Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spirits of Ancient Egypt

Thinking of traveling through the after life? Make your journey a bit more familiar by taking a few lively companions. That's what ancient Egyptians did. Many of the pharaoh tombs contain smaller remains of "pets" who were prepared for the envisioned travel with the newly deceased king, queen or other mummified person. Several animal remains have been long discovered in small effigy jars. Today they stare back at us some 2,200 years after being prepared. Find these two attentive vessels of a dog and monkey at a 42N location - Chicago's Field Museum - Inside Ancient Egypt exhibit. Know that.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Delta Airlines ORD Offers More Than Missing Luggage Information

Air travelers visiting Delta Airlines baggage services at Chicago O'Hare (ORD) airport are either already mad or about to be mad regarding their missing luggage. That's what two Delta veterans recently told me. But actually the opposite was observed on Thursday afternoon. Lost luggage was reunited with one happy traveler. Other passengers received information from the desk about the airport layout, where to get a meal, when the next flight arrives, and where the closest ground transportation was located.

A FEMA logisitics manager stationed in Mississippi was assured that his luggage was on the next Delta flight since he had a tight connection earlier that day and knew his bags would not probably make it with him. His bag did arrive on the next flight from Atlanta which meant that he could attend his son's graduation at the Great Lakes Naval Academy as planned without the worry and inconvenience of lost luggage.

Tim Parnell (behind the counter) assisted an elderly passenger to understand his itinerary. Tim pointed out the great thing about working for Delta in Chicago is all about helping people. He enjoys watching aircraft and highly recommends the annual Chicago Air and Water Show as a great family event. If you like aircraft photos (who doesn't?) Tim suggests visiting the airliner.net web site for some great images. Know that.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sand Tower at Marshalltown Yard

From my last post you know that I recently photographed the century old rail yard in Marshalltown, Iowa. What I didn't know was the name of the tower or its purpose as seen on the left side of this photo. All you railroad (RR) old-timers can stop reading now because you already know the answer.

Turns out the structure is called a Sand Tower. Ok, so is that RR slang for a modern diesel fuel depot? Is it a hold out from the old days of coal and steam power? What is the connection between sand and anything to do with railroading? After an unfruitful search on the Internet I found a knowledgeable source and asked the questions.

Evan Werkema, a railroad expert and the web master for the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Subjects web site responded with this information about what a sand tower is and why it is named such:

"The name is quite literal - they are towers with a bin at the top containing fine, dry sand, along with hoses for dispensing the sand into sand bunkers on locomotives, and some means of getting sand deliveries up to the bin in the first place. Steel wheels on steel rails are a more fuel efficient way of moving goods compared to rubber tires on asphalt in part because there is less friction between the surfaces. The downside, of course, is that ordinary trains can only climb modest grades, and water or oil on the rail can cause locomotive wheels to slip and potentially make the train stall. To temporarily increase the friction and diminish wheelslip, locomotives are equipped with sanders that blow sand in front of or behind the wheels when the engineer or the locomotive computer system deems it necessary. Most diesel locomotives have sand bunkers at the front and rear that contain a quantity of fine, dry sand, and the bunkers are refilled as needed at sand towers located in locomotive servicing facilities. Some are just a single cylindrical bin atop a metal girder which can serve two locomotives at a time, while others are more complicated "sanding racks" with multiple bins and sets of hoses that can serve multiple locomotives, often in conjunction with ground-level fueling racks."

Evan says that Marshalltown's sand tower is the simple kind, with a cylindrical bin atop a pole, and a diagonal pipe leading over to an adjacent track. Consider yourself informed now. Know that.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Union Pacific Y705 at the Marshalltown Yard

A central fixture of Marshalltown, Iowa (a 42N city) is the huge marshalling yard with train maintenance shops located extremely close to the city's center. Who from the Marshall County seat has not gotten "trained" at one of the many RR crossings that divide the town north and south? The yard has been around for a long time and is still quite active in engine repair and maintenance. As a favorite spot for photographers there are two bridges that span the yard making for some potentially dramatic images of the trains below. One this day the Union Pacific Y705 locomotive's proximity to the Marshalltown water tower made the association between city and rail yard even more closer. Know that.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lincoln Highway Historic Bridge at Tama, Iowa

Three years after the first trancontinential highway was completed in the United States, the town of Tama, Iowa (a 42N city) constructed a one-of-kind showpiece that connected to the Lincoln Highway. Tama's Lincoln Highway bridge was built in 1915 and spans Mud Creek just east of the town. What makes the bridge so unique is that the guard rail sides spell out LINCOLN HIGHWAY in glorious block lettering concrete. Today the fully operational bridge is celebrated as a member of the National Register of Historic Places. The bridge is also the center of attention for an annual local celebration of the Lincoln Highway usually held in May. Many Lincoln Highway enthusiast tours often stop in Tama to observe the active link to the past.

Within a few hundred yards directly west of the bridge on 5th Street E the road joins present day US Highway 30, which runs either directly on or in parallel to the original Lincoln Highway. Near that junction is a still functioning road cafe complete with a neon Indian head profile sign. Tama is home to the Meskwaki tribe who bought their settlement area in the 1800s. If you follow the original Lincoln Highway west of town you will travel near the settlement. Look for the red, white and blue L signs like seen above to guide you.

In 2009, the Iowa department of transportation is constructing the latest segment of the widening of US Highway 30. Portions of the highway are already four-lane. The plan calls for more sections to be widened from two lanes to four to help with the growing use of the road. Currently work on the Tama bypass is focused on clearing farm and timber land for the construction of the wider lanes, standard exits, entrances and new bridges. The work will connect the existing four lane terminus near the casino west of town to a spot a few miles east of Tama - and the Lincoln Highway bridge.

This means that one day Highway 30 travellers will be guided to the original Lincoln Highway only from an exit on the bypass. There, the 21st century traveller will see the bridge that helped make coast-to-coast travel possible in the early 20th century or at least over Tama's Mud Creek. Know that.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Belle Plaine's Connection to the Gunfight at OK Corral

Many a tale lies on or near the coveted 42N latitude. One historical connection is that of Belle Plaine, Iowa (41°53′48″N, 92°16′39″W) to the most famous gunfight of the Old West - the Gunfight of OK Corral. Recall that the shootout between the Earp brothers with Doc Holliday, who within a matter of 30 seconds, on October 26, 1881 in Tombstone, Arizona Territory killed Billy Clanton and brothers, Frank and Tom McClaury. For over 125 years the story has been told many times in print and in movies (such as the 1957 movie of the same name) and was even an episode of the original Star Trek series (Spectre of a Gun) which aired in 1968 - a 42N favorite.

The connection is that of the McClaury family. One of Frank and Tom's brothers, Edmond McClaury was a Union soldier serving in the 14th Regiment, Company G of the Iowa Volunteer Infantry. As a private, McClaury fought at the Battle of Shiloh, where he was captured and later transferred to the prisoner camps located in Macon, Georgia. Following a prisoner exchange, Edmond returned to his home in Iowa, but soon died from the effects of his imprisonment. He was 22 years old. His military tombstone is on display at the Belle Plaine Area Museum as part of a donation by the McClaury family, who once lived in the area.

Edmond was buried in Belle Plaine's Wright Cemetery (see link) where you can view the newer military tombstone that replaced this marker. Had McClaury survived the war he could have participated in the legendary Tombstone gunfight with his brothers and perhaps have changed the outcome.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Haunting of 13 Stairs Cemetery

Pleasant Ridge Cemetery (aka 13 Stairs Cemetery), located a few miles north of Palo, Iowa (42.061ºN, 91.789ºW, see map, overlooking Lewis Bottoms) is a well-known local site of paranormal investigation. And it keeps on growing in ghost hunting lore.

Published stories about the site have several themes. One theme is that the hill top cemetery is a source of EVP ghostly voices. Another theme is that of nighttime sightings of a red-eye growling dog. Still others concern floating orbs of light.

Evidence of past paranormal investigations sometimes litter the property with spent batteries and melted candle stumps. Years ago authorities restricted access to the road directly in front of the cemetery. Reports of patrols near Halloween also help preserve the intended nature of the graveyard from the curious. Web traffic to this blog post also increases each year near the end of October. Investigate the site yourself to determine if these haunting claims are true.

One unique headstone in the cemetery is that of Thankful Blackburn (some say she was a self-proclaimed witch) who died in 1862. Her now flat laying marker provides a folksy warning to the rest of us:

"Remember friends as you pass by
What you are now so once was I
What I am now so you must be
Prepare in life to follow me."

Hmm, how haunting. Check it out for yourself. Know that.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Rippling Sand But No Arrow Heads

The shifting river bed of the Cedar River at the Palisades - Kepler State Park is especially revealing when water levels change. Recently the river has risen and fallen with snow melt and spring rains leaving this undulating sand pattern visible. The river bed is great place to collect rocks including shell and coral fossils, and all the major rock types. Today also yielded a few glass bottle fragments and a tea cup handle. While all the raw materials are present in the river bed for their production we were not able to find any spear points. The search continues. Anybody know a good place to find arrow heads around here? Still, it was just the right way to end a warm weekend. Know that.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Chrome Horse Saloon Opens After 2008 Flood

The Chrome Horse Saloon opened on March 13, 2009 some nine months after the 2008 historic flood of the Cedar River. As a successful night spot the live music, bar and restaurant venue attracted a lot of people last night just in time for the St. Patrick's Day celebration next week. The 42N crew had lunch at the Horse today to help welcome the saloon back to the community. The Cedar River is located just two blocks away. Look how high the water level had been (some 8 -10 feet high judging from the white leaching bricks) in the photos below of the Chrome Horse on June 22, 2008 - a week after the crest. Know that.

Varied Images of Christ

Interpretations of Christ on the cross are as varied as are editions of the Bible. A visit to a local 42N country cemetery produced two striking images using different construction materials. The top image is a life size stone-like figure complete with signs of visible weathering. The second photo is of a metal crucifix. It too shows decades of wear from the elements. Each of the two displays standout in a lawn of granite headstones. Know that.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

M56 Tank Destroyer Defends Freedom

It is often said that the strongest prevail. Evidence of the concept locally in 42N country is hardware of the Vietnam War era. The US Army's M56 tank destroyer was built to accompany airborne troops in the battlefield. As a self-propelled artillery canon the Scorpion (M56's nickname) provided a platform to essentially shoot up tanks. A photographic close-up of the tail Star speaks of the years of service and the layers of graffiti in retirement. Know that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lewis and Clark's Sergeant Floyd Honored

The only member of the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery expedition to perish while on the historic trek of the Louisiana Purchase was Sergeant Charles Floyd, Jr. on August 20, 1804. It is thought that he died of a ruptured appendix and was buried some 200 yards close to the Missouri River, just south of present day Sioux City, Iowa. The Lewis and Clark expedition visited Floyd's grave upon their return from the Pacific the next year and discovered his remains were largely intact. Years later his grave was moved a bit further east due to the changing course of the river. Sgt. Floyd's current grave site, located on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River, was modified in 1900 to honor the sergeant's memory with a 100-foot obelisk (see my oblique view of the obelisk above.)

Today the
site is managed by the National Park Service. Iowa's only trace of the historic expedition through the Hawkeye state is that of the Sgt. Floyd site. Come visit NW Iowa, spend a few minutes at the site and gaze over the river below for a sense of what the expedition was all about. As a geographic location the site is positioned on a favorite latitude: 42° 27' 45.47" N 96° 22' 39.85" W. Know that.

Monday, March 9, 2009

End of the Line

This track spur leads away from the end of the line at a rail yard in 42N country. While the staging area is for older rail cars it is not quite the last stop. A look around shows there are no weeds, the rails are shiny and newer gravel bedding underneath the tracks suggest an active, working area. On this day however there isn't even a hint of activity, but it still makes for a great shot. Know that.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Switch Your Track

Ever wondered what a railroad switch looks like or how it operates? I bet you have. So here's one pictured directly above. To make the switch all you do is stomp on the pedal on the left which releases the weighted arm and allows switching of the rail lines. Simple, except when rain rusts the switch or the cold doesn't allow movement of the arm. Sturdy people these railroad worker types. Know that.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Resting Boxcar

This boxcar was made in the 1970s. It is currently staged in a 42N area rail yard where there are several other older cars. Today's heavy overcast and rain made conditions ideal to capture the mood of a worn rail car. Know that.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

More Laurium Manor Inn Haunting Opportunities

One of the biggest traffic posts to date on the 42N Observations site concerned the recounting of last summer's ghostly noises heard while visiting Michigan's Laurium Manor Inn. While this post isn't an update on last summer's story I have included a few more images from that visit to help you visualize the stately manor's interior. Ornate lighting found throughout the property may help in the location of other ghostly noises. If not, then you may appreciate their own design that speaks of elegance from another era. More serious ghost hunters should check out this group of paranormal investigators who are located a lot closer to the manor than here at 42N. Know that.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Rath Feed Welcomes 42N

The Rath Packing Company ceased operations in 1985. While most of the company's local trading market was around 42N country, one can occasionally find Rath marketing stuff. Today this advertising clock sign was offered at auction in Iowa City. While I was not present when the item was sold, the sign was in pristine condition and should have fetched a nice prize. Besides, welcoming 42N does make the difference. Know that.