Thursday, July 29, 2010

How a GITMO Aero Trainer Shows No Signs of Slowing Down

To round out what became 'Plane Month" on 42N, here is an AT-6C "Texan" with US Navy markings recently on display at the Monticello, Iowa airport. N417AS takes part in the EAA events at Oshkosh, WI. Built in 1944 this particular plane has a Pratt & Whitney radial engine. Markings on the tail and undercarriage indicate the two seater was attached to the VC-10 attack squadron at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

This plane has a long history of flying and an extensive record of being based thousands of miles from here. Just to see these WWII-era planes in static display is exciting let alone seeing them actually fly within the friendly skies of the 42N latitude. Know that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Why Preflight Prep for B-17 Engines is all Hands Up

A preflight activity took place last week during a visit from the B-17, Sentimental Journey. Ground crew members slowly rotated the four propellers by hand - much to the amazement of the crowd (see above video from last week's visit.) Why are they doing that, asked small children.

A person in the know told us that the propellers are turned over by hand to clear the pistons of oil and/or gas that may have leaked into the cylinder heads, which are typical of radial engines like those used on B-17s. Any liquid in the cylinders would damage the engine if started. Turning the engine over slowly by hand allows any liquid to be purged from the cylinders. Slowly rotating the engine before starting allows the collected oil to be recirculated.

Pulling the engine through several rotations by hand was standard procedure for many radial engine warplanes in World War II. Ground crews used to line up and each one in session would grab a prop blade and walk it forward in the direction of the blade movement. Know that.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why a Dutch Seascape Resides in 42N Country

This painting of a Dutch harbor resides in 42N country some eight degrees south (and many longitude degrees west) of where it may have been painted. The original oil, thought to be from the Nineteenth century is for sale at a local store where it has hung for at least 11 months.

Original art of this subject matter is not generally available in the middle portion of the continent. Local art lovers can readily find water scenes of rivers, lakes, and streams with an occasional seascape of contemporary subject matter but hardly ever something this old. Then again, the Dutch may not be able to readily obtain a Midwest regionalist painting from their local art store in Amsterdam. Know that.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Old Time Lever Voting Booth - Bully

A prime example of hundred year old voting machine technology can be seen in this US Standard Voting Machine Company booth found in a 42N country barn. It operates by pulling a lever at the top of the booth to close curtains which unlocks the voting levers. A voter switches the lever for the person or ballot question designated by a candidate's name on the white cell areas seen above, then pulls the curtain lever again which registers the vote and clears the switches.

Since these types of voting machines were produced beginning in December 1900 (one month after the 1900 William McKinley win) it is possible that the first presidential election used on this particular machine was to decide the 1904 election between President Theodore Roosevelt and Alton Parker
. On this machine all the candidate names have been erased. Bully (a term coined by Teddy meaning 'wonderful' or 'superb.') Know that.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Why a Potosi Coca-Cola Cooler Just Needs a Bit of Work

Summertime in mid-America means outdoor auctions. And auctions mean almost everything is available to buyers - for the right price. Recently in 42N's Potosi, Wisconsin, an item became available for the serious restorer. A rusty Coca-Cola refrigerated cooler frame was for sale complete with only what you see here - four walls and floor.

While some of these coolers sell for around $800 when restored, the Potosi frame will take a bit of work but it has potential. I found this competed cooler photo here. The bottle opener seen in the upper right hand corner of the complete unit compares to the rusty unit's post foundations.

I didn't stay to see the rusty frame sell but it probably wasn't much more than a hundred dollars judging on how other transactions were completed that day. While it would be cool (no pun intended) to have a fully restored cooler for your bottled cola, my preference is Pepsi, the chief rival product of Coke. Know that.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What? Another Iowa Governor Encounter: Robert D. Ray

This week 42N met current Iowa Governor, Chet Culver (D) at the Cedar Rapids airport. Three days later I discovered this photograph of then Governor Robert D. Ray (R.) According to the information on the back of the photo the governor and his wife were attending a parade in Vinton, Iowa on July 29, 1969. The governor waved to the crowd from the backseat of a 1938 Packard Super Eight.

Robert D. Ray served as Iowa's 38th governor from January 16, 1969 to January 14, 1983; this photo was taken during his sixth month in office. After Ray returned to private life, I met him in his capacity of co-owner of WMT radio in Cedar Rapids in the 1980s. Ray's office was located at the Life Investors (later AEGON, then later Transamerica) building where he served as a Board of Directors member.

Ray's third Lieutenant Governor was Terry Branstad, who later succeeded Ray as governor in 1983 for 16 years. In 2010 Branstad is running for governor again against Chet Culver.

On the day this earthly governor photo was taken, another series of photos were being snapped a world away - literally. NASA's Mariner 6 spacecraft began transmitting images of the planet Mars before the craft's closest approach two days later. Mariner soared 2,100 miles above Mars before going in a heliocentric (sun centered) orbit where it remains to this day. Images from Mariner 6 helped identify 20 percent of the planet, determine the composition and temperature of the polar caps, and led to decisions of where to send the first two Viking landers in 1976.

Forty-One years ago July 29th was a busy day here in 42N country and near the fourth rock from the Sun.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thirteen Airworthy B-17s - A Small Group

Airworthy B-17s are a scarce commodity. This week the Aluminum Overcast paid a two day visit to 42N country. The World War II warbird is one of only about 13 airworthy B-17s left in the world. Some 12,731 B-17s were constructed during the war era. Of that number, many airships were destroyed in combat or after the war as obsolete aircraft. Only a small number survived the reclamation process as newer bombers like the B-29, B-36 and later early jet-bombers were introduced into military inventory.

The B-17 is an American icon of the Second World War. Preservation individuals and groups have made it possible for the people of the 21st century to see, hear and touch these aged warriors. The presence of these bombers at various events across the country gives veterans a chance to experience something they and their families are forever connected to. It also gives the public a chance to see how large and powerful these crafts were in turning the tide of war in the European and Pacific theaters of war.

Here is a list of B-17 Name or Nose Art – Owners – Base Locations:

1. Aluminum Overcast - EAA - Oshkosh, Wisconsin
2. Chuckie – W.D. Hospers - Fort Worth, Texas
3. Fuddy Duddy – Gen. William Lyon – John Wayne/Orange City, California
4. Liberty Belle – Liberty Foundation- Douglas, Georgia
5. Memphis Belle (Replica) – MARC/ Dave Tallichet – Chino, California
6. Miss Angela – Palm Springs Air Museum, Palm Springs, California
7. Nine O’Nine – Collins Foundation – Stow, Massachusetts
8. Pink Lady – Forteresse Toujours Volante – Paris – Orly Airport, France
9. Sally B – B-17 Preservation Ltd. – Duxford, England
10. Sentimental Journey – CAF Arizona Wing – Mesa, Arizona
11. Texas Raiders – CAF – Houston, Texas
12. Thunderbird – Lone Star Flight Museum – Galveston, Texas
13. Yankee Lady – Yankee Airforce – Willoe Run/Bellville, Michigan
A. Boeing B – Museum of Flight – Seattle, Washington (stored)
B. Shady Lady – Evergreen Aviation Museum – McMinnville, Oregon (static)

Over time, 42N has seen the Aluminum Overcast, Chuckie, and Sentimental Journey aircrafts – representing 25-percent of the all flying B-17s. If you get a chance see or ride one of these four-engine bombers you will experience a portion of what it was like to fight imperialism and fascism from the air. Know that.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Iowa Governor Chet Culver Meets 42N

Iowa Governor Chet Culver made a trip to 42N country on Wednesday to give a speech at the groundbreaking of a local solar cell training center. Before departing the Cedar Rapids airport for Hiawatha, the Governor took a few minutes to talk with the 42N editor and a small crowd who gathered to watch a vintage B-17 take off.

Timing is everything in politics. The governor arrived just a few minutes after the B-17 "Aluminum Overcast" left for a 30-minute ride for its paying customers - including a WWII vet who last flew on a Flying Fortress in 1945. Those who helped a dozen or so passengers on a dream flight waited around until the plane returned. It was a captive crowd for the Governor, this being an election year.

After a few minutes he and his entourage left for nearby Hiawatha. What he missed within 30 minutes of his departure was the return of the B-17 and more importantly, the return of the body of a USAF Captain who was recently killed in Afghanistan. David Wisniewski's body was returned to Iowa City for ceremonies before eventually being flown to Arlington National Cemetery for burial on August 23.

Had the top state executive's staff been more attuned on the events of the day, the Governor could have attended the receiving ceremony just one hanger away by delaying the groundbreaking ceremony an hour or so. The Governor did order US flags in Iowa be flown at half staff on Saturday to honor Captain Wisniewski.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Solemn Cedar Rapids Airport Ceremony for Iowa Airman

Today at the Cedar Rapids airport the body of an Iowa airman who died during combat recently in Afghanistan was returned to his family. A private jet delivered the body of David Wisniewski, a USAF Captain and a Black Hawk helicopter pilot.

A veteran's group and others (including the flight crew from the B-17 "Aluminum Overcast") lined a receiving area, holding US flags just outside a hanger. After several minutes the plane's hatch opened and a special hoist received the flag draped casket.

An Airforce honor guard slowly carried the Captain's casket to a white hearse. Then a procession led by the Iowa State Patrol and followed by scores of motorcyclists made their way from the airport to Iowa City. The Captain's body will remain there until he is interred at the Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. on August 23rd. Know that.

World War II B-17 Aircraft "Aluminum Overcast" Makes Stop in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

A World War II vintage B-17G made the Cedar Rapids, Iowa airport its home for two days in 42N country. The "Aluminum Overcast" is a warbird that travels the country offering rides and tours. This B-17 and the "Sentimental Journey" make their way here every two years or so. Their presence in eastern Iowa is a chance to mingle with those who have connections to the plane and era.

One person present this morning was inspired by an earlier flight on the Aluminum Overcast. Wendell Maakestad spent over 300 hours constructing a radio-controlled scale replica of the plane. He and the rcwarbirds club will be flying scale model planes near Marion, Iowa on Saturday. This morning Wendell was being professionally photographed with his plane and the real B-17 behind him.

A family from Waterloo, Iowa chipped in and bought a ticket on the plane for their patriarch's 89th birthday. He told me that his last trip in a B-17 before today was in 1945. He remembered the aircraft making a lot of noise but said today's ride was quieter probably because the enemy wasn't shooting at the plane.

He was based in Italy during the later stages of the war serving on a B-17s maintenance crew. After each mission he and his ground crew would run to the landing strip to see if their planes had made it back - many times the planes didn't return he reported. The worst for him was seeing a returning B-17 crew with three dead onboard from being shot by German aircraft.

Other passengers today, though much younger, were extremely thrilled to fly on one of a dozen or so remaining airworthy Flying Fortresses. Some 12,000 B-17s were manufactured in the United States during WWII. At one time squadrons of these planes would fly on daylight bombing raids from England to Germany with RAF bombers flying similar missions at night. There are many stories like the one from today that need to be told and heard. Fortunately the man's family was documenting his entire experience today.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Going Out in Style

A dark subject for today - the last ride. Sometimes around 42N country you may see an atypical funeral procession compared to the more common automotive hearse and line of followers. Sometimes the ride from the service to the cemetery involves horse drawn wagons because the deceased was connected to farming, ranching, or other horse-related occupations.

This horse-drawn hearse was built in the 1890s and used from 1903 to 1913 in the small town of Spillville, Iowa. It was last employed in an official capacity during 2001. An interesting feature of this enclosed glass window wagon is a set of encased ball bearings for moving caskets in and out.

So in the end you could order the following: hitch a dark horse or two to this hearse, put a driver on the seat with a dark duster and stove pipe hat, then roll in a simple wooden casket. This is what people a hundred years ago opted for to travel in style to their final resting place. Its still an option. Know that.

Monday, July 19, 2010

A Postcard from the Road

What are the odds in finding a 42N postcard these days?  Pretty much zero -unless I create one. So here is a road scene from US Route 151 southbound near Springville, Iowa that I took yesterday and transformed it into a postcard. Sidebar: I am looking into how to create those multi-photo images that make up letters and numerals you see on state greeting cards.

With above average rains for the summer and relaxed state maintenance budgets, Queen Anne's Lace can be seen flourishing in the median along much of the highway. Though considered a noxious weed by the USDA, the Iowa DOT uses the June through August bloomer as a decorative element to slow grass growth. Queen Anne's Lace is considered a carrot growing in a land filled with corn and soybeans. Know that.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Look in the Sky. Its a Bird. Its a Plane. Its Actually a Brunner Winkle Bird

Look around 42N country and you will find surprises. At the back of a hanger located close to small town Iowa is this modest looking biplane. But this is no ordinary biplane. Its a Brunner Winkle Bird - a what you ask?

A Brunner Winkle Bird is a one of the first few models of non-military biplanes made for recreational use. The company produced some 240 of the Bird models from 1928 to 1931. Because of the plane's reliability and simplicity, Charles Lindbergh taught Anne Morrow Lindbergh to fly in a Bird at the Long Island Aviation Country Club in Hicksville, NY.

Today's hanger tour yielded a restoration work in progress. Someone is performing maintenance on the Bird's engine by removing the pistons for cleaning. While each piston is carefully marked so that parts are not mixed up, an examination of the piston heads reveal layers of carbon buildup. Although cleaning may sound like a daunting task the actual process is straight forward and can lead to a pickup of horsepower for this 90-hp rated engine.

Right now this Bird isn't going anywhere fast. The pistons, overhead cylinder heads and various parts look like they were just pulled. If you were an 80 year old plane you would want someone to keep your engine and working parts in great condition. Once cleaned, repaired, re-assembled and checked out, the engine will be good for more hours of 88-105 mph cruising around our favorite latitude. Know that.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Timetable for Riding on the City of New Orleans

In 1972, singer Arlo Guthrie put Illinois Central's Chicago-to-New Orleans rail streamliner on the national map with a recording of a song written by Steve Goodman. Riding on the City of New Orleans is basically about the demise of traditional rail passenger service.

Recently 42N found an Illinois Central timetable for passenger service. In 1966, the line ran multiple routes primarily throughout the middle portion of the USA. In addition to the City of New Orleans the IC passenger streamliners included names like the Panama Limited, City of Miami, Green Diamond, Land O'Corn, Chickasaw, Southern Express, Louisiane, Northeastern Limited, Southwestern Limited, No. 108, and the Hawkeye.

Lyrics to the song (found here) describe leaving Chicago on Monday morning with 15 sacks of mail, pulling out of Kankakee, and then running down to the Mississippi Delta. This April 1966 timetable lists the City of New Orleans leaving Kankakee at 8:40 A.M. for all you railroad purests.

Today the train runs as a part of Amtrak and delivers passengers from the Windy City to the Big Easy and back. A modern timetable can be found here. Know that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Abandoned Nineteenth-Century Fort in Iowa: Fort Atkinson

A bit north of 42N country, near Decorah and Spillville, Iowa is a bluff that overlooks a river. Here (43.14 N, 91.93 W) in 1840 the feds built a fort to house a garrison of a couple hundred troops needed to patrol the newly created neutral ground (not the neutral zone for all you trekkies) between displaced Winnebago natives (from Wisconsin) and their traditional native enemies. After Fort Atkinsonwas abandoned a small town was established named after the fort. Recently the 42N staff made a quick visit noting to return another time.

During its offical service the fort saw no armed fights take place either here or in the vicinity.

Fort Atkinson received its orders from Fort Crawford at Prairie du Chien, WI, 50 miles away. In 1849 the garrison was ordered to serve in the Mexican-American War and the fort was abandoned. Today in a building on the northern wall of the fort a museum store is now housed.

The State reclaimed the fort in the 20th century and has transformed it into a preserve. Re-enactment actors periodically camp here and help visitors understand the time period and mission of the Iowa 1st dragoons.

In the fort's powder room interior square air vents where offset aligned with exterior wall vents to keep the powder dry and to prevent any sparks causing direct ignition. Bathroom privies were located a few feet away from this door.

Outside the walls of the fort immediately to the north were stables, housing for married men's family who often followed their spouse, a blacksmith shop and farms. Located about a mile northwest of the fort was a cemetery.

Periodically the site's ground is probed to learn how its inhabitants lived. Pottery, clay pipes, glass bottles, imported china, game pieces and small musical instruments have been found along with a few military items.

If you are looking for forts where fighting took place check out other sites around the country. So far there have been no reported battles at or near the Fort Atkinson.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Riding on the City of Los Angeles

Located in the 42N's central part of the hawkeye state (Iowa) is the Boone and Scenic Valley rail line found at 42.04°N, 93.89°W. Behind a restored locomotive is the streamliner passenger car, the City of Los Angeles. The car was placed into service during 1936 on the Union Pacific line. Today you can take a ride on the car periodically. 

While this passenger train won't be gone five hundred miles when the day is done, it is something that you can walk through, ride occasionally, and just guess how it felt to commute from coast to coast a half a century ago on the rails. Know that.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bily Clock Museum - Smithsonian Quality Handcrafted Clocks from Smalltown USA

Forget everything you associate with small town America. Located in the Iowa "Swiss Alps" is the 386-person town of Spillville in NE Iowa - just north of the 42N heliopause influence (43°12′09″N, 91°57′07″W.) Spillville is noted for being the 1893 summer residence for Czech composer, Antonin Dvorak (who refined his New World Symphony there after composing the work in NYC) and for being the location of the oldest Czech Catholic church in America (St. Wenceslaus - built in 1860.) Spillville also can boast of offering a special collection that is worthy of any of the world's finest museums.

Beginning in the 1910s through the 1940s, the local Bily brothers created large-scaled handcrafted clocks from imported and local woods. Their creations are now on display at the Bily Clock Museum where you can view several clocks and hear how each was inspired and constructed.

Docent Adie Kuhn (above) explained how the farming brothers (left) studied books about America's history, the Bible and other references to create their magnificent towering wooden clocks. She explained how the wood was chosen, ordered and shipped by rail to the Spillville area where the brothers received the raw materials and created extraordinary time pieces in their spare time.

On Thursday, July 2nd Adie stood in front of the brother's 1927 American Pioneer History masterpiece time tower. She explained how each panel displays a different scene from the past such as the westward movement, railroads, Revolutionary War and many other vignettes. Adie recounts how industrialist Henry Ford once offered the Bilys $1 million for the clock. The brothers never sold that clock or any of their other timely creations. When asked whether these clocks should be displayed at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., our docent replied in true 42N fashion, "Shh, we want to keep our treasure in this part of the world." Know that.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July from the American Midwest

While our favorite 42N country recipient of July 4th best wishes was miles away, we found this young patriot trying to cool Hanson's Grove antique seekers. After 30 years of shows on Independence Day, the nearby town of Mt. Vernon also closed its street to vehicles to make room for a score or two of antique and flea market vendors - most of it on the historic Lincoln Highway. It was a day to buy some real history or chow down on holiday food. Know that.