Monday, July 30, 2012

ATA 202

What a rare treat we were served up with the visitation of ATA 202, the last of her kind on planet earth, right here in Port Townsend, Washington this past weekend. For a modest donation, visitors were able to take a "self guided tour" of the vessel.

A rare treat indeed. The foundation restoring the tug is bound and determined to restore her to her 1944 configuration. For a vessel 68 years old, the interior was not that shabby. I was stuck by the number of souls sharing narrow companionways and cramped quarters.

And it didn't take too much imagination to hear and smell activities on board - such as restless chatter in the mess. The smell of coffee. The aroma of ham and eggs on the griddle.

Built as a fleet ATA (Army Tug Auxiliary) the Comanche began life in December 1944 as the ATA 202. It was not until July 1948 she was given a real name, the USS Wampanoag. This was an Indian tribe found in the area roughly defined from Narragansett Bay and the Pawtucket River, Rhode Island, to the Atlantic Ocean, including Nantucket Island and Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. The name means "eastern people."

In 1959, she was transferred to the US Coast Guard, and re-named Comanche.

Officers enjoy single occupancy quarters
Crew shared two and four bunk quarters

With 41 souls aboard - 7 officers 34 crew - the mess was in constant use.

Enlisted Head (restroom) With no freshwater machine, 12,000 gallons of fresh water had to be used judiciously.

Looking carefully, you can see where the 3" 50 caliber deck gun was mounted.

The ATA tugs were designed for major towing operations at sea. They had relatively long endurance, ability make long tows. Their mission was towing operations outside combat areas and Fleet support in peace- time.

They would stand by just outside a combat or operational area and be in position to take the tow from an ATF that might be towing a disabled vessel to a repair base or safe haven. Although not intended for it, the ATAs were capable of some salvage and fire suppression duty. Eighty-nine of this class was built between 1943 and 1945

As you can see from the utilitarian pilothouse and super structure, these vessels were designed to be built quickly, not for looks!  

Sparse pilot house interior. No insulation.

Now before my rail buddies remind me once again that this is supposed to be a rail blog, once again I have threaded "the eye of the needle" and came up with on heck of rail - ship connection. That being the twin Cleveland Diesel 12V-278A main propulsion engines. See also "Sixteen of 'em to a block." 
Twin engines supplied direct current to a single dc motor rotating the prop. The 278A evolved from the Winton 201A engine, under the direction of Charles F. Kettering.

Lazarette and Tow Room
Almon A Johnson Towing Machine
The Almon A. Johnson AAJ222 towing machine was originally loaded with 2,100 feet of 2" wire rope. This page contains a detailed history of towing machines used on various Army vessels.

Tug Comanche, the "last unaltered vessel of her class." Not quite. There is one other ATA "hull" - the ATA 194. As with the ATA 202, ATA 194 was given a real name, USS Bagaduce, and like the 202, she was claimed by the US Coast Guard and re-named Modoc. The Modoc are a Native American people who originally lived in the area which is now northeastern California and central Southern Oregon.

Amenity not found on your typical ATA!
But unlike the Comanche, she has been converted to a yacht. The "Modoc" is up for sale at Gig Harbor, Washington. [Ed Note: Verified 7-30-2012.]

The restoration group managing the Comanche has, as a stated goal: "Restoration as close to her day of commissioning in 1944." Visit Comanche 202 Foundation for more photos and learn how you can contribute to her restoration. And here you can read her detailed history.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"All Around a Water Tank ..."

By the time our family "landed" in Prince Rupert in 1957, there were only a handful of steam locomotives on the Skeena Subdivision.

Two Pacific's headed up the passenger train, the CNR 5149 and 5152. The 0-6-0 switcher CNR 7536 was towed to the Jasper Dead Line, replaced by a slick new General Motors Diesel (GMD) SW9 7242. The Time Freight was dieselized, and only two or three Consolidations worked a local log train and work trains.

All were gone by the end of 1957.

CNR 2513 East Bound in the hole at Tyee
Spreader 51049 and caboose
This photo shows the 2513 at the water tank at Tyee, Skeena Sub MP 92.8. Tyee siding is where the Armored Train tied up, dozens of miles from the beer and ladies in Prince Rupert!

Steam Dead Line, Jasper Alberta
Left to right, CNR 2509, 2496, 2513, 2508

The Dead Line at Jasper Alberta was slowly but surely filling up with decommissioned steam locomotives, as quickly as General Motors Division in London Ontario could hatch Geeps and Cab units. As a matter of fact, the 2513 is the third engine to the right in this shot of the Jasper Dead Line!

Looking at this photograph conjures memories of the "Singing Brakeman," Jimmie Rogers performing "All around a water tank … waiting for a train."

Railroad Stuff: CNR 2513, Consolidation 2-8-0, Road Class N-2-b, 63" drivers, built 1918, Montreal Locomotive Works.

About the car.  Mikes 1950 Morris Minor with an "L head" motor and great gas mileage!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Station Reopens!

Remember this photograph from May 2011?

The Mississippi River was inflicting sever flood damage, which included backing up the Yazoo River, flooding the Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Rail Road Station in Vicksburg, Mississippi.

My associate, Marian Phillips, kept me posted on the plight of the old station.  She just reported restoration is complete, and the old Yazoo & Mississippi Valley Rail Road Station enjoyed its grand reopening this past weekend (July 11th.)

This certainly speaks highly of the residents of Vicksburg and many others, who dedicated themselves to preserving a priceless piece of railroad history. Bravo!

Ms Phillips hosts a blog featuring her many adventures around her "beloved" Vicksburg, Mississippi, an area rich in history!

See Index for all articles on this subject.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

My First Ride!

Fortunately, I never had to flip burgers or wait tables for summer employment whilst transitioning between youth and adulthood.  I managed to land good paying "adult" jobs.  I worked for two summers at Bethlehem Steel in Seattle between my Junior and Senior high schools years.

My summer job following graduation in 1961 was as a wiper on the Alaska Freight Lines tug M/V Martin (LT 143)

With a tidy sum of money stashed away from my Summer Permit on the Martin, on a Sunday afternoon,  lying on the living room floor perusing the used car section of the Seattle Sunday Times, my Dad casually asked me what I was looking for.

I told him I was looking for a car. In his disarmingly casual tone, he said, "Oh. I thought you were intending to go to Washington State in the fall."

Long story short, I ended up funneling my wages as a Wiper on the Martin into my first year at Washington State University (WSU).

Between my first and second years at WSU, I worked as a Fireman Recruit on the United States Coast & Geodetic Survey ship Hodgson, based on Lake Union in Seattle. I had read an article in the Seattle Sunday Times that the Geodetic Survey (Now called the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration - NOAA) was gearing up for summer oceanographic surveys, and was hiring!

Long story short, based on my sea time on the M/V Martin the previous summer, I was hired within a week by the USC & GS, and soon on another grand adventure.

I operated a Raytheon fathometer, recording depths in fathoms, on carefully measured runs across Puget Sound.
Our survey project was to re-survey the waters  between Hat Island (Gedney Island) and Mukilteo and Clinton Washington.

Partner open whale boat pounding in Puget Sound. Clinton ferry dock in background. Surveying is toasted!
Puget Sound gets pretty rough in the fall and winter, rendering surveying impossible. So, the field season ended for me in September. And since my PTA (Party Time Already) life style prevented me from returning to WSU, I decided to go into the service.

After almost a year at Western Air Rescue Center, my First Shirt (Sergeant) agreed to co-sign for an auto loan at the base credit union. Pretty secure loan. Who would be dumb enough to screw up loan payments co-signed by your First Sergeant?

My folks had owned Chryslers, and my Dad swore by them.

Hamilton AFB Tactical Air Command sticker on bumper under the left headlight. My unit Air Rescue Service decal under the right headlight.
So, it came to be that my first ride was a 1956 Chrysler New Yorker Two Door Hard Top, with Power Steering, Power Seating, Power Windows, Power Antenna, and Push Button Transmission!

There is enough steel in the front bumper alone, to build 10 modern automobiles!  I tried to add accessory lighting to the rear bumper and gave up after dulling three drill bits!

I purchased the automobile at a used car lot in San Rafael, just minutes south of Hamilton Air Force Base on the 101. It was a bright sunny day, and I was absolutely thrilled that at long last, I had purchased my very first ride!

Zipping onto the 101 freeway heading north to the Base, reddish orange colored water started spraying onto the windshield! The windshield wipers only smeared this reddish orange colored corruption into a dry paste, forcing me to pull abruptly onto the shoulder!

I finally figured out how to open the hood, and oh, what a sight! The top seam of the radiator was spraying hot reddish orange colored water all over the place. A passing motorist stopped to help (that was back in the days when motorist looked out for fellow motorist) and his only suggestion was, let her cool down, and get back to San Rafael As Soon As Possible (ASAP.)

Finally, I limped back to the used car dealership, and confronted the salesman who only a short while ago was my "best friend." Now, he coldly pointed to big sign, with small print: "All sales final. Sold as-is where-is." Then, he pointed to a radiator shop across the street.

That's me in the right lane, revisiting Hamilton AFB 24 years later (1991).  Handsome main gate, manned by .45 caliber toting Air Force Poilce, who rendered a snappy salute once your vehicle was accepted, now boarded up.
Yeah, that was only the beginning of the mechanical problems I suffered with that motor vehicle. But for the next three years, I really enjoyed my 1956 Chrysler New Yorker Two Door Hard Top with Power Steering, Power Seating, Power Windows, Power Antenna AND a Push Button Transmission!