Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Flowering Crab

Flowering Crabapple, common here on the Front Range, and a good sign that Spring has arrived.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Longmont's St. Vrain Memorial Building

♫ When I'm 64.

Architect's drawing of the St. Vrain Memorial Building as it appeared to Times-Call readers on April 25, 1950:

And a more clear image of the original, from the excellent collection at the Longmont Museum:

Cost of construction was $203,218 with ground-breaking held in May of 1950.

The building today, 64 years later looking a little different from the drawing:

Thursday, April 10, 2014

April 1950 Pioneer Zephyr Train-Truck Collision in Longmont

Not many vehicle drivers or their passengers would survive a collision with a 50-mph train while driving over a railroad track crossing.  But that's what happened 64 years ago in Longmont when a farmer and his 4-year old daughter were returning to Johnstown in their truck after filling their water tank in Longmont.  Both miraculously survived, even after they were dragged 170 yards by the train while in the truck.  The story was not so good for the train fireman who had to be administered sedatives during the hour and a half it took to cut him out of the damaged locomotive, and suffered career-ending injuries from the accident.  And as it turned out, this was  a rather famous train.

On April 7, 1934, the country's first diesel streamliner called the Zephyr 9900 rolled out of the Budd plant in northern Philadelphia (the decaying grounds of this factory were mentioned in the Wall Street Journal just two weeks ago).  Built out of stainless steel, it had a striking look with its shovel-nose form:

As a marketing ploy a month later in May, it made a highly advertised speed run from Denver to Chicago (1015 miles) in a record-smashing time of 13 hours, 5 minutes.  Regular trains at the time would take 25 hours for the same route.  

Six minute video of the Pioneer Denver to Chicago run, accompanied by Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue:

This now-famous train even inspired a movie later that year, titled after its nickname, the "Silver Streak":

As more Zephyr's were produced, the 9900 was renamed "the Pioneer" (indicating it was the first) in 1936 and eventually placed into secondary routes.  This takes us to Longmont in 1950 where the Pioneer was leased to the Colorado & Southern (C&S) Railway, running as a passenger train between Denver and Cheyenne.  A great picture from the Denver Public Library collection captured the Pioneer at the Longmont station in February 1950:

Image from Denver Public Library
The same train station building today:

On the morning of Saturday, April 29, 1950, Harold Anderson (age 49), a farmer from Johnstown, had just filled a tank on his truck with water from Johnson's Corner in Longmont and was heading eastbound for home.  In the truck with him was his 4-year old daughter, Ingrid.  As he crossed the north/south C&S tracks, his truck was slammed in the middle by the Pioneer Zepyhr as it was headed north for Cheyenne out of Longmont at 50 mph.  Anderson and his daughter remained inside the vehicle as it was dragged north for 170 yards by the hobbled train. Miraculously, both survived.  When interviewed as he was being moved to an ambulance, Anderson said that his truck windows were fogged up and that he neither saw or heard the train.  

No passengers on the train were hurt and the engineer and conductor also survived the accident with no injuries.  The fireman in the locomotive, however, didn't have such luck. The train's collision with the truck's water tank left veteran C&S Engineer Dan Grinstead of Denver (age 53), who was substituting as fireman, pinned inside the crushed cab with a broken pelvis and a fractured hip.  He was given sedatives by a doctor while crews worked an hour and a half to cut him out of the twisted metal using blowtorches.  Of course the Pioneer Zephyr was in no shape to continue to Cheyenne and it was pulled back to Longmont. 

The next day, Ingrid was released from the Longmont Hospital  with a few bruises and lacerations.  Harold Anderson had some chest injuries but he was able to walk around and his condition was not thought to be serious.  Grinstead was still in serious condition with his injuries and suffering from severe shock.  

So where was this train-truck collision?  The evening Times-Call on that Saturday described the location as "one half-mile east of Mumford's Corner, northeast of town."  

Mumford's Corner is today the corner of Main Street (US 287) and Colorado Highway 66, named after a prominent Longmont family that lived in that area for decades.  You're probably familiar with the train crossing just east of that intersection on 66, a little past Walmart. 

The truck was dragged north almost two football fields long, along these tracks:

Mumford's Corner is long gone but the name is preserved in north Longmont:

This train wreck story is mentioned in Margaret Coel's fine 1991 book, Goin' Railroading. She wrote that Grinstead's injuries kept him hospitalized for months and that he was sadly forced to retire. 

After the wreck, the Pioneer Zephyr was moved to Aurora, IL (1990's pop culture fans know Aurora as the home of Wayne's World) where it was repaired and put back into service.  It was retired in 1960 and is now on display at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago:

Occasionally, some 35mm slides of the Longmont Zephyr accident appear on eBay.  Out of respect to the seller, I won't post them here but this Google Images link (never guaranteed to work) may show some of them, with a red tow truck next to the wreckage.

And Ingrid Anderson?  She'd be 68 today.  

Friday, April 4, 2014

Dunes and Peninsulas

Two oceans in three weeks.

From the Florida panhandle, T. H. Stone Park on the St. Joseph Peninsula earlier in March:

Sunday, March 30 at Marina State Beach, on the Monterrey (California) Peninsula:

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Open House for St. Vrain Greenway planning

At the Dickens Barn for the Open House this evening, for the replanning of the St. Vrain Greenway.   Mostly just an opportunity to see the ideas, many of which were formulated before the flood.  There should be more structured forums in the future where you can let the city know your ideas.  Right now, you can also complete this short questionnaire.


Friday, March 7, 2014

Splash Pad replacement for Kanemoto Park pool?

Following up on Longmont's Kanemoto Park pool, which was destroyed in the 2013 September flood, initial communication from the city on their website was that a new pool would be designed this year (2014), for opening next year.

Then, on Friday, February 28, residents of Southmoor Park received a mailing with some strange wording about the direction that the pool replacement project appeared to be heading:

What's a "water activity feature" and what happened to the pool?

In the mentioned community meeting that took place yesterday evening (March 6), the city representatives announced that they were looking at an unsupervised "splash pad" instead of a pool.  A splash pad (sometimes called a spray park) typically has pop-up jet fountains or overhead showers that turn on randomly.  You've probably seen them at Boulder's Pearl Street Mall or Longmont's Sandstone Ranch.

In the packed meeting, near-consensus opinion among residents was to bring the pool back.  Some reasons that were voiced:
  • A splash pad is a 15-minute activity vs. a typical two-hour stay at the pool.
  • The pool is a cherished community asset, for all of Longmont to enjoy, in a friendly park environment.
  • Many said that the pool was high on their list for why they chose to live in Southmoor Park. 
  • Walking to the pool with the kids is a highly-valued quality of life issue.
  • An attended (supervised) facility is much preferable.
  • If this pool does not re-open, the remaining Longmont kiddie pool at Roosevelt Park will be overcrowded and not worth attending.
A dissenting citizen opinion was that residents should just simply use the indoor Rec Center leisure pool, less than a mile east, or they should rebuild the outdoor pool over there.

Why the suggested change in direction?  The city is struggling to find enough real-estate to build a new pool that's near the existing restroom facilities, which were not damaged by the flood.  The $800K cost for a new pool is also a concern.  Some creative pool location  ideas were suggested to city staff and in fairness to the them, the city has no agenda in pushing a splash park. This was a pure input-solicitation discussion.

I didn't see any Times-Call coverage of the meeting last night and it's likely that Kanemoto Park Pool users outside of Southmoor Park have not heard of this discussion. It's also likely that the key users of the pool, namely families with small children, were unable to attend last night's meeting.  The city's timeframe is very short in that they need to award the design contract soon, for whatever facility direction they pursue. 

If you or your friends use the pool (including for day camps and birthday outings) and want to see it rebuilt, send your comments to Jeff Friesner (contact information here)  of City Recreation Services and Kim with City Parks. They heard the clear message from neighorhood residents last night but it would be good for other residents around town to chime in, too.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Pike Road Underpass Open Again

Just noticed this morning that the city opened the Lefthand Greenway Pike Road underpass on Friday, February 14.  It's been closed since the flood.

Back in September 2013, this area looked like this:

Back to this morning, I'm not sure why the ant sculptures in Creekside Park are turned over.