The lakefront station of Chicago and North Western in Milwaukee was the best of both worlds for a budding train enthusiast, as it was just south of Juneau Park, where a bluff was the perfect place to watch fireworks, sometimes launched from the boat basin, and on one occasion, from a car ferry.  Here's what it looked like before the city started filling in the lake for additional parkland, roads, and the boat basin.

But there weren't enough roads, and part of the urban renewal or modernization or what have you involved running an expressway along the lakefront (tonight I'm not going to litigate the ways that project failed, and the fallout of undoing it in places.)  There's nothing like a railroad right-of-way for running an expressway, and the North Western Depot had to go.

At the time, the railroad would probably be happy to be rid of the station, and of the passenger service.  This image, from just before trains moved over to the new Union Station (now the Intermodal Passenger Station) shows how the railroad was making money from surplus real estate.

Image retrieved from Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.  Unattributed photographer.

That framing once supported a neon sign blurbing the dieselized Twin Cities 400.  At night, circuitry gave the impression that the wheels were turning.  But after the Twin Cities 400 came off, the sign might have been an expensive bit of misleading publicity.  (There's a neon tribute, inspired in part by the sign, now in place north of Milwaukee.)

This article, from the Milwaukee Journal's Green Sheet (the section that included the comics, and that was cause for sibling rivalry claiming dibs thereon) uses the occasion of the demolition of Milwaukee's current lakefront transportation center to reflect on the demolition, after serious preservation efforts, of the North Western Depot.
[Landmarks Preservation official Robert] Perrin, the city development chief who finally argued for the depot's demolition, acknowledged that it was a loss to the city.

"By tearing these things down, gradually the city becomes denuded of its architectural identity. Eventually, Milwaukee will look like any other city."
That happened often in those days.  The transportation center (mostly a parking deck) will come down to make space for a 44 story apartment tower.  Perhaps some of the people moving up from the middle class will occupy space there.  But they won't have a 75 minute Commuter 400 with the best griddle cakes on earth leaving from lake level.


Keep things that are great in a state of good repair, and you never have to fret about making those things, whether we're talking about the United States, the railroads, or the Green Bay Packers, great again.  But, as in everything that involves allocating scarce resources, there's a tradeoff, ably explored in a Freakonomics podcast, "In Praise of Maintenance."  Here 'tis, as offered by Lee Vinsel, one of the participants in the conversation.  "Our thesis is basically that our culture’s obsession with innovation and hype has lead us to neglect maintenance and maintainers."  That comes from Aeon's "Innovation is Overrated."  But you have to strike a balance, and Harvard's Larry Summers explains how hard that is.  "People always think more about how new ground can be broken than they think about how existing institutions can be sustained or existing facilities can be maintained. It leads to a constant trap where we underinvest in old things, then old things disappoint, us then we feel a need for new things, then to satisfy that need for new things we under-invest more in old things and the cycle goes on."  Sometimes, though, the old things disappoint because somebody came along with an improvement, and you don't want to find yourself in the position of Youngstown Steel, left behind because a small integrated steel mill along a river is done in simultaneously by larger integrated steel mills at deepwater ports and by steel recyclers with ever-better metallurgies.  Instructive.



This summer, City Journal arts maven Catesby Leigh suggested that the best way to improve the rabbit warren under Madison Square Garden that calls itself Penn Station would be to ... restore The Pennsylvania Station.  The article starts with some necessary background.
In 1961, a mere half-century after Charles Follen McKim’s Pennsylvania Station opened, the once-mighty but now financially moribund Pennsylvania Railroad cut a deal with a private developer that led to its demolition, completed five years later.

The result was the worst trade-off in American architectural history, one that would make historic preservation a popular cause. The grandeur of the old station’s interior—never entirely effaced by the postwar invasion of advertising signage and displays of the latest-model automobiles, not to mention the crazy space-age ticket counter that somehow landed in the waiting room—was supplanted by a glassy office-tower slab, 2 Penn Plaza, and the cylindrical pile of Madison Square Garden. Each weekday, 650,000 people make their way through the entrails of this dystopian complex—“mashed,” just as Progressive Architecture magazine forewarned after the destruction of McKim’s station got under way, “into subterranean passageways like ancient Christians.”
Focus on that 650,000 people. With the commuter traffic, that may be upwards of 300,000 distinct individuals each day, most of them dashing from or to their trains.  By contrast, during the second World War, the records for passenger loadings were around 400,000 tickets lifted by conductors on departing trains.  To provide additional space for servicemen to wait, The Pennsylvania Railroad built floors at the arrival concourse level in the open parts of the train hall.  The east end of the train hall looked like this on a busy day.

New York Pennsylvania Station, July 1944
Life Google Images via The Bowery Boys.

Before the War, there was a clear space above the tracks beyond the west gates.

Yes, we've been following these plans to expand the station, or adaptively reuse the post office to the west, or dial PEnnsylvania 6-5000 to book a room, or something, for some time.

But moving the Garden to the Post Office site, or perhaps locating it above the coach yard, and building a railroad station that looks like a railroad station intrigues.
The Garden really does need to move—and building the new one within Farley’s capacious masonry envelope is an attractive option—because Penn Station needs to expand vertically to be a station worthy of New York City. Reconstruction of McKim’s station is the best way for that to happen. It is far from certain that a new annex across 31st Street from the existing station will be needed to handle additional rail traffic from a new Hudson railway tunnel, as Amtrak contends. To be constructed over the next two decades, the new tunnel is the centerpiece of Amtrak’s big-ticket Gateway Program, which includes construction of this Penn South annex to accommodate seven new underground tracks.
More intriguing, however (as well as technically more challenging) is a possibility to widen the platforms while providing fewer tracks by through-routing Long Island and New Jersey Transit commuter trains. That's one way to conserve on coach yards, as the rush-hour trains might tie up during the day at yards that are generally full only at night. But the Long Island is 600 volt third-rail direct current, the former Pennsylvania and Lackawanna electrified lines in New Jersey use overhead wire energized with kilovolts of alternating current. Will the good people of Long Island accede to overhead wires?

But the idea is gaining some traction, fittingly, in conservative circles, with American Conservative executive editor Lewis McCrary offering a qualified endorsement.  The article links to other manifestations of the same proposal.

Now, if we can talk about an improved Pennsylvania Station, can we talk about multiple train frequencies to Pittsburgh with overnight services for and from Chicago and St. Louis?


Federalist writer M. K. Ham has an unpleasant October Surprise.  Her family's high-deductible premium has almost doubled.
My monthly payment, which was the amount of a decent car payment, is now the size of a moderate mortgage. The president refers to these for thousands of citizens as “a few bugs” when to us it feels like a flameout.

For this astronomical payment, I get a plan with an astronomical deductible that my healthy family of three will likely never hit except in the most catastrophic of circumstances.

Let’s rewind to my pre-Obamacare health care situation. Throughout my life and career, I have had both employer-based coverage and significant periods during which I bought private insurance with high deductibles and low premiums. During the run-up to Obamacare, President Obama referred to these plans as “junk” plans, but my family and I received perfectly good care and service through them. We were responsible, healthy citizens consuming a small amount of health care, paying out of pocket for most of it, and making sure we weren’t deadbeats should something catastrophic come to pass. Our health insurance was a rational and responsible purchase.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which is two lies for the price of one in the title, is three broken promises.
When President Obama sold Obamacare to the American people, he promised three things. 1) That we could keep our plans if we liked them. 2) That the new system would offer competition between great options through an Obamacare marketplace, and 3) That our premiums would go down. Not “go up slower” or “go up but eventually go down,” but go down— $2,500 was the figure.

The letter I got last week is a betrayal of every one of those promises. I did not get to keep the plan I liked. The new system does not offer competition between great options through an Obamacare marketplace. And my premiums have gone up more than 150 percent in two years.

This was all predictable and predicted, by many (including me!).
After a series of examples, the punch line.
Putting aside the embarrassing launch debacle (also predictable and predicted by me!), the law has created products that aren’t worth buying. I’m a responsible citizen and single parent of two young children. Let’s think about the incentives this system presents.

It would make far more economic sense to pay the tax penalty for not having insurance, save the monthly payment, and squirrel it away for a catastrophic event that may never occur. Should a catastrophic event occur, work out a payment plan with doctors and hospitals, for which you’d use the squirreled away premiums until the next open enrollment period, at which point you just jump right back into a plan again because they can’t keep you out for preexisting conditions. Should a catastrophic event never occur, you’ve got no small part of a college education put away. My health insurance used to be a rational and responsible purchase. It’s beginning to feel like neither.
Then comes the reference to a pit that might be as nasty as the Great Pit of Carkoon.
Those who support the law during its meltdown suggest jacking up the cost of rejecting this terrible product to make it more painful than the cost of the terrible product. To them, we are but Westley in the Pit of Despair and they are the technocratic torturer at the switch puzzling just how much pain they can inflict without going full Humperdinck and killing the strapping, young patient.

That’s how the Affordable Care Act became neither affordable nor care. It’s almost as if you could have predicted it. Inconceivable!
Yes, and jacking up the penalty is truth in taxation: if Colorado's Amendment 69 is truthful, the increase in some kinds of taxes to support single payer will be substantial.  Watch the bond markets if there's a Democratic sweep, or if there's a Conrail Option without substantial tax increases (not limited to Donald Trump) accompanying it.


Hey, Chicago, whaddaya say?  Council's going to whine today.  "[S]pare a moment of sympathy for Chicago's aldermen, those public servants making six figure salaries, who until very recently enjoyed the perk of being able to buy Cubs' postseason tickets at face value, rather than on the open market, like the rest of us commoners."  That's unethical, as we saw on Thursday past.

Behaving ethically, however, is something else restricted to the commoners.
[T]wo Chicago aldermen reportedly blew off budget hearings earlier this week to take a road trip to Cleveland "in an SUV with a lobbyist and fundraiser" to watch Game 1 of the World Series, according to [Chicago's] Tribune

And because irony is apparently dead, 40 out of 50 Chicago city aldermen did not attend yesterday's annual ethics board meeting, according to Chicago Now. The Board of Ethics, which reportedly receives $850,000 in annual taxpayer funding, received no questions from the few aldermen who bothered to attend, and the meeting lasted five minutes.

In a petulant display, Alderman Anthony Beale, reportedly played a "Go Cubs, Go" chime on his cellphone to protest he and his colleagues' loss of an elite perk previously reserved only for stewards of good government like himself.
Contrast that with the treatment of university faculty, who can be given a do-over if they don't spend sufficient time on their annual online ethics training, and if you fail to complete the online module in the month provided, you get a longer version of the do-over, a letter of reprimand placed in your personnel file, double secret probation, and for all I know (having always completed the training within the time windows specified) Alberich puts a curse on you.

The gods of baseball, however, have not yet lifted the Curse of the Billy Goat.  Maybe the good people of Cleveland will bring in the blessing of Bob Uecker and the aldermanic special pleading will be just a bit outside.  Cubs are facing elimination Sunday.

Chicago's aldermen, however, being good Democrats all, will likely run away from the Cubs even faster than their Congressional colleagues are currently running away from FBI Director James Comey.

I have a bottle of Sprecher in reserve for the conclusion of the Series.



This video, probably from somewhere in Russia, probably in a scale smaller than O, is another effort to build a model of the Andreyev 4-14-4.  It's interesting that the builder painted the wheels and motion before assembling the chassis.

This mechanism has two gearboxes, which is an interesting way to relieve stresses on the connecting rods, although the motor now has to turn two worm gears.  There's still some hesitation at the ends of the strokes, something I've been working with as well.

The radius rod is mounted in neutral, which makes the task of rigging the combination lever to crosshead and valve stem less challenging.

Let's wish the builder continued success.


On Tuesday evening's Hardball, Chris Matthews, usually a reliable Democrat shill, noted that his party has a problem.  It started in his interview with current vice president and railfan Joe Biden.
MATTHEWS: Why do they – why is it the Democratic Party? Is it because of all the contributors with their money have made it more of an elite party, Ivy League?
BIDEN: This is not – you know, there`s no malarkey. The fact of the matter is, those people we`re talking about built this country.
BIDEN: They built it. And they are smarter than we give them credit for. There`s almost, like – what`s happened in both parties is there`s sort of a – a yielding to pedigree.
BIDEN: You know, the guy who goes to Penn State or University of Delaware and the guy goes to Yale or Penn, well, the guy at Yale or Penn must know more. It doesn`t work that way.
MATTHEWS: I haven`t noticed that.
BIDEN: Oh, you haven`t?
Mr Biden uses the "deferring to pedigree" phrase a second time.  The vice president goes on to discuss Charles Murray's snob test.
BIDEN: And because it`s now at the point where there is – it is merit-based, where you – whether you`re part of the elite, we`ve kind of forgotten about ordinary Americans out there.
BIDEN: And so it`s like – it drove my boys crazy. I had them take the test in the book, and it said, Have you ever been on a factory floor? Have you – were you raised in a neighborhood where over 60 percent of the people didn`t go to college, where you – if you get a chance to go to Starbucks or McDonald`s for coffee, where do you go? Do you know anybody who has whole milk in their refrigerator? I mean, there is…
MATTHEWS: Because everybody else has skim milk, the elitists, yes.
BIDEN: No, but so – so part of it is that it`s understandable. The good news is it`s based on merit advancement in many cases now. But the bad news is that these folks who were the people who are – not the salt of the earth, they`re the stuff that makes everything grow.
BIDEN: And they`re capable of so much more. That`s why I think our focus on free college education, our focus on making sure that there`s child care to get women back in the job market, our focus on things that are just basically simple fairness, minimum wage.
I mean, people want to know that we really do – my dad used to have an expression, Chris. He said, I don`t expect the government to solve my problem, but I expect them to understand it.
Let's leave for another day whether Mr Biden really understands the problem. It's the transition of the blue collar voter from reliably Democrat to Hillary Deplorable that I'm focusing on.

Here's Mr Matthews, setting the conversation for the evening's panel of Democrat Operatives.
MATTHEWS: Well, joining me right now for their reaction individually is Robert Costa, national political reporter at “The Washington Post” and MSNBC political analyst. Howard Fineman is global editorial director, of course, Huffington Post, also an MSNBC political analyst. And Katie Packer is a Republican strategist formerly with the Romney campaign.

I`m going to leave the pugilistics aside for a second here.

Robert Costa, I have never heard Biden lay this out so clearly, this sense that we have this meritocracy gone bankrupt, whereby only the people at the very top academically are given any consideration by the Democrats in terms of policy.

He speaks with personal experience, it seems, for a guy that went to University of Delaware for example, about this almost British-style system, where, if you didn`t go to Oxford or Cambridge, don`t talk, we`re not listening.
Let's also leave aside, for the moment, whether we're seeing an American Oxbridge at work, or whether Mr Biden is a bit of a jerk and he gets treated accordingly.  The discussion that follows is less than edifying, and I really don't care to worry about what the shape of the 2020 presidential ticket will be before the 2016 votes are counted, or stolen.

Mr Matthews, however, returns to that Democratic crackup during his sign-off.
My sit-down with Joe Biden in Pittsburgh today tells me that at least one top national Democrat understands the Trump phenomenon. While others may look down their noses at the Trump voter, the longtime senator from Delaware gets it. He sees their failure to connect with those white working class voters excited by Trump. He sees the economic but also the cultural factors that have driven the majority of white non-college educated Pennsylvania voters to line up with the New York billionaire, which is what we`re seeing in polling right now. He`s winning among those people, Trump is.

Biden talked today about what he calls the pedigree problem, how the Democratic Party at the top views anyone not an Ivy Leaguer as below intellectual consideration. How the party has kind of forgotten about ordinary Americans out there, how those people are smarter than they`re given credit for.
The Social Register set have been using poor and non-white voters as mascots for years; that is another disconnect in the making.


An American Council on Science and Health editorial advocates that Scientists Should Fight Postmodern Public Values.  Inasmuch as what passes as postmodern philosophy is a radical skepticism that questions coherent beliefs of any kind (reality might be more subtle) one might ask, rudely or not, how can the absence of any value be a value?  Or something.

Let's look at this passage.
[P]ostmodernism isn't the only problem. Americans, in particular, increasingly believe that scientists should not be allowed to do whatever they desire and instead should be held accountable to the public. Because many scientists receive funding from taxpayers, many Americans feel that politicians have a right to dictate what scientists can and cannot study. Even though the vast majority of politicians (and voters) are not in a position to decide which research is worthwhile, the point is still legitimate and, in our current cultural and political climate, nearly impossible to dispute.
I think we saw that conflict between Lernfreiheit and science bought and paid for last week. "Yet, the inefficiency of poetry or pure physics (that is, physics not tied to corporate and government grants and agendas) is an incommensurate gift and of great value."

There are two bad ideas at work.  One is the idea that only the government ought be funding research.  Perhaps university endowments exist for a reason.  But that's defensible only to the extent that researchers conduct their work with a sober sense of purpose and in a way that respects the moral status of other people.  The other, which may have its roots in postmodern thinking, is that science per se disrespects the moral status of other people: pick any pejorative ending in -centric and reflect.


I have been adamant that a real circus includes elephants, and I model that circus.

I've also noted that circuses are not inherently detrimental to the welfare of elephants.

But the big cities have been passing job-killing regulations that lead to unemployed elephants, as the downside of running what you call The Greatest Show on Earth and what students of circus know as Big Bertha is that you have to play the big cities.

Thus do Ringling Barnum's powerful performing pachyderms go out to pasture, where Washington Post reporter Kristin Henderson has followed them.
Elephants have been the stars of American circuses since circuses began. Why the elephants? Why not the equally odd-looking camels or just-as-beautiful horses? What was it about elephants that drew humans to them? They’re smart, but so are primates. They’re big and long-lived, but so are whales. They live in close-knit families, but so do wolves. None of those other mammals has become such a part of our culture. We’ve got pink elephants, white elephants, the GOP mascot and the elephant in the room, while the name of the 19th century’s beloved Jumbo came to signify all things large.
Ms Henderson contrasts the behavior of Ringling Barnum's elephant crews with the lurid stories of abused elephants of days and circuses gone by.  (Some of that lore made its way into Water for Elephants.)  I wonder if there isn't a little projection, or perhaps false analogy, in the following.
In the century before the Great Depression, abused circus elephants that killed their tormentors were sometimes viewed as criminals and executed. But more often, an elephant that broke its chains and left a swath of destruction through an American town was cheered on by crowds of average folks living hardscrabble lives. For them, the elephant’s rampage was probably the cathartic fulfillment of their own frustrated fantasies.
Beware the trumpeting of the Trumpening? Or perhaps I want this long national nightmare to be resolved? But that's old legend, combined with modern understanding of animal training.
Starting in 1969, the legendary Ringling animal trainer Gunther Gebel-Williams pioneered a way of presenting wild animals in shows: as friendly partners rather than as dangerous beasts to be dominated by brave men. “That change seemed at first almost like a nuance,” says Janice Aria, who has worked with elephants and bears during a long career with Ringling. “But I saw that really had an amazing trickle-down effect into the way all of us approached this. You know, wait a minute, maybe it isn’t always the loudest voice, it isn’t the strongest person. It’s the person that can most intuitively connect with these animals that’s going to get the most consistent result from them.” Since the 1970s, Aria has watched elephant handling go from an all-male community with a cowboy attitude to women making up about half of Ringling’s handlers today, including the top two people in charge of animal stewardship: Aria, the director, and her deputy. The way Aria sees it, “Women have an inherent nurturing that many guys don’t have, and I think elephants respond really well to that.”

During those 40-plus years, training and handling methods grew steadily more professional and humane. “We used to manage elephants with stimuli that taught them to move away from things,” says Brandie Smith, the National Zoo’s associate director of animal care. “Now we use operant and positive conditioning to teach them to move toward things. That’s now the accepted standard for shaping behavior during training.”
The art of animal training is giving the animal incentive to do what it wants to do anyway.  The better trainers might have been quicker to figure that out, and you really don't want to do anything abusive around an animal that weights four tons, or, as with the lions and tigers and bears, oh my! that could rip your head off if you mistreated one.  Ms Henderson notes that elephants are capable of identifying their friends.
Psychologist G.A. Bradshaw, author of “Elephants on the Edge,” describes how elephants have demonstrated they’re capable of distinguishing between humans who hurt them and humans who don’t. In Africa, young elephants who witnessed the slaughter of their families by one group of humans were rescued by other humans. Later, out in the bush, those still-wild elephants protected their human rescuers from dangers that included their fellow wild elephants.
Those are savanna elephants, which are rare in circus acts.  Rainforest elephants comprise most of the remaining acts.  Ringling's pachyderms, however, are no longer performing.
When the portal curtains opened and the ringmaster began to belt “The Star-Spangled Banner,” they walked out into the spotlight for the show’s made-in-America opening moment: a man from Wisconsin striding briskly alongside an elephant from Asia ridden by a woman from Mongolia carrying a large, flowing American flag. The routine was simple. Once around the arena, stop, raise trunk and right foot in a kind of salute to the land of the free and the home of the brave. It’s hard to say if Asia was enjoying herself, but the audience was cheering wildly.

Is it inherently wrong to make elephants entertain us? Does it make a difference if, unlike Asia, they were born in captivity, so long as we work to give them a happy, healthy life? When elephants’ basic needs are met, when they grow excited in anticipation of something good and interact peacefully with those around them, that looks like something that could be called happiness. Watching Asia and her traveling sisters week after week, that was what I saw.
Ms. Henderson, after a passage that eloquent, I will cut you some slack for referring to Circus World as a theme park.  Big Bertha's elephants are at a complex in Florida, without the audible and visible cues that the show is about to start.  Are they bored?  Who knows.
As we wait for the science to catch up, does the departure of the Ringling elephants from the public arena reveal that we’re finally learning how to be a wiser, more humane society? Or does it just expose our willingness to settle for easy answers in response to the loudest voices? The answer may well be both.
Read the article, weigh the evidence, draw your own conclusion.

Over the summer, the Karlson Brothers Circus acquired additional model elephants.  You'll be able to see the travelling circus in miniature, even as the real thing changes.


Chicago Fire is fiction.  Clout in the Chicago city council is real.  Favors from rent-seekers are real.
The head of the city ethics agency has warned Chicago aldermen and other elected officials that if they accept the Cubs' offer to buy coveted playoff tickets at face value, they must attend personally and have their presence announced publicly.
As anyone who has ever sat the annual ethics training required of Illinois university employees (no rushing through it, peasant, or you get a do-over!) there is a gift ban, and the offer of a baseball team of tickets at face value to a public official qualifies as a covered gift.
In the ethics chief's memo, obtained by the Chicago Tribune, [director Steven] Berlin noted that city officials are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $50 unless they come from a friend or family member. The difference between Cubs face-value prices and "understood 'fair market value' … clearly exceeds $50," Berlin wrote.

But the city ethics ordinance does allow officials to attend events "in their official capacity," he added. So, officials can take the offer, provided they go in person and are "publicly acknowledged at each game you attend in some public way." Depending on when that announcement is made, aldermen and others risk some loud boos.
There are members of the city council, however, for which playoff tickets from sports teams are simply prerogatives of office, which makes for interesting listening to the radio.  Moreover, there might be South Side aldermen for whom being publicly announced at Wrigley Field (do they get two ruffles and flourishes and the first verse of "There's a Little Tin Box" on the organ?) creates a clip that will appear in an attack ad next primary season.


Three days a week, Amtrak's Cardinal makes its way between Chicago and New York by way of Indianapolis, Cincinnati, Panem, er, D.C. and Philadelphia.  The other four days, there's a regional train between Chicago and Indianapolis, which also exists to haul bad-ordered cars to the repair shops at Beech Grove.

That regional train is now being operated by a private company, Iowa Pacific Holdings, using Iowa Pacific staff and Iowa Pacific rolling stock.  There's a dining car serving real food on real china, and business class passengers rate a Great Dome lounge.  They pay more for the privilege, but it's apparently worth it.
Almost 2,500 people rode the Hoosier State last month, and that was up 46% compared to September of last year. It was also the fifth consecutive month when this year’s ridership exceeded the numbers from 2015. And there’s more: according to the Indiana DOT, revenue from tickets sold in September totaled more than $82,000 and that was a 64% increase from September of last year.

For examples of one-way Chicago-to-Indianapolis adult fares, I picked two mid-week days next month for a snapshot comparison: One-way Business Class, CHI – IND, on the Cardinal is $64; one-way Business Class on the Hoosier State is $70.

I shall now risk stating the obvious: People will respond to a quality experience and they will pay more for it. Likewise, nickel-and-diming passengers by cutting costs is counter-productive.
Downsizing is a false economy, forsooth!


Tuesday evening's Chicago Fire featured a major plot in which Stella rescues a runaway kid from a fire (we'll overlook for the moment that there's a homeless camp in one of the long-abandoned and sealed freight tunnels) then enlists the help of her chief, the director of Chicago Med, and the State's Attorney to locate him and maybe nudge him away from a bad place.  The minor plot involves Matt and Gabby caught up in some sort of Council Wars where an Establishment Politician uses the threat to expose Matt's use of clout to qualify a foster child as a blank check for all sorts of Political Favors.  But it turns out that the Establishment Politician is client of a political consultant who would like to groom Matt for higher office.  Matt finds out and tells the consultant she's fired.  (From the nasty expression on her face, I suspect we've not seen the last of her.)

It's not as aspirational as Father Knows Best or High Noon, and yet the good guys and the straight shooters hold the high ground as the credits roll.



The Milwaukee Road's Sioux once offered overnight service between Sioux Falls and Chicago by way of Mason City and Madison.  The railroad passenger business paid its way by handling mail and express (this being before anybody anticipated Federal Express; there were stringent weight limits on air mail at the time.)  Thus local passenger trains, such as the La Crescent to Savanna local by way of Dubuque would exchange passengers, parcels, and on occasion cars, with the Sioux.

Today, the Sioux is running late, perhaps account sheep on the tracks or ghost riders in the sky, and the local has to hold at Marquette, Iowa, to make the connection.  You do not want to miss the connecting baggage car, particularly if just-weaned piglets or nursery stock are among the consignments, believe me!

This is not a good place for a train to wait for long, as there's lots of Dead Freight to be moved along the west bank of the Mississippi River.  The steel works in St. Louis is going to want that iron ore sometime soon.

Eventually, the name train shows up, and the transfers and switching proceed.

The coal mines downriver (on a model railroad, you sometimes have to be creative) have been loading cars, and it will be useful to get these passenger trains on the way in order to move the Dead Freight one way, and the coal, which is waiting in downriver sidings, the other way.  Passenger Services in Chicago will have to placate any irate passengers who arrive a little late for the opening bell at the Board of Trade.

Here, the Dead Freight gets under way from Marquette, as the first of the coal trains, for LaCrescent and points railroad west, arrives.  This coal train will add other cars for those destinations.  It's mostly a water-level railroad.

The second coal train, headed for Ossian, Iowa, where there's a generating station (you get to be creative on a model railroad) closes in on the LaCrescents.

The covered hopper cars are a signature of the Edmore Patrol, working a cement plant and grain elevators there.  The most dramatic model railroading license is in the background, where Sewell, West Virginia has somehow moved to where you'd expect to find McGregor, Iowa.

It's all in a day's work for the dispatcher.  Strong coffee, sharp pencils, a fresh trainsheet, and hope everything stays on the rails.


Enroute east two weeks ago, I was listening to a segment on Charlie Sykes's show about what the Republic had done to deserve the major party candidates we got.  On my way west, I picked up Dan Rivers out of Youngstown asking listeners a similar question.

Getty Images photo via Today,  retrieved from Bing Images.

We can start with the conventional explanations from the here and now, such as National Review's Jim Geraghty, who laments An Election Unworthy of America.  "The primaries gave the general electorate two bad, disliked, dishonest, vindictive options . . . and in far too many cases, the general electorate responded appallingly, making a crummy situation worse."  The people had the opportunity to reject these choices, and they didn't.  Sometimes that's the way popular sovereignty works, and the people get what they deserve, good and hard.  That's Mr Geraghty's parting shot.  "In 2016, the question is no longer whether we can keep [the Republic] but whether we want to keep it."

Or, as Warren Henry for The Federalist suggests, the media-entertainment complex put a thumb or two on the scale: Before Progressives Hated Trump, They Were For Him.  The column is a rogues' gallery of Deep Thinkers who, before the spectre of a Trump win materialized, pushed variations on a theme that Donald Trump Is No Winger, Despite Being Crude.  Thus, did the protective institutions crumble.  "One of these [hazards] is the message that elevating and defending such people sends to the larger society, whether one views it as normalizing such behavior generally or as a double-standard for the wealthy or powerful. There is also the question of whether ignoring a candidate’s temperament results in a nominee who increases the threat of war (nuclear or otherwise) or undermines the dollar as the world’s reserve currency."  Where Mr Henry errs is in thinking that normalcy enjoyed safeguards: those are rotten.

The rottenness was a long time in coming.  It was anticipated by the editorial board of New York's Times.  "We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tinhorn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."  That was a lament for the destruction of The Pennsylvania Station, but the destruction of monuments has since taken many other forms.

Consider, first, the Trump nuptials illustrated above.  About the same time The Pennsylvania Station disappeared, the Consciousness Revolution was at work, questioning all sorts of traditions.  Smash monogamy!  Nuke the nuclear family!  Coat and tie radicals like Bill and Hillary might not have been out front with that campaign, but consider their marriage.  Staying together for the sake of engaging in a protracted conversation about policy matters, OK; and there's no question about Chelsea's parentage.  But Hillary gets to have girlfriends on the side, and so does Bill.  The real winners of that part of the Consciousness Revolution, though, are Donald and Melania.  Politics be hanged.  "Today the only victors in the sexual revolution are those men and women who are good-looking and clever enough to enjoy multiple partners with a minimum of emotional and financial commitment. The dowdy and the not-so-clever (or not-so-unscrupulous) are used by the well-endowed and find loneliness and frustration where, in a previous generation, they would probably have been able to start families."

Then comes the deconstruction of coherent beliefs of any kind.  The humanities committed suicide.  As did political feminism.  Thus there's no guarantee that the Clinton camp's current efforts to turn Donald Trump into this year's version of Der Gropenf├╝hrer (efforts that didn't stop Arnold Schwarzenegger from winning in California, anyway.)

Stir in the pernicious cults of transgressivity and authenticity.

In a do-your-own-thing world, there's no answer.

Thus, Ben Domenech, also with The Federalist, notes, here's why we get that choice.
There is a reason progressives spent half a century slowly eroding society’s pillars to the point where the people produced by our families, communities and schools no longer desire this, a point at which a reversion to this form of reactionary nationalism is possible. Trumpism is not the same as populism or the New Right, and it speaks to something much worse than an intellectual crisis. It is what happens when no one trusts anyone any more.
We will be judged by the monuments we've destroyed.


The former senator from Wisconsin, now working to get his job back, takes a dig at the Joseph Project, a faith-based initiative providing van transportation for Milwaukee residents to factory jobs in Sheboygan.  "It’s not enough to pick people up in a van and send them away a couple hours and have them come back exhausted at the end of the day. That doesn’t make a community."  Perhaps not.  It's called the work-a-day routine.  There's even a song about it.  And, unlike rush hour passengers on Metra, the Joseph Project commuters are assured of a seat on their conveyance.

Chicago Tribune photograph by Michael Tercha.

At National Review, Alexandra DeSanctis notes that (unlike the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act -- ed.) the Joseph Product is working, and it's well-received by participants.

Mr Feingold might gripe that his critics are selectively quoting him.  His continuation is instructive, perhaps, though, not in a way he'd like.  "There needs to be more investment in minority-owned businesses, community policing and in public schools, Feingold said."

How shall I start?

In the John Galt fashion:  Invested by whom?  Blank-out.

In the Great Society fashion:  More urban renewal?  Enough of your good intentions, already?  Ditto for your malicious intentions.

He's right, though: entrepreneurship and good schools are present in Naperville.  Are the politicians in the Milwaukees of the country providing the environment in which those phenomena can flourish?


Perhaps it's time to consider interstate competition among insurance companies, and greater commercial freedom for health care enterprises.  The faculty union at Brookdale Community College have a new contract, but there won't be a lot of new discretionary spending during the holidays.
Union: Health insurance is eating our raises!

Mgmt: Health insurance is eating our budget!

Insurance Company (in the corner): Nom nom nom nom (burp) nom nom nom (chair collapses) nom nom nom
So much for bending the cost curve. So much for a public option, or for single payer.
The catastrophic cost -- and rate of increase -- of health insurance is the 800 pound gorilla of higher ed finance.  It’s the primary driver behind adjunctification.  It’s increasing faster than any of our revenue sources, and it seems to be picking up steam.  In negotiation sessions, it’s the sun around which every other issue orbits.

(For those keeping score at home, that makes it a nuclear fusion powered 800 pound gorilla that knows how to drive a steam-powered car, and anchors a series of satellites.  Scary stuff.)
Substantively, the insurance companies have to quote rates based on the adverse selection that's enabled by the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, wherein people can avoid buying insurance until they get sick, then they buy coverage, and their risk management people have to calculate that tolerably well, or they go broke.  With single payer, risk management becomes wishful thinking.  Oops.  But I appreciate the candor: it's not just the Pajamas Media crazies that see the 29 hour loophole at work diminishing the tenure-track faculty, whether at the community colleges or at the Ivies.

Metaphorically, we're not dealing with that 800 pound gorilla, it's more like a sarlacc in the Pit of Carkoon, but with a faster metabolism.  Greece didn't take 500 years to succumb to blue social model benefits.

The reckoning is coming for the United States.
Postwar prosperity made the system tenable long enough for it to start to seem natural, but it never really made sense.  Now we’re seeing the flaws in the system get so large that they start to deform or consume other sectors of the economy.  Prospective entrepreneurs don’t start companies because they can’t afford to pay for their own health insurance.  Employers everywhere pay careful attention to maximum hours for part-time status, because the marginal cost of going over is prohibitive.  If you don’t believe me, ask your HR office what the monthly premium for COBRA is.

Locally, we managed to piece together a deal that puts off the day of reckoning for a few more years.  I’m glad we did -- really, really glad we did -- but the basic underlying trendlines are still there. That’s not something we can solve locally.  That requires a national solution.  Absent that, I foresee the rides getting bumpier and bumpier until something breaks.
Yes, in many ways, that postwar prosperity worked as a resource curse.  And the Conrail Option will mean a longer bumpy ride, and it will break.  Badly.  More badly than the current bodge.  And on current trends, a President Hillary and a Democrat Congress will own the wreckage.

And they'll deserve it.  Here's National Review's Kevin Williamson, correctly pointing out that "These idiots thought this would work."
The terrifying fact is that the architects of Obamacare thought they could brazen their way through this, that they were so smart that they could tell you rubes whatever it was you needed to hear to get the bill passed and then just fly by the seat of their pants, fixing everything on the fly in a grand display of enlightened technocratic adhocracy.

And if the Democrat-Academic-Media-Entertainment Complex get their way, the adhocracy will own the failure. Recall the political maneuvering by which the two lies for the price of one became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the first place.  Don't expect much sympathy from me if Mrs Pelosi becomes Speaker of the House and she has to deal with what's in it.  Gutting a tauntaun to keep warm might be a more appealing option.

At The Federalist, David Harsanyi expects Democrats will learn no such lesson.
Republicans can let the law, which Democrats still solely own, die. They can then reform the health-care system by allowing it to function more like every other successful market in the country — with minimal interference from politicians. Or we can all accept a giant unfunded liability, higher taxes, and further socialization of our health-care system. The only question will be: how quickly.

There’s one thing for sure: no matter what happens, liberal cheerleaders of Obamacare will continue to act as if the law was an awe-inspiring success.
Yes, and they'll continue to subscribe to the grand fiction of living at the expense of everyone else, at least until more of their voters wake up to the reality that the sarlacc is slowly digesting them.


Your taco truck just got voted off the Capitol Square.
There are only 40 spots available for food carts. Rather than let the customers decide with their purchases which carts will get to remain, the city of Madison conducts a popularity contest to see who gets voted off the isthmus. It being Madison, bonus points are granted for seniority, just like public employees before Act 10.

Those food testers that participate in the survey must try the food at 80 percent of the city's food carts. Since there are 60 carts, that means trying the food at 48 carts over two weeks, or three carts per day. Since some of them are not operating on Sunday, the wannabe food cart judge has to eat four meals per day from the carts just to meet the minimum. To sample them all, a person would have to eat five meals per day, provided the person took a (much needed) day of rest on Sunday to digest their experiences.
You'd think, if there are forty permits, and more than forty food vendors, that an auction might make more sense than a poll with a serious small-sample problem. Plus the food truck operator who paid too much for a slot would learn from experience not to bid so much next time. (It's not so difficult to write the rules in such a way that the lowest of the top forty bids would set the market for everybody; that's too large a set of bidders for a bidding ring to emerge.)

But this is the Peoples' Republic of Madison, and market tests are Too Tacky For Words.
But the free market isn't being allowed to work. It isn't Donald Trump's wall kicking the tacos out of the downtown, it's the city itself. Those that should have the most to say about the survivability of a food cart on the Capitol Square, the actual paying customers, are actually robbed of their ability to have a say. Their food dollars don't matter in the success of a business, just 15 people who may never eat a taco on the Capitol Square again.

This kind of instability, the success of a business subject to bureaucratic whims rather than market forces, will only hurt the quality of the food carts in the long term. Who would want to invest in the kind of quality ingredients and equipment to build a steady customer base when the location may be taken away from them in a year?
I suppose the logic is that the steady customer base maps accurately into preferences in a survey.  But why rely on a proxy when a market test elicits the information directly, plus the city might be pleasantly surprised with the lease fees it collects.


Just another day at the office for John Podesta, Neera Tanden, and the rest of Hillary Clinton's merry band of deplorables.
“We’ve taken on a lot of water that won’t be easy to pump out of the boat,” Podesta wrote to Tanden in September 2015, at a time when Clinton’s campaign feared that Vice President Biden was about to enter the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. “Most of that has to do with terrible decisions made pre-campaign, but a lot has to do with her instincts.”

Tanden responded, “Almost no one knows better [than] me that her instincts can be terrible.”
We can at least be reassured that Hillary's Elphaba cackle is her "authentic weirdness." So much to look forward to.



Strong Towns frequently feature communities that were once vibrant manifestations of car culture and suburban affluence.  Many of them, including Colerain, Ohio, a Cincinnati suburb, have turned into swamps of public squalor amid private destitution (to tweak an old J. K. Galbraith phrase.)  It goes beyond the downscale people attempting to cross the butt-ugly stroads, which is the focus of the post.  "What are the options for the folks who find themselves standing on the side of Colerain Avenue? They can work part time at one of the fast food outlets. They can scrape by month to month with payday loans and pawn shop transactions. Or they can join the military which is by far the best career option, although it comes with certain risks."  The author's thesis, consistent with Strong Towns writers' emphasis on the suburban growth ponzi scheme, is that these once-promising bedroom suburbs have become obsolete and the strip malls and tract houses have trickled down to people less capable of taking care of what they have.
Back in the 1950’s, Colerain Township was the recipient of a wave of respectable prosperous families who were crossing the municipal line out of Cincinnati. They drove through Mount Airy Forest and left behind high taxes, high crime, lower quality public services, old unfashionable buildings, and poor black people. If you couldn’t afford a brand new home and a car… you clearly didn’t belong.

The schools were new. The shopping centers and office parks were new. Tax revenue poured in. Police, teachers, and administrators were hired. Parks were created. Libraries opened. Life was very good.

Fast forward sixty five years. Everything that used to be shiny and new is now aging – not all of it well. There are now decades of accumulated salaries, pensions, and health care obligations for municipal workers, past and present. The roads, water pipes, lift stations, sewerage treatment plant, and public buildings are all in need of expensive maintenance. Tax revenue is in decline. This town like nearly every other town of its vintage is functionally insolvent.

There are now newer suburbs farther out where the homes are larger and the neighborhoods more exclusive. Mason and Beavercreek are where the prosperous families are migrating to these days. Young, educated people and wealthy empty-nesters are heading back to rapidly reviving inner city neighborhoods in Cincinnati. Colerain Township now has declining property values and is experiencing an influx of lower income residents. In the big scheme of things this post war suburb was disposable.
What we see are the errors in suburban development, as summarized in one photograph.

The central crossroads, Colerain Township, Ohio.
Retrieved from Strong Towns on 25 October 2016.

The colorful circle at the crossing is a recent war memorial.  The author wishes to emphasize the difficulty of stopping to reflect at the memorial, or to pause while walking to the pub or the coffee house or the toy store.  And the retail spaces elsewhere seem lost amonsgt those vast, empty parking craters.

Perhaps Colerain is doomed, thanks to a combination of the blue social model and misinformed intelligent design.  That's what author Johnny Sanphillippo suggests.
The memorial park is sitting in a sea of low-value surface parking lots, empty buildings, and buildings that are only occupied because they were bribed into existence with subsidies and tax abatements to keep up appearances. Meanwhile millions of dollars worth of public infrastructure sit underutilized.

Ultimately, Colerain has two options. It can reduce its physical infrastructure and default on its promises to municipal employees, which is the de facto path most post-war suburbs are on. Or it can add significant amounts of higher value private development to the existing public infrastructure chassis to generate more revenue. There are no other options.

I doubt the good people of Colerain are interested in transforming their old parking lots and dead strip malls into a thick Main Street downtown full of mixed-use buildings with shops on the ground floor and offices and apartments upstairs. I don’t think they’d even know how to build that sort of thing if they tried. They’re too obsessed with parking ratios and flower beds that look like the prosperous suburbs they no longer are. I’m not even sure there’s even a market for that kind of thing in this location. So I see continued decline and more desperate attempts at resurrection by pure faith. So be it.
And why, Mr Sanphillippo, are you relegating the current residents of Colerain to the Slough of Despond?  With the disappearance of the middle class upward and downward, are you arguing that there is insufficient demand to rebuild the commercial spaces as the kind of thick urban spaces that sell well, and to convert some of the empty spaces and some of the residential sites just off the main roads into larger lots with larger houses?

Or are we getting more Fergusons and fewer Hinsdales because there's too much prole drift, and too much deconstruction of the mores of the upper middle class?


Family members are reporting the bad news from their exchanges.  I'm still on the State of Illinois's dime, but that may not be all good, as the state continues to play cash flow games with reimbursements, and local practitioners have been requesting advance payment from state employees.  It's the nasty late October surprise we anticipated.  Whether Mr Trump will be able to make any political hay out of it remains to be seen.  I suspect that his complaints about employees in his companies getting bad news from the exchanges is going to be spun as more evidence of stinginess, in this case relying on temporary and part-time workers.  Insurers are saying enough and walking away, and the plan you had last year may no longer be available this year.  (The efforts by the national government to bend the cost curve are driving physicians out, but that's a separate matter.)  "Normal disruption," a bureaucrat says, and yet there are hundreds of thousands of people experiencing normal disruption in Florida and North Carolina, both battleground states.  That disruption is concentrating minds ahead of the election.
“Without any significant statutory and regulatory changes on the federal and state levels, we may face the crisis again,” said North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin, a Democrat who’s up for election this year. “There needs to be a wholesale re-evaluation by leaders in Washington.”
The insurance reform has accomplished two things that its framers probably didn't anticipate, which offer potential for improvements in working lives, once the dirigiste impulse goes away.  By requiring employers to cover only full time employers, defined as thirty hours or more a week, the law has broken the tie between employment and health insurance, and it might lead to new thinking about whether a forty hour work week ought to be the standard for all time.  Now, if we had proper markets, including interstate sales of insurance, we might have something resembling functioning exchanges, not the current muddle.  More markets in insurance, not less.  More markets in medical services, as well.  You really can't talk about "bending the cost curve" until there's something resembling price discovery at work.  But don't expect Mr Obama (or Mrs Clinton) to get that.
Obama believes that only comprehensive insurance policies are real insurance. Conservatives generally believe, by contrast, that people should be free to buy cheaper policies that protect them only from financial catastrophes arising from their health needs.

It’s a difference that leads to others. Obama says that people who are having trouble buying insurance on Obamacare’s exchanges should receive more generous subsidies. The conservative alternative -- relax the regulations that make the insurance unaffordable for them -- is unacceptable to him because it would be a retreat from comprehensiveness.

All of the president’s shows of open-mindedness include similar caveats. He noted that Obamacare allowed state experimentation. But that experimentation is allowed to proceed only if the experiments promise to end with at least as many people having coverage that is at least as comprehensive as what Obamacare delivers. A policy that resulted in more people having catastrophic coverage wouldn’t qualify.
Catastrophic coverage, plus health savings accounts, plus greater commercial freedom for routine procedures are more likely to bend the cost curve than any comprehensive reform. And yet, Mrs Clinton continues to push for her Conrail option.

Who says the gods of politics don't have a sense of humor.  Let's suppose that the Democrat-Media-Academic Complex is correctly anticipating a Hillary win in two weeks, with a sympathetic House and Senate.  They'll own the revelation of the two lies in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and they'll own the Conrail option, or something more European.

For a preview of what something more European would look like, contemplate Colorado's Amendment 69.  (Yeah, I'm having impure thoughts, involving suckitude, but let's stay on topic.)  It's currently a referendum, thus in proper Jeopardy fashion, the proposal is in the form of a question.
Shall state taxes be increased $25 billion annually in the first full fiscal year, and by such amounts that are raised thereafter, by an amendment to the Colorado Constitution establishing a health care payment system to fund heath care for all individuals who primary residence is in Colorado, and in connection therewith, creating a governmental entity called ColoradoCare to administer the health care payment system; providing for the governance of ColoradoCare by an interim appointed board of trustees until an elected board of trustees takes responsibility; exempting ColoradoCare from the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights; assessing an initial tax on the total payroll from employers, payroll income from employees, and nonpayroll income at varying rates; increasing these tax rates when ColoradoCare begins making health care payment for beneficiaries; capping the total amount of income subject to taxation; authorizing the board to increase the taxes in specified circumstances upon approval of the members of ColoradoCare to contract with health care providers to pay for specifics health care benefits; transferring administration of the Medicaid and children's basic health care funds for Colorado to ColoradoCare; transferring responsibility to ColoradoCare for medical care that would otherwise be paid for by workers' compensation insurance; requiring ColoradoCare to apply for a waiver from the Affordable Care Act to establish a Colorado health care payment system; and suspending the operations of the Colorado health benefit exchange and transferring its resources to ColoradoCare?
That's everything you need to know about single payer.  You start with some kind of tax increase to get it started, then set up a committee to determine when and by how much taxes must be increased, and who gets classified as rich and subject to further fleecing.  At the national level, a Hillary presidency with a Democrat Congress is likely to continue the myth of cutting costs, just watch the bond markets, if you can stand it!

Single payer within one state, however, is going to face the same problem socialism in one Germany or one Korea faces: the productive people are going to opt out, until they get fenced in.  "Can single-payer work in an individual state or does it really require a national program?" That ducks the more important question, which is, How expensive will health care be when the national government picks up most of the tab?

In two weeks, we'll know who gets to manage this policy failure.


I ordinarily don't link to student commentaries, under the general principle of picking fights only with people of comparable experience.  This Northern Star column, however, features silly comments from some deanlet who has to justify her salary.
Dressing up as a member of the transgender community essentially mocks their struggle to go outside of society’s common labels and be themselves, said Molly Holmes, Director of the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center.

“[Costumes that] portray people dressing up in a gender that they don’t identify are for humor,” said Holmes. “Outside of costumes and Halloween, when we look at somebody’s gender identity as humorous, it really actually degrades the person. [It] inevitably is bad for [transgender] people because they’re targeted on their gender identity.”
In the scheme of things, the crosser, or gender dysphoric, or hermaphrodite, or what have you, is probably less dangerous than the sociopath.  There's nothing in the column cautioning against a goalie mask accessorized with a chain saw.  On the other hand, there's now targeting of professional identity.
Sexualized costumes with blinged-out badges and short skirts make it harder to respect actual professionals, especially women, who, even without these degrading costumes, are still fighting to be taken seriously, respected and equally paid.

Students should consider those who have gone through schooling and training to earn those uniforms and professions, rather than just picking them up at a costume shop.
The article comes complete with what the deanlets would rather not see, which means true transgressivity is to put this outfit together.

Fight the Power.
Retrieved from Northern Star on 25 October 2016.

Here's what's still permissible.  "Some fun examples could be a DIY pumpkin costume, Scooby Doo, a favorite candy bar or a clever pun costume such as a basketball jersey and a large doughnut to represent Dunkin’ Donuts."  That is, until somebody suggests that anything involving food is fat-shaming.  I'm not going to put that past the Diversity Weenies.  At Tufts University, for instance, The College Fix suggests that the Thought Police have deputized the campus police in case some comrade steps too far over the line.  There will be consequences.  The post rounds up other administrative atrocities.

Our universities are being run by truly stupid people.

This year, I will be at home for Hallowe'en.  In previous years I have greeted the urchins as Sherlock Holmes and as Ray Nitschke.  That latter gets a rise out of the local Bear fans, but we all know what the Bears still do.  This year, they'll get to meet Herr Doktor Stephan Ludwig, Freiherr von Masuren, from the King of Prussia's delegation to the Bavarian royal wedding.  Perhaps I'll report on the reactions next week.



In the Cold Spring Shops primer on positive train control, I note that two trains cannot occupy the same piece of track at the same time.  And I've been particularly caustic about German and Italian signalling systems that allow a station agent to override safety interlocks.

At major junctions and busy stations or yards, it has long been the practice to provide a signal tower configured in such a way that two trains cannot be cleared onto conflicting routes, i.e. brought onto the same piece of track at the same time.  The railroad term of art for such installations is "interlocking," and I illustrated a simple use of the principles with science-project switches.

We visited a more involved interlocking tower (our British colleagues call them signal boxes) at St. Erth, preventing conflicts between trains for and from St. Ives with the Penzance service for Plymouth, London Paddington, and the all-day cross-country train to John O'Groats (or is it Glasgow these days?)  Much of the hardware appears to be early twentieth century, and it's still up to the task of spacing the Inter City 125 diesel trains that are still protecting schedules on God's Wonderful Railway.

On last week's excursion to Pennsylvania points, I stopped at Harris Tower, the interlocking tower that controlled the west throat of the Harrisburg station of The Pennsylvania Railroad.  It's now a museum, and it was open on a sunny Saturday afternoon, and there were a lot of freight trains running.  That was after placing a reservation at a swap meet for a proper model of a boxcar with a famous number, PENNSYLVANIA 65000.

The museum is soon to be closed for the season.  Bear in mind that the railway preservation demographic is aging, and it might be wise to inquire before making a visit.  The nearby bridges allow for photography of the railroad from public grounds near the Commonwealth Capitol and state office buildings.

What makes the tower distinctive as a railway preservation effort is that the machinery still works the way the designer intended.

The operator is lining up a route.  In the background is the model board, showing the west throat of Harrisburg Station as it was before Penn Central, Amtrak, and Conrail.  The platform tracks are at upper left, the freight avoiding line enters at lower left (although The Pennsylvania Railroad could get passenger trains around Harrisburg without interfering with the passenger traffic) and the short tracks at center right held steam locomotives awaiting their assignment to take over The Broadway Limited or The Duquesne or the Middle Division mail train from the electric locomotives.

The track diagram is also present on the computer screen at lower left.  The computer is running the now-discontinued Train Dispatcher simulation.  Outputs of the program go to relays in the tower's original relay case, which provide inputs to the interlocking machine the operator is using.  It's now possible to control even these complicated tracks at a distance, with a computer, and you accordingly don't see many manned interlocking towers.  Further, as we shall see, the actually existing track layout is trimmed, substantially, since 1942, the era being simulated.  It makes for a more instructive visit, as the computer, running a fast clock, is generating outputs that announce the arrival of trains, either by loudspeaker or by a bell ringing, activate the block occupancy circuits of the approaching trains, and, once the route is lined up, simulate the passage of the train through the controlled territory (old-school rails will know this as the plant.)

The gauge on top of the cabinet monitors the air pressure in the interlocking system.  On The Pennsylvania Railroad, a switch lever activates an air valve, and compressed air moves the switch points.  The same system is still at work in Chicago's Tower A-2, over which all the empty equipment moves for Metra's Milwaukee, North Central, Union Pacific, and Heritage Corridor pass enroute to or from downtown stations, as do service trains on the Milwaukee, North Central, Union Pacific, and Amtrak.  And the cars headed to the chocolate factory!

In an interlocking plant, the operator cannot clear signals to put trains on conflicting routes.  It's still up to the engineer to respect the signal indications, particularly the ones specifying STOP AND STAY.  These days, we do that work with solid-state logic (AND, OR, NOR, NOT) but the logic can also be implemented mechanically.

A section of the interlocking machinery is covered by thick Plexiglas, which allows the visitor to observe what's going on, although on a sunny day there's a lot of reflected light, including some of the model board.  When the operator rotates one of the levers, each of which is covered by one of the thick Plexiglas bars, it activates one or more of the sliding bars that run from left to right in the picture.  That rotation plus sliding either locks or releases other levers in the machinery.  It's more complicated than the double-pole double-throw switch that I used in the earlier interlocking primer, and laying out the frame takes a lot of thought, as you don't want to install, let alone cut notches and add projections, on more of those sliding bars than you have to.  (Time permitting, you'll see how it's done in O Scale, one of these years.)

As an additional cue to the operator, the rotation of a lever illuminates an indicator light on levers that have been released by its movement, or extinguishes the indicator lights on levers that are locked.  With the plant in the current configuration, for instance, levers 11 and 13 can be moved to the right (they are currently set to the left, toward a westbound train), lever 12 can be rotated either to the right or to the left (that's a switch whose position does not adversely affect any train otherwise cleared into the plant), lever 18 can be moved only to the left, lever 22 can be moved only to the left, although on some other configurations, it can be moved to the right, and levers 14, 15, and 16 cannot be moved.  The "Rusty Rail" marker on lever 19, controlling a signal, warns the operator that the machinery might not pick up the presence of a train on the track protected by that signal.

What, then, about the trains?  I got there during a busy period for Norfolk Southern running freight trains.

Here, two freight trains meet on what remains of the avoiding lines.  The support poles for the electrification went long ago, with Conrail ending electric freight operation in 1981 and with higher vertical clearances being desirable for autoracks and double stack containers, two betterments unknown to W. W. Atterbury or James Symes.  What's less evident is that somewhere near here, the old Conrail main line goes from The Pennsylvania Railroad to taking a ride on the Reading.  Amtrak own the Main Line from Harrisburg to Philadelphia, and the Cold Spring Shops Free Rein to 110 is being implemented, with electric operation of the Keystone Service trains.

The Pennsylvania Railroad never invested in extended-vision cabin cars, nor have I somehow found a time machine.  Rather, that's a War Department escort car, there were two depressed-center flat cars with DODX reporting marks on the head pin, and these heavy haul cars ahead of the buggy.

And the one passenger train on the Middle Division and Mountain Division leaves Amtrak for Norfolk Southern, about five minutes late.

There's some sentiment in Pennsylvania for an additional train or two to Pittsburgh, and is it really the case that there's no daily sleeping car service direct from Philadelphia to Cleveland and Chicago?

On the eve of Amtrak, Penn Central were still operating The Duquesne and The Juniata for and from Pittsburgh, The Broadway Limited, The Manhattan Limited, and The Pennsylvania Limited for and from Chicago, plus The Admiral from Chicago only, and The Spirit of St. Louis combined with The Cincinnati Limited for and from ... work it out!  Most of these trains offered food service (perhaps closed overnight between Pittsburgh and Fort Wayne) with setout sleeper for and from Pittsburgh and Indianapolis still available, as well as sleeping cars for and from Chicago on The Broadway Limited and The Pennsylvania Limited.  In those days, the trains swapped diesel locomotives for electric locomotives at Harrisburg.