Monorail Museum Updates

May 10, 2018

I’ve added some “artifacts” to my miniature monorail museum, located in the head car of the former MN Zoo Monorail that I bought a couple years ago.

While I’m trying to keep the monorail mostly original, that big hulking power box in the back of the driver’s cab was just begging to be turned into a display case. A little dremel work and a plexiglass window and it’s much nicer than before! Plus the mice don’t chew on my toy trains now! (Keeping mice out of this thing might be impossible, it even came with some free zoo mice when I first got it 😛 )

The Baron, as a former monorail driver, has moved up to my upper shelf of MN Zoo-related memorabilia. The lower shelf is more general monorail “stuff”, since people keep giving me monorail toys and whatnot that they come across. In addition to the obvious Disney monorail, I managed to find an HO scale Von Roll MkIII model that’s pretty darn close to this one! The MkIII was in the same family as the zoo’s UMI Tourister, just a little more developed and streamlined.

The wall displays document monorail tech, MN zoo history, and other monorail-related tidbits.

And outside the monorail I’ve stuck a “historic marker” for random visitors. Although the train is on private property and not open to the public, we do get some friends and acquaintances stopping by who are curious about it!

 

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Railbiking

March 27, 2018

I’ve been mildly interested in rail bikes for a while, but too lazy / busy to build one myself. However, when one popped up at a local estate sale I couldn’t pass it up.

Before the safety-conscious railfans jump on me, the track I’m testing this on is fully disconnected from any live rail and is on public land in a city park (The Trout Brook Nature Sanctuary). It’s part of a former industrial spur and was incorporated into the park as a bit of decoration by the designers.

I’m not sure of the origin of this contraption. It’s obviously homemade, but when and by whom are a mystery. The bike has a little side saddle “sidecar” on the outrigger, suitable for a passenger or cargo. The bike itself seems to have been built in England, or at least parts of it were. The nameplate is worn off and everything is pretty rusty! I’m guessing it’s from the 1950s or 60s, but whether it was a hobbyist or a railroad employee who built it, I don’t know.

The bike required a little work to get it going. Namely a new rear wheel, new crank and pedals, reinforced weld, new chain, and some minor adjustments.

It barely fits in the car, and requires the rear hatch to be open. This could get annoying if I want to transport it very far!

My initial tests showed that it does pretty well on abandoned track in decent condition. However, any bends, dents, large gaps, or major bushes on the rail will derail it. It kind of goes through switches in one direction, but tends to fall off the frog going through the other way.

A short (<1min) video of my early test runs can be found here:


Forgotten Railroad Updates

June 27, 2017

I recently traveled to Juneau, AK for some research on obscure Alaskan railroads. The Alaska State Library and Archives were incredibly helpful in pulling materials for me. I found enough material in their catalog that I estimated I’d need a week to go through it all, but they had it so streamlined I was able to get through my list in only 4 days! Of course in the meantime I generated another list just as long of related collections, additional sources, and expanded lines of inquiry! Hopefully I can get back to Juneau again for further research. I’m almost ready to turn this into a book, although I’m still hoping to find a way to visit some of these remote locations in person for photo documentation.

I’m slowly updating my railroad page with details, photos, maps, and other documents from this archival visit as I sort through the material. In the meantime, here are a few interesting tidbits!

t7

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 12

jualpa1

t1

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 999

t2

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 119

 

t3

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, PCA 119

t4

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 39

 

t6

Courtesy of Alaska State Archives, MS 999


Funter Bay History: Fire on the Morzhovoi

June 22, 2017

Fire is something wooden boat owners respect and fear. Between the fuel and the varnish-soaked hull, an overturned lamp or loose electrical wire can get out of hand rapidly. In June of 1955, things got very out of hand on the cannery tender Morzhovoi.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

Built in Seattle in 1917, the Morzhovoi was first owned by the Sockeye Salmon Co of Morzhovoi Bay, AK. It was later sold to the P.E. Harris Company, which operated the Funter Bay cannery after 1941. The vessel originally had a 110hp gas engine, changed to 165hp diesel by the 1950s. It is described in various documents as between 80 and 86ft in length. The vessel was of a fairly standard design used for freight service in the Pacific Northwest.

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 12, No 9, June 1920 (date in caption likely a typo)

 

From Pacific Motorboat, Vol 8, No 3, December 1915.

I have yet to find details of what transpired in June of 1955, but there are a number of photos in Captain “Kinky” Bayers’ files in the Alaska State Archives. Official wreck reports state that the ship burned on June 10th, but the photos are dated June 15th.

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, MS 10, Postcard Album 7.

 

Photo from Alaska State Archives, PCA 127

In some of these photos you can see small rowboats around the burning hull. These may have been curious sightseers like the person who took the photos, or they could have been cannery personnel guiding the boat away from other vessels and docks.

The Morzhovoi is a good candidate for the identity of a burned-out wreck found on the beach of Funter Bay today. The wreck is about the right size and features about the right type of engine, but is in such poor condition that verifying its identity would be difficult.

More photos are in my previous post about local shipwrecks.


Historic Juneau Photos

June 19, 2017

I recently returned from a trip to Juneau, Alaska, where I spent quite a bit of time in the state archives. Most of my research focused on the history of small railroads in the state, as well as some Funter Bay history. However, I also came across a few photos that were unrelated but just too cool to ignore. I’ve uploaded the high-res scans of some of these here to share with interested people. Click the previews below for the full size pictures, but be aware they are large files and may take a while to download if you have a slow internet connection!

Treadwell Mine:

Douglas, 1915:

Downtown Juneau, 1915(?)

Downtown Juneau from Mt. Juneau, showing Last Chance Basin at left. Date uncertain:

All of these are courtesy of the Alaska State Archives, Henson Family Photograph Collection, PCA 310


Juneau’s Hidden History

August 29, 2016

I’ve been invited to contribute some of my Alaska history research to Juneau’s Hidden History, a Facebook group run by local historian and explorer Brian Weed. Brian and his co-contributors have been posting some great photos and stories of their adventures and discoveries around town. These include old mines, historic vehicles and machines, Native petroglyphs, hidden waterfalls, glacial ice caves, and much more! If you live in or are interested in the Juneau area, I highly recommend visiting the page and checking out their great photos! They take you well off (and sometimes under) the beaten path to see the things that don’t make it into tourist brochures!

The group page can be viewed (and joined/followed) here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JuneauHiddenHistory/

And their photo galleries can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/JuneauHiddenHistory/photos/

Brian Weed has also written a number of articles for the Capital City Weekly, some of which can be found here.


Funter Bay History: Museums, Collections & Science

July 29, 2016

Some of the feedback I get on my Funter Bay History posts involves people wanting to buy or collect old “stuff” (engines, artifacts, etc). In general I believe historic artifacts should be left where they are unless seriously threatened by decay, development, or vandalism. So for example, I’d like to see things like Funter’s big gas engines remain cool lawn ornaments, but the various steam locomotives upside down in creeks and ditches around Southeast Alaska would be better off in museums somewhere.

Artifacts from Funter Bay have made their way into a variety of museums, historic collections, and scientific archives over the years. Here are a few that I’ve come across during my research.

A rock sample from the Willoughby Mine, “Shore Group”, from a private collection:

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A rock core sample from Borehole U-18 at Funter Bay, stored at the Alaska Geologic Materials Center.

Three pieces of Funter Bay Clay were exhibited in the Alaska Building at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition as part of James Lathrop’s private mineral collection.

The Alaska State Museum holds a number of mineral and rock core samples from Funter Bay, as well as a fossil ammonite and a stone pestle (native grinding tool) found there.

pestle

The Juneau-Douglas City Museum has a number of items from Funter Bay, including a gGrape soft drink bottle, a soda water bottle, a Pelton wheel part, and a small motor. They also have a number of Funter Bay documents, including  cannery and saltery applications, a canned salmon label I’ve previously mentioned, and various invoices and receipts for things like dynamite, transportation, and jury duty.

In addition, a number of research papers and scientific studies have involved Funter Bay:

In 1903, the Bureau of Fisheries steamer Albatross collected seabottom samples around Alaska, including near Funter Bay. Some data from these samples appears in several articles over the following decade. Many of these appear to have been found in a single dredge sample of mud hauled up from about 300 fathoms in Lynn Canal, just off Funter Bay.

In 1905 and 1908 articles on Polychetous annelids (marine worms), author J. Percy Moore noted many such worms in the seabottom mud near Funter Bay. These included plentiful specimens of Lagisca rarispina (Sars) Malmgren (now known as Harmothoe rarispinia), as well as specimens of Nephthys ciliata, Goniada annulata Moore, Ampharete arctica Malmgren, and Melinna denticulata Moore. The latter species was observed for the first time at the Funter Bay sample location. The distribution of this species is listed as “Funter Bay, Alaska”, and a specimen is held by the Smithsonian Institution.

Another creature first discovered near Funter Bay (collected by the same Albatross expedition) is Koroga megalops Holmes, a type of arthropod commonly known as a “sand flea”. This particular species has later been found all over the world.

Koroga megalops Holmes

A smaller arthropod known as Holophryxus alaskensis Richardson was also found in the Funter Bay samples, named after discoverer Harriet Richardson in 1905.

Also collected by the Albatross were a variety of fish and plankton including Stenobrachius nannochir (Commonly known as a Garnet lanternfish), Lycodapus grossidens Gilbert (Bigtooth eel), Holomesiella Anomala (a type of tiny shrimp),

A 1910 Bureau of Fisheries inventory collected 12 specimens of Pallasina barbata (tubenose poacher) from Funter Bay. These are frequently found in eelgrass and around dock pilings.

In 1921, the USDA’s Microbiological Laboratory collected samples of seawater at Funter Bay, and found Bact. aerogenes present (link, pg 85-109). It was assumed to be widely distributed through the region based on other samples. (While I am not an expert on microbiology, it appears this organism is now known as Enterobacter aerogenes and is a common gastrointestinal bacteria in animals and humans).

Researchers from the University of British Columbia visited Funter Bay in 1957 while conducting  a fisheries study. Several specimens were collected around Funter Bay, including Oligocottus maculosus (Tidepool sculpin), Pholis laeta (Crescent Gunnel), and Anoplarchus purpurescens (High cockscomb). When I was younger we would commonly catch these small fish in tidepools and under rocks.

UBC Fisheries Record

Speciments of Agarum cribrosum Dumortier (a type of seaweed) were collected by the University of British Columbia at Station Island, in the mouth of Funter Bay, in 1980.

There is a type of soil classified as the “Funter Series” or “Funter Peat” under a 1991 soil classification survey. It is described as “very deep, very poorly drained soils that formed in fibrous peat underlain by loamy mineral materials. Funter soils occur in muskegs on floodplains and stream terraces. Slopes range from 0 to 5 percent”. This is found mostly in the meadows around Funter Bay.

Blackeye Goby and Kelp Perch were sampled at Funter Bay in 1998 by biologists at the Auke Bay Laboratory.

A specimen of Enypia venata (variable Girdle Moth) was reported at Funter Bay in a 2012 paper.