Sunday, August 30, 2015

Building and riding the rails

HH is a gem at going along with anything I want to do. He is unique among anyone I've ever known in that he is never, ever bored. Ever. And everything interests him. Granted, some things interest him more than others, but I've never encountered a topic that he won't engage in a discussion about. It's an impressive attribute, and he keeps me hopping.

The first photo I saw of him was with a group of fellow photographers. It was a casual gathering - those in the front row were lounging around in chairs, smokes in their hands, laughing and chatting. The rest of the group was standing behind. HH was at the far end of the back row and his expression of what I thought was bemused detachment I later understood to be what is now familiar: he was thinking. He doesn't remember that particular day, but agrees that there was some thing he was figuring out how to solve or build or move. He does love all things mechanical, from farm equipment to trains.

He most agreeably went with me to the Haggin Museum in Stockton several weekends ago. A docent there told us that the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento was worth going to, and I decided I could do that if he could suffer through an art museum for me. Come to think of it, though, there wasn't a lot of suffering going on because half of the Haggin is art but the other half is history, with lots of farm equipment on exhibit.

The railroad museum is in the Old Town section of Sacramento. It was a gorgeous day and there were swarms of people on the streets and in the museum.

Once inside, we split up and HH went to look at machinery and I took in the archival and museum material, occasionally getting back together when one of us would hunt the other down to say, You have to see this.

Like many museums, this one is kept dark and I could shoot handheld only, so just like at San Juan Bautista, nothing is as sharp as I'd like it to be.

I've often said I don't know how I got along without the internet. When I got my first smart phone I couldn't imagine any other use for its internet connection than to research prices of children's books (which I collected) when I was at an antique store or book sale. That narrow focus didn't last long, and thank goodness for unlimited data use then. I don't have unlimited data anymore, but then I'm not usually in a place where I can actually get data. This little discussion of changing technology segues me into the telegram below and its subtle boasting about the "new multiplex automatic system" and eight telegrams being printed automatically. I'm sure there was no less awe at this marvelous method of communication than there was when I realized what utility that first smartphone would eventually offer me.

If there's one thing they do really well at this museum, it's dioramas. They're so skillfully executed that I stood in front of this one for a while, systematically looking at the wall section by section until I could see where the 3-D snow shed left off and where the mural began. The reflection in the mirrored wall on the right added to the illusion.

The Central Pacific's first locomotive was a classic American type, and was purchased in 1862 from a factory on the east coast. After traveling around the tip of South America, it arrived in Sacramento and was named the Gov. Stanford after Central Pacific's president and the governor of California (at the same time?). It was donated to the Leland Stanford Jr. University in 1895 and, while this photo doesn't show its fine condition, it still looks nearly new after 30 years' service.
A giant poster on one wall capitalizes on the romance of California, the Golden State.

For the first time, thanks to an exhibit label, I understand what's meant by railroad gauge. It's the distance between the inside edges of the rails. In the US and much of the world, Standard Gauge is 56 1/2 inches. When track was first being laid in this country, what some called "English Gauge" was used, but because it varied between 56 and 57 inches it wouldn't have been useful nationwide.

Subsequent railroads in different parts of the US proceeded to use a half-dozen different, and of course incompatible, gauges. This meant that passengers and freight had to unloaded and reloaded whenever a different gauge track occurred at a junction.

In 1862 Lincoln set what was to become the national standard of 56 1/2 inches for the Transcontinental Railroad. On Memorial Day, 1886 the remaining odd gauge tracks were re-spiked to the "new" standard. The only other common gauge left is 36-inch narrow gauge.

No one knows how the 56 1/2-inch gauge originated. It may have been related to the wheel spacing of ancient Roman carts, and the early English tramways from which the railways evolved just adopted that spacing as well.

In addition to having a standard gauge for railroad conformity nationwide, railroads created Standard Time and time zones to bring safety and uniformity to train operation. The concept of clock time was still new to the US when the first trains began running. What was the importance of clock time to an agrarian society? If the sun was just coming up, go feed the cows. If the sun was directly overhead, it was lunchtime. For every 13 miles one moved east or west, Sun Time changed by a minute. But as railroads grew longer, coordinating accurate time became difficult; the Union Pacific used six different times on its route between Omaha and Salt Lake City. It took 50 years of being confused until the railroads agreed on a uniform, nationwide system of time.

November 18, 1883 was "The Day of Two Noons." At the prescribed hour, every railroader in the US and Canada awaited countdown to the new Standard Time when each railroad timepiece was set to the new Noon. Railroad time became America's standard time.

The monthly Official Guide was the standard reference for passenger train schedules in the United States and Canada.

Railroad torpedos were new to me and, surprisingly, to HH. A fellow museum-goer who heard us puzzling over them explained: when work was being done on a rail line, someone would go some distance up track and fasten the soft metal of the clips around the track. Then, when a train came chugging in the workers' direction and rolled over a torpedo, the small explosion it made could be heard in the engine car as a signal to come to a stop. Brilliant, really, and so simple.

Religious tracts were distributed to railroad workers in an effort to save their souls via the hell and damnation route. You have to admire the creative writing.

How realistic are these figures? This diorama demonstrates the tight conditions of a typical galley. Chefs could turn out four-star meals three times a day from spaces no larger than this.

A different view into the same galley as above.

This is one of three chandeliers that hung in the Oakland train station from 1912-1989. It is believed that the glass was produced at the Kokomo Opalescent Glass Company. The Botti Studio of Architectural Arts in Evanston, Illinois has records from the early 1900s that show an order for "chandeliers for the railroad depot," leading museum staff to believe that that is where the three were designed and built.

A small exhibit label shows a photo of two of the globes in place in the train station:

Another realistic diorama shows workers swinging a pick and levering a pry bar while maintaining a rail line outside a small station building. There is no shortage of work: a mile of track may have over 3,000 cross ties, 1,000 bolts, and 15,000 ties.

The mail car was interesting because a former worker was there, telling the story of his years running the rails. This form of picking up, sorting, and delivering mail was discontinued in 1977. More photos of this particular car and a history of the railway post office can be found on Wikipedia.

A refrigerated car exhibited old fruit crate labels, a lost art form. The addition of the twitter icon on the peach box from Costco that serves as my fruit and vegetable bowl just isn't the same.

The long drive to Sacramento proved to be worth every mile. We found a nice restaurant for lunch, and on HH's suggestion, I bought three wooden train whistles to mail to my grands. Paybacks are bliss.


On a completely different topic, I forgot to add a photo of a rainbow that we saw as we left the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in July. It was spectacular, so much so that the highway came to resemble a parking lot as people pulled to the side to photograph it.


Thought of the day:

Faster than fairies, faster than witches,
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches;
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle:
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain;
And ever again, in the wink of an eye,
Painted stations whistle by.
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles,
All by himself and gathering brambles;
Here is a tramp who stands and gazes;
And here is the green for stringing the daisies!
Here is a cart runaway in the road
Lumping along with man and load;
And here is a mill, and there is a river:
Each a glimpse and gone forever!

              - Robert Louis Stevenson, From a Railway Carriage 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Diggin' PEFO

I wrote some time ago about the fledgling Petrified Forest Field Institute at Petrified Forest National Park (PEFO) and the class offerings that were due to start this month. When I got an email from PFFI a couple of days ago, I realized that here we are with August almost done, and I'd lost track of the goings-on in northeast Arizona. I don't know about the other courses, but they've had amazing success with a paleontology dig that took place early in the month. This is from the email I received:
When park paleontologist Dr. Bill Parker’s group took off the morning of August 8th, they all had high hopes for finding fossils. After all, they had all signed up for his “Dig Fossils for a Day” class with the Petrified Forest Field Institute (PFFI), a new program in its inaugural year. But even the most optimistic participant could not have anticipated an exciting discovery that could rewrite the scientific journals!

SaurichthysOne student found the jaw of a long-snouted fish that had previously been thought to be extinct in North America during the Late Triassic, about 220 million years ago. Prior to her find, the fish, which is closely related to the genus Saurichthys, is from a group of fish known globally in the Early Triassic but up to this point had only been found in China in the Late Triassic.

The class made other finds that were exciting as well. They included vertebrae of a very long necked lizard (Tanystropheus) first found in the park only last year and teeth of the large carnivore Poposaurus, both considered rare in the park fossil record.

There aren't any more of these one-day digs until next year, but in late September there's a five-day, camp-in-the-desert paleontology outing. I wish I could go, but because I can't, the next best thing will be seeing what that one turns up.


Thought of the day:

The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...' - Isaac Asimov

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Changed my mind

OK, I give. I started putting these photos on Flickr and realized it's much more work than I remembered it being when I used Flickr a lot in years past. I still have to do the research, still have to try to write something intelligent about each one, and of course they still all need processing. So I take back what I said about suspending cruisingat60. If the work is the same, or nearly so, then this space is a much better chronicle of my journeys to places near and far.

We've pretty much scraped the closer-by areas clean of things to see, and are having to go farther afield. A few weeks ago we went to Stockton to a very nice art museum there, The Haggin Museum, and to Sacramento, to the California State Railroad Museum. We've about reached our limit for day trips: four to five hours one way makes for a very long day.

A while back I saw a Spanish mission on the map and asked HH if he wanted to go; it's on the outer limits of day-trip miles. True to form, he said, Why not? and off we went a couple of weekends ago. Following Alta California's Spanish mission trail, El Camino Real (The Royal Road, or The King's Road) is a bucket list item for me as well as following the mission trails through Mexico and Arizona. I'd hoped to follow it sequentially but hit-or-miss is all right, too.

San Juan Bautista is in the town of the same name, northeast of Salinas. Founded in 1797, it is the 15th Spanish mission established by Franciscan Father President Francisco de Lase├║n. The church's brochure says it's the largest of the mission churches, but I don't know if it means just those in Alta California or all of them. It sits astride the eastern edge of the Pacific Plate and San Andreas Fault and has suffered earthquake damage over the years. In fact, there's a warning sign outside the complex about the buildings not being earthquake-proof. The remains of El Camino Real can be seen from the fault line. El Camino Real connected a 600-mile circuit of California missions, presidios, and pueblos of the day.

Here is the entrance to the museum, gift shop, garden courtyard, and church.

In the museum that precedes the visit to the church is this Himnario, maybe two feet tall.

Vestments on display in the museum. Some are from China, Russia, and Venice, and were used here until the 1930s.

One of the entrances to the church from the garden. The church was secularized in 1835 when the Mexican government seized much of the Mission property. In 1859, the present mission buildings and 55 acres were given back to the Church by US federal decree.

One of many doors that once led to the Padre's living quarters and workrooms for Native people. The space is now used for the Museum and Archives.

San Juan Bautista was the setting for Alfred Hitchcock's 1957 movie, Vertigo. The 1865 Victorian-era bell tower seen in the movie no longer exists and didn't even exist when the movie was filmed. The original tower was demolished in 1949 due to dry rot and structural damage, so Hitchcock used Hollywood magic to recreate it for the film. We tried to stream the movie on Netflix the other night but it's not available. I do not understand licensing. This three-bell campanario, or "bell wall," located by the church entrance, was fully restored in 2010.

The pulpit is reached via a stairway on the other side of the wall. Stations of the Cross in this church are in the form of paintings, but I'd say not the originals because of the painted curlicues that can be seen peeking out behind them. 

A cat door in the bottom of the people door allowed cats access to the church at all times for mouse-catching duties.

In 1997, the site of the original chapel was restored and dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. This is the altar used for daily Mass.

Front and center, below, is the candle I lit in front of the altar, along with buying a statue of St. Joseph from Amazon to be buried in my yard, in an effort to direct cosmic energy toward the sale of the house Voldemort and I still own. When I told the volunteer in the gift shop why I was buying the candle, she said, "Sometimes it's good to ask mom for help."

Two days later, after the house had sat stagnant on the market for four months and before the candle had time to burn down or St. Joe got planted, we had an offer on the house. We're losing money by the bucketful but it will soon be gone and I won't have to listen to him about that topic any more.

This is the main door at the back of the church. That's another Station of the Cross to the left, number VII.

The baptistry features the original fonts. 

A holy water niche at one of the doors.

I shot everything handheld because I was too lazy and it was too hot to go back to the truck for the tripod. None of these is as sharp as I'd like, but you get the idea.

Every December 21st, the light of the midwinter solstice illuminates the main altar tabernacle. I would like to see that.

The sanctuary and reredos were painted by Boston sailor Thomas Doak in 1818 in exchange for room and board (and maybe sanctuary?) after he jumped ship in Monterey.

There's another mission near Carmel, which we intended to stop at on our way home, but traffic was a nightmare. Instead of battling it and getting mad, I elected to come on home. It will have to wait for another day when we can get on the road early.

Thought of the day:

If you never change your mind, why have one? - Edward de Bono

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Say goodnight, Gracie

I have decided to suspend cruisingat60 for a while, indefinitely. There isn't enough time in my day, and rather than do a mediocre job at everything, I have to pick and choose. I will get back to tossing some photos up on my Flickr page, which has been neglected since I started cruisingat60. They will be the same photos that I would show here but will take much less time to post.

This has been an interesting journey. If I can find more hours in the day, I may be back. Thank you for reading along.


Thought of the day:

You can have it all. Just not all at once. - Oprah Winfrey