Friday, October 3, 2014

The Dogs of My Life - Part Two - Casey, (Toto), Koko, Lacey, Rosita, and Maggie

[See here for part one of the dogs of my life]

In 1976 I met my first wife, Nikki. She had a siamese cat, Ming, who ate only boiled liver (freshly boiled liver I might add) until he temporarily moved in with me into my apartment in Chicago before Nikki and I married. I flat out told Nikki I would not feed him boiled liver. There was an A&P across the street and each night I would go buy three different cans of Nine Lives. I would open them all, and put three lumps of food on a plate noting the location of each. He would ignore them all...but I didn't care, he was only a cat. On the third night one of the lumps was gone and he only occasionally had boiled liver after that. Ming passed away in the early 1980s.

Ming in San Jose, CA in 1981
In 1985, we were living in Pittsburgh and Nikki started making noises about getting a new cat and perhaps a dog. I was not opposed but we didn't get around to it due to other things going on. In October of that year I was on a business trip followed by a train trip in California while Nikki went to Chicago to see her family (and mine). When I met her at my parent's house there was awaiting me a tiny ball of fur that was a miniature schnauzer puppy. I was quite upset that this was done without me but almost immediately the doggie won me over and I named her "Casey". Then Nikki came back to my parent's house with a Siamese kitten who she named "Ming" so Casey became "Ming's Casey" to keep the tradition going. We flew them back to Pittsburgh in one under seat pet carrier.

Casey in Highland Park, IL in 1985
Ming was just a cat, but Casey was a wonderful dog. She was perhaps the friendliest of the schnauzers I've had in my life (though Tag would give her a run for her money.) And also perhaps the smartest. Soon enough, though, one dog and one cat wasn't enough for Nikki and a Cairn terrier named (wait for it), Toto, entered our lives. This was shortly before Nikki and I divorced and Casey and I soon left Ming and Toto behind.

I credit Casey with keeping me sane when I got my divorce. She was a smiling face when I would get home from work. She also was a great wingdog. Most afternoons I would take her over to Mellon Park where there was an unofficial dog park full of other dogs, and their owners, many of whom were unattached women. I did not meet my wife Barbara there, but it sure helped pass the time. Also, the line "would you like to come over and see my schnauzer" was a lot better than "would you like to come over and see my etchings!"

During this time I was heavily into road rallying and when I found myself without a navigator for some reason, I'd take Casey along. She quickly became known as Navidog.

Casey would regularly make the trip to Chicago with me, but she was (just) too big for an under seat carrier and had to ride in the hold. In Thankgiving of 1987 (I think) we were returning from Chicago and as I awaited her at the baggage claim out came Toto as well. My ex had been visiting her family at the same time. We both had parked our cars at the same off-airport parking facility and awkwardly rode the same bus. After we got to the car park both dogs were on leashes and given a chance to get reacquainted with each other. Toto basically ignored me and Casey because that is the kind of dog he was. Casey was happy to see Nikki and Toto because that is the kind of dog she was.

I fully credit Casey with helping me woo Barbara. She came over to meet my schnauzer in January of 1989 and hardly ever left! In July of 1991 we were married, but we'd been a family for most of the two+ years prior.

Casey and Barb in Altoona, PA in 1989
To give you an idea of the kind of dog Casey was, whenever she spent time overnight at the vet, whether boarding, or for some other reason, she was treated as the house dog. She'd basically have free run of the area behind the check-in counter.

Koko and Barb in Pittsburgh in 1995
Casey would get walks around the block at least three times a day and when we got about half way around we'd see a cute Bichon Frisee named Samantha staring at us out a window. So it was that in September 1991 the newlyweds went out and found Koko, a white and apricot Bichon Frisee that became Casey's soulmate (and was actually named "Casey's Koko"). Koko was a cute, sweet dog but not nearly as smart as Casey. It took her over two years to be properly housebroken. When our daughter, Lizzy, was born in 1995, Casey was 10 years old and Koko only four. We thought there would be no problem with Casey and the baby and but that there might be a problem with Koko and the baby. In fact, the opposite happened. Koko immediately adopted Lizzy as her baby and was extremely protective. Casey, who by this time was also diabetic and partially blind wanted nothing to do with the baby. She wasn't mean to Lizzy...just indifferent.

Casey and Lizzy in Pittsburgh in 1995
In time, Casey got very ill and had to go to the vet for tests and treatment and was kept over several days. The first night I went back to the vet to play with her and hug her a bit. She saw me and her tail started wagging a mile a minute, but you could see that was about all that she could manage. The next day I received a call from the vet who made the suggestion that it was "time". This was one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to make and I was distraught for days afterwards, but it really was time and Casey was put to sleep at about 12 years old.

A couple of years later, we decided that we really needed another schnauzer in our life and found a family nearby that bred them. We went to pick out a puppy from the litter and I picked one using the same method I had with Tag...the first one to come to me in a friendly way. But I was overruled by Barb and Lizzy and so we left with another pup. We took her to the vet to be checked and he heard a heart murmur and suggested that we take another puppy. So we ended up with the one I chose from the beginning and we named her Koko's Lacey. Lacey was a strange miniature schnauzer. The first time we put a collar on her she shrieked like she was being tortured. She loved everyone but she loved food more than anything else. She was easily twice the size of any miniature schnauzer we'd had before (well Tag was close but Tag wasn't as beefy as Lacey). She was so big we'd sometimes call her Bertha after the Big Bertha guns.

Lacey in Pittsburgh approximately 2002
Did I mention she loved food? Woe the person who left a candy bar or other snack around. I had one in my brief case once and had to replace the brief case. A visiting friend, Dave, had one in his camera case which luckily wasn't locked (had it been locked he probably would have had to replace it.)

It turned out that the heart murmur that the vet heard in the other pup was present to a degree in Lacey as well, just not as obvious. She developed heart troubles and had to have an awful smelling enzyme mixed with her food. She loved it. We didn't.

In the meantime, Lizzy was in grade school and had started to take Spanish. Somewhere along the line she decided that we wanted a Chihuahua as our next dog, and it would be named Rosita Le Jos. (As far as anyone knows "Le Jos" means nothing in Spanish.) Whenever she (or Barb) would bring this up, I'd ask them which of Lacey or Koko they'd like to get rid of so that there would be room for the Chihauhua. This went on for some time until I made a mistake. I was heading off on a business trip in July 2004 when Barb asked me again. I let her know I was upset and then said the fatal words "if you have to get a damn Chihauhua go get a damn Chihuahua." Of course I meant the opposite, but Barb chose to understand me the way she wanted to and I came home to find a cute long-haired Chihuahua waiting for me.

Rosita Le Jos in Pittsburgh in 2007
While Koko loved everybody, Lacey wanted no part of Rosita. In fact, she was scared of her I think, and would hide. Barb solved the problem by leaving them together outside in our fenced backyard, where Lacey had nowhere to escape. It wasn't long before they, too, were fast friends.

In early 2005, Barb started taking Rosita to "Doggy Day Care" to socialize her with other dogs. She was just beginning to play with other dogs and was romping around with a terrier when her eye-lid got caught in the s-clip attaching the terrier's dog tags to his collar. The local vet was unable to help and the eye specialist had no openings for a while so I planned to take her to Ohio State University in Columbus where they would be able to perform the surgery. A few days before she and I were ready for our road trip the local specialist called to tell us he had an opening and so we never made the road trip. Rosie's eye is fine now.

In late July and early August I went off on a trip to Las Vegas and when I returned Barb and Liz were out. When I saw them drive up I picked up Rosita to take her to see them and, in her excitement and desire to get to Barb and Liz, she nipped at my fingers and I reflexively let her go allowing her to fall onto the concrete driveway. She limped off to the bushes and I felt awful. We spent much of that evening at the emergency vet where she was pronounced fine, much to my relief.

From puppyhood to this day Rosita has had the habit of carrying around a stuffed toy when she comes to us. One of her early favorites was a beanie baby lobster. We call her "lobster dog" when she is carrying it. She also has the habit of waking us by jumping on our bed and walking on us...again, usually with a lobster or other stuffed toy in her mouth.

Unfortunately Koko, Lacey, and Rosita overlapped only about two months. In September of 2004 I was off riding trains in Montana and on this particular day I was sightseeing in Glacier Park when I receive a call from Barb that Koko had suffered a bad stroke and had to be put to sleep. She was 13 at the time.

In Summer 2007 Barb was out of commission for a few weeks due to recent back surgery. I had a minor outpatient procedure done at a local hospital and I was looking forward to a drug assisted sleep when I got home. Somehow after I got home Rosie and Lacey got into a fight and Rosie's ear started bleeding a lot. A trip to the emergency vet was in order but neither of us were able to drive. So a friend took Rosita and I to the vet and I sat in my drug induced haze while the vet checked her and said that she'd be ok. Ears, apparently, bleed a lot.

In 2008 Lacey's heart problems got worse and it was getting so we had to take her to the emergency vet every few weeks because she was having problems breathing. Finally the vet said it was time. I was alone with her and I can still picture her jumping on my leg before they took her away for the last time. I cried all the way home.

video
Rosita in her "food" corner...just after breakfast

So we were a one dog family again, but not for long. In 2009, Maggie, a Yorkshire Terrier joined our family. Rosita was not happy at first and would take out her natural aggression on Maggie but we were soon able to substitute one of her toys for Maggie and now they are the best of friends (though Maggie still takes the long way to the back yard when Rosie goes out right ahead of her.) Maggie is a barker, but loves everyone.

Maggie in Pittsburgh in 2011
And there things sit, though Barb and Lizzy are making noises about another dog again. You can be sure that I will be very careful in what I say to them...I hope.

Postscript: on Thanksgiving Day, November 27 we lost Rosita to her heart problems. She had just come home from a stay at the vet on Monday and we awoke on Thursday to a dog that was clearly miserable. We took her to the emergency vet that morning and by 3pm we had to make the decision to put her out of her misery. (Then we had to go on to a family Thanksgiving dinner. Life goes on.) Rosie is missed very much. Maggie is adjusting to life as the only dog in the family...hopefully not for long.

Rosita, November 24, 2014


Thursday, September 11, 2014

How I spent 9/11/2001

Tuesday, September 11, 2001 dawned as a bright autumn day in Pittsburgh. At that time we lived in the Ross Township area of Pittsburgh, around 7-8 miles from my office at the Software Engineering Institute. Lizzy was nearly six and was attending kindergarten at the Winchester-Thurston School, about six blocks from my office. We left the house just before 8am and I dropped her off at school and was in my office by 8:15 or so.

I went down to the vending machines and got my usual Diet Coke and was reading my email when, at about 8:50am my colleague Tony Lattanze came into my office saying that his wife had just called and an airplane had just flown into the World Trade Center. We spent a few minute speculating on how this was possible and googling for news and then he went back to his office across the hall. About 20 minutes later he is back saying that another plane had flown into the World Trade Center. At this point we abandoned all pretense of work and attempted to find a TV to see what was going on. Ultimately our tech guys set up a TV feed in the SEI's auditorium. Too soon we saw the towers collapse, one after the other, and learned about United 97 and the flight that crashed into the Pentagon, and the SEI was closed.
The World Trade Center as seen from a boat that Barb and I were taking to Ellis Island on 5/12/2001.
In four months the towers would be gone from the skyline
Barb and I discussed what to do. The options were:
  1. I come home and then pick Lizzy up after school ended at about 2:30pm
  2. I go to Winchester-Thurston and pick Lizzy up and we both come home
(1) was a non-starter for us. We lived on the otherside of the Allegheny river and we could imagine scenarios where the authorities closed all of the bridges as a (probably) over-reaction. We did not think that (2) would be good for Lizzy. We had both decided that we did not want Lizzy to know anything was wrong until much later - after anyone had a real idea of what was going on. Instead we chose option (3).
  1. I go to Winchester-Thurston to be near Lizzy (without her knowledge) and wait until 2:30 at which point both of us go home as if nothing is different.
Barb and I were in the minority because when I got to the school I found a lot of parents picking up their children and going home. Ultimately about half of Lizzy's kindergarten class went home early. Me, I spent the next several hours in the upper school library watching a hastily set up TV.

There is nothing worse that watching a major event unfold with little knowledge flowing into the network talking heads. They have airtime to fill and fill it they do. Well, there is one thing worse, and that is watching the local talking heads who are determined to make the story into a local one (and are much worse at filling the air time.) In this case flight 97 crashing semi-near to Pittsburgh made it a local story, and so they would often interrupt the network to give their latest take on the non-local news. It was so bad that after things had ended I wrote a letter to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette expressing my displeasure. A major offender was a news anchor named Stacy Smith and my letter said something about I'd rather watch Rather blather than Stacy blather.

Eventually it was time to pick Lizzy up and I did so and we drove home singing songs and listening to music on the radio (instead of the news that I would normally listen to). When I got home we watched no news until after Lizzy went to bed (though I was keeping track of things on my computer.)

Eventually Barb and I went to bed knowing that the world had changed in a fundamental manner. Lizzy did not know what really happened on 9/11/2001 until several weeks later and we were able to introduce her to it gradually instead of in a mood of panic.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Family Travels

Prologue

During World War II my Dad was stationed at a radar installation in the Aleutian Islands. At the end of the war he was flown back to Seattle and experienced an awful flight. He was never specific as to what made it awful, but the bottom line is that while we were growing up he would not get on an airplane.

When he got to Seattle he was given a train ticket to Chicago so that he could muster out at his home. Whenever he told this story he made sure to mention that before getting on the train he had a fantastic Chinese dinner (which for him, in those days, may simply have been a plate of chop suey...but it was really good chop suey.)

He boarded his train after dinner. He had reserved an entire section on the train. For those of you who may not know what a section is, you've undoubtedly seen them in the movies. During the day a section is two seats for two facing each other. At night it converts to an upper and lower berth. Privacy is assured by a heavy green curtain. When all the sections are made up there is a line of curtains on each side of the central corridor in the car.

In any event Dad had reserved both and upper and lower berth for his personal use, giving him complete privacy behind the curtain without the upper berth being lowered above him. Soon after boarding the train, and probably after a drink or two in the club car, Dad returned to his section made up for night and went to bed...and proceeded to sleep until 2pm or so in the afternoon the next day. When he awoke all of the rest of the sections in the car had been made up for day use. His was the only curtained section.

Family Trips

My experience with him on long distance trains began in the Summer of 1956 when the family spent a week in a cabin at Lac Du Flambeau, Wisconsin. At the time Dad ran a woman's coat and suit company (Rothmoor) and one of his salesmen had a Summer home there. Our cabin was nearby. To get there we took the Flambeau 400 from Highland Park, Illinois (one of the few stops it made between Chicago and Milwaukee), boarding after and early dinner, and spent the night on the train. Dad and I each had roomettes (private single-person rooms with a private toilet), and Mom and my sister Kay shared a bedroom (upper and lower berth at night, sofa during the day, private bathroom -- picture the room that Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant share on the 20th Century Limited in Hitchcock's North by Northwest.) Our roomettes were great. In at least one direction the bedroom's bathroom -- not so much. We awoke early the next morning, spent a week on the lake fishing and whatever, and then did the whole thing in reverse. I loved every minute of it (well, perhaps not the outdoors stuff so much.)

I've written elsewhere about my first camp train experience. That was on the Bilevel Flambeau 400 (a day train) to Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. The return was on a normal (non-bilevel) day train and the only thing I remember about that trip was the snapping turtles we had captured on a canoe trip inhabiting the sink in one of the restrooms. Other years I went to a different Camp in Wascott, Wisconsin and we got there on the Soo Line's Laker to Gordon, Wisconsin. This was an overnight train and all the campers were in sections, one in an upper berth and two in a lower. As I recall and I had an upper at least the first trip. I also recall that not much sleeping occurred.

In February of 1958 I was lying in my bed on a Friday night starting to go to sleep when my parents came home from dinner at my Grandmother's (my Mom's mom). They came into my room and turned on the light and asked "would you like to go to Florida with us by train tomorrow?" Did I? I could barely get back to sleep. It turned out that my other Grandmother was sick and in the hospital and they were going to visit and took me along.

So it was that the next morning we boarded the City of Miami, a premiere train between Chicago and Miami that ran every third day. They had reserved a compartment (an oversized bedroom) but after they boarded the conductor was able to sell us a bedroom suite (two bedrooms with the wall between them folded up making one large room with two upper and two lower berths at night, and two private bathrooms.) As befitting a first class train of the era, the train had two dining cars and two lounge cars...one each for the first class passengers and the coach passengers. Unfortunately at Carbondale, Illinois one of the diners developed a hot box (an overheated axle bearing) and had to be taken off the train so we all had to dine together. I had a great time exploring the train from one end to the other...many times...over the two days and one night the train took to get to Miami. My grandmother got better and we eventually returned the same way we got there, on a northbound City of Miami.

It is worth mentioning here that my Mom and my Sister and I did not share my Dad's fear of flying and, in fact, I probably took my first flight (to Miami to visit my grandparents) when I was three years old...in a DC-6 or DC-7 on Chicago & Southern Airlines. On those trips my Dad would catch up to us by train a few days later.

A year or so later my Dad was on a business trip in Birmingham, Alabama, and the rest of us took the Southwind (another first class every third day train from Chicago to Miami over a different route) to meet him there and continue onto Miami. He and I had the two upper berths and it was fun watching him try to get into his as the train rocked and rolled after leaving Birmingham. I believe the northbound trip was on the City of Miami again.

In June of 1963 my parents were celebrating their 20th anniversary and they took me with them on a trip to New York using the 20th Century Limited to get there. My Dad was a semi-regular on this fabled train but this would be my first and only time riding it. Unfortunately Dad booked us into new slumbercoaches instead of first class Pullman rooms. (A double slumbercoach room is very similar to what Amtrak calls a roomette, but not as comfortable. A single slumbercoach room more closely resembled a coffin.) We did manage to crash the first class lounge car where before dinner hors d'oeuvres and had a nice dinner in the dinner (again picture Eva Marie Saint and Cary Grant...though neither were with us in either direction.)

Epilogue

This was the last family trip that we took by train. There were other driving trips and of course the rest of us took the plane lots of places ... but never as a family until 1968. On this particular trip my Mom, my Sister, a friend of my Sister's (who I had the hots for) and I flew down to Florida and my Dad followed a few days later. He was taking the Dixie Flyer (another every third day train from Chicago.) He also developed a flu on the train which was twelve hours late by the time it got to Chattanooga. He was so fed up that he got off the train and rented a car to go the rest of the way to Miami...a long one day trip at the time. He was passing the Atlanta airport and said to himself "what the hell?" and went up the Delta counter and booked himself on the next flight to Miami...not realizing that it had a stop in Jacksonville on the way. But he survived (and surprised us by showing up nearly a day early), and never took a long distance train again.

I of course continue to do so...every chance I get.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Story of BARGE 2006

BARGE is an acronym for the Big August Rec.Gamling Excursion, an annual meeting of folks interested in poker and gambling, many of whom met originally on the usenet discussion group rec.gambling.

2006 was the twelfth year that I co-organized BARGE. It was also the hardest. Due to organizational issues at Binion's, BARGE 2005 had been held elsewhere for only the second time since 1995. The Plaza was the host hotel that year. It was also the only BARGE I missed since I started attending in 1993 and organizing in 2005. (My wife, Barb, had back surgery and I could not make the trip.)

Trouble at the Plaza

2006 was to be a repeat of 2005, with the Plaza anxious to host us again -- until they weren't. BARGE 2006 was scheduled to run from August 15 to August 20 of that year (two weeks later than usual.) On July 20 (less than four weeks before BARGE) the Plaza realized that -- horrors -- we were accepting sponsorship money from Paradise Poker and PokerStars. They knew this from the previous year and also had a letter from the Nevada Gambling Control Board (or some such) okaying the arrangement. Nevertheless, they canceled us unceremoniously. Panic ensued, but Nolan Dalla quickly came to the rescue by putting us in touch with the folks who ran the poker room at Caesars Palace and we soon had negotiated a deal, signed catering contracts, etc. We announced this to the BARGE community on July 27 (less than three weeks before BARGE.)

Trouble at Caesars, Ressurection and then Trouble at the Palms

On August 3 (well under two weeks before BARGE) Caesars decided that sponsorship didn't work for them either and canceled our contract. I prepared a cancelation notice to be sent to the attendees (see below) but before I sent it Andy Hughes put us in touch with Gene Trimble at the Palms who quickly agreed to host BARGE 2006 (but squeezed us for a lot of money to do so.) That too fell through.

The Venetian Saves BARGE 2006

Then Dan Goldman suggested that we talk with Kathy Raymond at the Venetian and on August 10th (five days before BARGE) we were able to announce that BARGE 2006 would be hosted at the Venetian. As a condition of holding BARGE at the Venetian we had to give back the sponsorship money. We arranged with members of the community to cover the shortfall and I wrote checks returning the funds to Paradise Poker and PokerStars intending to send them after BARGE. I also quickly reserved a suite (the Venetian is all suites) and agreed to share it with Peter because it was much more expensive than the usual BARGE room. We then held our breaths until BARGE 2006, till then the best, but hardest to organize, BARGE evah finally got underway.

Epilogue

It was all smooth sailing from there. Well not exactly. On the Wednesday of BARGE (August 16) the Venetian's VP of Complaince called me to her office deep in the back of the Venetian to explain about the sponsorship money and to confirm that we were returning it. I showed her the checks I was about to send. This was almost not good enough for her. She finally agreed to let BARGE continue, but I had to promise to send her copies of the canceled checks when they arrived. I was pestered about this for weeks after BARGE. The Paradise check finally cleared a month after BARGE and the PokerStars one not until late October.

The BARGE Cancelation Notice

Dear fellow BARGErs:

Due to various misunderstandings by the gaming commission and the host casinos we are having tremendous difficulty scheduling any of the 2006 BARGE tournaments. We are still trying to figure out exactly what happened but it revolves around the current dot com controversy and also recent actions taken by the US Department of Justice. A lot of organizations are spooked including both the Plaza and Caesars Palace who has changed its mind about hosting us. We're currently talking with the Palms and it looks promising, but then so did Caesars a week ago. We should know one way or the other in a few days.

In the meantime, since you are still allowed to have fun in Las Vegas as long as you are not a dot com. if the Palms falls through we assume most of you will want to attend an ad hoc BARGE centered mostly around the unofficial events such as the craps crawl, the non-smoker, the wedding, the sushi outing, karaoke, etc. There are also a myriad of poker tournaments occurring every day all around town and with some coordination, we can more or less take some of them over. We'd appreciate your ideas of what to do and how to coordinate.

We still intend to hold the banquet somewhere at 7pm on Saturday evening for those of you who signed up. The speaker will be Phil Gordon, and the cost of the banquet, beyond the $10 fee paid, is being picked up by our friends at PokerStars.net. The exact nature of the banquet is not known at this time, but if you require a vegetarian option please contact Chuck Weinstock by Saturday, August 12.

Hotel rates at both the Plaza and Caesars Palace will continue to be honored. We are not sure about the availability of hotel rooms at the Palms.

We're sorry and frustrated about all the uncertainty, but there is little that we can do about it at the moment. Watch the barge and barge-announce mailing lists for additional details as we have them.

Chuck and Peter

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Hopkinsville and Southern

Steam is all but dead. We all know where to find it if we want it. There are any number of fan trips to go on. We can make the excursion to Northwestern Steel & Wire's plant in Sterling, IL, to watch the switching operations. Mesta Steel in Homestead, PA, has a pair of fireless steamers. Virtually every railfan knows of these holdouts.[1]

However, I venture to guess that not one fan in a thousand knows about the Hopkinsville & Southern in the backwoods of Kentucky. On its 18-mile route, this railroad operates a variety of all-but-extinct equipment that would make the average fan drool. Here, on one railroad, there is a Pennsy K-4, a New York Central Hudson, a Fairbanks-Morse Trainmaster, an Electromotive Corp. FT, a Baldwin Centipede, and numerous other oddities. And it is all in operation daily.

With such interesting railroad equipment you would think that everyone would have heard of the Hopkinsville & Southern. There are two reasons why most have not: the Hopkinsville & Southern runs through "moonshine country" where strangers are discouraged (or worse), and the Hopkinsville & Southern is a captive railroad, run by a very publicity-shy industry. The owner and operator of the Hopkinsville & Southern keeps a low profile. Hence the Hopkinsville & Southern keeps a low profile.

History of the Industry

To understand the operations of the Hopkinsville & Southern, it is helpful to take a look at the history of the industry it supports. Back in the late 1880's, Horace Jellowicz emigrated from eastern Europe to New York City. Twenty minutes outside of immigration he was approached by a fast-talking stranger who convinced him there was money to be made in railroad construction in the West. So, in the United States less than a day, Horace boarded a boxcar filled with greenhorns like himself soon was headed for St. Louis. Somewhere in Indiana the train was wrecked. The stranger disappeared and Horace was left on his own, practically penniless. He headed south and eventually settled in Kentucky.

Horace had a knack for business and soon was operating a very successful general store in a central Kentucky town. However, his wanderlust never left him, and, on one of his numerous excursions through the Kentucky hills, Horace made a discovery that was to immortalize him. Indeed, there isn't a grade school student in the country who hasn't heard of jello. And Horace discovered it. At this point, it should be mentioned that the jello Horace discovered is not exactly the Jell-o we are all used to seeing John Belushi[2] slurp. This was the industrial-grade jello used today to make capsules and strengthen ladies' nails.

Right from the start, jello mining proved to be highly profitable. With improved mining and transporting techniques over the last decade or so, it is more profitable than ever. The company founded by Jellowicz, Consolidated Jello Corporation. (ConJelCo), is one of the most profitable privately held corporations in the world.

Jello was an immediate success with industry, but it was not until the vast deposits of strawberry and raspberry jello where discovered in Canada that it caught on with the public at large. By 1922, orange jello deposits had been discovered in Florida, lemon in California, and lime in the Caribbean. Minor deposits of avocado and artichoke jello were discovered throughout the western United States, but the demand for these flavors was never enough to make it economical to mine (although a group of California health nuts recently has successfully marketed limited quantities of bean sprout jello). Ninety-nine percent of all jello deposits are owned or leased by ConJelCo. However, the amazing fact is that no one has ever discovered another deposit of industrial-grade jello.

But back to our story of Horace Jellowicz. The first problem in starting a jello industry is figuring out how to mine it. This was not a trivial problem. Horace started out mining it like coal, but soon discovered that jello is not strong enough to support a mine shaft. After losing several miners to cave-ins, he had to abandon this method. Although strip mining was not in general use in those days, Horace tried it and lost several steam shovels on the first rainy day. It seems that the jello would liquify and suck up the shovel. Fruit is nice in a jello mold, but steam shovels don't quite make it.

Today jello is mined using the technique that Horace Jellowicz invented before the turn of the century. Basically, it involves injecting a controlled amount of water into the jello deposit and carefully scooping out the semisolid mass that forms. This is an exacting job that does not lend itself to automation. As a consequence, members of the Brotherhood of Jello Workers have no worries about job security.

They do worry about the dreaded "jello eye disease," which eventually causes about 1 percent of all jello workers to go partially blind. Medical science has been unable to discover the reason for this. ConJelCo gives a very generous pension to those who are unable to work as a result of this disease (one and a half times the worker's salary at the time the disease is contracted).

The Hopkinsville & Southern

Once the jello is mined, it needs to go to the processing plant, where impurities are removed and the finished product is packaged. For numerous reasons too complicated to explain here, it is very seldom possible (or economical) for a jello refinery to be located anywhere near a jello mine. This is where the railroad comes in. The obvious way to transport the mined jello is to load it into hoppers and send it to the refinery. Because jello with water takes up many times the volume of dry jello, this not an economical method. That's why in every jello mining area you'll also see a jello dehydration plant. This takes the semisolid mass scooped out of the mine and removes the water from it (recycling the water). The result of this process is that the jello is now in the original powdered ore form. The business of the Hopkinsville & Southern is to collect cars of semisolid jello and deliver them to the local dehydration plant. After the dehydration is complete, a unit jello train is loaded and forwarded by the Hopkinsville & Southern to the L&N for shipment to the nearest refinery in Cincinnati.

Even after dehydration of the jello, standard hoppers are not a practical means of shipping the gelatinite. Imagine what would happen to a unit train of hoppers heading for the refinery in a rain storm? Until the development of the covered hopper, virtually all jello was shipped in special-purpose boxcars. With the advent of the covered hopper, the efficiency of shipping jello has gone up tremendously. Because of this and other advances, the price of jello has not changed anywhere near as much as other products used around the house.[3]

From its name you might imagine that the Hopkinsville & Southern runs south from the city of Hopkinsville, KY. This is not the case. Construction on the Hopkinsville & Southern was started in 1866 as a part of the general boom in railroad construction that occurred after the Civil War. The moving force behind the railroad was the city fathers of Apex, KY. They envisioned a grand railroad with its northern terminus in Apex and its southern terminus in Gulfport, MS, passing through Stewart, TN, and Waldrup, MS. Strangely enough, Hopkinsville was never on the planned route. Its presence in the corporate title was an attempt to convince the citizens of that nearby city to invest in the railroad. There is no record that the ruse worked.

The Hopkinsville & Southern was one of the first land-grant railroads. The county of Christian gave the railroad its right-of-way within the county plus one acre per mile of road constructed within the county. Ten years later the railroad owned one acre of land, having built 1 mile towards a connection with the L&N just south of Crofton. The connection is some 9 miles away from Apex as the crow files, but 18 miles as the Hopkinsville & Southern goes. It was to be almost 33 years before the railroad reached Crofton and its long-awaited connection.

In the meantime, it had a rather busy history. It went bankrupt in 1881 and again in 1895 (changing its name from the "Hopkinsville Southern Railway" to the "Hopkinsville Southern Railroad," and finally, to the "Hopkinsville & Southern Railroad"). In 1867, just as its first mile ws being completed, the railroad was involved in a scandal that rocked Christian County and toppled the county government. It seems that the founders of the railroad (many of whom were also members of the county government), led by the owner of a local office supply store, set up a construction company to build the railroad and proceeded to bilk the company treasury out of untold hundreds of dollars. The so-called "debit stationier" scandal was the major topic of discussion throughout western Kentucky for several weeks.
When the 1890's began, the Hopkinsville & Southern had made it halfway to its goal. If you look at a map of Kentucky, you'll see that it ran from Apex to nowhere. In the year 1891, the Hopkinsville & Southern began its second receivership.

This is where Horace Jellowicz came into its history. Recall that by 1895 Horace had made his earth-quivering discovery and was looking for an economical means of transporting his product to the large-scale refinery he was constructing in Evansville, IN. (This refinery, although large for its time, served for only 11 years. By 1906 it was running three shifts at full capacity and a new and much larger plant was built in Cincinnati. This same refinery--many times enlarged--is one of ConJelCo's major operations to this day.)

Anyway, returning to our history of the Hopkinsville & Southern, it seems that the nowhere that the Hopkinsville & Southern went to was within a mile of the world's only industrial-grade jello deposit. Horance jumped at the chance of obtaining efficient railway service for his jello mine. When the road came out of receivership in 1895, it was owned lock, stock, and barrel by Horace's company. By 1899 Horace had pushed the Hopkinsville & Southern to Crofton and the long-awaited track connection with the Louisville & Nashville.

Once Horace had taken over the line, there was never any idea of finishing the line to Gulfport, MS. The Hopkinsville & Southern did gain a brief moment of national attention in 1911 when a Louisville financier named George Ghoul, attempted to purchase the line as a key link in his proposed trans-Kentucky system. Unfortunately for him, ConJelCo knew it had a good thing and wasn't about to sell. Nothing more came of the Ghoul plan. Although he did manage to scare up some capital from local citizens, in 1912 he vanished like a ghost and was never heard from again.

In 1895, Horace married Janet Puddingsky (but that's another story.) In 1899 they had a son named Horace Jr. As a boy, Junior took many business trips with Horace. By the age of 15 he had ridden virtually every name train in the United States. Needless to say, Junior became a railfan, albeit a closet railfan. When his father gave him the presidency of the Hopkinsville & Southern for his 21st birthday, Junior was ecstatic. Because he was the president, he controlled what motive power was purchased. Because he was a railfan, the power he purchased should probably of gone to a museum.

Junior combed the United States looking for this last this and the last that. At one time or another, the Hopkinsville & Southern has owned and operated one of almost every steam locomotive ever made. Of course, for practical reasons, certain locomotives could not be run on the tiny Hopkinsville & Southern. A Big-Boy, for instance, would have been out of place.[4]

The tradition of running "lasts" continues to this day. Horace's great-grandson, Horace IV, is a diesel fan and purchases his share of "lasts." Hence the FT, the Trainmaster, and the Centipede. This tradition promises to continue for a long time. It seems that Horace V is showing signs of becoming a traction fan.

Operations

Horace yard is the Hopkinsville & Southern's only yard. It is also the location of the shops and roundhouse. It is south of Crofton about a mile up the line from the connection with the L&N at milepost 17.1. Trains rarely venture further east than milepost 7.5 which is where the dehydration plant is. In fact, the town of Apex hasn't seen a train for longer than most of its citizens can remember. So, virtually all operations is confined to the area between mileposts 17.1 and 7.5. Since the connection with the L&N is at milepost 17.9, there is some activity in that area, but it is relatively uninteresting. The only power that ever ventures this way is a dirty GP9. The GP9[5] is used because this portion of the Hopkinsville & Southern is the worst in terms of curvature, and derailments occurred with dismaying frequency when other power was used. After losing the last operating Pennsy T1 to these curves, it was decided to restrict that trackage to more modern equipment.

Although there is no fixed schedule, the railroad operates 7 days a week, primarily in daylight hours. There are anywhere from 5 to 15 daily round trips between Horace yard and the mine and dehydration plant. The typical train consists of from 1 to 3 engines (they mix steam and diesel quite successfully on the Hopkinsville & Southern) and from 5 to 25 cars. This seemingly excessive motive power is necessary because of Stewart Grade, a one mile long 3 percent climb. Incidentally, Stewart Grade was named for the engineer killed in the Hopkinsville & Southern's one fatal wreck. He lost control of this train coming down this grade, ran off the track and into a pond. He would have escaped unharmed except that three cars of jello ore also fell into the pond. By the time help arrived, the jello had solidified, and engineer Stewart was dead.

Railfan Opportunities

Unfortunately for the railfan, there isn't a single road between mileposts 17.1 and 5.0, so access to the line involves a long hike. However, be forewarned that this is moonshine country and wandering around is considered harmful to your health. Also, up until the late 20's the railroad welcomed visitors, but now it viciously persecutes trespassers. The reason for this change of heart makes an interesting story.

Until the late 1920's ConJelCo provided housing for its workers, both miners and railroaders. The little town of Horace was a model town. Each family had an identical three-bedroom house fronting on the village green. A school was provided, as was a hospital and a company store. Rentals for the houses were considerably below what it would cost to live anywhere else. The company store charged fair prices, and medical care was free to employees and families.

In 1928 organizers for the now-defunct United Jello Workers arrived on the scene. By late 1928 they had convinced the workers that they were getting a raw deal. They pointed to Horace Jellowicz's five-bedroom mansion on the hill as an example of his exploiting them. On December 31, 1928, the workers went on strike. One thing led to another, and by January 4, 1929, violence erupted and Horace Jellowicz's mansion was burned to the ground. Being a firm believer in tit for tat, Horace, the man, evicted the workers from Horace, the town, and burned it to the ground. To forestall further problems resulting from union organizers, Horace started his own union, the Brotherhood of Jello Workers, the union that all ConJelCo workers now belong to. It was about this time that ConJelCo decided to keep a low profile, which it has until this day.

For the railfan there is hope that this situation will change. ConJelCo is owned by one man, Horace Jellowicz III. It is widely anticipated that when he dies, Horace Jellowicz IV will have to sell ConJelCo stock to the public to meet the stiff inheritance taxes. If so, there is a possibility that the company will become more open, and perhaps more friendly, to railfans.[6]

The future of the Hopkinsville & Southern is closely tied to the future of the jello industry. If jello continues to sell well, it is likely that the Hopkinsville & Southern will be around for a long time, and that it will be running the last SDP40F, the last P30CH, the last GG1 (if Horace V has his way), and so on. If ConJelCo does go public, you should plan to visit this unique railroad as soon as possible. Some of the older equiment will have to be retired to make room for the new equipment (there is a rumor that Horace V is bored with steam). A word to the wise should be sufficient. [7]

Footnotes

These footnotes have been added to this article to bring it up-to-date as of October, 2001.
1 Actually, other than in museums and tourist operations, steam is now getting hard to find. The Northwestern Steel and Wire saw its last steam operations in the early 1980's and recently has shut down the Sterling, IL plant. There is now a movie theatre on the site of the old Mesta steel operations. ETTS.
2 John Belushi was a comedian who started in a movie called National Lampoon's Animal House. In one famous scene he slurps down an entire Jello dessert in an instant. Alas, John Belushi died of an overdose (not of Jello) in 1982.
3 Originally the Hopkinsville & Southern thought it could get by with a single box car. It would just fill it with as much gelatinite as necessary. After all, there is always room for jello. However, after an overloaded boxcar exploded the railroad decided that more rolling stock would be necessary.
4 That would be silly.
5 Now GP38's are used for this duty.
6 Horace III died during the Reagan years. Mysteriously the family received a tax break which enabled it to avoid paying any significant inheritance taxes. The company is still privately held to this day.
7 Shortly after this article was published Senator Huddleston (D, KY), at the Jellowicz family's request, was able to get a spur constructed between Interstate 65 and Interstate 24. Interstate 165, as it is called, runs right by the dehydration plant. Since completion of this highway in 1982, all gelatinite shipments are sent by truck to the refinery in Cincinnati. This saves at least 24 hours of transit time and is another way in which ConJelCo is able to keep its costs down. The railroad was shutdown completely in 1984 and the last of its equipment was dispersed to short lines and museums by 1988. ETTS.

The author of this piece has in his possession one of the few remaining relics of the Hopkinsville & Southern. It is a hazardous cargo placard which was originally used on gelatinite cars. It reads "Danger! Gelatinite! Not to be placed within ten cars of a toothless engineer." Look for it on Ebay soon.

This article was originally published in the April 1979 issue of Model Railroader and is used with permission of the publisher.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

"Winning" the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix

Kickoff Rally

Back in the day I participated in a lot of road rallies. In October 1962 the Boy Scouts of America's magazine Boys Life ran an article entitled "Car Rally", by Bob Stewart. The article described the TSD (Time-Speed-Distance) rally where cars compete against other cars to follow a (usually confusing) course on public roads in exactly the correct time. The cars are (usually) started a minute apart and are given a series of instructions such as "left at barn" and "commence average speed of 35mph". Along the way there are checkpoints where the car's arrival is timed. For each 1/100th of a minute the car is early or late the team is penalized a point. So if the car was 50/100ths of a minute early at one checkpoint and 95/100ths of a minute late at the next it will have accumulated 145 points. The object is to arrive at the rally's endpoint with the fewest points. The event takes both driving skills and navigation skills including the ability to both stay on course and on time.

A few years after reading the article, and shortly after receiving my license I noticed an advertisement for a TSD rally in the classifieds section of the Chicago Tribune. Since it was beginning a few miles from my house my friend John Earp and I decided to watch the start. There was not much to see at the start of a rally and we ended up signing up, knowing only what I had read in Boys Life two years previously. In particular we did not realize that we were signing up for a local championship rally of well over 200 miles, mostly in southern Wisconsin, with nine checkpoints. After traipsing up and down paved and unpaved roads throughout the region, frequently getting lost, we finally found our way to the finish line at a restaurant in Waukegan, Illinois some 12 hours later -- having not encountered a single one of the nine checkpoints! (They only stay open for a set amount of time after the last car is due.) We actually did not finish in last place because two other cars were marked "DNF" for "did not finish".
Something we did not see on our first road rally
We learned that one of our rookie mistakes was to not calibrate our odometer readings to that of the car used to lay out the rally course. Since odometers in each car vary and even the odometer in the same car may vary from time to time due to tire pressures, etc., it is important to know, for instance, that when the rallymaster sees 1.11 miles on his odometer, you might see 1.20 miles on your odometer. Every rally includes a odometer calibration zone to accomplish this.

Notice that I gave the miles above to the nearest 1/100th mile while cars generally have odometers that read to the nearest 1/10th mile. One can estimate an extra digit, or one can buy an add-on odometer for ones car. I took the latter course.
A Halda Tripmaster Odometer
The Halda Tripmaster could even be ordered with special gear sets so that the rallyist did not have to do calculations during the rally. (Just calculate the correction factor and put the proper gears in the odometer and it will read exactly what the layout car's odometer read.) At the time I did not have the money to purchase the gear kit and so did without. The knob in the center has three positions. In the position shown the odometer was turned off. When pointed to the "+" it would add miles (the usual mode), and when pointed to the "-" it would subtract miles (useful when backtracking after having gone off course.) By the way, you'll often see the name Halda on taxi meters. This was just an offshoot business for them. A additional very useful tool for the serious rallyist at the time was the Curta Calculator which made precise time-speed-distance calculations easier when used properly.
A Curta Calculator -- also called the "peppermill", mine was stolen out of my office when I was in grad school
We went on to participate in a fair number of rallies until we graduated high school and went off to college. I would rally sporadically when I was home for the summer but did not have a car at school until  I was a junior and don't recall doing much until after I graduated (but it sure was fun grinding away (literally) on the my digital calculator in the mid-60's when others were reading 6 significant digits off of their slide rules.) :) I know for sure that once I started graduate school I began to rally again, usually with my friends and fellow graduate students Larry Flon or Mario Barbacci as my navigator.

From 1970 to the early 1990s with a brief gap when I moved away from Pittsburgh for six years, rallying was a pretty regular activity for me. There were several local groups that offered road rallies. The one I was most active with still exists today, The misnamed (or at least mis-located) Blue Ridge Mountain Sports Car Club still runs near monthly rallies though I have not participated in years.  Also offering an occasional rally was (and is) the Steel Cities Region of the Sports Car Club of America. We used to travel to the Cleveland area to participate in rallies run by the Tuscarawas Valley Touring Club. There was also the North Hills Sports Car Club and the South Hills Sports Car Club, but the energy crisis of the late 70's and early 80's pretty much knocked them out.

Mario and I ran a few rallies ourselves over the years, one of which was for Learning Unlimited, a Pittsburgh area company that offered courses on all sorts of subjects back in the 1980s. At the time we both were working for the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon and there were some grad students in the School of Computer Science that also became interested. Two, Barb Staudt-Lerner and Rick Lerner joined with us to write a guide to rallying that you can still find lurking (in various forms) on the web.

So why did we stop? Three main reasons. The first is that I simply ran out of time in my life to do it after I started ConJelCo and got interested in other things. The second is that Mario wasn't always available to navigate for me. I started taking my miniature schnauzer Casey along as my navigator (she became known as "Navidog") and would have continued like that except for the third reason. It stopped being as much fun for us as it once was -- but not for the reason you probably think.
Approved for Class B

When we started rallying we participated in the so-called "tourist" or "unequipped" or "seat-of-the-pants" class. In this class you were allowed a pencil and paper for calculating mileages, average speeds, etc. I can't remember if we were allowed the use of the Halda odometer or not, but if we weren't we didn't. This was a lot of fun because we could pretty much guesstimate if we were on time, etc and have a shot at winning. The problem was that we became too good and kept winning this class and were asked to move up to Class B. That was a non-starter for us because Class B allowed the use of calculators or slide rules, but nothing fancier, and was too much work. We ended up buying a rally computer (after trying to design one ourselves) and moving up to Class A. This was actually easier than Class B in terms of keeping on time, but we seldom won against the others with computers. Winning isn't the only reason to compete or course (but it's a damn good one), but we also found that we weren't enjoying rallying at this level and slowly reduced our level of participation.
Our rally computer looked something like this

The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Kickoff Rally

So what does this all have to do with the Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix?

In 1983 the first Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix was held in Pittsburgh's Schenley Park. The venue is nearly perfect with a golf course to house the antique and vintage car show and hospitality tents, and winding roads (see map) to host the race.
The Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Course
The week leading up to the PVGP is full of related events including car shows around the city, and a Pittsburgh Vintage Grand Prix Kickoff Rally on the weekend before. On July 17, 1988, Mario and I decided, on a whim, to enter the rally. My "vintage" car was a 1984 Audi 4000 equipped with the computer pictured above. The rally began near the corner of Fifth and Craig in Pittsburgh, coincidentally around the corner from my office. Fifty-four cars entered. Some were truly vintage and in gorgeous condition. Particularly the red Ford Fairlane V8 convertible driven by soon-to-become friend Patty Calderone. Some were even less vintage than my Audi.

The course for the rally ran from Fifth and Craig through Shadyside, the Fox Chapel area, downtown, and eventually ended back where it started. The average speed was about 20 miles an hour, and instead of being timed to the nearest 1/100th of a minute, it was timed to the nearest 10 seconds. There were also questions to answer about things along the route, with 10 point penalties for a wrong answer.

Mario and I somehow managed to come in first with a score of zero. Our nearest competitor came in with 13 points, or somewhat over two minutes of error. By this time I am sure you can understand the reason why "winning" is in quotes in the article. We were running seat-of-the-pants rally in a Class A car. Somehow I have never regretted it.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Article from July 18, 1988


Friday, July 25, 2014

Confessions of an Inaugural Junkie

My name is Chuck Weinstock and I’m an inaugural junkie. Let me explain. When Amtrak began in May 1971 it had a relatively small number of routes when compared to the passenger rail system that existed before. Over the years Amtrak has added to this initial system, in response to passenger demand and political exigencies.

Adding a route provides benefit to the public along the routes, the communities served, other Amtrak passengers who have additional choices, Amtrak itself, and, of course, the politicians who are always anxious to take credit for the new service – well perhaps not the Governor of Wisconsin.

To maximize the publicity value of the new service Amtrak typically runs a special inaugural train over the route. These one or two day inaugurals travel in daylight and run over the length of the route making extended stops at each of the scheduled stations along the way. At each stop they are greeted by the town fathers and mothers, the local high school marching band, local, state and federal politicians, etc. Many of these people ride the train for one or more stops. Speeches are made, music is played, interviews are given, photos are taken, and good times are had.

As a mileage collector I love to ride routes that I’ve never ridden before. I especially like to do this during the day so that I can see the route I’m traveling. As such I view the “chore” of listening to the speeches and the music on an inaugural as a small price to pay.

I first learned about inaugural trains in 1975 while riding the first run of the PATrain, the Pittsburgh commuter train that ran on the B&O from Grant St. Station to Versailles, PA until 1989. I was riding by myself and overheard a conversation across the aisle between two young men who were talking about riding the Mountaineer inaugural later that spring. (The Mountaineer was a short-lived train from Norfolk to Chicago.) I got into a conversation with them and soon learned that one of them was Henry Posner III who now runs the Iowa Interstate among other railroads, but at the time was a student at Princeton. In subsequent months I became friends with Henry and when we learned that there was going to be an inaugural of the Lakeshore Limited in October we made plans to ride it.

PATrain at the old Grant Street Station
Without getting into how one “makes plans to ride it” let me just say that before long we were in possession of tickets for the two day inaugural of the Lakeshore Limited that ran from Chicago to Boston with an overnight in Buffalo on October 28 and 29, 1975. I don’t recall now if we took the Broadway Limited or flew to Chicago but the evening of October 27 found us in Chicago, or specifically my parents’ house on the North Shore. The main thing I remember about that evening is that my Mom served an angel food cake for dessert and apologized for not being able to find strawberries at the market to go with it.
On the morning of the 28th Henry and I caught an early C&NW commuter train into Chicago and walked over the Union Station where our special train awaited us. As I wrote in the spring 1976 issue of Railfan Magazine, the train consisted of nine cars pulled by a pair of SDP40Fs. There was a diner, a pub, a sleeper, several coaches and the privately owned open-platform observation car DC-1000 owned by the late William Kratville. The passengers were Amtrak personnel, politicians, media, travel agents, and at least two railfans (depending on whether you count the late E.M. Frimbo as a railfan or a member of the media--he was an editor/author for the New Yorker and wrote regularly about trains, but we always considered him one of "us".) The diner served special Lake Shore Limited Inaugural meals and the thing I remember most about those meals is that breakfast that first morning out included fresh strawberries! 

Examples of the kinds of celebrations that awaited us along the route included a fife and drum corps in South Bend, Indiana, and a very large crowd and four bands in Elyria, Ohio where Senator Robert Taft spoke to the crowd about how ridiculous it was that over 80% of intercity travel was by private automobile. In between stops the passengers feasted in the diner, snacked in the pub, and had a generally wonderful time. At one point a bunch of us were singing a somewhat bawdy tune in the pub car with an unnamed famous rail historian accompanying us on the piano. All of a sudden the door to the car opened and a TV crew came in with cameras rolling. Without missing a beat, as one, we started singing “I’ve been working on the railroad.”
The Legs Shore Limited in Elyria, Ohio
That first day the train tied up in Buffalo late that evening and Henry and I went to our hotel, The Hotel Lafayette, for a too short night. The hotel had seen (a lot of) better days, so I did not mind that the night was so short. 

The train departed Buffalo at 7am the next morning and headed on to Boston. During one of the meals in the diner I found myself seated with a representative of EMD (the manufacturer of the diesels pulling the train) who was on board to ensure trouble free operation of the locomotives. One thing led to another and I found myself with an invitation to ride in the cab from Pittsfield to Springfield, MA, a first for me in a diesel locomotive. The train arrived at Boston’s South Station well after dark and we wearily walked across to our hotel, the Hotel Essex. We soon discovered that it was part of the same chain as our Buffalo hotel and that it lived up to that standard. But again it was a short night as we had to get up early the next morning to catch the UA turbo train to New York. There I said goodbye to Henry who was heading on to Princeton, while I caught the National Limited to Pittsburgh.



At this point my thirst for inaugurals was whetted, so when I read about a Pan Am publicity flight around the world inaugurating the Boeing 747SP in April 1976 I tried to get an invitation. I did not succeed and, while I am sure that an inaugural publicity flight then would be much more comfortable than most any flight today, after many hundreds of thousands miles of air travel I am, in retrospect, glad I didn’t.

The Detroit Amfleet Inaugural
May and June of 1976 was a great time for an inaugural junkie. First there was a special inaugural of Amfleet (I) equipment on May 18 on the Chicago to Detroit route. This was a round trip in a day inaugural and it wasn’t nearly as fancy as the Lake Shore’s. Then came the Colonial inaugural from Washington to Newport News on June 13. For this one I drove to Washington from Pittsburgh via Front Royal, VA to meet and chase a Southern 4501 excursion back to Alexandria. After a nice night with friends in the Washington area, I parked my car at a meter outside of Washington Union Station (it was a Sunday), and boarded the special train. This was to be the first Newport News to Washington train scheduled to run the next day so it was essentially a standard consist. We made the usual stops where the usual speeches were given and the usual bands played (how quickly I became jaded) until we reached Williamsburg, VA. Here I had a decision to make. Those riders who wanted to go on to Newport News were welcome to do so. Those who got off at Williamsburg had some time to walk around, were treated to a picnic dinner, and were given a bus ride back to Washington that evening. In the interest of getting back to Pittsburgh in time for Monday morning I elected to take the bus. The bus arrived at about 9pm and I drove four (long) hours to Pittsburgh.

Cake from the Colonial Inaugural
Of course this left me with a mileage gap. I still needed to ride from Williamsburg to Newport News. I managed this in 1978 when, during a business trip to NASA at Langley AFB I took an early evening bus from the Hampton, VA area to Williamsburg, had dinner (Brunswick Stew), caught the Colonial to Newport News, and taxied back to my car in Hampton.

The month the Colonial began service I finished up my Ph.D. in Pittsburgh and moved back to Chicago to begin a new job. On October 29, 30, 1976 Amtrak inaugurated the Shenandoah from Washington to Cincinnati with an overnight at Parkersburg, WV. Needless to say I did not let my new job get in the way of a good inaugural.
The Shenandoah Inaugural
In late 1977 I got married and a few days later, in early 1978, drove west to take a new job in the San Francisco Bay area. It took me a while to get connected to the local railfan and Amtrak community so my next chance to ride an inaugural didn’t come until October 26, 27, 1979 when the Desert Wind began service between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. Amtrak was nice enough to invite my wife along as well but with the proviso that we were responsible for our own overnight accommodations in Las Vegas. We had a grand time en-route and somewhere along the way an Amtrak representative told me that they had a room for us after all, at a Holiday Inn (now Main Street Station) just down from the Amtrak station at the Union Plaza (now Plaza). This was my second visit to Las Vegas and we enjoyed the seafood buffet that the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce provided at a welcome celebration at the Top of the Mint hotel (now Binion’s). And the whole thing only cost me a few nickels in a slot machine just before we left town. Amtrak provided us with free return transportation on the first revenue Salt Lake City to Los Angeles run the next day but we elected to fly to San Francisco so that I would not miss any additional work.

The Desert Wind Inaugural
February 4, 1980 found me on the inaugural of a second train on the San Joaquin route from Oakland to Bakersfield. This, again, was a one day round trip and my fondest memory of it is the return trip. The politicians and most of the press had left the train after it arrived in Bakersfield and a few of us spent a great deal of time riding on the rear platform of a SP office car through the cool San Joaquin Valley night toasting drivers at the grade crossings.

The Second San Joaquin Inaugural
In fall of 1981 there were two west coast inaugurals of interest and it took some doing to participate in both. The first was the unnamed second train on the Coast Starlight route from Sacramento to Los Angeles. This was the short-lived The Spirit of California and Amtrak went all out. Invited guests (including a fair percentage of the local railfan community) were invited to ride to Sacramento on October 21 on the Starlight. The inaugural itself ran October 22, 23 with an overnight in San Luis Obispo. Some of us decided to get off at Salinas, and after a short visit in town caught the Starlight back home, again complements of Amtrak. Four of us bought day space in a Superliner Deluxe bedroom to travel north in style.

The next day found me on a Western Airlines flight to catch the inaugural of the Portland section of the Empire Builder to Spokane where it joined up with the Seattle section (as it does today). The main Amtrak public relations crew was still on the Spirit of California, but the short Superliner section was full of invited guests as we rolled our way along the Columbia River and up the old Spokane, Portland and Seattle. Although our arrival in Spokane was late due to celebrations along the way we arrived in plenty of time for me to catch the Empire Builder to Seattle and sleep the rest of the night away in an Amtrak provided economy room (now roomette).

In late 1981 I left California and moved back to Pittsburgh. This marked the start of an extended dry spell in inaugurals, at least those I was able to participate in. In May 1989 I was invited to ride the inaugural of the short-lived Atlantic City Express but was unable to do so because of a prior commitment. However, a few months later found me in Amherst, MA on July 17, 1989 to catch the re-inaugural of the Montrealer to Montreal. This was a one way inaugural and featured the usual hoopala including speeches by Senator Patrick Leahy (D Vermont), with a full complement of Vermont delicacies (e.g., Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, local beers, etc.) served on board. The train ran through to Montreal’s Central Station and I had an excellent French dinner with some Amtrak friends before going back to the Queen Elizabeth Hotel (a far cry from the hotels of the Lake Shore inaugural 14 years earlier) and calling it a night. Amtrak’s invitation included a complimentary return trip in coach on the first southbound Montrealer the next day. I checked and no sleeper space was available and I was resigned to breaking my streak of never having sat up for a night on a train when, out of the blue, an Amtrak friend (the late Tom Papadeas I believe) offered me the upper berth in his bedroom. I rode to Philadelphia where I caught a revenue Atlantic City Express to Atlantic City, covering the route I had missed in May. I spent a few hours at a local casino (which led almost directly to the formation of my own business, ConJelCo), and then caught a USAir BAC-111 from the Atlantic City airport back to Pittsburgh.

The Montrealer Inaugural
While not an inaugural, in April 1990 an invitation to ride the Pennsylvanian 10th Anniversary celebration on April 27, 1990 arrived in my mail. This was a one way celebration from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh on the regularly scheduled Pennsylvanian. I had missed the inaugural while I was living in California but had ridden the route many times. Never-the-less that morning found my friend Bill Metzger and I catching the Broadway Limited for Huntingdon from the Pittsburgh Amtrak station. Amtrak had graciously provided the connecting tickets and the day was beautiful so we did not mind waiting for the Pennsylvanian which that day was a slightly longer than usual Amfleet consist with our old friend office car 10000 (formerly Autoliner DC-1000) on the rear. Since this was the regularly scheduled train the celebration was mostly on board, though there were somewhat longer than normal station stops. I remember the ride back across Pennsylvania mainly for the shoofly pie served to guests. 

The 10th Anniversary of the Pennsylvanian
I almost had to forgo the next pair of inaugurals in November 1990. I had a business meeting in Washington that I could not miss. Luckily I was able to arrange things to ride the re-routed Broadway Limited inaugural from Chicago to Pittsburgh and then the re-routed Capitol Limited from Pittsburgh to Cleveland where I left the train and caught a flight to Washington and made it to my meeting more-or-less on time. The reroute of the Broadway was necessitated by the partial abandonment of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago line it had used throughout its previous history. So I never got to see the line through Crestline in daylight. But this pair of inaugurals allowed me to see the B&O line from Chicago to near Pittsburgh in daylight, and the Pennsy’s line through Alliance in daylight, something I would not have been able to do otherwise. There are two specific memories I have from this pair of inaugurals. One was that one of my traveling companions, Dave Ingles, arranging a delivery to train side from the Fort Wayne Steak and Shake (not that we didn’t have enough good food to eat aboard without it), and the other was that I got to spend the overnight in Pittsburgh in my own bed – a first for me on any inaugural!
Aboard the Broadway Limited
April 1993 found me flying to New Orleans to enjoy a dinner of jambalaya and gumbo followed by the inaugural of the extension of the Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Orlando. This was another event well attended by the railfan community and it involved three days of daylight travel with overnights in Pensacola and Jacksonville. Since I did not need the mileage beyond Jacksonville I left there and flew home the next morning.

I didn’t know it at the time but the Sunset extension was to be my last Amtrak inaugural—at least to date. There have been some routes added over the years but nothing that has caught my attention enough to make the trip to attend the event—if indeed there was one. I enjoyed each and every inaugural I rode and especially the friendships I made with Amtrak people over the years, many of which endure to this day. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Story of Dirty Ducky

When Chuckie was but a tot one of his treasured toys was a stuffed duck from the toy department of Marshall Field's. Freshly off the shelves it was a tall yellow duck with legs, wings, a beak, a pair of eyes and a tasseled dark green beret very unlike the cap that the vastly more famous Donald Duck wore.

He was Chuckies favorite stuffed animal and he took him everywhere. Dirty Ducky shared his meals, his romps in the park, probably his baths, and they were inseparable. Dirty Ducky very quickly lost his off-the-shelf good looks, but Chuckie didn't care. He was called Dirty Ducky because he was a duck and oh so very dirty.
Dirty Ducky and Friend, circa 1950
Chuckie's Mom did what she could. Dirty Ducky made many trips to the washing machine, but he got rattier every year. Wouldn't Chuckie like a nice new clean Dirty Ducky? Chuckie would not. He loved his Dirty Ducky and did not want a new one.

Fast forward to, say, 1954. One day Chuckie's Mom comes home and tells Chuckie that she has solved the problem of cleaning Dirty Ducky. Chuckie wonders how and Mom tells him that she has purchased a "Magic Bag" from Marshall Field's. She says that when she puts Dirty Ducky in the Magic Bag and shakes the bag it will clean Dirty Ducky and make him as good as new. Chuckie can't wait to see how the Magic Bag works. He brings Dirty Ducky to his Mom and she puts it in the Magic Bag, shakes it, and out come Dirty Ducky perfectly clean. Chuckie is amazed and he runs off showing everyone how nice his Dirty Ducky looks.

Usually a pretty smart kid, it took me several more years to figure out the secret of the Magic Bag, and when I did I was mad as hell -- at my Mom and myself.