Homegrown locomotive


From the left, Engine 819, James Joseph Dempsey and Joseph P. Dempsey. We are grandson and grandfather and on this day, we visited the Arkansas Railroad Museum in our hometown, Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The museum is home for the 819.

From the left, Engine 819, James Joseph Dempsey and Joseph P. Dempsey. We are grandson and grandfather and on this day, we visited the Arkansas Railroad Museum in our hometown, Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The museum is home for the 819. The 819, formerly retired and later restored, is currently not in service, but we have high hopes to reverse that condition.

capation

Click on the monster machine and learn more about the 819 and the Arkansas Railroad Museum.

Not everyone can say that a behemouth, 4-8-4 steam locomotive was built in their hometown. If you happen to be from my hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, you can say that. In the early forties 20 “800” series 4-8-4 steam locomotives were built in the United States.

Ten of these locomotives were built at the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Pennsylvania and ten were built in the Cotton Belt Shops in Pine Bluff.

Only one of these machines has escaped the ignominy of the scrap yard, Engine 819. The 819 is currently housed in the same building where it was made. The building is a former shop of  the St. Louis and Southwestern (The Cotton Belt Line) Railroad, Southern Pacific Railroad, and finally, the Union Pacific Railroad in that order.

Construction started on the building in 1882 and reached completion in 1894 as part of an extensive complex of railroad shops. This building is all that is left of the former complex. Appropriately, it is now home to the Arkansas Railroad Museum operated by the Cotton Belt Railroad Historical Society. See their site at the link above for complete details on the 819 and the museum. You can also see and learn more of the 819 and the museum on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here while you look. You can also find more tidbits our Weekly Grist post of April 11, 2010.

Cab of steam locomotive 819

You are looking in the cab of the 819. The controls are removed and in storage. The square device at the bottom of the picture is a seat frame, minus cushion. Inside the firebox hold and on the outside you can see x-ray section grid markings on the boiler shell. These markings were added prior to the big machine’s last inspection.

The 819 entered service in 1942 and was removed from service in the early fifties. The St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad donated the locomotive to the City of Pine Bluff 1n 1955. The city placed the locomotive in a city park where it stayed until 1983 when a local non-profit group, The Cotton Belt Railroad Historical Society, started a project to relocate and rebuild the historic iron horse.

The restoration was successful and the 819 made its first trips in 1986. The locomotive was removed from service in the early nineties for a tear down and inspection. Once the inspection was done, the price of steel needed for replacement parts vastly exceeded local resources. So,  if you know of anyone who can spare about $350,000 (that’s what we’re told that it will take to fire it up again) or so and wants to do something cool, the 819 awaits.

Engineer's station on a diesel-electric locomotive

While the 819 is the star of the show at the Arkansas Railroad Museum, there is plenty more to see including getting up close and personal with the engineer’s station on a former Southern Pacific diesel-electric locomotive. Now you know how the driver’s seat looks. Kids love it. So do their grandfathers.

Old switchboard

A long time ago, when one made a phone call, one talked to an operator who made the connection for you. The operator was likely seated at a device similar to this switchboard on display at the Arkansas Railroad Museum. You can see locomotives and rail cars on display in the background.

Depot stove

You can see just about anything that had anything to do with railroads in the museum. The contraption in the center of the picture is a former “depot stove.” I suspect it was a welcome sight on blustery winter days.

Museums, while not a source of heart thumping excitement are a wellspring of entertainment for the mind and spirit. Unlike the tube, you get to stare and sometimes touch as long as it suits you. In the case of the Arkansas Railroad Museum, the building is also a museum piece. It is a rare opportunity to visit a Victorian era industrial building which has not changed much since it was being used for its original purpose. The nooks and crannies are neat. And is a good thing to have neat nooks and crannies.

For those of you who do not yet have enough of the 819 and the museum, visit our Weekly Grist Gallery and see more pictures from this trip. Please forgive the shameless images of me.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind

http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Compress no more


Old water tower and building at former Federal Compress in Pine Bluff Arkansas

This building and water tower are all that’s left of the former Federal Compress and Cotton Warehouse on West 6th Avenue in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. The original facility stretched for two or three city blocks and was a beehive of activity during cotton harvesting season. Advancing agricultural technology put compresses in the same category as high-button shoes, buggy-whips, and the Edsel.

Back in the day when cotton was King, most LA cities and towns of any size had a cotton compress (or two). The compresses received baled cotton from local gins and then compressed  the bales to a smaller size, around 60% of their original size, which made storing and shipping more efficient. Most of the compresses operated on steam as did this one, the Federal Compress in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Old Coca-Cola sign

Click on the sign to see more.

While we are on the subject of “back in the day,” let me direct you to see an old Coca-Cola wall sign, painted I’m thinking sometime around 1907. The sign is on Main Street here in Pine Bluff, so locals can go ogle it, if so disposed. Go to the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com to see the sign and graze through some commentary.

When gin operators discovered high-capacity hydraulic presses, they eliminated the need for the trip to the compress, sounding the death knell for these businesses. There was one other compress  in Pine Bluff, the Pine Bluff Compress and Warehouse Company. It is now leveled. The only evidence remaining of its former presence are a few concrete piers.

Old water tower and building at former Federal Compress

Here is a toads-eye view of the tower. The wide angle lens gives a, shall we say, “towering” appearance.

Old compress water tower and building on same premises as an ice company

The old building and water tower now share real estate with a modern ice plant. Steam to ice in one generation, quite a transition. Shot across the street from the old compress premises.

A straight on shot from the edge of the premises gives you a more accurate view of the proportions of the building and tower,

A straight-on shot from the edge of the premises gives you a more accurate view of the proportions of the building and tower.

Though the economic value of compresses has long since met its demise, there is still historic value to that part of our background. Investors made commitments and provided a needed service. They created jobs that put food on family tables. Even the compress steam whistles were a dependable time check for neighbors. Compresses were a mainstay made obsolete. There’s a lesson there somewhere.

Streetscape in Pine Bluff, Arkansas

Three generations of signs speak to the history of this corner in my hometown of Pine Bluff, Arkansas. We see a venerable financial institution well over 100 years in business, a beloved local merchant no longer in business and the new occupant of the premises, a church with a neon slogan. Time and life goes on.

Sometimes a swing back in time is good for the soul. I trust this one was to you.

Thanks,
Joe Dempsey

Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind.

http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

A new place for an old home


Old dog trot house on pumpkin hill road rison ar

Until spring of 2010, this old home was in shambles, 47 miles or so to the west of where it now sits  on Pumpkin Hill Road southeast of Rison, Arkansas enjoying early morning sun in mid-November. The old structure is the former home of Bob Abbott’s grandfather. Bob thought the old home was worth saving. So he did.

In 2010, Bob Abbott decided it was high time to move his grandfather’s old dogtrot house from Smead, Arkansas to his place on Pumpkin Hill Road southeast of Rison, Arkansas. The old house had been in its original location since the late 1800s and was no longer owned by the family.  It was not in good condition. In fact, Bob was told by many that the old house was well past restoration and that the move was a bad idea. Bob disagreed and finally found an individual who agreed with his disagreement. He made a deal with the current owners and the move was on.

Old dog trot house

Click on the house for more pictures and info.

After come careful jacking and loading, the old house was on a trailer and ready to roll. The trip from Smead to Pumpkin Hill Road was in the neighborhood of 47 miles, mainly over back county roads and secondary state highways. See some details of the pre-load condition of the house in our earlier story: The Old House at Smead.

Fortunately the trip was reasonably uneventful and the moving crew safely delivered the ancient cargo to the Pumpkin Hill location. Then the real fun began: Reassembling a house without all its parts. Some parts were simply beyond salvage and the builders had to substitute newer materials and make them fit.

Before we go too much further. may we suggest that you check out the start of this story on the Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. You’ll see more pictures and get additional information.

front view of dog trot house showing dog trot breezeway

You are looking down the dogtrot breezeway from the front of the house. The kitchen side is to the right. The bedroom is to the left. This is close to the original structure of the home. In later years, the homeowners closed the dogtrot at both ends and made a big central room. This was a common practice as families grew, an early no-brainer for a quick room addition.

the back side of a dog trot house

Here’s a 180, looking at the dog-trot breezeway from the back porch.

A look inside

Dogtrot houses in their basic form have two rooms separated by a breezeway. One side has sleeping  and “living” quarters, the other side has a kitchen and dining area. In almost all dogtrot houses, the family eventually made additions to the structure. This one is the two-room version.

bedroom in dog trot house

This is the bedroom complete with iron bed, ladder-back chairs and a vintage Singer Sewing Machine. There are two windows, one to the photographer’s back and the one you see to the left. There is also a door to the back porch. The walls, ceiling and floor are original equipment.

bedroon in dogtrot house showing breezeway

Looking at the bedroom from the front corner showing the entrance door from the breezeway. The wide angle lens necessary to capture this image has distorted the door to nearly twice its size.

Interior of dog trot house bedroom

The home entertainment corner of the bedroom consisting of a 78-rpm Victrola and a couple of chairs. The dresser has a picture and wash bowl.

kitchen in dog trot house

The kitchen has the expected cast-iron stove, a table – and chairs for mom and dad – and benches for everyone else. For ultimate convenience of the times there’s also a sink, pantry, and cupboard.

Kitchen in dog trot house

The kitchen from a slightly different angle.

view of dog trot house kitchen

Another view of the kitchen. This time with hanging aprons. Nice touch.

dogtrot house on pumpkin hill road rison ar

Here’s one more look from the front in mid-afternoon sun.

There’s more on Pumpkin Hill Road

We’ve visited Bob Abbott’s place on Pumpkin Hill Road before, but for those of you who are not familiar with the place, you’ll also find The Traveler, a fully restored and working (but not rolling) executive rail car from a bygone era. You can learn more on The Traveler in our original Corndancer story, Traveler’s Rest and our Weekly Grist version of Traveler’s Rest.

The Traveler railroad executive private car

The Traveler was once the private car of the president of the former St. Louis and Southwestern Railroad, known popularly as the “Cotton Belt” line.

Chapel on Pumpkin Hill Road

There’s also a Chapel on the property, popular for small weddings, memorial services, and other church meetings and events.

Tree top reflection in lake

This tree-top reflection in a lake on the Pumpkin Hill Road place looks akin to any number of French impressionist works.

And as a parting shot, there’s a fine lake on the property. I saw a tree-top reflection in the water. It’s the Almighty’s version of French impressionists made available to me. And to you.

Lake on Pumpkin Hill Road

Click on the lake for our special Pumpkin Hill Road gallery

Pumpkin Hill Gallery

We have created a special gallery of 19 pictures of the place on Pumpkin Hill Road which are larger and better resolution than normal web presentation.

If you would like to see the Pumpkin Hill Corndancer and Weekly Grist pictures larger and in greater detail this gallery is for you. Click here.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Fountain Hill redux


Border Collie, Maggie at Phiilps General Merchandise, Fountain Hill,Arkansas

Maggie, the resident Border Collie at L.M. Phillips General Merchandise in Fountain Hill, Arkansas, takes a long look at the front door of the store. Is she pondering the sign or checking out an approaching human? Regardless, she is on her A-game. Click on the picture to see our original July, 2009 post.

Margaret Phillips, and her dog Border Collie, Maggie, at L.M. Phillips General Merchandise, Fountain Hill Arkansas

Click on the picture for more on Margaret and Maggie.

Back in July of 2009, I discovered L.M. Phillips General Merchandise at Fountain Hill, Arkansas, one of the few real, live, general stores still alive and well. The Saturday afternoon I was there, the  proprietress, Margaret Phillips was doing a brisk business. Part of her business model is Maggie, a precocious Border Collie who believes her job is to look out for Margaret’s personal safety and to be an alarm system who raises the alarm when suspected interlopers show up.

We are sending you back to Fountain Hill this week for a second look at the story of Margaret and Maggie. You will also see John Cruce and his team of mules pulling a wagon, something you don’t bump into every day. You will also want to see our original Corndancer dot-com Photo of the Week page with more pictures and a story.

Thanks for dropping by,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

The question on the barn; and a favorite waterfall


Old barn with cross on roof

The roof of this old barn at St. Vincent, Arkansas has a question superimposed on the image of a Cross. “R U Ready?”

As you cruise into the outskirts of St. Vincent, Arkansas, you notice an aged reminder of Redemption, or the lack thereof, on the roof of this old barn. Back in the day, barn roofs were convenient substitutes for billboards, most of which were painted by itinerant sign painters. This roof was not painted by one of the traveling practitioners. It shows all the vestiges of creation by a non-professional painter with a passion to  deliver a message .

Whomsoever did the deed had a better eye than most amateurs for proportion and layout. The message is on both sides of the barn and clearly shows in the Google satellite view of the location.

LBJ's beer and grocery

Click here for the LBJ’s story and pictures

Not far up the road from the barn is St. Vincent’s business district, consisting of one store, LBJ’s Beer and Grocery. In Arkansas, some might consider the two a culture clash. Unlike the old barn, there were people present at LBJ’s which seemed ripe for a good story.

That presumption of a good story was correct. See the story of LBJ’s Beer and Grocery — and its proprietress on the Photo of  the Week page at Corndancer dot-com. We’ll wait here for your return.

store with old lion oil sign

Later that afternoon, we found this store proudly displaying an old Lion Oil sign. Lion Oil is an Arkansas company which has changed hands over the years. The Lion Oil refinery in El Dorado, Arkansas, you can be assured, is refining crude even as you eyeball this image.

The next day, liquid sunshine

A day later, we headed back in the same direction.The fine sunlight of the preceding day had transmogrified to overcast and liquid sunshine. I decided that these conditions did not create gloom and doom, but offered different challenges.

Mountain in the mist

As we were ascending to the hills, cold rain hit warmer earth and foliage creating a misty mountain mystique. It didn’t last long.

Murky falls

Once the mental re-orientation was done, I headed nearby to one of my favorite waterfalls, Falling Water Falls, (on Falling Water Creek) northeast of Ben Hur, Arkansas. The normally pristine falls were a bit murky due to the extreme drought in this Arkansas neck of the woods. The creek drains a lot of downhill territory which contains a lot of dust resulting in the coffee look of the falls. The dusty grunge however does not diminish the siren sound of falling water, which is mesmerizing to a lot of folks, Me included.

falling water falls, falling water creek, arkansas

It is not necessary to leave your vehicle to take in this view of Falling Water Falls on Falling Water Creek, northeast of Ben Hur, Arkansas. The murky appearance is an anomaly. The creek normally runs clear and clean, however, the accumulation of dust due to the current drought in the runoff area that feeds the creek creates the temporary appearance.

Falling water falls falling water creek arkansas

It is necessary to leave your vehicle to get this view. A few non-hazardous steps will do the trick.

I identified Falling Water as one of my favorites. Here are links to my previously documented visits to the falls, the first of which goes way, way, back to the film days: Falling Water 1; Falling Water 2;  and Falling Water 3.

Mouldy monument

On “Old Highway 27,” I found this old monument, the inscription of which reads.” Arkansas Federation of Women’s Clubs Memorial Forest.” Then there appears to be a blank space where a plaque was removed, followed by further emblazonry reading, “Ozark National Forest, United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service.”

Apparently someone decided that the memorial, which stands taller than my 6-3″ frame was no longer necessary. Perhaps there is some irony in the fact that the memorial bears a striking resemblance to the map of Texas, our former Southwest Conference arch-rival.

Arkansas Federation of Womens Clubs Memorial forest monument

Perhaps the monument was abandoned because it looks too much like Texas, our former arch- rival in the now defunct Southwest Conference.

Grunt and groan fence

Further north on “Old 27″ I found this old rock fence. Folks, there is no easy way to build one of these. Here are the instructions: Find rock, lift, tote, lower in place. Repeat if necessary. Multiply that by the number of rocks you see, keeping in mind that this is a fraction of the fence.

old rock fence in the ozarks

Imagine the labor to build in this old rock fence. Apparently our fore-bearers believed there was great value to these structures. Back in the boondocks, one frequently encounters fences that strongly resemble this one.

Across from the rock fence is an old residence which appears to now be a deer camp. The old dug well looks good in the front yard. Since there are no ropes attached, one can presume its primary function is now decorative.

old dug well in the ozarks

The old dug well structure across from the fence is well preserved, but non-functional.

The cool stuff to see does not go away during inclement weather, it just looks different and may be a tad more difficult to reach. But, if you don’t go you’ll never know.

Thanks,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

Brighten the corner


red lilies in empty lot

These brilliant lilies are brightening their little corner of the world which happens to be in a former location of a family home, now an empty lot. The neighborhood, so far, has seen and gone past its best years. Someone forgot to tell the lilies.

Few of us can  find fault with urban beautification projects and organizations. In this day and time there is an abundant amount of urban acreage which can benefit from the noble efforts these people put forth. Since the prospective areas to benefit far outweigh available resources, we are grateful to our Maker for any help we can get.

I was reminded of that when I spotted these lilies in an empty lot in what I suppose one would call a “transitional” neighborhood. You know the type: a few homes, a few empty businesses, a few operating businesses, a partially filled strip shopping center, a couple of churches, and a Sears store turned public building — the neighbor hood can’t decide what it is.

ground spider in tunnel

Click on the picture and see more of Ms. Spider

Normally at this point in our Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind epistles, we invite you to take a look at a related subject on the current Photo of the Week page at Corndancer dot com.

This week, the invitation stands, but the subject is totally unrelated. Well maybe a little, these are Spider Lilies. Go to the Photo of the Week page and check out my visit with a ground spider in her home. She was reluctant about the whole thing but finally acquiesced to an up close and personal shoot on her premises.

Back to the lilies

red lilies in abandoned lot

Take a gander at the lilies up close. These are complex boogers that bear close examination. Each flower is akin to a free standing arts and sciences gallery.

Mother Nature has her own program of beautification, manifested in surviving plants, which for whatever fortunate reasons, are not molested by surviving humans. These lilies are propagating and bursting forth with beauty where we need it most. The tour buses will miss ‘em but us serfs who ply the less-traveled public streets can benefit if we will take the time to notice. And further, to alert your friends.

Brighten the corner where you are

As I looked at the lilies, I harkened back to my “up-brangin’.” Giving the flowers a good once-or-twice-over, I found myself humming the old hymn, “Brighten the corner where you are.” Being one to share, I looked around and found a video with old church scenes and Burl Ives singing the hymn in his fine Southern Gospel mode, chased by Willie Nelson singing the “Unclouded day.” You will tap your feet.

 

red lilies in an old home place

Here are the lilies with a bit more of their environment. Mother Nature’s perfect balance of complimentary colors (remember what those are?)

The lilies and I appreciate you dropping by. Now brothers and sisters, let us go forth and brighten the respective corners where we are.

Thanks,

Joe Dempsey
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

A Twist of fate again


Thunderhead near Twist, Arkansas

Click on the cloud for the original May 23, 2010 post.

Reverend Washingtons Angel

Click on the Angel for the whole, really cool, story.

You have to go out of your way to find Twist, Arkansas. When you see a sign that says Twist with an arrow pointing right, you follow your whimsy and make the turn. I did that back in May 2010 when I did the original “Twist of Fate” post.

This week we are revisiting that post where we saw the great thunderhead to your left, discovered how B.B. King came to name all of his guitars Lucille, saw a building consumed by ivy  − and saw a Angel in a bean field.

Finding the Angel was the big deal of the day, since one simply does not expect to happen across a giant Angel in a remote bean field in Northeast Arkansas. You’ll have to go to Corndancer dot-com to get the whole story on the Angel in the bean field. It’s worth the trip.

Thanks for visiting Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,

Joe Dempsey,
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
http://www.joedempseycommunications.com/
http://www.joedempseyphoto.com/
http://www.corndancer.com/joephoto/photohome.html

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