Wednesday, October 18, 2017

On the road (yet again) Part 2

Second day was all business…thus little can be said about it, other than “nearly everyone
knew me.”

There was no confusion as to my presentation, even by those who didn’t.  My wife wasn’t 
there to make me do it, but I pulled my hair back into a ponytail…ugh.  This time, it really
seemed to make a difference…women’s jeans, top, pink nails and booties did nothing to
change the “Sir” rut I was in.  Yes, it appears the ponytail thing (even tied higher-than-
normal-for-guys) tips my presentation into “male” mode.   Well, most of the time.  At a
wedding we attended a few weeks ago,even the ponytail with a men's sportcoat didn’t stop servers
from addressing me as a female.

On the third day…I was at last back in girl mode.  This was to be an exciting day…    

Checking out of the motel as a girl elicited no gender specific forms of address.   But the
same female clerk (who didn’t see me disguised as a boy the day before) seemed much more   
friendly and talkative.

Time for some more sightseeing before heading east:  On the map, I noticed that in the
nearby town of Duncansville,  there was a park named Chimney Rock Park.   The rain was
gone and it was just cloudy, so I decided to explore a bit…   Found it, and the rock formations
didn’t look like chimneys to me, but very pretty nonetheless.  What made it special was the
view.  You drive up a hill to get there, and a short trail takes you to an overlook above the town. 
Very pretty.  And in this case, it was good that there were clouds…the sun might have been
an issue as far as pictures go.

Then it was off to the town of Mt. Union, PA – northern terminus of the narrow gauge
East Broad Top Railroad, coal hauler from the Broad Top coal fields.  The railroad died
in the mid 50’s, and got stuck in a time warp – it still looks just the same as it did when the
workers went home that fateful night the railroad died (April 14, 1956) – and never came
back.   Instead of scrapping it lock, stock and barrel, the new owner allowed it to sit in

The EBT was reincarnated in the 1961 season, as a tourist hauler by its new owner, using
a 5 mile section of the railroad.  But once again the EBT breathed its last - at the end of
the 2011 season.  And now, the railroad sits once again, rusting in the rain, still stuck in
its time warp.

Will there be a "third time's the charm?"  Or will it be scrapped?  Only time will tell.

In Mt. Union, much of the track was dual gauge – for regular and narrow gauge equipment.  
Hence the following picture of tracks still embedded in US Route 522: I understand that
there is still a string of EBT hoppers hiding in the woods (a skirt and nylons weren't quite
the appropriate attire for tromping around n the brush and trees), but at least some of the
dual gauge track is currently being used for standard gauge freight car storage.

And then I drove on to Orbisonia, the home base for the little railroad, taking pictures of 
remaining track and bridges, as a record of how they look today.   Some infrastructure looked
better than I thought it would, others much, much worse.   Time has not been kind to the

The Rockhill Trolley Museum (across the parking lot) was having its annual pumpkin patch
specials.  Thus the EBT parking lots were full.  Many attendees were doing just as I was:
walking around the EBT property to check it out.   And it was legal to do, as EBT owners 
had people on the scene, to be sure everyone was "just looking or taking pictures."  

In the above picture, I’m standing in front of the Orbisonia roundhouse and turntable. 
Inside are several narrow gauge steam engines, which are no longer in operation.   None
of the buildings were open for inspection, but the weeds were cut, thus making it easy to
walk around the facility to take pictures.   One of the people in charge (sixtysomething male)
told me what the buildings were.    

And the man who offered to help by taking the above picture was very helpful.

Subsequently I walked across the parking lot to the Trolley Museum.  My ticket was good for
all day (which didn’t matter, as my time there was limited).  But I was supposed to be able to
get a tour of the two carbarns.   I inquired about such a tour to the group of conductors sitting
there, and they said they could do that…but since the day was kid-oriented it was only on
an as-needed basis.  

One of the conductors commented that women alone don’t often ask to take the tour.  "You 
must be a trolley fan."  "My mother and I used to ride the PCC cars on the 42/38 line in 
Pittsburgh."  So, the fiftysomething conductor said:  “Come this way,  Ma’am.”   When
we reached the rope across the garage doorway, he said:  “Here, I’ll hold the rope down to
make it easier for you to step across.”   And as I did, he took my left hand -  “Let me
steady you, Ma’am.”  Nice!

Once over the rope barricade,  my personalized tour continued.  As I climbed into a couple of
trolleys without step boxes, he took my hand again both times to steady me as I stepped on
and off thecar.  (Men sure can be handy to have around!)   And as for today, with all due
respect to Shania Twain,  “Man,  I feel like a woman!”   I commented that if I'd realized I’d
be climbing on rail equipment today, I wouldn’t have worn a skirt.  We both got a chuckle
out of that...he reassured me that “You aren’t the first woman to do this in a skirt, and you
won’t be the last one, dear.”

Then when we finished, he offered to take my picture next to one of the trolleys…above.

I got in line with the group getting on the next trolley ride.  It was fun, and most of the ladies 
exchanged smiles with me.   We all commented about the fiddler playing at the trolley stop to 
entertain the kids, and they way the kids received it.  Once on board, a young mom’s 2 month
old baby was very animated, and was smiling and cooing at both grandparents and me.  I
guess the practice with my granddaughter has paid off…

This trolley had the wicker upholstery that, back in the day, was the scourge of nylons-wearing 
women.  You can see in the picture below how close the wicker was to my knees (and no
room to cross my legs, but fortunately my skirt protected the back of my legs.    Years ago,
many girls had their stockings ruined by snagging on the wicker.   I was very lucky – mine
survived intact!  (But I sure was careful to not move around in my seat!)

Don't snag those pantyhose!

Next stop was to photograph more relics of the EBT’s past.    Including site of the station and
town hotel in Saltillo, the freight house on Railroad Street in Three Springs (below)...

and Mandy in front of the former EBT station in Robertsdale:

As an added bonus, by walking through some uncut grass, I located an unconventional
configuration for the wye (which crosses a stream) behind the Post Office in Robertsdale:

There was reportedly a coal mining museum in Robertsdale’s old theatre building, which was 
supposed to be open.  I drove by the theatre, and two heavyset fortysomething men were out
front, probably enjoying a cigarette.  They watched me as I inched slowly by in the car (perhaps
their day's entertainment?), then they went inside.  I parked and hesitatingly approached the
front door.  Finding no mention of a museum on the fliers on the doors, and with the door
unlocked,  I decided to go on in…not knowing quite what to expect.

Both men were in the main part of the theatre, past the second set of doors.  They stared at me
as I came through the doors.  So I smiled, said hi, and inquired about the museum.  Turns out
the museum had moved, and the old-time theatre is now a church.   OooooKay....  The silent
one appeared to be eyeing me, from my feet to my hair, and back down.   The one who was
talking, couldn’t keep his eyes off my legs.  (I’ll take that as the supreme compliment -
thanks to him!)  

Through the ages, guys always have checked out gals, but this little lesson emphatically taught
me precisely how uncomfortable it can make some girls feel.   The bright side is - the pair were
basically decent men.  I could have encountered serious issues that day.  I won't kid you...
I really was happy to say "so long", and make my exit.   

However, as info - it's not the first time that I've "barged into" an old theatre - the notable
difference is that I was presenting as androgynous that day - and more importantly, my wife 
was with me.  And yes, before you ask, the guy who came to "greet" us in the inside hallway
identified us two women.  (Most importantly, we got a tour of the theatre.)  But there was 
safety in numbers.   (Moral of story for theatre owners - keep those doors locked if you don't 
want sightseers!)

Finally, I headed for the barn… it had been one long, interesting, rewarding - and fun - day.

When I checked into the motel, their thirtysomething male clerk addressed me as female.  A 
perfect way to end a wonderful day!

More later...



  1. Very impressive. You were able to get to so many different places and do so many different things while presenting as Mandy. The denim skirt with hose and a top adorned with basic everyday jewelry really seems to have done the trick. At all points you were treated as a lady since everyone knows that only women wear skirts and hose.
    How did things go with your voice. I think that most people would expect a large somewhat overweight woman of our age to have been a former smoker and have some version of smoker's voice.

    I look forward to your continuing saga...most particularly details of places that you may have stopped along the way for basic relief and more importantly for food and incidental shopping.


    1. I would have liked to be wearing my dress that day, but I brought the three outfits to check out the public's reception. (You'll see the third outfit soon.)

      Like you, I think the skirt and top went over the best with the public. So that may become my preferred way to go in future solo travel. I just have to be sooooo careful when sitting keep my legs together, or at least ankles crossed and legs off to the side. That's tough. So if I'm going to be doing a lot of sitting, the dress will have to do. I guess you can call it "situational dressing."

      As for voice...I don't have time or funds for voice training. I can raise the pitch of my voice a bit and talk softly for short "chance encounters" like at a cash register or in the aisle at a store. That's good, because short little discussions are a woman thing, and can help dispel any notion that "she's just a guy in a dress."

      If I were in a situation where a long conversation (or talking loudly) would be required, things fall apart rapidly...I can't maintain it for more than a minute or two. So I have to use my "smoker's voice" as you so aptly put it. Fortunately I rarely have to go there, though with the conductor during the tour, I started with my "smoker's voice" so I didn't have to change. Short discussions with the ladies, and cooing over the baby did not require it. And that worked OK.

      About the restroom thing: on this trip...dehydration the day before and day of the trip helps a lot. Actually, I avoided liquids for the whole trip. :-( Not recommended from a medical standpoint, but...

      When I absolutely need to go, I typically avoid highway rest stops unless I'm wearing shorts or stirrup pants, and not wearing makeup or jewelry. Those don't seem to cause an issue in the men's room, even though they're women's clothes.

      If I'm femme, and see a family or unisex rest room, I invariably use that. A lot of NY State rest stops had them in our travels, and a few in MD and OH.

      However, the best place to "go" is your typical convenience store or small gas station...oh yes, and Sonic (and some other) drive-in fast food restaurants. They mostly have one-holers, so I can use the women's room without massive issue.

      I've only been in the situation twice, where I "had no choice but to use a multi-stall women's room" and was very fortunate that nobody else was there. I did what I went in to do, did it "properly" and got out as quickly as possible. But I try to avoid them as much as possible.

      The absolute worst-case scenario would be for a homophobic or overly-protective father to be waiting for his daughter to come out of the ladies' restroom, and "clock" a less than "absolutely-passable" TG who was in there at the same time. That's a recipe for assault, arrest, or much worse. I simply won't use women's rooms at national or amusement parks and the like. No need to flirt with disaster...and end up on the front page of USA Today!

      For those who still have concerns about the restroom issue...don't laugh...but there is always the dependable option: "Depends!" :-)

      Whatever works for you is the best way to "go"...