Thursday, November 29, 2007

Signs of the Times #4 -- November 29, 2007

The Ocean Shore Railroad was killed off by Devil's Slide, a scenic stretch of coastline which keeps slipping down towards the ocean. The state took over the land to build Highway One. Highway One has fallen in many times during or shortly after the rainy season, often being closed for several months. This is very bad for the local economy. My dad was involved in drilling and studying the area in the 1950s.
There have been many proposals to bypass Devil's Slide. One would have torn a big gash through the Shamrock Ranch and a park. There is a project going on now to build a tunnel. First they built a bridge to span the valley of Shamrock Ranch. When they got to the other side, they started to dig the two bores.
This sign stands at the site office of one of the contractors, on the otherwise unused Oddstad School property. I took the photo on 10-October-2007.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Happy Birthday, Horse Car -- November 25, 2007

November 26 marks the 175th birthday of the horse car. On 26-November-1832, the John Mason rolled out for the New York and Harlem Railroad. I added a page about horse cars to my cable car site. It includes:
-- An account of the John Mason's first trip, which included being rear-ended by the second horse car
-- A newspaper article about a franchise-holding horse car line which ran until 1906 on California Street in San Francisco
-- A newspaper article about the last run of the last horse car line to operate in New York (shown in the postcard), on Bleecker Street in 1917
Two notes:
-- Some people claim that the John Mason was just another horse-drawn railway car. They say the real birth of the horse car was in New York and Boston in the early 1850s.
-- I use "horse car" rather than horsecar because I looked at many contemporary sources and the most common usage was "horse car" or "horse-car".

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Waterless Knox #6 - November 23, 2007

An ad for the Waterless Knox -- what a great name -- from the 30-October-1904 New York Sun. I believe that this model is a surrey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving/Happy Birthday, Pacifica -- November 21, 2007

I won't have time for this tomorrow, so I'll say it today:
-- Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. We all have things to be thankful for.
-- Happy 50th birthday to Pacifica. On 22-November-1957, a group of small towns along the San Mateo County coastside incorporated as the city of Pacifica.
I took this photo of a beautiful cake from Pacifica's own Mazzetti's Bakery today.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Panama Pacific International Exposition -- November 19, 2007

The 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco celebrated the building of the canal, and, more importantly, the rebirth of the city after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The rebuilt Palace of Fine Arts is the only building that survives in place.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Lionel Racing Cars -- November 17, 2007

I may have mentioned that I enjoy the look of pre-WWII racing cars. This set of Lionel racing cars is on display at the California State Railroad Museum in the model train exhibit. I took the photo on 29-September-2007. I like the colors of the cars and the poses of the drivers and mechanics. Note that the steering wheels are on the right-hand side.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Signs of the Times #3 -- November 15, 2007

A notice proclaiming the annual quarantine on mussels. Photographed at Pedro Point on 10-October-2007. Notice the name of the county.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Catching Up #2 - November 14, 2007

- Norman Mailer died. I haven't read many of his books. The only thing that stuck in my memory from An American Dream was the description of vomiting.
- There were many delays in responding to the oil spill. Now they are closing beaches in Pacifica.
- I visited Oracle Open World briefly yesterday. There were lots of desparate vendors who wanted to scan my badge. The photo above, taken yesterday, shows Howard Street looking towards Third. Traffic on Howard leading up to Third hasn't been as bad as last year.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Veterans Day -- November 11, 2007

Happy Veterans Day to all the veterans out there. Thank you for your service to our country.

I was thinking today that next year will be the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day. When I was a kid, I read a book about World War One and realized that it had ended only 50 years before, and that there were many World War One veterans still around. Now they are almost all gone.

Also, yesterday was the birthday of the USMC.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion - Fourth Article - November 9, 2007

This blog is named after a series of articles written by Doctor P. H. Van der Weyde and published in Manufacturer and Builder Magazine in 1889 and 1890. The more I learn about Doctor P. H. Van der Weyde -- I'll share more about him in future posts -- the more I like him. Here is the last of four parts, in which he discusses a stock scam.

First article.

Second article.

Third article.

The text is taken from the Library of Congress' American Memory site (

The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion.



Manufacturer and Builder Magazine, Volume 22, Issue 1, January 1890

When Alfred Brisbane constructed the pneumatic dispatch in Washington city, as described on
page 242 of the December number of this journal, he was (if my information is correct) assisted by Chas. M. Johnson in the execution of the scheme. After the Washington failure, Mr. Brisbane went to the West, and there attempted to revive the system. He found in Michigan some financial assistance from private individuals, and constructed there, for the purpose of exhibition, a sheet-iron tube in sections, connected after the manner of making smoke stacks
for river steamers. The sections were connected, not by overlapping, but by exterior bands, so as to have the interior smooth; while, in addition, a smooth iron gutter was placed at the bottom, so as to bear the weight of the ball, which had a diameter of 28 inches, the tube having an interior diameter of 30 inches, and a total length of 1,200 feet. The ball at first used was hollow, and made of papier-mâché -- at least it is thus described in the only patent found in the Patent Office records, and granted to A. P. Johnson November 25, 1887, No. 372,023.

This patent does not claim the use of rolling balls, as this had become public property since about 1878, Needham's patent having been granted about 1861. This is probably the reason why the claims are confined, first, to some improvements in the construction of the air cushions, intended to arrest the balls, without destructive collisions between the balls and the tube, at the end of the latter, and at the stations where side pockets are provided to receive, discharge, and re-charge the contents of the balls. The second kind of improvement claimed, is in the construction of the ball of papier-mâché, which is minutely described in the claim and also in the specification.

It appears that these patented papier-mâché balls did not answer the purpose. Probably the iron tubes, through the interior of which they were made to roll with great velocity, were too much for the weaker papier-mâché. This caused rapid wearing out, and their use was abandoned -- at least this was so when the plant and tubes arrived in New York for the purpose of exhibition.

The sales of shares in this new stock enterprise appear to have been so encouraging in the West, that those interested in the scheme, felt justified in transplanting the whole affair to that great center of stock speculation -- New York, with a fine office fronting the artery for money making or losing, in Wall street and Broadway. In the latter thoroughfare, at No. 137, second floor, front room, I received the information that for the ball a hollow cast-iron shell was substituted, of 28 inches diameter, and of a weight of 700 pounds, rolling on the surface of the gutter slightly elevated above the interior surface, and stated to be able to move with a velocity far surpassing that of the swiftest locomotive. The praise of the enormous advantages of this system of transmission was most enthusiastic, and the statements in regard to the profits to be expected by those who were wise enough to invest their money in shares of stock were overwhelming.

When, however, inspecting the operation of the plant at Marion, N. J., the impression obtained was quite different; the shaking of the blower, which revolved with enormous velocity by a steam engine, and the thundering noise produced by the rolling ball, was in striking contrast with the silent pneumatic dispatch engine in the cellars of the Western Union building. As every engineer knows that the productiotin of so much noise involves a great waste of power, it is surprising that such a prosperous business was done in the sale of stock -- at least if the statements of the assistants are to be trusted. These sales, and offers for the patent rights, were said to be similar to those suggested on page 242 of the November number of this journal. The assistants were imbued with the highest expectations, such as the projected building of a tube to the Scranton coal mines, where the finest qualities of coal would be placed in the hollow iron balls and rolled over mountains and through tunnels under rivers, and delivered in Jersey City at less cost than at present.

However, it appears that the heavy iron balls of 700 pounds weight were too much for the tube, as their use was also abandoned. When I last visited the plant, a solid wooden ball, of the same diameter, was used, and thundered through the tube. Nothing, of course, could be put in the solid ball, but this appears to have been considered of no importance, while, in order to impress the spectators with the high velocity attained, small levers were suspended in the top of the tube, arranged from distance to distance in such a way as to cause a visible and audible signal outside when the ball passed and moved the interior little levers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Big Day Today #1 -- November 7, 2007

They have been setting up for Oracle Open World since Monday. I took this photo today. In the background is Saint Patrick's Church. In the foreground is the Temple of Larry Ellison Optimus Maximus, under construction.

It was very foggy this morning. A container ship, the Cosco Busan, sailing from Oakland, managed to hit the fender around one of the Bay Bridge towers. There was a good-sized spill of fuel, which has spread through the bay and out the Golden Gate.

I was happy to learn that the Giants had resigned Omar Vizquel.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Golden Gate Park News -- November 5, 2007

Here is an old postcard of the Dutch Windmill, near the beach in Golden Gate Park, to illustrate a pair of interesting items.

-- Northbound traffic on the Great Highway was always backed up from the end of JFK Drive during times of heavy traffic because the city had installed a stop sign there, very close between Fulton Street and the exit from Beach Chalet. I was very happy a couple of weeks ago to see that they had activated stop lights at JFK. Traffic has been smooth for the last two weeks.

-- The Richmond (District) Review had a story about a proposal by the San Francisco-Shanghai Sister City Committee to build a traditional walled Chinese garden along Fulton Street from about 31st Avenue to Spreckels Lake. Neighbors are worried about the wall, and that traffic will increase and parking become even worse than it is now. I have mixed feelings on the subject. I like a nice garden, but I worry that the city won't be able to maintain it, and that the wall will be ugly on the outside. I wonder if there is some other place in the city where it would be more appropriate. We need to keep the open spaces we still have in Golden Gate Park.

The Dutch and Muphy windmills were built to pump water from a freshwater acquifer near the beach. The Murphy windmill has been completely taken apart. I hope they will be able to rebuild it.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Calzaghe versus Kessler/DARPA Challenge -- November 3, 2007

We saw a great fight tonight on HBO, super welterweights Joe Calzaghe versus Mikkel Kessler, to unify the title. It was a heavy brawl for all 12 rounds. Calzaghe pulled ahead after about four rounds, but Kessler never gave up. Calzaghe won the decision.
In the morning and afternoon we watched the webcast of the DARPA Urban Challenge. Three of the robot vehicles finished within the six hours, but the winner won't be announced until tomorrow. One vehicle hit a house. Two got stuck facing each other at an intersection. Somebody had to get in and pull one back. Very cool.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Firehouse #1 -- November 2, 2007

Engine 1, truck 1 in their firehouse on Howard near Third Street. I have heard that this is the second-busiest firehouse in the city. The heavy rescue unit is also based here.
I remember some years ago, while they were building the W Hotel, to the left of the firehouse, that a crane operator dropped a huge concrete panel. It sliced through the roof, the dormitory, and buried itself in the ground on the first floor. Fortunately, the firehouse was closed for renovation.
There was a firehouse in this location in 1906, at the time of the earthquake and fire. Engine 4 was based there.