The Newtown Pentacle

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defined apprehensions

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Twirling, ever twirling.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

The affability of recent climate has seen me visiting old haunts and novel locale alike in recent weeks, which might be described as having been a somewhat pleasurable set of experiences. That would mean, of course, that your humble narrator was actually capable of experiencing a sensation called “pleasure.” A series of dull events punctuated by occasional gastro-intestinal distress, all sorts of bacterial and viral infections, and the oft bizarre actions of others is the way one such as myself describes “Life.”

One bright spark in the otherwise gathering clouds of existential horror which plague me are unexpected moments of serendipity.

A train passing by can excite one endlessly, and reminds that “you have to appreciate the little things.”

In my case, it’s big things that go “thruuummmm thruuuuuuummmm thruuummmm” or “claaacckkclaaacckkclaaacckk” as they pass by, but I’m all ‘effed up.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Good days are ones where I’m not walking to go anyplace in particular. Days when I leave the house and decide only which compass point to walk toward. For some reason, its not east that often, as that’s usually looking into the light. Instinct always points my path towards water, no matter where I am. It was kind of interesting finding myself in Queens Plaza, which I used to inhabit back in 2009 and 2010 during the Queensboro Bridge Centennial period but which I mainly cross through these days on my way to someplace in Brooklyn or Hunters Point.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Luckily, Our Lady of the Pentacle had agreed to visit the Brooklyn Grange roof top farm here in Astoria with a friend of ours who subscribes to their CSA program and I tagged along. While they picked up some quality produce, I got busy with the camera. Serendipity at work, when I woke up that morning, seeing this vista overlooking the Sunnyside Yards and the Shining City of Manhattan was not on the menu.

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better shelter

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Titus, Paulo, and Ronald in today’s post.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

I’ve been hunting around in my archives a bit lately, looking for shots that might have gotten buried. I’m pretty prolific, it would seem, and when you add up all the shots produced just for Newtown Pentacle and Working Harbor Committee – the numbers approach staggering. Not bragging or anything, 50% or more are dross crap, just stating that there are so many shots that some cool ones get buried and forgotten.

Just like the Roman Saint, Titus, and today’s his feast day.

from wikipedia

Titus was an early Christian leader, a companion and disciple of Paul the Apostle, mentioned in several of the Pauline epistles. He is believed to be a gentile converted by Paul to Christianity and, according to tradition, was consecrated by him as Bishop of the Island of Crete. Titus brought a fundraising letter from Paul to Corinth, to collect for the poor in Jerusalem. Later, on Crete, Titus appointed presbyters in every city and remained there into his old age, dying in the city of Candia (modern Heraklion).

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Some shots didn’t fit into a particular narrative, and got set aside for future usage. Some were difficult to explain, or required so detailed a set of prerequisite explanations that it was difficult to fit them into a post.

Sort of like the Japanese Saint, Paulo Miki, who is also remembered on February 6th.

from wikipedia

Paulo Miki was born into a wealthy Japanese family. He was educated by the Jesuits in Azuchi and Takatsuki. He joined the Society of Jesus and became a well known and successful preacher – gaining numerous converts to Catholicism. The Japanese daimyo, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, fearful of the Jesuit’s influence and intentions began persecuting Catholics. Miki was jailed, along with others. He and his fellow Catholics were forced to march 600 miles (966 kilometers) from Kyoto to Nagasaki; all the while singing the Te Deum. On arriving in Nagasaki, the city with the largest Catholic population in Japan, Miki was crucified on February 5, 1597. He preached his last sermon from the cross, and it is maintained that he forgave his executioners, stating that he himself was Japanese.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Others convey subject matter with which one does not want to delve too deeply into, as it leads directly into a complicated minefield of political issues. Such reportage is the purview of others, as it would require listening to and interacting with the humans, something which both repels and terrifies one such as myself. The humans are unpredictable, and engage in bizarre behavior.

Such as commemorating a feast day for the American Saint, Ronald.

from wikipedia

Ronald Reagan Day is a day of recognition that occurs every February 6, starting in 2011, in the state of California for Ronald Reagan, who was that state’s Governor from 1967–1975 and President of the United States from 1981–1989.

Ronald Reagan Day has also been declared a state holiday in Wisconsin. For the 100th anniversary of Reagan’s birthday in 2011, governors in 21 states issued proclamations designating February 6 Ronald Reagan Day.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

February 6, 2014 at 1:13 pm

rusty impediments

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Your motive is loco, man.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

So few places to go, no one to see. The gray frigidity has me down, lords and ladies, and it is not impossible that over the last few weeks, I’ve watched everything on Netflix- including a couple of episodes of “Power Rangers Jungle Fury.” Playing with the cords on my hoodie, counting the floor tiles, bored. That’s me. Cabin Fever, I think they call it.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Been reading lots of good stuff, including a marathon exploration of the dissimilar topics of leprosy and the genetic consequences of multi generational incest- both of which led to the Hapsburgs. None of this relates one little bit to the history of Newtown Creek nor Queens, which actually has been my intention. Little projects like mine tend to drag you down a long drill hole, and you become so focused that you lose sight of the bigger picture… which somehow includes leprosy and incest.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Its cheerier reading than I normally do during this time of year, when my google searches have historically included “stages of putrefaction of cadaver” and “common practices of yeast distillation in 19th century america.” Hey, a guy gets curious about things. Its better to know something, well… some things… than to remain willfully ignorant about unpleasantries.

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freely generating

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If you see something, photograph it and say something.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Despite the overt messaging offered by security professionals and municipal Police officials concerning the presence of literally millions of desert born sappers hidden alongside the heaving shorelines of a lake called Freedom, there do seem to be quite a few holes in the fence lines of our rail yards. Probably, this is because the security apparatus of these institutions need to strike different nerves to acquire their sources of funds, rather than to rankle the ire of the common proletarians and politicians alike.

Luckily, this homeland insecurity allows one such as myself opportunity to observe some often esoteric kit which the railroad people employ for “maintenance of way.”

from wikipedia

A railroad crane, (US: crane car or wrecker; UK: breakdown crane) is a type of crane used on a railroad for one of three primary uses: freight handling in goods yards, permanent way (PW) maintenance, and accident recovery work. Although the design differs according to the type of work, the basic configuration is similar in all cases: a rotating crane body is mounted on a sturdy chassis fitted with flanged wheels. The body supports the jib (UK; US: boom) and provides all the lifting and operating mechanisms; on larger cranes, an operator’s cabin is usually provided. The chassis is fitted with buffing and coupling gear to allow the crane to be moved by a locomotive, although many are also self-propelled to allow limited movement about a work site.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s a flat bed car coupled to a self propelled rail crane, called a Burro, you’re looking at there. What your humble narrator doesn’t know about the rails is enormous and the scope of my ignorance on the subject is actually breathtaking, so if i misname something or am just wrong on this subject- please instruct and correct via the comments section.

Corrections and additions are always welcome at this, your Newtown Pentacle.

from rootsofmotivepower.org

Burro cranes (some were outfitted with shovels, as the one at Roots) were designed to be self-sufficient maintenance-of-way tools. As such, they were self-powered, and could propel not only themselves, but could take along with them a flat car, gondola, dump car or other equipment needed for their work. Therefore, they could take with them rail, ballast, timbers or any other materials needed for track repair or construction.

These utilitarian rail vehicles have been built by several manufacturers, including Cullen-Friestedt, Federal Sign & Signal, and now by the Badger Equipment Company. But they have always retained the name Burro, and if you say Burro to a railroader, he knows that you’re not referring to the four-legged animal.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Extensive construction and demolition work has been underway at Sunnyside Yards in anticipation of the East Side Access project for several years now, but these fellows with their Burro were MOW workers.

from maintenanceofway.com

Railroad Maintenance-of-Way (MOW) machinery and its design and utilization, is the equipment used by railroads to lay, clear, and maintain railroad track infrastructure and is of paramount importance in keeping the world’s railroads running dependably, safely and profitably. Railroads are a key component of the world economy. Corn, beans and other foods and feeds, coal, oil, manufactured goods, building materials, and virtually everything else that one can name, moves by rail. The volume of goods transported by the railroads is increasing dramatically. Existing railroad track must carry more and heavier traffic. Railroad bridges must be repaired and maintained. Fences, walls, gates, area lighting and other security structures are of increasing importance. Increased traffic and speeds adds to demand on signals. Railroad and railway Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization strategies play a key role in keeping all rail traffic running safely and on time. Railroad Maintenance-of-Way equipment and utilization efficiency planning make it possible for railroads to upgrade and maintain track and rights of way.

Want to see something cool? Upcoming Walking Tours

Modern Corridor- Saturday, July 13, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, August 10, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

13 Steps around Dutch Kills- Saturday, August 17, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

augmented party

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Today’s post shows you how to wash a dirty locomotive.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Hanging about and walking around Queens with a friend one afternoon, our path carried us up Skillman Avenue and past the gargantuan Sunnyside Yards. Luckily, something I’ve been trying to catch as it happens began to happen when Amtrak 934 sauntered into view.

from wikipedia

The Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) completed construction of the yard in 1910. At that time Sunnyside was the largest coach yard in the world, occupying 192 acres (0.78 km2) and containing 25.7 mi (41.4 km) of track. The yard served as the main train storage and service point for PRR trains serving New York City. It is connected to Pennsylvania Station in Midtown Manhattan by the East River Tunnels. The Sunnyside North Yard initially had 45 tracks with a capacity of 526 cars. The South Yard had 45 tracks with a 552 car capacity.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

It seems that there is an entire industrial sector for whom the manufacture and maintenance of “train washes” is a focal point. It also seems to be the case that having a shiny clean locomotive pays a dividend in terms of aerodynamic drag and that the cleaner your train is, the more efficiently it runs.

from wikipedia

The AEM-7 is a twin-cab B-B electric locomotive that is used in the United States on the Northeast Corridor between Washington DC and Boston and the Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Harrisburg in Pennsylvania. They were built by Electro-Motive Division from 1978 to 1988. In the Boston Mechanical Department of Amtrak they are known as “Meatballs” and in the Washington Mechanical Department they are known as ASEAs since some of their major parts and components were designed in Sweden by ASEA (Allmänna Svenska Elektriska Aktiebolaget; translation: General Swedish Electrical Inc), which merged with Brown Boveri in 1988 forming ABB. They are also referred to as “toasters” by railfans, owing to their boxy appearance.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

One is informed by railfans that once upon a time, this was a tedious task accomplished by a sizable crew of laborers, who used pole mounted brushes to clean away the grime. The “modern” system (the unit pictured is somewhat archaic by 2013 standards) is far more efficient and highly automated.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Fundamentally, its the same thing that happens when you wash your car, except for scale. The train rolls past water jets and a system of rotary brushes which chip away the patina of dead insects and grime which the train picks up during normal operation.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

This train wash is nothing new, of course, and has been on my radar for awhile. Were my methodology the same that is employed by most, I would have just lingered around this spot until I got my shots, but that’s not how your humble narrator rolls.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Instead, if its not happening while I’m passing by, it might not have happened at all for all I care. You can’t force Queens into revealing herself to you, instead, you must trust in serendipity and that she will position you in the right place and at the right time.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours-

The Poison Cauldron- Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull- Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley- Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

decreasing wind

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Foaming, your humble narrator was scuttling his way to Brooklyn recently when sonic evidence of certain titanic exertions, whose only source could be a locomotive engine at work, penetrated through my ever present head phones.

On this particular afternoon, nearby the so called “Bliss Tower” along those tracks of the Long Island Railroad which snake along beneath the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge in a nameless section of Queens, once known as Blissville but which I describe as DUGABO, it was a NY and Atlantic freight operation which was raising the ruckus.

from anacostia.com

New York & Atlantic Railway began operation in May 1997 of the privatized concession to operate freight trains on the lines owned by Long Island Rail Road. The railway serves a diverse customer base and shares track with the densest passenger system in the United States.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

My headphones were not playing Norwegian Black Metal, nor late 80’s NYC Hardcore. They were not transmitting one of my many H.P. Lovecraft audio books, the soundtrack from the first Omen movie, or any of my usual playlists of childish anthems and guitar driven ballads.

Instead, the audio files I was enthralled by were podcasts, specifically Dan Carlin’s “Wrath of the Khans” series, which is presented episodically at his Hardcore History show.

If you’re not listening to Dan, you’re missing out.

from wikipedia

There is an urban legend that Julius Caesar specified a legal width for chariots at the width of standard gauge, causing road ruts at that width, so all later wagons had to have the same width or else risk having one set of wheels suddenly fall into one deep rut but not the other.

In fact, the origins of the standard gauge considerably pre-date the Roman Empire, and may even pre-date the invention of the wheel. The width of prehistoric vehicles was determined by a number of interacting factors which gave rise to a fairly standard vehicle width of a little under 2 metres (6.6 ft). These factors have changed little over the millennia, and are still reflected in today’s motor vehicles. Road rutting was common in early roads, even with stone pavements. The initial impetus for the ruts probably came from the grooves made by sleds and slide cars dragged over the surfaces of ancient trackways. Since early carts had no steering and no brakes, negotiating hills and curves was dangerous, and cutting ruts into the stone helped them negotiate the hazardous parts of the roads.

Neolithic wheeled carts found in Europe had gauges varying from 130 to 175 centimetres (4 ft 3 in to 5 ft 9 in). By the Bronze age, wheel gauges appeared to have stabilized between 140 to 145 centimetres (4 ft 7 in to 4 ft 9 in) which was attributed to a tradition in ancient technology which was perpetuated throughout European history. The ancient Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians and Greeks constructed roads with artificial wheelruts cut in rock spaced the wheelspan of an ordinary carriage. Such ancient stone rutways connected major cities with sacred sites, such as Athens to Eleusis, Sparta to Ayklia, or Elis to Olympia. The gauge of these stone grooves was 138 to 144 centimetres (4 ft 6 in to 4 ft 9 in). The largest number of preserved stone trackways, over 150, are found on Malta.

Some of these ancient stone rutways were very ambitious. Around 600 BC the citizens of ancient Corinth constructed the Diolkos, which some consider the world’s first railway, a granite road with grooved tracks along which large wooden flatbed cars carrying ships and their cargo were pulled by slaves or draft animals. The space between the grooved tracks in the granite was a consistent 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in).

The Roman Empire actually made less use of stone trackways than the prior Greek civilization because the Roman roads were much better than those of previous civilizations. However, there is evidence that the Romans used a more or less consistent wheel gauge adopted from the Greeks throughout Europe, and brought it to England with the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43. After the Roman departure from Britain, this more-or-less standard gauge continued in use, so the wheel gauge of animal drawn vehicles in 19th century Britain was 1.4 to 1.5 metres (4 ft 7 in to 4 ft 10 in). In 1814 George Stephenson copied the gauge of British coal wagons in his area (about 1.42 metres (4 ft 8 in)) for his new locomotive, and for technical reasons widened it slightly to achieve the modern railway standard gauge of 1.435 metres (4 ft 8.5 in).

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Normally, the media I consume is not something I think people would be interested in, at least that’s been my experience in real life. A recent conversation with Kevin Walsh of Forgotten-NY fame, wherein that intrepid explorer queried me about where to find some of these Lovecraft audio files which are so often mentioned, forced me to reconsider that maxim. Accordingly, since its a holiday weekend and you might have some free time, here you go.

The Atlanta Radio Theater Company is great. The website… their stuff is available as mp3’s at itunes and others, so go hunt them down.

The astounding H.P. Lovecraft Historical Society.

ARTC made a better Dunwich, by my taste, but HPLHS did both “Mountains of Madness” and “Shadow Out of TIme” better and they made a freaking “Call of Cthulhu” silent movie as well as the unbelievably great “Whisperer in Darkness” film. Dark Adventure Radio Theatre just rocks.

Huge talents, a podcast performed by two of its associates is HPPodcraft.com.

Incidentally, just like the LIRR Engine 102 featured in yesterday’s post, today’s NY&A engine is an EMD SW1001.

from wikipedia

The EMD SW1001 was a 1,000-horsepower (750 kW) diesel locomotive for industrial switching service built by General Motors’ Electro-Motive Division between September 1968 and June 1986. A total of 230 examples were constructed, mainly for North American railroads and industrial operations.

The SW1001 was developed because EMD’s SW1000 model had proved unpopular among industrial railroad customers, as the heights of its walkway and cab eaves were much greater than those of earlier EMD switcher models. The overall height was similar, but the SW1000′s roof was much flatter in curvature. Industrial railroads that only operated switchers often had facilities designed to the proportions of EMD’s earlier switchers.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Gold standard, the best of the best unabridged readings are from Audiorealms, featuring narrator Wayne June. Flat out readings of the Lovecraft Texts by professional voice talent in a studio. Genre defining, these are commercial works which really deserve support. Buy em, highest Mitch Waxman ratings- lengthy, mellifluous, well worth the hard slaved money. Six volumes, covering all the really good stuff. I think I got them through iTunes, although audible.com has them for sale.

The unmentionable Jeffry Combs reads “Herbert West Re-Animator.”

Additional mentions for theatrical productions of “Call of Cthulhu” and “Lurking Fear,” pro recordings from “back in the day,” when audio books were released on things called “audio cassettes.” Check out lovecraftzine.com for a list of free downloads which includes these two gems.

Archive.org is hosting Maria Lectrix‘s readings of “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath.“ Free, and open sourced, go get em. Poke around at archive.org, by the way. This isn’t the only Lovecraft audio there- look for “Herbert West: Reanimator” and others.

from nyc.gov

Greenpoint Avenue is a four-lane local street in Queens and Brooklyn, running northeast from the East River in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to Roosevelt Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens. The Greenpoint Avenue Bridge, also known as the J. J. Byrne Memorial Bridge, is located approximately 2.2 km from the mouth of Newtown Creek. The bridge is situated between Kingsland Avenue in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and Review Avenue in the Blissville section of Queens.

shines thinly

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“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Early will your humble narrator be rising today, with intentions of loitering about the neighborhood for an extended period. It’s been a few weeks since my last merry perambulation carried me across the Pentacle and I look forward to where my feet may take me.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Supernal glories abound, sights to see and inventory. Queens is calling.

- photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, that thing which cannot possibly exist at the cupola of the Sapphire Megalith in Long Island City will be watching. What’s a Saturday without a sense of latent menace and paranoia, after all?

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