Tag Archives: amtrak

When pen pals come to visit

I live in my own little world

When my wise old grandmother (MWOG) adopted me in December 1965, I had four main interests that I had developed in my 10 years and 9 months of life: Mother & Father Nature (flora & fauna), music, and philately.

MWOG didn’t know what philately was, until I told her it was stamp collecting. For Christmas she bought me a subscription to Linn’s Weekly Stamp News. Best. Grandmother. Ever.

Linn's Weekly Stamp News

In the advertisements in the last pages was a section titled “Pen Pals.” These weren’t just ordinary pen pals, though. They were philatelist (stamp collector) pen pals. Write a letter, put stamps on the envelope, and your pen pal may or may not read whatever was in the envelope being just so happy to get free postage stamps from another country.

Back in those days I had many, many pen pals, and I had my little journal that helped me keep track of who I wrote to, and when, and when I got a response from them. My longest pen pal relationship lasted from 1966 to 1973. Sadly, I have forgotten his name and what country he was from, and my little journal was absconded by MWOG when I went off to college. She was terribly upset at me for going off to college 270 miles away, so everything that I couldn’t take with me when I left was not there when I came home for the weekend a month later. She had gathered up all the stuff that I had left, figuring I didn’t want it and that she would never see me again, and sold it at one of her city-famous garage sales.

Here is is 51 years later and I still have pen pals. My little journal is now an Excel spreadsheet. There are no stamps involved. It’s much easier to write a “letter.” It’s called blogging.

Occasionally a blogging pen pal arrives in San Diego, and when that happens, often I get notification. Yesterday, I had the pleasure to go out with Liz Flint and Bryan Flint. I met Liz when we both were blogging on a real estate blog site a decade ago; I was there from 2007 to 2011 before I set out on my own here at WordPress. Liz and Bryan are from Tomball, Texas, a northwestern suburb of Houston. Tomball happens to be where my favorite aunt and uncle lived for several decades, so I was intimately familiar with the area.

Liz and Bryan made it to San Diego back in May 2013. I had the pleasure of taking them to the San Diego Zoo, the cactus garden at Balboa Park, the San Diego Model Railroad Museum (also in Balboa Park), and train spotting. All three of us are railroad fans and photographers.

Yesterday they were in San Diego again. I had the pleasure of going with them to the Carlsbad Flower Fields and then out to eat and a place right by some very active railroad tracks where we could watch Coaster and Amtrak trains go by. They had taken Amtrak from Houston to Los Angeles, driven down to San Diego to go to the Flower Fields, and then drove back to Los Angeles. They will be taking Amtrak to San Diego on April 6 to catch a cruise ship that will take them through the Panama Canal and to Florida. I’ll be out there on April 6 taking a video of their Amtrak train. Meanwhile……..

Some pictures from the Carlsbad Flower Fields yesterday featuring Liz & Bryan:

Liz Flint at the Carlsbad Flower Fields

Bryan & Liz Flint at the Carlsbad Flower Fields

Bryan Flint at the Carlsbad Flower Fields

And, of course, the requisite picture of Bryan taking a picture of an Amtrak train:
Bryan Flint taking a picture of an Amtrak train in Carlsbad CA

If you make it to San Diego or anywhere close by, let me know. You might get free tickets to something (usually the Zoo or Safari Park), discounted tickets, and, perhaps, your own personal docent.

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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Trains—San Diego Trolley extension work interrupts Amtrak & Coaster

Railroads & Trains logo

Yesterday was my day to go to the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego and see what was going on. Well, nothing. Literally, nothing. There is no Amtrak or Coaster train action between the Santa Fe Depot and Oceanside, a distance of about 39 miles.

Track-a-train was showing all Amtrak Pacific Surfliners arriving and leaving from the Oceanside Transit Center. I set out to find out why, and it didn’t take me long to find that the line currently is shut down, at least through March 14, to re-align tracks and do some at-grade work for the extension of the San Diego Trolley from Old Town to University City.

Finally.

However, the extension is being built with a lot of Federal Transit Administration funds.

Uh-oh.

California voted for Clinton. Twitler knows that, and Twitler is a very vengeful person. I will keep an eye on these federal transit funds because I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Twitler will do something to exact his revenge on California by withholding federal funds.

I got quite a few interesting pictures showing the work going on. I thought it was interesting that the Mid-Coast Transit Constructors simply pulled the southbound Amtrak tracks about ten feet to the west. Presuming, then, that the Trolley is going to go down the middle of the Amtrak tracks. Now that I know about this, I can go out weekly and document process. Just south of where I was the tracks will be aerial due to a river (known as a creek in other states) and the tracks through University City and the University of California-San Diego will be aerial tracks.

Picture 1 – Abrupt break in the southbound tracks.Break in the Amtrak tracks for re-alignment

Picture 2 – Amtrak’s not going to like the excessive bends in this curveExcessive bends in re-aligned Amtrak tracks

Picture 3 – Mounds of rock showing where the track used to be.Mounds of rock indicate where the tracks used to be

Picture 4 – Southbound track re-alignment not yet complete.Re-aligned track work not completed

Thanks for stopping by! See you next time!

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NO TRESPASSING

Out & About

Missouri Pacific LinesAs a toddler I had a significant interest in trains since my dad and granddad both worked for Missouri Pacific Railroad in Texas.

When my dad died in 1961, my mom moved us from Palestine, Texas, to Logan, Utah.

My interest in trains remained, though, so much so that whenever I ran away from home, which was often, I would walk the railroad tracks instead of the streets and highways.

Train tracks, State Route 94, San Diego County, CaliforniaMuch more fun…………

I used to think that maybe I would become one of The Boxcar Children.

When I came here to San Diego, walking the railroad tracks was frowned upon.

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner in Del Mar, CaliforniaIn fact, in some areas they will give you trespassing tickets if you don’t cross the tracks at designated crosswalks.

Unfortunately, though, railroad tracks often separate the beaches from the cities, so one sometimes has to walk a mile or more to get to a designated crossing.

Thus, beachgoers, especially those with children or large surfboards, often park wherever there is parking (and there’s not much!) and walk across the tracks, which is what I did recently when I came across the most interesting NO TRESPASSING sign.

Railroad No Trespassing sign

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

From what I have read, the theory behind that NO TRESPASSING sign is that people are looking down so as not to trip on rocks and train tracks, so that is the logical place to put such a sign. Makes sense to me………….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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It’s “Purple Season” in San Diego!

Picture of the Moment

People like to say that we have no seasons in San Diego. I beg to differ. In fact, we have more seasons than most areas of the world:

December 1-January 15—Rainy season
January 1-December 31—Flower season
January 15–March 31—Spring
April 1-October 31—Summer
May 1-May 31—Purple season
May 1-October 31—Fire season
May 15-September 15—Tourist season

Purple season is ramping up significantly right now. The Jacarandas are at the height of their bloom….

Jacarandas on Ash Street in downtown San Diego

….and the lilies of the Nile are bursting out in color everywhere….

Agapanthus or lily of the nile

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Long-time readers know of my love of Mother & Father Nature’s creations, as well as some of man’s creations, like trains….

So when I found a spot where the trains are zooming by some newly planted, and blooming, jacarandas, I had to pull over, get out, and take some pictures.

Here’s my favorite:

img_1699 amtrak jacaranda train railroad stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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I’m rich! I’m rich!

Inspiration

It doesn’t take much for me to get inspired each day, usually a catnap here and there, a hot shower, the news report, and my Excel spreadsheet detailing my goals and tasks for each day.

Occasionally, though, my level of inspiration jumps a few notches, as it did two days ago when I got this email:

Newsflare

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Notice that payment is in Pounds. I thought Great Britain was part of the Eurozone and was using the Euro. Not so. I guess the citizens voted down membership in the Eurozone. Good for me, though. When I initially read the email, I thought the sales price was in Euros, which were trading at $1.14 to a U.S. dollar. When I went to my PayPal account, the amount was much more than what I thought it should be. That’s when I realized that payment was in Pounds Sterling, which were trading at $1.499 to a U.S. dollar. Yahooooo! More money for me!

Here is the video that sold:

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

A mere 13 seconds. However, the event itself started at 10:00 a.m. and ended at 5:00 p.m. Knowing that parking in the area would be bad, I arrived at 7:00 a.m., got a great parking spot, and proceeded to take pictures of the trains passing by every 30 minutes:

Amtrak Pacific Surfliner in Del Mar, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

So if I divide the sales price, $1,124.25, by 12 hours, I get an hourly rate of $93.69. Hmmm. Still not bad………..LOL

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#10: Torrey Pines Area, part 2

San Diego Historical Landmarks

If you missed Torrey Pines Area, part 1, here it is.

Let us start at the far north of the Torrey Pines Area as defined by this map:

Torrey Pines Area

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

That blue just below Carmel Valley Road is Los Peñasquitos Lagoon. It’s a great place to go train watching since Amtrak, Coaster, and BNSF freight use the single track through the marsh.

Amtrak under the Del Mar Bridge at Torrey Pines State Beach near San Diego, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Those trees you see on the hill behind the bridge are torrey pines in the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

The torrey pine (Pinus torreyana) is the rarest pine species in the United States. It grows only in a small area here in San Diego and on Santa Rosa Island, one of the islands in Channel Island National Park off the coast of Southern California.

Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)

Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana)

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I went to the Reserve at 7:00 one morning and did everything within my power not to just sit out there and watch the trains go by. Long-time readers probably realize how difficult it was for me to ignore the trains. Nonetheless, here’s a walk through a couple of the trails in the Reserve:

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Torrey Pines State Nature Reserve, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The first time I visited the Reserve was back in May 1993. As I remember it, there was very little sunshine to be found on the trails since it was a fairly dense forest of torrey pines. Sadly, the pines slowly are losing their fight for existence due to drought, insect attacks, and pollution from nearby developments and roadways.

There are two named beaches below the 400-foot cliffs of the Reserve: Torrey Pines State Beach and Blacks Beach. Blacks Beach is one of the world’s largest and best naturist beaches. It is difficult to get to because one has to navigate trails down the 400-foot sandstone cliffs, and each time you go, the trails are different due to erosion from human traffic and rainfall during the winter weeks.

My knees don’t like me going up and down cliffs anymore, so these pictures are from a trip a couple of years ago:

Blacks Beach

Stairs to Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

Blacks Beach in San Diego, California

IMG_7122 framed

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Torrey Pines Golf Course is San Diego’s best and most beautiful course, and it’s a municipal course! It is where Tiger Woods won his last major championship, the U.S. Open, back in 2008.

Torrey Pines Golf Course

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Overlooking the golf course is The Lodge at Torrey Pines, a AAA Five Diamond hotel:

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

The Lodge at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The University of California at San Diego (UCSD) is in the Torrey Pines Area. UCSD was established in November 1960, and in just 54 years has risen to prominence among universities worldwide, with U.S. News & World Report recently ranking it as the 18th Top World University.

The campus has many unique buildings and public art, and is worth spending a day just walking around gawking at everything. The library, shown in the first picture, is named after Theodore Geisel, better known as “Dr. Seuss.” Geisel was a La Jolla resident when he died, and many of his works are in the Geisel Collection in the library.

Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego

UCSD Sun God

University of California San DiegoUniversity of California San Diego

Computer Science & Engineering Building at University of California San Diego

House at the University of California San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Across the street from the campus is the historic Torrey Pines Glider Port. I have been known to sit there for hours at a time and just watch the hang gliders.

Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego

Torrey Pines Gliderport, San Diego

Torrey Pines Glider Port

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

On the beach below the Glider Port is the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, founded in 1903, and one of the world’s foremost oceanographic institutions. The Institution is now a part of the University of California San Diego, and also includes the Birch Aquarium. Take an afternoon to visit the Aquarium because the view of the beach and ocean is unparalleled, and the aquariums and fish are pretty nice, too!

Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego

Scripps Institute of Oceanography, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

At the very south of the Torrey Pines Area is the Salk Institute for Biological Studies:

Salk Institute, San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The Salk Institute was founded in 1960 by Jonas Salk, the developer of the polio vaccine. It often is ranked as the premier biological & biomedicine institute in the world.

Constant praise is heaped upon the architecture, but I find it to be absolutely atrocious. Bare concrete everywhere; just depressing and oogie.

Salk Institute in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

There you have it. An absolutely gorgeous and historic area, so if ever you are in San Diego, take a day out of your schedule and go visit the Torrey Pines Area in La Jolla. You won’t regret it.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,
go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Combining history, photography, and railroad passions

San Diego Then & Now

I always have been a fan of history, especially history that indicates how cruel humans can be to each other—The Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, American Civil War, World War I, World War II….

My second favorite history genre relies on another of my passions, photography, for its best storyline: then & now.

Combine history and photography with my passion for trains, and all is well in the world.

Trains were instrumental in building America, bringing people closer to each other, and moving troops in times of war.

Much of the railroad infrastructure in San Diego was built by the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe railroad, such as the historic Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego:

Santa Fe Depot in San Diego

The Santa Fe Depot is still used by the San Diego Trolley, the Coaster, and Amtrak. A careful search through historical records will reveal many pictures of Santa Fe trains in San Diego, such as this calendar picture of Santa Fe 3751, a steam engine built in 1927:

Santa Fe #3751 along the Pacific Ocean

That picture is circa 1962 and shows #3751 rounding the curve under the historic Del Mar bridge just north of Torrey Pines State Beach here in San Diego County. The train is headed northbound with the next part of its journey being right above the beaches. Gorgeous views and one of the most scenic Amtrak routes in all of North America!

Santa Fe #3751 still is fully operational and makes several excursions a year to various train events. When I went to San Bernardino Railroad Days earlier this year, I had the pleasure of riding in the consist from San Bernardino to Los Angeles Union Station, about 90 miles, that was being pulled by Santa Fe #3751.

Here is Photographic Art based on a picture of the Santa Fe #3751 from 2012 National Train Day in Los Angeles:

ATSF 3751 at Los Angeles at National Train Day in May 2012

Now let’s go back to that calendar picture. Although the location of the bridge was not disclosed on the calendar, I recognized it because I’ve driven over that bridge many times, and walked Torrey Pines State Beach many times. Here it is on a Google map:

Del Mar Bridge at Torrey Pines State Beach

The location is a great place to do a little train watching since Amtrak and the Coaster use it regularly. Northbound and southbound trains use the single track, so trains go by about every 30 minutes on a week day.

Following is my re-creation of the calendar picture with a northbound Amtrak Pacific Surfliner at the same point on the curve under the bridge.

Amtrak under the Del Mar Bridge at Torrey Pines State Beach near San Diego, California

There are about 50 years between the two pictures.

Look at the trees on the top of the hill in the background and you can see that the silhouette is very much the same:

Torrey pines

The trees are Torrey pines. San Diego is one of only two places in the world where the Torrey pine grows. The other is an island off the Southern California coast.

Now I want to find that tall tree in the middle because I’m pretty sure there must be a time capsule at its base that is waiting for Russel Ray to dig it up. Inside will be all sorts of materials about the history of San Diego, photographs, an old Kodak Brownie camera, and maybe even a toy Lionel train, Santa Fe #3751.

Following is Santa Fe #3751 at the 2014 San Bernardino Railroad Days, preparing to take a couple hundred train fans—including me!—back to Los Angeles Union Station. I rode in the second car behind the locomotive and tender, or the fifth car from the rear.

Santa Fe Depot in San Bernardino, California

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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