Musings at Mid-week



It is one of those weeks. Depending on which way you turn, your actual mileage may vary.

Politics certainly is fun right now. I keep asking myself, “Is this really the best you can do?”, when it comes to the choices at hand. I don’t really have a great deal of faith in the candidates, but it seems to be a pretty clear mandate that everyone really does not care for business as usual. Not that a Presidential election will change that. Going to take voters from one party or another to come to the polls and out vote their idealogical counterparts. And as long as we have unlimited spending for political campaigns, things won’t change all that much. Folks will believe what they want to, no matter what facts may be in evidence to counter those beliefs.

But hey! We got rain in California this winter and spring that seems to have lightened our “drought” situation. And as regular as clockwork, the Golden state is turning brown. Hoping that dead trees and high grasses will be kept in check as the fire seasons of summer and fall come along. And that those who will be fighting the inevitable wild land fires will be safe out there. Weather this week has been somewhat cool and gray. That would be nice when the summer months come to call.

Life is good right now, with the cats seeing the start of their sixth year on the planet. A couple of rescued ferals who just fit in with us, taking their rightful places as our overlords, demanding food and attention while sharing the royal personage with us larger and clumsier “cats”.

While I know that the summer season for movies is well underway, I have kind of lost the enthusiasm for what lies ahead. Call me what you will, but it sure seems as stories have all blurred, with super hero film after super hero film after super hero film. When it came to comics, I was always more of a DC fan than Marvel. I will admit that somewhere among my stored collections of stuff, I do actually have a copy of Howard The Duck, issue number one.

Down to the wire for last episodes on a number of television series, too. While we are wired to the Internet for the delivery of some content (thanks to Hulu and Apple TV), I still don’t miss the greater part of all of the options. A vast wasteland indeed…

Ah, baseball… Going to plan for a few minor league games this summer. Have yet to visit Stockton’s Banner Island Ballpark and need to remedy that. Visits to Modesto and San Jose call as well for some class A ball. And Reno with the AAA Aces seems worth the adventure, with some fine Basque dining nearby at the Hotel Santa Fe.

Yes, sir… plenty of summer ahead and plenty of great opportunities waiting to be taken advantage of along the way.

Now just to get there all in one piece.


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No Matter Where You Go…


Ah, Home, Sweet Home… Maybe.

Sorry, no Disneyland stories today. I needed a good exterior view of a home and that’s a photo I have.

What I do want to share is some thoughts on the places we choose to live. Oddly enough, I do have memories of all of the spots that I have lived over the years. As well as a few places where family lived from time to time. Okay, so I cheat a bit when thinking of Mainz-Gonsenheim in Germany, but in September of 2001 we did revisit the little place where my parents and I stayed in 1958 and the first part of 1959. Other than those first six months of all my years, I have been a California resident. I was reminded strongly of this during a recent visit with the Social Security Administration.

In those years, the San Francisco Bay Area, has been the place. If you haven’t been here, let me say that you can find all kinds of climates and landscapes within a few hours drive. Redwood rainforest, oceanside, prairie, coastal hills, urban cityscape, vineyards, and more. It is enough of a mix that you are hard pressed to find so many choices anywhere else.

Over that time, I have lived in most of the parts of the Bay Area. The only exception is the North Bay, but family, work and other interests have taken me there on more than a few occasions. It is somewhat scary, in that I know how to get around as much as I do. One of the interesting side effects of a career and a hobby that take in transportation information. Not that I have not gotten lost on occasion, but I manage to get back on track, or on route to a destination.

Looking back, the years were kind and the locations good to us as a family. We shared a lifestyle with other post war families of similar size. I have made some good friends over the time but wish I had kept in better touch with others.

In some ways, sad is a good word for some of those places. My mothers parents had a wonderful home in Sea Cliff in San Francisco. I know tastes in decorating change over time, but when the place was up for sale recently, I had a rude experience. The realtor put a website together to show off everything shiny and brand new. The memories that I fondly recall from many years enjoyed there were utterly crushed.

So little of what remains has any ties to those days. I had seen some of it first hand in driving by the home in the last few years, but could never have imagined what had taken place on the inside. (And no, I won’t link to the real estate web site. It’s just too depressing…)

I am a realist in understanding that new owners usually want to put their own spins on a place. That’s to be expected. Change is inevitable and usually for the best. Yet, one can hope that some respect for what came before still survives. Memories will suffice, but you wish that there was something more to tie you to a place. Yeah, I know. Terminal nostalgia. It’s not fatal, but it sure can tug at heartstrings when you look back.

Maybe that is the best we have of anywhere we live, work or play. Memories of the people (and pets) who made those places as special as they are. Indeed, a treasure worth having.

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Afternoon Musings

N Carolina 5_06 059


Ah, the promise of an afternoon…

Changes ahead, in all kinds of ways. Disney fans got a bunch of changes out there. Starting at the top, will Bob Iger be staying on now that Tom Staggs has declared his intentions to move on? Only time will tell, but I suspect Bob will be around a bit longer. He has a few more years before he hits that magic number forcing his retirement.

And while on the subject of Disney, how about Zootopia? Fun film and good to see if do so well as the box office. With international numbers, it will become the first animated film to do over a billion dollars at the box office. Walt and Roy would like that a lot. But Disney as a company seems poised to have a string of hits in theaters. With Star Wars (and all the spin-off films), Indiana Jones and all the Marvel properties ahead, times look good, don’t they? And don’t forget Steven Spielberg adding his own BFG to the mix, too. Stockholders gotta like what they are seeing ahead.

So, Universal has opened Harry Potter in California. Sure, it’s a winner. How could it not be? And with Disney looking to keep up as it gets hot and heavy into Star Wars construction in Anaheim, one would have to expect Universal has to have more up it’s sleeves to keep competition going for all of those tourist dollars.

Amusing isn’t it? Even with so much of Disneyland down for this project, folks still manage to spend and spend in Anaheim. As long as they keep coming, Disney will keep gathering all of that disposable income from them. Yes, truly, “Shut Up and Take My Money!”

April means a return to baseball. So far so good as the new season has some great stories already. Speaking of Story, he should do well in Denver as that seems to be a hitters park. And Baltimore! Oh, for some crab cake sandwiches to go along with all of those wins. Here is hoping for a productive year for the Orioles in a traditionally tough American League East division. A’s and Giants? Give me Stockton for the Ports (I really need to go visit the Banner Island Ballpark) or just an excuse for some Turkey Mikes BBQ in San Jose. Would be nice if the big clubs did better than last year, while we are at it.

Still waiting for Apple or anyone to come along with the next technological “must-have”. With so many people trained to their phones or other devices, it is only a matter of time before the next gotta get gadget sucks them in even more. Although the next generation of Google Glass (Google Goggles?) has to be lurking out there some where in developer hell…

This Saturday see’s me off to the Presidio in San Francisco for THATCamp, with a look at Humanities and Technology. Promises to be an interesting event. And the following Friday, it is a throwback as Trader Vic’s offers the latest in Cocktail Seminars with a visit to the 1947 Bartenders Guide. Gotta grab my copy and be ready to try my hand at something tempting and tasty!

Yes, sir. Fun ahead at all times, at least from this afternoon onward.


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Matters of Perspective


It is funny that there are times when we can be reminded of how the simplest things in life can provide the most satisfaction.

Take the image above, for example.

These two balls of fluff spent the first four months of their young lives outdoors as feral kittens. They came to us, because their mother spotted a source first of clean water and later food. Yes, I plead guilty to being the source of both. It was a warm summer and the four kittens we saw together in the bushes outside our front door looked like they could use a cool drink. Mom was occasionally around, but for the most part, these kittens were on their own.

So, I took pity and bought a bag of inexpensive kibble at the local grocery store to share with them. We already had one indoor cat and she was curious about the kittens, to say the least. Downright excited at times. (Belle came to us as a re-home from Craigslist, keeping our pal Cruiser company for the last year of his time with us.) But at that time, we had no intention of adding to our little household.

As the days passed, these kittens and another tame cat all came to water and feed at our trough. I think after Mom left the litter, the other cat took up the role of surrogate watching over the bunch of them. (I suspect she had been abandoned at some point as she was not skittish around us, as most feral cats are.

The kittens became accustomed to us and would wait outside for the time of day when either fresh water was forthcoming or the once a day feeding of kibble. The smallest of the four would be the first at the dish when kibble came out. She would growl as she ate, signalling to the other three that they were going to have to wait their turn. But once they had all eaten, they would come to us for attention. We didn’t threaten them by grabbing or rushing after them. As time passed, they were well socialized.

I am not sure what happened, but the four became three and then three became two. One afternoon, our neighbors had some friends visit, and the friends brought their dog to run about the back yard. The gate to the yard was only about three feet high and this dog could easily look over and see the kittens with us and it was more than a bit interested. Having seen their numbers deplete, I decided we wouldn’t take any chances and brought the two remaining inside the house with us.

They have been inside cats ever since. This summer will see the calendar turn seven years since that day.

Chessie (the runt of the litter) and her sister Peake are named for the railroad kittens of the C&O (Chesapeake and Ohio). As with good indoor cats, we are the staff, attending to their needs as required at all times of the day and night. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

When weather is nice, the bench in the photo is placed behind the safety of the secured screen door and becomes a perch from where the passing panorama can be viewed. Everything from birds and other animals (so far skunks have not been annoyed in passing) to the postal delivery people and our current neighbors children, all have become items of long fascination as hours may pass with the two cats sitting there taking it all in.

Yes, the feline version of people watching. From this perch, the view maybe takes in some ten feet or so on either side of the door. And for the most part, the cats are just fine with that. As long as no one tries to invade their inside territory, they are okay with that. On a couple of occasions, they have received inquisitive visitors at the door in the form of other cats. Meows may be exchanged and occasional growls or hissing can be heard. Yet, in all this time, the two of them are somewhat satisfied with their indoor life. Not to say there have not been escape attempts by both, but safety first and they came right back inside, under protest at times.

Give them some peaceful moments as seen above, and they are both happy with the situation. At least, I hope they are…

Indeed, matters of perspective.




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Survivors from the Industrial Past – Baldwin Narrow Gauge Steam Locomotives



Industrial archeology tends to be a subject that you don’t often think about. Unless you happen to be a fan of scenes like the one above, that is.

Railroading in the days between 1870 and 1890 was a heady pursuit. With the late unpleasantness between the States behind us as a nation, not only imaginations looked to the West, but those in search of opportunities did as well. Lines expanded in all directions as the country grew as resources required transportation from the factories and to the markets.

Narrow gauge railroads often were the method of choice because of two points. The first was cost. As narrow gauge railroads were smaller in size that their larger cousins. Which meant lower prices for equipment. The second item was that narrow gauge railroads were more flexible than their larger cousins, too. With some inventive engineering, they could go places that full size railroads found difficult.

These railroads served a variety of masters to reach resources that the West needed to bring from remote places to markets across the country. Cattle and sheep could spend summers in high pastures full of green grass. Mines could get necessary supplies needed to dig deep into the earth where the mineral bonanzas lay; and to bring those bonanzas of coal, gold, silver, copper and more to smelters and other locations away from the mines for processing. Or perhaps it was timber from forests to mills to be come lumber used in building homes, businesses, ships or other structures of all kinds.

One of the most prolific builders of steam locomotives for the 3-foot gauge railroads of California and Nevada was the Baldwin Locomotive Works, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. From the first locomotive in 1832 to it’s last in 1956, it set standards that made it the envy of others in the business.

Image from Wikipedia.

Image from Wikipedia.

This Baldwin product was a good example of the art in the period starting in 1870. It was built in 1872 for export to Finland. The 4-4-0, or American type, featured four (4) pilot wheels, four (4) driving wheels and no (0) trailing wheels on the locomotive. It had been a standard locomotive type on both Union and Confederate railroads throughout the War. First patented in 1836 by William H. Campbell (as chief engineer for the Philadelphia, Germantown and Norristown Railway), it was estimated that by 1872, this wheel arrangement represented eighty-five percent of all steam locomotives in operation in the United States.

So great was the demand for this design, that even when surpassed by larger and more flexible designs, orders for the type continued to be received at manufacturers around the world. The last one built in the United States was a Baldwin product in 1945 for the United Railways of Yucatan in Mexico (Interestingly enough, this was the same railroad that the Walt Disney Company chose to purchase the five Baldwin 3-foot gauge steam locomotives from in 1969. They became the locomotive fleet still in operation today at the Walt Disney World Railroad in Orlando, Florida.)

My own connection to these products is a genealogical one. One of my paternal great grandfathers was a young man earning his living as a vaquero at ranches in the Pine Valley in Central Nevada before the turn of the 20th Century. He joined a group traveling to a Mardi Gras dance by train in the mining town of Eureka, Nevada in 1899. He was hoping to spend time with a certain young woman at the dance, but she was intent on someone else, and he had a miserable time that evening.

Instead of riding back to the ranch in the passenger cars of the narrow gauge Eureka and Palisade Railroad, he rode in the cab of the steam locomotive instead. It was on this trip that he decided that he would give up life on the back of a horse and take up railroading instead. While he was turned away by the Southern Pacific (as being too small) that year and told to come back the next, he had a 51 year career in railroading; retiring as a locomotive engineer in 1951 and holding number one in seniority on the SP’s Salt Lake Division. I have no doubt that the narrow gauge locomotive that started his life long interest in railroading was a Baldwin 4-4-0.

Palisade, Nevada as seen from the back of a Southern Pacific passenger train in the 1930's. Note the narrow gauge passenger car on the right. This was the location of the Eureka - Nevada Railroad shops, formerly the Eureka and Palisade.

Palisade, Nevada as seen from the back of a Southern Pacific passenger train in the 1930’s. Note the narrow gauge passenger car on the right. This was the location of the Eureka – Nevada Railroad shops, formerly the Eureka and Palisade. Photo from the John W. Barriger National Railroad Library on Flickr.

Thanks to him, I started my own passion for railroading with a cab ride in a diesel locomotive with him and my father at the SP’s Sparks, Nevada yard facility at the tender age of 3 years old. I have strong memories of being handed up to cab and hearing the airhorn blow during the short ride and forth. Likewise, it probably explains my attraction to the sounds of an Electromotive Division 567 diesel engine. But that is another story…

Oddly enough, there are a good number of Baldwin 3-foot gauge steam locomotives still with us today. Especially here in California and Nevada.

Of those, there is one that may even be the locomotive that started it all for me. The Eureka and Palisade’s steam locomotive number 4. the “Eureka” calls Las Vegas, Nevada home and it is owned by Dan Markoff. Built in 1875, it is Baldwin builders number 3763. From Wikipedia:

The locomotive was built in 1875 for the Eureka & Palisade Railroad, which was built to transport passengers and goods from the mining town of Eureka to connect with the Central Pacific Railroad in Palisade. The engine served on this railroad until 1896, when it was sold to the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber Company. It operated on the Sierra Nevada Wood and Lumber until 1938 when the company dissolved and the engine was sold to a scrap dealer.

Warner Bros. bought the engine in 1939, and it was featured in many films, such as Torrid Zone, Cheyenne Autumn, and The Great Train Robbery. The Eureka’s last film appearance was in the 1976 film, The Shootist, and it was sold thereafter to Old Vegas, an amusement park in Henderson, Nevada, where it was placed on display. In 1978, the California State Railroad Museum, was in the process of restoring North Pacific Coast no. 12 Sonoma, another 8/18C class 4-4-0 nearly identical to the Eureka. The museum had the latter stripped down to reveal its original paint scheme that was still on the engine, and used it as a guide for restoring the former. In 1985, a fire had consumed the Old Vegas park, with one of the burning buildings collapsing on the Eureka, badly damaging the engine.

A year later, the engine was discovered by Las Vegas attorney Dan Markoff, who then purchased the engine and had it restored to operating condition. The restored Eureka debuted at Railfair ’91 at the California State Railroad Museum.

The locomotive has visited a number of 3-foot gauge railroads and has seen operation at the Nevada State Railroad Museum at Boulder City, near it’s Las Vegas home. Markoff is also building a brand new “vintage” passenger coach to match the “Eureka”.

The restored “Eureka” seen on the Durango & Silverton Railroad at Rockwood, Colorado

during a refueling (wood) stop in October of 1997.Photo from Wikipedia.

Another Baldwin locomotive from Palisade, the Eureka Nevada Railway number 12, a 2-8-0, builders number 14771, built in 1896 (for the Florence and Cripple Creek Railroad in Colorado) is part of the collection on display at the Nevada Southern Railroad Museum in Boulder City, NV. The museum has a new executive director and we can hope some love and attention will come to this classic locomotive in the future.

Dan Markoff isn’t the first person to take on the restoration of a Baldwin narrow gauge steam locomotive of the 1870’s. In 1938, that honor fell to Ward and Betty Kimball with their acquisition of the Nevada Central Railroad’s number 2, a 2-6-0, built in 1881, builders number 5575, as they brought it to their home among the orange groves in San Gabriel. The “Emma Nevada” from the Grizzly Flats Railroad is the project of a determined group of volunteers at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, CA. Be sure to check out the new Facebook page for this group!

The "Emma Nevada" as work is about to begin on the day's projects in the Grizzly Flats Barn at OERM.

The “Emma Nevada” as work is about to begin on the day’s projects in the Grizzly Flats Barn at OERM.

Another Nevada narrow gauge veteran recently returned to operation after a long restoration (including using portions of the original lap-seam boiler) is the “Glenbrook“, locomotive #1 of the Carson-Tahoe Lumber and Fluming Company. Built by Baldwin in April of 1875 (Builders Number 3712), she was part of the efforts of the Carson-Tahoe Flume and Lumber Company to bring much needed wood for construction from the shores of Lake Tahoe to the mines of Nevada’s Comstock Lode at Virginia City.

When lumber operations ceased in the late 1890’s, the owners moved the locomotive to a new railroad, the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company, providing passenger and freight service between Tahoe City and the connection with the Central Pacific at Truckee. in 1926, that line was sold to the Southern Pacific and converted to standard gauge. The Bliss family (owners of the LTR&T) held onto the “Glenbrook” until 1937 when it was sold to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad between Colfax and Grass Valley, CA. When that line was abandoned in 1943, it looked like the locomotive was headed to scrap as the war was rounding up all kinds of surplus metals.

The Bliss family was convinced to repurchase the “Glenbrook”, and to donate it to the Nevada State Museum in Carson City. There it sat until the creation of the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Restoration efforts began in the 1980’s and were finally completed last year. A great deal of the original locomotive was retained in the project including parts of the original Baldwin lap-seam boiler.

The “Glenbrook” is the oldest operational steam locomotive in the country, and was first operated for public display on May 23, 2015. Truly a gem!

The sister locomotive to the “Glenbrook” was the number 2, named the “Tahoe” and was Builders number 3709, also built in 1875. She also went to the Lake Tahoe Railway and Transportation Company after the end of lumber operations. After the line was standard gauged by the Southern Pacific, it was sold off to the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad, becoming their number 5.


The Nevada County 5 seen at Grass Valley in 1935. Photo courtesy of Phil Reader.

From there, she became the railroad star at Universal Studios, appearing in many films. When it was retired at the studio, it came back to Grass Valley and the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum. Today, the number 5 is also under restoration and will make use of new replacement boiler, originally ordered for the “Glenbrook” by the Nevada State Railroad Museum.

Down the road a bit from Grass Valley, two other narrow gauge Baldwins are on display at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Another 2-6-0 is the Nevada Short Line number 1. She was built in 1879, builders number 4562, for the Utah & Northern as their #13. She led quite a life moving from railroad to railroad, eventually becoming number 6 on the Nevada Central.

Nevada Short Line Number 1 on display upstairs at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Photo from Flickr.

Nevada Short Line Number 1 on display upstairs at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. Photo from Flickr.

Battle Mountain turned out to be quite the place for Baldwin survivors. Another 4-4-0, built in 1876, as builders number 3483, is the “Sonoma“, number 12 of the North Pacific Coast Railroad. The NPC ran in Marin and Sonoma Counties to reach the rural communities bringing passengers and freight from the North Bay into San Francisco by ferry boat. At it’s peak it had almost 93 miles of railroad in service. The railroad later became part of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad and was standard gauged with electric commuter service from Mill Valley and San Rafael.

Sacramento Railroad Museum, Sacramento, CA Sonoma: North Pacific Coast Railroad Locomotive No. 12

Sacramento Railroad Museum, Sacramento, CA Sonoma: North Pacific Coast Railroad Locomotive No. 12, from Flickr.

In 1879, the “Sonoma” was sold to the Nevada Central, becoming their number 5. She was still in service when the line ceased operation in 1938. However, that was not the end for the number 5 and number 6. They went on to a life on stage during the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939, recreating the Golden Spike ceremony between the Central Pacific and Union Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah in 1869. And that show has a Disney connection as it was showman Art Linkletter who produced it! The experience he gained there came in very useful in 1955 when he was called upon to emcee the Disneyland opening telecast.

From the Cavalcade of the Golden West at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. From the Treasure Island Museum,

From the Cavalcade of the Golden West at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. From the Treasure Island Museum.

Both locomotives were donated to the California State Railroad Museum where they have been restored and are on display today.

Now Disney theme park fans have enjoyed their own Baldwin products in service on the Disneyland Railroad. Number 3, the “Fred Gurley”, a 2-4-2T, builders number 14065, built in 1894; number 4, the “Ernest S. Marsh” a 2-4-0 with the tender addition, builders number 53867 from 1925; and number 5, the “Ward Kimball”, also a 2-4-2T, builders number 20925, built in 1902. If you haven’t read either the books by Michael Broggie or Steve DeGaetano on the Disneyland Railroad, they have plenty to share on the subject of these locomotives.

Disneyland Railroad number 3, on display at the Main Street station.

Disneyland Railroad number 3, on display at the Main Street station.


The Ernest S. Marsh, Disneyland Railroad #4, on display at the New Orleans Square Station.


DRR number 5, the “Ward Kimball” and her restoration crew at Boschan Boiler Works.

But theme park fans have two more Baldwin survivors just down the road from Anaheim in a pair of two narrow gauge Consolidations (2-8-0’s) at Knotts Berry Farm’s Calico Railroad. Denver and Rio Grande 340 (builders number 5571, built in 1881) and Rio Grande Southern 41 (builders number 5731, built in 1881). Both hail from 1881, and came west from Colorado to Buena Park in 1952. The railroad has always been a part of this classic theme park.

Archetypical Knott's Berry Farm / Calico Mine Ride, steam train, giant red-and-white-striped pole with a neon "K" on top... All that's missing is the Log Ride. Ghost Town, Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park, California. From Wikipedia.

Archetypical Knott’s Berry Farm / Calico Mine Ride, steam train, giant red-and-white-striped pole with a neon “K” on top… All that’s missing is the Log Ride. Ghost Town, Knott’s Berry Farm, Buena Park, California. From Wikipedia.

Rio Grande 340 and train leaving on another trip around the Ghost Town & Calico Railroad.

Finally, the Southern Pacific’s narrow gauge line in the Owens Valley had quite the stable of Baldwin steam locomotives in operation at one time. Starting as the Carson & Colorado, then the Nevada and California, and finally as the Southern Pacific, ending service in 1959. Three steam locomotives survive, all Baldwins and all 4-6-0’s. SP 8 (builders number 31445, built 8/1907), displayed at Sparks, NV; SP 9 ( builders number 34035, built 11/1919) displayed at Laws, CA; SP 18 (builders number 37395, built 12/1911), under restoration to operation at Independence, CA.

The Southern Pacific 18 project underway at Independence, CA.

Who would have predicted such a group of these industrial tools of their days would still about 135 years later? If you have the time and are in the neighborhood, stop by a visit one of them!

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