Galveston, Texas – May 2019 – The Strand Historic District

Greetings from Galveston, Texas.

Galveston was one of the earliest settlements in what eventually became Texas. The main commercial street in town is known as the Strand.

The first buildings were built out of wood, but it became apparent that with the frequent hurricanes that hit Galveston that more sturdy buildings were called for, hence by the 1870s the entire street was built of iron and brick.

Old Galveston Square dates from 1859, with recent repairs complete due to yet another hurricane that did damage to the building.

While Galveston is a city of 50,000, and part of the massive Houston Metro area, the street feels more like a smaller Midwest town.

The Peanut Butter Warehouse dates from 1912, where it served for nearly 100 years as a grocery warehouse. Today it has been converted into condos.

At one time the street was known as the ‘Wall Street of the South’.

Most of the doors on the buildings are huge – nearly 10′ high.

The Hutchings Building is one of the earliest examples of a steel frame building in Texas.

A few of the classic buildings are in the surrounding blocks.

While not as old, but second to none, the former Santa Fe Railroad Station now serves as a museum on the 1st floor, and offices above.

Built in the art deco style, it has the requisite stylish mailbox.

By the time we reached this building the museum was closed for the day, but could still be viewed through some windows.

Our home for the night was the Tremont Hotel, and classic old building. When I asked if the building was always a hotel the desk clerk said ‘no, it was a store, and a warehouse among other things. In fact during the terrible storm of 1900 (which caused more deaths than any other event in American history – over 8000 people) they used the building to store the bodies.

It turns out this hotel has quite the history for being haunted, but we didn’t have any unexpected visitors during our stay.

The stylish arch over the street was placed there over the street in 1985 for Mardi Gras They liked it so much they left it.

Cincinnati – January 2019 – Union Terminal

As noted in previous postings the Cincinnati Union Terminal is a masterpiece of art deco that was completed in 1933. It has the largest semi-dome in the western hemisphere, measuring 180 feet wide by 106 feet high.

Once it closed as a rail station in the early 1970s it lived on briefly as a shopping mall before becoming the Cincinnati Museum Center in 1990.

It is immensely popular, with the original information booth serving as the ticket booth for the museums.

Fortunately each weekend day they offer tours of the building. While (as noted in other posts) portions of the building are undergoing restorations, it is still an amazing place to see any of it.

Our docent lead us on an hour tour, giving highlights and details.

The art deco touch is evident throughout, including this ticket booth for one of the smaller theaters.

Among the highlights are the massive mosaic murals on the main rotunda, as well as others hidden in corridors. The detail in the murals are amazing.

All depict either transportation or industry of Cincinnati over the years (up to 1932).

An ice cream shop off the main rotunda was once the women’s tea room. The entire room is Rookwood (a famed Cincinnati ceramics pottery company).

While it was abandoned as a train station in the 1970s, Amtrak has returned and uses a small portion of the building. It too has a great art deco look, with inlaid wood depicting railroad scenes.

A bank of phone booths grace one wall – without phones, but you can always close the door and use your cell phone.

Pierre Bourdelle was a framed French artist who designed linoleum panels with floral design for the walls of the women’s lounge.

Fortunately it is no longer a women’s lounge so anyone (including me) can see it.

A private dining room, and former men’s lounge, has a large mural of a map of Cincinnati and nearby northern Kentucky on the wall and mirrored walls giving a great effect.

A second view of the room.

Finally a stop in the main dining room that features some recently discovered food themed artwork.

The Cincinnati Union Terminal was, and continues to be, one of Ohio’s great buildings.

Cincinnati – January 2019 – Museum Center Exhibits

Our first trip of the year always seems to be down to Cincinnati, and 2019 started out the same. We were headed to the Cincinnati Museum Center for a guitar exhibit (in a separate posting), but since we were there we checked out the rest of the exhibits that we could.

The Cincinnati Museum Center is in the 80+ year old Union Terminal, and anything that age needs a little love now and then. The Museum Center has been in a mult-year refurbishing program, and as such much was still closed (but the remainder is scheduled to open in the spring).

Still the annual holiday train display was present.

Nearby was a Lego dispay

The display featured numerous Cincinnati landmarks including the famed Roebling Suspension bridge.

The Cincinnati Music Hall

And a Baltimore & Ohio Railway Freight building.

The Natural History Museum is still closed as well, but they do have a nice dinosaur exhibit open in the meantime.

Columbus – November 2018 – Science Center Revisit

In checking the events calendars for something to do I noticed COSI had a model train exhibit, so we headed down for a Sunday morning.

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We headed straight to the upper floor exhibit area where the model trains were set up. Disappointingly we found they are the same ones we see set up elsewhere (such as the fair, etc).

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While nice, we were hoping for more.

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One unique one though was this group who have built their entire train display from Legos. The tracks, the trains, the cars, are all built out of Legos!

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Outside along the hallways are a number of art pieces made out of scrap material. Among other things this one has piano keys, roofing metal, paint brushes, a garden hose and other ‘stuff’.

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All sorts of pieces/parts including license plates.

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A giant frame skeleton hovers over all.

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This display shows the miles and miles of veins and arteries in the body.

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I wish I could remember what this was, but I can’t. No worries – he looks cool.

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One exhibit that they have had since the 1960s is the exhibit ‘Process’. This shows an American street at two different times, one in 1898 then the same street in 1962 (which is when the center was opened at it’s original location).

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It was amusing to see teenagers all running for the various corded telephones, as most under 15 have never used one.

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We happened to be next to one of the presentation areas when they were starting an exhibit on chemistry where the presenter entertained us with liquid nitrogen and others like potassium and their reactions to hot and cold.

On this display she had someone give her a $20 bill, dipped it in hydrogen and set it on fire. In the end the person got his $20 back unscathed, except for being wet where she ‘rinsed’ it.

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She also demonstrated how different gases make different colored flames when exploding (yes they were very loud booms)

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Honda is a big sponsor, with a display on automotive components such as how pistons drive engines, how shocks work, etc.

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The American Museum of Natural History has a very large display that is being presented for a year or so. There were a number of fossils on display.

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There were many on exhibit.

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The display was very large, and very well done.

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Some were models to show the full size of the dinosaur.

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But the actual fossils were best.

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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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Flemington, NJ – June 2018 – Northlandz Model Railroad Display

As you drive along US Route 202 near Flemington in western New Jersey you will come upon a building alongside the road that at first glance appears to possibly be vacant. Set behind a small parking lot, and on this summer day somewhat overgrown by weeds is a 50,000 square foot gray building.

When you stop and walk inside you see a small snack bar and gift shop, and the appearances of something past it’s prime. However as you pay your entry fee and head in you are in for an amazing experience.

For it is here in Flemington, New Jersey that you find what is one of the world’s largest model train display.

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What started as a hobby in the basement of Bruce Zaccagnino in the early 1970s eventually developed into something much larger.

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Bruce was a musician and computer game designer but whose passion was model railroading.

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The display has over 400 bridges …

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Eight miles of track ….

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They also have some static displays including this train wreck – note the passangers hanging onto the side of the car.

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Some of the displays appear to be 15′ high.

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The rail yard.

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Another of the 400 bridges across a deep ravine.

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The detail is great – this is a tower in the amusement park.

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Another massive bridge with a monastery on top of the mountain.

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More ravines and bridges.

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There were a few trains running but with the size it became a game to listen for the trains to come across the features.

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A model of the famed Firth of Forth bridge in Scotland.

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Another view of the same bridge from below.

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Putt putt course from hell.

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The Golden Spike location in Utah.

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The control room. Northlandz is an amazing place to see – don’t let the slightly worn look of the outside and lobby deter you – it is well worth the visit.

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Bellevue, Ohio – May 2018 – Mad River and Nickel Plate Railway Museum

While I am a fan of all types of transportation, I am not a train fanatic like some. Still, even though we had recently been to a major train museum in Pennsylvania this Saturday brought up another opportunity to check out one closer to home – The Mad River and Nickel Plate Railway Museum in Bellevue, Ohio.

The drive up to Bellevue paralleled a major rail line, and a stop in the town of Bucyrus to check out their historic station was interrupted as we waited out a 150 car freight trian.

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Eventually we made it to Bellevue and the Mad River – Nickel Plate Railway Museum. The name requires some explanation – Mad River is flows for 70 miles across Ohio. It gained it’s name from the ‘mad rapids’ that occur along much of the river.

The New York, Chicago and St Louis Railway was founded in the 1880s, but was based in Cleveland. It was given the nickname Nickel Plate from a local newspaper who thought it’s financial prospects were ‘nickel plated’ – or very good.



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The museum has an indoor area with a number of small artifacts including dinnerware and waiter uniforms.

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One of their prized possessions is the bell from the Lincoln Funeral Train.

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In addition to the rail rolling stock they have a couple of nicely restored trucks.

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What sets this rail museum apart from the others is nearly all of the cars are open for inspection, including numerous cabooses.

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Outdoors are many more rail cars – including numerous box cars that house even more artifacts. Below is a telegraph desk.

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They also have a nice collection of tools – note the ‘track level’

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Many of the cars are connected together to pass between them. All have been restored to original vibrant colors.

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A small station was brought from a nearby town.

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It too is restored to original condition.

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The cars are fairly packed into their yard – but as the rain came this was welcome.

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A manual brake on a car.

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They also have a beautiful postal car.

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As well as some switching lights.

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A diesel locamotive.

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The venting on the side gave it an aerodynamic feel.

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Literally across the tracks was an area with a few more restored cars, as well as a couple un-restored ones next to some cool giant, empty concrete silos.

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But alas we have reached the end of the road. This rail museum is well worth the visit, with their great collections in the rolling stock that allow you to actually go in and check them out.

Given that Bellevue is on multiple active rail lines the constant train whistles in the background made it even better. It was all very cool.

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