Gary on Metro North

Gary on Metro North

On the way to New York on Metro North. My good friend Gary Sharp came out to visit us in Connecticut from the southern Oregon coast over Thanksgiving as he has for many years. It’s always a delight to see him; he and I go back thirty years. 30 years! Gad, we’re old.

One of the many things that happens when he visits is we both take a lot more pictures which of course is a good thing. Each of us in our own way can get stuck in a photographic rut; it’s not that we’re not shooting, we are, but we need stimulation, another influence that nudges us in a slightly different direction.

Gary is a gentle but authoritative influence on me; he’s got much more photographic experience than I do and a great eye for color and composition and even though I can seem headstrong at times, his gravitational energy pulls me out of my comfortable orbit. A trip to New York with Gary is a blast. Hell, a train ride with Gary is a blast.

In short, we had a great time together and I’m looking forward to his next visit this coming summer.

Bamboo Railroad in Cambodia

Core77 has a great post on Traveling via Bamboo Railcar in Cambodia.

Cambodia has one railway line, laid down by the French during their colonial occupation. The antiquated tracks are no longer safe for trains to run on, and as a result, there aren’t any (trains).

The locals have invented a low tech way to make use of the unused rail infrastructure: Norry are made from two recycled tank axles and wheels that roll on the tracks with a bamboo covered wooden frame riding on them. Attached to the back axle is a belt driven by a constant speed two cycle engine. Belt tension is adjusted with a stick and this controls speed, braking is done with a foot applying friction to the back axle.

The best part is that there are dozens of these up and down the tracks and if you come upon one coming in your direction you both stop, assess who has the most people or most awkward baggage to unload and the one with the easiest unload takes the Norry apart and off the track to let the other one pass.

Watch the video to see the entire process. Simply amazing and wonderful.

Note, there are many videos of this railway up on YouTube but I’ve not found one that shows the actual connection between the axle, bearing, and platform. You can see the entire Norry come apart but you never see the connection. The platform sits on the axle but no doubt has some kind of groove that the axel sits in. I’d love to see what that’s built out of.

I’m guessing my friend Dale has ridden these and he’ll know the technical details.

Feynman explains how trains stay on tracks and go around turns

This is exactly the kind of Feynman explanation I love. Not only does he make the complex simple, but he seems to be taking perverse pleasure in revealing something simple that few people think about but is an interesting concept once you start thinking about it.

I’m one of the few oddballs who thinks about this stuff and I knew this fact about trains but could never explain it like Feynman.

Twenty five years ago when I lived in Oregon I noticed that the chip trucks: large tractor-trailers with oversize trailers that hauled wood chips to paper mills had atypical wheels and axils on their trailers. The front of the two rear axils with its double wheels was not set just in front of the rear set but in fact, about 1/3 of the way up trailer toward the front. I wondered how this setup went around a corner? Which axil did the turning and did the other one just scrape sideways along the road? In fact, unlike a train with its flanged wheels trucks have differentials but the differentials don’t account for this problem. I’ve asked lots of people about this over the years and the consensus is that the rear wheels “fudge” a bit which means they do scrape sideways some as the truck turns.