There is an exhibit at the Renwick Gallery called Wonder that will be leaving soon. It is amazing. One of the pieces in the exhibit is Gabriel Dawe’s Plexus A1. It took my breath away. I just stood there staring at it wondering how to photograph it properly. Then I photographed it from every angle and every zoom and every focal point I could think of, and I still could not capture the beauty and, well, wonder of it. Below are a few photographs of mine just trying to capture it. I want to go back and stare it some more. It is just thread, yet it is so much more.
While I was photographing the ruins of the Elkins Roundhouse, I saw some rust on the big turnstile. Actually, I saw a lot of rust on everything, but the point is, I really started looking at the rust. It was beautiful. It was all variations of colors and textures. It was peeling paint cracking and folding and turning up to reveal other layers of paint, all being pushed away from the metal by the rust forming. It was rust forming on rust. It was Mother Nature laughing at the work of humans. It is one of those things where the average person would not give something the shortest glance, but I want to stop them and show them the beauty they are missing. Maybe you just have to be really detail oriented like me to see it. Maybe you have to be an engineer or scientist like me to appreciate rust. Or maybe you just have to be a crazy photographer like me to spend 15 minutes photographing rust.
Before boarding the Cheat Mountain Salamander train, I had some time to wander around the area where the Elkins Roundhouse used to be. Not much is left. Of the actual circle where the turntable was, all that is left is the pit with a fence around it. Alternating concrete wedges and grass lanes where the tracks were are the remains of the stalls. The only other remains are random metal parts scattered about.
I don’t know why I like photographing ruins, but I do. Part of what I like is imagining what used to be there.
To wrap up my trip to scenic railroads in West Virginia, my tour group visited Cass, where the Cass Scenic Railroad is based. Cass is now a state park, but it once was a company town, built to support the logging operations and mill. The company store and many of the company houses are still standing. All the company houses were built the same and are basic, yet today, they still look charming. Cass was famous for having wooden sidewalks on all its streets. The town still does have wooden sidewalks, but obviously they are not the original ones. The mill burnt down, but remnants of it still remain. A newer train shop is there also, and if you are lucky like me, you can get a tour.
A short video of the Cass Scenic Railroad rolling to the station and stopping to pick up water.
Continuing my West Virginia railroad adventure, at Old Spruce Junction, we got off the lovely Cheat Mountain Salamander train and got on the Cass Railroad. The Cass Railroad took us to the top of Bald Knob, which is the third highest point in West Virginia. It has an overlook that gives amazing views, including a view of the Green Bank Telescope, the world’s largest fully steerable radio telescope. The train is powered by a Shay Number 6 locomotive, which was built in 1945. The Shay Number 6 has most of its working parts on the outside, so it is rather fascinating to look at. It also requires a lot of oil, which then seems to end up on the tracks.
I went on a ride on the Cheat Mountain Salamander train this morning. Most of the route was along the Shavers Fork of the Cheat River. We stopped along the way at High Falls of the Cheat. The train was vintage, and the car we rode in was lovely and vintage with classic fabric seats.
I took a ride on the Durbin Rocket this afternoon. The Climax geared logging locomotive was built in 1910 and powers a vintage train, including an old postal car. The train is indeed a rocket, as it moves along at a whopping 8 miles per hour. At one point a butterfly passed us. The roundtrip route from Durbin, West Virginia, however is gorgeous as it follows the Greenbriar River in the Monongahela National Forest. The only problem is after seeing all the smoke the coal burning created, I feel the need to go plant an entire grove of trees.
As part of Doors Open Toronto, I visited the High Level Pumping Station. It is the oldest building in Toronto’s water supply system. The oldest part of the building dates back to 1906 with other additions added later until the final one in 1953. The building houses a vertical triple expansion steam engine from 1909 with a huge crank and flywheel, not to mention a lovely set of huge wrenches hanging next to it. The building also houses a steam-geared centrifugal pump. However neither of those are used anymore but instead have been replaced with nine electric motor-driven pumps to fulfill the pumping station’s objection of conveying drinking water to that area of Toronto.
As part of Doors Open Toronto, I toured the R.C. Harris Water Treatment Plant, which is not only the most beautiful water treatment plants I have ever visited, it is one of the beautiful buildings I have ever visited period. Colored stone and brass are everywhere. It was built in Arts Deco style, and in my opinion as an engineer, lays tribute to the importance of what the plant does, providing clean water to Toronto. It has two galleries with huge windows to allow viewing of the filtration chambers. In front of these windows are gorgeous stone tables with simple bronze control levers. The plant itself sits on hill overlooking Lake Ontario, where it gets its supply of water to clean.
As part of Doors Open Toronto, I toured the Portlands Energy Centre. They produce electricity by two processes. First, they combust the natural gas, which turns gas turbines. Second they capture the heat from the combustion and use it produce steam, which then turn steam turbines. The gas turbines and steam turbine produce the actual electricity. They use Lake Ontario water as cooling water, but here is what I find interesting. They need ultra pure water to use in the equipment for cooling, so they have a multi step process to clean the water, including filtration, disinfection, reverse osmosis, and ion exchange. When that cooling water is later released to Lake Ontario, after being properly cooled, it is actually cleaner then when they pumped it into the plant. I followed the maze of pipes wondering how they ever find the right one when they need to do maintenance, and I desperately a process flow diagram, so I could follow everything along. When standing in the room with several pumps for the cooling water, the room was actually vibrating from the pump motion. Then of course, I started to wonder about the structural engineering and the amount of motion the structure has to be able to bear. Things an engineer thinks about, even when on vacation.
I took lots of photos because I find a beauty in the maze of pipes. It’s probably the chemical engineer in me. Some were labeled, so were not. Almost all were silver. This must make for a fun time when you need to pipe a specific pipe. However, there is a simple elegance, and please excuse me, but beauty in the pipes going everywhere, one next to another and a top another, in an orderly fashion. It is a maze but a logical maze. No mess. Just order.