Steam Wheels

Was searching for movie ideas and headed out to the Strasburg Railroad where there’s live steam engines on the rails. For fun captured this video of the running gear:

It’s a tremendous amount of work keeping those engines and the rest of the equipment going. Plenty of people turn out almost every day to witness a piece of history, which is a good thing. Lots to learn in place like this. Plenty of ideas for movies, too.


What CAN be done.

Lately, there has been so much talk about economic doom that people have whipped themselves into a frenzy of negativity. Politics aside, instead of so much chatter about what can not be done, may I humbly suggest we start talking about what CAN be done. Of course, let’s start with ourselves. (This is because I’m a firm believer that when you point your finger, three more are pointing back. If you don’t believe me, point your finger at something and then take a look at your hand. Get it?) I think we have forgotten how far and how quickly we have traveled along the economic timeline. For instance, I was doing some research in the United States National Archives, and came across this photo:

womenrailwkAccording to the National Archives, these women are working on this steam locomotive somewhere in Montana, circa 1919. Now, certainly Montana and the year 1919 were not the easiest of places and times. Forget socio-economic conditions, just imagine working against the natural environment and those beasts affectionately known as steam locomotives. Some of the tools used to repair and maintain this equipment were larger than the arms and legs on these women and they were made of steel. Thus, it must have taken two or three women to perform these jobs. And yet, they got the job done, and made the Nation a better place for their children in doing so. Today’s locomotive shops sport hydraulic lifts, computer diagnostic tools, and climate control, not to mention an array of safety measures designed specifically to protect life and limb. The women above had to persevere without such niceties.

Therefore, before we all start bellyaching about how bad we have it, we might better take a look at the people who did jobs exponentially more difficult physically (and perhaps mentally) then we do today. Perhaps CAN and NOT were never placed close together in their sentences the way they are in today’s vernacular. Perhaps these people had the strength and determination to do better for themselves rather than the weakness to cry for government help. Perhaps they preferred the honor and satisfaction of being self-sufficient over the pathetic dependency of being a ward of the state.

So, if all day we speak of nothing but what can NOT be done, well, NOTHING will be done. But if we pause, take a deep breath, and THINK about what CAN be done, well, we might discover just how vast the possibilities are. Initially the future may be uncomfortable, which is simply an expression of the details to which we forgot to attend. Then, as progress is achieved, this minor annoyances will fall away as the pride of achievement rewards those who are willing to do what it takes.

Published in: on March 29, 2009 at 12:58 pm  Comments (1)  
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Big Iron

Here is a photo taken at the New Hope & Ivyland Railroad yard. It’s of a massive steam engine that is undergoing a complete rebuild.

I wrote a short story called, Big Iron Holiday. In it, two friends (Ellsworth Botcher and Ned Fry) reunite after the end of the First World War. One is a railroad superintendent, the other is a pilot. I intend to use this short story as the basis for a novel titled simply Big Iron. The novel will follow these two characters and their lives as the United States evolves through the boomtimes of the 1920’s, the Great Depression, and the lead-up to D-Day. There will be some other characters, too, ranging from Hollywood stars to the men who kept the railroads running through all types of conditions.

As readers of this blog know, I like long books. Big Iron will be a long book. It is my hope that it will run more than 750 pages. Good characters, like the ones I have in mind, should easily be able to carry it that far.

What’s your favorite long book?

Published in: on October 31, 2008 at 12:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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Strasburg, Pennsylvania, USA

Strasburg, Pennsylvania is not far from all the outlet shopping near Lancaster. The town is well known for its railroad which thrills children and adults alike. On the day I took these shots, Thomas the Train was on site, much to my disappointment. However, kids love that character. I prefer the regular steam engines which make for great photography. The tower at the left was moved to this location. The view from up there is fantastic. Although only two stories tall, the surrounding countryside opens up because it is the gentle, rolling farmland of the Amish. It also gives you the perspective of the yard master in days gone by.

Across the street is the Pennsylvania Railroad Museum, which hosts literally dozens of steam engines and cars of all description. At the height of its operations, the Pennsylvania Railroad was known as “the standard railroad of the world.” It controlled much of the passenger traffic between, Philadelphia, New York, DC, and Chicago, not to mention the freight business. Using the type of engines shown below, the “Pennsy” connected the eastern half of the country with the west.

It’s hard to imagine the smoke and soot of steam locomotives. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of them in action here at Strasburg as well as in New Hope, PA. They may be majestic, but they’re also dirty. Nonetheless, it’s important to see such machines in action. They are a form of living history that helps us keep things in perspective. Of course, there’s fun to be had in Strasburg, such as this little steam locomotive.

This post begins a new category here at The Bent Page. Years ago I used to take many photographs of trains and industrial sights. Some of them were published in the magazines that focus on those subjects. So TRAINS becomes a category here starting today.

Published in: on September 14, 2008 at 2:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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