Saturday, 20 August 2016

Railways and the Amish community around Strasburg, Pennsylvania - Part 3 of our holiday

Strasburg, a borough in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is a haven of peace and tranquility,  although less than an  hour by car away from the roaring, snarling 8 (other numbers are available!) lane concrete dual carriageway with giant spaghetti intersections forming the monster superhighway Interstate 95, which runs south from the Canadian border, all the way down the east coast to Miami in Florida!

There are lots of photos and information to follow, so, if it all becomes too much, just look at what interests you!

The Pennsylvania Railroad was set up in 1846 and a track network linked the east coast, near here, with the steel town of Pittsburgh far in the west. 
The railroad museum was set up on agricultural land in Strasburg in 1975 with the aim of preserving as much as possible of local railway history. It is owned and operated by a State commission and supported by private funding and public donations. The collection comprises over 100 locomotives and carriages, half of which are housed in an indoor exhibition hall of 9,200  m2 (100,000 sq ft). While the vast majority are no longer operable, it is still an enormous thrill to stand next to these, now silenced, giants of early mass transportation and imagine them in action!

Number 1223 above is a 4-4-0 (four leading and four driving wheels) "American" type steam locomotive, the only surviving example of the D16sb class, built in 1905 for the Pennsylvania Railroad by the railroad's own Altoona Works for passenger service. This Workshop at one time employed 16,500 people! In its later life, the locomotive pulled local excursion trains   from 1965 until 1989, when it had to be removed from service, needing firebox repairs.  Very (too) expensive no doubt!


The 1902 built Class E7s 4-4-2 (but listed as a 4-4-0 for some reason!) locomotive with this number, 7002, allegedly set a  land speed record of 127 mph (203 kph) in 1905. When the loco was required to be displayed in 1939 at the New York World's Fair, it was found to have been scrapped (!), so it was decided to rebuild 8063, another of the same class, to look like the scrapped record breaker. It is the only survivor now and, like 1223 above, was gifted to the museum. I just love the cow catcher and headlight!


This "John Bull" is a replica of an 1831 English locomotive, built in 1940 by the local Altoona workshop.

Built in 1939 by Heisler Locomotive Works  this 0-8-0 loco named "D" has no boiler or firebox! It was bought by Pennsylvania Power and Light Company for hauling coal trucks at their power generating plant, after this 95 tonne heavyweight proved too much to bear for the rails at the site of its original owner,the Hammermill Paper Co! Called a fireless steam locomotive, it could carry enough steam in the huge front cylinder  for several hours operation. As steam was a by-product of the power  generating plant, the loco could easily be refuelled with steam when required, so the concept made economic sense at the time. This unit, displayed in 1940's style livery, was retired from service in 1969. 

The G5s was a class of 4-6-0 steam locomotives built in the mid-late 1920s. It was designed to pull passenger trains, particularly on commuter lines, and became a fixture on suburban railroads (notably the Long Island Rail Road) until the mid-1950s. One of three surviving examples, 5741 above was selected in 1979  for preservation and display upon its retirement.


In a post WW2 effort to replace worn-out steam locomotives, two EP20 class passenger diesels were ordered and constructed in 1945 by the Electro-Motive division of General Motors (see, they didn't just make cars!). This surviving locomotive 5901 and her now defunct sister 5900 have the distinction of being the first pair of such locomotives delivered to the Pennsylvania Railroad.

In the late 19th century, logging companies had to solve the problem of moving logs from the forest to the mill as cheaply as possible. Ephram Shay, a timberman, designed his own locomotive, which he hoped would cope with the steep inclines and sharp turns found in forestry areas. In 1880, he took the design to Lima Locomotive Works. The off-centre boiler powered a set of vertical pistons which in turn operated a geared drive shaft to turn the wheels.  The design grew and evolved; this is "Leetonia No. 1" from 1906, but between 1880 and 1946, over 2,700 examples of this rather different, but effective, design were produced.


What I would call an "Airstream" style passenger railcar used on local tracks. No detailed commentary was provided around it in this outside siding, but I liked the retro design!

This ginormous 4-8-2, Number 6755 in the M1b class, was another type of loco produced by the aforementioned Altoona Works in 1930. It was used predominantly in freight service, though it would occasionally be used for passenger trains. In 1953, this particular locomotive went back to the Altoona Works and was rebuilt. It continued to be used for freight service, but only for 4 years, when in January 1957, it was retired. Now this grand locomotive stands rather neglected and forlorn in the outside display area. I'm amazed by all those rivets!!


A modern (1939) replica of the John Stevens Steam Wagon from 1825. Stevens built the original locomotive as a concept and ran it on on a small circle of track in Hoboken, New Jersey. He chartered the first railroad in Pennsylvania in 1823, though it was never constructed! The boiler and safety valve of the original machine are now in the Museum of American History.


Built in 1918 by Heisler for the Chicago Mill and Lumber Co, No 4 is another geared locomotive along the lines of the Leetonia above. Despite its more diminutive size, it weighed about 50 tons!  It was the first locomotive purchased in 1966  for display at the museum.


Built in 1883 by Baldwin, this sweet little Olomana is a 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge 0-4-2 saddle tank locomotive, used in sugar cane harvesting.  Not used since 1977, it is on loan from the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. It was the third self-propelled vehicle to operate in Hawaii - well that's always good to know!


Built by Juniata in 1916, 1670 was one of the first B6sb class 0-6-0 engines built with some of the emerging new and improved design features available at that time. It toiled in freight yards until October 15, 1957, one of the last steam engines to be retired.


And now for something completely different! The Amish (or Pennsylvania Dutch) people, from European roots, have long been settled in this area, co-existing with modern society whilst quietly pursuing their own simpler, devoutly religious, family-centred and community based way of life, as it would have existed hundreds of years ago. The "old Amish order" do not allow electricity in their homes and do not drive cars. One would think this philosophy would have died out, but in fact, the Amish population has nearly TRIPLED since 1960 and while the tourist industry must provide a good source of income, they discourage too close contact with the modern world. They dislike being photographed and prefer farming to provide for their requirements. Their transportation is by means of horse-drawn carriages, buggies and carts, although sometime you may see  much more modern farm equipment pulled by horses!

Horses shaded from the hot summer sun and carriages awaiting passengers for tourist trips.

Immaculately manicured Amish farmland. Much work is done by hand!

A goat and an Alpaca in a kids' entertainment enclosure.

To finish, green, green, Amish farmland! I wonder if they use fertiliser? Probably not!

Thanks Nigel for all your research.



Also see my daily diary HERE


and My Life Before Charente (updated 09 April 2016)  I will get back to this eventually!


Monday, 8 August 2016

A (short!) day in Philadelphia


A distant view of Philadelphia city centre, as seen through the side of the Girard Point Bridge, which is a double-decker cantilever bridge carrying the trunk road Interstate 95 across the Schuylkill River. The bridge was opened in 1973 and carries three lanes of traffic across the river in each direction at each level.


Viewing Philadelphia centre from a horse and carriage, one of many on offer for hire. Note the cobbled street!

We became embroiled in a Gay Rights March, organised it appeared in support of the victims of the Orlando massacre a few days before. The police closed the whole city centre, so it proved almost impossible to find anywhere to park! The parade passed up and down the streets in which the main historical buildings are situated (this photo is of Market Street, the main street in the city) and the whole area was swarming with countless thousands of people! After taking the few photos below, we went back to the car and beat a hasty retreat out of town!

Independence Hall, now dwarfed by more modern buildings, is where both the  Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and adopted.

The Clock Tower of Independence Hall.

The Religious Liberty statue, outside the National Museum of American Jewish History, shows a woman, symbolising liberty, shielding a boy with a lamp, representing religious faith. On the opposite side of the woman, is a carved eagle crushing a snake, a classic symbol of American democracy and representing the country's struggle against intolerance.

B'nai B'rith, a Jewish human-rights advocacy group founded in 1843, commissioned the sculpture and gave it to the American people for the Centennial celebration in Philadelphia in 1876.



The American Civil War was effectively ended in June 1863 at the Battle of Gettysburg, after which General Lee of the Confederate Army (the South) surrendered  to the Union (the North). It was estimated over 25,000 men were killed on each side in this battle alone.This giant mural depicts the first few words of the closing paragraph of President Lincoln's subsequent "Gettysburg address". The entire closing paragraph of Lincoln's famously concise 273 word speech, for those unfamiliar with it, was delivered at the inauguration of the Gettysburg National Cemetery in late 1863 and is worth restating.


"With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."


The Benjamin Franklin Bridge – originally named the Delaware River Bridge, and now informally called the Ben Franklin Bridge – is a suspension bridge across the Delaware River connecting Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and Camden in New Jersey.

The Philadelphia Eagles are a professional American football (as opposed to soccer!) franchise based in Philadelphia. This is their very grand stadium, the size reflecting the enormous popularity of the game in the USA.



Also see my daily diary HERE


and My Life Before Charente (updated 09 April 2016)  I will get back to this eventually!

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

A holiday away from the Charente - Part One.

We have never been to the United States before and at the invitation of a number of friends who have moved there over the years, we decided to do some visiting!  We have long time friends from both South Africa and Rhodesia scattered around, so there was much to catch up on and see.  One of the very top opportunities was to spend a few days at the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and meet up with Gaelyn from  http://geogypsytraveler.com/; we have been following each other's blogs almost since the day I started blogging.

This post only covers day one and two of a 4 week trip, so I hope you have the stamina for all there is to see and follow!! I still have many photos to look through, edit and check, so this is all going to take sometime!
9 June 2016
One of our friendly French neighbours took us and our luggage to the railway station in Angouleme to catch the TGV (high speed train) to Paris. There he is, wheeling a case!  However, the trip was in doubt until the last minute due to French union strike action. When we had booked all the travel 6 months previously, that wasn't on the radar!!  To cut a long story short, Nigel went to our local station 3 times to check if our train to Paris would run!  Each time he were told yes, and then the day before we travelled, we had an email to say it had been cancelled!!  After another trip to the station,we finally managed to rebook, but all trains were almost full due to cancellations and our seats were upstairs, up which we had to drag 3 cases, plus hand luggage and cameras!

Leaving Angouleme, I could not fail to remind you that it is the city of the  comic strip and a haven for graphic artists; these are a few of the paintings around the railway station.

There appeared to be a Bar - Brasserie behind these doors, but it all looked pretty quiet while we were there - well, it was half past seven in the morning!





10 June 2016
By the time we had arrived in Paris, with arms full of luggage and located and caught the shuttle bus to our hotel, the time flew, so the only photos I managed was this one from the hotel window, looking out at the sunrise the following day, and those below.


There were signs everywhere that the UEFA Euro 2016 Football (soccer) Championship was on in France and  hotels everywhere were packed with soccer fans!


Waiting at the hotel the next morning for the shuttle bus to take us just up the road to........

 Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.
These are Air France 'planes, but their aircrews had been on strike intermittently for many weeks, creating enormous disruption. Strikes are still going on as I type this! Luckily we were flying with American Airlines!

Our first morning, with a sunrise, in Delaware, after landing at the nearby Philadelphia airport  the evening before.  We were very tired, as it had been a long two days travel from home, especially with the 5 hour time change!



Also see my daily diary HERE


and My Life Before Charente (updated 09 April 2016) 

Monday, 6 June 2016

Just to let you know..........

Just to let you know that we are not (I hope), disappearing from the blog, but as we are off on a special holiday, all will be very quiet probably until at least the end of July.  Here are a few of my favourite photos from this year to see us on our way.
Robin - Jan 2016

Blue Tit - Jan 2016

Daffodil - Feb 2016

Sunset - March 2016

Millau Viaduct - April 2016

Rainbow - April 2016

Green Lizard - May 2016

Bumble Bee - May 2016

Snail - May 2016

Ladybird - May 2016


Also see my daily diary HERE

and My Life Before Charente (updated 09 April 2016)