Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year -- December 31, 2007

2007 was an interesting year. I started this blog. I was impressed to find that people actually read it and occasionally make comments. Bloggers love comments. I thank all the people who have let me know what they think.

Coincidentally, this is also my 100th post.

I wish everyone a happy and prosperous new year.

This cartoon is from the 01-January-1908 San Francisco Call.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Book: The Yiddish Policemen's Union - December 29, 2007

I read Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union. It is set in Sitka, Alaska, in an alternate history. Jerusalem fell in 1948 and the state of Israel was destroyed. The United States reluctantly allowed the world's Jews to settle in a federal district established in Sitka. The story takes place in 2008, when the special district is due to be eliminated. Everyone in Sitka is worried about the future.

The main character is Meyer Landsman (good last name), a homicide detective. He lives in a seedy hotel on Max Nordau Street (thank Heaven for wikipedia -- I didn't remember who Max Nordau was). Another player, a junkie chess player, is murdered and Landsman feels a need to solve the case, even though he is encouraged not to.

I liked the imaginary society Chabon created. It felt real. The plot got a little too complex for my taste, but I enjoyed the book to the end.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Muni Double Decker 9213 -- December 27, 2007

It was very cold today. This morning the outside temperature indicator in my car said it was 35 when I left the house and 33 when I got to the beach. A co-worker later told me he believes the thermometer in that model is three degrees high.
I got out for a walk at lunchtime. I spotted the double decker bus that Muni has been testing. It was laying over on Mission at Spear.
I went on to the Market Street Railway's museum at Don Chee Way. I took a photo of the Wiley Birdcage stop light. I helped direct the donor to the MSR. I bought the 2008 calendar.
I went on to California and Drumm to look for a decorated car. No luck.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

It's Hard Work Being a Cat #6 - December 26, 2007

Here is a special Christmas edition. I took this photo on 25-December-2007.
We had a nice holiday.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas -- December 24, 2007

Merry Christmas, everyone. Peace on Earth and goodwill to men (women, and children).

I took this photo of Powell Street cable car 9 at Hyde and Beach on 08-December-2003.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Cable Car Division Senior Luncheon -- December 21, 2007

Yesterday was a fun day. We were all off of work and school, so we drove to Fifth and Mission. We caught cable car 16 as it rolled off the turntable and rode it out to Hyde and Beach. My wife and daughter got a seat after about Sutter. The California Street line was down. We walked around Fisherman's Wharf and out to Pier 39. The sea lions were enjoying their leisure. We walked back to Jones and they caught an F car back to Market.
I walked to the Argonaut Hotel. I'll go into more detail on my cable car site, but the people of the Cable Car Division hosted about 150-200 seniors for a nice lunch. This was the 25th annual event. I got to sit at a table with Miss Cable Car 1973, Barbara Walsh. Here she is with her key to the city and co-chair gripman Val Lupiz.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Big Day Today #2 -- December 19, 2007

Yesterday morning it was raining as I rode the DX into the city. The bus I usually ride in the morning takes Ninth Street. When we turned onto Mission, the driver said "Looks like there's a fire up ahead." We could see several sets of flashing lights. She turned down Eighth to Folsom and then back up Seventh. We had a bad time turning back onto Mission from Seventh. The fire was between Seventh and Eighth, on the south side of the street.

I learned later that it was the Knights of the Red Branch building which was burning.

At lunchtime, I walked in the light rain to the Borders by the ball park to get gift cards for the members of my team. Then I handed out my Christmas cards.

When I left work to catch the bus home, a lady at the stop said that Mission was still closed and the building was still burning. This was a DX that takes Sixth Street, so we didn't have to detour, but traffic was terrible. The DPT people were turning traffic off of Mission onto Sixth rather than Seventh, I suppose because Sixth has two-way traffic.

This morning when the alarm went off, KCBS said Mission was still closed. The fire had burned all night. I surmised that the fire department was afraid the building was going to collapse. The Chronicle website confirmed that it is going to have to be demolished. This morning the driver went down Folsom to Sixth and over to Mission. That worked much better.

Today I spent the day building a new desktop at work. My old one died two weeks ago and I have been using my laptop, which is not as good ergonomically. I didn't finish installing everything I need, but I made a good start.

At lunchtime, I went to Patrick's Office Supplies and See's Candy to buy stocking stuffers.

When I left to come home, I caught a Tenth Street DX. The driver turned on Sixth and went over to Howard, then straight out Howard to Tenth. Traffic was terrible on 101.

I took the photo at the Linda Mar Park and Ride lot on 07-August-2007. It shows Gillig Phantom 40-foot low floor bus number 316.

Monday, December 17, 2007

White Flier -- December 17, 2007

I sometimes mention that I enjoy the look of pre-WWII racing cars. Here we have Gus Seyfried, who drove the "rakish" steam-powered White Flier (shouldn't that be Flyer?) to a 59 second mile on the muddy track at Tanforan on 06-December-1908. Barney Oldfield could not do better than 1 minute, 3 seconds. Seyfried was from the area. I like the look of the car's front end. Note the steam exhaust pipe ahead of the cockpit. During a later qualifying heat, a "defective pilot light" put the car out of commission. This is from the 07-December-1908 San Francisco Call.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Christmas Tree Hunting -- December 15, 2007

Today we drove to Half Moon Bay to cut our Christmas tree at Santa's Tree Farm. We chose one that was somewhat thinner than our usual tree. It was a lot easier to fit in the car, set up, and decorate. Tomorrow I place the train tracks.
I was surprised when the guy at check out said that this was their last weekend for the season.
When we drove in, we were behind their rubber-tired train. A snowman and a reindeer stood sat in the caboose. The snowman had to hold onto his head. I wish I could have taken a photo.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Walter Rice, RIP -- December 14, 2007

Walter Rice, whom I am proud to have called a friend, passed away this week.

He was what used to be called a man of parts. Walter, a native of San Francisco, was a PhD, Associate Dean and Professor Emeritus of Economics at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, a historian who has written on many topics related to transit and railways, a die-hard fan of the San Francisco Giants, and a keeper of goats. This list covers only a small part of his accomplishments.

I remember him as a gentleman, a man of great vitality, a good guy who took an interest in people of all sorts, a family man, and a person who lived to share his great knowledge with others. Walter and his wife Laurie were kind hosts to the many visitors who turned up at their home, including me and my family.

I was honored that he made so many contributions to my cable car website ( I highly recommend his interview with Mrs Barbara Kahn Gardner, the daughter of Samuel Kahn, President of San Francisco's Market Street Railway, the chronology, his articles about the Manx Electric Railway, the Isle of Man Railway, and the Great Orme Tramway, and the many pieces of information and images that Walter allowed me to use.

I also recommend his many books and magazine articles. Here are a few books that come to mind:

  • Of Cables and Grips: The Cable Cars of San Francisco by Walter Rice and Robert Callwell
  • San Francisco's Powell Street Cable Cars by Walter Rice and Emiliano Echeverria
  • San Francisco's Interurban to San Mateo by Walter Vielbaum, Robert Townley, Walter Rice, and Emiliano Echeverria
  • The Key System: San Francisco and the Eastshore Empire (Images of Rail) by Walter Rice and Emiliano Echeverria
  • Rails of California's Central Coast (Coming Soon) by Walter Rice and Emiliano Echeverria

I firmly believe that Walter had a long list of questions ready for when he would meet Andrew Hallidie, Henry Root, James W Harris, and Frank J Sprague. Charles Smallwood probably introduced them. Many people will miss Walter. We are lucky to have known him.

Walter Rice took the photograph of the Great Orme Tramway in Llandudno, Wales. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Revival of the Use of Compressed Air as a Motive Power -- December 11, 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 an article he wrote about attempts to use compressed air to drive transit vehicles. In this period, people know that horse-powered railways were inefficient, but cable traction was expensive, steam power was not suitable for urban areas, and electric traction was still being developed.

Revival of the Use of Compressed Air as a Motive Power

By Dr. P. H. Van Der Weyde

From Manufacturer and Builder / Volume 26, Issue 12,
December 1894

Lately an important problem has again been brought to public notice -- namely, the propulsion of street cars by means of compressed air, carried on the car itself.

The solution of the problem requires the execution of two kinds of contrivances -- first, a reservoir strong enough to withstand considerable pressure, and, secondly, a motor machine to be put in operation by this pressure. The reservoir is by preference made in the form of cylinders, of say one or two feet in diameter, so that they can be placed under the seats of the car, and of a length sufficient to utilize all the space afforded. The motor is best placed under the floor of the car, now a common method in the electric trolley cars, while the regulating devices are on both platforms where the motorman performs his duty.

It is evident that this system offers peculiar advantages, especially by reason of its apparent simplicity. The cylinders containing the compressed air -- the motive power -- are charged at the station and need no further attention, as is the case with locomotive boilers, where the chances of safety depend on the engineer and stoker. All the heavy machinery used for the production of the primary power is stationary, and no power is wasted to move it about as in the case of the locomotive, the only weight to be transported is the motor and the cylinders containing the compressed air. Summing up the advantages, they are:

1. No dead weight of coal or fuel on board.

2. No dead weight of water, boiler, furnace, and other material which has to he stabled, the real primary motor, which is a stationary structure of large dimensions, and therefore economical, as the economy increases at a very large ratio as the engines are increased in size.

3. The compression of air is going on continually in the reservoirs, and is always connected with the gauges, so as to insure safety.

The first application of this principle was seen some six or eight years ago at the Harlem station of the Second Avenue Railroad. It was intended for the propulsion of trains, and the compressed air reservoirs consisted of two huge cylinders placed horizontally, with a space between, through which the engineer could see the forward track while standing on the motor, and having the train of cars behind.

A few years later I saw some interesting experiments of thie same character at the Delamater works, where pipes were laid to quite a distance from the works, and at which pipes the cylinders could take up new supplies of compressed air without going back to the supply station.

A syndicate has been formed to introduce this system of street transportation, so that we will have another additional method in practice.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Knox Hats -- December 9, 2007

Looking for examples of the Waterless Knox, I sometimes come across ads for other products named Knox. This comes from a 1908 collection of McCall's Magazine. I always wear a hat or a cap when I go out, except to church.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

San Francisco Walking Tour -- December 8, 2007

We had a fun day. We went to mass for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception at 8am. We drove downtown and parked at Fifth and Mission. We took a Milan car on the F down to the Ferry Building. At the Ferry Building, we met with the people who had the winning bid on a community support auction we had at work. I offerred a history walking tour of downtown San Francisco.
Out front, I talked about what it was like in the early 1930s, when the Ferry Building was the second busiest transit terminal in the world (Charing Cross in London was first). We went on to walk over by Mission Street, then back to Market, out California, over to Jackson Square, around to the Barbary Coast and Portsmouth Square. I enjoyed talking about history. We remarked on how many things we don't see when walking down the street. Then up to the Fortune Cookie Factory on Ross Alley. We went up the hill to Stockton, then through the tunnel and up to Burritt Street, then on to Powell and Lefty O'Doul's. I had a corned beef sandwich.
That was fun. The winners were very nice people.
We went back to Good Shepherd for 5pm mass. Two candles on the wreath. I always enjoy the first reading about the peaceable kingdom.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Firehouse #2 -- December 5, 2007

Another view of Company One on Howard near Third Street. This time it is decorated for Christmas. In the 1940's there was a big decorating competition among firehouses. Nowadays, not all of them decorate. Company One does it every year. I took this photo today.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Mentioned in the Chronicle -- December 3, 2007

I read an excellent article in the Chronicle today, "Elite craftsmen keep S.F. cable cars in good shape" by Rachel Gordon. I was pleased and surprised to see a link to my cable car site. The site visit statistics are going through the roof.

The article talks about the building of new car 15. Here is a photo of the current car 15, which I took in September, 2001. The car, built in 1893, has been stored out of service at Pier 80 since 1984. New car 15 should go into service next year.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Downtown - December 1, 2007

Today we went downtown. My wife had to return something at the San Francisco Center. I took this photograph of the reflection of the Emporium dome in the pavement. We went on to Macys and looked at the animals in the windows. There was a black and white kitten sacked out on a bed; we could have taken him or her home. We went downstairs to Boudin's to get some lunch, but there were no tables available. We went across the street to Union Square to eat. There was some sort of dance show going on, and there were signs from the Dialogue Project ( with hundreds of quotes on different subjects. I enjoyed reading them, especially the many quotes from Twain, Churchill, and Wilde. One I hadn't seen before was "Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum" ("I think I think therefore I think I am") from Ambrose Bierce.
We went on out Grant and down to Portsmouth Square. Walking back along Kearney, we saw that the gripman on California Street car 49 had a parka with the hood up and a scarf across his face. I didn't blame him.

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.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween -- October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween to all. Not many kids at the door tonight. Maybe it was the cloak...
We had a small earthquake last night. No damage in Pacifica.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Signs of the Times #2 -- October 29, 2007

I had never taken a photograph in a restroom before, but I was fascinated to find this one and others like it in all the Disneyland restrooms I visited this year. I thought I knew how to wash my hands... Taken in July, 2007.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cantor Center/Vallemar Station -- October 27, 2007

My daughter wanted to visit the Cantor Center at Stanford to study a statue for a paper she is writing. I had never been to the Rodin garden. I enjoyed seeing the statues outdoors. I was overwhelmed by the Gates of Hell and we all had a nice discussion about what some of the figures represented.
Today I took this photograph of his signature on "Adam".
Later in the day, we took our in-laws to mass at Good Shepherd. We were eucharistic ministers tonight. Then we went to dinner at Vallemar Station, which we had not visited for a few years. It is the most recognizable surving station of the the Ocean Shore Railroad, which went out of business in 1921. We enjoyed the food.
The World Series game was less enjoyable. The Rockies are now down 3 games to 1. It was 35 degrees during the seventh inning stretch.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Waterless Knox #5 - October 25, 2007

An ad for the Waterless Knox -- what a great name -- from the 14-January-1905 New York Sun.
The Tonneau was available for $1,900. I wonder how much they charged for the floor mats.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pumpkin Picking -- October 20, 2007

We went to Half Moon Bay today to get a pumpkin. Traffic was heavy going down One, but far heavier on 92. We went to the 4-Cs patch this year instead of Lemos'. I took the photo today. A little bit of the traffic is visible in the background. We found a great pumpkin for $8.00 and got to see a litter of two-week-old Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs. They were unspeakably cute. The weather was clear and sunny, which was good for business. I didn't want to try to get back into the traffic heading towards Half Moon Bay, so we went up 92. Traffic was backed up across the reservoir.

Friday, October 19, 2007

What Is This? #1 Answer - October 19, 2007

I didn't get any responses, so here is the answer. This is a section of the Transamerica Pyramid, viewed from several stories up a building across the street.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Original Joe's Restaurant Fire -- October 15, 2007

A fire on 12-October-2007 shut down Original Joe's Restaurant on Taylor Street in San Francisco. Grease in the flues caught fire when they lit the broiler before opening for lunch. My uncle says my grandfather had the flues cleaned once a week in his restaurant. Some restaurants do it only rarely. Original Joe's may be closed for a couple of months.

They do a great hamburger on French bread. And, of course, Joe's Special. I get a nickel for every one they sell ;0)

The original Joe's-style restaurant was New Joe's on Broadway, which opened in or about 1934. Original Joe's, which opened in 1937, was the second. The original New Joe's closed in 1970. The new New Joe's on Geary near Powell closed a few years ago. Westlake Joe's may be the most successful version in the area. I understand they have Joe's in other cities as well.

A Joe's-style restaurant has a counter and a charcoal broiler. The open kitchen is always fun to watch, especially when the pans flare up. The waiters wear tuxes. There should be a bar.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

KLSI 89.3 FM #2 - October 13, 2007

I wrote about KLSI Moss Beach -- Q-FM -- back in August. Since then, I have heard from two people in Texas who listen to one of its sister stations, KAQQ. The primary station in the group is WAZQ Key West. Along with the two people in Texas, I have heard two brief announcer-read commercials, one for Ashley Furniture in Key West and one for Domino's Pizza. The announcer pronounced Domino in a funny way (Dah - mee -no?). Maybe it wasn't for the chain. Two infrequently-heard commercials can't be enough to pay the bills.

Announcements are now done by the deep male voice and a female voice ("We're not just radio -- We're Q-FM"). Weather reports are definitely for Key West. I think I have noticed that they are including more recent music in the mix. At the end of the string of stations they announce, they now say "KLSI Moss Beach/San Francisco". I doubt the station can be heard in San Francisco. I'll have to try it tomorrow.

Here is the Q-FM website, which is not very informative:

Friday, October 12, 2007

Happy Columbus Day -- October 12, 2007

Happy Columbus Day to those of you who still remember it. I don't think it is fair to blame Columbus for all the genocide that occurred in the Americas.

I wonder if some of attacks on him are based on prejudice against Italians or Catholics.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Signs of the Times #1 -- October 9, 2007

I took this at the yard entrance of the cable car barn at Washington and Mason in San Francisco during March, 2002.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion - Third Article - October 7, 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 third of four parts, in which he discusses the Beach Pneumatic Subway. Read more about it on my cable car site.

First article.

Second article.

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

The Pneumatic Rolling-Sphere Carrier Delusion.



The next practical application of the pneumatic principle was made by A. E. Beach, of the Scientific American, who, in 1867 exhibited at the same place (the American Institute Fair) a round wooden tube, 300 feet long, suspended by iron straps from the ceiling rafters, so that it occupied no floor space, and as he rightly considered the atmospheric pressure upon a piston in a comparatively small tube insufficient to propel considerable weight, he returned to the original conception of Valiance in 1825, and placed the whole car in the tube. It is evident that then he could obtain the enormous propelling power produced by the atmospheric pressure of about half an atmosphere upon the surface of a circle of some 6 feet in diameter, or 30 square feet, which, at the rate of only 8 pounds per square inch, is over 24,000 pounds. It is evident that such power is capable of propelling quite a big train of cars. The car, moving on rails, was propelled by a ventilator wheel in the shape of a propeller, which produced either a blast or suction, by revolving it in alternate directions. A platform at one end, accessible by stairs, supported the propeller, which sent the car, containing more than a score of passengers, outward and backward with the greatest ease.

One year later, in 1868, he built a round tube, or tunnel, 400 feet long under Broadway, New York city. It was 9 feet 3 inches in diameter; the experimental car in use was 25 feet long, and had a seating capacity for 25 to 30 passengers.

Mr. Beach also devised a plan to substitute, in place of the lamp-post post office letter boxes, a simple slot for the reception of letters and small parcels which allowed them to fall through the hollow post into a subterranean tube, through which they would be carried to the central post office by means of an exhaust pump operating continually there. Trials on a small scale proved eminently successful; but the probability that the tube might be choked up by a superabundance of letters, which occasionally might be deposited during the busy hours of the day, caused the abandonment of this plan.

This leads us back from the pneumatic railways to the main subject under discussion -- the pneumatic dispatch systeam, about which we wish to correct an omission, so as to do justice to the first inventor. This was a Danish engineer, named Medhurst, who, in 1810, conceived the idea of carrying mails in a pipe, by creating a vacuum in front of a traveling piston, inside of which letters were to be placed. Years after, in 1832, he conceived the project of driving cars by the same means. The piston being united to the front car by a rod passing through a longitudinal opening in the top of the tube, this opening was closed by a water valve, which opened to let the rod pass, and closed behind, ready for the return trip. The use of a water valve made it necessary for the railway to be perfectly level, and for this reason the plan was soon laid aside, until, in 1835, Pinkas made it a success by substituting an elastic valve for the water valve, as mentioned on page 242, November number.

A few years after, Mr. Beach constructed his pneumatic passenger railway in New York city, Albert Brisbane obtained an appropriation from Congress of $12,000 for constructing an underground pneumatic dispatch between the Capitol and the United States printing office, operated by rolling balls, for which he claims to have obtained a patent about 18 years ago, which makes the date 1871. As Mr. Needham claims to have obtained a patent for the rolling balls some ten years previously, the granting of a second patent for the same thing was an error on the part of the patent office -- in case the statements are entirely correct, which a search in the patent office records only can decide; but such a search must not be expected to be made, except when a sufficient monetary interest is at stake, especially since the patent office reports of that time are not provided with a yearly alphabetical index, as is the case at present.

Mr. Brisbane also states, that after spending $6,000 more than the appropriation amounted to, the enterprise failed, because a portion of the tubes had to be laid in quicksand, which caused them to settle. However, N. J. Van Der Weyde, CE., a son of the writer, who some years ago was employed in Washington as superintendent in the construction of a new sewage system, states that there is no quicksand, but only two kinds of soil, one very hard and the other more soft -- not so soft, however, as to cause any impediment in the construction of the brick sewers. This raises the suspicion that the vibration caused by the continuous rolling of the heavy balls is the true cause of the settlement, and if so, it is another serious objection to the rolling-ball system, brought out by practice.

Next in order comes the introduction of the pneumatic dispatch principle at the different stations of the telegraph and post offices in London, and also in the Western Union Telegraph building in New York, intended to connect the different floors, the office for receiving and delivering messages being in the basement, while the operating room is on the the seventh floor, just under the battery room on the eighth floor. There were introduced there in 1872 twenty brass tubes of 2 1/4 to 3 inches in diameter, in which well-fitting leather cylinders of some 10 inches long are propelled exclusively by suction produced by an exhaust Root blower. Such leather cylinders are very appropriate to receive the rolled up messages, while rolling balls of 2 inches interior diameter would be inadequate and very inconvenient; so that the idea of rolling balls was not even thought of, especially since a great portion of the tubing was vertical.

About the year 1880, long tubes were laid under the streets of this city, connecting the telegraph office with the leading newspaper offices down town, while other tubes were laid to Wall street, and still others to the branch telegraph office up town, at Fifth avenue and Twenty-third street. It was at once discovered that the Root blower was utterly unable to work tubes of a mile and more in length, in addition to which the great noise that would be made by six such blowers would be highly objectionable in the building. Therefore, it was concluded to work the long tubes by the positive and silent blast of large pistons, which were introduced to operate them, one side being worked by blowing for transmission, and the other side by suction for the receiving of dispatches. The pistons for the four air pumps have 32 inches diameter, and are directly connected with the steam pistons of 20 inches diameter, while the stroke is 3 feet. They move perfectly noiseless, within the moderate velocity of 30 to 40 strokes per minute. The total capacity of the four engines and air pumps is 500 H.P.

In order to be satisfied respecting the superiority of the positive blast produced by pistons moving silently and propelling sliding message carriers in comparison with the noisy rotary blowers, and still more noisy balls rolling with thundering effect through iron tubes, worse than the noise of a bowling alley, one has only to visit the lower basement in the Western Union building and watch the operation.

In our next will be given some critical remarks on the last exhibition of pneumatic transmission by rolling balls, now in operation at Marion, N. J., a few miles west of New York city.

To be continued

Friday, October 5, 2007

Native Sons' Monument Detail #1 -- October 5, 2007

The monument to the Native Sons of the Golden West, a fraternal organization, has been located in a few places since is was erected in 1897. At first, it was near Mason and Market. Later it stood in Golden Gate Park. Now it is at Montgomery and Market.
I took this detail view of a California Grizzly head surrounded by snakes on 26-September-2007. It was made by Douglas Tilden, a San Francisco sculptor.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Lewis Strang at Wheel of Fiat Car -- October 3, 2007

I may have mentioned that I enjoy the look of pre-WWII racing cars. This photo from the 29-October-1909 San Francisco Call shows driver Lewis Strang and his mechanic in a Fiat car. They were considered favorites for the upcoming Vanderbilt Cup race at the Long Island Motor Parkway. Harry Grant won the race on 30-October-1909 in an ALCO. ALCO was an American locomotive builder. He averaged more than 63 miles an hour. Strang's radiator broke in the first lap.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Giants 2007, RIP -- October 1, 2007

The 2007 season is over, or will be when the tie-breaker between San Diego and Colorado finishes. It is now tied in the 12th. I always get depressed when the regular season ends, but the Giants' midget-sized performance will make things worse. Thank Heaven they won their last game, against the Dodgers.
The Giants finished last. They managed brief spurts of playing well, but could never put together a consistent string of wins. It was good to see Benjie Molina and Tim Lincecum play well. I felt bad for Ray Durham during a couple of long bad streaks.
The Giants hosted the All Star Game. Barry Bonds won the career home run title. Barry Bonds is gone. Omar Vizquel and Pedro Feliz may be gone.
Pitchers and catchers will report in mid-February.
I took the photo of the Willie Mays statue on 21-September-2007.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Nut Tree and CSRM -- September 29, 2007

We skipped the Fog Fest and took a nice drive up 80 today. First we visited the Nut Tree for the first time since it reopened last October. It was nice. We found a parking space and wandered past a Fenton's Creamery and a few other stores, then found the entrance to the Nut Tree Family Park between two sets of stores. Almost immediately, I saw the distinctive roof of the old ticket booth, and the train stopped at the depot behind it. It was the train I remember riding when I was a kid, and taking my daughter to ride when she was younger. When the engineer started the engine and started off, it sounded very familiar. We didn't get to ride, but I observed a nice route that wound around behind the merry-go-round and other rides. They had bumper cars, a roller coaster, the old hobby horses, and a nice garden. It was all centered around the Harbison House, which had been moved slightly from its old position. The whole area would be wonderful for kids up to 5 or 6 years old. I took photos and some videos which I will post on YouTube and put on my park trains site at the end of October. Tomorrow I roll out my writeup on the Labor Day Railfair at Ardenwood.

We continued up 80 to Sacramento. When we took the exit in West Sacramento, I was sad to learn that the Tower Bridge was closed for work. We took a long detour that led to 5.

Eventually we got to the California State Railroad Museum. The exhibits have been rearranged and augmented quite a bit since we had last gone. I liked the way the sleeping car and the diner are together. Visitors enter at one end of the sleeping car, then cross a platform at the other end to the diner. We went under the freeway to the K Street Mall for a late lunch, then went to the depot, where I was able to take photos and videos of the Sacramento Southern's Granite Rock locomotive taking water, switching, and leaving with the three o'clock train.

Traffic was very light and we were home in about 90 minutes. It was a nice, relaxing day.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Hu's at Short? -- September 28, 2007

The Giants are playing the Dodgers. The Dodgers' shortstop is Chin-Lung Hu from Taiwan. I said "I'm happy he's not playing first." My daughter laughed.

"Who's at short?"


"What is the name of the shortstop?"


"The shortstop."

"Hu is the shortstop."

"That's what I'm asking."

It's more fun than the game.

The Giants playing the Dodgers inspired to post a photo of the Juan Marichal statue. He was known for his kindness and gentleness with the Dodgers.

I took the photo on 21-September-2007.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Goodbye, Barry -- September 26, 2007

Barry Bonds played his last game as a San Francisco Giant, against the San Diego Padres. He won't play against the Dodgers in LA this weekend. He went 0-for-3 and left in the 7th. He nearly hit it out in his last at-bat.
Barry was right about the guy who bought the 756 home run ball. He is an idiot. He is going to brand it with an asterisk.
I took the photo on 21-September-2007. Later that day, the Giants announced that Barry will not be back.
The Giants are losing this game.