Balboa Park Plants
NY 240th Street Yard
Castillo San Cristobal
Milkweed Beauty
Man Swims the Gowanus Canal

Freshkills Landfill Turned Park

This past weekend, I got to check an item off my bucket list when I got a tour of Freshkills, the former landfill that is being turned into a park. This is probably not an item on most people’s bucket list, but I have heard so much about the landfill that when I found out New York City Parks Department gives tours, I jumped to sign up. The vast majority of the landfill has been fully capped and vegetated. The mounds are dotted by the landfill gas collection system with gas wells popping up from the high grass at regular intervals. The wildlife has already moved in. There were butterflies flying everywhere in the grass, and birds were everywhere. We also saw a family of deer. The wetlands are lovely and evidently filled with wildlife. Also, the view from the top of the mounds is spectacular. It will be a while before the area will be completely converted to a park and open to the public, but the transformation already is incredible. As an environmental engineer, I am incredibly happy to see it and proud of my profession that did it.

View of the last mound that has not been fully vegetated

View of the last mound that has not been fully vegetated

Amazing views with landfill gas well in foreground

Amazing views with landfill gas well in foreground

Landfill gas well

Landfill gas well

Bad photo of a family of deer

Bad photo of a family of deer

Osprey family

Osprey family

View of Manhattan

View of Manhattan

Landfill gas wells popping up in grass

Landfill gas wells popping up in grass

Wetlands in between mounds

Wetlands in between mounds

Coney Island Creek

I went on a hike along Coney Island Creek with Atlas Obscura and Underwater New York to see its virtual ship graveyard. The tour did not disappoint. There were a multitude of shipwrecks, including the famous yellow submarine. We walked along the shore during high tide. The shore was quite mucky, and I was thankful for my waterproof hiking boots, while trying not to think about what was in that muck. There was lots of algae and seaweed of some type. We spotted a few fishermen and men who appeared to be hunting for oysters or clams or sometime of shellfish (are they called fishermen also?). I have serious doubts the fish are safe to eat on a regular basis, simply based on the history of pollution in that area. I can only hope I am wrong for their sake.

Metal shipwreck

Metal shipwreck

Seaweed and barnacles on piers

Seaweed and barnacles on piers

Inside a metal shipwreck

Inside a metal shipwreck, Coney Island Parachute Jump tower can be seen in left background

Horseshoe crab remains

Horseshoe crab remains

Wooden shipwreck

Wooden shipwreck

Famous yellow submarine

Famous yellow submarine

Metal nails in a wooden shipwreck

Metal nails in a wooden shipwreck

Wooden shipwreck with large modern tanker ship in background

Wooden shipwreck with large modern tanker ship in background

Wooden ship remains

Wooden ship remains

Old pier

Old pier

Metal shipwreck that is now a giant planter

Metal shipwreck that is now a giant planter

Coney Island Overhaul Shop

This past weekend, I got to tour the MTA Coney Island Overhaul Shop with the NY Transit Museum. The complex in which it is located is the largest rapid transit yard in North America. They overhaul subway cars with a scheduled maintenance system and also scheduled maintenance that is too intensive for the maintenance shops. They do maintenance on all parts of the subway cars including the electric motor, air brakes, compressors, and wheels and axles.

Newly cut wheels in cars

Newly cut wheels in cars

Wheels and axles lined up

Wheels and axles lined up

Overhauled axles

Overhauled axles

Wheels lined up

Wheels lined up

More axles

More axles

I think this is part of generator

I think this is part of electric motor

I think this is part of generator

I think this is part of electric motor

Rail service car

Rail service car

Inspection train, aka the geometry train

Inspection train, aka the geometry train

Car in shop

Car in shop

Old trains in the yard

Old trains in the yard

Snowblower

Snowblower

Tracks leading to overhaul shop and maintenance shop

Tracks leading to overhaul shop and maintenance shop

Old inspection train

Old inspection train

Trains in the yard

Trains in the yard

Rainbow Wonder

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.IMG_8517 IMG_8522 IMG_8526 IMG_8528 IMG_8538 IMG_8542 IMG_8546 IMG_8554 IMG_8637 IMG_8643 IMG_8645 IMG_8662 IMG_8668IMG_8666

Rust

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. IMG_7772 IMG_7776 IMG_7779 IMG_7781 IMG_7783 IMG_7789 IMG_7806 IMG_7818 IMG_7828

Elkins Roundhouse

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.

Former roundhouse with alternating concrete and grass in foreground

Former roundhouse with alternating concrete and grass in foreground

Former roundhouse turnstile pit

Former roundhouse turnstile pit

Metal ruins

Metal ruins

Metal ruins

Metal ruins

Metal ruins

Metal ruins

Former roundhouse with end railing

Former roundhouse with end railing

Metal ruins

Metal ruins

Metal ruins

Metal ruins

Curved metal I-beams

Curved metal I-beams

Alternating concrete and grass of roundhouse with rail bridge truss in background

Alternating concrete and grass of roundhouse with rail bridge truss in background. I think the large metal structure in foreground used to be a turntable, but based on its label, it was not the original one.

Cass

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.

Cats company houses

Cass company houses

Cass jail in the basement of the building that has the mayor's office and council chambers on the top floor. [There is a modern day political joke in there.]

Cass jail in the basement of the building that has the mayor’s office and council chambers on the top floor. [There is a modern day political joke in there.]

The nicest house in Cass, originally built for the company owners.

The nicest house in Cass, originally built for the company owners.

Cass Company Store

Cass Company Store

The ovens of the former mill. In the third oven, stacks of wood are present. The mill was closed so suddenly that the wood was left still in the over.

The ovens of the former mill. In the third oven, stacks of wood are present. The mill was closed so suddenly that the wood was left still in the oven.

The ovens of the former mill.

The ovens of the former mill.

Part of the former mill

Part of the former mill

Mechanical rolling parts of the former mill. A metal saw used to cut the wood is in there.

Mechanical rolling parts of the former mill. A metal saw used to cut the wood is in there.

Part of the former mill

Part of the former mill

Coal pile to supply the Cass Scenic Railroad train

Coal pile to supply the Cass Scenic Railroad train

Inside the Cass shop

Inside the Cass shop

Inside the Cass shop with many machines to make replacement parts that can no longer be bought

Inside the Cass shop with many machines to make replacement parts that can no longer be bought

A short video of the Cass Scenic Railroad rolling to the station and stopping to pick up water.

Cass Railroad

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.

Transferring from the Cheat Mountain Salamander train to the Cass train

Transferring from the Cheat Mountain Salamander train to the Cass train

Shay Number 6

Shay Number 6

Shay Number 6 engine

Shay Number 6 engine

Water stop for the steam engine

Water stop for the steam engine

Red spruce

Red spruce

Along the Cass Railroad

Along the Cass Railroad

View of locomotive on a curve

View of locomotive on a curve

Along the Cass Railroad

Along the Cass Railroad

Along the Cass Railroad

Along the Cass Railroad

Stream along the Cass Railroad

Stream along the Cass Railroad

View from Bald Knob

View from Bald Knob

View from Bald Knob

View from Bald Knob

View from Bald Knob of Green Bank Telescope

View from Bald Knob of Green Bank Telescope

Cheat Mountain Salamander Train

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.

Wetlands

Wetlands

Shaver Fork of Cheat River

Shavers Fork of Cheat River

High Falls of the Cheat

High Falls of the Cheat

Shaver Fork of Cheat River, taken at High Falls

Shavers Fork of Cheat River, taken at High Falls

Shaver Fork of Cheat River

Shavers Fork of Cheat River, end of train can be seen on right

Shaver Fork of Cheat River

Shavers Fork of Cheat River

Shaver Fork of Cheat River

Shavers Fork of Cheat River

Shaver Fork of Cheat River

Shavers Fork of Cheat River, in background are two fishermen and their dog

Shaver Fork of Cheat River

Shavers Fork of Cheat River

Wetlands

Wetlands

Cheat Mountain Salamander locomotive

Cheat Mountain Salamander locomotive

Durbin Rocket

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.

The locomotive

The locomotive

A look inside the locomotive

A look inside the locomotive

Greenbriar River

Greenbriar River

An old telegraph pole

An old telegraph pole

Greenbriar River

Greenbriar River

Locomotive and coal supply car

Locomotive and coal supply car

Coal fired steam engine blowing smoke

Coal fired steam engine blowing smoke

Irises by the Greenbriar River

Irises by the Greenbriar River

Greenbriar River

Greenbriar River

Durbin Rocket traveling by a field

Durbin Rocket traveling by a field

Refilling the locomotive with water on the return trip

Refilling the locomotive with water on the return trip

Stream where train stops to refill water for engine

Stream where train stops to refill water for engine

Greenbriar River

Greenbriar River