Sunday, August 27, 2017

Some fun...both trains, and planes...

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Lancaster, PA area for some rail-and-aviation-fanning.   The Strasburg Railroad is a perennial favorite, as is the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania.  And as an extra added attraction, an operating Ford Tri-motor aircraft was scheduled to be visiting a nearby airport.  I seldom miss a chance to visit Lancaster - whenever the opportunity arises.  And I heard it calling my name...

Before anyone asks, on this trip Mandy did not have any opportunity to climb out of the suitcase, even though I had packed some of her clothes.  I went with my everyday feminine appearance,  wearing shorts, women's tunic top and flats, but no skirt or dress.  I carried my purse, had my long hair flowing in the breeze and my pink acrylic nails glowing in the I wore my necklace and bracelet,  makeup with lipstick, and perfume.  As you can see, I was fairly androgynous, and perhaps a massive enigma for the locals.

Remember, that area is very religious, and as I understand it, the Amish influence means strict adherence to the male/female binary.  Boys are boys and girls are girls. Period. Women/girls raise the kids, and men/boys work the fields.  None of this "Boys are Girls in the wrong body" or gender dysphoria stuff.  

I didn't hear "Ma'am" very often.  That was disappointing.  But on the other hand, I didn't hear "Sir" at all.  Ninety-five percent of the time, there were no hints of any gender recognition.  Yes, I did notice a few of the local kids in Amish garb doing double-takes.  I expected that, and would love to hear the questions their parents got (as well as their probably-brutally-religious-inspired answers.)   I just wonder (and will never know) if wearing a dress would have improved or decreased my odds of being recognized for what I am?

Back to the trip...   Naturally, I took the "route less traveled" going north.  As such, I went through some agricultural areas, including many farms owned and operated by the Amish (or Pennsylvania Dutch) folks.  They do not drive cars, and travel in one-or-two-horsepower buggies.  (Yep, real horses...not gasoline-powered engines.)  This type of travel helps tremendously in the fight against pollution from burning fossil fuels...   Of course,  it also results in a very predictable type of pollution, an accumulation of which is left behind with each buggy's you can see below.

Eeeeeeewwwwwwww....especially in road spray from rainstorms...

This type of transportation is much simpler to maintain than our current automobiles, with their fancy tecnological features and internal combustion engines.   The only "blue tooth" you might find on these early types of conveyances, might be a bluish cast on the tooth/teeth of one of the horses after they eat blueberries.  Some buggies even seem to have moved into the age of technology, with battery-operated lights on the front and back. and most of them have natural types of air top, sides or backs.    (Like the old cars from the 1950's which had what we called "2-60 air conditioning".  Roll down 2 windows and do 60 mph.)

Buggy owners can do most maintenance themselves.  But this does not bode well for the auto mechanics of the area.  So what can they do to make up for lost business?  One enterprising individual in Nickel Mines, PA opened a "coach shop."   When a farmer's buggy finally needs professional help, or after a wreck, he can take it to the coach shop....

As I drove past, I noticed a number of buggies in the coach shop's yard, hidden by shrubbery.  Couldn't get a picture... and wasn't ready to go in and ask if I could take one.   :-(

A bit about Nickel Mines, PA:   Per Wikipedia, it's named after the mines where millerite (a sulfide) ore (a form of unrefined nickel) was mined in the mid-1800's.  The first mining company sold its interests to Joseph Wharton (founder of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania) in 1862. And he refined the ore to retrieve the nickel, in Camden NJ.   Ultimately, between 1862 and 1893 they extracted 4.5 million pounds of nickel from the mines, and Wharton was influential in persuading the US Mint to issue the first five-cent nickel coins in 1866, using the nickel from his mines.

The last mines closed in 1893 because of competition from new nickel mines in Canada., and there are no traces of mining left, except for a few waste piles. The area is now completely agricultural.  As of 2016 there are 16 households in town, and the area has a high percentage of Amish residents.

The above is central downtown Nickel Mines.   There is a crossroads between the gray stone house and the white house in the distance.  No stop light, of course.  Just a stop sign, with a rather ignorant driver of a modern "horseless carriage" who apparently wasn't happy with me sightseeing in the area.  It appeared as though he was trying to ram me as I pulled through the intersection.  A motion of my foot, a squeal from my tires, and I was clear of him.  He roared off into the distance.  Obviously not an offended Amishman...they don't drive cars.

All the "action" made me hungry, so I headed into Strasburg, PA for lunch.  It's a lovely old town, founded in 1733, and the architecture is very "period."  I ate in an old storefront, now an ice cream store and deli. 

Though the above photo doesn't show it (due to a temporary lull in traffic), there were a fair number of tourists in town, doing what I was doing...getting lunch.  And most of them were elderly....local schools may have been back in session, based on the number of cars in school parking lots.

After lunch I did a bit of train-spotting.  It's easy, as the line parallels the main road, with intersections every so often.  And I wasn't alone...there were other railfans out and about.   On such a beautiful day,  why not? 

I'll let the pictures speak for themselves....

Stay tuned for part 2...



  1. When the kids were kids we took them to Amish country on several occasions. As a family we did the ride on the Strasburg Railroad. It was fun as it chugged its way through the cornfields. I remember it was hot and the only cooling we had was opening the windows to try to catch a breeze.
    We have ridden that train and also the New Hope to Ivyland train out of New Hope Pa.

    1. They have a really pretty good operation there. Though I agree, an air conditioned coach or two would be nice.

      Too bad the East Broad Top has passed away. That has the possibility of being the Cumbres & Toltec of the east. If someone puts some $$ into it before it's too late. I plan to visit the remains sometime in October...