Showing posts with label trains. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trains. Show all posts

July 06, 2017

Nature, Symbiosis . . . Ticks

Lovely complexity of nature.
M. and I were in Pueblo today, and someone tipped off one of the game wardens, who called me to say that she was going out to the Transportation Technology Center (where the levitating ghost train once ran) to pick up an orphan fawn — and could we relay it to the rehabilitators who live near us?

Oh sure. We had to hang around for an hour at the public library, which was torture, until she and a state wildlife biologist pulled up in her shiny black Colorado Parks and Wildlife truck.

When they handed over the crated fawn, they mentioned that it had a lot of ticks in its ear. And when we unloaded it, we saw them, like a bunch of grapes.

C., the rehabber, said she would enjoy popping them and killing them. She has a macabre sense of humor sometimes.

It can be worse. This page, from an organization devoted to creating perfect private habitat for whitetail deer, has some gruesome pictures under the heading "Can Ticks Kill Fawns?"

Writing about ticks always makes me think of outdoor entrepreneur and author George Leonard Herter. (Before there was Cabela's, there was Herter's.) Steve Bodio and I form a sort of two-person George Leonard Herter appreciation society.

Herter wrote with no regard for the norms and niceties of "sporting literature," just saying whatever was on his mind. Dare I say it, he was the Donald Trump of hunting writers.

He frequently mentions ticks, as in the number of them found on African game animals. In The Truth about Hunting in Today's Africa: And How to Go on Safari for $690.00 (1963), a book that now feels as distant as anything by Hemingway or Robert Ruark, he notes,
A really large rhino with a trophy size front horn of 30 inches of more [sic] is now [c.1960] impossible to get. Tick birds feed off of ticks that inhabit rhinos and also off from the blood that continually uses out of the scars on their skins. By watching for tick birds you can often locate a rhino. The tick birds, however, warn the rhino of your approach.
And also this exchange:
Jacques walked to the rear of the rhino and lifted its tail. Its anus was ringed with huge ticks a half inch in diameter.

"Every time I shoot one of these pigs I can't help feeling sorry for it. How would like to go around all your life with ticks like that around your anus?"
Show me another safari/hunting writer who discusses rhino ticks. Not "unhinged" as the New York Times described him, but just untroubled by the niceties of sporting lit.

UPDATE: The fawn died four days later. Tick-infested fawns are often "compromised," the rehabbers  said, which fits with the article that I linked to.

May 15, 2014

Keeping the Southwest Chief in Southern Colorado, We Hope

Union Depot, Pueblo, Colorado. It's just offices now.
A small crowd gathered at Pueblo's Union Depot (which currently sees only freight trains pass by) on Wednesday, May 14th, to watch Gov. John Hickenlooper sign a bill that represented one step toward keeping Amtrak's Southwest Chief train running through western Kansas, southern Colorado, and northern New Mexico on its way between Chicago and Los Angeles.

First, Pueblo's favorite roots-music band, the Haunted Windchimes, played all the train songs in their repertoire as people gathered.

The Haunted Windchimes playing at the depot.
There were political operatives in tie-less blue button-down shirts and blue blazers, old rail-fan guys wearing train-themed caps, actual Amtrak employees, elected officials from the local, county, and state levels, and various people who unite in one idea, namely that train travel is local, comfortable, does not involve being probed by federal agents with blue gloves, and is environmentally sound.

In other words, when it comes to passengers moved per mile per gallon of fuel burned, trains beat everything else.

Why all the fuss? In essence, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad (BNSF) is not keeping up the tracks to the standard required for passenger trains. If they are not improved, Amtrak has threatened to reroute the Chief from Wichita-Amarillo-Albuquerque, cutting off western Kansas, southern Colorado, and northern New Mexico — areas that have poor air service and poor bus service.

Kansas has partnered with Amtrak and BNSF Railroad to help fund a portion of the track improvements required along the Southwest Chief route. If the track is not upgraded, Amtrak has warned that it may move its daily Chicago-to-Los Angeles passenger service to a more southern route.
Gov. Hickenlooper says a few words.

On the other hand, southern Colorado officials are more and more seeing an Amtrak route through Pueblo - Walsenburg - Trinidad, as compared to today's route from La Junta to Trinidad, which cuts off the I-25 corridor completely, as good for economic development and tourism.

Either way, M. and I want to keep the train running through southern Colorado, which is why we were there today, applauding with the crowd.

Airlines are increasingly abandoning mid-sized airports. Pueblo keeps a minimal level of commercial air service going only through a municipal subsidy, while Colorado Springs has seen service and passenger numbers decline, even with a new terminal building.

What is going to fill the gap? Trains, I would argue, are the best choice.

March 08, 2014

Blog Stew on the Scenic Railroad

After the June 2013 fire, the Royal Gorge Bridge & Park is reopening for limited hours. Meanwhile, the scenic train that goes from Cañon City up the gorge and back is upgrading and hoping to get its tourist riders back.
[Owner Mark] Greksa believes his yearly passenger counts will increase as he continues to add amenities. Last year, he let passengers pay to ride in the locomotive next to the engineer. He also eliminated the train's "concession car," which offered only vended foods to coach customers, and created a dining car where they can order hot food, and a "bar car" with bistro-styled tables. Food offerings include beef and buffalo items, organic chicken and a crafted pale ale, Royal Gorge Route Rogue, Greksa said. In the summer, the train will offer dishes made from rattlesnake, antelope and ostrich.
Managers at the national wildlife refuges in the San Luis Valley are wondering if groundwater pumping rules will affect the areas flooded for sandhill crane habitat.GQ

GQ magazine runs another art-of-manliness story on being introduced to deer and elk hunting in Montana. Actually, it's not bad; it has a Chesapeake Bay retriever in it. (Hat tip: Suburban Bushwacker)

Most water from the Fraser River in Middle Park gets sent under the Continental Divide and into Denver's water system. Trout Unlimited, however, has worked out a new deal to protect flows for fisheries by regulating when the water is removed and how much.
The deal announced Tuesday could make the Fraser the most-watched river in Colorado – and maybe in the West. It sets out an innovative, science-based plan that seeks to balance increasing urban needs for water with an imperative to restore crucial habitat for river trout.
Me, I see the Fraser only when looking out the window of Amtrak's California Zephyr and thinking, "That looks really fishable in there." Maybe I should do something about that.

August 12, 2013

The So-Called Romance of Steam

Cumbres & Toltec train on Cumbres Pass. The white cloud is steam from the whistle.
I like trains and take Amtrak rather than an airplane whenever possible, but I do not partake of the "romance of steam."

Ride one of these steam-powered trains, and you quickly understand why nineteenth-century people wore a lot of black. Once they put glass in the car windows, people then had a choice between no ventilation and breathing sooty smoke while wearing cinders too.

But maybe the fascination with steam comes from its being almost as understandable as animals.

Combine fire and water and you have steam, and then it works those big external pistons, and chuff chuff chuff, the locomotive goes down the track.

M. and I were driving up Colorado 17 on Saturday, and despite the two hours of rain at our nearby campsite the night before, she suddenly stiffened: "Is that a fire?"

No, it was the excursion train puffing away as it sat on the pass, one of the stops on its scenic interstate route.

To recreate nineteenth-century industry even better, find yourself in downtown Durango on a wintry day with a thermal inversion as that steam train leaves the station, filling street after street with coal smoke. Then multiply times fifty.

September 10, 2012

On the Road: Grand Junction's Sad Railway Station

The California Zephyr stopped in Grand Junction, with the empty station on the right center.
Riding the train through Grand Junction, Colorado, is sad if you are any kind of architecture buff, because you get a long stop right alongside the boarded-up Classical Revival station that desperately cries out for adoption by some "friends" group or a developer with taste.

Meanwhile, railroad, snack, and souvenir business is conducted next door in some bland little box.

A close-up.

The front door.
"Pufferbelly Station"? A failed nightclub? The interior is semi-gutted.

September 09, 2012

On the Road: Glenwood Springs, 2

   
Footbridge at right crosses Colorado River, I-70.
Another historic hotel in Glenwood Springs is the Hotel Denver, which as the advantage of being right across the street from the Amtrak station. And next door to the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company, which pairs good microbrews that is, well, hearty.

I like the compactness of central Glenwood. It looks like you could hike right out of down — or soak at the hot springs, catch the train,  dodge bears while geocaching (a frequent occurrence according to one cache log), or just dream that you were having a whiskey with Teddy Roosevelt.

April 18, 2012

Levitating Ghost Trains of Pueblo

Sitting quietly in an old industrial area of Pueblo, Colorado, on West D Street, one of the "gee-whiz" technologies of the 1970s quietly rusts away.

Here, behind a chain-link fence and some fading signage, rest the prototype Rohr Industries Aerotrain and the Grumman TACRV (Tracked Levitated Research Vehicle).

When I visit Pueblo, I often stop at a coffeehouse about three blocks away, but had it not been for a geocache, I would never have known of their existence. Here is how they came to be there.

Nose of the Rohr Industries Aerotrain. No windshield—the "pilot" watched a video screen. Skirting kept in the compressed air under the train, while the vertical monorail kept it on the track.
Finding them was like driving to the airport by a different route and suddenly discovering a derelict zeppelin hangar. What is that

Both "tracked air-cushion vehicles" were designed to float on cushions of compressed air rather than wheels, which potentially offered speeds as high as 300 mph. In the 1970s, both underwent testing at the Transport Technology Center northeast of Pueblo.

The Rohr Aerotrain was a single, streamlined unit with a pilot compartment in front and passenger seating toward the rear. See it and other similar vehicles on this Aerotrain website.

It was a sort of monorail, to be powered by electricity from its track.
Grumman TACRV. You can see the turbine engine air intakes to the rear. The look reminds me of its contemporary, the Space Shuttle.
The Grumman vehicle, in contrast, would run in a sort of concrete trench, pulling hovercraft-style passenger cars, and propelled by gas-turbine engines.
The "pads" on the bottom and sides were where compressed air was forced out to "float" the vehicle.

Grumman TACRV testing at Pueblo (Aerotrain website).

Why did this technology die? The Aerotrain website offers several issues that could not be overcome.

1. Each train would have required a new, expensive sort of track, for which rights of way would have had to be acquired.

2. The Aerotrain's electric induction motors required their own power infrastructure and a lot of electricity.

3. The air compressors, turbines, etc., made these "hovercraft" trains incredibly loud.

4.The Aerotrain's engine built up a static electric charge that had to be grounded before anyone could get on or off.

5. The fans generating the compressed-air cushion also kicked up sand, gravel, etc., like a traveling sandstorm in arid climates. Every part of the train had to be levitated on compressed air, which mean lots of machinery to move air.

For all their City of Tomorrow flavor, they were less practical than improving conventional trains, which are still more energy-efficient on a passenger-mile basis than aircraft or buses.

My next business trip to Chicago will involve steel wheels on steel rails.

July 25, 2010

Waiting for a Train

Waiting for Amtrak's Southwest Chief, La Junta, Colorado.

June 19, 2010

Blog Stew with Water Droplets

• A gardener's myth destroyed: Watering plants in mid-day does not cause water droplets to focus the Sun's rays and burn the leaves.

• At Smart Dogs: how dogs react to perfume. (One word: vetiver.)

•  Field & Stream columnist and hunting writer Tom McIntyre now writes a blog (yes, the technology has reached northern Wyoming). I liked this entry on old, hunter-friendly hotels. Back in its day, the Fairplay Hotel in South Park (Colorado) was one of them.

• Galen Geer is thinking that Amtrak could still be more hunter-friendly too. It's a creature of the federal government, so how come it gets to make such arbitrary rules?

November 14, 2009

A Snowy Day for Fidgets


Downtown Montreal from Mount Royal's belvedere.

It's snowing here in the Wet Mountains, a wet, soaking snow that is melting in. This would be a good "desk day," especially as I am only partway through sorting out everything on my desk--the ten days' worth of mail, the receipts and notes, etc. from the conference, the new books for reading and/or review.

One review must be completed today, or I will hate myself.

But I am fidgety.  M. and I spent parts of six days on trains, four days in Montreal, one day in Chicago, an afternoon in Albany, and an evening in Schenectady. It was wearing.

(Note: we rode six different Amtrak trains, and all were on time. Someone is doing something right. If you have a layover at Schenectady, refuel at Katie O'Byrne's, hang out on Jay Street.)

On the Adirondack, traveling through upstate New York along Lake Champlain, I would see some little dirt road winding off into the swampy woods, and I wanted to be off the train and walking along it with one of the dogs.

The birds are in hiding too. All that I have seen this morning are one robin and one Steller's jay--a pity, since it is Day 1 of one of our Project Feeder Watch counts. (We are not the only ones happy that PFW has started up again.) Yesterday we saw nine American goldfinches at once.

Other miscellaneous travel observations from the big world:

Traveling east from Colorado, I notice black.

A century ago, two factors favored black clothing in the city:
  •     Lots of coal soot in the air
  •     A lack of washing machines

Now it is just about attitude.  I am refined and/or serious, don't mess with me. Not asceticism.  Urban grime might be an issue, but it cannot be the issue.

In Montreal, where sports team-themed clothing was not as common downtown as in Chicago (although it exists), black seemed almost mandatory.

I probably stood out for wearing one of about four khaki trench coats that I spotted.

Downtown Chicago is noisier than Montreal. For one thing, it has the elevated trains. For another, there always seems to be large construction projects underway, whereas I saw none in Montreal, just street repairs.

People walk faster in Chicago too. But my candidate for a fast-walking city, believe it or not, is Dublin, based on earlier visits there.

October 09, 2009

The Siloam Stage Road and an Unbuilt Railroad

What we call "the old road" runs from our house to the national forest boundary. As far as I can tell, it is a piece of the 1870s Siloam Stage Road, which connected Pueblo with the Wet Mountain Valley before a new wagon road was built, more or less where Colorado 96 now goes.

(That is to say, Colorado 96 before the construction of Pueblo Dam, early 1970s, and the Jackson Hill realignment, late 1980s.)

This photo was taken this morning before the sun burned through to start melting yesterday's little snow.

But apparently, in some alternative steampunk universe, I can catch the train coming up from Pueblo and travel to the San Luis Valley, before transferring to a light-rail car to zip from Alamosa to Saguache, for instance.

One hundred years ago, the Wet Mountain Tribune reported,

Incorporation papers have been filed with the secretary of state for an $8,000,000 company which is to build a railroad from Pueblo across the Sangre de Christo mountains and down into Costilla County where an interurban electric system will be established connecting all the towns in the San Luis Valley. According to the plans, a line will be run from Pueblo southwest into the Wet Mountain Valley. Thence it will run southwest into Huerfano County until it reaches the Sangre de Christo range. It will cross the range into Saguache or Costilla counties at a point not yet decided and then proceed to Alamosa, Monte Vista or Del Norte. The electric railway system spreading up and down the San Luis Valley will run spur tracks into the mining regions, the timber areas, the agricultural districts and the quarries.

Yeah, what happened to that?