Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hooked Rug for David

Back when I was just a wee lad, my mother hooked this rug for me... It has mountains, an Indian watching off in the distance, Buffalo and a Buffalo a great locomotive hauling a train across the frontier! It is a piece of art and it was a terrific childhood gift..!

Now, properly conserved, it hangs in a place of prominence in our great room! Thanks Mom!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake!!

This is Dubb's Restaurant in Maryville, TN. Many locals refer to it as Dubb's Diner. It's been around for more than 44 years.

It's all about inexpensive homestyle cooking, with chicken-n-dumplings, (Friday night special), and coconut pie high on the favorites list of those who frequently dine here.

Laurie and I have only eaten here I'm not commenting on the food yet, at least not the overall dining experience. Dubb's has been painted and refurbished since we last ate there and it truly needed the work. It's much nicer now...

But we did remember one item on the menu from our first visit!

This is the "Pig Lickin" cake!! This is a moist, rich, pleasure filled creation... It consists of a little cake, pineapple, coconut and a lot of whipped cream! I personally don't care much for cake. This is The Exception!

Dubb's Restaurant is at 1100 Foch Street, right at the NW corner of Foch and US-129 in Maryville, Tennessee. Phone: 865-982-7421

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Depots Along the Way...

The fortunes of time can be very upbeat or they can be a bit depressing.

This handsomely preserved and maintained Depot in Eden Center, New York is very far south of the Buffalo Metropolitan area. Note the flowers and the old baggage cart...

Used for a business, the owner has done a great job in maintaining this great little railroad station! The station was built by the Erie Railroad along it's Buffalo & Southwest Line.

FYI...Eden is the home of the Kazoo Company, the only firm in the USA that produces metal Kazoos.

On the other side of the coin, this station in Cherry Creek, New York, about 48 miles south of Mile Marker 0 in Buffalo, seems to be slipping into some hard times. It too was built by the Erie Railroad...about 115 years ago! A few years back, it was carefully preserved and it was in use as a gift shop, specializing in Amish goods and country crafts. Obviously, business has been tough...

Back in the late 1990's, this station was regularly visited by New York & Lake Erie Scenic Excursion Trains running south from Gowanda, New York. The station itself still looks good...and perhaps it will be saved and re-purposed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Family Oil Paintings & Search

The following four oil paintings were painted by my stepfather, Hugh Thomson. Unfortunately, two of them are lost from the family's collection.

This painting has disappeared from sight. It was obtained by an art dealer in Kansas City...who in turn sold it to a dealer in Iowa. To the best of anyone's knowledge, someone in Florida now owns this painting of an old antique shop from the early 50's in Jackson Michigan.

I will buy this painting if I can locate it...

I had never seen this painting but I have traded emails with the dealer in Kansas City who was able to purchase paintings by both Hugh and Robert Thomson. The dealer sent me this photo and told me that it was one of Hugh's paintings. He has it at home and doesn't plan to sell it.

I own this painting. This too had been purchased by that Kansas City Art Dealer. In this case, he had sold the painting and my wife, Laurie, found it at the McCormick Gallery in Chicago. We made the trip downtown and were able to buy it back.

The painting is of the rear of some old buildings in downtown Jackson Michigan sometime in the late 1940's or early 1950's. Since that time, the Grand River through the downtown area has been paved over.

Another painting by Hugh Thomson. This one is part of our family it always has been. This scene is of an old dam and bridge in Jackson County. Again, this is from around 1950.

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad

As we wandered through northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, we stumbled across this great narrow gauge railroad at it's northern terminus in Antonito CO. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad is the highest and longest narrow gauge scenic railroad in the USA. It utilizes 64 miles of twisting, winding tracks stretching from Antonito to Chama New Mexico.

This is a Baldwin 2-8-2 Mikado K-36 Narrow Gauge Locomotive pulling out of Antonito CO.

The railroad is owned by a the taxpayers of both Colorado and New Mexico as authorized by Congress back in 1973. When the railroad was purchased by the Commission representing both states, it included the most scenic portion of the line, all related operational & historic structures, 9 steam locomotives and 130 freight and work cars.

This was the San Juan Extension of the Rio Grande Railroad. It was built in 1880 to support the silver mining industry...and starting with WWII, it supported natural gas exploration in the area. Eventually, business fell off and in 1969 the Interstate Commerce Commission granted a request from the Rio Grande Railroad to abandon the line. That marked the last use of steam locomotives in general freight service in the USA.

There is a rail yard at either end of the line. The yard at Antonito was built in the 1970's to support the C&TSRR at that location. However, the yard at Chama was built in 1881 and many of the old buildings remain. For much more information along with great photos and a lot of interesting video clips, check it out at

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lost River Revisited

On September 10th, I posted a blog about The Lost River Cafe. On that morning, we arrived too late to have breakfast and we'd promised ourselves that the next visit would correct that mistake. So, just a day or so ago, we got up a bit earlier and headed on over to this out of the way cafe.

This time we were disappointed by the fact that Lexi, the chocolate Lab, who serves as the Lost Cafe's 'greeter', (shown in this photo from the last visit), wasn't in her usual spot on the bench.

Despite the lack of cannine hospitality, we ventured inside, pursuing the most elusive basic restaurant meal in East Tennessee, a top notch Breakfast!

Laurie ordered her standard...2 eggs over easy, bacon, hash browns and toast. The eggs were fresh and cooked just right. The bacon was very good, as were the hashbrowns! A great start!

Being the gormand that I am, I ordered a 'light' breakfast. Two eggs over easy, hash browns, sausage patties plus biscuits and sausage gravy. As you can see, the platter of biscuits and sausage gravy was huge...two tasty big biscuits just loaded with sausage gravy! (Pardon the red dots on half of the order...I started putting my Tabasco on before I remembered to ask Laurie to take the photo. (We always carry Tabasco in the car with us...too many restaurants use the low cost, no bite 'hot' sauce) Laurie ate from the other half as Tabasco isn't a breakfast 'food' for her...

Any complaints? My only negative was that the sausage patties had been a bit overcooked. Otherwise, this was definitely the best restaurant breakfast we've had so far in East Tennessee!

The Lost River Cafe has a lot of down home atmosphere, complete with a couple of communal tables used by the locals for food, coffee and conversation. This restaurant is located at 858 Tennessee Highway 360, just 2.1 miles east of US Highway 411 in Vonore, TN. No Credit Cards. No Liquor. Hours are from 7 am to 3 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Phone: 423-884-2497.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Ships From the Past

I'm definitely into different forms of transportation...both for their power and for the their ability to transport the mind to far away places. This is a 12" x 15" pencil drawing by Bob Thomson, done in ca. 1975. It depicts an old tramp steamer being guided into port by the tugboat Goliath.

This is an old family photo from a marathon family vacation...before expressways...back in 1951 or 1952. These old sailing ships were photographed somewhere along the coast of New Brunswick, Canada.

The trip was from Jackson Michigan up through Brantford Ontario, Montreal, the Gaspe Peninsula, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, then back down through New England and home. In those days, there were few 'motels', mostly cabins.

This is an oil painting by Bob Thomson. This is the 1934 Sidewheel Paddleboat Dredge, the William S. Mitchell...also known as the 'Death Dredge'! This ship had a history of over 112 crewmember deaths over it's years of operation. Legend has it that it all started when the ship dredged up an ancient Indian burial site on its maiden voyage.

Whatever the cause of it's misfortune, it did seem to be a cursed ship. This was a huge riverboat...287 feet long by 77 feet wide with a crew of 66 including officers. The captain of the vessel and others were killed in a incident called "The Massacre on the Mitchell" when the ship broke free from it's moorings in Kansas City and crashed into a series of bridges, totally destroying the pilot house and much of the upper deck. Check this frightening trip out at

And yet, despite everything that has happened, or perhaps because of everything that happened, the William S. Mitchell has survived to this day. It is now called the "USS Nightmare" and it's a 'haunted' tourist attraction that is moored in Newport, Kentucky. It's big coming up fast.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Remember When?

Here's a rarity these days... First of all, Hoskins is a fully functioning independent pharmacy and secondly, it still operates an authentic soda fountain!

Hoskin's Pharmacy was founded in 1930 and the third generation of the Hoskins clan is still running the operation. The 80th anniversary was celebrated in April of this year...

At one point, Hoskins Drug Stores operated 8 locations in East Tennessee. Three locations are still in operation, two of them with soda fountains. This location was opened in 1947 and it's at 111 North Main Street in Clinton, TN... This is a great destination as it's not far from a street lined with some quality antique shops.

The second location with a functioning soda fountain is in Norris, TN.

The Hoskins Drug Store with it's Soda Fountain & Restaurant is listed on the Roadfood website. It's all about basic comfort food. Grilled Cheese & Tomato Soup, Burgers and daily Hot Plate Specials. Breakfast and lunch are served.

At lunch time, the folks from the Anderson County courthouse fill the booths and line the counter space. Note: If you want a Burger, the grill closes at 1:30 pm.

The pharmacy can be seen in the back of the store. A wide variety of merchandise and gift items are stocked.

The Hoskins Pharmacy & Restaurant is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places as well as in the Tennessee Registry. Phone: 865-457-4340. Website:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Kiwi Steam Locomotive

This great looking locomotive is from our travel archives. It's the Kingston Flyer and it's based on the South Island of New Zealand in Kingston on the southern shore of Lake Wakatipu. This is a New Zealand built 4-6-2 Pacific and it originally entered service in 1927.

The passenger cars are steam heated wooden carriages dating back to 1898.

If you know anyone who's in the market for a scenic railroad complete with rolling stock, this operation is up for sale. Unfortunately, given the world wide financial difficulties and the impact on tourism, the holding company went into receivership in 2009. Hopefully, someone will rescue this beautiful train and put it back in service. It's a classic in a very scenic part of the world!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Healthy Brunch!?

Today I decided to Blog about my breakfast/brunch. Taking a cue from my food idol, Larry, aka "Big Dude", I checked the fridge to see just what odds and ends I might have to work with. As it turned out, we had some leftover scalloped potatoes with cheese and country ham... Not a bad start! (Better yet, it was top notch Benton's ham that Big Dude had given us to try out)

So I put some butter in a frying pan and dropped in the scalloped cheese potatoes with ham... I fried them up until I had some nice brown edges on the bits and pieces. Then these goodies were placed on a nice slice of toast and topped with 2-over easy fried eggs. Of course, I sprinkled Tabasco over this yummy brunch before I finished it off! Laurie was slightly nauseous when she saw my masterpiece, but she just doesn't know what she missed!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Local Restaurant with a Greeter!

Dennis, who is one of our golfing partners, told us that he'd heard about a restaurant near Vonore Tennessee and the nearby Kahite golf course that allegedly has a good breakfast. Since we're always on the lookout for a good breakfast, we went looking for the place.

As is standard operating procedure for us, we managed to arrive too late, finding The Lost River Cafe just after they ran out of biscuits and stopped serving breakfast...
Upon arrival, we were very pleased to note that this local country restaurant has it's own special 'greeter' right by the front door!

This is Lexi... She loves people and all the attention she can get! We understand that she just lives up the hill from the restaurant but she hangs out on the bench outside the restaurant most of the time that the place is open.

After introducing ourselves to Lexi, we went inside and ordered lunch. Laurie's fried chicken sandwich was just fine but my double bacon cheeseburger was worthy of a photo! We guessed that there was about a pound of meat on this a double layer of cheese and a double layer of bacon. (There must have been about 8 slices of bacon on this monster!) It was perhaps just a tad overcooked, (I forgot to specify how I wanted it cooked), but it was still significantly better than most burgers that I've recently encountered. I was very glad that I didn't order any French Fries! Our next trip to The Lost River Cafe will be planned so we have a chance to try their breakfast menu...
The Lost River Cafe is located at 858 TN Hwy 360, 2.1 miles east of US Highway 411 in Vonore. Kathy Hawkins, is running this restaurant. She's attentive and friendly as was our waitress. No Credit Cards. No Liquor. Specials every day... Hours are from 7 am to 3 pm, Tuesday through Sunday. They serve breakfast from open to close on Saturdays. Phone: 423-884-2497

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

From My Photo Archives

Back in 1998, we photographed this impressive Milwaukee Road locomotive at Red Deer Montana. This is a 1946 GE "Little Joe" 12-axle 5500 horsepower Electric Locomotive. Twenty of these locomotives were built for export to the Soviet Union but shipment was blocked as the US & the USSR slid into the Cold War. After sitting for awhile, 5 were sold to Brazil, 3 were purchased by the Chicago South Shore & South Bend Railroad...and eventually, the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul & Pacific Railroad bought the other 12.

The Milwaukee Road used 2 "Little Joes" for passenger service, pulling the plush and famous Olympian Hiawatha to Seattle. The nickname "Little Joe" was used by the railroad in reference to Joseph Stalin...who had originally ordered the engines. These electric locomotives stayed in service for the Rocky Mountain Division of the Milwaukee Road until 1974 when the electric portion of the railroad was closed down. (It should be noted that shortly after this line was closed down, the oil embargo started and fuel prices skyrocketed)

The South Shore Railroad used 2 of their "Little Joes" for freight movement until 1983. These were the last electric locomotives in regular mainline freight service in the USA. In addition to #E70 shown above, South Shore electric locomotive #803 is preserved at the Illinois Railroad Museum west of Chicago in Union, (, and locomotive #802 is on display at the Lake Shore Railroad Museum in North East, PA, about 10 miles from Erie. (

Monday, September 6, 2010

Classic Michigan Railroad Depots

As we cruised through southern Michigan, we sought out old time railroad stations. I enjoy the touch of history, the architecture and the search itself. It's part of our explore America's back roads mentality. You just never know what you're going to find.

This railroad station in Tecumseh was built by the Lake Shore & Michigan Central and the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton Railroads. It's been nicely preserved as a business.

This attractive well preserved 'stick style' two-room depot in Moscow Michigan was completed in October of 1883. It handled the mail, freight and passengers for 2-trains per day for the Michigan & Ohio Railroad's Allegan to Toledo Line.

The line, (and the depot), was closed by the then current owner, the New York Central railroad in about 1930. In 1933, the building became the Moscow Township Hall

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Old Time Dining in Michigan

When we recently cruised through my family's home territory in south central Michigan, we found our way back to a couple of local diners/dives to see if they still had that extra local touch.

The Silver Spoon Cafe in Concord had recently changed names. Now it's called the Concord Cafe. The good news is that they still have that community table in the middle of the dining area and breakfast is as good as it ever was. Great sausage & gravy, fried potatoes and ambiance!

The Concord Cafe is at 122 Main Street, just off of MI Rte. 60 about 10 miles west of Jackson. Phone: 517-524-6222. Concord was settled in 1832 and was incorporated as a village in 1871. There is an interesting cemetery and many old homes are scattered throughout the village.

One of our favorite hamburger joints or dives in the USA is Schlenker's, a 14-stool restaurant in Jackson Michigan. This place has been around since 1927 and its had at least 5 owners, who were smart enough to make very few changes. The burgers may be a little smaller than they used to be but the quality is still there. Quality meat fried on a flat top grill accompanied by some nice hot French fries! My choice is always 2 double cheeseburgers...

I felt that Schlenker's was a little more 'charming' or quaint before they added the new front entrance. Previously, you had to enter through the left door if you wanted to sit on the left side of the U-shaped counter and in the right door if you wanted to sit on the right side...
Schlenker's is located at 1104 East Ganson Street in Jackson. Cash Only. Phone: 517-783-1667

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Bit of Civil War History

This little piece of history actually began in the 1840's. In my ongoing quest to find and photograph old Freight and Passenger Railroad Depots, we came through Tunnel Hill GA.

We found what we were looking for...the old stone freight depot built by Western & Atlantic. At one point not too long ago, it had been incorporated into a larger structure as part of an ongoing business but now it once again stands alone.

And then, there's this piece of history...and why the town is named Tunnel Hill. This 1,477 foot long tunnel under Chetoogeta Mountain was completed by Western & Atlantic in 1848. Initially, the freight was pulled through the tunnel and the passengers had to walk over the mountain! This tunnel was the first one completed in the south and it wasn't replaced by a new tunnel until 1928. The 'new' tunnel, which is parallel to the original, is still in use.

The tunnel figured into a dramatic piece of Civil War History...The Great Locomotive Chase. Fortunately, the Union force that seized "The General" failed to accomplish a key part of their mission...the destruction of the W&A Tunnel under Chetoogeta Mountain. Tours are now provided into the tunnel.

The Clisby-Austin House is located right down the hill and across the road from the tunnel. The Union's Atlanta Campaign started here. The house was used as a field hospital during the battle of Chickamauga...and later as General William Tecumseh Sherman's Headquarters during the Battle of Dalton. Confederate General John B. Hood and his amputated leg spent time in the field hospital. He kept the leg with him so it could be buried with him if he died. He survived, but his leg is buried here...

The town of Tunnel Hill is on US Highway 41 just southeast of Chattanooga and quite close to I-75. It's an interesting side trip to make...