Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Gauging a Railroad

Our good friend Ludwig down in Georgia asked why the width of US railroads is such a strange number. Definitely 4 feet 8.5 inches is odd at first look. There have been lots of pseudo answers to this question. I found the most common on the Internet at Yahoo. Answers.

" This story is a "We've always done it that way" tale. It says that the standard distance between railroad rails in the U.S. is four-feet, eight-and-a-half inches. Why? Because that's what it was in England. Why? Because that's the gauge the tramways used before the railroads. Why? Because the tramways were built using the same tools as wagon-builders and that's how wide the wagon wheels were spaced. Why? Because the old roads in England had ruts that the wheels needed to accommodate. Why? Because the ruts were made by Imperial Roman chariots.

Or the simple answer of " the width of two war horses asses" which is not always a good explanation in mixed company or around teen agers (insert lots of giggles here).

BUT history of the US railroads shows that from the beginning of railroading until after the Civil War the width between the rails varied between railroads. This of course made shipment of goods really difficult. Interchanging between railroads ment unloading the goods and then reloading them. Today with standard gauges, rail cars are simply 'interchanged' between railroads.

Sometime after the Civil War the US Government finally decided to standardize the 'gauge' of US railroads to the present 4'8.5".

BUT that is just main line railroads. At the Baltimore Streetcar Museum we learned that their 'gauge' is a little different and for a reason. The story that they tell is that railroads we're notorious for sneaking onto other folks right of way in the past. If you have ever been to Baltimore, especially in the Fells Point district, you know that there are tracks in the streets all over the place. Some railroad, and some streetcar. The City decided that to stop the railroads from using the streetcar tracks they would make the gauge 5 feet.

AND mining and logging railroads are usually a 'narrow gauge' since the tracks are easier to lay and most times are only temporary.

Of course the standard size of a modern day chariot is far different.



Monday, August 27, 2012

Climbing AGAIN

OK so we were lulled a bit in mid-summer, but now gas prices are steadily on the rise (again) along with other costs, like food. On a weekend trip to Baltimore, MD this past weekend (3 hours away), this was the gas price range — $3.50 to $3.77/gas. gas prices2 0825 collageQuite a difference from gas prices in mid-June  when the low price was $3.29/gal. By mid-July, prices ranged from $3.35 to $3.57/gal.

Yes, we know that these prices are way less than folks in other parts of the world now pay. Blogger friend Christer posted last week: I had to fill my car with petrol yesterday and now it costs 15,49 Swedish kronor/ liter and that is $ 9.31 /US gallon. I just can’t understand this, the US dollar is cheaper than it has in a very long time and still the price just goes up!

After reading that, these prices almost seem cheap — but not really.LiveWriter-credit-360

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Home of American Railroading

Today we visited the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum in, where else, Baltimore.

The B&O's charter called for building a railroad from Baltimore to the Ohio River so goods could be transported to and from the Baltimore Seaport. Today we rode over the first mile of track that was laid in the 1830's. The museum is housed in the original B&O round house and the passenger car repair shop, both dating back to the 1850's.
The collection here runs from the Peter Cooper's simple small Tom Thumb to the B&O's largest, 'The Allegany'. Here a few.

The Tom Thumb was one of the B&O's first steam engine. It pulled modified stage coaches and wagons. It used a vertical piston design which turned a crank shaft to power the drive wheels.

The 'Camelback' was named for its camel hump like design. Better visibility was the reasoning, but poor communications between the engineer and the crew led the Federal Government to stop production for safety reasons.

A number of designs for pistons and drivers were tried over the years. Some to increase speed, or efficiency, or for a special purpose. Most fell by the wayside.

One of these special purpose locomotives was the 'Shay'. As you can see it has verticle cylinders instead of horizontal like most locomotives. The three cylinders turn a crank shaft which runs to all of the drive wheels and transfers power by way of gears. This little beauty may have been our first 'All Wheel Drive'. The Shay was no speed demon, but it had plenty of power to pull heavy loads. It was short and light which made it perfect for the logging industry who laid temporary tracks to remove logs, and when they were done, took up the tracks, the Shay and the rolling stock, and went on to the next logging operation.

Some of you may have heard of the "Big Boy" locomotive of the Union Pacific Railroad. A 4-16-4 style locomotive that had 16 drive wheels, was 136 feet long and was able to haul huge amounts of cargo. But the "Big Boy" operated over fairly level and straight terrain.

The B&O needed a locomotive that could haul long coal trains out of the Allegany Mountains of Pennsylvania. If you have seen mountain railroads, especially in Pennsylvania, you realize that they take advantage of as much of the natural terrain as possible. This sometimes creates tight curves and steep grades. The 'Allegany' was designed for this. At 125 feet in length, the Allegany Locomotives (4-12-4) needed to have a 'little bend-ability' built into them. In between the first set of 6 drive wheels and the second set of 6 drive wheels a flexible connection was installed in the main steam line. A first in locomotive engineering. With 4 sets of cylinders to operate, the controls were a little more complex that the average locomotive of its day.

And this was just the engineers controls. The fireman had continually adjust the auto coal feeder, the water to the boiler, and the steam pressure.

Now that you've had a taste of this amazing museum, if you find yourself in Baltimore, or even close by, plan a stop. You won't regret it.

The End
The End


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Clang clang went the trolley!!!!!!

No, No... If you were waiting for Judy to burst into song, I hate to disappoint you but she won't. If you have no idea who Judy is, you may be too young to be reading this.

The Baltimore Streetcar Museum has been able to save and restore a large selection of vintage streetcars that ran on the streets of Baltimore MD. The museum was founded in 1966, and is run by volunteers. Besides restoring many of the streetcars to operating conditions the members have laid tracks, build turn loops at each end of the run, installed the overhead wires call catanary, and repaired switches to operating condition. For more information, directions, and operating times go to

Beatrice and I visited the museum and rode three of their 'Trolleys'.

Car 1162 was built by the JG Brill Co. In 1902. This was a favorite summer ride since back then there was no AC. The controls were simple and the fare was right......five cents. It was our favorite since the weather here was warm and sticky.

Next was a ride on Philadelpia SEPTA car 2168. This is one of the few streetcars that is not from Baltimore. It was donated to the museum by Friends of the Philly Trolleys. They say this is one of their "newer" cars since it was built in 1948.

Now this was an expensive ride at 35 cents.

Last was a 'modern' Baltimore car 6119. This was a design that became a standard in the 40's and was known as PCC cars, or Presidents Conference Committee cars. It seems that the Presidents of most of the city traction companies got together and came up with this basic design to standardize the cars and reduce the cost of manufacturing them.

Another one of those expensive rides at a whopping 35 cents.

The morotman's stool looks anything but comfortable. Imagine a few hours on that....

Next we are off to the B&O Railroad Museum, again in Baltimore, MD and a look at the first stretch of railroad track laid in the U.S.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Funnies

Here’s a sticky situation . . .
NH moose collage
Moose art we viewed in Nashua and Concord NH recently. The Concord piece was previously on display in the Portsmouth, NH Market Square (see Moose Myth story below for WHY these locations).

These works are the creation of artist Donna Dodson of Boston, MA and sculptor Andy Moerlein of Bow, NH. Their collaborative art projects are named Myth Makers. The 22-foot-tall man-like moose-headed man-like creations, called Moose Myths, are made of saplings. They were created over a year ago, but over time will decay and require removal.

What IS Moose Myth? 
In case you are curious, and even if not . . .
It’s a story about noble twin moose brothers that shared the Northern Kingdom (although no exact location was given). These twins were fierce competitors who fought constantly. One day their antlers locked in a battle that went on for days. Neither would yield and they fought on without food or drink until exhausted. A young child came upon the still feuding, but dying twins and offered to free them on the condition that they promised to live in peace.
The twins accepted the offer and when freed stood on two legs in honor of their human benefactor. Going forward they worked to resolve conflicts without fighting, but with negotiation.
To avoid battling over territorial rights, they compromised that one would live by the sea and rule over the Portsmouth, NH waterfront including bridges and seaways linking NH to the world. The other would dominate inland, near the confluence of the Nashua and Merrimack Rivers to protect the city of Nashua.
NOW you know the story and NO I did NOT make this up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Win (Some) & Lose (More)

That’s how it went with the lottery tickets we bought to celebrate our anniversary yesterday — most of the 21 rub-off tickets were losers, but we did have a few winners  —  total win was $4, just a tad short of the cost of 2 cups of java at Panera Bread.
We had fun scratching off and had winning hopes too. We’re not regular lottery tickets buyers, now we can see why, but we did buy a few Power Ball tickets last week — Guess you can tell that we didn’t win anything in that drawing.

THANKS for the ALL the anniversary well wishes These bouquets of F&P yard flowers are for YOU
IMG_2069 CollageDorothy & Pat appreciated all the comments received as did Beatrice & Grenville. Aside from buying the not so winning lottery tickets, we’ve delayed our celebration until this weekend and a road trip to ?
IMG_3099 Collage
Both these collages were created in Microsoft Windows Photo Gallery not my usual collage creation SW choice of Google Picasa.  Both programs were already installed on my desktop PC, and I decided to play with PG after a recent post by fellow blogger Ludwig, comparing the two photo editing programs.

BTW, check out Ludwig’s blogs (CafĂ© Ludwig and This ‘n That for a wealth of techniques and info). Lots of great tutorials about blogging with Live Writer (and other topics too)  can be found at Technogran’s Tittle Tattle blog. Blogs can be full of great info.butterfly collage

FYI, some of the photo features available in the PC blog software Live Writer are carried over from Photo Gallery; both programs are part of the Microsoft Windows Essentials suite.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Way We Were . . . and Are

We’re celebrating and sharing a special day today — 
Our Anniversary, which is even more special this year because:

  • Anniversary #12
  • On the 21st day
  • In the year 2012

Lots of 2’s and 1’s, so we’re buying some lottery tickets !
How many?  21, of course — those 2’s and 1’s might prove lucky. (But then, we already feel that way.)  Now, for some memories.

THEN — “Beatrice” & “Grenville”  on August 21, 1999 . . .

Our wedding pics1ANOW  — Dorothy & Pat in 2012 . . .

Now collage2We’ve “bared” (or un-beared) our “true” identities with many fellow bloggers, who have been wonderful about keeping our “secret” (THANKS).

B&G collageBeatrice & Grenville are having fun and will continue blogging.

DRAT keep forgetting to add this plug for my favorite Windows blog program. Great feature is that you CAN use it to create off-line posts and then upload them to your blog platform (Blogger, WordPress later). Too bad that it only works on PCs and not MacsLiveWriter-credit-360

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Rocky Returns

A Smitten with Kitten post in early July  (yes, a corny title) introduced Rocky. This very young kitten was abandoned by his cat mom and had been adopted by a human “mom” who took him to the family jewelry where she works. Rocky’s been growing  since then and is no longer bottle-fed. We stopped in to visit this weekend,
Trying to get some close-ups was a lot MUCH more challenging than earlier. Rocky’s still a small kitty, but what he lacks in size he makes up for in boundless energy. Given the chance,  Rocky takes off and doesn’t stay still unless being played with or held still.
playtime collage
Posing for a couple of close-ups could only be done with some  LOTS of human helping hands.rocky collage 2
Although blurred, the photos below give an idea of his small size.
Even a kitten’s patience wears thin with an avid photo shooterIMG_1990 around, Rocky signaled  . . .
NO MORE Photos
(until next time) 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Sound the Trumpet

Nope not the home, the vine . . .

IMG_1930There’s lots of these around here (vines not trumpets). Trumpet vine is also called Trumpet Creeper and is recognized by its showy  bright red blooms, which resemble a trumpet. The blossoms grow up to 3 inches during flowering time, here that’s usually June to September.

Trumpet vine is native to the southern US and was once valued for its climbing habit and large flowers but, having escaped cultivation, is now considered a widely-distributed, rampant weed. In warm weather, it puts out many aerial rootlets which latch onto any available surface to climb upward, and eventually expand into heavy woody stems. Here (and most other places) it grows on trees, telephone poles and fences.

IMG_1934If you have cows, don’t let them smell these flowers. It’s nickname is “cow itch vine”  as contact with the leaves can cause a rash in animals, especially cows.

trumpet vie collageIt’s also called “hummingbird vine”  and attracts Ruby-throated hummingbirds which easily reach the nectar inside the long flowers. The Trumpet vine depends on these birds to pollinate its flowers. Each time a hummingbird visits a flower, it gets pollen on its head, which it delivers to the next flower. Bees are also drawn to the nectar too, unfortunately, so are ants.

trumpet seed podsThe flowers are followed by large seed pods, 3 to 6 inches long, which when mature, dry and split releasing hundreds of thin, brown, paper-like seeds designed to travel by wind. Trumpet vines have become invasive as far north as New England.

Stop in at Sandra’s Madsnapper blog to see great Trumpet vine macro close-ups.  And, please keep Sandra in your thoughts, as this week, she posted that she’s suffering from vertigo and may require hospitalization. We hope you feel better soon, blogger friend.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Funnies

You’ve heard of street art where artists perform on the street, here’s “art” that’s REALLY on the street . . .

street art collage

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Barking Worse Than His Bite

OK,  it’s a really bad pun in the title. Sorry, couldn’t resist . . . yes, could have . . . but why?
Rocky the kitten was featured in a July post introduced Rocky as the resident kitten at a local jeweler. From comments posted, many folks posted thought he was a real charmer. Today we heard from Rocky’s human “mom” this week, that he had become quite the feline celebrity by way of that picture post, which she shared with friends. Even if folks don’t leave comments, it’s always nice to hear they enjoyed a post or photos. THANKS to all.
NOW, in fairness to all who also like cute puppy photos, and for fellow bloggers who own dogs, meet Barkley, who coincidentally was the resident pet at another local store visited this week.
IMG_1849And, like his young feline counterpart, it was ALL about play for this little guy. Namely, trouser legs and especially shoelaces.
Barkley collage1Barkley had no shortage of his own doggie toys to play with and the run of the showroom too.
But, this nearly 6-month old English bulldog much preferred to play with anyone who would spend some time with him.
Barkley collage2
Like Rocky, Barkley also posed (briefly) for his portrait was only possible when he was being held by his young owner.

As for Rocky, he’s doing well according to “mom" who said he jumps out of the oversize storage container that was his “home”  for awhile. She may be take him to the store this weekend. We expect to go to the nearby farmer’s market and will stop in at the store,. It’s quite possible to see an updated post soon, but not with BOTH of these young-uns playing together.

This encounter was WHY I always carry acanon elph (3) small digital camera. Again it’s the Canon PowerShot SD1300IS digital Elph shown here. It’s not great at capturing action shots, especially of puppies romping, but it’s ALL about having FUN — just ask Barkley, who by the way DID like to bark.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Boston by Boat (Tour)

Boston Harbor is a natural harbor and estuary of Massachusetts Bay, located adjacent to the city of Boston, MA. It’s home to the Port of Boston, a major shipping facility in the harbor collage2Our recent 1-day Boston trip, included an Old Town trolley tour, AND a narrated Boston Harbor tour. We learned a lot about this waterway, including some of this information.
It’s now home to the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat. This US Navy wooden-hulled, 44-gun, three-masted heavy frigate was named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the US.old ironsides collageAbove are three similar photos; the middle is an unaltered shot and the other photos were transformed in Picasa; cross process on the left and sketch pencil on the right.IMG_0339Constitution, called Old Ironsides, is renowned for service during the War of 1812 against Great Britain. She was given the nickname after shots were said to bounce off the ship’s sides, which are not made of iron, but heavy oak. The ship is open for free guided tours given by several of its active duty US sailors.
IMG_0354The US Coast Guard operates all over Boston, largely from its headquarters in the North End waterfront. The Coast Guard recently marked the 222 anniversary of its founding date on August 4, 1790. IMG_0367Boston Harbor has been an important American port since its 1614 discovery by Captain John Smith. It was the site of the Boston Tea Party and continuous backfilling of the harbor until the 19th century. Boston’s Back Bay is one of the city’s most expensive residential neighborhoods, yet was once part of the harbor.

By 1660, most imports came to the greater Boston area and the New England coast through the harbor. But, as the population increased, the health of the harbor decreased and people weredrains to harbor advised not to swim or fish there. 

Throughout its history, Boston Harbor has had issues related to raw sewage being pumped in it. Plaques like the one here are seen on city sidewalks. The Charles River was so polluted that in 1966 the Standells, a punk rock band, released Dirty Water; it’s popular with Red Sox fans and played regularly at Fenway Park.

Cleanup projects begun in the 1980s, including creation of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority have transformed Boston Harbor from one of the nation’s worst to one of the harbor collage3