- Winter -

Tracks, Tunnels and
Roundhouse Blues

Rex's USA Diary

Presidents Day 2003

Most American's in the upper North-East are familiar with the term 'snow-day'. A snow day signifies a day off school or work, or possibly a delayed start to the work day. It is the sort of day when folk are out shoveling or snow-blowing their driveways and the sidewalk (footpath). On Presidents Day 16 February 2003 (a Sunday) it was likely most folk were huddled up inside. The nce.noaa.gov website has a special snow report that records 'One of the largest snowstorms in many years brought paralyzing snow accumulations to the Northeast over the President's Day weekend'. The site says over two feet (61 cm) of snow fell, mainly on the 17th. Cities came to a standstill while roads were cleared.

That White Thing

Well, I thought 'That would be rubbish as I hadn't heard anything!'. So I poked my nose out the front door. Sigh.

Right, so that small white mountain looked about where I had parked my cute wee car the other night. I then recalled the grin my Kiwi predecessor had given when I had asked him what 'that thing' was for. 'You can have that' he said - 'You will need it.'

Blackbird rear

So I closed the front door, went through the house to the back door, got it open after a bit of work, then made my way over to the garden shed where 'that thing lived. Yes, it was a flimsy. lightweight snow shovel. Out it came, then I put in a practice session clearing the back deck and the heap of snow now jammed behind the back door. Nothing to this, I thought. I dug further up the side of the house to the gate, then onward to the footpath/snow-walk.

Because it was easy to do, I then cut a wee track along the footpath about 6 feet to the car, then added a few feet further to my neighbours front path. Unfortunately, this started a bit of a trend as I then felt obliged to extend my track in the other direction to a neighbour who was quite a bit further in the other direction.

OK, once that was done I could start on my white mountain and was eventually pleased to see some progress  and  to ultimately dig my car free of snow.

Digging the white mountain

'Well, must be time for a cup of tea' thinks I, before observing that my front door was not yet accessible to the world. Back into it again, then after a decent flurry of snow flinging my way became clear.

My front stepsd

It was not until I had my cup of tea in hand and was peacefully observing the fruits of my labours, that a fit of madness must have overtaken me. For after taking a quick slurp from the cup I put it down on the front step, picked up my snow shovel again and proceed to extend the main line snow track along the footpath past various branch-lines leading to neighbours doors.

More tracks

But wait! It gets better!

At the end of the mainline straight was a large terminus yard surround by snow-capped mountains! Those mountains are too high to go over, thinks I, so we must go through them! More flapping of the shovel, some cunning sculpting, and a suitable zig-zag incline to reach the high peaks and we were saved! We had a tunnel all the way to the school bus stop!

Time for a picture I thought, and returned to the house for another slurp of cold tea and to bring back my camera. Herewith my masterly creation that would live in peoples minds for eternity!

Space shuttlesnow tunnel

I wondered how the school kids would like my tunnel. I then wondered if they might bump the low roof and get trapped in the tunnel. Then I wondered if the Kiwi might get run out of town for having families lose their kids on the way to school. Sigh, with heavy heart I climbed the great zig-zag ascent, chopped the top off the tunnel and turned it into a great cutting where kid-sized goods could be loaded aboard a great yellow mainline train for express delivery to school.

Roundhouse Blues

In my back yard I still had an impressive buildup of snow on my roof. The good news is that my roof survived OK.

Roof loading

However, up  the road in Baltimore two feet of snow proved to be too much for the aged roof of the Roundhouse at the B and O Railroad Museum and early on the morning of 17 Feb part of the roof collapsed destroying some of the exhibits below.

To their credit the museum moved into conservation mode, protecting what they could, analysing the cause of the roof failure, rebuilding with improved structural integrity, then 22 months later with the roundhouse restored they re-opened to the public. I went along that day to support them with my entry fee and to see what they had on display.

Roundhouse Band

At the gate a brass band provided a lighter mood for what could otherwise been a dour visit - I was pleased to listen to the band for a while.

Brass band
More band folk
A lot of the museum exhibits were irreplaceable and some were lost under the roof collapse. Look at these early B and O wagons and steam loco  - It is so great that these were saved.

B and O carriages
Early loco
Given new strength to its roofing, I hoped the museum would have many years of trouble-free exhibitions ahead.

The re-built roof
Small red shunter
and a Big Boy
Wikipedia: B&O Railroad Museum