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.

Volcanoes and the Habitable Zone

I was reading earlier and saw an article about how volcanoes can impact exoplanet atmosphere and climate. While I suppose most are familiar with the impacts volcanic eruptions can have here on earth (if you're not, check out 1816, the Year Without a Summer, for an example), what the article is discussing is somewhat different. Instead of dust clouds it is concerned with hydrogen released by substantial volcanic eruptions producing an atmosphere that allows a planet to retain water across a larger distance from its star. Essentially, enough hydrogen in the atmosphere expands the habitable zone outwards. The article discusses some possibilities with respect to the recently-discovered TRAPPIST-1 system, which discovery I mentioned in an earlier blog post. Very interesting stuff.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Don't Get Pissed has an article about German researchers are looking at how to grow tomatoes in urine to keep crews fed on voyages to Mars.

Airstream Closets and Storage

Since I posted earlier today about closets, I thought I'd briefly mention the closet and drawer situation with respect to the 1949 Airstream trailer I'm repairing and restoring. Though I'm currently weeks away from completing the replacement of the floor, I've been given consideration to the rest of the work involved. Adequate clothing storage space is a definite consideration. Most of the Airstream floor plans for that size and of that vintage (1948-1949) had two 20" wide closets, two 18" wide chests with five drawers each, plus additional drawers under the beds, not to mention kitchen storage. I don't need to bring along all my clothes, but enough for 7-10 days would be nice. Of course, it might not be just me along. If all that storage space could be used, it's probably more than adequate for even two people on a camping trip, possibly acceptable for three, but getting rather tight for four.

Created from content in 1949 Airstream brochure
Sadly, not all that space can be used. Space needs to be available for at least some of the camp gear like folding tables, folding chairs, canopy, grill, etc. Some of it can be stowed in the tow vehicle instead of the closet. Also, since there isn't a bathroom aboard the trailer, there needs to be space to stash shower shoes, toiletry bags, towels, etc. for use at the shower facilities. In any case, I do I probably need to reserve one closet for some of that, rather than for clothing.

That leaves one single 20" wide closet and the drawers. I can't use all the space under the bed and dinettes for drawers, as various systems are going to situated under them.  At least initially, I'm leaving out the stove and the rest of the propane-power appliances (furnace, refrigerator). In place of the stove, I think a similarly-sized chest of drawers could provide enough added storage space. If a trip lasts long enough, a visit to the laundromat will be required, but that should bring me to 14-15 drawers of about 16" x 15" x 5.5" size, plus the closet, plus some yet-to-be-determined number of drawers under bed and dinette.  I hope that shall be enough, but we shall have to see.


Closets were on my mind as I fell asleep last night. I'd been reading a book that contained some vintage (first decade of 20th century) house plans and one thing that leaped out at me was how small the closets were. Alma Boykin's post about cheap clothes helps explain why that was the case. Clothes were once quite expensive, and cheap clothes weren't really prevalent until well into the latter half of the 20th century. As a result, when clothes were more expensive most people owned fewer of them, and required less closet space. I suspect closet space has increased as clothes prices have declined. I offer some anecdotes in support.

The house I spent the first years of my life in was built in the early 1960's, and it had small closets, about the same size as the late 1950's house I bought and live in now. My parent's master bedroom did have a closet twice the size of the ones in the other bedrooms. The single bedroom apartment I rented when I moved out on my own, in a complex built in the late 1960's, had about the same closet space as that first house I lived in. The late 70's era condo my parents now occupy has a walk-in closet off the master bedroom while the other closets are sized midway between the modest closets of the late 1950's and larger ones more commonly seen since the 1980's.

By the time my parents were dragging me along on house hunting trips in the 1980's, walk-in closets had become common for the master bedroom and closet sizes for other bedrooms was creeping upwards as well. The new house they finally bought around 1992 had a walk in closet off the master bedroom and the rest of the bedrooms had large closets, 2.5 to 4 times the size of what I'd had before. The situation was similar in the next two houses my parents moved into, both of late 1990's construction.

Clearly, in my personal experience, older living spaces had less closet space, newer living spaces more closet space. From the recently-constructed houses of friends, I think the trend has largely reached a plateau. However, note the prevalence of various storage locker companies, to allow people to store more stuff that doesn't fit in their house, condo, or apartment. How much of that stuff is clothes? One wonders.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Monday Evening Report

My report on this Monday evening is there's little to report on. The snow was already coming down by the time I left work.  I made some pasta for dinner then had a lengthy nap. Weather forecasts for the next few days are not promising for the priming and painting I need to do on the trailer. I'm going to get ready for bed now. I like being on Daylight Saving Time but the shift is taking some adjustment, exacerbated this morning by the darn garbage men waking me up in wee hours with all their noise.

Quiet Blogs, Missing Texans

I was taking a brief break at work and checked up on a few blogs I follow, which seem a bit quieter than normal today. It seems the bloggers in question are busy having fun doing research in the Texas panhandle. As compared to staring at PL/SQL code that's almost old enough to vote while waiting for the snowstorm to hit, that sounds mighty fine right about now.

A Quick Monday Lunch Post

As I sit writing this and nibbling on the last of my lunch, the sounds of the adjacent building being torn down can be heard. Not merely adjacent, but attached and abutting, in fact. A large wrecking ball is pounding at concrete and steel. It is somewhat distracting.

Alas, it is not sufficient to distract me to how stiff and sore I am. After dinner last night, I went back out to the trailer and worked for another couple hours, sanding the steel and cleaning the remaining mess (disintegrated insulation batts, pebbles, dirt, rodent feces, sawdust, and pieces of wood) the belly skins were supporting. Much Clorox was sprayed, many paper towels were discarded, and several pairs of disposable gloves were disposed of. I wouldn't eat off it, but it is no longer gross nor a potential source of infection. Yay.

After I cleaned up last night, I started rereading Sarah Hoyt's Shifter series, which I hadn't read in ages. Lots of fun to be had reading that. My only complaint is I want to read the next one now, and I don't think it's even been written yet.

Now, I must get back to work. I have another few hours of work I can do on the trailer but then I'm likely stymied for a bit by the low temperatures. I may write and post another book review this evening if time permits.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Sunday Trailer Progress

Much of today's work on the trailer restoration was devoted to the area seen in the photo below. The wheel tubs on both sides were dry fit, with a number of obstructions being removed on the curb side of the trailer to permit a good fit. The street side wheel well was able to be fit with much less difficulty.
Dry fitting the replacement wheel well. Note the adjacent entry step.

Most of the rest of the time was spent removing the old entry step, the wooden board for which was warped and may have been suffering from dry rot. The flooring attached to it was of unknown provenance, so I treated it as potentially asbestos containing and was wearing a breathing mask when working on it, and disturbed it as little as possible to get at the four hidden screws that were holding it in place. Finding they existing, then actually locating them, proved a far greater hassle than any other aspect of today's efforts.

Street side wheel well in position and marked so it can be cut to fit.

I just finished getting cleaned up from today's efforts and will be eating dinner. I may do more this evening, or not. If not, there will likely be an additional post, perhaps another book review, perhaps something else.


It's really cold outside at the moment, just below freezing. So I'm going to enjoy a nice hot lunch and wait for it to warm up a bit. I finished Alma Boykin's The Language of the Land last night, and will probably do a review in the near future.  I've started reading a "new" non-fiction book, Winston Groom's The Aviators, on Rickinebacker, Doolittle, and Lindbergh. So far, I'm enjoying it quite a bit. There will probably be another post later in the day.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Book Reivew: The Sea & Civilization

Last month at a Half Price Books I stumbled across The Sea & Civilization by Lincoln Paine, a lengthy tome of maritime history. The description drew me in instantly and I purchased it, but as I was mostly reading it in small portions during my lunch, it took my well over a month to work through its 599 pages. That may sound lengthy, and it is, because it needs to be. It is very broad in scope, covering the entire globe across tens of millennia.

It features archaeological, anthropological, and historical sources to reconstruct human travel along rivers and across seas. Based upon the area and era, the mixture of sources vary, but Paine uses whatever is available to paint the best picture he can of the maritime matters. He covers both civilian shipping and war at sea, and how they related to civilizations at a given time.

The topic of goods being traded and the maritime merchant world generally get more space than the naval matters, the life of a sailor, or the details of the ships. In part this is because of what written record survives, which often offered little insight into the life of the common civil or naval sailor, and little reliable about the ships involved. Some naval battles are discussed briefly to demonstrate typical technology or tactics of an era and civilization, or if a battle had an especially large impact upon history.

Whenever enough details are available about the ships and crews, from the written record or archaeological finds, Paine discusses them in suitable depth, but where they're scarce or unreliable short blocks of informed speculation hold sway instead. In part, this is an artifact of the times. Major merchants have long needed some degree of literacy, especially those who traded far and wide and needed to communicate with other merchants abroad. Most sailors were not very literate until recent centuries. Historians often went nowhere near the sea, and if they did, their unfamiliarity with ships and seafaring often resulted in vague descriptions. Even learned passengers those who traveled by ship and wrote of their journeys often left little reliable detail about the ships and crews.

Despite that, I found that this book helped the maritime past come alive in my mind's eye. It filled in many blanks in my knowledge, particularly with respect to the maritime practices of the Indian Ocean and East Asia. I'm definitely glad I read this book and intend to retain it as a reference.

There is an extensive section of source notes and bibliography at the end. There were no noticeable issues with typos or printing. However, I do not like the deckle (rough, untrimmed) edges of the printing I purchased.

I would definitely recommend this book to anybody with an interest in seafaring, naval history, or history in general. If you're not reading it in 15-20 minute portions, it will probably be devoured at a much faster pace than I managed.

A Trailer Progress Report

For a trailer just a couple years shy of its seventieth birthday, the old floor plywood was in amazingly good shape - except at the edges.  The outer 6-12" of the plywood sheets can be torn apart by hand with relative ease. Hence the need to replace all of it.

Last week, another 20% of the new floor plywood went in, bringing the total to 40% of the new floor installed. With work yesterday and today, just over 60% of the old plywood is gone. I dry fit the next 20% of new floor today; some minor trimming is required on one of the two pieces in order to fit properly. 

40% of the new floor in, 20% more being dry fit
In the photo above, you can see more than just the new floor. You can also see the gap of the missing wheel well at right. The battered old wheel well on the other side came out this evening. Now I have a much better idea of how the wheel well is supposed to connect, and have changed my plans ever so slightly.

The wheel well is galvanized steel and was riveted to aluminum and regular steel.
Note the rusty patches along some edges due to galvanic corrosion.
Alas, no matter how much progress I may make over the next few days, the temperature continues to offer an annoying roadblock. Between them, installation of the new wheel wells and of those closest sections of new floor have dependencies upon painting steel they're resting upon, which can't happen below 50° F. I couldn't do that earlier because the old plywood is in the way. And before painting with a top coat there needs to be priming, which also requires warmer temperatures. The wheel wells need to go in before the next floor sections. I so look forward to having the floor replacement done, because everything after that becomes easier - and because I won't need to do nearly so much kneeling after that!

Tomorrow will likely involve a bit of sanding and cleanup of the mess that lay beneath the old floors. I did a rough cleanup today but it wasn't perfect and I'll be adding the rust from sanding the steel to the mess. The wheel wells and areas where they must be installed need a bit more work before I'll be ready to install them. There's only a bit more beyond that I can do until temperatures warm up. Perhaps I will return to constructing the drawers for the eventual furniture.

Expect a book review later tonight or sometime tomorrow.

The Value of Money

I was reading something the other day that mentioned that Chief Sitting Bull's pay while with Buffalo Bill's Wild West was $50 per week plus all the oyster stew he could eat. That's about $2500 per year. I vaguely wondered how much that kind of money bought back in 1885, but I didn't bother doing any research. However, from other books I'm reading today I see that a quarter century later, $10 per week was a decent wage for unskilled labor in Columbus, OH and that a two passenger Ford could be had for $500. From that, I think I can conclude that Sitting Bull was being paid pretty well to ride around the arena on horseback a couple times per day.

Friday, March 10, 2017

RV and House Together

Now that's different! Over forty years ago, a man named George Bunzer designed a house that combines with an RV (Recreational Vehicle - either a motorhome or a travel trailer). A short article and floor plan were published in the October 1976 issue of Popular Science magazine. The author's son is still selling the detailed plans, including plans for a "hidden door" to use in place of the regular garage door shown in the illustration below.

From Popular Science Vol. 209, No. 4, p. 132
The idea seems to be that a person with an RV would build this at either a vacation site, or as a primary residence. One side of the structure protects the RV and provides the utility space and extensive storage, with the other side provides additional living space, a large close, and a full sized bathroom. Meanwhile, the RV itself provides the cooking facilities, sleeping space, and another bathroom.

More recent and less integrated approaches, seen in some buildings referred to as "RV port homes," can be found.  One example is this one.

However, I think I prefer the Bunzer original. I currently don't see myself building such a thing, but its a quite fascinating concept.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Semi-Productive Day

I finally finished reading The Sea & Civilization at lunch. Yay! Given that I was reading it in ten-to-twenty minute sittings at lunch time and an infrequent dinner, it went quick, but from any other perspective that was some of the longest 599 pages to read. I'll probably write a review tomorrow.

Tonight, though, I'm too tired. It felt like a long day at work. Then I spent nearly two hours working on the trailer after dinner.  I removed another 10% of the old floor plywood, some of which was rotted (hence the removal), and have got the battered old wheel well nearly clear to be removed. Afterwards I tool a thirty minute walk, showered, and spent about thirty minutes surfing the web, plus a few minutes writing this blog post.

I'll be going to bed in a just a few more minutes. For all that I've only been up fifteen hours, it has taken its toll on me. The trailer work isn't so much arduous as it involves a lot of awkward postures and awkward motion, the kind that make the body ache. So I bid you all adieu.

A Brief Note

Winter is set to return to southwest Ohio. I am not happy about that. I've been making slow but somewhat steady progress on renovation of my gutted Airstream trailer. Cold temperatures will interfere with glues, sealants, paint, etc. They will also make evening walks much less comfortable. Alas, weather control is not exactly something we have here in 2017 Earth. Perhaps in the future, or somewhere "beyond the heavens" so to speak?

On the plus side, I'll likely have a bit more time to catch up on some things for this blog. For now, I must content myself with the hope that the sealant I applied last night seals the few leaks I've so far found in the Airstream, for the rains come tonight.

I made no more progress last night on reading Alma Boykin's steampunk novel; I was too tired after I'd finished working on the trailer, taken my evening walk, and cleaned up for the evening. Only a few tens of pages were left. She's got a review up on her blog of a book on the search for the Sarasvati river, the vanished river around which lived the ancient, mysterious, and long-vanished Harappan civilization.

I've almost finished up The Sea & Civilization. I've made it through WWII and the Korean War and am in the middle of the containerization revolution. The statistics quoted in the book show an approximate 97% reduction in costs loading and unloading a freighter with containerization. That's pretty drastic and explains why it took hold relatively quickly, despite the need the completely reconstruct or replace port facilities and ships to accommodate it. Very interesting stuff. I shall probably finish reading it at lunch today.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An Afternoon Note

I was trying to figure out how to bend some of the metal for the renovation of my gutted Airstream trailer when a could of ideas came up. I have only limited fabrication tools and skills, but thin aluminum sheet can be relatively easy bent. The trick is often in getting it to do so relatively uniformly, or of getting the right leverage. My home-built metal bending brake isn't the right tool for some tasks, the hand-held bender that's intended for bending ductwork has too shallow a mouth, and pliers are not uniform enough to wider/longer bends. So I used Visio to do a crude drawing of a couple tools that might help address this. I'll see what happens when I have a chance to create them and use them.

Drawing of two metalworking tools