Saturday, April 3, 2010

Annoying Loose Ends!

Port Townsend, today. There are several meanings to the phrase "loose ends." The one I'm referring to is the ubiquitous shoelaces. You know, the laces that untie at the most inconvenient time, like when you are carrying a box down a stairway.

You may not know it, but there are 33 different ways of tying shoelaces. A fellow by the name of Ian Fieggen has worked this all out very scientifically. Ian states he does not appreciate being referred to as "someone who has too much time on his hands" to document, with such scientific precision, the various methods of tying one's shoes.

So a tip o' my hat, Ian, I will honor your request, and not make such an uninspired remark about your absolutely fascinating site!

Over time, Loose Ends begin to pester me. I've got to stop and secure them before I move on. They include the story of BC Power Commission 84, missing an anniversary date concerning the Milwaukee Road, and the disposition of Northern Pacific business car "Green River."

The picture I took of British Columbia Power Commission #84, in Burns Lake, BC back in 1959, has been begging for "closure." I've written about it before, most recently in February, seeking answers.

Allen Hazen responded to me, and got me connected with the August 2009 edition of Railroad Model Craftsman. Low and behold, there on page 60, "Diesel power generating plants." The article concentrated on GM-EMD stationary and skid mounted generator plants, with but a single paragraph and photo connecting me to my past.

From the article we did learn this car sold by the model number - M-16. There is a photo of an identical unit, marked "Manitoba Hydro," hinting perhaps there were a lot more out there. That further piqued my interest. For example, did all Canadian provincial power authorities have these units?

The EMD Model M-16, contained an off-the-shelf GM 16V-567C locomotive engine, along with switching gear required to interface with a municipal power system.

We also discovered that Lionel created a "power car" model 3530, based loosely - very loosely - on the M-16.

As for "finding closure" on the topic, I recently discovered three former "BC Hydro" generator cars, minus fuel tanks and wheel sets, were recently sold by US Power & Environment.

Seems I missed the 30th anniversary last month, of the last Milwaukee Road train to depart Tacoma. Perhaps because I've got so many irons in the fire that the date slipped by. Or, perhaps I am simply willing to let the Milwaukee Road glide quietly into history.

Like Ed Gentry (Jon Voight in "Deliverance") said as he stood on a bank of the Cahulawassee River, in a liquor-induced moment of reflection, "Night has fallen. And there is nothing we can do about it."

A few months ago, I did a piece on "The Crossing," the restaurant in Vancouver Washington where my late wife and I performed our nuptials. Only the necessary witnesses could fit into the cramped dining room of Northern Pacific Business Car "Green River."

In seeking to learn more about this magnificent car with it's stunning mahogany woodwork, I was led to the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association. They publish a glossy, professional organ, "The Mainstreeter."

And there on the back cover of Volume 9, Number 4, the "Green River," shot by James M. Fredrickson, displayed here by special permission of the NPRHA. The entire 32-page publication, written by Lorenz P. Schrenk, is devoted to "Business Cars of the Northern Pacific" Parts 1 and 2.

The publication is chock full of photos, and more important, floor plans, of the many Official Cars owned and operated by the movers and shakers of the Northern Pacific. We thank Gary Tarbox for the opportunity to share this with you.

Here is your link to the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association where back issues of "The Mainstreeter" are available.

I did some inquiring as to where the car ended up after the restaurant was demolished. The car is alive and well, but I got the impression that the owners would prefer its location not be disclosed. I can appreciate that. Unfortunately, there are sub-species of rail fan who have no compulsion about taking more than photographs of rail equipment.

Now I am going to see how many of Ian's 33 shoe lace patterns I can accomplish. Thank you Ian, for elevating the lowly shoelace to its proper place in society!

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