Buenos Aires – August 2019 – Retiro Train Station Tour

A quiet Saturday morning was a great time to take a guided tour of Retiro Station – in Spanish!



The station actually is comprised of 3 separate terminus’. The largest and most grand is Retiro Mitre, named for the line that terminates there.



The center concourse has an excellent vaulted ceiling.



Nearly all of the trains departing from here are commuter rail, so they come and go frequently. It is easily one of the busiest in South America (but not so much on a Saturday morning).







Why are we outside a Burger King?



And why is our tour all looking up?



At this amazing skylight in the middle of Burger King. Obviously it used to be a much more grand restaurant than Burger King, but at least they have retained it.



The second, much smaller terminal is Retiro Belgrano.





The final is Retiro San Martin – graced by a statue of the father of Argentina, General San Martin.



They have kept a great old schedule board.



But it is time to kiss this place goodbye.





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 – Different Ways to Get Around Town

On the ground, on the water, or in the air there are many ways to get around the city.

Let’s start with a city bus. Not just any bus, but a collection of historic buses from the MTA Museum:











Via the water…









Always a favorite – the Roosevelt Island Tram.



Or the train…



For now it is time to get out of town – over the swamps of Jersey.






Across America – May 2019 – Random Scenes Part 1

The following are interesting scenes that didn’t fit any of the other postings.

Lajitas, Texas – The only place to stay was a golf resort, but it had a great sunset.




Texas border area – We saw a few instances of the border patrol in action, including going through 2 checkpoints along the highway. Strangely the checkpoints were at least 40 miles from the border.





Marfa, Texas – This town is an artist enclave for New York artists. How and why a bunch of New York artists decided to go to a small west Texas town is far too long for this blog.




Fort Davis, Texas is a historic town with a former frontier fort. Today it has a couple of cool re purposed buildings.





Pecos, Texas – For about 100 miles in any direction from Pecos were new fracking oil wells. The landscape was filled with these towers burning off natural gas, as well as truck traffic jams and RVs parked in the desert for the workers. The high pay also caused our most expensive hotel night in Carlsbad, New Mexico as the demand for housing far exceeds supply.









Roswell, New Mexico – While I have a posting for the UFO industry of Roswell, there was also a very cool airplane ‘boneyard’.







Portales, New Mexico – When we were driving into town the billboard for Burger King said ‘next to the airplane’. They weren’t kidding.



Hereford, Texas – Beef capital of the world. I think they are correct.





Canyon, Texas – A Giant Cowboy



Amarillo, Texas – Much cleaner energy source.



Canadian, Texas – Lonesome train blues.



Near Shattuck, Oklahoma – Folk Art along the Highway.





Fairview, Oklahoma – We were looking for some Good Eats, but needed to find somewhere else.



Jet, Oklahoma – One of our disappointments was being unable to check out the Salt Plains National Refuge – where you can dig around for crystals in the salt flats. Much of Oklahoma was flooded, and it flooded the salt flats.

The cows however were making the most of their new beach.





Somewhere in Oklahoma – The Perfect Farm Photo

Part 2 in a second posting.






Washington DC – May 2019 – Union Station

Washington Union Station is an architectural masterpiece that was designed by Daniel Burnham. It was opened in 1907, as a result of a decree from Theodore Roosevelt to provide a rail station worthy of the nation’s capital.





As you arrive you are greeted by Columbus Circle, along with a statue designed by Lorado Taft in 1912. This fountain symbolizes the 1492 expedition to the New World. The 3 flags represent the 3 ships, the figures on each side represent the new world and the old world.




The large bell is a scale replica of the Liberty Bell, and was cast by the same foundry in, ironically, Great Britain. This bell however was completed in 1976.





The colonnade is a signature Burnham design.




As you look down Delaware Avenue you get a sense of how close you are to the Capitol Building.




The Main Waiting Room, a misnomer now, is one of the largest rooms in the country, with 96′ high ceilings in a room that is 760′ along the entire corridor.

There are 36 Roman Centurions standing guard around the hall.





The entrance to the East Hall has a line of these Centurions as well as a great clock.





A close up of the clock shows the ‘4’ in Roman numerals is not IV, rather it is shown as IIII.





The East Hall was originally a dining room, with a Pompeii look.





A close up of some of the East Hall artwork.





The food court was once the train shed.





This view shows how it was outside the original Main Hall.

Washington’s Union Station is truly one of the great train stations in the country – well worth a stop, even if you drove of flew to the city.







Washington DC – May 2019 – Going Postal

The National Postal Museum was established through a joint agreement between the U.S. Postal Service and the Smithsonian Institution in 1993.

Located in the former main post office for Washington, it has a great collection of philatelic items.




In the mid 1800s the United States Postal Service was just starting up, and they had competition from private postal services – in a way they have come full circle losing much of the market to Fedex and UPS.




The museum had a nice collection of the various improvements in delivery, as well as a couple of the more unusual. This mailbox was stuck inside a cruise missle and fired on June 8th, 1959. It did reach it’s target, but was done only once because of the immense cost.




The museum has an amazing collection of stamps and letters. The one below is one of the earliest known U.S. Postal stamps from 1847.




A couple of survivors. This letter survived the Hindenburg fire and crash.




This is one of the few letters sent from the Titanic. The writer, George Graham of Canada wrote this brief letter and mailed it before reaching Cherbourg, the last stop before going trans-atlantic. The letter reached it’s destination – unfortunately George did not, dying in the accident.




An actual Pony Express delivered letter. Despite all of the publicity over the last 150 years, the Pony Express operated for about a year and a half.




There are a number of other small items including letter carrier badges from around the country.




One section detailed what goes into the design of a stamp.




The Postal Service has always celebrated famous Americans, including musicians.





Throughout the museum were various mailbox displays.




A number of the displays highlighted foreign mailboxes.







The 6 story atrium featured a number of aircraft that were used in the early days of air mail.







Also on display is a full size mail rail car. Imagine sorting the mail bumping along at 60 MPH.




Benjamin Franklin was, among other things, the First Postmaster General. He was well qualified as he was appointed postmaster of Philadelphia by the British Crown Post in 1737, as newspaper publishers often were appointed postmasters.

The Postal Museum is a great place to spend a few hours – well worth the time. And as most Smithsonian Museums, it has free admission.







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.