Posting vignettes based on great postcards found in my mail box and elsewhere.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Never Too Young For Postcards

I guess you are never too young to enjoy the wide world of postcards. Today's mail brought two wonderful postcards from members of the Postcrossing Project. The one above (Moi) is from 14-year-old Piia of Finland. If you think she is too young to collect international postcards take a look at the beautiful postcard, below, of Taroko National Park. It comes from Postcrosser Jerry of Taiwan, age two. The message on the reverse side said his mom helps him collect cards. You can see an adorable picture of Jerry here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Postmark in Georgia

Chris sends this homemade photo postcard of the Dawsonville Hwy (Georgia #53) Bridge over Lake Lanier. The photo, I assume Chris took, shows the bridge a little fuzzy around the edges. The image would make a good book cover for a mystery novel set in the deep south or the CD reissue of Bobby Gentry's Ode to Billie Joe -- it looks like the Tallahatchie Bridge to me.

I make a joke but its a great shot and what's more the postcard is a first day use postmark of Chris's own Mailer's Postmark Permit from Gainesville, Georgia. Chris went to great pains to get the right to postmark his own postcards and mail. (See his first class blog and story here.)We all know how the postal service mutilates our postcards by smudging the postmarks and inking and marring the face of our postcards. The back of this one survived the journey through the postal machines but the face was smudged in the very center.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Indian Blanket

One of the wonderful things about postcards is that you open up the mailbox on a cold winter day and in an instant you are transported to another world. This is precisely what happened to me the other day when I received this colorful postcard from Amelia, via Postcrossing, the postcard crossing project. The Indian Blanket is the state wild flower of Oklahoma. I remember seeing them growing wild all over that state years ago on a summer cross country trip. This postcard also reminded me that in a few months the fields of Alaska will be blanketed with the bright purple blossoms of the fireweed. It forms a colorfully rich contrast to the snow capped mountains all over the state (as in this picture). And when the fireweed is up it is usually hot and dry and the daylight is 20-plus hours long.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Pike's Peak's Cog Rail

Two examples of cog rail systems: The top postcard (thanks again Jan and Rick) was postmarked 1912. It pictures the Pike's Peak cog road steam engine with a tilted chassis. The lower postcard, from my grandmother years ago, is more recent (vintage 1940-50's) of the same track with an electric diesel engine similar to the one still used today (click here). In the bygone age of steam-powered locomotives the boilers needed to remain nearly level else the boiler would overheat and explode. This is why the engine is tilted in the top postcard. (See more on cog and rack rail systems and tilted boiler steam engines here.)
Cog rail trains are able to ascend and descend grades of 25 and more. This fact makes them especially suited for mountain terrains. Conventional rails for trains are commonly moved along grades of less than 1%. Though higher gradients exist on some rail lines, the pulling power is greatly reduced between 0.5% and 1%. This is why railroad tracks often make long cuts in hillsides or make long circuitous approaches complete with tunnels through mountain passes. (See my previous post on the Canadian Pacific Railway (here).

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Spiral Tunnels of the Canadian Pacific Railroad

The postcard above was sent some time ago by Glenn from Canada. He has Gem's World Postcards (here). Glenn recently sent me several rail themed postcards. I send him airplane cards when I find them. Glenn has done more than anyone to improve my stock of Canadian Pacific Railroad (CPR) postcards. This particular modern color postcard shows the lower spiral tunnel (one of two) at Kicking Horse Pass, on the border of British Columbia and Alberta. The tunnels were built to lower the grade of the rail that passes over the great divide of the Rocky Mountains.

My friends Rick and Jan recently returned from Florida and the American Southeast with these two black and white postcards with two views of the same lower spiral tunnel. The spiral tunnels are the highest point on the Canadian Pacific Railroad's (CPR) transcontinental rail route. Prior to the tunnels construction, the grade was 4.5 %, nearly ten times the normal grade specified by rail engineers. Consequently, the grade was the scene of many fatal accidents for railroad engineers, workers and passengers.

In 1907, John E. Schwitzer proposed lessing the grade with the construction of two spiral tunnels that crossed in a figure-eight shape. The tunnels were completed in 1909 and cut the grade down to 2.2%. The construction took two years, 1,000 workers at a cost of $1.5 million. Workers removed 54,000 cubic meters of rock from the tunnels.

Notice the similarity of the concrete tunnel entrance, vegetation and rock slide on the hillside in both the old and new cards. Also, note that both trains' engines have crossed under their tails or cabooses.