Buenos Aires – June 2019 – Views of the City

It was a great 10 days in Buenos Aires. I am not certain what I was expecting but whatever it was, BA exceeded it!

The Nueve de Julio Avenue is the center of the city. Created in the 1930s by wiping out an entire city block wide, and nearly 3 miles long, it is an impressive sight.



The city exists because of the huge estuary of the Rio de La Plata, creating one of the world’s great ports.



The city is full of great architecture starting with the Retiro Train Station.





The Torre Monument is in the plaza in front of Retiro. The tower was completed in 1916 by the same architect who built Big Ben.



Just down the street is the Kavanagh Building, an Art Deco masterpiece.



One of the highlights of the city is the number of ‘Palacios’ remaining from the early 1900s. While there were once more than 100, less than 40 remain, but those that still stand are magnificent.













In addition to the Palacios there are literally hundreds, if not thousands, of impressive buildings.

















The city was the first city in South America to have a subway, starting over 100 years ago.





As with any city, not all are enjoying the good life. Buenos Aires has some ‘Villa’s, basically shantytowns for the very poor. The city says they have a plan to help improve the lives of the people living in the Villas, but only time will tell.



No visit to Buenos Aires is complete without a stop at the Obelisk.



For now it is time to fly, but not before joining the crowd to watch a soccer game while waiting on the plane. True Buenos Aires!






New York City – June 2019 – Random Views

As with any week spent in the city, you always run across interesting sights.

Starting with the Puerto Rico Day Parade





The view from the Roosevelt Island Tram





A Public Art exhibit on the High Line.









Brooklyn Subway Station Details – those familiar with the area will notice it is actually from two different stations.









Staying in Brooklyn – Barlay’s Center Arena.



A cool art deco power substation for the subway in Greenwich Village



Park Avenue just north of Grand Central Terminal.



Hudson Yards





The Alexander Hamilton House



And finally – the Apollo Theater in Harlem!






New York City – June 2019 – Sit Down or Hang On

A slang for someone who rides the subway a lot is a ‘strap hanger’. The term comes from the early days where there were actual straps that the standing passengers held onto.

This posting illustrates the history of New York City Subway cars and the changes in the seats, and ‘straps’.



Only the very oldest cars have the cloth straps! In addition this BMT Q car has rattan seats that are very cool.





Very early on the cloth straps were replaced with metal ones.





The next version has already moved to the metal bars. I am certain the straps wore out quickly, whereas the bars last forever.





Our next version loses the rattan seats, replaced with these stylish green and yellow stripes. The bars have also evolved to be much larger, so more people can hang on while standing.

This is an IRT R-12 car dating from 1948.





On the IRT R-15 car the bench seating continues, only in solid red, while the bars are still large and protruding. This car dates from 1950.





The first plastic seats make an appearance on an R42. This type of car was most famously used in the 1971 movie The French Connection, where the good guy is in a car chasing the bad guy who stole a train.



Time to board our next car – the ‘straps’ have returned! This car is a R33 ‘World’s Fair’ car, so named as it was released in 1963, the same year the city hosted the World’s Fair.







The last of the straight bench seating makes an appearance.



As we move closer to the modern design, randomized seating.





Finally by the 1970s it looks essentially the same as today’s cars. Not nearly as elegant as the cloth straps and wicker seats, but far more functional and durable.



Time to hang out on the benches in the station and reflect on the changes of the subway over the last 100 years.








Chicago – February 2019 – Then and Now

The ‘Time Travel’ series continues in Chicago start with Van Buren Street Station in 1907 and now. Note the Art Museum in both photos for orientation of the view.






The Chicago River looking west in 1946 and now. Same bridges, but not much else (although the Merchandise Mart is still there, just hidden behind Marina City.






Buckingham Fountain from 1955 to now gives evidence to how many buildings have been built in the last 60s years.





Michigan Avenue north of the river from 330 N Michigan again shows all the new buildings, although the Wrigley Building and Tribune Tower still grace the riverfront itself.





Meanwhile down at street level looking across the same bridge in 1955. Of note is the mid 50s Ford making the right turn compared to the Honda Civic today. Both were one of the most popular cars of their day.

Also of note are examples of clothing as well as the change in street lighting.





This view of State Street in front of Marshall Fields/Macy’s has the change over from streetcars to buses. At some point they must have cleaned the exterior of Marshall Field’s as it is much brighter today.





While turning around looking south down State Street – in the 1950s it was large old Plymouths, Packards and Chevy’s. Today is a Prius parade while the traffic blocked the intersection.





Moving back over to Michigan Avenue in the late 1950s shows the recently completed Prudential Building (1955). Not only was it the tallest building around it was the only building on Randolph Street, east of Michigan.

The reason for this was they were just beginning to replace the freight rail yards with buildings. Clearly by 2019 all available space has been built up.





This view from 1960 shows the freight yards east of Michigan Avenue, right in the middle of Grant Park. While Columbus Avenue took part, the park is much better for the city than the rail lines.





The El crossing the river to the west loop (at a slightly different angle in 2019) shows the huge growth along the river from 1960 until today.





The skyline view from Adler Planetarium also shows the dramatic change. This skyline view is from 1965. (full disclosure the ‘current’ photo is from last July, not this last week – nobody was sitting along the stone step along the lake in Chicago in February).





Our final view is from 1970, and the recently completed John Hancock Tower – the first 1000′ tall building in Chicago. This view too is impressive in the changes seen in downtown Chicago in the last 50 years.

Chicago – December 2018 – Elevated Architecture: Downtown ‘El’ Train

Our final tour of this visit was one I was looking forward to – a tour of architecture of and from the El train. The tour would take us into a number of El stations, as well as checking out some of Chicago’s finest architecture from a view most don’t see – 20 feet up from the El platforms.

We made our way to our first station in the pouring rain. The group of 9 people were more than happy when we arrived at the Washington and Wabash Station. Rebuilt and opened just a year ago, this station is sometimes referred to as the Millennium Station as it is located just a block from the park (but to any Chicagoan it will always be Washington/Wabash).

The canopy is made of steel and glass, with waves that are to evoke the feeling of nearby Lake Michigan.





As you enter the station you are greeting by a significant amount of artwork.





A major portion of the tour was focused on the nearby buildings. We had seen the Sullivan Center previously, but on this tour we had the mix of the canopy of the station with the classic lines of the building.





This row of 5 floor buildings are survivors from the 1800s, and are classic buildings. All they need is someone to come along with $40-50 million to purchase and rehab them (perhaps into boutique hotels!)





We made our way clockwise around the loop to the stations at State and Van Buren, aka the Harold Washington Library Station.

While the station is a fairly typical El station, it has great views of the Fisher Building and the Monodnock Building.

The Fisher Building is an 1896 Daniel Burnham masterpiece. As with many buildings it was built in two phases. Note the bay windows on the portion closest to the camera, then a flat face just beyond that.





The building’s terracotta has numerous sculptures featuring fish and crabs, as well as mythical creatures.





The northbound view of Dearborn Street with the Monodnock on the left and the Standard Club on the right.





The rain and the Monodnock gave a basic light added character.





We had the good fortune of having the CTA Holiday Train roll through the station as we were checking out the sights. A Chicago tradition since 1992, the train is decorated by volunteers and corporate sponsor.

Prior to Christmas they will run open air flatbed cars with Santa on them (check out the blog posting on the CTA Skokie Repair shop for more details as it was being prepared when we were there in October).









Throughout our tour the CTA employees were more than helpful, holding the train briefly while we boarded en mass or letting us through the turnstiles without addition payment to check out the stations.

I am certain to them it is just a job, but how cool would it be to drive an El train around all day.





The Quincy Station was the highlight of the tour. It was opened in 1897 and is essentially the same as the day it opened (with a few additional safety features).





They even have a couple of the original (unused) fare boxes mounted on the wall





It is the only station in the system that does not have advertising, rather they have period correct ads from the early days of the station.

Interestingly the ad on the left for the South Shore could still be valid, as that commuter rail still runs down into Indiana.





The platform maintains the same look. Quite the contrast to the skyscrapers in the background (including the 1400′ high Willis/Sears Tower directly behind the platform).





Again the lighting adds to the overall look.





We continued around the loop, crossing Randolph Street past the Palace Theater.





We made a turn to the west at the northwest corner of the loop, giving a great view of the wood planking for the tracks as well as one of the control stations.





Our final stop was at the Clinton Station in the West Loop. With the recent construction of very tall buildings, and the rain, the views were diminished this day, but it still gave some great symmetry shots.





This station is next to Union Station. The building in the background was once a large warehouse but has been re purposed to condo’s.





The view back towards the loop. It is interesting how this 100+ year old transportation still works, skirting past the massive skyscrapers.





We were at a Metra Commuter Rail station and had the good fortune of seeing their Holiday Train as well! Talk about good luck (even with the pouring rain).

As always our volunteer docent was knowledgeable and personable. With so many tacky tourist hop on hop off bus type businesses in large American cities, the non profit, mostly volunteer Chicago Architecture Foundation is a real treasure. We are looking forward to returning for more tours.







Chicago – October 2018 – Open House Chicago Special Tours

We were fortunate enough to get tickets to two Open House Special Tours.

Our first tour was of the CTA El Train Repair Shops in Skokie. Directions to our tour was to go to the Howard Street Station on the Red Line and gather on the far end of the platform.

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For this Saturday morning the platform was jammed with many people not used to taking the train, as they were in town for the University of Nebraska game against Northwestern in Evanston. To the normal commuter seeing a 1922 El Car come rolling into the station would be a surprise, but to this large out of town crowd it was stunning.

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One of the volunteers was dressed in a period uniform.

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While others had their safety vests on. All of the vintage cars are maintained by volunteers – many retired CTA workers.

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The passengers were excited…

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As we arrived at the yard we were greeted by other vintage cars awaiting restoration, as well as the revenue generating current cars.

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The 400 series cars really stand out against the modern cars in the yard.

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But it was time to tour the shop.

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Our tour guide was the manager of the facility.

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The shop.

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There were El cars in various states of repair.

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This station refurbishes the wheels.

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While another lifts the entire car for easy access.

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They also have some bays with pits to get underneath the cars.

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A great Chicago tradition is the Holiday Train. Started in 1992, the Holiday Train is a labor of love for the CTA employees who volunteer to work on the cars, as well as the public. During the holiday season the Holiday Train visits every El station on every line, usually taking food baskets to local organizations.

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Another vintage car along ithe snow removal engine (minus the blower)

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The El Cars have springs and shocks like a regular car, just much larger.

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An axle and wheels.

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A pile of wheels waiting on refurbishing.

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A collection of contact shoes that connect the train to the third rail to provide power to the engines.

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A series of trucks ready to go. After this we headed back to our vintage car and returned to Howard Street Station.

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Our second tour of the day was the Chicago Tribune Printing Facility

The Chicago Tribune Freedom Center is a printing and inserting facility located along the Chicago River. Built in 1981, it was located along the river with the theory of bringing the paper products directly into the facility by boat, but the first shipment showed that with the bend in the river, the bridges and the building itself they couldn’t get to the dock. While the doors are still there they have never been used for their original purpose.

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Our guide was someone from the receiving department.

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Our tour of the 800,000 square foot facility started in the warehouse with massive 1 ton rolls of paper.

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From this warehouse they are loaded onto carts that are electronically routed (via a wire in the floor – 1980s technology at it’s finest) to the appropriate press.

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There are a total of 10 massive presses that are used. The Tribune facility prints not only their own newspaper, but also for the regional suburban newspapers, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal for the Midwest, and even their local competitor the Chicago Sun Times.

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The tour group was very focused.

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The massive printing presses are very cool.

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The Chicago Tribune Printing Facility was a great tour – one of the best we have done.

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New York City – September 2018 – Random Scenes of the City

After a week in the city running around each evening taking photos, a number were left without a theme, so they are grouped together here as ‘Scenes of the City’.

The view from the roof of the Met.

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The Guggneheim

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Cool interior shots of the Daily News Building on 42nd Street.

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A Bloomingdale’s on the Upper East Side.

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The 9-11 Memorial.

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The Oculus – I seem to take a photo or two every time I am there and it never gets old.

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George Washington keeping watch over Wall Street.

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A cool interior downtown.

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Fountain in City Hall Park.

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The Flatiron with interesting lighting and coloring.

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Statue on top of City Hall.

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Chambers Street Subway Station entrance.

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Before all the subways in New York consolidated into one large Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), there were many including the BMT (Brooklyn Manhattan Transit), The Independent Subway System (INT), and the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT).

Numbered trains are IRT, the letters are either INT or BMT.

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A vertical Madison Square view.

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A series of contrasting architectural styles.

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New York City always provides lots of subjects for photos.

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