Saturday, November 01, 2008


The bushes and berries in Birmingham, Michigan are especially bright today, November 1, 2008.

Here is the Burning Bush at the rear of the yard. We could see it while enjoying our noontime meal on our solar heated glassed in porch.

Thanks to Jack Frost, the leaves on the dogwood in the center of our backyard have turned a brilliant red.

This closeup view shows the shiny red dogwood berries among the brightly colored leaves.

In the front yard the dogwood leaves are just beginning to turn. However, the red berries show up well in contrast to the greenery.

(Just a reminder. You can enlarge any photo by merely double clicking on it.)

Tuesday, October 07, 2008



BACK IN 2004

What you see here may look like a locomotive, but it isn't. A number of years ago it undoubtedly was, but since then it has been stripped of its Diesel engine and generators. That compartment is now available for storage or baggage, if needed. However, the unit still boasts headlights and all the controls it once had when it was used as a locomotive. It even boasts a very loud air horn.

Although this appears as the front end of a train headed from Pontiac, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois it is actually an AMTRAK passenger train backing up from Pontiac to Chicago. The real locomotive is at the other end of the train, running in reverse. Like all three trains making round trips each day between the two cities, it was pulled into Pontiac by the locomotive at the other end. Since it costs money and takes time to turn a train, AMTRAK does not turn its passenger trains in this area. It runs them in what is known as push-pull service. Trains are pulled to Pontiac and pushed to Chicago.

This photo was taken in the fall of 2004, a quarter of a mile north of the Birmingham, Michigan AMTRAK station. If you look at it closely, you can see the exhaust smoke from the pusher Diesel at the opposite end of the train.

You may wonder why a Dummy locomotive is used at one end of the train. It is so that the engineer has a certain amount of physical protection if he is involved in a railway crossing accident. When AMTRAK first put these trains into service over a decade ago, they used former electrified commuter passenger cars from the eastern seaboard at the tail ends of the trains. They were referred to as cab cars since they had a small cab with controls for the Diesel at the opposite end of the train. However, these cars offered little physical protection for the engineers who might be involved in accidents. A lightweight passenger car is hardly as strong as a former heavyweight locomotive.

Consequently, as the older locomotives wore out, AMTRAK rebuilt them into dummies which offer much more protection to engineers controlling the trains operating in reverse on their way to Chicago


Now, in 2008, the Amtrak trains usually run in true PUSH-PULL service. A powered locomotive pulls them to Pontiac with a dead locomotive on the rear. When the train is ready to leave Pontiac the locomotive on the head end is shut down and the one on the rear end powered up so that it can pull the train back to Chicago.

This photo was snapped September 17, 2008
in almost the same spot as the one above which was taken in 2004. You can see from its black exhaust that Locomotive #126 which was loafing on the tail end going into Pontiac has now become the powered head end of AMTRAK #355
enroute to Chicago.

The train has just passed the camera position and is about to arrive at the Birmingham, Michigan depot. Locomotive #29 which pulled the train to Pontiac a little over an hour previously, has now been shut down and is emitting no exhaust. It is merely trailing along for the trip back to Chicago.

As of this writing, six AMTRAK trains pass through Birmingham each day running between Chicago and Pontiac via Detroit.

Keep in mind that you can enlarge the photos in this blog if you left click your mouse while the cursor, when shaped like a human hand, is on a particular picture.

You can see and hear a sound video clip of AMTRAK train number 355 passing this location and then stopping at the Birmingham station by clicking:


Thursday, July 06, 2006


At dusk, on July 3rd, between 9:15 pm and about 9:30 pm, 21 Evening Primrose blossoms opened in our garden. They are definitely unique flowers. The buds, when ready, pop
open around sunset. They unfold like little umbrellas. Sometimes in less than one
minute they will go from being tightly curled in their green sheaths to
opening fully as they appear above. The flowers must be
photographed by flash, because the next morning, as
soon as the sun hits the blossoms, they begin
to wilt.
This closeup gives you an idea of what the flowers actually look like after they have
opened. Some appear to be a little damp. That's because a few raindrops were
falling as I snapped the pic. Near the top of the photo are rather long
green spikes. These are buds, a few of which will open soon. Other,
smaller ones, will be ready in a week or so. It is hard to believe
that those spikes can open and unfold into such beautiful
yellow flowers in only a minute or two, once the
sun begins to set. At the back of the yellow
petals you can see the green sheaths
which folded out of the way just
moments before the
blossoms opened.

These photos were snapped about 9:20 p.m., July 4th. Here you can actually

see how rapidly the flowers open. On the right are three buds which are definitely
not ready to open. You can always tell which ones are
going to pop, because the sheaths start to split
some time after supper and reveal the yellow
petals they've been hiding. If you count the
number of buds which look like this one,
you can tell how many blossoms
will open at twilight.

Suddenly, around sunset, a portion of the sheath folds back toward the stem
and a petal starts to unwind. Here, the first petal is
beginning to emerge from its once tightly
cramped hiding place.

Just a few moments later, more petals are beginning to emerge as
the blossom definitely starts to open.

Often, within only a minute, the last of the sheath sections
pulls away and all the petals emerge.

In almost no time, there is a wide open flower. You will note
that the petals' edges are still slightly bent. These will
straighten out in a few minutes after the rather
moist blossom has a chance to dry. It
takes between 45 seconds to about
three minutes for a blossom to go
from the way it appears in the
3rd photo until the flower is
in full bloom. Watching
the performance is
much like viewing
a live, slow

Monday, February 27, 2006


Check the calendar and you'll note that spring is less than 4 weeks away.
The flowers are already starting to bloom here in Birmingham, Michigan. This photo of our SNOW DROPS was snapped on February 24, 2006. As of this writing, there's no snow for them to peek through.

Sunday, September 25, 2005


The STEWART J. CORT was the first thousand foot Great Lakes freighter
to be constructed. It was commissioned on April 1, 1972.
This photo shows the CORT downbound as it enters the Poe Lock
at Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan in August of 1972.

After passing through the Soo Locks, the CORT headed downstream, made a turn at Mission Point, and is shown here opposite Rotary Island on its way south toward Lake Huron via The Saint Marys River.

The bow and the stern of the CORT were built in Pascagoula, Mississippi for Bethleham Steel. The two sections were welded together, nicknamed "STUBBY", and then headed toward Erie, Pennsylvania by way of the Gulf of Mexico and the Saint Lawrence Seaway. It was a 2600 mile journey.

This newspaper photo shows that the forward cabin has already been welded to the
816 foot long cargo section of the vessel. The CORT has two variable pitch
propellors as well as two bow thrusters and two stern thrusters to
help it maneuver in relatively tight places. It boasts four
20 cylinder GM Diesel Engines which provide a total
horesepower rating of 14,400.

The CORT enters the Poe Lock on June 12, 2005. As you can see, after 33 years of service, it is still very much a working ship.

Monday, September 19, 2005


HOW MUCH IS IT WORTH? Posted by Hello

Here is a working antique kerosene lamp that we have in our home. Does anyone out on the Internet have an idea about what it might be worth on today's market?

Saturday, May 21, 2005


We were all set to enjoy spring in Michigan. On April 17th the flowers were blooming, and the temperature was summery.

Then it happened. A week later a big snow came and blotted out the garden and covered up our outdoor furniture.

Thank goodness May has arrived and we THINK that spring is finally here. Temperatures today were in the high 70's and the sun was shining brightly.

Only 7 days later, on April 24th, Spring Departed. What a shock. Posted by Hello

April 17, 2005--Spring Is Here Posted by Hello