The Lope: August 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

National Pastime

In any sport, proper attire is where it's at. This must be so, otherwise why would advertisers encourage kids to depend on athletic shoes for a sense of ability?

Ace Jackalope decided to test his new disguise and sit in on a couple of minor league baseball games in Wichita, KS, last week. The venue was Lawrence-Dumont Stadium as the Wichita Wranglers played the Arkansas Travelers on August 23rd and 24th.

Lawrence-Dumont Stadium was built in 1934.

Despite renovations, Kansas baseball fans still regard the stadium as historic.

Ace wonders if humans can discern that team mascot, Wilber T. Wrangler, is really a bipedal horse dressed in human clothing.

Feeling impressed by a fellow upright quadruped, Ace wears a Wilber T. Wrangler neckerchief.

"Thelope" reader and fan Steve Holmes caught did some baseball photography that night.

Holmes catches the glint in the eye of the pitcher.

The score board at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium is a throw-back to older days. The numbers are changed manually by a person behind the board.

After the game, a cruise through the gift shop reveals a plethora of jerseys - cicada not included.

Ace promptly made a new friend on his second night of baseball. He met this smartly dressed bear in the gift shop.

Ace apparently liked the bear's team-specific shirt so much that he obtained his own.

Did I mention it was cheap beer night?

Ace thanked minor league baseball documentarian and self-proclaimed professional fan Steve Holmes, who furnished action photos to Ace for this website.

As Wranglers won in extra innings, Holmes got this celebration shot. Even at a low shutter speed, it captures the moment.

Sadly, Ace's friend the bear had little to celebrate as he was found mugged with his head stuck in a trash can.

Ace was doing somewhat better, though, as he met three lovely ladies. "Baseball... been berra berra good... to me."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 4)

Oh, this is too easy. Remember, you get a free congratulatory message if you're the first to get it right.

Update: "Toltec" wrote in the "comments" section, "Ace is visiting the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California." He's right; just as the London Bridge lives in Arizona, the Queen Mary lives in California, at the Port of Long Beach, to be exact.

Launched in 1934, the Queen Mary was, in it's time, a state of the art cruise ship that carried royalty as well as serving as a troop transport in WWII. It was retired in 1967 and sold to the City of Long Beach, California where it remains.

In the past 30 years, the ship, known for its art deco interior, has seen a variety of tenants, and has been a hotel, a museum and an entertainment venue.

In this image, captured from the local NBC affiliate's webcam, you can see the Queen Mary's 1,019.5 ft. of overall length. The statistics page at the Queen Mary's official website, has a comparison chart between it and the Titanic which seems to "rub it in" on at least one point.

Transatlantic Crossings:
Queen Mary: 1,001
Titanic: 0 - Ship sank on Maiden Voyage

Wikipedia has some interesting stories about the Queen Mary, including that, in WWII when the ship carried the nickname "Grey Ghost", Adolf Hitler offered the equivalent of $250,000.00 and the Iron Cross to the U-boat commander who could sink it. The ship was much too fast for U-boats, though, and had only one close call.

Also according to Wikipedia: "On 2 October 1942 Queen Mary accidentally sank one of her escorts, slicing through the light cruiser HMS Curacoa (D41), with the loss of 338 lives."

And, interesting in the wake of media attention to rogue waves: "In December, 1942, the Queen Mary was carrying nearly 15,000 American troops from New York to Great Britain. While 700 miles from Scotland during a gale, she was suddenly hit broadside by a rogue wave that may have reached a height of 28 meters (92 feet). In his book, The Age of Cunard, author Daniel Allen Butler mentions that the immense wall of water damaged lifeboats on the boat deck and broke windows on the bridge 90 feet above the waterline. The huge wave caused a list that briefly reached an astounding 52 degrees before the ship slowly righted itself. He reported that investigations later estimated that three more degrees of list (about 5 inches in the wrong direction) would have made the vessel turn turtle."

Right beside the Queen Mary, is something that speaks more of modernism that art deco - A 180 foot tall geodesic dome that was built to house Howard Hughes' sea-going airplane, the Spruce Goose. The goose has now flown the coop, as it were, and the dome is now used by the Carnival cruise line as a terminal. It has also been used to house sets for movies such as "Batman Forever", "Virtuosity", starring Denzel Washington, "Batman and Robin", "Jack Frost", "The Haunting" and Steven Spielberg's "A.I."

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Bridging the Ohio in Style

I seem to be enamored of bridges. I didn't know I liked them that much until I was editing these, the last of July's Ohio trip pictures. Most of these are shot from a moving car.

Cincinnati's "Purple People Bridge" spans the Ohio River to connect the city to Newport in Northern Kentucky. This railroad bridge was built in 1872 as the Newport and Cincinnati Bridge, has been renamed twice; the name that seems to have stuck is the Louisville & Nashville RR Bridge, or the L&N Bridge. It's been modified and expanded many times to carry horses, carts, trolleys and cars. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2001 and was finally made a pedestrian-only bridge in 2003. There's a lot of historical data (not all dry stuff...really!) and a neat photo of a zillion rubber ducks being dumped off of it, here. This view is from the Newport, KY, side; the original 1872 arches have found use as a parking garage.

The I-471 Daniel Carter Beard Bridge, dedicated in 1981, is known by the more colorful name: "Big Mac Bridge." I've read two similar origin stories for this. One has it that the name derives from an aborted 1980s attempt by McDonald's to open a floating restaurant nearby; the other account simply points out the bridge's golden arches. Read more, here.

If this design looks familiar, you may be thinking of the Brooklyn Bridge. Architect John A. Roebling designed this suspension bridge, which was finished in 1866. It was re-named after him in 1984 and was previously known as the Covington and Cincinnati Bridge. Roebling later used the same techniques when he designed the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. I'll try to get a better view next time; in the meantime, read about it here, if you are so inclined.

I'm not sure, but I think we were on Hwy 75 when I shot this. I would assume it's in Cincinnati; I like the art deco touches.

And now, a smattering of buildings, signs and monuments, about which I know little or nothing at all, except that they each held some aspect of architecture or signage that I thought appealing. The photos aren't great, but remember, they aren't making any more old buildings or signs so shoot 'em however you can.

This castle-like structure has a plaque which reads, "Elsmore 1883". Looking at it now, the road lines confuse me; it looks like you'd just drive right into it.

This old gas station in Newport, KY is now....Raymond Motors and Virgin Bourbon? Am I reading that right? I hope customers can't buy a car and get tanked up at the same time. This is probably a case of a newer business owner not wanting to mess with an older sign....I hope.

The 20th Century theater in Cincinnati is across from the Aglamesis Brothers ice cream parlor and down a block. It appears to be in use.

But it has a little tree problem at top.

"Tower"..."Jump"...I hope that's not supposed to be a subliminal suggestion.

This used to be the Woodward theater; it now houses Greg's Antiques.

Paul Brown Stadium looks to me like it was built from an erector set.

I assume monument this might commemorate the role of paddle boats in the history of the area. Whenever you're in a river town, you can still feel the vibrancy - the echo of the superhighway status rivers used to hold - and still do in some areas.

Someone dared to be different and painted their building blue.

Local art is sometimes nice.

I liked the texture.

The contrasting shapes appealed to me. The more distant one in the middle is part of the Proctor and Gamble Twin Towers building. Soap manufacture is big in Cincinnati.

This is a nice "sort of art deco" building.

I'm a small town boy; townhouses still look odd to me.

I've no idea what the bell commemorates.

But I like the moon and comet in it. Is that a girl or a young Prince Valiant in the middle?

An old Masonic building...I wonder if Ace Jackalope could get into the Masons?

The sign for the Cookie Jar Bakery in Newport, KY, sign says it was established in 1927.

Kamp's Carpet and Flooring.

The Brass Lounge.

This is a hazard of "from the car" photography. The auto-focus (no manual over-ride) locked onto the bugs on the windshield in this pic of the Atlas Theater.

This is a nice row of housing of different styles.

The Edge Inn tavern is in Cincinnati.

Skyline Chili is a regional chain. The building reminds me of Smokin' Bar-B-Que in Dayton, or an old White Tower.

I'd like to extend a "thank you" to Richard and Barb for their culinary scouting and superb driving during our stay in Ohio.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Flint Hills Morning

This morning I enjoyed the pre-dawn view from a rest stop along Kansas Highway 400, near Beaumont. This is the area at which I shot a nice road cut earlier this year, and near where I shot a sunset more recently.

I ran across Larry Coldwell of Cincinnati, Ohio as he prepared to fly his small plane out of Beaumont, KS, on a grass landing strip. He says he read about the nearby Beaumont Hotel in a magazine and decided to check it out the fly-in destination. He asked me if Kansas had mountain lions and mentioned he thought he'd seen one.

I left Beaumont via an old stretch of intact KS highway 96. I was actually going the wrong direction for my destination, but decided it'd been a long time since I'd driven this stretch so I wanted to explore. Hwy 96 was mostly replaced by Hwy 400 a few years ago, but some of the fragments of 96 that remain remind me of a central Kansas version of nearly-abandoned stretches of Route 66.

It's blurry and very distant, but here's a cat like the one Coldwell saw - a bobcat. This is a lesson to me: get a digital camera with better than a 3x lens.

Not far from the bobcat were these wild turkeys, equally distant.

I rejoined Highway 400 for a bit and saw the tail end of a cattle round-up between Beaumont and Leon, KS. This horse was resting after most of the cows had been loaded into trucks.

Just along the Sedgewick/Reno county line I noticed this rainbow in an irrigation rig and pulled over for a closer look. Rainbows in the sky are notoriously hard to shoot, partially because the sky behind them is usually light.

Oh yeah! A dark crop of soybeans makes for a good background. I'm one happy driver.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A Tale of Two Diners

Sometimes life juxtaposes things right in your face. No sooner do I lament the probable fate of Tulsa's Metro Diner than I read a Springfield News-Leader article, courtesy of Route 66 News, which contains good news about another fine Route 66 diner.

The National Park Service has nominated the Steak n' Shake on Route 66 in Springfield, MO, to the National Register of Historic Places as part of its Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program.

This particular Steak n' Shake, at St. Louis Street and National Avenue, was built in 1962 and is one of only two in the chain that still have the vintage 1950s and 60s design. One element of that design was this huge neon and flashing light sign.

The rooftop neon signs and the curb service window and counter (seen on the left) are two of the restaurant's original features, according to the News-Leader article.

This painted wooden sign overlooking the southern end of the parking lot is another of the place's vintage features. If owner Gary Leonard, who's family built the restaurant, fills out the necessary forms for the register, and is accepted, his restaurant could be immune from problems like road-widening projects and could also gain funding and tax benefits. However, the News-Leader article indicates he may not want the complications of that.

The neon Route 66 sign is about as flashy as the inside of the diner gets.

I don't recall any Elvis, Marilyn or James Dean posters here; this is a working diner, its emphasis on service and utility. The nostalgia comes naturally through the architecture and signage.

"Takhomasak" is one of Steak n' Shake's catch phrases. I've seen it imitated in newer restaurants as far away as Hutchinson, KS. "In Sight It Must Be Right", referring, I suppose, to the fact that you can see the food prepared, is another one.

We last visited the St Louis Street and National Steak n' Shake about three weeks ago on a jaunt with friends across Rt66 in SW MO. According to the history page at the company's website, Steak 'n Shake was founded in 1934 in Normal, Illinois. We passed through Normal about a month ago and, though it is still listed in older guidebooks, that store is now gone.

The owner of the St Louis Street and National location, Gary Leonard, also owns the other Steak n' Shake that retains the original 1950s and 60s design. The photo above shows that location, 1550 S. Glenstone Ave in Springfield, MO; it was also built in 1962. My lovely significant other and I have had many a late-night meal here. For years, there was a waitress who remembered our "usuals" even though we were only there once a month or so.

"Open 24 Hours"...that's such a beautiful phrase to anyone who likes to stay up into the wee hours shooting pictures of neon. This billboard for the St Louis Street Steak n' Shake is on Glenstone, right across St Louis Street from another Route 66 institution, the Rail Haven Motel.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Twilight of the Metro Diner

Yeah, I know it wasn't really the 1950s diner it pretended to be - too much of the Elvis/Marilyn stuff that real 50s diners often don't have. It wasn't even built in the 1970s when the country was crazy about Happy Days.

In fact, Tulsa's Metro Diner was built in the early 1980s and is, like the 66 Diner in Albuquerque, retroed-out a bit much, perhaps.

But I liked the Metro Diner, and so did many others. Enough, in fact, that I've already subconsciously given it the patina of age.

"Old" is relative, you know; most of the young people that eat and work at the Metro Diner probably don't remember a time when it didn't exist. Ironically, the university many of them attend is the reason I'm prematurely referring to the Metro Diner in the past tense.

The Tulsa Development Authority has acquired the land upon which the diner sets, as part of a plan with the University of Tulsa to tear down the Metro Diner and make a new grand entrance off 11th street. 11th street is Route 66 through much of Tulsa, OK. You can read the details in Route 66 News. It's funny - the website for the Tulsa Development Authority states that it "focuses on the preservation and developement of Tulsa's communities." Look at the picture below; it looks like a community gathering place to me.

Though Tulsa is far from my home, I have a history here, too. Over 20 years ago, at a table in the center of the room, I fell in love with an older woman; I'm sure my giddiness was obvious to the waitress that brought my grilled cheese - naive amour in the round, as it were. Years later, when I'd healed of her, I had dinner in a booth with the preciously unique women who is still my best friend. In more recent years, I shared a malt with my lovely significant other as we were falling in love during a fun weekend out of town.

Tonight I am here with my brother after a business meeting; we stopped for a goodbye to the diner after learning of its imminent demise. He sits patiently while I run around taking pictures of little details. I'm sure he has better things to do, he's just the latest chapter in how I've been at the Metro with people I love.

We've already taken the Ace Jackalope pictures. He's amused, as usual, at how Ace attracts the attention of women. This is our server, Emily.

Part of a mural at the Metro is devoted to other Route 66 attractions, especially those also in Oklahoma. 66 Courts in the lower left corner is gone now; it's one of those things that was still around when I started shooting signs and architecture but that I didn't get to in time. But the Blue Whale in Catoosa and the Round Barn in Arcadia remain, as do the icons of other states pictured beyond.

That counter under Ace is Skylark, or "boomerang", Formica. If there's a checklist for what should go into a retro diner, I'm sure this particular pattern of Formica is on it.

An employee told me the business was not likely to relocate and that it's artifacts will soon be auctioned. The general consensus of employees I chatted with was that the closing date could be anytime from September 1st to the end of the year, but September 1st seemed to be the most-assumed date; some have already found other work.

I pass through these doors for the last time.

We leave the Metro Diner and begin the long drive home as a gentle rain begins to fall on Tulsa.

UPDATE: The Metro Diner closed for good on November 26, 2006.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 3)

You know the reward if you guess correctly: you get the congratulations of a guy who runs a website devoted to a traveling jackalope. Your mother will be so proud. Now, where is Ace?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cincinnati Union Terminal

Ace Jackalope inspects the grounds of the Cincinnati Union Terminal.

The Cincinnati Union Terminal combines at least three very cool things: art deco, natural science and trains. And there's even a pop culture connection for icing on the cake: What do Ace Jackalope, Batman, Stan Marsh, Peter Griffin and Harvey Birdman have in common? Read on and see.

The 1933 art deco masterpiece was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1977. It is ten stories tall, faced with limestone and is approached from the east through a quarter-mile long plaza with landscaping and a fountain.

On either side of the main doors, bas-relief figures designed by Maxfield Keck symbolize Commerce and Transportation.

I really couldn't tell you which one is supposed to be which.

This building bears the date, 1931. Construction began in 1929 and was completed in 1933. For those of you who study architects, Roland A. Wank of Fellheimer and Wagner served as the principal architect, with help from Paul Philippe Cret. The stations website gives Union Terminal Architectural Information and some history.

We entered the structure just before noon on July 2, 2006. We were with a party of four adults and two kids; we'd all decided this would be a place where everybody could find their fun, and we were right.

You know it's a good sign when door hardware hasn't been replaced; these art deco door pulls were a good omen.

The main doors open into a cavernous open half-dome rotunda. The acoustic ceiling plaster is striking with its arched bands in shades of yellow and orange. The marble in the building is Red Verona. The Rotunda interior dome is 180 feet wide and 106 feet tall.

The digital clock on the present-day information kiosk was on the original Rotunda magazine stand.

German-born artist Winold Reiss designed mosaic murals for the station in 1932, two of which still look down on the rotunda.

The 12-foot foreground figures show the roles of people in the developing Cincinnati area. The middle ground shows the evolution of transportation. The abstract background shows landscapes - from the fields settlers found to the city they built. Each mural is 105-feet long and over 20-feet high. This one, to the left of the main entrance as you go in, depicts the settlement of the area from Native Americans through steel workers and transportation from dogs and horses through trains. I find artwork like this is really put in its time context to me by the realization that the steam engine shown is state of the art ground transportation for the time.

The mosaic to the right of the entrance depicts the growth of Cincinnati - transportation from flatboat to airplane and local people from the soldiers at nearby Fort Washington to industrial workers. Reiss used many Cincinnatians as models for this artwork.

There is a mosaic near the entry to an Omnimax theater, but it was more of a tribute to specific businessmen so I didn't shoot it; no disrespect intended, but it exceeded my glorification of the industrial/political figure threshold. There were 14 other mosaics by Reiss which saluted specific Cincinnati businesses, but those were moved to the Northern Kentucky/Greater Cincinnati International Airport back in the 1970s before a long concourse to the rear of the terminal was destroyed. They can still be seen at the airport in terminals one, two and three. One mosaic was destroyed in 1974 in a previous renovation of part of the structure by the Southern Railway, an act the railway has reportedly said they regret.

Off to the left of the central rotunda is the Cincinnati Dining Room, used for meetings and social functions. It was closed that day with a "no admittance" sign; I poked my camera in, anyway.

I didn't have time to check into this; I wonder if it's the remainder of an original diner in the station.

For many years, Cincinnati Union Terminal was a thriving place. When it opened in 1933, the terminal was served by seven railroads: the Baltimore & Ohio, the Chesapeake & Ohio, the Louisville & Nashville, the Norfolk & Western, the New York Central, the Pennsylvania and the Southern. The station could, and did, accommodate 17,000 passengers and 216 trains - 108 in and 108 out - daily. During World War II, the terminal served as a major transfer point for soldiers and saw as many as 34,000 passengers on some days. The train platforms pictured in the museum photo above are gone now, but many a tearful parting or reunion took place beneath them.

Times change. In the 1950s, the expansion of interstates, the "car culture" and the increasing affordability of airline travel led to the rapid decline of the railroad industry. By the early 1970s, only two trains a day passed through Union Terminal; the last passenger train left the Terminal Saturday evening, October 28, 1972. The huge station languished like a cathedral who's once zealous followers abandoned the religion of the rails for that of the highway. Ironically, this fed one of my other passions - the pursuit of mid 20th century roadside architecture. I guess, either way, I win.

Since its closure, the terminal survived partial destruction and an unsuccessful attempt to turn it into a shopping mall. In the late 1980s, the building was renovated and reopened as Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990. A natural history museum and a Cincinnati history museum now occupy the wings of the building that once served as passageways for cars, taxis and busses to pick up and drop off rail passengers.

History affords some nice twists: passenger service resumed when Amtrak began operating at Union Terminal on July 29, 1991, largely due to the success of the museums in the rejuvenated station.

The Museum of Natural History & Science, now occupies the right wing of the building, as you go in. This view shows art deco, a reference to trains, and a huge fossil animal; it could scarcely get better, as far as my tastes are concerned.

This totem pole was carved in a Cincinnati department store in 1959 by Amos Wallace, a Tlingit Indian, to celebrate Alaska's entry as the 49th state. Each part of the carving represents something. For example, the top figure is the mythical bird who created the universe and below that is the north star.

There was a also a nice display of Native American beadwork.

This one is Chippewa from 1885.

This one is labeled "Northern Plains circa 1915".

This is the entrance to Cincinnati's Ice Age: Clues Frozen in Time, an exhibit which details the end of the last ice age in the Ohio Valley, 19,000 years ago.

Giant Beavers once roamed the Ohio valley.

While it is known that dire wolves once roamed the area, the presence of jackalopes in prehistoric Ohio is entirely this website's own conjecture.

Some of my favorite prehistoric dioramas involve the plethora of life forms that pre-date dinosaurs and other more familiar animals. I featured an Ordovician diorama from the museum in another post about a fossil I saw in a flowerbed in Ohio.

This amphibian is losing its watery environment in the Permian period, 225 million years ago, as sea levels dropped and coastal swamps dried up. As if that wasn't challenge enough, most species were destroyed in a mass extinction at the end of the Permian, the largest mass extinction known. (The plaque for this diorama listed a lungfish and I mistakenly paraphrased that - mistake corrected.)

There are few amimals I love more than the giant armored fish of the Devonian period ("age of fishes"), 400-360 million years ago. This is the head of a Dunkleosteus terrelli, a 25+ foot terror which swam the ocean that once covered Ohio and the surrounding states. Those are not true teeth; they are bony plates that sheared past each other like scissors.

Bothriolepis maxima was a smaller, bottom-dwelling armored fish of the Devonian. It probably walked along the bottom of the sea, and looked very neat doing so.

This model of Stegosaurus, a Jurassic dinosaur was sculpted by Charles Knight, my favorite paleo-artist. It's quite out of date, but I love it all the more as a time capsule of paleontological thought in the very early 20th century.

As I recall, life-sized recreations of dinosaurs began to populate smaller museums in the 1980s; I wish more had been around when I was a kid. This is a model of Allosaurus, a Jurassic predator.

A centerpiece of the museum is a walk-though recreation of a cave entitled The Cavern: A World Without Light. Different color temperatures of lights made for fun viewing in the "cave."

Remember, stalactites cling "tight"; to the ceiling.

Ace checks out a simulated underground stream, I found the cave to be more amusing than educational, but it was different, at least.

The Cincinnati History Museum, opened in 1990, is entered through the old "Outgoing Taxis and Motorcoaches" doorway to your right as you enter the terminal.

Exhibits include Cincinnati Goes to War: A Community Responds to WWII.

Cincinnati in Motion is a huge S-scale (1/64) urban layout of Cincinatti from 1900 through 1940, complete with working trains, streetcars, inclines and interactive computer stations.

It includes this model of Cincinatti Union terminal, which shows the curved "wings" better than do my exterior photos.

Other exhibits spotlight industry in Cincinnati. Of course, I'm a sucker for an old neon sign.

The artist of this 1910 poster for the Ohio Valley Exposition is not noted on the accompanying label, but it seems imitative of the art nouveau works of Alphonse Mucha.

Union Terminal also hosts the Cinergy Children's Museum and an Omnimax theater. But the chief attraction to me was yet to come, up a few flights of non-descript stairs away from the crowds.

Atop the Cincinnati Union Terminal sits a railfan's playhouse, Tower A, home of the Cincinnati Railroad Club.

The tower is a long room in back of the dome structure, high above the large railroad yard behind the station. You can see it in this old photograph stored near the tower. Tower A is the high, block-like room in the exact center of the photo. I should note that the long concourse structure coming out from the station has been destroyed, as noted earlier in this post.

Tower A is visible in the distance behind the steam locomotive in this photo on display in the tower.

This is the view looking South from the tower. In the distance, a train crosses a bridge over the Ohio River into Kentucky.

Ace checks out the view to the North, over this truly massive railroad yard. This is the same location from which Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 1) was shot.

Back in 1933, when Cincinnati Union Terminal was new and had zillions of trains everyday, Tower A was analogous to a modern air traffic control tower. Switches in the railroad yard were controlled by men throwing levers on the huge "interlocking machine" seen in the museum photograph, above. The interlocking machine, made by Union Switch & Signal Company, was state of the art for the time, and controlled the actual railroad yard switches by sending electric signals down to the yard, which signaled the compressed air-powered yard switches to move.

The interlocking machine is long-gone, but the train director's desk remains.

Original "candlestick" telephones were found to replace the originals. They are mounted on the table exactly as they had been in 1933. One of them has had modern mechanisms installed and is a working phone.

The track diagram board, which is still on display, worked in conjunction with the interlocking machine and mapped out the workings of the yard below. It's 5 feet tall, 42 feet long and originally contained more than 682 indicator lights.

The signal maintainer's room was converted to a large railroad library.

At both ends of the main room, large illuminated clocks were restored. The general restoration effort of Tower A was a massive undertaking by the Cincinnati Railroad Club, which had been a tenant of the station since 1938 - the longest and last tenant of the building. In 1989, the Museum Center and the Cincinnati Railroad Club agreed that the club should move into Tower A. Seventeen years of neglect had inflicted heavy damage on the tower and it had to be brought up to code, as well. Ultimately, the effort was successful although some of the finer work continues.

Cincinnati railroad Club members (L-R) John Vogel, Ronnie Stahl and Don Patrick gave us lots of background information on the tower. Stahl worked in the tower for many years and was quite informative to visitors.

The club operates a railroad museum in the main room of the tower.

While there is no model train layout present, there are a few examples, including this fine toy replica of a very early Union Pacific diesel; I'm pretty sure this was called the M-1000.

The main attraction to me is still the real trains, from an unusual vantage point.

Tower A is open to the public at no charge every Thursday 8PM - 11PM, every Saturday 10AM - 5PM, and the First and Third Sundays of each month 12PM - 4PM, according to their website at the time of this writing.

Oh yeah, the pop culture thing: If you think the station looks naggingly familiar, you may, like me, have the unfortunate memory of the Hanna Barbara cartoon series, "Superfriends." Yes, it was a travesty to true comic book aficionados and one cheap bit of animation, but they did choose a good model for the Hall of Justice - that's right, the resemblance to Cincinnati's Union terminal is unmistakable.

You could even (kind of) have your own Cincinnati Union Terminal playset.

And there's more pop culture to come: The old Superfriends series had been parodied in South Park's episode, Super Best Friends, in which Stan fights a cult leader with the help of Jesus, Muhammed, Buddha, Joseph Smith, Krishna and an Aquaman look-alike who are headquartered in the Superfriends' Hall of Justice. The animated version of the train station was also seen in the Family Guy episode, A Hero Sits Next Door, in which Peter Griffin plays strip poker with the Justice League. I think it may also have shown up in Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode, A Very Personal Injury, in which Apache Chief, a member of the Superfriends, spills a cup of hot coffee in his lap and can no longer "grow large."

Yep, art deco, trains, natural history and a contribution to late night parody cartoons - what more could one ask of one building? We were there for five hours and didn't see nearly everything, but it kept four adults, two kids and one undercover jackalope quite interested.

New photo and information, added September 2008 - The Justice League comic book now portrays a Justice League headquarters based on the Cincinnati Union Terminal. Somehow, that just seems right.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Roswitha's Schnitzelbank

Keeping up our rule to "eat no mediocre meals" is difficult and often involves keeping our ears to the ground for the obscure. Toward that end, when we heard there was a German restaurant in a barn north of Joplin, MO, we had to try it.

Roswitha's Schnitzelbank is located six miles north of the intersection of highways 171 and 43 - an intersection called "Stones Corner" by the locals.

The actual address is 12167 Hwy 43.

Roswitha Hartline, owner and cook, is from Rhineland Pfalz in the former West Germany.

According to notes on the menu, Roswita's aunt owned a restaurant in the Dr Faust Haus in Bad-Kreuznach: "Yes that is the house, which famed Dr. Johann Faust, who sold his soul to the devil in exchange for power and Knowledge, lived in."

Speaking of evil, this group of kittens furnished constant amusement.

There's inside seating, but we preferred this table out in the barn, just outside the kitchen door.

I had the bratwurst for $8.00. I'm no connoisseur of German food, but it was good.

We weren't the only ones feeding.

This was our view. I guess you can't get more pastoral than a pasture.

Ace Jackalope watches the sun set. This was back in June, when it was fun to stand in open doorways and before old Sol began its plan to burn us to cinders.

The horsies watch me shoot their picture with indifference.

And now, because cute kittens sell, I offer you a selection.


Saturday, August 05, 2006


Friday, I posted photos and information on the Spirit of Louisiana, the Louisiana Steam Association's 1921 2-8-2 "Mikado" Mk-5 class steam locomotive #745 and its presence in the Pittsburg, Kansas, area for a few excursions.

This past weekend I followed it...well, more precisely, kept getting ahead of it and shooting pictures. I rode aboard the train during one of its seven runs. I can't seem to tear myself away from a steam engine.

Members of the Heart of the Heartlands Railroad Club were instrumental in bringing 745 to Pittsburg, and they volunteered to help out on the train. Many of them own their own vintage passenger railroad uniforms.

Joplin railfan, Jim Taylor, captured a "blow down" on film Saturday morning. Before departure, the fireman uses this process to rid part of the locomotive of extra moisture. The water is hot, and exits as steam.

During one of 745's other departures, I shot this QuickTime movie; it's 31.8 MB but worth the download if you want to hear one of the locomotive's whistles (it has two) and see the busy box-like activity of the rods and wheels. You'll need a QuickTime program on your computer to see it; the free version will do just fine. If you don't already have it, here's a link to Apple's page where you can find a free download of QuickTime.

If you played the video, you noticed the loudness of the whistle. It was fun to see people's varying reaction to it.

In any group of a few people, there seemed to be someone holding their ears.

This is the trestle over Cow Creek, near the southern boundary of Pittsburg.

This shot has the entire train, but also has power lines.

I also shot a movie at this location; it's 18.7MB.

The scenery is a nice cross section of SE Kansas - fields, for the most part.

Many enthusiasts followed the train to more than one intersection.

There were a couple of slight curves, during which passengers could see the engine.

Passengers seemed to enjoy themselves. In addition to the ride, they also got narration from Larry Spahn, Heart of the Heartlands president.

Something I like about 745 may seem odd, but I enjoy it's very "ordinaryness." In its time, I am told, it was a relatively common type of working locomotive, not one of the big high-tech units like Union Pacific's 844, and that makes 745 a fine time capsule of day-to-day rail transportation in the mid 20th century.

There is a great pleasure in seeing other enthusiasts, be they railfans or casual observers.

I stayed on a vestibule at the rear of the train for most of my ride, and was mesmerized by this view.

745 passes a mineral plant. Mining was an integral part of the history of this part of the state, and the railroads made commerce in lead, zinc and other SE KS minerals practical.

Agriculture is now the area's main industry. Corn production in Kansas has more than doubled in the last few years, and last year the state was 7th in corn production in the US.

I shot a 14.5 MB movie at about this location...lots of wind noise and very little engine, but you get a bit of the flavor of the trip and can hear the whistles.

The train approaches a small trestle over Brush Creek, east of Cherokee and north of Weir, just north of Highway 400.

I wondered how many of these kids had ever ridden any sort of train.

The trestle was my favorite location. Shooting from beneath was fun.

See how the locomotive is picking up some green color from the trees?

Richard Jacobs, Louisiana Steam Association member and 745 crewman, waves from the generator car.

You can tell the locomotive is on a slight grade because it's working harder, hence, the smoke.

The train stopped just east of Cherokee Kansas. The area is pockmarked with these water-filled "strip pits" - the legacy of strip mining for coal. They are popular among locals for swimming and even scuba, but they are to be treated with extreme caution due to steep drop-offs into dozens of feet of water.

After stopping, we backed up all the way to Pittsburg. This shot would have been better in the morning, but I included it to show the overall length of the train and the arrangement of motive power. The yellow diesel switcher is doing the work at this point.

The switcher, "Bubba" is named for the grandchild of the owner of Watco, the railroad company that owns this track and loaned the passenger cars.

You can tell the train is being towed backwards because the smoke from 745 is trailing forward of the engine. Being nearly under something that big and loud is an experience.

Forewards or backwards - I don't think it mattered to some people.

A rail car followed 745 after one of its early runs to make sure the track was holding up well.

The excursion took place on ex-Frisco track (more recently ex-BNSF) which is currently owned by Watco. It's not exactly mainline track, but it'll do.

This is south Broadway in Pittsburg; 745 is being hauled back to the starting point. The guy in the red truck had just stepped out to take a picture.

When the locomotive was stationary, it was a popular background. Here, members of the Heart of the Heartlands Railroad Club pose for a picture. I think Ace needs a uniform like this.

Saturday night, I was treated to a brief cab ride as the locomotive backed up a few blocks to a place where the fire department could pour water into the tender.

Chief Mechanical Officer, Gerry Lynch, was acting as fireman.

Engineer David Bartee works the throttle. Notice the water - H2O was definitely the hot commodity this past weekend.

Yes, it was hot that weekend.

"how hot was it?" you ask in your best Ed McMahon voice.

It was so hot that when the tender overflowed with water after being filled, I was tempted to jump under it for a shower.

Richard Jacobs watches the overall scene as the train backs up.

The cab ride offered me another look at the machine's instrumentation.

The locomotive blocked a crossing for a few minutes, which afforded me the red lighting from the crossing signals.

The moon was a nice touch. This is why you should always carry a tripod.

The lights in the number board were not working.

However, these guys don't seem to let anything go sub-par for long; someone fixed them.

Crewmen proceed with the nightly shut-down. In a few minutes, the lights will be turned off and the Spirit of Louisiana will sleep in the moonlight.

To keep up on 745's travels, check the Louisiana Steam Association's website.

To ride even longer trains in the Pittsburg area, check the Heart of the Heartlands Railroad Club site for their schedule. They are running several more trains this year. They won't have steam engines, but they're a good value, nonetheless, and they have a museum, too.

If you haven't seen it, here's my coverage of 745's arrival In Pittsburg at the beginning of the weekend:

And if you're a steam enthusiast, check out my encounter with UP 844 earlier this year:
844 (Salina, Abilene, Herrington and Hutchinson, KS - lots of night shots
844 Returns (844 in Claremore, OK)
844: Riding the Iron Horse (woo hoo! We get a cab ride!)
Goodbye, 844, 'til we meet again (Train ride from Coffeyville to Kansas City)

Friday, August 04, 2006

You Can Have A Steam Train

The Louisiana Steam Train Association's 1921 2-8-2 "Mikado" Mk-5 class steam locomotive #745 arrived in Pittsburg, Kansas, Friday in preparation for a weekend of excursions.

745 steams into the Kansas City Southern railroad yard, behind the old diesel shop, just after arrival.

The 2-8-2 wheel arrangement shows clearly in this photo. 745 uses a kind of tender I've never seen; I'll add details when I get them.

Two of the passenger cars for this weekend's excursions are visible here. There will also be a diesel on the back end to help the train return to Pittsburg after the excursions carry the coaches a few miles into the countryside. People power to man the passenger cars will be made available by the Heart of the Heartlands Railroad Club. Those coaches are air conditioned, by the way.

They call them steam engines for a reason.

I always love looking at the details on these things. I believe this is called spring rigging.

Crewman Richard Jacobs makes adjustments to the bell.

The bell is original to the locomotive, which was built in 1921 out of spare parts in The Southern Pacific's Algiers shop, New Orleans, Louisiana.

The whistle is not original and is on loan from an engineer; it is quite old and valuable in its own right. I learned an interesting thing today: engineers of steam locomotives sometimes had their own whistles with unique mechanical touches that would alert those in earshot as to who was driving the train.

A crewman lubricates the locomotive; steam locos take a lot of maintenance, one of the factors that lead to their demise.

This particular locomotive was retired in 1956 and became one of the ubiquitous city park steam engines that dot the country when it was placed in Audubon Park in New Orleans, a fate that lead to neglect and vandalism.

Audubon Park was not to be the final resting place of 745, however. In 1984, the Old Kenner Railroad Association obtained the locomotive, hoping to eventually restore it. In 1997, the newly-formed Louisiana Steam Train Association kicked the restoration into high gear; by 2004, 745 was able to run again.

Bruce Brown, President of the Louisiana Steam Train Association was acting as 745's fireman; here, he poses with Ace Jackalope while answering a few questions about the cab. Though the association's website does not mention it, Brown informed me that about 50% of this weekend's proceeds will go toward Hurricane Katrina victims.

Some of the controls, like these, are original.

These valve handles are replacements. That lever is the throttle, by the way.

This is the engineers view. The cab is not part of the excursions this weekend, as far as I know, and that's just as well because it's hot up there...about 120 degrees, I'd estimate.
UPDATE: between runs they did let people up into the cab. I'm always impressed when an organization trusts people not to be stupid, and as far as I know, that trust was well-placed.

This GPS is a very practical bit of modern technology. By the way, this weekend's excursion trains will slowly voyage SW of Pittsburg on former Frisco tracks and will take about 90 minutes.

Even in the somewhat grimy cab, some of the older elements seem downright artsy.

Fire is the heart of every living steam locomotive.

And with intense heat and pressure, there's a lot to keep track of.

A steam engine isn't something that, once fixed, always stays fixed. Tools abound.

"There's a steam engine in my shubbery!" 745 is parked right by someone's yard. I always envy such people.

The train will load passengers at Pittsburg's Elm and Monroe Streets for excursions toward Cherokee, KS, leaving at 10AM, 12:30PM and 3PM today and tomorrow (Saturday, Aug 5 and Sunday, Aug 6). Tickets are $20 for adults and $10 for kids under the age of ten. Very young offspring may ride free on laps.

I've ridden another train through that stretch and it's a nice slice of Southeast Kansas - no more, but certainly no less. You'll see fields, strip pits and probably some wildlife if you keep your eyes peeled. And more than that, you'll hear the whistle of the train as it approaches each intersection, and get to wave at onlookers. I do recommend it. And did I mention it's air conditioned?

For more information, see the press releases of the Louisiana Steam Train Association and the Heart of the Heartlands Railroad Club.

UPDATE: for pictures and coverage of the weekend's train rides, see the post, 745.

And if you're a stream engine enthusiast, check out my encounters with 844 earlier this year:
844 (Salina, Abilene, Herrington and Hutchinson, KS - lots of night shots
844 Returns (844 in Claremore, OK)
844: Riding the Iron Horse (woo hoo! I get a cab ride!)
Goodbye, 844, 'til we meet again (Train ride from Coffeyville to Kansas City)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Lebanon, Ohio

Last month we visited the southeast Ohio town of town of Lebanon.

Our goal was to consume good food. Remember, One of Ace Jackalope's rules of travel is: eat no mediocre meals.

Our hosts led us well. We landed at the Golden Lamb, a restaurant and hotel, parts of which date back to 1815.

Like many buildings of such an age, the Golden Lamb, which also had a few other names over the years, was enlarged from time to time. The third floor was added in 1834. The fourth was added in 1878 to accommodate railroad workers. The porch and balconies date back to the early 20th century.

The atmosphere was that which you would expect from an old bed and breakfast inn. My Kansas readers would be reminded of the Brookville Hotel, before the Brookville ditched and gutted its historic building and moved to a replica of itself in order to be along an interstate highway. The Golden Lamb is, thankfully, right where it historically belongs.

A family style fried chicken dinner with several sides was $15.95, and it was well spent. It was juicy, but not greasy and the skin was a seductive golden brown.

Ace has disguised himself as a gentleman of bygone days in order to meet our server.

Just as an historic B&B should have, The Golden Lamb has rooms upstairs furnished in period furniture. Their website does not claim that certain people stayed in specific rooms, but they do have documentation on all of the guests for whom rooms are named. Most of the furniture is not original to the place, but it is used to nice effect.

Ace Jackalope waits for John Quincy Adams to come back to his room so that he can thank him for being the first president to propose joining the various parts of the growing United States with a system of public highways and canals.

Before becoming president, Adams co-authored the Monroe Doctrine as Secretary of State under President James Monroe. Wikipedia has some nice Adams trivia: "Adams was the first President to give an interview to a woman. Adams had repeatedly refused requests for an interview with Anne Royall, the first female professional journalist in the U.S., so she took a different approach to accomplish her goal. She learned that Adams liked to skinny-dip in the Potomac River almost every morning around 5 AM, so she went to the river, gathered his clothes and sat on them until he answered all of her questions."

Considering the above story, it is fortunate Adams did not live in the electronic age. However, should Adams return, he'd find this TV in his room. He'd watch a lot of CSPAN and the Travel Channel, no doubt.

Question: which of the presidents named on the doors above is quoted as saying of his corrupt administration: "My...friends...they're the ones that keep me walking the floors nights!"?


The answer is Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States. He was born in Ohio, elected in 1921 and died in office in 1923, leaving Herbert Hoover as President.

Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), drew on her experiences with slavery and the underground railroad from the years in which she lived in Cincinnati, Ohio, which is across from Kentucky, a slave state at the time. President Lincoln is said to have once greeted her as "the little lady who made this big war."

A weeknight in the Samuel Clemens room will set you back $88. The least expensive room (non-suite) is Ulysses S. Grant at $60; the most expensive is that of Charles Dickens at $93. Does this mean literature is worth more than politics? I do hope so.

There's a nice view of the Lebanon Town Hall out one of the east windows.

A previous owner of the Golden Lamb, Robert H. Jones, was a collector of the Shaker furniture that is still displayed today in two of the rooms.

The Golden Lamb is taller than most buildings around it, affording a fine view of the setting sun.

"Sarah's Room" is dedicated to the daughter of a family that owned the hotel in the mid-1800s. Although it does contain two pieces of furniture that were owned by Sarah as a child, it was never actually her room. The Golden Lamb makes an attempt at a ghost story about the room, stating that noises have been heard in the locked room and pictures have refused to remain straightened.

It's not the strongest ghost story I've heard, but the chicken sure was good.

Having left the Golden Lamb, we ran across the station and equipment for the Lebanon Mason Monroe Railroad whilst exploring Lebanon.

The tourist line uses a rebuilt vintage GP-7 diesel locomotive as its power.

The side of the locomotive is marked: Turtle Creek and Lebanon Railway, a name by which many online articles call this operation. Perhaps there has been a recent name change?

The railroad uses 1930s era coaches.

Passengers also ride in this open-air gondola car.

I presume this structure is original - perhaps a train control tower - but the website makes no mention of it.

The city of Lebanon restored this old gas station, right across the street from the railway headquarters.

The sun set on another day of satisfying (and well fed) tourism.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Dayton through the Windshield

Sometimes you're just in a hurry and can't stop. Sometimes the traffic pattern or available parking make a stop problematic. You can still get some pictures though; just keep the windshield as clean as you can. By the way, I don't know what many of these places are, but they're all in or near Dayton, Ohio (as of early July, 2006).

The lower flag is that of Ohio; it's an odd shape - more of banner than a flag. I shot this because I have taken a mild interest in state flags.

Sometimes the little architectural details of a facade are all you want, anyway.

I noticed a few of these Packard signs in Ohio and Illinois.

The Biltmore Hotel at 1st and Main streets was completed in 1929 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. It is currently used as elderly housing.

That is one ugly Jesus.

I have lately become enamored of bridges.

For this last one, I did get out of the car. According to agilitynut, this building was built in 1941 as a White Tower hamburger place and became Smokin' Bar-B-Que in 2005. White Tower was a once-thriving regional chain that spread from Wisconsin to locations like this one in Ohio; you can read more about it on this Wisconsin Historical Society page.