Pittsburgh – July 2018 – Miniature Railroad and Village

The Miniature Railroad and Village located at the Carnegie Science Center has origins dating back 100 years. In 1919 Charles Bowdish created a holiday train display in his home in the small town of Brookville, Pennsylvania.

In 1954 it was moved to Buhl Planetarium where it resided until that closed, and moved to it’s current located at the science center in 1992.

The display features life and times in Western Pennsylvania between the 1880s and 1930s.

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IT’S GROUNDHOG DAY! The famed groundhog of Punxsutawney and his home on Gobblers Knob. Will it be an early spring?

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A steel mill. This one is a replica of one in Sharon, PA. Amazingly there are numerous movements of cranes, lifts and other features throughout.

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The lights of the ovens in the mill are illuminated.

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The roundhouse supports the trains that are running throughout the exhibit.

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Everything in the 83′ x 30′ display is hand made by the volunteers and staff. It is based on the ‘O’ scale, 1/4 inch = 1 foot.

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My personal favorite is Forbes Field, the baseball stadium from 1909-1970. Each ‘person’ is a painted Q tip.

The detail even includes a runner going head first into second base.

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The model features hundreds of actual Western Pennsylvania buildings, but not in any geographic detail. While Forbes Field is exact, there was no train running by the stadium – it was sitting in the middle of a neighborhood.

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For locals they can spend hours searching out the places they knew or grew up near.

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The day we were there a very nice young lady named Nicole offered to show us the back room where they make all of the buildings and accessories.

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They have many completed buildings, just not enough room to display them. As noted previously everything is hand made – no kits here.

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Some spare rail cars.

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The hilly terrain of Western PA is well represented.

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A streetcar that became a diner.

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Rodgers Field, located near Oakmont, was Pittsburgh first municipal airport. It operated from 1925-1935.

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The famed Frank Lloyd Wright home Fallingwater. Fortunately the real one does not overlook a steel mill.

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A small ‘patch town’ – coal mine town.

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The roller coaster at Luna Park. Opened in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh in 1905, it was only around for a few years before closing.

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The trees and bushes are made from hydrangeas that are collected and dried. From there each one is hand made using a twisted copper wire for the trunk and limbs. Their goal is that no two trees are exactly alike.

After gluing they paint the tree for the 3 primary seasons, summer, fall and winter. Each tree can take up to 1 day to make, and there are hundreds of thousands of trees on display.

There are larger model train displays around, but this one is well worth the visit.

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Delaware, OH – April 2018 – Architectural Tour

The small city of Delaware, Ohio is the county seat of a county of the same name. Located just north of Columbus it was for more than 150 years the center of a farming county, as well as the home of the small college, Ohio Wesleyan.

With Columbus suburbs fast approaching, most of the county to the south has been developed  in tract housing and shopping centers, and it now has a population of over 200,000, and is recognized as having the highest per capita income in the state.

The town of Delaware however still feels like a small town, with many historic buildings.

First up is Beiber’s Mill which was was built in 1877 as a grist mill. Long abandoned, it sits directly on the Olentangy River – there were enough No Trespassing signs, and neighbors that looked like they would have shotguns that we took the photos from the road.

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The next stop was Perkins Observatory.  While in town there is an observatory that was built in 1896 that is still standing (barely), this building is about 3 miles south of town, next to a golf course.

Built in 1925 it has been in use ever since, but has over time reduced in scope as central Ohio is not very conducive to astrological observations – due to the low altitude, cloud cover and light pollution from the cities.

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As we arrived on the small campus of the 1900 student Ohio Wesleyan University, we found Edwards Gymnasium. Built in 1905 it is a spectacular building with an amazing wood ceiling with skylights.

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Just up the hill is Slocum Hall, which contains a library.

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As well as a great skylight.

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Next door is the University Hall and Chapel, although it appears to me very similar to most of the county court houses and jails around the state.

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On the west side of the campus are a series of newer buildings.

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Leaving campus we moved on to an area where all of the Delaware County Government buildings are located including what was a Carnegie Library – now the County Commissioners home.

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Next door is the old courthouse.

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Our last stop is what should be the main attraction of the town – the birthplace of a U.S. President – in this case Rutherford B. Hayes. However someone messed that one up long ago when the home was torn down, so now it is the Rutherford B Hayes Memorial BP Gas Station. But it is the only Presidential Gas Station in America, so Delaware, Ohio has that going for them.

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Mt Vernon, OH – August 2015 – Car Show/Art Show

The next day was a bit slim on choices so we headed to Mount Vernon for what was supposed to be a major arts festival with a minor car show. It turned out to be a nonexistent art show with a nice car show.

On the way to Mount Vernon we stopped in the little town of Gambier to check out Kenyon College, famous for being a liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere. Paul Newman even went there. But it was small, and after about 15 minutes we had seen it all and headed over to Mount Vernon.

As mentioned we found little in the form of arts, and the first music act we saw was a Christian rock band with little skill. As we walked towards the center of the festival we did find a local Rotary club selling pork chop dinners, and they were very good, so at least I was fed.

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When we did get to the center of the festival we found a very nice car show that went for a couple of blocks in 3 directions. At the center was a classic rock cover band who was pretty good, with music that went with the classic cars.

At the Ye Old Mill we made our way into the Velvet ice cream shop to get some of their finest, which was good, but not Handels. Still it was a nice way to spend an hour on a Sunday afternoon.

Generally one of the more disappointing days of the summer.

New River Gorge, WV – July 2015 – Dizzying Heights

Our day started out with a brief stop at a Roadside America spot, the vacant diner when Hank Williams ate his last meal, then we made our way to the New River Gorge Bridge, a steel arch bridge 3,030 feet long over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia.

With an arch 1,700 feet long, the New River Gorge Bridge was for many years the world’s longest single-span arch bridge;it is now the third longest, as well as one of the highest vehicular bridges in the world, 876 feet above the New River.

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To say this bridge is impressive is an understatement. While we have seen higher (Royal Gorge), and longer the sight of this bridge from below is stunning. They offer guided tours where you cross a 2′ wide beam underneath the bridge deck attached to cables, but my height phobia prohibited me from trying that.

The New River Gorge National River is a unit of the National Park Service. Established in 1978 the NPS protected area covers over 50 miles of the river.

One of the places we visited within the park was the town of Thurmond. During the heybay of coal mining in the New River Gorge, Thurmond was a prosperous town with a number of business and facilities in town – ironically they don’t have a main street, rather the C & O tracks served as ‘Main Street’. The town was the filming location for the movie Matewan since it still looked like a 1920s coal town. The C & O passenger depot was renovated and serves as the Park Service Visitor Center. The entire town is a designated historic district on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Robert Byrd was a U.S Senator from West Virginia, having served longer than anyone else in the history of the United States. Byrd’s seniority and leadership of the Appropriations Committee enabled him to steer a great deal of federal money toward projects in West Virginia.Critics derided his efforts as pork barrel spending, while Byrd argued that the many federal projects he worked to bring to West Virginia represented progress for the people of his state. As a result, there are 4 lane highways in the middle of nowhere, vast amounts of federal lands and buildings, and an Amtrak stop in the little town of Thurmond, because Byrd wouldn’t fund it unless they routed a train through West Virginia. This stop is the least used Amtrak station on the entire network.

Another historic site in the park is the Nuttallburg Coal Mining Complex and Town Historic District, built around the railroad line at the bottom of the gorge, with an array of coke ovens and mining structures, as well as a bridge across the New River to South Nuttall.

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At one time Henry Ford bought the mines as “captive mines” to supply coal to Ford’s River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan. Ford updated many of the mines’ facilities at that time. However, Fordson sold the mine to the New River Coal Corporation in 1928, possibly because railroad regulations made coal transport to Michigan too difficult.

The road to Nuttalburg is a narrow, barely more than a lane mostly gravel road down the side of a mountain. Clearly my car wasn’t designed for such a road, but we did indeed make it down and back. Once you are there it feels very remote.

As we were leaving the area we stopped at Babcock State Park, located adjacent to the National Park. Located near the park headquarters, the Glade Creek Grist Mill is among the most photographed tourist sites in the state. Complete in 1976 by combining parts of three other West Virginia mills, it is a replica of the original Cooper’s Mill that was located nearby, as a living, working monument to the more than 500 mills that used to be located throughout the state.

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We continued on to White Sulphur Springs, a resort town in far southern West Virginia, near the Virginia border. White Sulphur Springs is the home of the Greenbrier Resort.

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A spring of sulphur water is at the center of the resort property, contained in a large white columned springhouse that has been the symbol of the Greenbrier for years. Legend says that the Native followed the tradition of ‘taking the waters’ for pain relief. Numerous famous people, including 26 presidents, have stayed here.

In 1858, a hotel was built on the property. After the second World War the C&O bought the property from the government and reopened the resort, now redecorated by Dorothy Draper. While this is supposed to be something special to me it is the most hideously decorated hotel I have ever seen, and I have stayed in hundreds of hotels. To think people pay an average of $600 a night for this ‘honor’. We stayed at a nearby Courtyard.

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To be fair the exterior of the hotel and the grounds are beautiful. We spent an hour walking around, admiring the landscaping and buildings, including the Presidential Cottage, the numerous shops and the golf course clubhouse. The main entrance to the hotel is very dramatic

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In the late 1950s, the U.S created a secret emergency relocation center at the Greenbrier to house Congress in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust. Although the bunker was kept stocked with supplies for 30 years, it was never actually used as an emergency location. The bunker’s existence was not acknowledged until 1992. It is featured as an attraction in which visitors can tour the now declassified facilities, known as The Bunker. Because it was near closing time when we arrived we were only able to see the entrance doors to the bunker.

Opting for something outside of the pretentious resort for dinner, we made our way to a small café in town, the 50 East. Their food was excellent, and the atmosphere great. The only confusing thing was everyone had New Orleans Saints attire on, which we later found out was due to the fact the Saints train at the Greenbrier.

 

Fairfield County, Ohio – April 2015 – Covered Bridge Tour

The first Sunday in April was spent touring covered bridges, and a few other sites in Fairfield County.

The first bridge we found was the Hartman Bridge in the Lockville Canal Park. The bridge is a queenpost truss-style bridge that now spans the prism between Locks 11 and 12, having been moved from its original location over Pleasant Run on Wheeling Road in 1967.

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The park consists of three locks that were once a part of the central section of the Ohio and Erie Canal, a 308-mile highway of water that connected Lake Erie at Cleveland to the Ohio River at Portsmouth.

The locks at the park include Locks 11, 12 and 13 that are open to the public, while locks 14 through 17 remain on private property. These seven locks, situated within the village of Lockville, comprise one of the longest series of intact locks yet remaining in the state.

After this we passed Rock Mill Bridge. Built in 1901, the Rock Mill Covered Bridge stands on its original abutments over a striking gorge just before the falls of the Hocking River. Spanning 37 feet and featuring a queenpost truss, the Rock Mill Bridge was one of the last bridge in Fairfield County to carry vehicular traffic. The bridge’s position next to the 1824-built Rock Mill grist mill makes it one of the more iconic locations in Fairfield County.

As we continued we passed an old family cemetery in the surrounded by a circular stone wall of massive stones. It is called the President’s Half Acre, as the founder of the cemetery deeded the property to the President of the United States forever, in hopes that they would take an interest and would care for it. Needless to say, none has. Supposedly the Ohio Historical Society cared for it for many years, but it was a very non-descript place, with locked gates.

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Further south in the county we passed the Hanaway Bridge, built in 1881. This bridge still spans Clear Creek in its original location, sitting on its original sandstone abutments. The 85-foot long historic bridge is unique among Fairfield County’s remaining covered bridges because it has a canopy on only one side. Since the Hanaway Covered Bridge was constructed on a curve, this single canopy allowed those entering the bridge to watch for traffic approaching from the other direction and safely exit the bridge.

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The nearby Johnson Bridge is the county’s longest covered bridge still resting on its original abutments. At 99 feet long, this historic structure features Howe trusses with two full-length canopies on both sides of the bridge, making the trusses easily visible from the outside.

The last bridge visited in southern Fairfield County was the the Mink Hollow Covered Bridge in Arney Run Park. This bridge rests on its original sandstone abutments over Arney Run, a tributary of Clear Creek. Built in 1887 at a span of 51 feet and features a multiple kingpost truss with a central X-brace and canopies on both sides. The Mink Hollow Covered Bridge actually lies in Oil Mill Hollow, a name that came from a nearby mill that pressed oil from flaxseed. This geographic landmark, as well as the name of Borcher’s Mill, a local grist mill, led to the bridge’s official name, which is the longest name of any covered bridge in the United States: The Mink Hollow Covered Bridge in Oil Mill Hollow Over Arney Run Near Borcher’s Mill.

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Our last stop in the southern part of the county was Cross Mound, Cross Mound Park gets its name from the unique ancient earthwork structure situated in the shape of a plus-sign, or cross, composed of four identical arms each about 12 feet wide, three feet high and 45 feet long. The cross sits at the top of a moderate incline just west of Salt Creek, a tributary of the Scioto River.In addition to the cross-shaped earthwork, the park contains a small stone mound and several smaller mounds, possibly of the Hopewell period.

Cross Mound Park also features the Salt Creek Pedestrian Bridge, a picturesque suspension bridge spanning the creek of the same name. The bridge was constructed in 1936 through the Works Progress Administration

Despite extensive hiking up and down the hills we never really got a clear view of the mounds, although it was obviously where some were.

After some serious wandering through little country roads that felt as though we were driving onto the set of Deliverance, and past a correction facility, we arrived at the the Flight of the Hawk Park, south of Lancaster along US Route 33. Throughout this park are life-size metal sculptures of Ohio’s native wildlife. Among the sculptures are a turkey vulture, wild turkeys, white-tailed deer and the expansive 2,500-pound red-tailed hawk perched on its nest 42 feet above the ground. The hawk features a 14-foot wingspan and is composed of 3,000 torch-cut pieces that were carefully shaped and welded into place

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By this time it was lunchtime, so we went into Lancaster to the Cherry Street Grill. I always remember this place as a small little dive bar, but the current owners have made it into a nice little restaurant and pub.