle passed my house a while ago, and I couldn’t help noticing how long its trunk was.
Musclecars also don’t handle very well. The rear-axle was cheaply suspended, and could twist due to engine-torque.
The front-suspension is A-arm, whereas now MacPherson struts are used — and handle better.
The car also uses uses a solid rear-axle with heavy integral differential, that can hop in a turn.
Even Mustang has come to independent rear-suspension. The solid rear axle can be made to handle quite well, but that’s NASCAR.
I also think the 4-4-2 featured in last month’s LePore Musclecar calendar, a 1971, looked better than this 1967.
Whatever, I hear any 4-4-2 was a blast to drive. Lotta motor. Floor it and hang on for dear life!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Solar-system

So here I am, bopping toward Canandaigua on Routes 5&20, when my cellphone rings.
“Unknown number,” it says.
I have Bluetooth in my car, and my cellphone is “paired” to it.
“Hello-hello.......”
In a tortured Indian accent: “You’re pre-qualified for a solar-system, since your electric-bill is over $100 a month.”
“Well actually it’s not,” I said. “It’s only about $70; but I am interested in a solar-system.
And I’d like one of them ringed planets, if I can.”

• “5&20” is the main east-west road (a two-lane highway) through my area; State Route 5 and U.S. Route 20, both on the same road. 5&20 is just south of where I live. It used to be the main road across Western New York before the Thruway.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Protocols

Four weeks ago (Tuesday, April 28th, 2015) Yrs Trly visited his urologist in Rochester (NY) for his every-six-months prostate assessment.
I have an enlarged prostate-gland, fairly common for men my age (71). The prostate pumps semen during intercourse — well beyond me at my age; plus my wife is gone.
So we do a PSA test. That’s to determine the amount of prostate-specific-antigen in one’s blood, which if elevated may indicate prostate cancer.
My PSA has run fairly high for years, but this most recent PSA test was my highest ever, 12.9.
My urologist suggested a biopsy — I’ve already had two, both negative.
But if I needed one depended on whether my PSA came down after treatment for prostate infection, which can also cause high PSA.
This happened before. A high PSA was reversed after treatment for prostate infection.
So my urologist asked if I was allergic to sulfa-drugs, the antibiotic she would prescribe.
“Not that I know of,” I said, forgetting that 65 long years ago when I was age-6, and sulfa-drugs were all the rage, it was determined I was allergic to sulfa-drugs.
None have been suggested since, so I forgot my allergy.
60 gigantic horse-pills, two tablets per day for 30 days.
I began taking them.
A day-or-two after I started, my forearms and legs developed a rash after mowing. And then a day-or-two later I got an even worse rash on the backs of my hands after mowing.
It was like poison-ivy; I had to treat it with calamine lotion.
I continued taking the pills, so I guess things were getting worse.
At about 2/3rds of my way through the pills, I remembered that 65 years ago my allergy to sulfa-drugs was determined, so I stopped taking the pills.
That was Friday May 22nd. But I set out to work out at the Canandaigua YMCA. To do so I hafta daycare my dog, which I do with an old friend whom I worked with at the Messenger newspaper in Canandaigua.
“You should go to the hospital,” he said. I had explained my sulfa-allergy, and my face was all puffy, as if I had been stung by bees. I hadn’t noticed.
“Well, if you say so.” I drove straight to Thompson Hospital in Canandaigua, skipping the YMCA.
I was directed to their Emergency-Room.
“How many times did I bring my cancerous wife here,” I said, as I was led to a booth.
“Welcome to the medical-establishment,” I thought.
At least Thompson is not like a Rochester hospital, where you might die waiting in the Emergency-Room.
The questioning and testing began.
I learned I can’t serenade my doctors with my anti-smoking tirade. I threw the poor guy off. Don’t forget you’re just a peon in a holy place, and the hospital-staff are saints.
Good as Thompson is, all hospitals are like this; you have to follow their protocols.
A hospital makes you feel worse than you really are.
“Remove all your clothes, and change to this flowered gown.”
A nurse installed an IV in my right arm.
Various treatments were applied to reduce the rash, and they were gonna do “Benadryl,”which makes it impossible to drive.
I asked if we could delay the Benadryl until after I drove home.
But then “We think you should be admitted for observation.”
I called my doggy-daycare friend. “They wanna hospitalize me,” I reported.
“I think you should,” he said. “I’ll take care of your dog. She can stay with me.”
“Suckered by the medical establishment,” I thought. “Good luck on ever escaping.”
Memories flooded back of my time 22 years ago in the hospital after my stroke.
If you’ve been to the hospital you know sleep is difficult. They have you in a motorized bed that can toss you on the floor. The staff seems to think you want to sleep sitting up. Perish the thought you make the bed flat.
Then there is the blanket problem. Things don’t tuck in, so you pull a blanket up over yourself.
Then you turn over, tossing the blanket on the floor. Without the blanket you freeze. You often awake to rearrange the blanket.
Beyond that your gown also makes a mess.
Turn over and it does a boog-a-loo. You have to awake to rearrange things.
Beyond that, I was wearing a wireless heart-monitor; except it wasn’t wireless to me. I had at least seven sensors attached adhesively.
So if I rolled over in sleep, wiring would pull off the sensors, triggering Armageddon and the hospital’s “Rapid-Response Team.” Camo-clad baldies manning HUGE military-issue flashlights would storm in at 3 a.m. turning on all the lights.
“Sorry to wake you, Mr. Hughes, but it’s that red terminal again.”
Oh dear; penitence for a cardinal sin. In hospital I’m required to sleep face-up — which I can’t.
At least the food-service was pretty good.
After my stroke I had to struggle to get skim milk. I’d order it, and whole-milk would arrive. “Take it back,” I’d command; “I ordered ‘skim.’”
Skim milk wasn’t a problem at Thompson, and I got pretty much what I ordered.
There were exceptions, of course. Once I got a lunch that seemed who-knows-what. It was edible, so I didn’t say anything. Saying anything seemed to muck things up.
And once I ordered sliced strawberries as fruit, but got canned peaches instead. I pointed that out; they brought me a dish of sliced strawberries, but didn’t take the peaches, so I ate both.
And then there is the bathroom problem “See this button? Ring up your nurse if you have to potty; we don’t want you to fall.”
I related a story from my stroke days. I rang up the nurse, and after a half-hour I said “I’m goin’ to that bathroom myself. I can’t wait forever. If I hafta hold the wall (my balance was bad because of the stroke), I will.”
“He’ll be alright,” they said. “Ornery as Hell.”
“You won’t have that problem here. Ring up your nurse, otherwise we gotta put an alarm on ya.”
Part of the reason I was hospitalized was because a blood-test indicated possible congestive heart failure.
WHA-A-A-A.....? I supposed that was possible. I hadn’t been able to aerobically work out for months due to my left knee, which is bone-on-bone and will be replaced.
A cardiologist had just performed a battery of tests to clear me for surgery. He said I was fine, that I didn’t have congestive heart failure.
I’d had difficulty breathing, but I thought that was part of the sulfa-drug reaction.
Ergo, my heart-monitor. After a couple days they concluded I was stable.
My cardiologist weighed in, saying any difficulty breathing was probably the sulfa-drug allergy.
The wheels of the hospital turn slowly.
First I was gonna be discharged Saturday afternoon, but that turned into Sunday morning. Sunday morning came and went. Lunch was served. A bulletin-board indicated I would be discharged that day, and a crew was on stand-by.
Finally I was out, and also cleared to use the bathroom unassisted. But we had to follow protocols.
I would be wheeled out the front door in a wheelchair, where my doggy daycare friend would pick me up. He would then drive me home in my car, per hospital policy, with his wife following in their car.
We went to their grooming-shop to pick up my dog.
My dog was thrilled, and demanded I walk her instead of my friend.
“Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, free at last!”

• My beloved wife of over 44 years died of cancer April 17th, 2012. I miss her dearly.
• I had a stroke October 26th, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered.
• “Mr. Hughes “ is of course me, Bob Hughes, “BobbaLew.”
• “Free at last, free at last; thank God Almighty, free at last!” is of course Rev. Martin Luther King.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony

So here I am, calmly bopping along some lonely rural two-lane, out in the middle of nowhere, returning from Canandaigua after having the interior of my car detailed.
I hardly ever play the radio. My car has Sirius, but I’m not signed up. Why bother? I’d never play it anyway.
I turned on the radio. It’s tuned to WXXI, the classical-music radio-station out of Rochester (NY) I listen to.
Is it working? Deafening silence.
All-of-a-sudden BLAST! All stops, full volume. I’d recognize that organ-blast anywhere. It’s the finale of the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony.
(That different-coiored text is a “link;” click it with your mouse and your browser will redirect to the YouTube video of the Finale of the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony. You may hafta watch an ad — YouTube is doing that. Otherwise hold onto your hats! Many of my blogs are full of links; look for the vari-colored text.)
I was suddenly transported back 50 years to my alma mater, Houghton College (“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”), south of Rochester.
Classmate Harold Baxter was leading me to his room in town.
Bax knew I was a pipe-organ freak.
“You have to hear this,” he said. “It will knock your socks off.”
He unsleeved the record and put it on his hi-fi turntable. (Remember vinyl records?)
We paddled though the first segments. It’s a long symphony, an orchestral work that happens to include a pipe-organ.
Not very inspiring, but “Don’t worry; here it comes!” BLAST!
Suddenly Baxter was flailing about, eyes closed, conducting the orchestra.
Sweeping arm-movements, cuing the trumpets and cymbal-crashes.
To my humble mind, Baxter’s record didn’t do justice to the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony. You could barely hear the organ.
I never bought the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony for my massive record-collection, mainly because I was always suspicious the organ would be outplayed by the orchestra.
Recent recordings seem to give the organ more prominence. Like what WXXI had been playing.
I had my stroke October 26th, 1993. It was caused by an undiagnosed heart-defect, a Patent Foramen Ovale (“PAT-tint for-AYE-min Oh-VAL-eee”).
Apparently right after you’re born this hole between the upper chambers of your heart, which allows you to use your mother’s oxygen in the womb, is supposed to seal closed.
Well, mine didn’t, nor did Tedi Bruschi (“brew-skee”), linebacker for the New England Patriots. The PFO is fairly common, with no symptoms.
My stroke was fairly serious; it paralyzed my left side, and threw off my speech. A clot had formed in my legs and passed through the PFO and gone to my brain.
My speech’s timing had been thrown off. I was talking too fast, and in a monotone. Sometimes a stroke-victim loses speech altogether, but I hadn’t. I was just trying to talk too fast, and had just returned from an exciting train-chase of a restored railroad steam-locomotive across West Virginia. I was so wired they thought I was worse.
Somewhat recovered, I was returned home, and one day I had on WXXI. “I recognize this,” I thought; “it’s the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony.” I kept listening, and predicted where the organ-blast would occur.
BLAST! Right on cue, despite a stroke I recognized the piece, and could still follow it.
I used to feel Piotr Tšaikovski’s 1812 Overture, what began my appreciation of classical-music, was the most inspiring music ever written.
But now it’s a toss-up. BLAST!

• I had a stroke October 26, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered. Bruschi also recovered, well enough to go back to playing football with the Patriots. He as since retired from football.
• I’m a railfan, and have been since age-2. (I’m 71.)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

TIMBER!

Yet another tree falls in the forest, to satisfy Amazon’s incredible demand for paper.
All I’m trying to do is order a case of “If You Care” chlorine-free baking cups, what I make my muffins in.
And Amazon is showing me 89 bazilyun purchase-suggestions.
I generally don’t print e-mails, but do if it’s a receipt.
Amazon’s e-mail used four sheets of paper, that on top of four sheets to print its order-confirmation, most of which was purchase-suggestions.
They’re also running me out of printer-ink, and the stuff costs a fortune.
Years ago I ordered a book by Brock Yates on Enzo Ferrari. I had been recommended it. Yates is a founding editor of Car & Driver Magazine.
I ordered it used from Amazon, and got a little-used book from a library in New Mexico.
There were at least six books about Enzo Ferrari in the purchase-suggestions. One is enough; in fact, I had to give up reading it because it was boring. It detailed every race the Ferrari team ever entered.
I get e-mails from an organization opposed to the National Security Agency, and its desire to extend and strengthen the Patriot Act.
I usually just trash these, but in this case I fired back. “The NSA and the government are bozos. What I’m more concerned about is Google, Amazon and Facebook.”
That’s just wonderful! Amazon thinks because I ordered “If You Care” baking-cups, I might want everything “If You Care” makes, parchment paper, etc.
Plus every Ferrari book ever written.
Amazon is also showering me with dog suggestions. All because I get my dog-food with their “subscribe-and-save.”
Used to be they allowed you to cancel an order, and/or edit your “subscribe-and-save.” One bag of dog-food per month was too much. I was swimming in dog-food.
I wanted to change to one every two months, but had to poke around. It wasn’t easy. Once you set your “subscribe-and-save” it’s set in stone. You get deluged with dog-food.
A friend tell tells me about Pamper overload thanks to Amazon’s “subscribe-and-save.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Robert's Wesleyan College


B-E-L-L graduation. (iPhone Photo by BobbaLew.)

Last Saturday, May 9th, 2015, I visited Roberts Wesleyan College for the first time in my entire life.
The occasion was the graduation of my niece’s daughter Christina from the B-E-L-L program, which stands for Bridge to Earning, Learning and Living.
The B-E-L-L program is affiliated with Roberts.
My niece’s daughter apparently has some kind of learning disability. I don’t know what it is, since she seems a whiz on her Smartphone and iPad, and as far as I know that’s self-taught.
I’ve always wondered about Roberts Wesleyan, since I’m a 1966 graduate of Houghton College (“HO-tin;” as in “hoe,” not “how” or “who”), about 75-80 miles south of Rochester (NY).
Supposedly both colleges were founded by Wesleyan Methodists, who were extremely strict when I was at Houghton.
I don’t know as that’s true any more. It’s like love and tolerance have triumphed over noisy breast-beating rules-making.
So I wondered if Roberts was similar to Houghton.
Houghton remains evangelical, so I wondered if Roberts is too.
Houghton was a compromise with my father, who wanted me to attend Moody Bible Institute in Chicago like he did.
Moody was not a college at that time —I think now it is.
That was my excuse; I wanted a college degree.
My real excuse is I felt uncomfortable at Moody. It’s an urban environment, and I’m from the suburbs. My father was comfortable because he was from the city.
My father wanted me to attend a Christian college, with hopes it would “straighten me out;” I was “rebellious” and “of-the-Devil.”
My brother-from-Boston made an interesting observation the other day.
“The trouble with Houghton is it’s out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere.” That’s true, and Roberts is 10-15 miles west of Rochester.
But in the late ‘50s when I was considering college Roberts wasn’t on the map. It was founded in 1866, even before Houghton (1883), but as a seminary. First Roberts became a junior college in 1945, then it was accredited as a full four-year college four years later.
The two premier Christian colleges were Wheaton and Houghton. Wheaton was first, and Houghton second. Anything else was perceived as useless.
Wheaton is the alma-mater of evangelist Billy Graham.
I applied to Wheaton and was turned down. Houghton would accept me if I did six weeks of summer college courses, proving I could do college-level work.
I’ve never regretted attending Houghton, although I graduated a ne’er-do-well without their blessing. I almost got kicked out three times for various sins, like tight pants (a-la-Rolling Stones), a Beatles haircut, and good old “bad attitude.”
Houghton was the first place I encountered adult authority-figures who valued my opinions, instead of automatically telling me I was “rebellious” and “of-the-Devil.”
My sister, now deceased, who also attended Houghton but only two years, told me Houghton is where I flowered. People, especially professors, encouraged my offbeat observations that made them think: “But Dr. Lindley, what if ‘the-middle-of-the-road’ is wrong!”
“So what did you actually get out of Houghton?” a friend asked once.
“A wife,” I said; “and a really good one at that.” Also a penchant for being anal about grammar and spelling. An attribute that served me well at the Messenger Newspaper in Canandaigua, despite my being post-stroke.
I never learned grammar — I majored in history. But I read so much it showed me the way. Spelling is just caring.
“Are you here for the ‘Bell’ graduation?” someone asked as I walked toward the Thomas Golisano Library, site of the graduation. Golisano is the mega-rich CEO of PayChex, and has funded building-after-building in the Rochester area.
Once inside “Are you here for the ‘Bell’ graduation?” another asked.
I began to wonder. Christina’s last name happens to be “Bell,” so I wondered if she was the only graduate.
“No,” I was told. “They named the program after her.”
So here we all were sitting quietly on white folding chairs in the college library.
It was an oven, the air-conditioning didn’t work.
Photographers flitted about, and we were being serenaded by flute music.
Someone gave an invocation prayer at the beginning of the ceremony, followed by “Amen.”
At which point the entire audience uttered “Amen.”
I turned around toward my relatives and said “the audience didn’t say ‘Amen’ at the end of a prayer when I was a kid.”
My niece’s new boyfriend nodded in agreement.
People were announced, and then the eight graduates.
Each graduate received a certificate, plus an announcer gave that graduate’s stated goals. —I can imagine trying to get goals out of Christina. It must have been a struggle. “I don’t know.......”
A few of the graduates spoke, but Christina didn’t say anything.
After that, refreshments downstairs.
So does Roberts remind me of Houghton? Hard to say; not enough contact.
But the punch wasn’t spiked with vodka, and there was no dancing.

• My sister Betty, slightly younger than me, died of cancer in 2011.
• I had a stroke October 26, 1993, from which I pretty much recovered.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

April in Altoony


04T (the eastbound Amtrak Pennsylvanian) (Photo by BobbaLew.)

One would think April in central PA would be fairly pleasant.
It was cold and damp with a raw wind.
Not cold enough for a down jacket, but enough to require long-underwear, double hoody sweat-shirts, and even gloves.
My brother from Boston joined me. He had driven there Wednesday, April 22nd. He would chase trains himself all day Thursday, April 23rd while I was driving down. We would both return home Saturday, April 25th after chasing trains all day Friday, April 24th.
Altoony, PA is where the Pennsylvania Railroad crossed Allegheny Ridge, once a barrier to commerce across PA.
Altoona is also the location of Horseshoe Curve, a trick by Pennsy to climb Allegheny Mountain without steep grades.
The railroad loops around a valley.
Pennsy is no more. The railroad is owned and operated by Norfolk Southern, who took over the Pennsy main across PA when Conrail broke up and sold in 1999.
The railroad is quite busy. Pennsy merged midwestern railroads that fed its main at Pittsburgh, and also outlets east of Harrisburg (its eastern terminus) to the east-coast megalopolis.
It became a conduit of heavy railroad traffic, also the largest railroad in the world. But it began falling apart in the ‘40s and ‘50s.
It was saddled with costly commuter-districts, and competition from airlines and trucking. The government subsidized trucking with the Eisenhower Interstate System.
Pennsy had to merge in 1968 with arch-rival New York Central system, the other major conduit of commerce from our nation’s interior.
That was Penn-Central, which went bankrupt two years later, partly because merger with New York, New Haven & Hartford was required.
Conrail was formed by the government to rationalize the east-coast railroad mess. Many other east-coast railroads were also going bankrupt.
Conrail became successful and privatized.
Conrail was broken up and sold in 1999. Most of the ex-NYC lines — like across New York state — went to CSX Transportation. Most of the ex-Pennsy lines went to Norfolk Southern.
Norfolk Southern is a merger of Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway in 1982.
Norfolk & Western was a rich coal-carrier; it served the Pocahontas Coal Region in VA and WV.
Pennsy was also a coal-carrier; a lot was mined in PA.
Rather then detail every move of our train-chase, I’ll just run all the pictures.



On the 23rd:


25Z leaves Altoona passing CP Works. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


67Z on the Controlled-Siding at McFarlands Curve. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


67Z pulls into Rose for a crew-change. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


10N heads east at Rose. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


10N, also on the Controlled Siding, goes through the signal-bridge at McFarlands Curve. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


Westbound mixed approaches the Tipton road-crossing. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


538 comes down The Hill, passing 11V going up (pushers on the back). (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


A descending empty slab-train passes closed Alto Tower. (Photo by BobbaLew.)



On the 24th:


Oil-empties with Canadian Pacific shared power climb toward Slope Interlocking. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


25Z climbs toward Horseshoe Curve. (Photo by BobbaLew.)


64Z takes loaded crude-oil east. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


Crude-oil (64Z) continues toward the summit. (Photo by BobbaLew.)


22W reaches the summit on Track One into Gallitzin. (Photo by BobbaLew.)


The MACs (V20 engine) on 591. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


21E (the UPS train) roars toward the Tipton grade-crossing. —This thing was doing about 70! (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


21J west at Cassandra Railfan Overlook. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


RoadRailer (262). (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


An eastbound stacker approaches the overpass in Summerhill. (Photo by BobbaLew.)


Westbound stacker passes eastbound coal at Cassandra Railfan Overlook. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


07T, the westbound Amtrak Pennsylvanian. (Photo by Jack Hughes.)


A dimensional-train (054) goes through the Portage signals on Track Two. (Photo by BobbaLew.)



We shot at least 20 trains at 22 different locations. And that was just Friday.
And unlike with my railfan friend from Altoona, Phil Faudi (“FOW-dee,” as in “wow”), who knows what to look for next, our paradigm was if we saw a train, where could we beat it to next?
Which means some of our pictures are of the same train.
We had along our scanners. My brother got one, and he finally got it working. Which means I didn’t take along mine.
The train-engineers have to call out the signal aspects over Norfolk Southern’s radio-frequency. So if we hear “25Z, west on three at 254; clear,” we know a train is on Track Three at milepost 254. And since I know where 254 is, I know if it’s coming where we are.
The railroad also has trackside defect-detectors that transmit on the railroad radio. If I hear “Norfolk Southern, milepost 253.1, Track One, no defects,” I know a train has passed the defect-detector at Carney’s Crossing, and if we’ll see it where we are. Or if we should go somewhere else.
Defect-detectors sense hot wheels, dragging equipment, etc, what the guys in the caboose used to watch for. Cabooses are no longer used.
Track One is always eastbound, Track Three is westbound, and Track Two can be either way, so the engineer has to say “east” or “west” to know which way his train is going.
Helper-sets also trigger defect-detectors, so the “train” may just be a helper-set.
The helper-set engineers give the locomotive-number at signal-aspects, and if’s 6300 (e.g. #6316) it’s a helper.
Helper-sets get moved to and fro over the railroad to help trains up and down Allegheny Mountain. They are in “sets” of two SD40-Es.
The SD40-Es are EMD SD-50s Norfolk Southern has downgraded and rebuilt for helper service. Downrated from 3,500 horsepower to 3,000 horsepower. The SD-50s were a bit stretched, enough to be unreliable.
So a train over Allegheny Mountain might need helpers. A really heavy train, like a long unit coal-drag, might get one helper-set up front, and two more helper-sets in back. That’s six additional locomotives.
My brother also had his Smartphone tuned to the Station-Inn radio-feed. Station-inn is a bed-and-breakfast for railfans. It streams a local railroad scanner-feed over the Internet.
“Fifty miles of railroad,” my brother bragged. With his scanner he could monitor the east slope of Allegheny Mountain, if that was where we were. And with his Smartphone he was monitoring the west slope.
I can monitor the Station-Inn radio-feed with my iPhone6, but didn’t as long as he had his Smartphone doing it.
Our Smartphone transmissions are a bit delayed. We might get a scanner transmission on the west slope, and perhaps 10-30 seconds later we’d get it on our Smartphones. And for some reason my brother’s Smartphone is a little behind mine.
Anything over our Smartphones has to get -a) streamed to the Internet, and -b) sent out over the cellular network.
I always get a kick out of using my cellphone to locate my brother. Usually he’s within shouting-distance, yet I’ve used the cellphone network to ring him up. A cellphone call might use hundreds of miles shoveling this-way-and-that all to ring up a target within shouting distance.
Back-and-forth we zoomed, all over creation. “Can we beat it?” We tried.
Various small unwanted diversions occurred. We ran into a detour on a back road, intent on getting over to a nearby expressway.
“Try this!” I said, noticing a two-lane road aimed toward the expressway.
The two-lane quickly became a side-street as its double yellow line disappeared. We turned up into a residential neighborhood. Following the street we finally ended up on the other side of the barricade where we started, so we had to retrace our entire loop to get back where we began.
We passed through a town that had a brand-new aluminum footbridge over the tracks.
It has long ramps for wheelchair access.
“I never been to no footbridge,” my brother crowed, since we didn’t actually pass it.
“Have too,” I said. “We went there with our sister Betty.”
“I never been to that footbridge!” my brother bellowed.
“It’s not worth it; it’s covered with chain-link,” I said.
Later we passed the footbridge.
“I don’t see no chainlink,” my brother said.
“It’s covered with chainlink, I tell ya!”
Later we went to the footbridge.
“I been here before,” my brother said.
“Ya don’t say,” I said.
“And it’s covered with chainlink,”
“Tried to tell ya!” I said. “But no, you gotta see for yourself and thereby waste 10 minutes of my precious time when I coulda chased trains.”
We were at Cassandra Railfan Overlook (“kuh-SANN-druh’” as in “Anne”) with a bunch of other railfans shooting video and pictures. They didn’t have a scanner.
They packed up to leave.
“Don’t leave yet,” my brother said. “Amtrak is coming.”
“How long?” someone asked.
“About two minutes. It just triggered the detector at Carney’s Crossing.”
Bam! They got it. I bet they have a scanner next time.
“You can tell we’re brothers,” I said to someone. “Snide remarks and potshots would never work in normal conversation.”
Yet I feel like my brother did better than me, at least this time. Last time I was luckier than him, although one of my shots I planned to use as a calendar-picture is fuzzy. So I’ll use one of his instead.
That was last February, when snow was on the ground. January, February, and December have to be snow pictures.
It’s MY calendar, but if I feel he got a better shot, I use his.

• “CP Works” is a control-point in Altoona, where the Pennsylvania Railroad had its “Altoona Works.”
• A “Controlled-Siding” is a siding that’s signaled.
• A “slab-train” is all gondola-cars for shipping heavy steel slabs to a rolling-mill.
• “guh-LIT-zin.”
• “MAC” equals modified-cab, AC traction-motors. Conrail got these to reduce locomotive usage on the line from Harrisburg to Altoona, but they worked better dragging coal off coal-branches. So now they are based in Cresson (“KRESS-in”), near Altoona. Same shop as the helpers.
• “The UPS train” is a very high-priority train of UPS trailers, etc, that must be delivered to Chicago on time, lest the railroad get penalized.
• “Cassandra Railfan Overlook” (actually it’s “Cassandra Railroad Overlook”), is an old highway-bridge over where the railroad began it’s 1898 bypass, that took out many of the curves when the railroad actually went through Cassandra. The bridge remains, no longer used as a highway-bridge, so railfans congregate on it to watch the action.
• “RoadRailer” is a train of special highway trailers, that ride on rail-bogies, road-wheels and all. It will be discontinued, since the rail bogies are at the end of their service life, plus a RoadRailer can’t be switched or backed up.
• A RoadRailer trailer on a rail-bogie:

• A “dimensional-train “ is too high and/or wide for normal railroad-usage. 054 had a truckless export locomotive on a flatcar up front, plus 100 feet steel I-beams loaded on 80-foot flatcars, with idler-cars at each end.

Labels: