Saturday, August 17, 2019

Spectacular Night Float Out: NCL Encore

While most of us were asleep last night (Saturday) in various time zones other than Germany, Norwegian Cruise Lines "Encore" was floated out into the Ems River.

Encore is the fourth and final expression of the "Breakaway Plus" class. "Breakaway", according to my contacts at NCL, means — promotes — "a free spirited relaxed dress code", for a "care-free voyage."

Encore joins:

• Escape (2015)
• Joy (2017)
• Bliss (2018)
• Encore (2019)

Significant changes have been incorporated into the Encore, one of which extends the popular go cart track, including a curve that goes OVER the side of the vessel! Definitely not for the faint of heart!

Norwegian Encore itinerary is based on home port Miami Florida (USA) round trips (Sunday departures) on 7-day Eastern Caribbean itineraries with call ports San Juan Puerto Rico, St Thomas USVI and Tortola BVI.

NCL has provided the hull of new vessels as a blank canvas for highly acclaimed artists. Encore features the work of Spanish Artist Edurado Arranz-Bravo.

Joy and Bliss pass me in Port Townsend every Saturday and Sunday. I am upgrading my photo gear to capture them in high definition.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Megan Rapinoe: You Go Gurl!

Many soccer fans — if they can steal TV time at work or at home — will be focused on the USA vs Great Britain semi-final on Tuesday July 2nd!

The entire team has thrilled and delighted us with their exciting march toward the World Cup. Leading team USA, a remarkable powerhouse, #15, Forward, Megan Rapinoe.

Ms. Rapinoe is a product of the West Coast. Born in Redding California — a sweltering fuel stop on the I-5 in summer; an ice box in winter — she went on to graduate from the University of Portland, less than 3 miles from my habitrail in the 1990's.

As with all assertive and intelligent women, our odious president has twitted demeaning messages to Megan.

Good Luck Ladies!  We anticipate you will be on the pitch for the World Cup Final on Sunday July 7th!

Monday, May 13, 2019

You: Aria

Let's face it. Most commercials are annoying. We are subjected to repetitive cycles of junk, up to 22 minutes per hour, fed to us by a mind-numbing cast of talking amphibians, birds, boxes, cartoon characters, and outright annoying dingbats!

But every now and then, out of this cacophony of visuals, some really memorable images emerge that are highly repeatable without breaking the mute button on the remote.

Volvo has done it again with the 2019 XC90 flight of commercials entitled "You: Aria."

Who is the stunning soprano?

Emily Cheung, a member of the Vancouver (BC) Chamber Choir, is the coloratura soprano performing  "Queen of the Night: Aria"  from the Magic Flute, written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

The aria is renowned as a demanding piece to perform well. The vocal range covers two octaves, from F4 to F6 and requires a very high tessitura, A4 to C6. Only coloratura sopranos can sing the bird like, playful high notes.

The L. A. Times asked the question: "Does Volvo know it’s using opera’s most monstrous villainess to sell its SUVs?"

Stunning Voice; Stunning Stereo

You have to look quick; happens right at the beginning of "Aria."  The car stereo is labeled "Bowers & Wilkens." It is a spendy option for the XC90.

At  USD$2,650, the Bowers & Wilkens S90 auto stereo system is impressive!  When you open this page, be sure to click the video clip, demonstrating placement of 19 speakers. The resonating sub-woofer is mounted on the vehicle frame.

The S90 sound system was given a "Standing Ovation" at

We've come along way from 1953, when Dinah Shore sung her way into out hearts, singing "See the USA in your Chevrolet!"

"A Place to Collect Your Thoughts"

In 2016, Volvo launched a flight of commercials promoting the XC90. This baffling commercial created a flurry Internet speculation as to the connotation of the commercials, and relationships of the individuals in the vehicle.

In advertising circles, the ads were successful - very successful!

The thirty-second version of the commercial provides nothing more than a montage of individuals riding in the Volvo XC90.

The "extended" version, three minutes duration, offers many relationship clues, which begin to solve the enigma. There is only a woman driving the car; has to be the daughter, implying the dad is either divorced or widowed.

What is also projected is the upper class status of the "family," from the impressive mansion, to the Hasselblad camera, and the XC90 itself with its pricey Bowers & Wilkins 19 speaker sound system, described earlier.

• In the opening scenes, Mr. B — actor Ron Jack Foley —  is writing wedding notes in preparation for his daughter's nuptials. Moreover, the 2016 XC90 is parked next to a lighthouse, portrayed as being "the perfect place to collect his thoughts."

• The lighthouse is Fisgard Light, the first lighthouse built on southern tippy-tip of Vancouver Island (British Columbia) at the entrance to Esquimalt Harbor, home of the large Canadian Forces Base on the West Coast.

In this screen grab, you can make out the shape of a Canadian Forces warship at anchor in Esquimalt Harbor.

Music Tracks

• First music cut: "Mr. B" writing wedding speech notes whilst sitting in car next to lighthouse: "Emily's Song" The Lil' Fighters. (0:15 to 2:12)

• Second cut, "Mrs. B" plays radio: "Every Time the Sun Comes Up" Sharon Van Etten. (2:30 to end)
(An amusing comment written about the music, "Volvo sold me a song and not a car.")

• Collaboration: Advertising Agency: Grey, New York and Production Company, Townhouse and  Iconoclast

I really enjoyed this flight of commercials - restrained and self-controlled, in sharp contrast to the pedestrian commercials featuring vehicles blazing across the screen at paralegal speeds!

Sunday, May 5, 2019

NCL Norwegian Joy!

Norwegian Cruise Line "Norwegian Joy" outbound Admiralty Inlet, on her inaugural voyage to southeast Alaska.

Marking the "official" opening of the cruising season to Alaskan ports, she and her sister, Norwegian Bliss, offer departures every Saturday (Joy) and Sunday (Bliss) for seven day trip to Skagway, returning via Victoria, May through September.

Joy was launched in 2017, built for service in China. Her painting of "Phoenix Rising" is a figure valued by the Chinese.

She entered a yard in Shanghai where USD$50M was spent to make her almost identical to the Bliss, including installation of a Starbucks coffee shop!

Additional work was performed at Vigor Shipyard in Seattle.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Celebrating UP's Sesquicentennial: Resurrection of Big Boy!

The centerpiece of Union Pacific's 150 Anniversary will be UP 4014, Whyte Designation 4-8-8-4 —   nicknamed "Big Boy!"  She'll be double heading with another historic locomotive, UP 844 next month.

The American Locomotive Co. in Schenectady, N.Y., built 25 of the monsters to Union Pacific’s specifications between 1941 and 1944, and they became legendary. They were the largest steam locomotives ever to work the rugged terrain of Wyoming, aimed at moving freight at track speeds over the Wasatch mountains.

Seventeen Big Boys were scrapped when they were pulled from service, but eight survived and are on display around the country. Union Pacific chose the 4014 for restoration because it spent more than 50 years in the friendly climate of Southern California, at the RailGiants Train Museum at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds in Pomona.


•  In late 2012, Union Pacific announced that it was interested in obtaining a Big Boy and restoring it to operating condition.

•  RailGiants agreed to give the Big Boy back to the Union Pacific in exchange for some other equipment to display.

•  On July 23, 2013, Union Pacific announced that it had reacquired 4014 from The Southern California chapter of the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society, with the goal of restoring it to service.

•  On January 26, UP 4014 was moved from its home at the museum, on temporary track, on to the adjacent parking lot, with plans to take it to Union Pacific's rail yard in Colton, California, before its move to Cheyenne.

•  On April 28, 2014, UP 4014 began the trip towards the Union Pacific Steam Shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming, its final destination for restoration under the guidance of Heritage Fleet Operations director Ed Dickens. The Big Boy was powered by SD70Ms 4014 and 4884. A compressor was on board of the locomotive to sound the impressive whistle during the trip.

•  UP4014 was delivered to Cheyenne, Wyoming on May 8, 2014, to begin the historic rebuilding process.

•  On April 24, 2019, the Union Pacific Steam Team is busy making final preparations for the May 4 christening of the Big Boy No. 4014 in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Final touches on its paint job are being applied and the last necessary tests are being conducted.

•  No. 844 will double-head with No. 4014 from Cheyenne to Ogden on May 4 after the 9:30 a.m. MT christening ceremony.

•  Here is the revised 2019 Union Pacific Steam Schedule. (as of 4/24/19)

Other Resources

•  The Road put together a exciting web site, with interactive maps, allowing you to begin either in Sacramento or Omaha, building the first transcontinental railroad.

•  Can't make it to Ogden for the big event May 9? Union Pacific will be streaming the May 9 ceremonies live via the UP Facebook page, located at  (If you haven't already "liked" UP's Facebook page, do it today. You'll be notified as soon as the cameras start rolling.)

•  The May 10th events taking place at Promontory will not be streamed live on UP's Facebook page, but will be available via other online outlets.

•  Here is a handy site, the Union Pacific Steam Club. Admission is free, and promises to keep you up to date with the movements of 4014 and 844 and other Anniversary activities.

•  Union Pacific Steam Shop Tour and Big Boy 4014 Restoration (56 minutes).

•  Close up examination of the intricacies of just the front engine of 4014.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Oil-Electric 2019 Calendar

Following graduation from high school in 1962, my next adventure in higher learning took place at Washington State University over in Pullman, Washington.

I was delighted to see the vibrant college town was served by not one but two class 1's.

Propelled by the emerging need for support the explosive agricultural growth of the Palouse, Northern Pacific (NP) and Oregon-Washington Railway & Navigation (OWR&N) began aggressive campaigns to reach the Palouse.

See my articles "From Rails to Trails."

OR&N (Oregon Railway & Navigation,) later, Union Pacific, arrived in Pullman in 1885; Northern Pacific (NP) arrived in 1887.

OR&N continued east, terminating in Moscow, Idaho. NP also made its way to Moscow, yet another vibrant college town, then continued south joining up with the OWR&N connecting to Clarkson, Washington on the Columbia River.

By one account, the name "Pullman" is attributed to Bolin Farr, who in 1875, homesteaded in the area, creating the Three Forks Ranch. As the area attracted more settlers, Farr set aside a tract of land and platted it to town lots.

As this account continues, Farr was friends of George Pullman, industrialist and owner of the Pullman Railcar Company.  Thus, to honor his friends accomplishments, the town-site was renamed Pullman, and the name "Three Forks" faded into history.

As railroads became sensitive to "the bottom line" of operating expenses, the introduction of self powered rail cars became an interesting concept. The concept offered basic consists, resulting in lower maintenance, and most notably, reduced train crew manning and wage savings.

Northern Pacific purchased one McKeen Car
Several companies tried their hand at responding to the single self powered rail, including McKeen, Brill, ENC and others — including "home brews" like Canadian National.

Only the Budd Company rose to dominate the market. In 1930, the Budd Company opened the rail-car division. In 1934, Budd produced the first streamlined stainless steel passenger diesel powered rail car, the Pioneer Zephyr, now a National Historic Mechanical Landmark.

In 1949, introduced the Budd RDC, or “Rail Diesel Car,” a self propelled passenger train that became widely popular due to its reliability. Between 1949 and 1962, 398 RDC's were built and many remain in revenue service.

Quintessential RDC "Bible."
The RDC was offered in four configurations, allowing roads to purchase units for various service needs:

• RDC 1.  90 passengers.
• RDC-2. 71 passengers plus a 17' baggage-express compartment.
• RDC-3. 49 passengers, plus baggage-express and Rail Post Office (RPO) mail compartment.
• RDC-4. No passengers; baggage-express and RPO only.

Then two additional permutations came into existence:

• RDC-9. 94 passengers, 1 pancake 300 hp Detroit Diesel motor, no control stands. All functions manipulated by "standard" RDC. Boston & Maine ordered 30 units to replace nine locomotives and 102 passenger cars for other service.

• RDC-5:
           • Canadian Pacific for eight RDC-2's converted to full-coach.
           • The Canadian National purchased the 30 RDC-9's built for Boston& Maine.

RDC's 1 through 4 were powered by two Detroit Diesel 300 hp pancake engines mounted under the floor. The RDC-9 had one motor, but without control stands, had to be in the company of a "regular" RDC.

An RDC requires but one operator with three simple controls:

1. A self-lapping straight air brake valve.
2. A four position throttle lever.
3. A reversing lever.

Northern Pacific owned six RDC's; 3 each RDC-2-3:

Units in 1963 were assigned to two schedules, 29 and 11.

NP B-40 was an RDC-3, thought by many to be the "nifty" unit, with passenger, baggage and Rail Postal compartments.

Crew had to crawl on hands and knees under sorting table through a "creep door" to make their way from the RPO compartment to he baggage compartment!

• NP B-40
• Built March, 1955.
• SN 6017.
• 1970. To Burlington Northern as part of the "Big Merger", retaining #B-40.
• 1973. To Amtrak, renumbered 40.
• 1975. Sold to BC government (Pacific Great Eastern) in North Vancouver BC, inoperable, cannibalized for parts.
• 1979. Carcass to VIA for parts.
• 1987. Stricken from roster.

Featured on the front cover of "The Mainstreeter," Jim Fredrickson captured RDC-2, B-30, escaping "Vandal Country" (University of Idaho) into "Cougar Country," Washington State University!

Creating The Calendar

The 2019 Oil-Electric Calendar was produced and optimized for 300 dpi printing. Printed on ink jet Ultra photo paper yields a photo that represents the zenith of my many years of messing around with computers. (My first computer was a Commodore 64!)

Production began by seeking out a calendar template in a large .tiff format that would allow me to "down size" to the 8½" by 11" medium.

• Scan 620 negative of NP B-40 on Epson Perfection V600 Photo scanner, using SilverFast 8 capture software.

(Edit Note. SilverFast is a bitch to learn. I've been struggling to use it for several years.

But it was only last year when I upgraded my hardware to a Dell Precision T3500 Workstation with fast processor, BIG memory, that I have begun to tame the monster. And to their credit, the engineers at LaserSoft Imaging have winnowed down the massive list of SilverFast crash issues, to where I can capture a descent frame to process.

Hamrick's VueScan is my "fall back" capture software. He's made excellent progress in making VueScan a decent competitor, at a significantly lower price!)

• Output from SilverFast 8 → Corel PaintShop Pro Ultra 2019 64-bit.
• Process within PS 2019 with Nik Dx0 filter suite.
• Save photo as 300 dpi .tif file.
• Compose calendar template with photo output plus captioning with Adobe Photoshop Elements 10 (PSE 10).
• Create output from PSE 10 → Epson 610XP inkjet printer.
• Convert calendar final output from .tif  → .pdf with Acrobat X, set to version 8 or better.
• Post final portable document file, .pdf → Google Docs.
• Make file accessible to the public.
• Create link → Oil-Electric.

• Create thumb nail (225 px wide) for Blog, right margin.
• Create script in Blogger for my Blog.
• Post and test.
• Yippee! ready for "roll out."

Piece of cake for a creaking septuagenarian!

Always enjoy your comments. Have a happy and safe New Year! And don't forget to get your "Trump Anti-Venom," It's gonna get wilder now that Nancy is in the House!