Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tracks Under the Lincoln Highway

Two Union Pacific tracks reach towards the west in 42N country in this snowy scene taken last week. Passing overhead is modern portion of the Lincoln Highway as it winds through Linn County, Iowa. The bridge from which this photo was taken is actually the original Lincoln Highway bridge built in 1915 in Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

Not far from this spot is the seedling mile experiment site (just a few miles west of this location) where the benefits of a concrete highway were first demonstrated in Iowa on this highway. Up until this time the dirt roads were the norm and axle deep clay mud thwarted Model Ts as they tried their luck navigating the early highway road.

My high school French teacher once explained how some regional transportation paths developed. First the paths along waterways (rivers, creeks, streams) which were created by animal trails or local natives were discovered. Sometimes wagon trails widened these paths, then rail service was built along these paths - often with teletype wires overhead. Finally auto roads were built nearby, distances shortened and modifications were made.

This is why along some of the older roads in the country, such as pikes and former tollways you can see this pattern applied.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rocketing 42N Observations to Number One

42N blogging reached the one year milestone two days ago. Along the way a few technical enhancements have improved topic presentation. Several posts of note garnered attention by other blog/web sites while traffic from news organizations increased following the reporting of weather incidents, haunting stories, military convoys and Buddy Holly's last concert anniversary. Other high traffic getters were the two articles about artist Grant Wood's burial location and his Indian Creek painting.

Style wise the site falls somewhere between retail blogs, nocturnal neurotics fueled by liquid lunches of Red Bull and vodka blogs, "mommy" blogs and journal travel blogs. This site is closer to an educational, historical, travel and whatever else is on my mind blog. The 42N experiment continues. Know that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Welcome Aboard the Pearl Button, Miss Turner

Take some fresh water mussels (clams) from the Mississippi River, discard the meat, wash the shells and you have the raw materials that helped put 42N city Muscatine, Iowa on the map in the mid-1800s. Clams were harvested, brought to shore, cleaned, shells drilled, blanks polished and packaged for the emerging American clothier market. The ride lasted until the 1960s when synthetic material (plastic) replaced organically produced pearl buttons.

At one time there were several factories in Muscatine that produced upwards of 1.3 million buttons a year. Surprisingly labor associated to make a single button involved up to 31 human touches per single fastener - that was extremely intensive. Above is a close up shot of thousands of mostly natural pearly colored buttons, some perfect and some with imperfections. The button process story is told well by the Muscatine History and Industry Museum. Know that.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Late Autumn in Muscatine, Iowa

Along the ridge just a few blocks south of downtown Muscatine, Iowa (41.42N, 91.04W) sit an impressive collection of mansions overlooking the Mississippi River. These 42N area homes were once owned by the captains of industry in the river front town. Specifically the Weed Mansion and many other historic homes dating back to the mid-1800s are listed on the National Register of Historic Places (West Hill area.) The view this evening was one of a clear sunset low in the southwest. To complete the Muscatine profile is a steamboat sailing below and the shine from pearl button manufacturing. Know that.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cup Full of 42N Cities

Enjoy a morning cup of 42N cities along with your favorite raspberry latte. These metal name plates were once used by NorthWestern Railroad personnel to display the stops along a particular route, here in 42N country. A map of the modern Chicago and NorthWestern lines can be seen above.

In years past passengers could glance at on onboard display in their rail car to see what city stops were coming up next. These days the various stop announcements on modern trains are done through a combination LED displays, audio reminders and sometimes braille. Know that.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Cirrus Over 42N Country

December 1st - no snow on the ground and temperatures nearing 50 degrees. Tomorrow starts the decline to more seasonable weather. Overhead floats a textbook cirrus cloud against a pure blue sky. Know that.