The Train Of Lights On The Severn Valley Railway

The Severn Valley Railway (SVR) is a heritage railway in Shropshire and Worcestershire, England. The 16-mile heritage line runs along the Severn Valley from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster is a railroad I have been on on a visit to Blighty. I haven’t been on the lighted train alas.

Steam in lights or the train of lights is a big hit on the heritage railway scene and thankfully steam services have once again have returned to the SVR after the ending of Lockdown #2 ! Fortunately for the railway they’ve been placed into tier two restrictions post lockdown so they’re now available to run public services and right at the crucial time as the Hol;oday Season is huge for Preserved Railways, though we do have to spare a thought for the other preserved railways who find themselves in highest tier of Covid restrictions and have had to close. The steam in lights train is aimed at families and offers an hour round trip from Bridgnorth to Hampton Loade, the brightly lit train is computer controlled from the carriage directly behind the steam engine and also plays music throughout the train, due to the short distance between stations and being a 60 minute ride the train runs very slowly. Shades of the Skunk Train.

The ‘Great’ Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn – was this the Star talked of in the Bible?

I don’t think there are too many out who read the rhubarb in this blog who haven’t figured out that a significant number of my waking hours are viewing pictures of space. Which may explain  a lot.

Skywatchers (like me) are in for an end-of-year treat. What has become known popularly as the “Christmas Star” is an especially vibrant planetary conjunction easily visible in the evening sky over the next two weeks as the bright planets Jupiter and Saturn come together, culminating on the night of Dec. 21.

What makes this year’s spectacle so rare, then? It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this “great conjunction.” The pic below shows you how close:

Chart showing closeness of Jupiter and Mars

The closest alignment will appear just a tenth of a degree apart and last for a few days. On the 21st, they will appear so close that a pinkie finger at arm’s length will easily cover both planets in the sky. The planets will be easy to see with the unaided eye by looking toward the southwest just after sunset.

From our vantage point on Earth the huge gas giants will appear very close together, but they will remain hundreds of millions of miles apart in space. And while the conjunction is happening on the same day as the winter solstice, the timing is merely a coincidence, based on the orbits of the planets and the tilt of the Earth. [Click to see enlarged]

Chart showing how rare this conjunction is

n 1614, German astronomer Johannes Kepler determined that a series of three conjunctions of the planets Jupiter and Saturn occurred in the year 7 BC. He argued (incorrectly) that a planetary conjunction could create a nova, which he linked to the Star of Bethlehem. Modern calculations show that there was a gap of nearly a degree (approximately twice a diameter of the moon) between the planets, so these conjunctions were not visually impressive. An ancient almanac has been found in Babylon which covers the events of this period, but does not indicate that the conjunctions were of any special interest. In the 20th century, Professor Karlis Kaufmanis, an astronomer, argued that this was an astronomical event where Jupiter and Saturn were in a triple conjunction in the constellation Pisces. 

In 3–2 BC, there was a series of seven conjunctions, including three between Jupiter and Regulus and a strikingly close conjunction between Jupiter and Venus near Regulus on June 17, 2 BC. “The fusion of two planets would have been a rare and awe-inspiring event”, according to Roger Sinnott. Another Venus–Jupiter conjunction occurred earlier in August, 3 BC.

What to look for in the sky: ……… [Click to enlarge]

What to look for in the sky

And this is what you should see weather permitting.  [Again click to enlarge]

What you should see

100 clubs with a total of more than 6,000 members are now part of the GR News Community

I don’t keep a diary so when what happened when in this pandemic is lost in a fog. I do (vaguely) remember being asked whether we should join the GR (it stands for Garden Railroad) News Community. On behalf of our club, the Mendocino  Coast Model Railroad Club I said, “yes”.

Having said, “yes” I expected to be asked to contribute on behalf of our Club. Well, the first E-Copy has been published without one iota of effort on my behalf. You can read it here = https://dl.orangedox.com/GRNews.Nov-Dec.2020.

It’s very high class and has lots in it to read. I was particularly impressed by the clubs who have joined up.

I am sure that in the future we will be asked to help and on our behalf I shall do my best to do so.

The website of the GR News Community can be found here = www.GRNews.org

 

Mendocino Whale Wars of 1976

I have lived here since 2000. In the years since then I have never heard of the Mendocino Whale War (MWW). That is until I came across the article below (which I have excerpted.)

“The town of  Mendocino, California) is located about 160 miles north of San Francisco. It has long been a hotbed of activism for various causes. In 1976 the cause was saving the remaining great whales from slaughter by Russian and Japanese commercial whaling fleets.

In June, 1975, a Greenpeace Foundation patrol boat located a Russian whaling fleet killing sperm whales off Cape Mendocino. The Greenpeacers used the then novel tactic of launching a high-speed Zodiac inflatable and maneuvering themselves between the Russian harpooners and the whales. They captured dramatic film footage of a cannon-fired explosive harpoon flying over their heads and striking a whale. When the film was broadcast on national TV news, some Mendocino locals were inspired to get involved in stopping the whale slaughter off our shores.

Byrd Baker, a local wood sculptor, was probably the one who came up with the name “Mendocino Whale War,” and it was war in contrast to the peace in Greenpeace. Byrd and friends began campaigning to save the whales, and many other locals joined the effort. California Gray Whales swim past Mendocino twice a year on their migration between the Bering Sea where they feed and Baja California lagoons where they breed and give birth. Whale watching from the rocky headlands of Mendocino has long been a popular pastime, and people are very fond of the whales.

Byrd Baker with whale sculpture

Byrd and other locals formed the Mendocino Whale War Association in December 1975, with Byrd as one of the founding trustees. He was a charismatic fellow who could spin a good yarn, and he looked the part of an old-time sea captain. With the help of media-savvy locals like John Bear, an advertising man who was the first president of the MWW Association, and magazine writer Jules Siegel, the media soon picked up the story. Major coverage began early in 1976 with a big feature in the Detroit Free Press which hyped the idea of a small California coastal town declaring war on Japan and the Soviet Union. This was at the height of the Cold War!

The story led with the tale of “Mendocino Rose” broadcasting radio messages in Russian urging the whalers to quit killing whales and defect to the U.S.  Whether there really were any Mendocino Rose broadcasts remains in dispute, but it made a good story that caught the media’s and the public’s attention. The Associated Press picked up the story, and then many other newspapers, including the New York Times, published their own versions, virtually all of them leading with “Mendocino Rose.”

There was also a call to boycott Russian and Japanese goods until they stopped killing whales. This tactic was adopted directly from the Fund For Animals, which already was producing boycott bumper stickers and flyers. The fact that there were virtually no Russian products sold in the U.S. at the time didn’t matter. It was the message of the boycott that counted.

The MWW Association organized the 1st Annual Whale Festival in Mendocino in March 1976. The goal was to make the public aware that whales were still being hunted and turned into dog food, lipstick and lubricant for nuclear missiles. The festival was also a fundraiser for an ocean voyage to challenge the whalers off the Mendocino Coast, as Greenpeace had done the previous summer.

There was a search for the right boat to go after the whalers. The Phyllis Cormack was a 66 foot wooden fishing boat built in 1941, owned and captained by John Cormack and named for his wife. Capt. Cormack, a Scots-Canadian, was a seasoned Gulf of Alaska fishing skipper who was eager to take on the Russian whalers again. Greenpeace had acquired a former Canadian Navy mine-sweeper named the James Bay, and they would be using the bigger, faster ship in 1976.

The Phyllis Cormack

So, in late June, the Phyllis Cormack anchored briefly in Mendocino Bay to take on some gear before heading down the coast to San Francisco, where the Mendocino Whale War’s save-the-whales patrol voyage would be launched. After loading up two Zodiac inflatables, fuel and provisions for the voyage, the Mendocino Whale War headed out under the Golden Gate Bridge with four Mendocino people aboard: Byrd Baker, J.D. Mayhew, John Griffith and Nicholas Wilson, the official photographer.

After a few days at sea, on July 1 the Whale War boat had a planned rendezvous with Greenpeace’s James Bay about 100 miles off Cape Mendocino, near where they had found the Russian whalers the year before. There was much excitement as both ships launched Zodiacs bearing their leaders for a secret strategy meeting. They agreed that the MWW would stay in the vicinity patrolling for whalers while the James Bay went on to San Francisco to do media work and fundraising.

Mendocino Whale War and Greenpeace vessels rendezvous 100 miles off Cape Mendocino

The Phyllis Cormack didn’t spot any whalers off the coast, but did find a large fleet of 300 ft. Soviet trawlers scraping the ocean bottom with huge nets just outside the 12-mile limit that was then in place. Up to ten of these Russian “draggers” could be seen at one time, each dragging a net as wide as a football field is long. The Phyllis Cormack came  close and shot photos and film of the big ships hauling in nets loaded with tons of fish. The Russians processed and froze the fish aboard the large ships, and later transferred it to a big mother ship that carried it back to the Soviet Union’s Pacific port of Vladivostok. Late on the night of July 3, the Phyllis Cormack found and photographed a Russian mother ship servicing two of the draggers.

The Phyllis Ccormack saw and photographed a 150 ft. Korean crabber out of Pusan that had just arrived and began putting out a couple hundred crab pots within sight of the California Coast, but just outside the 12-mile limit. The U.S. Coast Guard was on scene observing, but there was no law being broken. There was agitation for extending the 12-mile limit much further out so as to prohibit, or at least regulate, the taking of resources off the coast.

The photos of the Russian and Korean fishing boats were bought and used by the San Francisco papers, UPI wire service, and Oceans magazine, helping add to political pressure that brought about the present 200 mile limit.

The Mendocino Whale War voyage ended with a brief courtesy call to Mendocino the morning of the 4th of July, 1976, the Bicentennial Day.”

A ride through the French Pyrenees on the Yellow Train

I have been to France many times but have never ridden this train. In fact until I began my pandemic induced world tour of railroads I didn’t know of its existence!

In the early twentieth century, the railway line carrying the famous Yellow Train was built to link the high Catalan plateau to the rest of the region. Work began in 1903 and by 1910 connected Villefranche-de-Conflent to Mont-Louis. The final stretch was completed in 1927 reaching Latour-de-Carol.

Today it follows its original route through magnificent mountain scenery. Laying the track required the construction of 650 engineering masterpieces, including two remarkable bridges, the Séjourné Viaduct (suspended 65 metres above the ground) and the Pont Gisclard (80 metres above a precipice), allowing the Yellow Train to chug along the contours of the mountains.

The line runs all year round, serving 22 different stations. During the summer season, the Yellow Train has open wagons for a real mountain experience. The track passes through nineteen tunnels (including one tunnel 337 metres long at Planes, and the Pla de Llaura tunnel near Ur, 380m long). The map below shows you the route:

Map of yellow Train Route

The train runs on an electric drive system. Electricity is provided by a third rail which runs alongside the track. The Bouillouses dam and hydroelectric plant at La Cassagne, between Fontpedrouse and Mont-Louis, were built and commissioned in 1910 to provide electricity to the Yellow Train. The electricity production complex at La Cassagne is operated by the Hydroelectric Company of Southern France, a subsidiary of the French National Railways, created in 1937.

Jump on …………………………….

According to what I have read the Yellow train has run  every day since it was completed. And snow? The yellow Train has its own snow plows.

Yellow train Snow Plow

North Carolina Transportation Museum – jimmy Buffet singing Railroad Lady

I was going through my collection of railroad songs and found this vid that I had not seen before. Intrigued I looked up the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

The museum was founded in 1977, when the Southern Railway deeded 4 acres of land to North Carolina for a transportation museum. Two years later, another 53 acres was added to the original donation; the entirety of the railway’s largest former steam locomotive repair shops. The museum’s first exhibit called People, Places and Time opened in 1983. The museum grew over the years, most notably in 1996, with the opening of Barber Junction, a relocated railroad depot from some 30 miles away, and the newly renovated Bob Julian Roundhouse. Barber Junction serves as the museum’s Visitor’s Center and departure point for the on-site train ride. The Bob Julian Roundhouse serves as the hub for most of the museum’s railroad exhibits.

Several bays of the Spencer Shops roundhouse, built in 1924, are devoted to locomotives and rolling stock in the museum collection restored by volunteers. It was here that steam locomotives from 1924-1953 were repaired. In the first 16 stalls, visitors can walk among the massive locomotives and rail cars on display in an open-air setting. Moving into the enclosed Elmer Lam gallery in stalls 17 through 20, aviation exhibits dominate, with a full size replica Wright Flyer, Piedmont Airlines exhibits, and more. Moving into the restoration shop occupying stalls 21 through 32, visitors may also see volunteers working on various railroad pieces, and even manufacturing parts. The museum is the largest repository of rail relics in North and South Carolina and averages 80,000 visitors annually. About three-thousand people were employed to repair the trains at the Spencer Shops in the first half of the twentieth century.

In 2005, the museum’s Back Shop underwent a massive renovation. This building, where the full overhaul of steam locomotives once took place, is most notable for its size. It is two football fields long and nearly three stories tall. However, it may be most notable for the words “Be Careful,” standing some three feet tall, visible from nearly anywhere on the north end of the site. In 2009, the museum opened the Back Shop to the public for the first time, with an access ramp on the south end. In 2017 the backshop was opened completely, allowing more exhibits.

Alas, I have never been there.