Thursday, May 11, 2017

More Recent Reading

Over the past few days I've read a few new works of fiction. Henry Vogel's The Fugitive Snare is an action-packed sci-fi thriller, the third in a series. I found it just as hard to put it down as the first two in the series. I definitely recommend it. The other novel was Pam Uphoff's Fort Dinosaur, the sixth volume in her Directorate series. It was also a lot of fun.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Recent Reading

I haven't quite been up to writing reviews lately, but here's a quick list of what I've been reading lately.

I practically devoured J. L. Curtis' Rimworld: Into the Green on Sunday. Both Sarah Hoyt and Peter Grant had posted links to it on their respective blogs. I found it an engrossing read that was slightly out of the ordinary, but lots of fun.

Cedar Sanderson's Tanager's Fledglings was also a fun-filled. It is the first story in a planned series, though the second in that universe. It was quite a bit different in tone from the novella that introduced that universe, being something of a coming of age.

Both were a lot of fun for me to read, and I hope you'll give them some consideration. I may review them once I've gotten some other stuff dealt with and am more in the mood to do such once more.


Downtown. Center City. The Central Business District. Whatever it is called, most American towns of any size and age have an area where most of the businesses were concentrated. Suburbanization, interstates, consolidation, and globalization have often take their tolls on such districts, but most towns continue to have such districts. Usually, such districts are reasonably central to the city. But not always.

Most of the exceptions are found where there is a terrain feature influencing development. Rivers, lakes, and seas can present a formidable obstacle or outright block to extending development in some directions. Hills, mountains, and valleys can have a similar influence. Sometimes even the angle of a slope itself can affect patterns of development.

Take the city of Cincinnati, Ohio for one example. Downtown is roughly centered with respect to east and west, but north and south is another matter entirely. The broad expanse of the Ohio River, beyond which lies the state of Kentucky, meant that any expansion southwards was not part of the city. And hills to the north of downtown were largely restricted to residential development. So downtown Cincinnati exists at the extreme southern edge of the city proper.

Toledo, Ohio is flatter than Cincinnati, but the obstacle presented by the width of the lower Maumee River slowed development to the east. Toledo's downtown is closer to centered than Cincinnati's, but it still isn't precisely balanced.

An extreme example of such a lack of balance in the position of a downtown can be found in the large village of Montpelier, Ohio. As a town of nearly five thousand, Montpelier has a nice little concentrated business district. Despite the relatively-flat terrain, this district is nevertheless located almost at the extreme northwest of the village's development. The vast majority of residential development extends south and east from the downtown. Why? I've got no clue, but it is a bit noticeable when looking at overhead imagery of the area.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Geography and Spelling

The names given to roads, rivers, parks, towns, and mountains vary significantly. While you might expect the spelling to be reasonably consistent, it isn't always, even when in close proximity.

Take the Allegheny and Allegany. Pennsylvania has Allegheny County (home to Pittsburgh), most of the course of the Allegheny River, and most of the Allegheny Mountains and Plateau. New York has Allegany County, and a town of Allegany, which is actually in Cattaraugus County. Pennsylvania is home to Allegheny National Forest. Directly across the state line, adjoining the lands of the National Forest, is New York's Allegany State Park.  Thankfully, the river and other geographic features don't change name where they cross the border.  That would just be confusing.

Southwest of Allentown, Pennsylvania lies the town of Emmaus.  Emaus Road runs from the southern outskirts of Allentown to Emmaus.  Some maps (Google Maps, Bing Maps) show it as Emmaus Road, some as Emaus Road (Google Earth). Google StreetView images show "Emaus Ave" on the sign at Emaus and 4th Street.

Another example is simpler. Between the towns of Harrison, Ohio and Bright, Indiana lies a road named Jamison Road. Much of it runs along Jameson Creek, a tributary of the Whitewater River.

It certainly makes inconsistencies in spelling more understandable at times. Variant spellings aren't two surprising, really. But variant spellings for two things in close proximity?  Really. Much as it grates on my nerves, it happens in the wild.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Stuff from Some Good Authors

Sorry for the scarcity new posts lately. Real Life (tm) has just been a bit overwhelming lately. For fellow readers of science fiction, I have this quick post on some works I've been following

Sarah Hoyt has posted a short story, "Lost and Found" up at the Mad Genius Club blog, a prequel of sorts to her recently-released Darkship RevengeCedar Sanderson's new novel Tanager's Fledglings has been released. I haven't read it yet but plan to purchase and read it shortly. If I understand correctly, Pam Uphoff's Fort Dinosaur, the latest installment in her Directorate series, is expected to be released Very Soon.

Baen Books released the e-ARC for The Alexander Inheritance, a time travel/alternate history novel by Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett. I read and enjoyed it, though I'm skeptical of a few elements in the story. I may review it here at some point in the future.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

This May Khipu Occupied for a Bit

National Geographic has reported upon recent discoveries related to the Inca khipus. It is hoped that the recent finds may eventually help unravel the information encoded into the braided strands. The article may khipu keep you occupied for a brief bit.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Joys of Home Ownership

Sorry posts have been sparse the past week or so. I've been facing some deadlines at work, traveled 1500 miles over Easter weekend, and have been a bit under the weather courtesy of allergies. But what has really gotten me is my house.

I own a home. There are a lot of benefits. Even in the most cramped of subdivisions, you achieve a bit of separation from the neighbors, a vast improvement over apartment life or even condominiums. With a house, I don't have to worry about a notice from the landlord giving me 24 hours to get everything two feet away from the walls for electrical work. I have more room for hobbies and projects. I build equity every month rather than seeing cash simply disappear out the door in the form of rent. Alas, there are some downsides.

Like taking care of things when they break. Doing yard work. Especially during Spring, the lawn occupies far too much time. I've mowed twice in the past seven days. Tonight, for the first time this season, I pulled out the trimmer/edger and found it didn't work. And a downspout fell down. It is currently sitting in the tall grass at the edge of the house. Sigh.

Reviews, trailer progress, and other interesting stuff will likely start appearing over the next few days, as I work through the home and yard issues and get some time again.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017


Sometime simple acts and events send ripples through history. For want of a nail...  One small example: A small air raid ends an empire.

We are about a week away from the 75th anniversary of the Doolittle Raid. A few months after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brought about US entry into WWII, the US retaliated with an air raid on Tokyo. Sixteen specially-modified B-25 Mitchell bombers took off from the deck of U.S.S. Hornet and bombed Tokyo, then escaped to the Asian mainland. Nearly all the planes were lost in Japanese-occupied territory, and several of the aircrews as well. They inflicted minor damage, destroyed a few important buildings, damaged a Japanese aircraft carrier that was nearing completion, and killed a few hundred people. As a morale-boost, striking back for Pearl Harbor, it was valuable, but the damage inflicted was almost insignificant.

The indirect effects, however, were far more significant. During the attack, the Japanese military made widespread use of coded transmissions in an attempt to coordinate the response to the attack. Japanese leadership decided to rearrange their defenses, and wanted control of Midway Island. The bounty of transmissions the Japanese produced allowed US cryptographers to decode Japanese naval signals and ambush the Japanese carrier fleet. The Battle of Midway was a major victory for the US and a turning point in the war in the Pacific.

What Do You Call...

What do you call a large group of priests or preachers driving around in motor homes?

The Holy Roaming Empire.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sunday Trailer Progress

I made a little progress on the trailer Sunday. The previous Saturday I cut and fit a patch for the "hole" in the belly skin just forward of the street-side wheel well. Sunday has been permanently affixed with rivets and proper sealant. Small progress. I'm doubtful of much more progress this week, as I have yard work and taxes I need to catch up with. If there is more progress I'll report it here.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Songs and Circumstances

Over the course of my life, there have been a number of times where I've been listening to music and the lyrics have proven strangely appropriate to the circumstances. Almost eerily so. A few in particular stand out.

For example, I was taking a vacation out west, including a few days at the Grand Canyon. One day I'm driving along from the campground near Grand Canyon Village over to the east side of the park, to visit the Desert View Watchtower. I was playing on the stereo at the time, and just as I pulled into the parking lot at Desert View it advanced to the next song, "All Along the Watchtower."

A year or two back I was driving along here in greater Cincinnati listening to a classic rock station. I came to the intersection I needed to turn left onto, but the light was red. As the left turn signal on the traffic light turned green, the street sign for the road registered. I was turning onto state route 747. The song that was playing: Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner."

Last night, I went out to eat in Northern Kentucky (the 51st state?). Afterwards, I was driving back home via I-75 well after dark. A bit south of Ohio River, several miles south of Cincinnati, the highway descends several hundred feet toward the river valley through a wide bit of curving excavation known as The Cut in the Hill. As a northbound car descends the grade a wonderful view of the Cincinnati skyline comes into view. Last night was fairly clear, so the city stood out brilliantly, the tall buildings fairly glowing against the backdrop of the night sky. The song that was playing was The Doors' "L.A. Woman," with its lyrics of "city of light" and "city of night" and "driving down your freeways."

(Not included are the number of times "Route 66" came up on my mix while driving down old historic route 66, since I had several covers in the mix and was taking a Route 66 trip.)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Monkey Girl

Now here's something you don't hear everyday. A news article reports on a ten year old girl in India who was spotted nude, running around with a pack of monkeys. Police responded to the reports and had to fight the monkeys off to "rescue" the feral girl from her simian companions.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Spring Has Sprung

Spring has sprung. Everything is greening up even more than it had before, and more trees and flowers are blooming. The pollen is in the air and my allergies have noticed. Despite allergy medicine I've been a bit tired and my sinuses ache. Instead of writing that review of Peter Grant's awesome Rocky Mountain Retribution like I planned to last night, I went to bed early and regrettably woke up late. Ugh. More later, hopefully.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Lost in Other Worlds

On Saturday morning I finished reading Peter Grant's Rocky Mountain Retribution. Seeking something else to read, I stumbled upon Pam Uphoff's Directorate series, which in turn led me to Amazon to purchase the first book in the series, which in turn led me to start reading her Wine of the Gods series that is set in the same universe. I've read nine books since Saturday afternoon.

I had to force myself to go to work and not stay home reading another book in that lengthy series. I'll try to write a review of Rocky Mountain Retribution later (TL:DR version is awesome!), prior to reading the next book.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Saturday Trailer Progress

My work Saturday was limited. I have more or less fixed the "hole" I mentioned several days ago. It is by no means aesthetically perfect, but it should keep the elements out.  I am waiting on tomorrow's expected warmer temperatures before applying sealant and riveting into place. Today's temperatures were marginal. Tomorrow will also hopefully see the rest of belly skin work done.  If all goes well, the wires for the brakes, the insulation, and the middle section of plywood floor can then go in, and the old floor in front can come out. We'll see.

Patch being held in place by clecos, pending riveting

Before the patch was applied

Airstream on Mars!

Airstream announces special Airstream trailers for Mars!

Artist's rendering of Airstream trailer on Mars. From the Airstream website.

Yes, today is April 1st.

Columbus Interurban Terminal

Much like Lima, Ohio, the city of Columbus, Ohio was also home to an interesting interurban terminal of decent size. Like that one, this one was also a product of the Ohio Electric Railway, an electric interurban railroad that served much of western and central Ohio during the early part of the twentieth century. The Columbus station had both passenger and freight facilities, located in two adjacent buildings fronting on Third Street, between Rich and Town. Like the Lima facility, it had individual canopies/trainsheds situated between or alongside the tracks, rather than a large trainshed covering all of the tracks and waiting area, like at the Indianapolis, Muncie, or Akron interurban stations.

Alas, unlike the one in Lima, it hasn't survived, but there are a few web pages out there with some decent coverage, including one with the content from a 1912 Electric Railway Journal article. A number of photographs of it exist in various publications, including in Jack Keenan's excellent 1974 book Cincinnati & Lake Erie Railroad: Ohio's Great Interurban System. There's at least one photograph of the station in use available online in the Cincinnati & Lake Erie gallery on New Dave's Railpix, copied below.

Photo of C&LE 110 at the Columbus station, from Bill Volkmer collection.
Found at

The Ephemeral Nature of Things

I was reading Peter Grant's Western novel Rocky Mountain Retribution when a brief mention of Buckskin Joe set of a cascade of memories and thoughts. Buckskin Joe is the name of a former mining town in Colorado, now a ghost town, and that is what the novel references. However, it bequeathed its name to a facility west of CaƱon City, Colorado, a  1957 Western movie set turned tourist attraction. The only direct connection between the ghost town and the movie set/tourist attraction was Horace Tabor's general store, moved from the ghost town to the movie set; the rest of the set's buildings were acquired from other locations in Colorado.

The towers of the Royal Gorge Bridge perch on the rim of the Royal Gorge, nearly a thousand feet above the Arkansas River

I encountered Buckskin Joe's in 2009, on a road trip and vacation to Colorado squeezed in between summer and fall quarters at college. I was en-route between Colorado Springs and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park and had decided to make a brief stop at the Royal Gorge Bridge to break up the trip. Buckskin Joe's was right along the road up to the bridge, and looked really cool, but I didn't have time for it, or for the associated mini-railroad that ran from Buckskin Joe to an overlook on the rim of the Royal Gorge. I spent a couple hours at the Royal Gorge Bridge and did a few of the attractions, but not all, and I planned to come back some day and leave myself enough time to do more there and to visit Buckskin Joe's.

Portion of a photo taken from Royal Gorge Bridge, 2009. The railroad from Buckskin Joe's to the rim of the gorge runs across the middle of this photo, to the observation area just left of the center of the photo. The views of the bridge from the observation area in the afternoon must have been amazing.

Billionaire William Koch bought Buckskin Joe's lock, stock, and barrel in September 2010 and moved it to his ranch. The old buildings are gone. The railroad is gone. I discovered this when planning a 2011 trip to Colorado. So that departed my itinerary.

Incline Railway from rim to floor of the Royal Gorge

Still, the Royal Gorge Bridge and its related attractions were interesting enough I was considering a visit to them again when I was planning vacation for summer of 2013. Then a wildfire in June 2013 destroyed most of the "far" side of the bridge attractions. Some flames made it over to the "near" side and wreaked havoc, there, as well, destroying the aerial tram, damaging the incline railway, and causing assorted other damage and destruction. Glacier National Park in Montana suddenly seemed better than any thought of another Colorado trip for 2013.

Locomotive and caboose at edge of Royal Gorge Bridge parking lot.
The caboose was destroyed and the locomotive damaged by the June 2013 fire.

Why do I bring all this up? Simply because this all flooded back and reminded me that everything is ephemeral. People, places, things, everything is ephemeral. So carpe diem. Talk to people when you have the chance. Visit places while they're still there to be visited. See things while they're still there to be seen. You never know when a person will move or pass away, a scenic place may be destroyed by rockfall or fire, or an institution close.

Even that which is set in stone may change. In 2003, New Hampshire's Old Man of the Mountain, the ancient and iconic rock formation that was the state's choice for its quarter, collapsed. Change happens, and sometimes it is destructive change. Make the most you can of whatever comes your way.

Friday, March 31, 2017

April Showers

"April showers bring May flowers." If this saying is correct, I suppose we should expect a bountiful crop of flowers come May. We're not even out of March and into April yet, but here in Cincinnati we've been averaging 3-4 days a week of rain showers. Everything is starting to green up, and some trees and flowers are already blooming. Spring has sprung.

Alas, my allergies took notice and flared up accordingly. Thank goodness for meds. Hopefully this weekend's weather will be amenable to work on the trailer and nice walk or two. If I could see the sun again (it's been a few days) it would be really nice.

Lima Interurban Building

On July 1 of 2005, I took a long and winding drive through northwest Ohio taking photos of remnants of the interurban electric railroads that once stretched through the area. In particular, I made a stop in Lima, Ohio, where in 1910 the Ohio Electric (later Cincinnati & Lake Erie) Railroad had built a two story brick passenger station at the northwest corner of Market and Central. This was a more modest interurban station than those found in Saint LouisIndianapolis, or Akron, as befit a smaller city, but it was still an attractive structure. Thankfully, it still stands today, housing the Allen County Board of Health.
Photo of front of former Lima interurban terminal, taken July 1, 2005.
Tracks and canopies were on the other side.
The building had a deep lawn with landscaping in front, and the three station tracks were in the rear. The mainline ran east-west on Market Street, with tracks on Central and Union connecting the station tracks to the mainline. This track arrangement allowed the trolley cars to enter whether they were headed east or west, and leave in either direction as well. Heading eastbound led to mainline to central and southern Ohio. Westbound led to three different lines that branched off toward the northern part of Lima.
Very rough approximation of track plan at Lima station

Waiting passengers were protected from the worst of the elements by canopies running parallel to and between the tracks. The area where the tracks and and canopies once lay is now a parking lot, with little of interest to see. Electric trolleys ran from this station to Fort Wayne, Indiana; Defiance, Ohio; Toledo, Ohio and Detroit, Michigan; and to points in southern and central Ohio, such as Springfield, Columbus, Dayton, and Cincinnati. By 1938, though, the trolleys were all gone; some of the routes had been abandoned earlier in the decade, in the depths of the Great Depression.

I understand it may have seen service as a bus station for some time, but that was no longer the case when I visited in 2005. However, Greyhound's modern Lima bus station is located at the north end of the same block, facing High Street.

Historical marker for the building.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

First Falcon 9 First Stage Reuse

I was reading this evening and was intrigued by their coverage of the successful takeoff, deployment, and recovery of a SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage. SpaceX has done that before, but what makes today's story exciting is that this is the first time a used Falcon 9 first stage has flown. This same first stage launched a Dragon cargo capsule toward ISS back in April 2016; today it flew again and launched a satellite. Congratulations to the SpaceX team on this historic accomplishment, and kudos to for the nice coverage.

Too Late!

I first heard about Trolleyville USA sometime in the early years of the 21st century. It was a trolley museum of sorts up near Cleveland, a collection of privately-owned vintage trolleys that ran on a stretch of track that had been laid out when a mobile home park had been opened, sometime after World War Two. Unfortunately, their web site was not frequently updated, and when I checked it out I kept finding notices about closings, reopenings, temporary suspensions of services, etc. For years whenever I thought of it and checked their web site, the web site was either offline, years out of date, or proclaimed a temporary closure.

One day in 2006, almost exactly eleven years ago, I decided to drive up to that neck of the woods and see for myself what the story was. That's about 3.5 hours of driving, so I had a few other things on my virtual agenda if Trolleyville didn't pan out. And in fact, it didn't.

Interurban trolley car (formerly Chicago Aurora & Elgin 453) being prepared
for shipment from the defunct Trolleyville USA on March 29, 2006.
I arrived to find all operations shut down, the storefront office/station empty, and collection being hauled off. Their immediate destination was a dingy warehouse on the Cleveland lakefront, but that's a story for another day.

Upon Further Consideration...

Yesterday I mentioned the effort I went through to remove a small section of aluminum "belly skin" from the trailer. As I was thinking about it at lunch just a few minutes ago, I realized much of that effort was unnecessary. It shouldn't present any problems, but was a waste of time. I've got a decent solution for the torn metal problem, better than I thought up last night. If weather cooperates, I may have it in place and have pictures this evening. If not, then not. And now back to work.

Fantastic Photographs

I was checking the weather forecast for the day when I noticed an article on the weather web site. The article is a very brief, mentioning French diver Gabriel Barathieu and his wonderful underwater photographs. However, the article is also filled with over a hundred photographs, covering a wide variety of subjects: aquatic life like octopus, tropical fish, and sharks, amphibians and mammals swimming as seen from below, sunken ships and submarines, and sunken planes from World War II. Some of them are simply amazing. They're well worth a look even with an add popping up every five images or so.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday Trailer Progress - or lack thereof

I noticed a couple of days ago that some of the belly skin just ahead of the street-side wheel was torn, but it wasn't until I went to take a look tonight that the exact position and the extent of the damage registered. The tear is high enough that it sits at the level of the plywood floor, which means it needs to be fixed to keep the plywood floor dry. The proper solution would involve replacing the entire sheet, but that would cause at least two weeks of delay for an order of aluminum in the right size and allow, and for more rivets, and for all the work involved in removing and replacing the existing sheet - all outside during the month known for its showers. And it has to be addressed before much more progress can be made. 
The torn aluminum belly skin is unfortunately torn above the level of the plywood floor
Despite the fact that I'd rather replace the whole sheet, I'm not going to. Instead, I'm going to install a smaller replacement piece that extends downwards from the top to fill the hole. This bothers me, but less so than the prospect of major further schedule slippage. So today I removed the remnants of the aluminum that is still riveted in place above the tear. This involved drilling out all the rivets on the left half of the above image, then a few more further to the left to give me enough wiggle room to slip the snips into place to cut. It was a far more time consuming activity than I'd expected, and removing it required well over an hour. The sun had set by the time I was done. About the only other things I accomplished were to figure out what I shall do about the wire runs for the brake line, and 

Tomorrow shall involve fabricating the pieces I need to fix the hole as well as for the rest of the middle section belly skin fixes, and hopefully cutting and fitting the insulation. Due to the weather as forecast, the exterior work such as riveting the new pieces into place in the photo above will likely have to wait until the drier whether expected this weekend.

Rocky Mountain Retribution Released

Peter Grant announced that his latest novel, the western Rocky Mountain Retribution, has been published. I liked his previous Western and hope this one will be as good.

Akron Terminal Station

The Akron terminal station was constructed by the Northern Ohio Traction & Light Company, which once operated a system of interurban electric railroads in northeastern Ohio, roughly centered upon the city of Akron. When the new terminal building was constructed on the corner of Main Street and West Federal Street in 1918 it was a four story stone and brick building with waiting room, stores, and offices, behind which sat a steel train shed covering eight tracks. Behind the shed were some smaller brick buildings and a substation that fronted upon High Street, the road paralleling Main but a block eastwards.

Akron Interurban Terminal, from the northwest
As the interurban trolley gave way to the bus, buses began to use the station as well, and by 1932 it became station for buses only, while it continued to serve for some time as the headquarters of the power company. In recent years it has been used for county offices. It remains mostly intact (save for tracks), although two additional stories were added to the main building. The surroundings have changed dramatically, however. When built it stood on a corner, but the road to the north was eliminated and a highway constructed just a bit further north. The intersection was realigned and the area to north and to much of west became parking lost.

West facade. 

Interurban cars reached the train shed by way of a track that turned off Main and then ran along the south wall of the building, through where the gate is now. They departed by turning left/west onto West Federal Street and then turning again north or south onto Main. For 14 years, passengers could catch an electric interurban trolley car, or even a multi-car train, to various points in northeastern Ohio. At one time passengers could ride from Akron north to Cleveland, east to Ravenna, west to Wadsworth, and south to Canton, Massillon, Dover, New Philadelphia, and Uhrichsville. Via connections with other electric interurban railroads at Canton, Ravenna, and Cleveland, a rider could reach much of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and parts of Pennsylvania and New York. At Cleveland steam railroads and steam boats offered even more transportation options.

View from the North
While this station is smaller and less impressive than the one that once grace Indianapolis, it does have one amazing attribute that great structure lacked. The station building in Akron is still extant, with train shed, long after the larger structure in Indianapolis was demolished. In fact, which several impressive interurban stations remain here in America, I believe that only the one in Akron retains a train shed, that wonderfully-obvious sign of its railroad past.

Electrical substation on High Street. It converted AC to DC for use by the trolleys.

New Battery Technology

Over at Peter Grant's blog mention was made of a new battery technology. The article that was linked to describes the new technology as the work of a team led by 94-year-old John Goodenough, co-inventor of the lithium-ion battery. The inventors claim the technology is safer (less combustible), faster charging, has greater energy density, and a longer life (number of charge/discharge cycles). If it pans out that'll be quite an improvement. I guess Goodenough decided the lithium-ion battery wasn't good enough.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Tuesday Trailer Progress

This evening's work consisted of attaching the "bridge" pieces to the two pieces of plywood floor for the middle section of the trailer. I dry fit them again after the glue had a few hours to dry.

Dry fit of middle section plywood floor
I was a bit tired tonight so there's still much more than I'd like that needs to get done before that plywood can finally rest there permanently. That includes fixing the belly skins, insulation, and getting the wiring runs for the brakes into place.

Illinois Terminal Railroad Station in Saint Louis

In the early part of the Twentieth Century, the Illinois Traction System operated a series of electric interurban railroads in central Illinois and southwestwards to Saint Louis, Missouri. It had its own entrance to Saint Louis over the McKinley Bridge, named for the company's founder, William B. McKinley (the congressman, not to be confused with the U.S. president). In 1928 the system was reorganized as the Illinois Terminal Railroad, merging with several shortline steam railroads in the Saint Louis area. In 1930 it replaced its original freight and passenger stations in Saint Louis with a new building on the north edge of the central business district. The freight and passenger facilities were located in the basement. For about a quarter century, long passenger distance trains to central Illinois and suburban service to Alton, Granite City, Venice, and other Illinois towns operated from the basement. Now it is the home of the Globe Democrat newspaper. The only obvious trace of its railroad past is the railroad car in the bas relief work above the front door.

The station as it appeared on the morning of March 24, 2017.
Next time I should come by in the afternoon for better light.

Things That Go Bump in the Night

I was just getting ready for bed when I heard the sounds. I wasn't sure at first what I was hearing. Was it the sound of heavy rain being driven into the windows by the rain? Was it my garbage can, or recycling can, or a neighbor's, being blown around in the wind? Did something from the trailer renovation get lose?

I listened for a few minutes. It definitely was not the rain. And as I listened more, it seemed to be coming from outside behind my bedroom, where the trailer was. Concerned, I went to the back door and switched on the rear light. Staring at the trailer, I could see I left the trailer door open, and it was being held open by the "door holder," so it wasn't the door blowing in the breeze. What could it be?

Then the raccoon darted out through the open trailer door and across my patio. He scurried under my shed and disappeared from view. It was the furry bandit who'd disturbed me! He'd probably been knocking things around inside the trailer before my turning on the light disturbed him. I dashed outside, closed the door to the trailer, and finished getting ready for bed.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monday Trailer Progress

This evening's session of trailer work was rudely cut short by the rain. As lightning accompanied the rain, I haven't been out to check for leaks. I did make some progress before that happened, though. The curb-side piece of plywood floor for the middle section of the trailer was cut, filed, and sanded until it fit properly. Then I cleaned any sawdust or debris and painted any raw wood that had been exposed by the cutting with a coat of thick, oil-based paint. I had just cleaned up from the painting and taken a few measurements inside the trailer to fit the "bridge" pieces at the plywood seams when the rain began. The plywood went into the shed to stay dry and I closed up "shop" for the evening. Due to the storm-induced end to the work session, I was too rushed to take any photos, and the lighting was poor besides.  I do have a few bits of fabrication I could do in the basement, part of the belly skin fixing for the middle section of the trailer. Maybe if I'm feeling ambitious later I'll do that fab work. If not it shall wait for another day.

The forecasts for Tuesday and Wednesday are promising. This should hopefully let me have a longer work session on Tuesday to get the belly skin work done, the "bridge" pieces glued and screwed into position, and insulation cut and attached. If that goes well Wednesday could see the installation of the middle section of plywood floor. That would make 60% of the floor replacement more-or-less complete (there's still a few screws to be screwed and glued in a few places farther back). It would also allow me to start of the removal of the front and middle-front sections of plywood.

Thankfully, the absolute worst of the current storm system appear to be passing by to the south. Here in southwest Ohio we're only being subjected to the outer edges of the mess that is plaguing so much of the south right now. May all go well for them in the hours to come. Stay well everybody!

False Steps

I ran across the False Steps blog while searching for a diagram of Skylab. What is False Steps? It's a blog covering some of the alternate concepts and proposals that were developed during the Space Race and the Cold War, like using a Gemini capsule to reach the moon, and some of the proposed Apollo variations. Interesting stuff IMHO, and well worth a look.

A Tasteful Post

Cedar Sanderson has a post aver at her blog entitled "Food Anthropology: From the Beginning." I think it is worth checking out.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday Trailer Progress

The progress today was minimal. I dry fit the pieces of plywood floor for the middle section. The street-side piece fit well enough and looks to require no additional work. The curb-side piece almost fits, but it is catching on part of the wheel well. It looks like I'll need to trim a little bit off the plywood to make it fit properly, and will then need to paint the edge. Tomorrow's forecast calls for rain but perhaps there'll be a nice break in the storms or maybe I can do the cutting and painting. We'll see.

I also did a bit of leak detection during this evening's rains. The added sealant along the drip caps above the rear side windows and where gaps were seen seems to have worked. The sealing near the middle street-side window seems to have been less successful, as I saw some damp debris in the floor channel below that window. I'll have to wait until things dry out Tuesday to investigate that problem further.

In addition to getting the middle section of floor ready, tomorrow will probably also involve work on fixing up the belly skin in that area, and cutting insulation to fit.

Meet Me in Saint Louis

"Meet Me in Saint Louis." That's more or less what my mother told me, because there was a conference she was attending there and my father had decided to go along.  "Sure," I said, because I'd not seen them since Christmas and Saint Louis is a much shorter drive from Cincinnati than the East Coast is.

Gateway Arch - more or less closed at the moment - as seen from the steps of the Old Courthouse.
At end of the plaza is the new (incomplete) entrance to Museum of Western Expansion.

We had about a day and a half to romp around the city. We had rooms right near the city's iconic arch.  Alas the arch and much of the test of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and surrounding parks and trails are presently closed for construction. There's a $390 million project called CityArchRiver that has torn up much of the existing park space and the museum beneath the arch, while the tram to the top of the arch is presently down for a multi-month renovation and maintenance period that is running late. When they complete the project it promises to be a much improved space, with the arch area far better connected to the rest of the memorial and the city proper by a vast bridging of I-44 that currently divides them. Park space will be built out over the expressway, transforming a stretch of it into the tunnel and making the park continue as a seamless whole from the arch to the Old Courthouse and on to the other parks and green space beyond.

Eastern facade of the Old Courthouse

That's all in the future, though. At the moment, the only attractions at the arch are a gift shop and a theater that plays a documentary film on the design and construction of the arch. We didn't bother with that.  However, the Old Courthouse a bit to the west, in the city, is part of the memorial, and remains open. The courthouse was the site of several of the state-level parts of the Dred Scott cases, was where Louis Brandeis was admitted to the bar, and also at least one prominent women's suffrage case. Two court rooms are preserved. The rest provide space for several galleries of exhibits, some of which are temporary refugees from the museum beneath the arch. The exterior architecture is mildly imposing, but the interior of the rotunda is simply amazing. Regrettably, every shot I took looking up toward the top of the rotunda was blurry.


We visited two other museums in Saint Louis. The Missouri History Museum is housed in an impressive facility in Forest Park, the former site of the 1904 World's Fair. The older part is a large stone building the Beaux Arts style, with a statue of Thomas Jefferson seated in the center as you enter. The newer part is a glass and steel structure to the south of the older part, of similar mass and general boxy shape as the older one. Hanging from the ceiling of the two story atrium at the heart of the newer part is a full-size replica of the Spirit of St. Louis, the plane in which Charles Lindbergh made the first solo trans-Atlantic flight. The real article is at the Smithsonian. The replica is one of three constructed for the 1956 film The Spirit of St. Louis, in which Jimmy Stewart played Lindbergh. (The fact that the actor was a reserve colonel in the USAF playing the role of man who was promoted to a reserve colonel in the US Army for his flight seems a weirdly-appropriate bit of casting for Hollywood.)

Replica of Spirit of St. Louis, the aircraft flown by Charles Lindbergh

The museum's temporary exhibit on Route 66 was the main reason I was interested, and it was a lot of fun. It is probably the second-best exhibit on Route 66 that I've seen, the best being the National Route 66 Museum in Elk City, OK. In addition to extensive photos, videos, and explanatory text, there were a large assortment of physical artifacts from the early days of Route 66 through its heyday. Sadly, the reason some were available was the large-scale demolition of old motels, restaurants, gas stations, and other attractions and services that once thrived along the old Mother Road. On the bright side, many have been saved. There were a number of automobiles from various eras, and even a 1957 Airstream Caravanner travel trailer, its aluminum skins gleaming even under the subdued light of the museum.

Neon motel sign

1957 Airstream Caravanner

The other museum we visited was the National Blues Museum in downtown Saint Louis, about a half-mile from the hotel. We actually stopped there twice. Once was in the evening to listen to music, and once was to actually visit the museum. We spent longer listening to music than we did on the museum aspect. Adjacent was an awesome barbecue place named Sugarfire. Great beef brisket and turkey were consumed.

The people in Saint Louis were uniformly nice and helpful. Menu prices were reasonable. The room rate at the hotel was reasonable but not cheap for downtown in a Midwestern city. I'd definitely consider going back sometime after the arch work is complete, or perhaps even before. There's still much I didn't get a chance to visit and explore, since it was really only a day and a half visit.

Trailer Progress Photos

As I alluded to back on Friday, here are photos of the progress getting the wheel wells into place. These two pictures show the street-side wheel well. The curb-side one is also in place.
Exterior photo of street-side wheel well riveted to exterior skin
Interior photo of street-side wheel well riveted to exterior skin

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Poultry Plots

Yesterday Sarah Hoyt had on her blog a strange but amusing tale ofdevious and cunning chickens. It is by no means serious, but I thought it somewhat interesting.

Trailer Progress

The wheel wells have been riveted to the exterior aluminum skins. The piece that supports part of the entry step was also riveted into position, and the area of steel channel where the shocks had been attached got a fresh coat of paint.  All this work clears the way for more plywood floor to go in once some work on the belly skins is wrapped up and the wiring for the brakes is done. That should be fairly straightforward work, probably to be wrapped up by Tuesday. Then new plywood goes in, and the last of the old plywood comes out. Pictures when I have a chance.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Canadian Weirdness

Now that's just plain weird. Canadian diplomats were using cardboard cutouts of their prime minister, Justin Trudeau, at events around the world. This allowed guests at the events to take photos with the prime minister's cutout. Of course, not all of the photos were in the best taste (shocking, I know, right?), so now we see a news story about Canadian diplomats being urged by their government to cease the practice. Given the hostility American presidents have evoked around the world since the Cold War began, it is probably a good thing our diplomats haven't followed this practice.

Life Imitates Art

On Tuesday evening I watched NCIS, one of the few shows left on television that I still generally find entertaining. In the show, a British intelligence officer is visiting and is referring to what we Americans call "chips" with the British term "crisps." This forms the basis of some banter between the Brit and the regular cast. In one scene, one of the regulars gets him a bag of them from the vending machines.

This week, a British colleague is visiting us here in America. We were talking briefly about international travel and food. He mentioned a visit to China that involved subsisting on "Snickers and crisps"from the vending machines.

Sometimes, life imitates art.

State of the Blogger

I'm sorry if the blog posts lately have been a bit short or on the boring side. The day job currently has me using brain power than normal, designing and developing enhancements to a complex Oracle database that has hundreds of thousands of lines of PL/SQL code, only a fraction of which I've ever dealt with before, with the original developer unavailable to consult with. Then at night I'm working on the trailer. I'm also trying with mixed results to get a walk in every day. Between it all I'm mentally and physically a bit tired. Hopefully things will start looking up after next week. By then I should be past, or nearly past, this project at work. Within three weeks I hope to have the trailer floor replacement complete, after which I hope the kneeling/crawling/bending/crouching/stretching I've been doing nightly should be greatly reduced.

Neither The Forbidden Valley and the Plate Tectonics simulator are forgotten, I just haven't had the mental bandwidth or energy to work on them. We'll see if things improve after the new floor is in and the current project at work is wrapped up. Until then, I hope my loyal readers (do I have any?) will bear with me.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Wednesday Trailer Progress

This evening I removed the useless shocks that were attached to the frame. They weren't attached to the leaf springs or any other part of the suspension, which lack an obvious attachment point. With some penetrating oil and a bit of elbow grease the nuts holding one went in but a few minutes. The other finally required a reciprocating saw to remove, due to poor leverage and stubborn nuts. Either way, they're both gone. After I removed them I realized one was so damaged it couldn't have attached at the other end even if there had been something to attach to. That took way more time than I'd hoped.

I also dry fit the two wheel wells again. One fit almost perfectly, and I was able to clamp it in position and drill it to prepare for tomorrow. I will have to remove it temporarily to trim a few spots and to enable a little bit of other work around where it mounts. The other wheel well proved more difficult to fit. First I discovered a pair of rivets that still needed to be drilled out. Then I found that some of the aluminum pieces I'd fabricated and installed over the weekend protruded into where the wheel well fit. A bit of trimming and fitting ensued until it almost fits right. I'll need to pull it tomorrow to trim the edge a bit more, but it is otherwise ready for drilling and installation.

Because of how long it took to remove the shocks, I only got about 2/3 of what I'd hoped to accomplished. Still, I hope tomorrow will be the big day, and that I'll get the wheel wells riveted to the sides. That'll be a giant step closer to getting the trailer a bit more closed up.

If you've actually been following this trailer rebuild, I just want to say thanks. If you haven't, you're likely not reading this, so, um, I guess any thanks would be superfluous.  :)

A Few Glimpses of the Past

I've linked to some of Volkmar's modeling efforts in the past. He recently updated his blog with three photos of scenes depicting circa 1918 electric railroading in the heart of the Midwest. Check it out if you have any interest in the subject, or just want to see a well-modeled and photographed view of the past.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tuesday Trailer Progress

Out I went at 6 PM on the dot to start working on the trailer. The steel I primed yesterday received its top coat of paint. I made a couple cuts on one of the sections of plywood floor for a better fit, then painted the cut edges to help seal them a bit. Then I cleaned around the leakiest window and sealed it with Parbond sealant, as well as cleaning and resealing the top seam of the drip caps above three of the five windows. I guess I'll see how much difference that makes when next it rains while I'm in the trailer. The drip caps over the other two windows will have to wait until I can get a better putty knife.

The shiny black surfaces on the bottom half of the photo are freshly-painted steel.
There's about four and a half feet of floor missing.  Note how many tools are sitting on the other side.
I really could have used a few of them this evening. Oops.
I actually have several decent putty knives, but along with my good hand saw they were in a corner of the trailer. The wet paint lay in between. Much sadness. [sigh]

Photo of the section of aluminum skin that was riveted into place yesterday.
Olympic rivets installed but with mandrels untrimmed and unshaved.

Then I decided to seal up a few rivet holes by putting rivets in them. I'm using TremPro 635 polyurethane sealant on each rivet I install. The rivets are 5/32" Olympic rivets, a blind rivet that is somewhat stronger than normal blind (pop) rivets and that can be finished to look much like the solid buck rivets Airstream used on the exterior. All of the 75 or so that I've installed still need to have their mandrels trimmed and then must be shaved using the rivet shaving tool. For now, there's a bit sticking out of each one.

Today I put in about two dozen and had a dozen to go when the rain started. I then spent ten minutes rushing around putting away tools, getting the plywood with its wet paint under cover, and generally cleaning up. When I finally walked in the door, I found that almost exactly two hours had elapsed.

Tomorrow's forecast calls for it to be too cool for the sealants or paints, so I will likely work on getting everything around where the wheel wells go ready for their installation, dry fit them, and do the necessary drilling. Then come Thursday I should be able to install them for real, with sealant and everything. As soon as the wheel wells are in place, the middle section of plywood floor can be dry fit if not permanently installed. When that plywood goes in I will be 60% complete on the floor replacement.

Isle of Man: A Paradise for Fans of Vintage Railways

I was looking at something on Google Maps last night and for some reason my attention was drawn to the Isle of Man, an island situated in the Irish Sea between Great Britain and Ireland. The rail lines I saw caused me to dig further and do a bit of research online. I discovered that the Isle of Man is, for a relatively small island, home to a number of vintage rail lines from the late Victorian.

All of the railways are narrow gauge, and by mileage the majority of the trackage is three foot gauge. Many of these lines operate with their original equipment, or at least with vintage equipment. The largest two originate from either end of the city of Douglas. The Isle of Man Railway operates about sixteen miles of line south from Douglas to Port Erin, and is steam operated. It is the remnant of a larger railway system that once served much more of the island. The Manx Electric Railway operates about 17 miles running north from Douglas through Laxey to Ramsey, and is operated by electric interurban cars. Although it lacks street running and some of the equipment is of odd design, it is otherwise a close match for American electric interurban railways.

At Laxey a connection is made with the electric-operated 3'6" gauge Snaefell Mountain Railway that ascends the mountain of the same name. Snaefell is the highest peak on the Isle of Man, reaching over two thousand feet in elevation, which is made more impressive by fact that it reaches that height a bare four miles from the sea. Also at Laxey is the Great Laxey Mine Railway, a short 19" gauge railroad running from a former mine to a former mill, which is operated by tiny steam locomotives and despite its short length runs through a tunnel under the Manx Electric Railway.

Before reaching Laxey, the Manx Electric Railway also passes near the western terminus of the 2' gauge Groudle Glen Railway, which operates steam-hauled trains on a short run to Sea Lion Rocks, a rocky headland on the Irish Sea northeast of Douglas. Also, at least until 2016, the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway operated horsecars along the coast in Douglas, but its future is uncertain.

Check out the Wikipedia page for "Rail transport in the Isle of Man" for a decent starting point on learning more.

Time and Perspective

I was reading some non-fiction at lunch and ran across a factoid that gives some perspective on time. After making his famous solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic in 1927, Charles Lindbergh made a stop in England. During a meeting with the king, Lindbergh was introduced briefly to the king's young granddaughter. Almost ninety years later, that granddaughter sits on the throne of England as Queen Elizabeth II.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday Trailer Progress

Despite the heavy downpours, it was warm this evening, so the exposed steel has been primed. I also discovered the shock absorbers that are present are only connected to the steel frame, and not to any element of the rest of the suspension. The present leaf spring and axle arrangement doesn't even appear to have a place they could have connected to. So now I plan to remove them. That will make the space occupied by the leaf springs, axle, and wheels a bit less crowded, and prevent the "loose" shock absorbers from causing problems if they shift around. If I ever need them I can install fresh ones.

One upside of the downpours is that I've identified a few spots where more sealing is required, primarily around windows. With rain predicted for much of next week, I'm going to try to focus on that and the painting tomorrow. If time and weather permit, the wheel wells will be reinstalled Wednesday or Thursday, paving the way for the next sections of plywood to be installed.

Recent Experience

A few recent experiences working on the trailer have led me to two conclusions. These may not apply universally, and are by no means the only safety practices one should follow, but they might protect against some injuries and soreness.

Remember to secure small pieces of metal or wood with clamps before attempting to drill them, lest they become spinning blades of doom.

Kneel, rather than crouching or bending, when working on areas that are low. Your back will thank you. Your knees will thank you, even more so if you remember to use knee pads.

That is all. Now, back to work!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Trailer Progress

I made much progress today! The replacement piece I mentioned yesterday, and its smaller friend I fabricated last week, were installed, along with the piece of channel that belongs at the edge of the floor. Before and after photos, though not from the  same angle, can be seen below.

March 5, showing damaged sections and opening
Today, with replacement sections in place and skins reattached
A bit of interesting (at least to me) science: The areas in red circles in the "before" photo show up as shiny in the "after" photo, because the aluminum alloy of the new pieces is much shinier than the 68-year old pieces adjacent to it, which have oxidized to a dull gray. Iron oxidize to form iron oxide, the reddish material we call rust, and will continue to rust away without further treatment.  The surface of aluminum oxidizes to a thin layer of aluminum oxide, but that layer protects the unoxidized aluminum below. This is why unpainted aluminum trailers, like Airstreams, are often polished - but must be treated with a protective sealant or repolished periodically. Polishing removes the layer of dull gray aluminum oxide to reveal shiny aluminum again, but the cycle of oxidation will start afresh without added protection. It should be noted that the older aluminum trailers (Airstream and contemporary imitators) could be polished to a much higher shine than modern Airstreams because they were skinned with 2024 Alclad, in which a sheet of 2024 alloy aluminum is coated with a very thin layer of pure aluminum. Modern Airstreams are produced with, IIRC, 3003 alloy aluminum, which aren't as shiny, but still have a pleasant sheen.

To get the skins reattached involved much drilling and temporary attaching if aluminum pieces via small devices known as clecos (named for the Cleveland-based company that created them), or panel holders. Nearly every hole has a cleco installed in it to make sure everything lines up. After everything was checked and double checked, most of the clecos were removed and a polyurethan-based sealant was applied where the panels were to join. Then I used Olympic rivets, a blind (pop) rivet that mimics the look of the solid (bucked) rivets used elsewhere on the trailer's exterior. Each rivet got a dab of the sealant on it to make sure it sealed watertight upon installation, and excess sealant along panel seams and at rivet holes was wiped away using rags wet with mineral spirits.

Aluminum skins temporarily attached with clecos.
Note the annoying dent in the panel is still present,
though much reduced from when I first acquired the trailer.
Alas, I have no pictures to show. I finished up about 9 PM, long after darkness had set in, and just a few minutes before the battery-powered work light ran out of juice. I still have to go back and cut off the remnants of the rivet shafts then apply a special tool to clean up each rivet head. I could have grabbed a fresh battery or an extension cord and kept working, except the special tool would make a lot of noise and I don't want to be the noisy neighbor.

If weather cooperates I may get that done tomorrow. If the weather is warm but rainy I will likely only be priming the steel; that steel needs to be primed and painted before the wheel wells and next section of plywood floor can go in. If it is especially cooperative I may be able to also address that ugly temporary patch you see on the right center of the above photo, and replace it with a real patch made from aluminum. The patch that had been there before, that came with the trailer when I purchased it, had been extremely battered so was removed.

It is starting to feel like I'm making real progress again. By the end of April I hope to have all of the new plywood floor in and the trailer weather-tight again, something it hasn't been since who knows when. Then comes all the rest of the stuff to turn it into a road-worthy trailer and a viable camper: brake lights, wiring and electrical, insulation, the minimal plumbing, reinstallation of the inner skins (inside walls), and the furniture. Whoo! That's a lot of work still to be done, but weatherproof and a good floor will go a long way to making that possible.

Dinner Break

I'm hard at work on the trailer today, and will have photos later. Right now I'm taking a brief dinner break. I may have a post on something else as well, maybe not.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Double Decker Teardrop Camper

I've learned not to say I've seen it all. That's a good thing, because I'd never seen anything like this before. I've seen teardrop camper trailers before, small trailers with little more than a mattress inside and a kitchen under a hatch at rear. Some of them are pretty neat. They are definitely on the small side, though not that small - the average interior height is perhaps six inches less than in a full-sized van.  Still, definitely not the claustrophobes out there.
Still image of double decker teardrop camper shown in linked YouTube video.
But I'd never seen one that was a double decker before. Expanding from teadrop height to standing height, yes. Fixed height but with a cross-wise "shelf" bed for little kids, yes. Expanding to provide two entire queen-sized "bedrooms" with about three and half foot of headroom above each, no. Not hardly. On the other hand, it seems quite real. You can check out a short video of it on YouTube.

Saturday Trailer Progress

Thanks to the cool temperatures and intermittent misting and drizzle, much of what I'd planned to do today couldn't be done. An exception was fabricating a replacement for a broken piece of channel that helps hold up the "wall" and "roof" of the trailer. About a week and a half ago, I posted about it. This evening, I went down to the basement to do something about it. Doesn't that 2024 alloy aluminum reflect quite nicely?

The T-section that replaces the broken channel.
 (Yes, there's a rivet missing at the top. I fixed that after I took the photo.)
Photo from about two weeks ago.
Fabricated piece will replace the lower portion of the bent and broken channel in center of photo.

Tiny Houses

Several places I frequent online have recently linked to a news report about an Oregon plan for construction of tiny houses in back yards as an attempt to reduce homelessness. Travel trailers and so-called mobile homes have much lower construction costs; why is the cost so high for these small structures. The crowd at Peter Grant's blog, Bayou Renaissance Man have offered some trenchant comments on the apparent high cost, as have those in other fora.

Here's a quick list of some of key reasons for the high relative cost of tiny houses, from my own mind and culled from what I've read in comments and elsewhere.

  1. Foundation costs - even a small slab foundation is likely to run about $8000. Admittedly, some tiny houses are constructed on trailer frames of some sort, but many are also built on permanent foundations, as I understand the ones in this case are.
  2. Bathroom and kitchen - there's a certain minimal cost involved in purchasing and installing the required fixtures and appliances, and this cost only increases when smaller, less-common versions are used (supply and demand) instead of standard ones.
  3. Code compliance - while a "mobile home" has to meet building codes, travel trailers and other RV's have looser standard.
  4. Finish quality - many of the tiny houses are built with pricier materials and finishes than a regular-sized stick-built house, let alone a mobile home. That may not be an issue in this particular story.
  5. Economies of scale - tiny house construction projects usually lack any economy of scale. They're typically built as one-offs or in very small volumes. Mobile homes are often built more like assembly-line work than normal houses, and even subdivisions of normal stick-built houses can have decent economies of scale with respect to materials ordering, labor, plan costs, etc.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Fannish Wedding

I just returned from the wedding and reception for a pair of friends of fannish bent. It was brief Christian wedding ceremony made remarkable only by the fact most of the music was composed by John Williams, rather than traditional wedding songs. The bride walked down the aisle to the sounds of the Throne Room theme from the end of the original Star Wars, though the groom claims he'd have preferred The Imperial March have been used. A good time seems to have been had by all. The vast majority of antipasto I made disappeared in short order. I wish the happy couple well. They're so cute together!

Now I'm going to recover from overindulging in the various dishes provided. Tomorrow will hopefully once more involve progress on the trailer.

Food and Farming

Cedar Sanderson has recently written a series of blog posts on food and farming. I found them interesting and thought provoking.  They were about Persistent Food Myths, the Future of Farming, and Monoculture, Agriculture, Permaculture.


I mentioned yesterday I was making antipasto. In case anybody wondered, this is what this batch looks like.


It is a giant pile of ham, roast beef, salami, capicola, olives, provolone, mozzarella, romano, cheddar, olives, marinated garlic, red peppers, pepperoncini, banana peppers, fresh tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, cauliflower, carrots, celery, and pickles.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Best Laid Plans

I have friends who are getting married tomorrow afternoon. It's a relatively small, low-key affair, and a few of us are helping out by supplying some of the food for the reception after the ceremony. I was asked to bring my antipasto, a platter of cold cut meats, cheeses, and vegetables that was inspired by a similar dish my aunt made. Most of my friends and acquaintances love it. Cold cuts have a limited shelf life, though, so I waited until tonight to pick them up. It seemed like it would be a simple enough affair to leave work, stop for a couple slices of pizza, do the necessary shopping, head home, and throw together the antipasto, with plenty of time to spare for working on the trailer.

Then some minor problems popped up at work, delaying my departure about 45 minutes. That wasn't a serious problem, though, and once I was out the door from work I relaxed.  The first five minutes after I left seemed to go according to plan, if delayed just a bit. I drove off into the sunset, intent on getting to the highway. Then I noticed all the dirt and dust on the windshield and decided to spritz the windshield and clean it. I hit the button and watched as a long strip of the rubber wiper blade tore almost free, but not quite. Instead, as the wipers finally stopped, I could hear the strip of rubber going flap, flap, flap as I drove down the street. I pulled into a store parking lot and tied the strip of rubber down.

The next part of the plan seemed to work well enough. I had two delicious slices of New York style pizza, did the grocery shopping, drove home, and put the groceries away. But tomorrow's forecast calls for rain, so I needed to go grab a new wiper blade tonight. I drove the short way to nearest auto parts store. Alas, they'd closed ten minutes before I got there. No problem, I thought, I'll just stop - nope, closed. That place was closed to. So was the other place. Finally, I found a place that was still open, bought the darn wiper blade, and got home. It was well after 9 PM and I still had a wiper blade to install and an antipasto to make.

Except I realized the kitchen needed to be cleaned first. Why I didn't think to do that yesterday I don't know, but I didn't. My kitchen is now clean. But it is now closer to 11 PM than 10 PM, and I still have to make the antipasto and install a wiper blade. It is safe to say that no work on the trailer will be happening tonight. I'm off to get a work light and install the wiper blade now.

. . .

And I'm back. So, sixty minutes driving around to buy a new wiper blade earlier, then a grand total of five minutes to handle the actual replacement including the time to get the work light, and the battery for it, and a set of pliers in case there was a problem. Jeez.

. . .

The antipasto awaits. Good night, all.

This One's a Real Gem

Crater of Diamonds State Park in Arkansas is fairly small as state parks go, but it is also unique among state parks. It is a gem mine open to the public for a small fee. Originally a commercial mine site, it was the source of the largest diamond found in North America, but was not very profitable, and it was sold to the government of the state of Arkansas in the 1970's or 80's and turned into a state park. For a small fee the gem field is open for searching and digging by members of the general public, and it produces not just its namesake diamonds but a wealth (pardon the pun) of other gem stones. A teenager just discovered a 7.44 carat diamond there. The local news in the area covered the story. Neat.

Snow-motion Footage

It seems that everybody is linking to the slow-motion video of a train pulling into the snow-covered tracks of a New York station. You can see it coming, so to speak, even if too many passengers standing on the platform were rather oblivious. You can check it out for yourself over at this post on Peter Grant's blog, among other places. It's kind of. . . cool. Maybe even cold. ;)

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

I don't know if I've posted about this here before or not, but here goes. The BNSF (Burlington Northern Santa Fe) railroad has track running down the center of Houser Way in Renton, Washington. That's not too unusual, and in fact used to be fairly common, but over the past century or so towns and cities throughout the US have pushed to have railroads reroute their tracks onto private rights-of-way, and as the inner city industries that once required rail service go out of business. So it is a little more rare these days than in decades past. But in this case, it is even more unusual, as the tracks in question carry trains to the Boeing factory. Among the more notable freight those trains carry are the fuselages of Boeing 737 airplanes from a Boeing facility in Kansas to the facility in Renton where final assembly takes place. Linked here is footage of a train carrying several such a load down the street, past parked along the sides of the road and across the route of cars travelling the cross streets. So, we have planes, trains, and automobiles.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wednesday Progress / Forecast

It continues to be cold here, so I've mostly been working inside. I've cut the sides of the wheel wells to match the shape of the outer skins of the trailer. Below is a photo of what one looked like on Sunday, illustrating why the cutting was required. I'll likely dry fit them again tomorrow to make sure I didn't under-trim.

Before trimming
The current forecast calls for it to warm up again to temperatures I need starting Sunday. I need three warmish days, the last also dry, in order to get the wheel wells in and the plywood floor over them. Why? Because I need to prime and paint the steel the wheel wells and plywood floor rest atop, and that requires a minimum temperature of 50° F. Also because the wheel wells need to be riveted in place from the outside, which for a watertight seal requires a sealant, and that sealant has a 40° F minimum temperature.

Before that, over the weekend, I might get the "holes" at rear resolved over the weekend, if all works out OK. Once that's dealt with and the new plywood floor above the wheel wells is installed, the rest of the old floor is coming out. That also involves removing a number of large, rusty nuts and bolts, which complicates things. I'm sure I can remove the old plywood floor without too much difficulty, but the nuts and bolts need to be out of way before new plywood floor can be slid into position.

We'll see how it all goes soon enough. I'm impatient to be making progress but the bright side to the next few lukewarm days is that it should give me time to double check everything, dry fit all the components, and generally make sure that once the weather cooperates, things will go as smoothly as possible.

C&LE Red Devil model

Over on the Interurban Railways blog I saw that Volkmar designed a CAD model of the Cincinnati & Lake Erie (C&LE) high-speed, lightweight trolley car known as the "Red Devil." Moreover, he has 3D printed an N-scale (1:160) model of this marvel of 1929-1930 engineering. The real ones used to run from the outskirts of Cincinnati to Dayton, Columbus, Toledo, and Detroit at speeds of up to about 90 MPH. They passed by about a mile from where I'm typing this. Very cool.