Monday, May 30, 2016

Memorial Day – 2016

This posting is in memory of my dad, Ronald Allen Myers, who gave his life in defense of our country during World War II.  I had not yet reached my 3rd birthday when he was killed…

This year I decided to post more photos from his life before the war.  This is a photo of my dad with his older brother Clifford.  Clifford was born in 1908 and Ronald was born 1911. 

The boy’s mother, Mary (Cerrow), died in 1925 when Ronald was only 14 or so.  Their father, Frank, lived until 1955.  Clifford passed on in 1987.  Following my father’s death in 1945, I can only recall 2 contacts with my dad’s side of the family so I don’t recall ever meeting my grandfather, Frank.  Why the families didn’t keep in touch is a mystery that will probably go unanswered…

Thanks to an Internet search, contact, and a subsequent visit by Myers family relatives, I now have these photos from my dad’s high school graduation. 
I must say…how was I left out hair wise!?  Even when I had a full head of hair, it was never thick and luxuriant like his! 
Since my mother met my father when he was working as a ‘soda jerk’ in a drugstore located in Jackson Michigan, I can only assume that this photo that I found in my mother’s limited collection of pre-war photos is that special drugstore…Laurie believes that man on the ladder is my dad. Why else would my mom take that photo, she said?

This is a photo of my mom, Elizabeth (Weed) Myers that was taken sometime in 1938.  I don’t have a pre-war photo of the 2 of them together.  The few photos I do have were apparently taken of them by each other.

My dad, Ron in his bathing suit… This is also from around 1938 and was part of my mother’s small photo archive.  I do see a resemblance in body type!

My mother met my dad at that soda shop/drug store when he was working his way through Michigan State College’s School of Forestry.  This was in 1938…and the economy was still dragging from the Depression.  They were married in 1939.  I heard a few stories and have a couple of letters that refer to trying to get by with very little money.  When he landed a job with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, it was a big event in their lives…

And so World War II began… This photo of yours truly with my mom and dad was taken in front of my mother’s parent’s house on Prospect Avenue in Jackson.  I was born in the summer of 1942 and this photo looks like it was from later that year.  Ron had joined the army and had gone off to officer’s training school.  However, since he was colorblind, he washed out. 

So my dad was off for training again…at a base down in Texas.  You might note that he has 3 stripes in this photo vs. 2 in the first photo.  He’d been promoted from Corporal to Sergeant.  I was a 'big boy' in this picture...

My mother told a story about the two of us taking a train from Michigan to Texas to see my dad while he was continuing his training.  Despite the fact that I was a little more than 2 years old, I wasn’t speaking yet.  The train was full of troops moving from one place to another.  She recalled suddenly hearing a child’s voice speaking in complete sentences and when she looked she was startled to see that it was me!  Between my doting mother and grandmother, I didn’t have to speak to get what I wanted… I just pointed and grunted or cried.  That didn’t work with the troops so I had to actually tell them what I wanted!

This was the telegraph that my mother received letting her know that her husband and my father had been killed in action. 

After completing his training, my dad was shipped out to Europe in 1945, where he served for only about 4 months before being killed.  The timeline is interesting and sad… Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945.  My dad was killed on May 6th.  The German Army unconditionally surrendered on May 7th.  Ronald Allen Myers was buried in the Lorraine American Cemetery near the town of St. Avold France.

This clipping is from the Jackson Citizen Patriot Newspaper.  Ron had been promoted to Staff Sergeant by the time he died. 

Last year, as is my practice, I’d posted a Memorial Day tribute to my father.  I’d mentioned that I didn’t know anyone on the Myers side of my family and I’d stated that Clifford Myers was my dad’s brother.  Thanks to the Internet, some family members found me and made contact. 

Subsequently, this past Holiday Season they came to visit…and they came bearing gifts as well!  When clearing out the old family home in Jackson Michigan, they come across a big trunk full of my dad’s things.  Among many other items, such as those high school photos and love letters, they also had my dad’s burial flag. 

It was an emotional moment for all of us when we unfurled and held that big American Flag up for this photo.  From the left, Alex, his mother Sandy, Alex’s dad Dale, me and Dale’s brother, Michael.  Clifford, my dad’s brother was Dale and Mike’s grandfather…     

Thanks to the sacrifices of over 407,000 Americans and their families during World War II, we continue to live in a democracy instead of in a brutal dictatorship.  With all of our flaws, I can’t think of a better country to live in… God Bless America!

Thanks for stopping by and helping commemorate the sacrifices made by so many in so many different conflicts…

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Virginia Museum of Transportation – Trains #1

Continuing with our exploration of Virginia’s Museum of Transportation in Roanoke Virginia… It was on to the rail yard! 

There is a small playground and picnic area off to one side of the rail yard portion of the museum.  It’s right next to the Norfolk Southern tracks.  This old trolley car sits open for children to explore but I think that it just looks sad and neglected…

Since I didn’t see a sign describing the trolley, I decided to find out where it came from.  So I looked up the Glen Echo Amusement Park.  Glen Echo Maryland is located right next to Washington D.C.  The area was developed as a National Chautauqua Assembly in 1891 and in the early 20th Century it became the Glen Echo Amusement Park.  The park finally closed in 1968, but not before it had its moment in American history.

Like many public facilities in and around the Washington area, Glen Echo was restricted to whites for 63 out of the first 70 years of its history.  Then, in June of 1960, a group of college students staged a sit-in protest on the carousel.  Five African American students were arrested for trespassing.

The arrests were appealed to the Supreme Court and on the grounds that the state had unconstitutionally used its police power to help a private business enforce its racial discrimination policy, the convictions were reversed. (Griffin v. Maryland) As a result, an 11 week civil rights campaign began.  The park opened the doors to all races in the 1961 season.

Several classic locomotives and a quantity of rolling stock are sheltered under this long covered ‘train shed’ with the old Norfolk and Western freight depot on the left.  I imagined this scene on ‘live’ tracks with passengers, steam and all of the noise that would accompany the vision! 

Norfolk and Western Y6a #2156 was built in the Roanoke Shops in March of 1942.  The railroad began converting to diesel-powered locomotives in the late 1950s and the Y6a 2156 was retired from service in 1959.  It is the only remaining locomotive of the Y5, Y6, Y6a, and Y6b classes.  It’s been cosmetically restored but it is no longer operational.  I was interested to learn that this locomotive is on loan from the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis County Missouri. (Just how do you ‘loan’ something this size!

Only 16 Model Y6a 2-8-8-2 Locomotives were built.  It weighs 582,900 lbs. (291 tons!), developed 5,600 horsepower and could roll along at 50 mph.  The compound articulated (Mallet) design allowed these large locomotives to be used on track with tighter curves by splitting the driving wheels into two sets which can turn independently.  When diesel locomotives took over mainline steam operations, the Y6-type locomotives spent their last years primarily on mine and coalfield runs.

Just to better show the massive size of the Norfolk and Western Y6a #2156   locomotive, I asked Laurie to pose next to the drive wheels.  This ‘beast’ is huge and I can just imagine it charging on down the tracks pulling a big coal train!

This electric locomotive from the Pennsylvania Railroad (GE GG-1 #4919) is undergoing restoration.  It had been completely painted at the time of our visit with no identifying marks or signage.  Locomotive #4919 was manufactured in 1942.  It ran almost 5,500,000 miles for the Pennsylvania Railroad and later AMTRAK before it was finally retired on February 1, 1981.

A total of 139 of these locomotives were built by the Pennsylvania Railroad Altoona Works.  All were initially delivered to the Pennsylvania Railroad.  For those not familiar with electric locomotives, they are powered by electric current provided from overhead wires.  Designed for bi-directional operation, they were mainly used for passenger trains.  As a locomotive for passenger trains, they could reach speeds of 100 – 110 mph!

This is Diesel Locomotive Wabash #1009.  It was built for passenger service on the Wabash Railroad.  Between 1949 and 1954, the Electro-Motive Diesel Division of General Motors built 450 of these E8A units.  This was the 10,000th diesel locomotive built by EMD.  Locomotive #1009 was retired from service in June 1967. 

This locomotive has been referred to as a “bluebird” due to its distinctive pain scheme.  Locomotive #1009 pulled the Wabash Cannonball, City of St. Louis, City of Kansas City, as well as other Wabash passenger trains.  Its top speed was 98 mph!  Wabash Railroad was leased to Norfolk and Western Railway in October 1964 and was officially merged with Norfolk Southern in 1991.

This is Norfolk and Western Class A Steam Locomotive #1218.  It was manufactured by Norfolk and Western Railroad it began service on June 2, 1943.  Locomotive #1218 was built in just over 2 weeks, a record for the Norfolk and Western Shops. (Cost = $163,872 or $2,250,000 in 2015 dollars) The #1218 is the last remaining Class A locomotive…

Locomotive #1218 pulled coal trains between Roanoke and Norfolk (252 miles).  She was retired in 1959 but she’s been around since then.  First she was sold Union Carbide at Charleston W. Va. to serve as an oil-fired stationary boiler.  Then in 1963, she was sold to Nelson Blount and moved to Bellows Falls Vermont to be displayed at Blount's Steamtown exhibit.  Then in 1969, it was obtained for the Museum and moved to Roanoke and given a cosmetic overhaul before being put on display.  In 1985, she was Birmingham Alabama for restoration and use with an excursion service railroad.  She was finally retired from excursion service in 1994.

I’d never seen one of these cars before… This is a Dynamometer Car, Norfolk and Western’s #514780.  Dynamometer cars carried equipment for measuring and recording drawbar pull, brake pipe pressure, and other data connected with locomotive operations and train haul conditions.  It was a very useful tool for locomotive design as calculations on the drawing board could be verified in road service.  Roadbed conditions, stations and topographical information were recorded by an operator stationed in a cupola.  Information was recorded on a moving paper chart in ink.

This old wooden caboose is a Norfolk and Western Class CF #518302.  It was built by the Norfolk and Western Shops… I never realized how much rolling stock and locomotives alike were built by the railroads themselves!  This specific caboose was built in 1922.

Between 1914 and 1924 381 of this model caboose were built by Norfolk and Western.  They were constructed with wood sheathing and wood roofs with steel under frames.  They were equipped with a cast iron coal stove for heat and oil lamps for lighting.  They also were furnished with a refrigerator, radio and toilet.

This is diesel locomotive Chesapeake Western Baldwin DS-4-4-660 #662.  It may not look all that old, but this 662 was built by Baldwin in Eddystone PA back in 1946!  The engine was one of three diesel-electrics that were placed in service on December 2, 1946.  These 3 first-generation diesel locomotives completely transitioned the Chesapeake Western from steam to diesel power. 

The 3 Baldwin DS 4-4-660 locomotives were retired in 1964 and 2 of them wound up in the Virginia Scrap Iron and Metal Co. scrap yard in Roanoke VA where they endured a number of floods and sat rusting for over 40 years.  They were donated to the museum by Virginia Scrap Iron and Metal Co. and the resulting restoration from rusty hulk to shiny locomotive is truly amazing!

The Chesapeake Western Railroad can be traced back to its origins in 1871.   Known by locals as the “Crooked and Weedy,” the Chesapeake Western has also been called the “General Robert E. Lee’s Railroad.”  After the Civil War, Lee was convinced of the economic necessity of a rail line connecting the Shenandoah Valley with the port of Baltimore.  He became the first president of the Valley Railroad of Virginia which was merged into the Chesapeake Western in 1942.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.  One more posting about the locomotives and rolling stock at the Virginia Museum of Transportation will follow soon…

Thanks for stopping by for a tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Roanoke Virginia – Historic Market + a Great Burger!

When I was researching our little anniversary trip to Roanoke, I look for quirky or ethnic restaurants and interesting attractions that we’d be interested in.  I also have to consider a few ‘shopping possibilities’ for my better half.  She’s not a big spender, most of the time, but she does enjoy perusing shops that are unusual or that offer quality products that are harder to find…

So…Roanoke’s old downtown market area, which appropriately enough is located on Market Street, was a natural place to look for interesting shops and popular dining ‘in spots’. 

Roanoke’s City Market District has been designated as a National Historic District.  The district encompasses 51 contributing buildings.  The focal point of the area's grid-plan is the City Market Building which is visible at the end of the street.  It was built in 1922.  Back in 1882, Roanoke issued licenses to 25 vendors to operate downtown.  A municipally owned market was formally authorized in the city’s charter in 1884.  The first permanent Market Building was completed in 1886.

This was our luncheon objective…Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint.  When we first checked, it was still prime time for lunch and the place was packed with a long wait list.  So we decided to do some shopping first and eat later…

Roanoke’s Market District includes open air vendors under covered walkways, galleries, boutiques, restaurants, antique shops, museum shops…and other unusual or unique places to spend your money.  It was a Tuesday in mid-spring, so the open air market was somewhat limited, selling mostly herbs and flowers.

I can’t resist a good specialty food store and Eli’s Provisions certainly fit that requirement.  This store focuses on Virginia made products and they have an interesting assortment of products including a big selection of craft beers, wine, peanuts, flatbread crackers, cider, chocolate, honey, condiments and a variety of other snacks. 

Another stop (with purchases) was made at Chocolatepaper, a store that sells some terrific chocolate as well as a variety of paper products, cards and other gift.  We did some damage at Ladles and Linens as well, picking up some 2016 Christmas gifts and other items.  

For more about Roanoke’s City Market, go to   Eli’s Provisions is located at 209-A Market Street, Chocolatepaper is at 308-3 Market Street with Ladles and Linens being situated at 302 Market Street.

Then, with the lunch rush over, we returned to Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint.  We decided to sit at the end the end of the long wooden counter where we could watch all the action and chat with the servers. 

I am not a beer connoisseur so I don’t experiment much.  Laurie likes to jump out there though from time to time.  She ordered a Crabbie’s Original Ginger Beer…and she liked it. 

This is a beer joint and the blackboards listing their selection of these brews seemed to go on forever.  Here are a few examples: Devil’s Backbone; 21st Amendment El Sully; Tusker; Champion Shower; Terrapin Sound Czech Pilsner; Kona Big Wave; Green Flash Passion Fruit Kicker; RJ Rocker’s Son of a Peach; Abita Purple Haze; Victory Golden Monkey; DuClaw Dirty Little Freak and; Stone Arrogant Bastard.

Remember, I did mention the word quirky… Yes, this is a disco ball draped with a plethora of bras!  I found an earlier photo on-line that shows the disco ball hanging from a wagon wheel…with only 1 bra dangling from it.  Apparently some of Jack Brown’s customers have been known to lose their inhibitions after a few beers!

Here are a couple more views of the interior of Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint.  Laurie’s eye for decorating prompted a question for one of our servers.  Yes indeed!  Part of the ambiance and many of the items scattered around the bar did come from the folks at Black Dog Salvage, the same folks who have the popular TV show, “Salvage Dawgs”.

Now on to our luncheon fare…burgers of course!  Laurie went for the JalapeƱo Popper, a burger topped with cream cheese and pickled jalapeƱos.  She loved it and she’d order it again without hesitation… Note that slab of cream cheese!

We shared an order of the Yukon Gold crinkle cut French fries.  They were good too!

When I saw this burger on the menu I just couldn’t resist!  This is the ‘Chiflet’.  I ordered the double beef patty version.  My juicy burger patties were topped with applewood smoked bacon, a fried egg and lots of cheddar cheese.  I have always loved the idea of this combination in a burger but up until now, the creations I’ve ordered just seemed bland…like the ingredients cancelled each other out.  Not this time!  It was messy but this was a great breakfast/lunch/hangover burger creation!

FYI…other than a grilled cheese sandwich, Jack Brown’s serves burgers…and only burgers (with fries).  We liked this joint and if we’re ever in the other 5 cities in Virginia, or in Birmingham Alabama or Nashville Tennessee…where this small chain has a location, we’re going to stop by for a burger!  Jack Brown’s Beer and Burger Joint in Roanoke is located at 210-B Market Street SE.  Phone: 540-342—325.  The company’s website is at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, May 23, 2016

Virginia Museum of Transportation – A Mix of Interests

Continuing with our visit to the Virginia Museum of Transportation…

It would have been more appropriate if I’d included this photo of the entrance to the museum with my first posting in which I covered some of the automobiles and trucks on display…

Originally named The Roanoke Transportation Museum, it was originally formed as a partnership of the Norfolk and Western Railway and the City of Roanoke.  Its first location was in a park along the Roanoke River.  In 1983 the Museum was designated as the Official Transportation Museum of the Commonwealth of Virginia and it was renamed the Virginia Museum of Transportation.

Disaster struck the original museum in 1985, when floodwaters surged through the Museum causing $1,400.000 million in damage.  The Norfolk Southern Railroad stepped in and donated this current structure, this 1918 Norfolk and Western freight station as the Museum’s new home.  This has 45,000 square feet of indoor space and it sits on 5.75 acres adjacent to active Norfolk Southern mainline tracks in downtown Roanoke.

There is an extensive operating model train display just inside the entrance to the museum.  For the model train buff…or the child in all of us…the detail in this layout or action packed diorama is fun to visually explore.  The Roanoke Valley Model Engineers is a group of model railroad enthusiasts of all ages that meet every Tuesday in the basement of the Museum to build and operate HO, N, On30 and O gauge layouts.

These photos show an O-Gauge Model Train Layout.  It’s a 4 level model layout depicting major rail sites around the region.  With multiple trains operating over 600 feet of track, the layout was constructed and is continuously upgraded by the Roanoke Valley O-Gauge Club.

Love this old bus driver’s uniform… I can remember when Greyhound Bus Lines ruled the roads! 

I drove a taxi to earn some cash when on breaks and during the summer when I was going to Michigan State University.  My favorite fare or trip involved staking out the Greyhound Depot in Jackson Michigan.  I waited for the bus from Detroit hoping for 4 passengers who needed transportation to the Southern Michigan Penitentiary to visit family or friends.  It was a flat rate fare and if I could land 3 or more fares at once, I’d paid for my cab for the day!

Although the museum is heavily focused on railroads…followed by automobiles, other interesting exhibits are scattered throughout the museum.  There is a large space devoted to bus transportation, a mode of transportation that has made a bit of a comeback lately.

The Harry L. Messimer Bus Collection Exhibit at the museum features artifacts and models from Greyhound, Trailways and Virginia transit companies.

There is also a nautical section at the museum which consists of artifacts and a number of great looking model ships and boats.  Space constraints do limit what the museum can display.  Even the autos and trucks on exhibit are only a portion of the museum’s holdings in that area…

This model ship, appropriately enough, is the USS Roanoke (CL-145). She was a 680 foot long Light Cruiser that was commissioned in 1949 and decommissioned in 1958.

You may be able to guess the name of this big ocean liner… If you guessed the Titanic, you’d be correct!

I’ve never had the patience required to build model ships.  I built a few WWII vintage naval ships and a couple of airplanes from the same era when I was young.  However they were all simple kits…nothing too challenging.

This work of love is the HMS Goliath, a 74-gun ship-of-the-line that served the British Royal Navy beginning in 1751.  She was dismantled in 1815.  This ship was involved in several battles including the Battle of Cape St Vincent, Battle of the Nile, and Battle of Copenhagen.

The last model ship that I photographed is of a true classic.  This is the Cutty Sark, a British Clipper Ship that was launched in 1869.  At 212.5 feet in length with a cruising speed of about 17.5 knots, she was one of the last clipper ships used for transporting tea.  Soon after she was launched, steam ships began to replace these speedy sailing ships. 


·       The American built clipper ship Flying Cloud set the world's sailing record for the fastest passage between New York and San Francisco via Cape Horn.  The trip was accomplished in 89 days 8 hours anchor-to-anchor.  She held this record for over 100 years, from 1854 to 1989.

There is also a small area devoted to airplanes and aeronautical items.  Despite serious space constraints, there are a couple of small airplanes suspended from the ceiling…

Since the primary focus of the Virginia Museum of Transport is railroad history, related displays are never far away.  This extensive set of china with silverware and other related items was used on the Norfolk and Western railroad in the dining cars. 

I’m always looking for items like this from the railroad or the halcyon days of passenger air travel.  I do have a nice set of gold rimmed tumblers from Southern railway but these collectibles are both scarce and pricey!

Then there was this ‘dummy’ Norfolk and Western ticket agent and telegraph operator at his work station.  Try explaining the use and importance of the telegraph to our grandchildren… What’s a rubber stamp?  No digital scale?  You have to be kidding…!   That thing over the ticket agent’s shoulder is a telephone?

Moving outdoors in the direction of the rail yard displays, a number of other items are on exhibit in addition to trains and locomotives. 

This is an Oliver HG Crawler.  It was built by the Cleveland Tractor Company, (which was purchased by Oliver) and a year later, the “Cletrac” trademark was adopted.  Between 1916 and 1944, “Cletrac” produced about 75 different tractor models, one of which was the HG.  This little HG Crawler was introduced in 1939.  In Nebraska Tractor Test No. 324, in August 1939, the 3500 pound Model HG pulled 2800 pounds, almost 80% of its own weight while using 1.5 gallons of gas per hour.

This is an 1882 Howe Fire Engine.  It was built by the Howe Pump and Engine Company in Anderson Indiana.  That company later became the Howe Fire Apparatus Company.  This particular fire engine had to hand pulled to the fire and then the water had to be hand pumped on the flames.

FYI…Denver Indiana is located in north central Indiana and as of 2012 it has a population of about 474 people.  Back in 1880, the population was only 273 so they didn’t have too far to pull this fire truck to any fire in town!

You thought it would be a challenge explaining the telegraph to your grandchildren…!  How about this structure?  This is actual train “order station” from Ellett Virginia.  Before the days of cell phones and other communication methods, engineers’ instructions were sent by Morse Code to the train order station.  The telegraph operator then wrote out the instructions and held them up on a long pole for the engineer to grab through the locomotive’s open window as they speed by the station!

There is also a collection of carriages and wagons located along the platform underneath the freight depot’s protective overhang.  The second vehicle in line is the equivalent of a big family van today…with 3 rows of seats. 

The first one in line is an extended roof Rockaway Carriage.  These were popular beginning in the 1830’s but they must have been the luxury vehicle of their time.  They were pulled by 2 horses and they featured shock absorbing springs, window shades and windows that opened and closed!

This is an example of one of the first class hearses of the day… It was manufactured by the James Cunningham and Son Company in 1895.  There is an ice compartment underneath the place for the casket that helps keep the corpse ‘fresh’ on the trip to the cemetery.

Cunningham went on to begin building cars in 1908 and they were one of the first auto makers to introduce a V-8 engine…in 1916!   Their 1908 gasoline powered cars sold for approximately $3,500.  That would be the equivalent of $93,000 today!   By 1910, the company was producing all its own parts and was selling its cars in a range from $4,500 to $5,000.  The company went completely out of business in 1936 after being in business for 54 years.

That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave