For awhile my cousins and I had planned to visit, and it finally worked out on Thursday, 25 July, I headed to my aunt’s home in Mystic, Connecticut, Steve arrived from Colorado, and Debbie came by ferry from Block Island. A quick trip for us all, it was a nostalgic four hour visit. My aunt, now in her late 90s, is failing mentally, but it was obvious she had some idea of our visit and conversation. The most touching moment was when I was leaving, her care-giver had helped her outside, where I saw her smile and wave. Touching and tearful.

A long, but not impossible day, I decided at the last moment to stop on the way home (backroads, of course). I was finally in the “quiet corner” of Connecticut at the right time of year to visit the Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, it made sense. I found Henrietta House Bed & Breakfast on US Route 44 in Ashford, an area I had not reached previously. The B&B, a 300 year survivor, fascinating features, owned by only five families in those three centuries.

Knocked off my feet, you know I love original, and was born in the wrong century. The right (above) part of the home was built c1722. The “new” deck on the right was off my room. The addition to the left was added about 1740 with a massive central fireplace. Actually, not totally centered in the resulting structure because the rear half with its fireplace (see below) opens up to the original structure – fascinating, and must be seen. Remember, you may click on an image to open the gallery.

The owner wishes to maximize her sustainable life, and maintains a small farm of pigs, goats, and gardens. She does this well because you barely can see that her solar panel system is atop the 19th century barn, seen here from my deck.

It was feeding time, before breakfast feeding time for Ray, so I meandered out to the barn. There were two mama pigs, the lucky daddy, and 15 little ones running around. Yes, I asked, the little ones are but three days old, and they come out running. Yes, again I asked the gestation period being told three months, three weeks, and three days (give or take three minutes I must add). Sorry, forget the breed of this pig/hog, but someday they will make it to the house (on a plate).

Walking back to the home I stopped at the door handle seeing something I have only seen once before – a marking on the handle.  I knew what it was

My hostess knew it was there, and also the similar one on the rear door. But she had no idea of the significance. In October 2017 I had a fantastic trip to Historic Deerfield, and then had great experiences at Old Sturbridge Village. That first evening the plan was for dinner at Salem Cross Inn in West Brookfield, MA.  The large 18th century inn is named for the almost exact Hexmark on its front door handle. From the Salem Cross Inn’s blog, “at first sight, the hexmark appears as a Roman numeral 10, or two triangles, with a line across the center of it. There were many symbols that related to the witch trials, many symbolized whether you believed in the actual Puritan ways. The hexmark was meant to ward off “ye evil spirits of deviltry” that the supposed Salem Witches “carried” with them. If you had this on your door, it was to show others you believed in the superstitions that came with wanting the good spirits. Those who did not believe in the accusations of the witchcraft put themselves at risk if they did not show they stood behind the Puritans, therefore making themselves targets.” – so, now you know.

Sharing the above with my hostesses, I could then eat, knowing I was safe.

I have mentioned before that Connecticut Route 169 must be driven. So before picking up that route north, I crossed on US 44 through Pomfret (beautiful) to Putnam for antique shops I frequent when in the area. Bought two books in one shop —  priced such that they will be a big score once sold, another trip paid for.

It was then up to Woodstock, Connecticut to the green with the Woodstock Academy at the head.

and then across the street for Roseland Cottage, the Bowen House.

I have been a member, supporting Historic New England and its properties for a number of years, but never visited a property. I have only been in this area the wrong time of year, or day to visit. Today was the day, and with “Ray luck,” I arrived just minutes to show my membership card before the noon tour began.

here is a gallery of a few images to whet your appetite.

Built in 1846 as a summer cottage, the property was in the family until 1970 when acquired by Historic New England. A time capsule of originality with its 1880’s improvements. And its builder, Henry C. Bowen, was a successful merchant and well-connected. His parties and events included grand Fourth of July parties, begun in 1870 to promote patriotism. The Independence Day celebrations continued for twenty-five years. Hundreds were invited, and thousands gathered for the festivities. Well-heeled did I say? Three United States presidents, Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison, and Rutherford B. Hayes, and three past and future presidential candidates, John C. Fremont, James G. Blaine, and William McKinley attended the celebrations.

Here is the Presidential bedroom. If I remember correctly, Grant only spent the day, and did not sleep here (but wait until you read further).

This new carriage was purchased to meet President Grant at his train,

and can be see in the oldest existing bowling alley in the country. President Grant rolled a strike, and wanted to celebrate smoking a cigar. Bowen, opposed to all vices, invited the President to smoke across the street.

And, finally (but there is so much more to see and learn here), below on the left is the outhouse attached to the woodshed (center) and icehouse (right). This improved necessary convenience was built for President Grant. The right hand image is the “President’s Throne” (my clever term for it) – remember to click to enlarge.

Only a half hour away, and on the way home (and if not directly I would still do it) you know what I did – OSV – Old Sturbridge Village – for a short visit (easy and painless when a member). Here is a panorama you can click for full screen looking down the common from the meeting house.

Walking in, these 1834 gentlemen were harvesting rye. The seeds will be thrashed for grain, middle part of the stalks can be woven into straw hats and the like, and the thicker bases used in broom making – I love learning, up-close and first hand.

I have become cognizant of 19th century small one or two room attorney’s offices (wrote a story for the August issue of the Walpole Clarion – page 16). So, before sitting on a bench on the common watching and enjoying everyone strolling around, I took another look at the 1796 Law Office originally from Woodstock, Connecticut.

next door at the Parsonage (c1748 from East Brookfield, Mass.) there was a gardening demonstration.

and, I stay awhile in one of my favorite buildings – Isaiah Thomas’ c1780 Printing Shop from Worcester, Massachusetts. I always learn something new about 19th century printing.

a stop in the gift shop, bought another book, and then backroading home on basically the most direct route, but about 20 minutes longer than fast slabs – well worth it. So follow US 20 west from Sturbridge; 148 north to the Brookfields; turn left on Massachusetts 9 (pass the Salem-Cross Inn); north on 32; bear left on 32A (more direct) then when it ends, follow 32 into wonderful Petersham (I last stopped here 7 April 2019, and if you forget why, click on this link), where you will find another Law Office.

Brooks Law Office, circa 1830 is all I have learned so far. Interior has been restored.

and, then it was an easy trip home

1 – Visit Roseland Cottage in Woodstock, Connecticut
2 – Visit Old Sturbridge Village
3 – Become a member of Old Sturbridge Village and take advantage of their special events
4 – Become a member of, and support Historic New England
5 – get out and explore and shunpike

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After my return from Buffalo in May I knew I had to get back to Erie Canal explorations sooner rather than later. I need more of Buffalo, and having now spent three more days on the eastern portion of the Erie Canal I know I need more time there also. In fact, I envision three more trips, hopefully this year, to see what I missed and learned about.

Completed in 1825, the canal was immediately popular and full. Enlargement began, completing in 1862. The final route change was with the Barge Canal completed in 1918. At that time packed with traffic, but the interstates and trains now get most of the cargo. The Erie Canal is being reinvented for recreation. Below is a chart of the developments. I want to see where all three routes were. Some places the original and enlarged remains can be seen. My frustration is finding a good map(s) showing the actual original routes with overlays. The quest will continue, and maybe I will have to create such a map to help others.

Both the Champlain and Erie Canals begin in the Hudson River. In fact, Lock 1 of the Erie is in the Hudson. The Barge Canal begins in Waterford with Lock 2 at a lovely facility. Below is from that dock looking at Lock 2.

and, turning around looking west to the Hudson. The bridge is an old railroad, now one-way car, bridge over to Peebles Island (which I also explored).

a close up of Lock 2, its lift is 33.6 feet.

After a quick look at Peebles Island and the state park, I crossed the Mohawk River heading up to Cohoes on the southwest side of the River – an industrial city being restored that I must tour. Besides the Niagara Escarpment, the Cohoes Falls were the biggest obstacle to the Erie Canal construction efforts. Falling a height of 90 feet, the Cohoes Falls comes close to Niagara Falls 167 feet.

there is a park and overlook. The chart below finally filled in my blanks of the routes in this area. At this point, the first two canals were south of the Mohawk River, and the Barge Canal cut in from Waterford north of the river. Cohoes became quite an industrial area, now restored, and part of my next explorations.

and a panorama that you can enlarge to full screen

It was then back across the river to follow the barge canal, stopping first at Lock 3.

Locks 2 and 3 above are the beginning of the Waterford Flight of Locks 2 through 6 of the 1918 Barge Canal. These five locks have a lift of 169 feet in just over 1.5 miles. Until recently these locks were the highest lift in the shortest span in the world. The five lock’s lifts range from 32.5 to 34.5 feet, and accomplish what the 18 original locks accomplished in Cohoes, and 16 pairs of double locks with the enlarged canal in the 1860s. Here is Lock 4 looking back to Waterford

and, now looking west you can barely see Lock 5

This panorama (which, again, you can click to full screen) gives a feeling of this wonder of multiple locks. You can see in my images, that the Locks, on back roads, are not tourist areas. I had the beautiful areas to myself.

After Lock 6, and before the canal enters the Mohawk River are these guard gates.

Guard gates can be found along the canal, and are used to close off the flow of water. This enables draining of sections for repair work, or flood control. I am just overwhelmed with the engineering that has gone into this marvel.

You may have noticed this adventure started on a Sunday – not my usual departure day, but the museum I wanted to see at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site is closed on Monday and Tuesday. Of course I had already explored this short stretch for longer than planned, and the historic site still an hour away. And, within that drive were many more canal sites I wanted to experience. But, trying to follow the river, I got lost, not having carefully researched the back roads. I asked WAZE to get me to there quickly, and arrived about 2:30. What I missed along the way, well “on the list” for the next trip to the area.

The historic site is spread out over 245 acres with locks, canal buildings and an old canal store, and remains of an aqueduct. All three canal periods in one place. Starting first in the museum, the young docent was a wealth of canal history. We shared notes, and comments on canal history books.

Museum – Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site

turning around looking across the Schoharie River are the remains of the aqueduct from the Enlarged Canal period.

just south of the museum is the original canal. Until the enlargement and the aqueduct, canal traffic was towed across the Schoharie River entering at this point. When the canal was routed a tad to the north with the aqueduct, this section became a feeder canal (with water) for the enlarged canal. Now filled in at this point.

this model in the museum shows where the original and enlarged canals were co-located, and can still be seen. Seen that is, if you remember. I was so excited to get from the Barge Canal to the old Canal store I forgot the short hike to this spot – well, next time.

If you leave the museum in Fort Hunter, and head north towards Tribes Hill, in moments you cross the Mohawk on a movable dam. Just a few road crossings go across the moveable dams whose sections (below the fixed road bed) can be raised or lowered to control the river’s flow. Lock E12, Tribes Hill, is in the foreground

Another proud young lock keeper going off duty, wanted to show off the old power plant. Instead of water driven turbines, this internal combustion engine (with a back up) drove the electric motor in the middle.

Then I headed down to a set of locks with an old canal store – totally forgetting about the set of locks I mentioned above. That is the Mohawk River (and Barge Canal) behind the old store.

and, some history you can click to enlarge and read

Finishing up this spot, and enjoying it, there was just the right amount of time left to drive to the Victorian B&B in Little Falls, New York, for the 5PM arrival I promised. Little Falls is interesting, the B&B not well marked, and it took awhile for Oscar to answer the door. After I took a nap, Oscar and Linda offered a tour of the town prior to heading to get a bite to eat. Nice town, nice architecture, few eating options, historic, clean B&B, etc. But, buy me dinner and I will keep you in stitches with stories of Oscar and Linda.

The plan for Monday was to see the inside of Union Station in Utica, deadheading there, and then working back to Little Falls. After my cross-country train trip I discovered the impressiveness of the interior of the station which I had not been able to see when traveling through.

Backroading to Utica, first this old railroad bridge caught my eye (originally thinking it another canal aqueduct, I learned the right story in Herkimer)

First stop heading to Utica was to be GEMS ALONG THE MOHAWK. It is the building below and to the right, along the dock. Inside is the tourist information area, a shop, and restaurant., The building is sandwiched between the River and the NY State Thruway.

When I traveled the canal about 10 years ago this was an evening stop, with lodging at a nearby motel. The real “gem” inside is Melody Milewski, the hostess. She needs to write several books. Canal history galore as she was a previous director (and her husband the last hoggee on the canal) of the now closed Erie Canal Village in Rome – a real sad story, and in no way her fault. She also worked for a small private cruise line – BLOUNT SMALL SHIP ADVENTURES – and looking at their website they have just what I want touring the Great Lakes, Erie Canal and Hudson River. I learned so much from her. You may have heard of the Herkimer Diamond Mines – another trip someday. The owner of the mine (the only lady owned mine in the US) is a friend of Melody’s, and when the village closed she begged Melody to come work for her at GEMS, which she also owns. Well, “gem Melody” provided me with a wealth of travel information – thank you.

Next stop

Here is a real gem, and to whet your appetite, here is but one quote from Wikipedia – “Inside is a restaurant and a barber shop, one of the few barber shops in a train station today. The 15,000-square-foot waiting room’s 47-foot-high vaulted ceiling is supported by 34 marble columns. The station’s blueprints called for the importing of columns that originally adorned Grand Central Station in New York City. Eight large benches are heated with steam pipes and vents.” Below is my first stop in Utica on 8 June this year, and almost the same view on this trip, 15 July (but from the station platform, and not car vestibule).

how can you not want to visit here?

also based from the Utica station is the Adirondack Scenic Railroad – obviously another planned trip.

people were coming onto the platform – then the announcement came, a train heading to NYC was due in. Yes, I waited. Again, perfect Ray timing.

I was tempted

but this was a canal adventure trip, so it was back to find Lock 19. Again, Ray’s perfect timing as the Tug – Governor Roosevelt (circa 1928) – was just about to lock through.

Deja Vu? Yes — see the railroad bridge? Amtrak’s route to Chicago. I remembered looking out the lounge car of the Lake Shore Limited while on the bridge, seeing the lock, but zooming by too fast to take a picture. But, now I could watch this historic Tug lock through. Here are two galleries you can open up to view larger.


bye Governor Roosevelt

now heading back east – quick lunch, even though well after 1 PM – on the canal of course at the Ilion (NY) Marina.

In Ilion (yes, Ilion, New York) is the Remington Museum and Country Store at the Remington Arms factory. Had to stop there. Eliphalet Remington built his first hand forged rifle in 1816, and when he founded the Remington Arms Company he moved it to Ilion on the Erie Canal in 1828. This could be the oldest US manufacturer still making its original product in the same location. Guess what, “Staffing Problems – Museum Closed.” Well, maybe next time.

Continuing east on 5S south of the Mohawk River now (NY5 is north of the river – the route I took out to Utica) there was not much until looping back into Little Falls. Well, there is Lock 18, with signs hard to find. Tied up is the tour boat that runs from Herkimer.

Then there is the Herkimer Home State Historic Site on NY 169. On the canal trip I took years ago we had a side trip here. Built about 1764, this is the home of Revolutionary War hero, General Nicholas Herkimer who in 1777, while en route to help defend Fort Stanwix was ambushed by British-allied Loyalists and Iroquois at Oriskany. This was an important battle that essentially stopped the western pronged attack of the British attempt to cut New England off from the rest of the colonies. I visited and reported on Oriskany in October 2011. I am learning I do not know enough (or much of anything) about the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley – yes, I have a pile of information to plan that learning trip.

Here is the General’s home.

I distinctly remember looking out over the garden when I was there before – I wanted to replicate the garden. The monument marks the spot from which he led his troops west.

and, his grave in the family cemetery and large obelisk the state of New York erected.

Swinging back into Little Falls, here is Lock 17. With a lift height of 40.5 feet it was once the highest single lift lock in the world (think one on the St. Lawrence Seaway is now higher). It is hard to get an image of this lock.

but, climbing up the ladder to the lock, catch these views, which you can click to enlarge.

how about a panorama from atop the lock? Click on the below for a full screen view looking back at the Route 169 bridge over the Mohawk River.

Next a look at the antique shops in the preserved mills in Little Falls, and then an iced tea along side the canal at the park.

and, looking west is Guard Gate 4 in Little Falls with some evening fishermen.

Back to Herkimer for dinner at the restaurant at  GEMS ALONG THE MOHAWK.. Returning to the B&B I had some business to catch up on, and “enjoyed” conversations with Oscar and Linda.

Tuesday I had many options for the journey home – three ideas in fact, leaving things open to see “how the spirit moves.” I am that flexible – yes true, and an “inside joke.” But, I did want to travel up the west side of Otsego Lake from Cooperstown – it was the rest of the day that was uncertain – a great way to be, follow the hood ornament (well, there used to be hood ornaments – there I go “dating myself”again).

Beautiful backcountry from Little Falls down NY 167 to Richfield Springs (an old summer resort area) and then onto Cooperstown. Packed with tourists, it was nice to see, but I passed through once before and visited the National Baseball Hall of Fame buying my ticket at 3PM on September 28, 2013 – yes, my ticket in front of me now. Following Route 80 on the west side of the lake (last trip I was on the east side of the lake), I passed the old historic hotel (expensive) and then came to the Farmer’s Museum. No need to see more farms and print shops – remember I am a member of Old Sturbridge Village and Historic Deerfield, but while here, might as well look at the entrance and gift shop.

I went into the entrance in the stone barn above (restrooms in the stone silos) to get a map of the farm to make a decision. There was a sign – Cardiff Giant. I could not believe it, was the GIANT really here (historian that I am)? Yes, and the young lady at the counter (unlike the ticket seller at classic The Stanley Theater in Utica) said, “he is just around the corner if you would like to take a look.” Of course !!!

click to open gallery and read and learn

how many people can say (in the 21st century) that they saw (let alone knew who he is) THE CARDIFF GIANT

how do you top this? Drive up the lake, of course.

and then find the Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park, where you learn how little you know about the American Revolution and the crucial confrontations in this area. More explorations in order.

Back towards the river, heading west, there was the sign to Lock 15.

Still a tad uncertain what do see next, a brochure in my box fell out – Howe Caverns – and that was it. Plug Howe Caverns into WAZE, and head a tad south away from the canal cruising, skipping eating to maximize touring time.

I was surprised to find that this attraction is off by itself, away from the rush of the world and other attractions or amusements. As it is today, it was opened in 1929 (although tours date back into the 19th century).

Ticket purchased, a short wait in the queue for the next tour, and fortunately a small group of less than 20 – their maximum group is about 43. One starts with this animated history of discovery.

That is Mr. Howe, recounting how (I could not resist) he discovered the cave. I have advised our local veterinary to educate everyone to carefully listen to bovines. In May 1842, Howe was looking for his cattle one hot day. He found them up on a hill huddled around some bushes. As he approached he felt a blast of cool refreshing air. Pushing the bushes back he discovered an opening into the ground. He soon entered with the owner of the land. They made many explorations deep underground, and in February 1843, Howe bought the land for $100 – soon making improvements to give tours.

I will let you learn more about the limestone caverns and how (there I go again) they were formed on your own. (I am not the only one, their ticket stub reads YOU NEVER FORGET HOWE). The various formations have been named and described during the tour, and I cannot remember it all. So, here in some galleries is a flavor of what to see almost 200 feet underground. If in the area, do stop by for the 1 1/2 hours cave adventure, which includes a boat ride.


It was then I-88 to Albany, crossing the Hudson to Troy, and Route 7 to Vermont and Route 9. Dinner in Bennington, and back home to “work.” Too much fun.

1 – Explore the Erie Canal in sections. Start with the eastern section from the Hudson River to Schenectady.
2- Expand those explorations further out in the Mohawk Valley.
3- See American Revolution history first hand in this area – crucial to the existence of the United States.
4 – Discover Cherry Valley and the old US Route 20.
5 – Have fun Shunpiking.


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Now onto Part Two of Leg Two of this journey, on the California Zephyr. In part one I am acquainted you with the Superliner and its cars, and completed crossing the Mississippi River on Sunday, 10 June. It is now time to awake, and continue on Monday and Tuesday 10-11 June heading to Sacramento, California

Leg One – LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Boston to Chicago – 8-9 June

Leg Two – CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR – Chicago to Sacramento
Part One – Sunday, 9 June

Part Two – Monday and Tuesday, 10-11 June
Leg Three – COAST STARLIGHT – Sacramento to Portland – 11-12 June
and, 24 plus hours in Portland, Oregon
Leg Four – EMPIRE BUILDER – Portland to Chicago – 13-15 June
Leg – Five – LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Chicago to Boston – 15-16 June

It has taken awhile for me to continue documenting this journey – sorry, life (and the heat) got in the way. When working on a post I select the images I want to use, and then weave my tale, “filling in the blanks” with my observations, experiences. For this trip I wish to share history along the routes using the detailed guide I carried – USA BY RAIL by John Pitt. I have the 8th edition (towns and their history stay the same), but the 9th edition is now out. Both are available on Amazon in paperback and there is a Kindle version for the new 9th edition. Ray highly recommends getting a copy to study and carry.

I awoke Monday in my roomette to this view out my window. For hours, this became the typical view.

Shortly after 5 AM (remember I do not want to miss anything) I headed down to the shower, which was nice, and then back up to my roomette to dress. More room (relatively speaking) than on the Viewliner, but still with my not so bendable joints it was easier to dress with my feet out the door into the passageway (curtain drawn, not to worry). I bothered no one – the sleeper cars are a quiet oasis.

Here is a typical town – Fort Morgan, Colorado. Most towns have very wide streets between the 1920s storefronts – somewhere I read the why of the wide streets – have to find it to tell you. One thing to remember is that we are traveling by train, seeing towns that came about because of the railroad, probably in the west and mid-west are agricultural or industrial. Small towns, and often with a railroad museum or relic on display. After Fort Morgan you can see Pike’s Peak far off in the horizon to the left. FAST FACT – it was the top of Pike’s Peak that inspired Katherine Lee Bates to write her poem “American the Beautiful.” Combined with music, Bates’ poem was first published as a patriotic song in 1910, and still  titled “America the Beautiful”.

Yes, agriculture and livestock. This stockyard is enough to get you to “swear off meat.” The hides blended together as far as the eye can see – even at 79 MPH.

The observation car was almost packed by 6AM – my guess is because most people were thinking it was 7AM not having set their clocks and bodies back an hour. The schedule called for arrival in Denver at 7:15AM. I checked WAZE at 7:15, and we still had 170 miles to go. According to my notes, we arrived at 10:30AM.

BACK AGAIN Writing – 11 July
When we slowed down once to a walk, I of course asked what was up adding to our delay. To detect problems with the rails (which are connected thankfully), they are connected also with wires carrying a low electric current. If a sensor indicates a break in the current, there could be a break with the rails – not something you wish to find speeding along. So, when near that section where a problem is indicated, the train stops, and someone starts “walking the rails” to see what the problem may be. We soon stopped again, and then picked up speed having retrieved the inspector. I guess nothing serious was wrong, but a “fix” scheduled. Running late into Denver the layover time was shortened a tad. We had also been sidelined for a late running freight, and again for a crew change just miles from the station, the mandatory crew time limit was over. But I did get to “run” down the Denver platform, cross over into the station, and look inside briefly, and back – I did not want to miss the departing train.

In my studies for this journey, I had learned that the best scenery heading west on the California Zephyr is once you leave Denver, and the observation car fills up early. I had to get a good spot, so I scurried back aboard walking around the queueing line for boarding passengers. In the queue were the new Denver passengers, and no one was watching the flanks on either side of the lines. I did not want to wait on line. And, as before, I boarded without showing my paper printout – I do not remember anyone at the door I entered, there may have been and I was recognized. But, if you act like you know what you are doing with confidence – all is usually well.

Re-boarding the California Zephyr in Denver

Finally at 11:51 (almost 4 hours late, but not to worry) we began west out of Denver, amazing – starting with a long climb up the impressive S-Curve to gain height in the foothills. So hard to properly show from a moving train – rail bed coming through the center, to the right and out of image, and looping back left (you can see the road bed).

S-Curve pulling out of Denver

The winding climb continues before entering the first of 29 tunnels (some sources say 28 – I did not count) before approaching the Continental Divide.

not night all of a sudden, just one of the longer tunnels

and the climb continued with some views up, and others back to the barren Colorado plains. In his book, Kinsor states it takes eleven minutes to thread through seventeen tunnels. Also, in my reading, and this is important and correct, heading west you want to be on the right side of the train (looking to the front) for the best views to the side of the Rockies, valleys, just the wow overall views.

Almost two hours out of Denver you enter the Moffat Tunnel for 6.2 miles. Opened in 1928, the tunnel reduced the distance to Salt Lake City by 65 miles, and it is the highest point on Amtrak’s network. You are in the dark for about ten minutes.

Shortly after Moffat Tunnel heading west is Winter Park (Amtrak station actually in Fraser). Temperatures in this area sometimes reach 50 below. There is a massive Ski Resort in the area with look-alike condos for miles – in my opinion, totally ruining the area. Below, in Tabernash, is a coal train, with 100s of gondolas, sidelined. Days ago it had the main track blocked when the engines quit and could not pull the load.

we rolled by Granby with another different Amtrak station. Nearby is the Trail Ridge Road – the world’s highest car road – which travels through the Rocky Mountain National Park. Sorry, my notes say “unimpressed with Granby and area.”

these are the true colors, it does not get much better than this (note dirty window in upper left – they cleaned the windows while we were on the platform in Denver, obviously not well.)

Sidelined again to allow #6 (eastbound Zephyr) to pass – it was also late.

and some more Rockies

and, finally no glare

Some time after Granby the train joined the Colorado River near its source, and we followed it for over 200 miles (I read that, sorry was not counting clickity clacks).

an elevated road on the other side of the Colorado

and after 5 PM (almost 4 hours behind) we arrived in Glenwood Springs, and another classic looking station.

At 5:50 PM we left Glenwood Springs – about 4 hours behind. I made a note at 7PM “open undulating western plains – not flat like flats in Iowa and Illinois — these plains remind me of the scenery in a ‘B’ Western of old.” Not like I just described, but here is a view part way to Grand Junction.

It was almost 8PM arriving in Grand Junction. Enough of a stop to hop off, take a few pictures, and run through the gift shop in the temporary train station – of course, it was arranged to stay open.

Grand Junction station under renovation

I did not see much in Helper, Utah, since we were late, and night darkness had set in (it was after 11 instead of 7:20 as scheduled). I have a note “like an old western town.” The name of the town comes from the need for extra locomotives to be added to westbound freights to climb the mountains.

I turned in, the train continued on, and I slept through Provo Utah; Salt Lake City – hey it was late, dark, and I should get a few hours rest.

I awoke Tuesday the 11th somewhere in Nevada, and by 6 AM was in the observation car, possibly in or past Elko, Nevada. I began to wonder why people live out here – it is just wide open spaces, interspersed by some industrials areas. Of course, I had to remind myself that the train is going to pass through industrial areas, so that is primarily what will be seen for communities.

The next stop for stretching legs was Winnemucca, Nevada.

Railroad travel used to be gentile and accommodations class segregated – first class – coach, etc. There were great distinctions, and totally separate train sections. Kinsor states that the great railroad writer, Lucius Beebe, would find “Amtrak’s democratic homogeneity appalling.” Riding the train (and planes) today is just everyday, nothing to dress up for, take slowly, and without clear class distinction. I guess both sides could be argued – it is just the way the world has changed (I remember wearing a coat and tie to board a plane in the 60s, and even to ride the trains as a pre-teen to New York City for the day). It still is “the experience,” and in one conversation later with a former Amtrak executive, I learned Amtrak is struggling to appeal to millennials who want “the experience.” Again, pick up a copy of Henry Kisor’s ZEPHYR: TRACKING A DREAM ACROSS AMERICA – great stories, history and anecdotes throughout.

Another safety tidbit, and I don’t think I captured an image for you. But, imagine along the side of the tracks a run of small poles 10-15 feet in height with wires strung horizontally every couple feet up the poles. To hold back a rock slide? No. To warn that there has been a slide that broke the wires, and something is now on the tracks. Breaking a wire sends a signal along to warn of the danger.

This image below is somewhere between Sparks and Reno Nevada — again, my “note to self,” I was not impressed with either Sparks or Reno. We arrived in Reno about 3 hours late. In 2007 the trackway was enlarged by digging down through the city in what is now known as “the trench.” Even with the Harrah’s Automobile Collection there (now The National Automobile Museum) I probably do not need to return to see the 1907 Thomas Flyer that won the 1908 Round the World Race. In the mid-1950s this car was in its original unrestored state at the Long Island Automotive Museum owned by, Henry Austin Clark,  a friend of my Dad’s. Mr. Clark actually salvaged the winning car from a junkyard. On a visit there I was allowed to sit at the wheel and steer this iconic winning car. The museum closed in 1980. So, now you know another Ray secret that no one else knew.

I had a question about some structures in the middle of a desert area, and stopped a conductor – his great name, “Ray.”  He had a flat hat on indicating he was a conductor. The first car attendant I asked said to ask a conductor because unlike the car attendants they stay local on their 12 hour runs for many, many years – thus they get to know every turn, noise on the tracks, or strange structure I need to know about. Ray told this Ray, “those are isolated mines tunneling way down.” I did not write down what they were mining. So, look for the “flat hat” for a “local area question.” Another slow down, and Ray was still with me. “Why now?” I asked. “We are having trouble with the Positive Train Control, and need to slow to 15 MPH until we can get all systems back in synch.”

Truckee, California, is an inviting town. Having burned to the ground six times between 1871 to 1882, the architecture is for the most part late nineteenth-century western, and with a typical train station.

Truckee, California Amtrak Station.

Next comes the ascent into the Donner Pass. You should know the story of the party of 87 trapped here in 1846 for the winter. By the time of their rescue, nearly half had frozen or starved to death. Some survived succumbing to cannibalism. This is the worst natural disaster of our western expansion.

in time we traveled along glacial Donner Lake for some time. The tunnel after Donner is unique changing direction several times heading back east and then again back west.

I chatted for awhile with a couple from New Zealand – the observation car was almost empty – go figure – am I one of the only one interested in watching the scenery? I listened in on some train enthusiast’s conversations, and settling in to talk was a docent from the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento who boarded in Reno to give talks. I just continued to be mesmerized by it all scenery outside, and conversation within. I do have to remember to stop carrying books with me to read as I never get to them.

The schedule called for arrival in Sacramento (where I was to transfer to the Coast Starlight) at 2:13 PM – great, would give me almost 3 hours to explore and get to the railroad museum before it closed at 5. Arriving over 2 hours late, there went those plans. But, I still had almost 7 hours before we left at midnight.

So, I headed off on foot, leaving the Sacramento station (above) behind, and went to explore Old Sacramento, which will come in the next segment of this tale.

Thanks for following and staying “on track” with me, as always, yours, RAY

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Here goes Leg Two of this journey. Working on this for three days I realized I should break Leg Two into two segments – I have that many notes, and things to share with you. In part one below, I am acquainting you with the Superliner and its cars. Part two will then get into scenery and history. So, more to come.

Leg One – LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Boston to Chicago – 8-9 June

Leg Two – CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR – Chicago to Sacramento
Part One – Sunday, 9 June

Part Two – Monday and Tuesday, 10-11 June
Leg Three – COAST STARLIGHT – Sacramento to Portland – 11-12 June
and, 24 plus hours in Portland, Oregon
Leg Four – EMPIRE BUILDER – Portland to Chicago – 13-15 June
Leg – Five – LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Chicago to Boston – 15-16 June

I left off my COAST to COAST to COAST adventure boarding the California Zephyr at Union Station in Chicago at 1:40 PM on Sunday, 9 June. Unlike in airports, there are no security check points. Passengers head through the gates, down the platform, and look for their car assignment. JR, my car attendant, greeted me at Car 0532, and directed me aboard looking at my paper eTicket. I believe coach passenger’s tickets are checked once in motion, thus someone could sneak aboard (a story later that did happen).

And, to put this leg into perspective, here is the California Zephyr’s route map which you can click to enlarge. The train from Chicago ends in Emeryville, California (across the bay from downtown San Francisco), but I got off in Sacramento (about 80 miles from San Francisco) to transfer to my next train, the Coast Starlight (Leg Three).

The Amtrak Superliner trains in the west are double deckers, unlike the eastern single level Viewliners. You pass from car to car on the second level. The lower levels are various uses as you see in the diagrams below.

I arrived in my roomette, which is configured differently on the Superliner Sleeper cars, as compared to the Viewliner Sleeper. There is no sink or toilet in a Superliner roomette (larger, more expensive rooms do have bath areas).

Lots of room for one. The steps to the upper bunk on the image to the left (above) I used for my roll-on bag on the top, and placed books, etc. on the lower step. You can see in the right image a hanging area, and I stowed things on the floor there also. Again, I slid my backpack, with electronics, under a seat, concealing it with my shoes. It was time to move into my slippers. The diagram below (click on diagrams to enlarge) shows both levels of the Superliner Sleeper – there is one toilet area on the upper level, and three toilets, a shower, and baggage storage on the lower level.

On-line there is discussion as to the best Roomette to have – above or below, near a door or not. Discussions centered around noise of people passing through, and doors opening and closing. I was always on the upper level – which is preferred for viewing – and I never found it noisy or busy with “traffic” regardless of which roomette I had.

The train pulled out promptly at 2PM, on schedule, and I was off to explore. I headed out to see the dining car and the observation sightseeing car with its cafe and additional seating area on the first level.

In the center of the second level of the dining car is the serving prep area, and seating both “fore and aft.” The kitchen area itself is on the first level, and the food comes up on a dumbwaiter.

Unlike the “old days” on trains, it is not “scratch cooking,” but not bad. Probably prepared for the most part off site the menu (click here to see it) is comprehensive, but with a week on the rails is repetitive. You find favorites, and the flourless chocolate cake/tart is to “die for.” I never left the table hungry (and never had an urge to snack). Breakfast and lunch are “open seating.” A dining attendant comes through the cars in the afternoon taking reservations for dinner, allowing an hour for patron turn-over. To tip or not to tip? One of the on-line questions. I choose to tip nicely. With several servers at each meal I do not know if they shared the tips, but upon return I usually was welcomed with fine service and attention. As a sleeper car/first class passenger, all meals were included in my fare (coach passengers may purchase meals in the dining car). Paper table covers for breakfast and lunch, linen for dinner. Disposable plastic dishes and silverware. At least the dishes had an Amtrak logo, and  when I nicely asked, I was “given” some new ones as a souvenir. Remember I tipped.

Superliner dining car tables on one half of the car looking to the end of the car.

The observation/sightseeing lounge car has a cash cafe which is used mostly by coach passengers. I never perused the offerings, but from the attendant’s announcements, believe the fare to be of the gas station convenience store variety. Below is the layout of this car.

Per train there is but one of the observation cars – and the seating you see above is for multiple sleeper cars and coaches – possibly woefully inadequate. Via Rail, when I crossed Canada, has separate (and better) dome observation cars for coach and first class patrons. Amtrak does not provide, in my opinion, sufficient sightseeing space. But, I can see their reasoning. They do not want to staff an additional cafe/snack bar, so it is the car configuration dictating the combined patronage. But, Amtrak, on the scenic routes you need better, and more observation space for passengers.

Having said this, I was prepared to worry about always having a spot in the observation car, but I did not have a problem. However, the configuration of the car is not ideal because no seats afford you the opportunity to see out both sides of the train at once (unlike sitting at a table – facing forward – in a Viewliner Dining Car). Well, nothing is ever perfect. Actually, I was surprised when walking through the sleeper cars that most passengers were staying in their compartments – dozing, reading, or looking out only one side. The few times I checked out the coaches the folks were sleeping, or watching movies on their electronics. Am I the only one who cares about the scenery I am passing?

Superliner Observation Sightseeing Lounge Car

Getting out of the metropolitan Chicago area, the Illinois scenery just opened up. Once past Princeton, this was the typical view – flat to the horizon.

A few stops are longer than simply to let people depart and embark – called “smoke breaks” (trains are nonsmoking – yeah!) or stretch breaks. Galesburg, Illinois, was the first such stop. George Washington Ferris, inventor of the first Ferris wheel at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 is from here.

Galesbury, Illinois Amtrak Station

My car attendant, JR, waited from everyone to return. People often do wander too far, and “miss the train.” Not my plan at all. A freight was going to be in our way, so we were detoured through the yards. There is “padding” time built into Amtrak’s schedules for delays such as this.

At 5:45 PM (about 20 minutes late) we crossed the Mississippi River, entering Burlington, Iowa. Most bridges had iron super structures, thus hard to capture an image of the river. And, I have been meaning to say, all pictures were hard to take – you travel up to 79 MPH, when you see a picture op, you are past before you realize it, and then there is the window glare, and sadly dirt on the windows.

Crossing the Mississippi River in Burlington, Iowa.

Sunsets can be amazing, “in the west”, and also hard to capture “on film.”

I took 10 images to get the one below that is worth sharing. Each night on the train – west bound and east bound – necessitated a time change back or ahead. Not a problem for me. I developed a trick in the early 1970s when flying to New Zealand and Antarctica a number of times. Once I boarded a plane, I set my watch (now only a nearby clock – quit wearing a watch over 40 years ago, why be possessed by time?) to where I would be landing, and starting thinking that time. So, on the trains, when turning in, going west I set my clock back an hour, and started thinking that 10 PM was 9 PM. Heading east, going to sleep at 10 PM it was really 11PM. Easy – try it. Well, below, Good Night — Sunday, 9 June, about 9:15 PM.

Part Two to Leg Two, the scenery and history along the California Zephyr route, to follow. The next post will have over 40 images I wish to share and relate the history about – thus the reason I stopped here – yours, RAY

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Thank you for the nice responses to my “genesis post” on this adventure. I have struggled how to break my Train Trek down in segments to share, but have finally come up with this plan below, for a series of posts.


Leg One – LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Boston to Chicago – 8-9 June

Leg Two – CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR – Chicago to Sacramento
Part One – Sunday, 9 June

Part Two – Monday and Tuesday, 10-11 June
Leg Three – COAST STARLIGHT – Sacramento to Portland – 11-12 June
and, 24 plus hours in Portland, Oregon
Leg Four – EMPIRE BUILDER – Portland to Chicago – 13-15 June
Leg – Five – LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Chicago to Boston – 15-16 June

So, here goes with Leg One on the Lake Shore Limited running from Boston to Chicago. I trust some may be interested in the cost of this experience, so I will be detailing that at the end of this page. Also, this adventure may develop later into a book, thus the time I am spending on developing this “first draft” with details not found in one place on-line about Amtrak, these routes, and history and things to see along my excursion Coast to Coast to Coast. The Lake Shore Limited route map below may be enlarged by clicking.

Not liking to “miss the boat,” or train in this instance, I headed to my son’s homes on Friday, June 7. Nice Friday evening, and then Saturday number one son and I ran errands. He dropped me off at number two son’s home about 11 so we could head to South Station in Boston. They made fun of me wanting to get there over an hour early, but I “won.” As Gary and I buckled up, my phone rang. The recorded message started, “There has been a service disruption to your Amtrak departure…” and it faded out.

I asked Gary to get started downtown (about a half hour drive without traffic) while I called Amtrak back – maybe my trip had been delayed, or worse? A representative finally answered when we were halfway downtown, and replied to my question, “no, the train is on time, I see no problems.” Arriving at Boston’s South Station, to be safe, I asked Gary to wait outside while I checked the train’s status.

Concourse – South Station, Boston

At Amtrak information I was told the train was “on-time” but had been replaced by a bus. The incoming train was delayed for 14 hours, and the crew had not had their federally mandated requisite rest time. I later learned (and saw the wreckage) of the derailment in Byran, Ohio, causing the problem. I called Gary, and told him it was safe to go. I headed up to The Metropolitan Lounge for First Class Passengers (Business and Sleeper class) and settled in for departure. Note the clock – I had an hour.

Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge – South Station, Boston

This trip I will not be able to board a train from the platforms, due to the bus replacement. About ten days before departure I received a call from Amtrak telling me my sleeping car had been eliminated from Boston to Albany, so I would receive a refund for my roomette on that segment. I would be directed to my Viewliner Sleeper Car in Albany.

South Station, Boston – Train Platforms

I was disappointed not being able to follow the rails across Massachusetts. We still would make stops in Worcester, Springfield, and Pittsfield, but I have visited those stations in earlier explorations – it is the rail countryside I wished to see in between. The bus left at 1:16 – 26 minutes late, setting a pattern for the next eight days – but typical and expected.

The Lake Shore Limited begins/ends in both New York City and Boston, and combines cars in Albany, NY. In 2018 I explored the Albany, NY, Amtrak station (which is actually across the Hudson River in Rensselaer, NY). I can get to Albany in the same time as to Boston, and with long-term parking at $6 a day in Albany, with better, more convenient, connections in NYC, Albany is a viable alternative for future train travel, and more convenient than leaving Bellows Falls, VT, with only one train a day. Arriving in Albany, I captured this image of the station concourse at 6:37 PM.

then it was time to head out to the tracks

down to the platforms

where at 6:40, Walt, my car attendant, greeted me.

On the east coast, single level Viewliner cars are the norm (you can click on the car diagrams for larger views). The Sleeper Cars have this layout. I was in a Roomette – bunks for two (best for one), and a hidden sink and toilet. You can find videos on YouTube touring the sleeper options on Amtrak.

The passageway is narrow, as are the roomettes, thus hard to capture a full view for you.

Viewliner Roomette

Here is a gallery of interior views – note that the seats fold down for a mattress for sleeping, and the top bunk slides down. Tight for two.

Both Viewliner, and Superliner roomettes are tight for baggage storage, but unlike on a Superliner roomette, there is a location in the Viewliner car to store your carry-on bag in a cubby above the hallway. I travelled with my Rick Steves roll-on bag, and also a backpack with all my electronics. I could keep my roll-on atop the toilet (when not in use) on the Viewliner, and on the Superliners there was a step for the upper bunk that served as a shelf for my bag. I was thinking I should carry my backpack for safety all the time, but from the start, on all trains I just stowed it under one of the seats, well out of view, and safe (sleeper rooms do not have locks from the outside).

Getting settled, I then headed off exploring (carefully)

going through the dining/lounge car, I found this empty coach car. I later learned that the seats are filled based upon embarkation and departure stops. Amtrak’s personnel try to avoid having to disturb sleeping coach passengers when new travelers board.

turning back to the Dining/Lounge car, I encountered this sign.

Here is the layout of this car

looking past the sign into the kitchen area

and, here are the booths for eating and observation while lounging – I planted myself at a table and remained hypnotized by the passing scenery.

departing, we crossed the Hudson River with Albany on the west shoreline. You will see ghost like images in many of my pictures – sadly you get glare and reflections from the lights in the cars.

Amtrak has a modified meal service on the Viewliner trains on the east coast. Items on the menu are prepared elsewhere and then heated prior to serving. A pleasing menu (click on this link to view), not hotel or inn dining, but alright. On Leg Four on this journey I chatted with a retired Amtrak official who was traveling for 30 days on her pass. She explained that the modified Viewliner dining service saved three personnel, and many other expenses. We talked about many of the cuts of the niceties and amenities that added to the service from the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. But, the meal was good, and in way of compensation you get one free alcoholic beverage from their list.

Much of the initial trip is along the Erie Canal. I have travelled this section on the canal itself, watched it from the south while on the NY State Thruway, and now these views are from the north bank while riding on the rails.

and, the sun began to set

see those ghost reflections from the lights on the walls of the car? Coming into Utica an announcement came, “anyone with medical experience please come up front.” I learned someone had a seizure, an ambulance was called, the passenger taken off, and our stay at Utica’s grand restored Union Station was 25 minutes longer than planned.

Once the sun set I retired to my roomette to sleep as I wanted to awake early to plant myself back in front of a window in the dining/observation lounge car. I slept well to the rocking click clack on the tracks, only awakening during a dark stop at a station. I arose by 6:30 AM as we passed Toledo, Ohio (scheduled called for 5:54 AM), and then I also saw the derailed freight cars in Byran.

About a week before packing I was looking through my personal railroad library, fortunately re-discovering a fantastic book I had forgotten about – USA BY RAIL PLUS CANADA’S MAIN ROUTES by John Pitt – A Bradt Travel Guide published in England. Written by a knowledgeable British train travel writer, this book served as a great asset listing the train’s stops, and points of interest at those stops, and along the way. I took the Amtrak schedules and noted on the route descriptions what I should see where, and when. It is what I have learned from this guide that will delay my postings as I do more research to share with you.

In the rural areas the train stations are old and varied vintage architecture. Here is Waterloo, Ohio.

the next stop was at Elkhart, Indiana

Yes it was raining again – and on the other side of the tracks is the National New York Central Railroad Museum

they are many, many small train museums and static railroad displays at remote stations around the country. One could spend months discovering them all. The rural farmland of Indiana eventually became industrial scenery and in South Bend the old steel mills went on forever.

And, then it was arrival in Chicago at 11AM on Sunday 9 June – about 1 hour and ten minutes late.

Chicago’s Union Station, particularly the grand hall is impressive, and you may recognize this stairway.

Departure was three hours later at 2PM – which in “Ray time” meant I had about two hours running time in Chicago. I attended school just north of Chicago in Evanston (don’t ask which decade), and used to haunt Chicago when I could, but was unfamiliar with this area. I checked my bag at the Metropolitan Lounge, put on my windbreaker since it was raining, and swung on my backpack and spent one and a half hours swinging my new hip. I first crossed over the Chicago River

towards The Loop where I passed one of the “Elevated Stations” – I used Chicago Transit from Evanston, often exiting at one of The Loop Stops.

but, close to Union Station I had to make a stop I had not been to before. I was looking for Jake and Elwood, but I think they already made it from the Richard J. Daley Plaza into City Hall before “the troops” arrived.

It was drizzling, hot, humid, and I was soaked not from the rain, but from carrying my backpack and all the walking. It was time to head back to Union Station.

through the doors

and down the Iconic Stairway (think Brian De Palma UNTOUCHABLES 1987, not to mention the wonderful 1994 spoof – NAKED GUN 33 1/3)

Some time in the lounge with hoards of other first class passengers. Fruit munchies, some rest, and then the call to board the California Zephyr, my home for the next almost three days.

If you made it this far, you may remember I promised to explain the purchase and cost of this trip. When the Amtrak reservation agent realized I had multiple trains I wanted to travel with a flexible time for departure, I was transferred to Amtrak Vacations. In about two hours, this is a copy of the E-Ticket I received.

What did each leg cost? I have absolutely no idea. I told the agent the trains I wanted to take, and a departure window (I have to balance trips with my CLARION publishing schedule). I had in my mind that this round trip should cost less than $3,000. The agent played with the routes, and different departure dates. Rates can vary based upon day of the week, tickets already sold, and who knows what else goes into their algorithms. He said, “wow, I cannot believe this low rate for you on the Empire Builder if you leave on the 8th from Boston. Another rate goes up, but overall this is great.” The schedule included an over 24 hour stay in Portland, Oregon, but they have arrangements with The Benson there. The price quoted was $2710, which included a $199 trip insurance policy. I said fine. Ultimately I had refunds of $140 – so my trip (including The Benson) was $2570 (and rooms start at the Benson at $200 a night) – thus eight days at $321 a day for travel, lodging, and food along with expansive scenery and entertainment (the other travelers). A tad high compared to some of the party cruise ships – but overall not bad for a land rail cruise of 6,787 miles. Hey, that is only 37.8 cents per mile. BOOK IT!

1 – Read and study as much as you can about Amtrak’s “named trains” their routes and scenery
2 – Decide where you would like to go, what you would like to see, and do as David told me, “…call Amtrak.”
3 – One thing leads to another. I never say I won’t be back, exposure to something on a trip leads to additional learning, and hopefully more trips
4 – Never say “never” – just do it.

By the Way – a statistic for you – this is the 300th post I have written.

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This adventure was long in planning, and will be awhile in sharing. After all, it was a 6,787 mile Train Trek. If you do the math, that equates to COAST to COAST to COAST. Yes, Boston – Chicago – Sacramento – Portland, Oregon – Chicago – Boston. Remember my 2011 Train Trek from Montreal to Vancouver, and then in 2013 when I completed crossing Canada by train traveling from Montreal to Halifax? Well, I described how that came about, and in this post I will introduce you to my AMTRAK adventure, and how it came about.

You know I enjoy history, and experiencing former gentile ways of life.  Along with innumerable enjoyable experiences, my book buying and selling has facilitated my learning. About fifteen years ago I purchased a massive railroad book collection, focusing on the western United States. Included were over 600 pieces of ephemera – travel brochures, time tables, train diagrams, and the like. I was fascinated. While selling the collection piece by piece I just wanted to experience the seductiveness of train travel. The same happened with oceanic travel leading to my Queen Mary II experiences – no party cruise ships for me, I prefer wearing a tuxedo. To the right are a couple of the enticing pieces of train ephemera I still have – I had better pieces.

How can you not want to experience this? (you can click and enlarge both images)

The thought of traveling on Amtrak’s “named trains” throughout the US has been on my mind. I discovered a book on the famous California Zephyr by Henry Kisor, ZEPHYR: TRACKING A DREAM ACROSS AMERICA. I bought a copy on January 14, 2013. Since then I read, marked up and made notes in my copy twice (yes, if using a book as a tool – and not a costly tome – it is acceptable to mark it up for your own use, just don’t expect to resell it). This past winter I began reading it for a third time.

Sadly, Amtrak does not have an easy to use website for planning an extensive journey. I was developing in my mind an excursion requiring five trains to make my crossing and back. Complicating planning, Amtrak’s fares change depending upon how far ahead you book, what day of the week you travel, and what tickets have already been sold (as time goes on the rates go up). Go figure! I could not. I also had been struggling with what stops to make along the journey and locales to visit while not on the rails. Number One Son, David, kept saying to me, “Dad, just call Amtrak.”

I began new notes in ZEPHYR on January 18 this year. About that time while “holding court” at the library one Saturday morning (as is my visiting custom), a fellow started talking about his recent trip with his wife on the California Zephyr, and shared a few images on his phone. I started thinking, I do not have to make stops along the way, I can always go back. My desire is to experience the train. A voice said to me (David’s), “Dad, just call Amtrak.” And, I did on February 28, 2019, booking the following itinerary.

Leg One – LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Boston to Chicago – 8-9 June

Leg Two – CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR – Chicago to Sacramento
Part One – Sunday, 9 June

Part Two – Monday and Tuesday, 10-11 June
COAST STARLIGHT – Sacramento to Portland – 11-12 June
24 plus hours in Portland, Oregon
EMPIRE BUILDER – Portland to Chicago – 13-15 June
LAKE SHORE LIMITED – Chicago to Boston – 15-16 June

Henry Kisor did a superb job with his 1994 book on the Zephyr. He was given access to equipment and personnel, and wove a wonderful, enticing behind-the-scenes adventure, placing the reader alongside in the action.

When I boarded my last leg of the journey, I was shown to my roomette by a distinguished car attendant. His name tag – R. Howard – rang a bell, but not completely. He showed another traveler to her roomette saying, “my name is Reggie, just call me if you need anything.” Then it hit me – Reggie Howard – one of the key Amtrak crew that Kisor wrote about in his 1994 book. I stopped Reggie as he passed my roomette, asking, “are you the legendary Reggie Howard Henry Kisor wrote about?” “I am,” he replied. We began chatting, and then I remembered my copy of the book in my bag that I brought to finish for the third time, and for reference on the trip. I whipped it out, “would you sign my book for me?” I asked Reggie.

Reggie has been with Amtrak for 39 years. “You know, this is not my train,” he began, “I was asked to fill in on this run at the last minute. Come visit me in the dining car on the California Zephyr, that is where I always am.” We agreed that it was an amazing serendipitous happening (at least for me). What a way to really make a memorable trip.

Eight days “on the rails” – five trains – 6,787 miles. I have many images, many notes, many stories, interesting characters, and much more research to do for my own learning on what I saw and experienced, and wish to document and share. It will take me time to relate these tales, and share them – but (if I do say so) it will be worth waiting to read.

PS – as I write this, train whistles are blowing across the Connecticut River in Vermont from passing trains. Amtrak has two trains a day (north and south) and the rest are freights. I always want to float away on the sound waves.



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“Did you know that…” Rudyard Kipling, who was the most famous author in the world, built his home, Naulakha, in 1892 in Dummerston (just north of the Brattleboro line) where he lived for four years. Here he wrote some of his most well known works: “The Jungle Book,” Captains Courageous,” conceived “Kim,” and “Just So Stories.”

Sometimes when it says “Private Property” we comply.

I have known about this hidden treasure on Kipling Road for some time, and have driven by and gazed at the property owned by Landmark Trust USA. I also knew that the Trust rented the home with seventy percent of its original furnishings owned by the Kipling family. Ever since my first drive by I have wanted to arrange a stay with friends (Naulakha sleeps eight) to relax, eat, read and visit. In June 2015, BLUE BELLE and I visited, taking this picture.

NAULAKHA – Dummerston, Vermont

For years I told a few friends that this would be a rare experience staying here, but other than seeing the Trust’s brochure, one has no idea what the home is like inside, or the grounds. In my travels I pick up literature, and free magazines, and a couple weeks ago I brought home from the grocery store UPCOUNTRY MAGAZINE for May and June. There was an article about Naulakha, offering a “rare glimpse inside.” And, there at the end of the article was the box announcing “guided tours.” I called, and bought tickets for the tour and tea. Our visit was on 29 May.

We had lunch in Brattleboro, and arrived early to be on time for our 1PM tour. We wandered about outside, and here is his home, built to resemble a ship, ninety feet long and thirty feet wide. For privacy from onlookers from the distant road, the rooms are on the high side above facing east (sorry, forgot to take a view of the vistas east for you), and all hallways and stairs are on the entrance side to the west, as seen below from the carriage house.

Still on a dirt road, when Kipling built his home all trees in all directions had been removed for sheep herding. Looking out from the 100-yard multi-colored rhododendron tunnel is this view of the house.

and, looking down the tunnel

and, at the end is this wonderful stone pergola, just waiting for our picnic and lounging.

looking east towards the road is the first tennis court in Vermont. When Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) visited, he brought skis to use here, and he and Kipling also shagged golf balls on these lawns

It was time for our 1PM tour given by the very knowledgeable Kelly Carlin, who has been with the Trust for 17 years. Her presentation, and easy reply to questions, exhibits an in-depth understanding of Kipling, his family, and the history of this property. With luck her knowledge and ease of presentation will be carried on by others in generations ahead. We started off in the dining room, with Kipling’s dining set (remember you can eat here), and museum quality sideboard.

The kitchen has this very intimate breakfast nook.

windows are placed to maximize light entering. There is a window from the kitchen that looks out to another window and to the carriage house. The outside window permits light to fill the staircase to the basement, but (and you can also see above on the left) also lets light into the spacious kitchen.

On the other side of dining room is Mrs. Kipling’s study. She handled most of the business for the family and her husband, and protected people from getting past to her husband’s study. I need to learn more about her in the book, “The Hated Wife: Carrie Kipling 1862-1939.”


Carrie Kipling’s study.

Rudyard Kipling’s study.

we then got to explore the second and third floors on our own. On the second floor are four bedrooms and three baths, and the third floor Kipling’s pool table and games and amusements.

And on the third floor,

There is so much you can learn about Kipling, and his time here. One good book to start with is Rudyard Kipling in Vermont by Stuart Murray. A family feud led to their departure (Rudyard Kipling’s Vermont Feud by Frederic Van de Water).

Abandoned, and left untouched for over forty years (other than by raccoons) the Trust purchased the property in 1991, restoring it, and opening it for short-term stays (minimum three nights). I asked Kelly, and learned that this was the second year they have offered these guided tours. “What a wonderful marketing venue,” I told her, “you should be able to attract folks who will then book a stay.” I think, and hope, it worked with the friends who joined me on the tour. Kelly also has a few school programs, and some other activities that you can learn about by spending time on the Landmark Trust USA‘s website.

1 – Learn what you can on-line about Kipling in Vermont, and his home. Here is one suggestion – The Literary Traveler 
2 – Read the books I mention above
3 – Study the Landmark Trust USA‘s website — and book a holiday at one of their magnificent properties.
4 – Read my monthly “Did you know that…” history articles in my newspaper – THE WALPOLE CLARION.

9:30 AM 2 June – just found this great article from the Kipling Society. This article is really comprehensive, all inclusive, and readable – I encourage you give it some time for the history. Note the additions that were made, and removed when the Trust found the original plans in the NYC architect’s office. Click on this link —  NAULAKHA AFTER KIPLING 

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I am not the only one who, in the last 200 years, has thanked DeWitt Clinton for his “Wedding of the Waters.” Originally 363 miles from Albany to Buffalo, I have been curious about the Erie Canal for years. I still have a long way to go to experience it all. In September 2008, I took a three day, two night, cruise on the canal from Albany to Syracuse. My curiosity intensified. I later explored canals and narrowboats in England and Ireland (sadly not taken a trip), have dug into Erie Canal sites on my previous trips to western New York, and detoured on other shunpiking adventures when I learned of nearby canals in Pennsylvania. In Canada I took a week long adventure on the Rideau Canal in 2011.

The New York Thruway, for the most part, follows the Erie Canal across the state. Thus the canal is accessible from many points along the way. On Friday I planned to see many of the canal towns from Lockport to Rochester (I did spend an afternoon at the Lockport Canal Museum in October 2014), But when I learned I could only see the Pan-American museum that morning, good old flexible me made some adjustments. So, on the way to Rochester I only got to Brockport and Spencerport – both deserve return visits.

In Brockport I met my first Lift Bridge.

The roughly 60 miles from Lockport (at the Niagara Escarpment) east to Rochester is basically flat with no locks. But bridges are required for traffic to cross the canals. Where long approaches are not possible to have a bridge high enough for boats to go under, lift bridges were installed, and the entire bridge is raised at once with counterweights – fascinating. And, as you can see below, as I turned around for this image, often the canal in not dug down, but built up.

When the bridge is up, you can climb the stairs to cross the canal on the sidewalk that also raises with the bridge. And, worrying about the ground level sidewalk, I learned that a barricade raises up with the bridge.

Down the road in Spencerport, this old trolley station was moved to provide a small museum, but in the lower level are facilities for canal boaters to use.

a fantastic interior, on display is an extensive collection of telephone equipment used and collected in the area.

this working model of a Lift Bridge helped me understand.

and, right outside the museum, boaters can tie up, use the facilities, go into town, and spend the night.

Leaving Rochester Saturday morning, and following the canal, I got this image of Fairport below, and a different style Lift Bridge.

I crossed the canal near Lock 30 in Macedon (where I may someday rent a boat) to Palmyra. I was on Route 31, which I was on years ago, but going in the opposite direction. So, I did see things differently, and more based on my research. Before entering Palmyra I stopped at Lock 29 and Palmyra Aqueduct Park. I stopped this time for a detailed visit.

Palmyra Aqueduct Park, New York

I spent some time chatting with the lock attendant. This fellow, and the next one I visited, with were both a wealth of friendly information. Both loved their jobs, caring for their locks and grounds, and helping curious visitors. Both fellows were proud of their work.

Lock 29 – Erie Canal

The equipment is fastidiously maintained.

Moved to the park was this rescued cross-over bridge for the tow animals.

I then arrived in Palmyra. I had passed through before, but did not know the TIME-CAPSULEs here and that Palmyra is the birthplace of the Latter Day Saint movement. Founder Joseph Smith, whose family lived on a farm, started it here. The first book of Morman was printed here, and to top things off, Henry Wells, founder of Wells Fargo and American Express, came from here.

The TIME CAPSULE – the five Museums of Historic Palmyra. This canal town is an architectural and historic treasure that must be visited, and I need to go back.  You know I love old country stores and letterpress printing – two of the museums are the original store, and a print shop.

a close-up of the facade shows changes over the time. What looks like Victorian cast-iron features are actually applied features over wood. See the small addition to the left of the store above? The canal was originally right next door with the store entrance there (before the addition). Fights were always underway by canal boaters vying for loads, and ladies would not go to the store. So, a new owner changed the entrance to where it now is facing Market Street.

Inside – WOW. Living quarters above, unchanged with three generations. The senior shop owner in 1940 said to his daughter, “I am done, the store is yours,” and he locked up. The store never opened again, and stayed untouched until after her death in the late 1970s. It was in the early 80s (if I recall from the private tour) the society acquired the property. I would imagine the shelves have been restaged, but done so with items that have always been in this building. – Unbelievable.

Did I say the doors were locked in 1940, and everything left as is? Here are eggs that were for sale that day – now almost 80 years later.

Three generations of the same family had lived above the store, and little was changed from one generation to the next – you have to visit in person. (remember you can click on an image to see a larger view)

You are toured by a docent from building to building. The main building, an old hotel, you can roam the exhibits, each room devoted to another aspect of local history. I have not included images of the original canal office where you bought tickets, but of interest, the mules were kept and fed in the basement with inclined walkways originally there for entrance and egress. I really enjoyed the print shop – one of the most extensive letterpress collections I have seen in one place.

and, on Main Street (I stopped in, will visit next time) is the Grandin Building, the site of the publishing of the First Book of Mormon. The press was on the top floor on the left, bindery in the middle floor, and book shop on the lower level.

Another must do in Palmyra is to attend the annual Hill Cumorah Pageant – although I heard it may only be held two more years. Over 600 people are in the pageant that is performed before thousands – and it is free. The pageant describes Joseph Smith’s  encounter with the Golden Plates, then translated into English as the Book of Mormon.

Moving along because I wanted to get to the canal park in Camillus, I next stopped at Lock 28B in Newark, which is also the site of old double Lock 59. The young attendant got his job just days ago. Now a part-timer, he was a wealth of knowledge, really wanted his site to shine, and would like to become full-time, year round staff. I recommend he be hired.

The interior of the old power plant shined. No longer used, it could be started up again to generate electricity to power the locks. The generators are powered by water driven turbines beneath. At many of the locks power plants were part of the facility before rural electrification made its way.

and then the young fellow walked me across the street to tell me what he knew about old Lock 59, and how he was going to improve the property.

originally the lock doors were opened by manpower, and you can see the foot treads to provide traction while the gate-keeper was opening the door.

I was running out of time and wanting to get to Camillus, I headed down to the Thruway, and headed east. But, I saw a sign, “what is this that I did not know about?” And, I turned in off the Thruway.

Never having seen the  PORT BYRON OLD ERIE CANAL HERITAGE PARK, I stopped beating myself up for missing it since it has only been open for three years, long after my last trip heading east on the NY Thruway. And, an interesting story of negotiation between the Federal Government (on an Interstate Highway), the NY Turnpike Authority, Town of Port Byron, and the custodians, the Canal Society of New York State. You see, there was concern about people getting on and off the limited access Thruway, and competition from food vendors in the facility. It was all worked out, and you can enter from the Thruway or walk through a gate from the Town of Port Byron. Alongside the interstate is the 1854 Enlarged Erie Canal Lock 52, the 1894 Erie House Tavern, and the 2016 Visitor’s Center, which sits atop the footprint of the original canal. Forever you could see the double lock from the road, but now you can tour it, and the original canal tavern built in 1894. Remember I had a destination, but I am flexible, and spent over two hours touring the property, talking with the docents, and loving every minute. You can see the locks heading east on the Thruway – BUT STOP !!!

Built in 1894 was the Erie House Tavern. Closed when Port Byron went dry, it remained a home for the original owners, until the last sister (a teacher in Port Byron) died. There were hotel rooms at one time upstairs, and the Tavern room had been converted to living space.

you can see to the right side the blacksmith shop which was relocated to the spot with the help of old photos. Original items, including the bar, were found in the basement. Here is the tavern room still a work in progress – but gorgeous.

an original black and white photo, interpreted to be 1901 due to the Black Mourning Bunting draped outside, most likely honoring the assassinated President McKinley.

Many displays are in the visitor center, including this model of a double lock with the overflow tunnel shown between the locks. Note the wooden abutments before the stonework and the spaces allowing for the overflow to enter the tunnel – I clearly saw the overflow holes in old Lock 59. This model was exhibited at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, then the New York State Museum. It ended up at the Canal Museum in Syracuse, but was relegated to the basement where it was rescued by the society and restored for exhibit here.

for everyone’s close-up study

I chatted some more with the docents, bought a book, realized I was not going to make it to the museum at Camillus, chatted some more, and then “voted with my dollars” and joined the Canal Society of New York State.

Back on the Thruway, I figured I should at least see the Camillus park, and the aqueduct that I was encouraged to see. Getting there, I saw this sign that the park is essentially the mid-point of the Erie Canal.

But the buildings were closed, but looked disappointing. So disappointing that I forgot I should have taken a walk to see the still used aqueduct – well, next time, and there has to be many next times for the Erie Canal for me. I ate quickly, and headed home.

1 – Explore the Erie Canal, its route, and old Canal Towns
2 – Plan to spend a day in Palmyra, New York for its architecture and museums
3 – When heading east on the New York Thruway, stop at the Old Erie Canal Heritage Park in Port Byron


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By now you should know I love playing with words, and creating catchy titles. This title explains my adventures of Thursday and Friday, 16 and 17 May in Buffalo and stopping in Rochester. Yes, a delay in posting, but since returning I have read two books on the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, not to mention my normal “work.” My reading, and working on these memory posts, prompts more research, and I have found Buffalo fascinating, and in need of more visits.

The weather was iffy during my week in Buffalo, but I shifted plans to head to Niagara Falls on the best day – Thursday, 16 May. I told you I was disappointed with the falls (at least not overly impressed) on my last visit to the Canadian side in October 2014. My lack of enthusiasm continues, but I felt I should explore the American side, but particularly I wanted to see the NY Power Authority’s Niagara Power Vista at Lewiston.

The website is a tad confusing, but this totally free experience is worth several hours of your time. The power of water on the Niagara River has generated electricity since the late 19th century. This facility, built in three years, was completed in 1961. Robert Moses oversaw amazing projects, such as the 1964 NY World’s Fair, so why do construction projects take forever today?

Here is an aerial view of the dam (which holds back the forbear and reservoir, not the river) and generating plant. Note the entrance of the water tunnels upstream to the south.

Here is a view from the visitor center walkway looking north. This point is twice the height of Niagara Falls. The Canadian generation plant is on the left.

The outcrop of land under the bridge to Canada is where it has been determined Niagara Falls started about 10,000 (?) years ago, but have moved 7 miles to the south.

Powerlines are underground to preserve the park like setting. The visitor center is amazing with history of the area, the construction, video, 4-D experience (that is not a typo), and many educational hands-on exhibits to learn about electricity. Worth a visit, and additional research. The view below is looking south on the Niagara River back to Niagara Falls, New York. On my trip 5 years ago I travelled down the road you see on the right – the Canadian side.

I then headed south along the river through depressed Niagara Falls, New York, to Niagara Falls State Park to experience the American side of the river. Still early in the year, but plenty of visitors. Construction workers were still rebuilding walkways damaged over the winter by ice, but the elevator was operating through solid rock taking you down to the Cave of the Winds (no longer accessible) under Bridal Falls (on the right) with the view of the American Falls.

Looking back to the Horseshoe falls, best seen from Canada, I wondered what beauty there probably was in the mid-19th century to attract tourists. I say that, because I do not see any attractiveness, particularly with the millions of gulls nesting, and the barren rocks full of guano.

but, I had to see it, can say I was here, etc. Below is above the Bridal and American Falls, I probably should have walked out to the overlook, but am still breaking in the new hip.

then I walked over to the overlook over the Horseshoe falls. It was impressive with an artistic touch.

Getting closer, I realized that I had forgotten to bring my barrel.

but, then I saw it is all a hoax. The whole effect is nothing but a stonewall holding back some water.

don’t ask what I did to get this view. I am still here, and was not arrested.

Heading out of the park I followed the Niagara River towards Lake Erie, and passed the impressive intakes for the Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant. I also realized later during research of the area that I also passed through Love Canal on the LaSalle Expressway. You may recall that sad saga in environmental history. I detoured back to Buffalo via Amherst and the Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village. Nice, but you do not have to make a special trip.

I was going to leave first thing Friday morning for Rochester doing Erie Canal things on the way, but I had discovered that the hours of an exhibit I really, really wanted to see were wrong, and I could only see SPIRIT OF THE CITY exhibit of the Buffalo Historical Society on this day, the third Friday of the month (I would have pushed for “by appointment”). On the way (blocks away from my B&B) I had time to tour the Richardson Olmsted Campus – a premier historic preservation project. The complex was built 145 years ago for enlightened treatment for people with mental illness – an asylum. Another reason to visit Buffalo. Driving up to the front, I remembered my Road Scholar bus tour of the city stopped at this point.

around to the rear is the entrance to the Hotel Henry and its restaurants in this complex that had been neglected for decades.

From the Buffalo History Museum website, “the Spirit of the City, the History Museum’s 3000 square foot feature exhibit showcasing the Pan-art1.jpgAmerican Exposition, and our collection storage areas populate the Resource Center. In the 1990s, The Buffalo History Museum acquired and renovated the streetcar repair barn (circa 1895). The materials housed in the Pan-Am Building during the Centennial, transforms this 100+ year old trolley barn into a Pan-Am Exposition hall. The combined exhibit features “the Little Building,” a rediscovered structure from the Pan-Am grounds, plus artifacts and hands-on displays that explore the exposition’s funny and serious sides.” And, for history, here is a C-Span program. This exhibit was created for the 100th anniversary of the fair. Below are some highlights. In my opinion, the presentations at the fair, and the untimely inauguration of TR defined the 20th century as it dawned, and transitioned from 19th century institutions.

Below is the original architect’s model of the centerpiece of the fair – The Electric Tower – followed by a night photograph.

And, the original model for the Temple of Music where McKinley was assassinated.

Based on his sketches, this 1902 painting is of McKinley speaking at the exposition on President’s Day.

The only gun used in a presidential assassination not in the hands of the Federal government. Leon Czulogosz used this gun, hidden under this handkerchief, to shoot the President. And the handcuffs immediately placed on him.

And, some of the surgical tools used on the President. One bullet was never found.

In this view of the center of exhibit hall is the model of the Electric Tower and the “little building” that was saved from the fair, and had an interesting life before finding its way here.

No test, but here are some of the panels of information that I wanted to copy to put into perspective the time period of the exposition in 1901, and the views of other peoples and cultures. You may find them interesting, and a springboard for more learning. Remember that you can click to enlarge for easier reading.

and, in conclusion –

It was then onto Rochester and the George Eastman Museum. I made two quick Erie Canal stops, but you will see those in the final Buffalo post.

The last time I transited the area I did not have the time to give the George Eastman Museum the time it deserved. Photography, the history of photography, dark-room work, stereo cameras, etc. have been an interest since I was twelve. The museum includes Eastman’s house and galleries built to the rear.

Eastman built the house for himself and his mother. She died a couple years after the home was finished in 1905. Eastman I learned committed suicide in 1932, no longer able to cope with the pain of spinal stenosis. His final note said, “My Work is Done, Why wait?” Well appointed, there are rotating exhibits in the house (as well as in the galleries).

Various groups had decorated some rooms with movie themes. You can see a scene from Caddyshack (above) on the pool table.

Saturday I headed home, but did Erie Canal experience all the way. Soon I will get those stories to you. Thank you for reading and following through this post.

1 – Visit Buffalo, New York
2 – Learn what you can of the Pan-American Exposition and its time period

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A TRIP TO THE MOON and to EDEN – 14-15 MAY 2019

You may recall my Roycroft Arts and Crafts experience in Western New York in October 2014. One day we toured Frank Lloyd Wright architecture spots in Buffalo. I realized I had to get back to explore Buffalo, and that is what I did from 13 to 18 May. Now I can say that I need one or two more trips to experience more of the area. I did a great deal of planning, but it is never enough; and, you know I change my plans when stumbling into something of interest I did not know about. I drove out on Monday, and Tuesday began my explorations at the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site. It was here that TR assumed the Presidency following McKinley’s death following being shot at the Pan-American Exposition on September 6, 1901.

The website is wonderful, do check it out. Below is the spot in the home where TR was sworn in. I have now been to two inauguration sites of Presidents succeeding a President dying in office.

TR wrote his first proclamation at this desk.

here are some interesting panels of history – you can click on them for larger images to read if you wish.

There are a number of interactive exhibits, including sitting at TR’s White House office. I dove into work, and made the news (you can enlarge it to read the story about me).

Did you know that I have been enthralled with World’s Fairs and Expositions for decades? It is true, and Buffalo has much to share of its past with the 1901 Pan-American Exposition. Downstairs there is an impressive fair exhibit.

some more panels of interest

The midway was extremely popular at the fair with many amusements including A TRIP TO THE MOON

Thomas A. Edison was making movies (silent) in 1901, and documented many happenings at the fair. I bet they are on-line, but being shown here was the exciting trip of the LUNA ship to meeting the people on the moon.

It was then off to City Hall for the highly recommended noon tour.

This 32 story Art Deco edifice was completed in 1931 to serve a city of one million. Buffalo was exponentially growing following the completion of the Erie Canal followed by its development as a port with lake trade transferring to the railroads. Population reached 600,000, but today is but just over 260,000. The first floor is impressive with its ceilings, murals and these murals that have a semi-circular top – a separate name that I forget and cannot find.

On the tour you even see the mayor’s office. It is large, his desk is in the rear, and sometimes he even will greet visitors on the tour. My tour group was small. A man from Poland, another young European, and an Asian family. A popular thing to do in Buffalo.

This stained glass ceiling in the council chamber is a masterpiece.

these are the seats in the council chamber. Recognize the wire frames, and their use? During renovations it was decided to keep these accouterments underneath the small seats (people were thinner then).

Remember? Probably not. Men (and women) always wore hats. And, you would slip the brim in the wire frame and put the seat down, thus holding your hat. Impressive are the views from the observation deck, below looking south to Lake Erie.

My great tour director, and the fellow from Poland told me of two architectural treasures I had to see that were in walking distance. First I headed over to the Guaranty Building, an early skyscraper completed in 1896 and designed by Louis Sullivan and Dankmar Adler.

It was then over to the Elliott Square Building completed in 1896. This historic office building is amazing with a great central court where I had lunch. Note the mezzanine retail spaces – sadly vacant.

this solid and still resident was at one time editor of the newspaper, The Buffalo Express, in 1869. He watched me eat.

an architectural gem, I have never seen elevator doors such as these, nor such a large and impressive mail box at the end of the mail chutes from above.

On my last trip, the Road Scholar bus drove past Canalside and the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park. I was shocked then what I saw, and made it back this time to visit one of the three ships – the USS SULLIVANS DD537.

I enlisted in the US Naval Reserve in high school to better my chances for acceptance into the NROTC program to cover college costs. It worked, but in 1963 I went to boot camp in Great Lakes, Illinois, and before starting college in 1964 I went on the SULLIVANS for a two week reserve cruise. The ship represented the US at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Confederation of Canada in Charlottetown, PEI.  And, I was part of the crew. Mentioning that when I went to pay for my ticket I was told, “no charge since you were a former crew member.” I did not say it was but two weeks. It was an amazing well laid out tour – here is a formidable view.

As I said, the self-guided tour is amazing. In the “gallery” below is my “rack” – my bunk at the bottom of a “ladder” (stairs to you landlubbers) – the worst spot given to a two week reservist, and the mess decks (dining room).

and, next is the entrance to the XO’s (Executive Officer) stateroom. Why show this do you ask? It is quite a story.

I was watching the celebration parade with Bob Eck (only time I have remembered a name). Started talking to two fellows next to us, and telling them I was headed to Northwestern to major in Radio, TV and Film (that major lasted one semester), they said they were actors/dancers in the Wayne and Schuster show, and would we like see the show that night – YES. After the show they took us to the big party for Prime Minister Lester Pearson. There we were, junior enlisted in uniform, being welcomed graciously by all the Canadians. The Commanding Officer of the ship saw us, and was amazed, and came over. The actors said to him, we are having another party later, can these two fellows come, and be back in the morning? You see, there was “Cinderella Liberty” and you had to be back by midnight. The CO (Commanding Officer) said, “yes, have fun,” impressed that we had been invited to this gala centennial event.

The next morning walking down the pier to the ship, everyone was watching us, and making cat calls. Crossing the Quarterdeck the OOD (Officer of the Deck) said, “you are AWOL, and in big trouble, wait here.” We were then escorted to the XO’s stateroom where he asked what we were doing. “The Commanding Officer said we could stay out,” I explained. “Right, I don’t believe that, wait here, I will go ask him.” We stood in that doorway, and when the XO returned he said, “next time the CO says you can stay out, call the ship and tell us, now get out of here.” I still have my program for the evening, signed by the Prime Minister and Wayne and Schuster. Now I have this story “in print.”

This placard on the SULLIVANS is the best explanation I have seen.

The plan for Wednesday the 15th was to start the day in Eden. Eden, New York, that is, to see a “first, and only one in the US and world” I had read about.  On the way I had to see the abandoned Buffalo Central Terminal – two miles out of the city.

An active station from 1929 to 1979, the 17-story Art Deco style station was built for the New York Central Railroad to handle over 200 trains and 10,000 passengers daily, as well as 1,500 New York Central employees.. About 2.5 miles from downtown, it was expected the city would soon reach the terminal – it never happened.

Buffalo Central Terminal when completed in 1929.

I then headed south for about 40 minutes for Eden, and,

Beginning as a metal shop in 1907, the kazoo factory was established in 1916, and is the only original metal kazoo factory in the world. The original machines are still in place, still used, and driven by overhead belts.

changing ownership over the years, and with production down from millions to tens of thousands (what is wrong with people?), the original factory and working museum was donated to SASI, a non-profit dedicated to supporting individuals with developmental disabilities. I saw about 4 employees working away at a “perfect fit.”

there are 18 steps involved, believe it or not, to make a $3 basic kazoo.

I have stashed away about 20 images of all the placards of the steps. Telling friends about this discovery it was decided to form “the band.” So, another website will evolve, a marching unit, and the purchase of equipment I made was one of the largest there in a long time. Here are some of the historic items in display cases (remember to click to enlarge).

Of course, yesterday (22 May) while scouting books, I discovered in an antique shop a brass horn, labeled “child’s horn” – $5. No thought needed, ends up being an 1890s KOBO BRASS BAND INSTRUMENT invented by the kazoo inventor, and looking at my images above, I see one sitting upright in the middle row right image above. I found pages of history, and previous sales of over $100 for my rare piece. I am a good Googler.


Did I say Pan-American Exposition 1901? I was off to the location of the fair next, passing the abandoned steel plants, grain elevators, etc. on the way. On my last trip I got the bus driver to detour to the stone marking where the Temple of Music was, and where McKinley was shot. The “Rainbow City” showcased electricity from Niagara Falls on its 350 acres of former farm land to the north of the city, which is now a lovely residential area.


Stone marking site of the Temple of Music where President McKinley was shot.

Next I went to the Buffalo History Museum. The building was the only fair building built to permanently remain after the fair, and for use as the history museum.

the front of the building faced the lakes at the south of the fair – Delaware Park.

Looking across the lake you can see the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. It was to be open for fair as the Fine Arts Gallery, but a strike at the quarries delayed completion for a few years. I will have to spend time in the museum and adjoining Burchfield Penney Art Center on my next visit.

inside the central court of the Buffalo History Museum. During the exposition this was the New York State Building.

and, I wanted to share this view of the fair’s Triumphal Bridge, painted c1900 by F. Hopkinson Smith.

Hope you got this far. It has taken me over a week to get to document my first two days of this adventure, and I still have three more days to share with you. But I am getting there.


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