This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Monday, April 27, 2015

City Council meeting April 27, 2015

After the usual preliminaries at tonight's City Council meeting, the executive director of the Crisis Center gave a short presentation about its role in helping people and the upcoming Radiothon on May 9 and then asked for a donation from the City. The Council approved $500 from the public relations fund. Also in the citizen's comments part of the meeting, Kevin Kelley introduced the new director of tourism, Sheila White. She mentioned that on May 7 at 9:00 am in the Commissioner's Room of the Court House there would be a meeting about the Indiana Bicentennial and encouraged members of the council to attend.

In the regular business, the Mayor announced that Chris Phillips does not want to be re-appointed to the school board so the city is taking applications for the position. (I believe that the City of Rensselaer gets to appoint at least one of the members of the Board.) If you are interested, send a letter to the mayor with a letter explaining your interest and attach a resume.

The electric department would like to purchase an upgrade to their meter reading equipment. The main part of the upgrade would be a super reader, an electronic sensor that is more sensitive than the current readers. At present the hand-held readers often cannot read the meters from inside the truck, so the meter readers have to hold them out the window. The new unit would allow them to read more quickly. The equipment is on a special sale for $18,000. The council approved the purchase, with $6000 to be paid by the electric department and $$4000 each from water, gas and sewer departments.

In response to a request at the last council meeting, the gas superintendent had sent the council members data on the cost and estimated recovery time of the gas extensions that her department wants to do this summer. The total cost is about $54,500, though not included in that is any allocation for city workers who install the lines because they would otherwise be on the payroll. Councilman Barton objected to this, saying that they would otherwise be doing something of value. The payback was estimated to be a bit under four years. The proposed expansion was approved on a 4 to 1 vote.

The committee that was formed a couple of meetings ago to look at pay of superintendents gave a report to the council. It noted that superintendents are all paid different amounts and that the City has three categories of superintendents. Category 1 is supposed to start at $45,000, Category 2 at $60,000, and Category 3 at $75,000, though at present the City has no one in Category 3. The issue was tabled until the next meeting.

In administrative comments, the mayor noted that the engineer for the water main to I-65 had not submitted a final report, but was close to finishing it. He will be attending a meeting on Amtrak in Lafayette on Tuesday and the results of that meeting will probably be reported in the Rensselaer Republican later this week.

The Council gave a round of applause to George Cover who last week announced that he was retiring from teaching.

In the Superintendents' reports, the police chief noted that the department was finished tagging abandoned vehicles in advance of Clean Up Week (next week). The gas superintendent reminded those in attendance of the open house at the gas department on May 1 from 11:00 until 2:00. There will be 17-20 vendors present. One of the Council members asked on behalf of a citizen who would be catering the lunch. The answer was that Yesteryears' is providing the meat.

The new truck that the street department received is ready to roll.

(I do not have pictures to fit this post. Sorry.)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Business after hours

The Rensselaer Chamber of Commerce held one of their periodic Business After Hours events on Thursday afternoon, this time at Big Dog Rentals. It was lightly attended.  Big Dog has three lines of business, a construction company (Steve's Specialized Services), a rental company (Big Dog), and a new auction division (Crossroads Auction and Appraisal Services). The rental company rents construction equipment and also chairs and tents for parties (as well as a floor sander). It is also the part of the business that sells lawnmowers.

I received a tour of the remodeled facilities. Below you can see the room that previously housed the Jazzercise business but  is now the center of the auction business. In the back you can see an old gasoline pump and a John Deere Corn Shucker.
 The strangest antique in the room was this large kettle which was once used by a business in Brook to produce witch hazel.  I had never heard of the business before.
There were three businesses that had displays the the event. From JT Shrimp LLC I learned that shrimp are very sensitive to water conditions and that getting the water right is the key to successfully raising them. I also learned that even though wells may be closed together, they can produce water with very different mineral concentrations.

Yesteryear's, a meat shop in DeMotte, has taken over the food service at Curtis Creek and starting May 1 will be offering a full menu. The restaurant at Curtis Creek shuts down in the winter but is now open and one does not need to be a member of the country club to dine there.

A relatively new business that I had not previously encountered, InsideOut Décor by Pam, was there in the form of Pam. Pam arrived from Canada less than two years ago; her husband is part of the team that manages the egg carton business located near the landfill in Newton County. She relies mostly on word-of-mouth advertising and had this business for quite a while in Canada. She had some interesting tales of the layers of bureaucracy that she and her husband encountered in moving from Canada--I had no idea that it was as complicated as it is.

The Business After Hours are networking events and there are always interesting conversations to be had.

After leaving I swung by the downtown because one of my sources of downtown info had asked me what kind of business was moving into the back of the Horton Building, where Home Sweet Home was until recently. I saw two ladies entering the shop and stopped to briefly talk. They said they wanted to be open in a week and would sell a variety of odds and ends. I said that it seemed that it would be a store selling decorative items and they agreed that was a fair description.

My downtown source also told me that Ardent Photography had moved will be moving from its Van Rensselaer Street location to above Unique Finds.

Big Dog is having an open house today Saturday from 10:00 until 2:00 and is offering special deals on things they sell or rent.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

County Council April 2015

As the agenda suggested, the County Council meeting on April 21 was fairly short and uneventful. Before the meeting the members of the council were discussing whether it would be possible to know the criteria by which the state adjusts county budgets. From their standpoint, the process seems to be arbitrary.

There was an additional appropriation for the Superior Court for a line that is often unused for the year, but this year has had three cases that use it. These are cases that involve dysfunctional families in which an outside observer needs to do fact finding and that cannot be handled by CASA (sometimes because CASA does not have the staff).

By the way, I asked a court secretary a few weeks ago about the difference between the Circuit Court and the Superior Court. She said that every county has a Circuit Court. If there are enough cases to require a second court, that court will be called a Superior Court. They handle the same cases.

Because of repairs being done in the Court House, the Superior Court had met on Monday and Tuesday in the Commissioners' Room. The judge was happy at the prospect of returning to his normal chambers on Wednesday.

There was a discussion of the possibility of adopting a heritage barn designation for old barns that are not used for business or agriculture. I did not grasp the nuances, but it seemed that such a designation might reduce assessed values. The topic may be picked up in a future meeting. There was a question about whether such a designation would be used.

The Council then looked over many pages of financial data that they would be able to peruse at length at home. This year the main business of the Council will be meetings on August 18, 19, and 20 when they will spend the days with budget hearings, and on September 1 and 2 when they will be making budget cuts. The budget for the next fiscal year will be adopted on September 13.

In public comments, the airport manager reported on a conference he had attended in Indianapolis that had speeches and panels discussing the future of aviation in Indiana. Kevin Kelley introduced the new director of tourism, Sheila White. In response to a question, he mentioned that constraints for large manufacturers locating in the county were population and limits on water and sewer.

I do not have a picture to fit the post, but here is something related because it touches on county government. The Historical Society Museum has the door to Charlie Halleck's office when he was the county prosecuting attorney, the office he held before he was elected to Congress in the mid 1930s. His office was above what is now Lafayette Bank and Trust.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Field trip

The Jasper County Historical Society held their April meeting at Hershman's Cabin near Wheatfield.
The Hershman Log Cabin was pictured on a brochure from a few years ago titled "Guide to Historic Structures and Points of Interest in Jasper County." Here is the description from that brochure: "The Hersman Log Cabin, originally located on County Road 800 North in Walker Township, was built ca. 1870. Called "Pulaski Place" by the family, it is a single pen, rectangular constructed cabin that served as a residence until the 1950s. Visible log homes are a fading form of structure in the county. It is listed as notable in the Inventory and is included on the 2007 Most Endangered List. The cabin has recently been dismantled by the family for relocation and reconstruction at another site on family property." The picture in the brochure shows a structure without a roof.

The exact date of construction is not known but was about 1860, when the Hershman ancestors moved to the area. The Hershmans may have built it, or it may have been built by an earlier settler--any records that might tell the origins were probably lost in a court house fire in the 19th century. Though originally a log cabin, in its later years it had the logs covered both inside and out, so it would not have appeared as a log cabin.

Entering the cabin, we saw a fireplace with a welcoming fire--it was cold and windy on Tuesday. This fireplace was not original--the cabin did not have a fireplace. Rather it had a cook stove in one of the corners. The door that is next to the fireplace was originally a window and there were two doors where the fireplace is now. Why there were two doors is not known. The only parts of the structure that are original are the log walls. Over the fireplace is a picture of the Hershmans who lived in this cabin in the 1870s.
Since the cabin was inhabited until the 1950s, there are people, such as the current owner, who remember it before it was a ruin. It had an attic/second story, but only part of that has been restored as a loft. The planking for the roof is old wood from barns. None of the original windows or doors survived, but the owners have found old wavy glass for some of the panes.

The current owners have furnished the cabin with old items that they have found in yard sales, flea markets, on-line auctions, and antique stores. The members of the Historical Society who know this area where impressed with how well they had managed to furnish it in period pieces.

The cabin now has some electrical wiring but still lacks plumbing. Members of our group discussed whether they could live in this cabin and most said they probably could not without the plumbing. I suspect that on a cold winter night not even the long johns hanging on the wall and the layers of quilts on the bed would keep them warm.

Below is another corner of the inside.
The group that made the trip greatly enjoyed it and I suspect they will be looking for other possible field trips for future meetings.

Upcoming on the Society's calendar is their third(?) annual tea party on May 17 (reservations are required), a May 19th meeting with Kevin Kelley as speaker, their annual carry-in dinner on June 16 with Brian Capouch as speaker, and showing the Pioneer Village at the Fairgrounds on July 19, 21, and 23.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Slow start

My week is off to a slow start. It is chilly and windy, which makes working outside uncomfortable.

I saw a tree frog in my back yard over the weekend. It was not blending in very well.
 On the south side of town, there is a big dumpster by what used to be Ricos. The for sale sign is down, but their website still lists the property and the county GIS map still has the previous owners.

On Monday there was no work being done on the street extention in Drexel Park, but the big holes on either side of Drexel Drive had been filled in.

The water in the quarry has covered the turn.
 There is still a lot of equipment in the quarry, though at the slow rate that the water is rising, there is plenty of time to remove it.
 Workers are working on the steps on the southwest entrance to the Court House, one of the exits that is no longer used since all traffic was required to go through the northeast entrance.
 Columns are rising in by the city parking lot on Front Street.
The agenda for the County Council meeting tonight looks uninteresting. I received an e-mail telling me that the School Board meeting may see a retirement announcement from a long-time teacher.

That is all I have--it has been a slow start to the week.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Fantasticks

This evening will be your last chance to catch the Columbian Players' performance of The Fantasticks.
It has a small cast with one of the performers hailing from Rensselaer. It was well acted and well sung and the play itself is entertaining.

Rensselaer Central High School is also presenting its spring play this weekend, with performances tonight at 7:00 and Sunday at 2:00. It is a musical review.

Friday, April 17, 2015

The future of the parks

On Thursday afternoon members of the park board, the trustees of the Blacker Trust, city officials, representatives of the Jasper Foundation, and one nosy citizen gathered to hear a presentation about funding park improvements. The Blacker Trust has hired a fundraising organization based in Madison, IN, I did not catch the name, but it is the same organization that aided the hospital in raising funds for their cancer treatment center that was part of the hospital expansion.

The speaker was an older gentleman who reminded those present of the current plan, which is a three phase plan of constructing two baseball fields and enlarging the south parking lot at Brookside Park, moving the basketball court and redoing the north parking lot, and building a concession building and redoing the bathrooms. That project had been bid and the bid came back at $800,000. The amount that the Blacker Trust and the Jasper Foundation were prepared to commit was $600,000. He suggested that if the community was going to do a project, it should consider a bigger project, one that people want and will support. In particular, he suggested adding three more items: a dog park, an interactive fountain in Milroy Park, and soccer fields in the Staddon Park area. The total cost would be approximately $1,350,000, which was an amount that he thought the community could afford. (He was a very good speaker and my summary does not do justice to his presentation.) He was aware that there are issues involved in the Staddon Field property, which is assessed at $90,000 but which the School Board is willing to sell for a mere $300,000.

His company would do a feasibility study to  learn what the community would donate and what it would support. He suggested a timeline that would have preliminary interviewing ending in June, then two or three months to prepare a campaign, with the campaign starting late in 2015 and ending in the spring of 2016. Actual construction would begin in 2016.

The speaker then invited each of the people attending, even the nosy citizen, to ask questions. People on the Park Board and members of the Park Corporation seemed to be offended by the interactive fountain idea because they had not heard of it before. (It apparently came from the Mainstreet group.) There was concern about the condition of LaRue Pool, which is old and may need repairs but which was not included in the proposal, and about the soccer field, which is heavily used. It was noted that the Staddon Field area is zoned residential and has bedrock within three feet of the surface, limiting its potential use if put on the open market. At the very end someone in attendance who I did not know pointed out that the master plan for the park was out of date and thus the park was not eligible for state or federal grants. The Park Board said that they would get a revision ready.

I was impressed with the presenter and think that his involvement is the best bet to overcome the many disagreements of the local parties. There is a follow-up meeting planned for Monday the 21st, which cannot happen since the 21st is a Tuesday. I have other plans for Tuesday afternoon so I will not be there. After the meeting the members of the Park Corporation held a meeting but I did not stay because it was my past supper time.

This morning (Friday) the city hosted what hopefully will be one of the last Common Construction Wage hearings. The meeting was short (about five minutes long) and adopted the state AFL-CIO scale wages for the construction of the fire house. Economists who have studied economic regulation have found that much (or most or almost all) of it is designed to protect special interests, mostly by preventing entry and competition. The Common Construction Wage is a good illustration. It protects union labor and contractors who use union labor from being undercut by non-union labor.

After the meeting I checked out the start of the rummage sale. The many people there must have made the school drop-off more congested than usual. (The schools had a two-hour fog delay this morning.)

The sale concludes Saturday at noon. There is still a lot of stuff and it is very cheap (fill a bag of any size for $1.00.)

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April showers

On Wednesday night just at sunset a band of light rain passed through and I noticed a rainbow.
 I could no longer see the sun--it was hidden behind the houses and it may have already been below the horizon from my vantage point. The western sky was more colorful than the rainbow.
 As the sun set, a bit of the rainbow got very bright and I was surprised that my camera caught the brightness.

The weather was dry enough today for workers to start building the pillars that will decorate the Front Street parking lot.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015


I went to two meetings on Tuesday afternoon, for the Rensselaer Redevelopment Authority and the Rensselaer Redevelopment Commission. The two meetings were to hold public hearings regarding the rebidding or financing of the fire station. There were no public comments. One of the groups did not have enough members to allow them to approve their last minutes. The two meetings took a total of ten minutes and accomplished nothing other than meeting some legal requirements (which is important).

I went to another meeting on Tuesday evening. The group that established the community garden is trying to reorganize. They lost the land that they were using--the church that owns it wants to build on it. If you are interested in the community garden, the next organizational (or re-organizational) meeting will be May 4 at 6:00 in the Extension Office (which is in the county annex north of town on the west side of the highway).

Speaking of gardening, I saw a toad in my garden today. He or she is welcome to spend the summer. Lots of people seem to be starting garden work.

The Court House was getting it windows washed this week. Yesterday as I watched the window washers work on the other side of the building, I noticed that someone was mowing the grass, a sure sign that winter is over.
 This morning the rail crew was finishing the paving of the Scott Street rail crossing. All the other crossings were open. However, it looks as if there are plans to repair some of the crossings that were not closed last week--there are piles of stone and wood by them and also cuts in the pavement.

On Vine Street finishing touches were being applied on Tuesday to the new place to store stuff. Workers had poured concrete for the approaches and were installing the dividers.
Today's Rensselaer Republican noted the closing of Larry's Shoes with an report that Superior Sales and Service, a bit east of the storage lockers shown above, had bought the business's inventory. Red Wing boots will still be sold in Rensselaer.

If you do not want to store your stuff, you can donate it, but do it before noon on Thursday. The Birthright Rummage Sale takes place this weekend and the pile seems bigger this year than it has been in the past few years.
 The pile will be sorted onto tables by Friday morning when the sale begins. Almost nothing is priced--it is sold by the bag at $3 per bag. There are lots of bags ready to fill.
Enjoy the spring weather.

Monday, April 13, 2015

City Council meeting 4-13-2015

There was no big news from the City Council meeting on Monday night but lots of interesting little tidbits.

The Council approved a rebidding of the fire station--bids will be opened May 4. The gas tracker will result in an increase of 3 cents per hundred cubic feet for April. The Council approved an emergency purchase of a truck for recycling. The old truck is a 2009 diesel that has had problems since it was purchased and is no longer operable. Councilman Overton said that it had about $7000 in repairs just six months ago and now is again not working. The recycling department has a bid for between $28K and $29K for a gas-powered truck from Gutwein Motors and the Council approved the purchase. The goal is to have it ready to help during clean-up week in May.

The Council ratified a poll taken between meetings to accept a bid of $4800 for the removal of four more trees. The date of the last meeting in May was changed from Monday (which is Memorial Day) to Tuesday, May 26.

There was a brief discussion of the lack of bidding on the old Monnett School building, AKA the Administration Building. The concern of the interested party was zoning. It is zoned residential, and the owner would need to get it rezoned or get a variance to use it as an office building. Before it is rebid the city will probably either rezone it or allow a bid subject to a variance, which would mean that the bid would not take effect unless the Planning Commission or Zoning Board grants a variance.

Mainstreet Rensselaer is providing most of the funding for the façade for the parking lot on Front Street, though the City of Rensselaer is providing some money (as is the Jasper Foundation.)

Councilman Barton had a question about one of the claims and his question resulted in a discussion of gas department plans. The City would like to have a new main to assure sufficient pressure when demand from residences and the generating system is high. There was a claim for a consultant about this and it was that claim that Councilman Barton questioned. Planning here is in a very preliminary state. There was also some discussion about gas department plans for 2015, but that was delayed until the superintendents' reports.

Police Chief Phillips said that the police are seeing a lot of used needles on the streets and requested funds to buy gloves for officers. The request was approved.  The cemetery superintendent was given permission to hire summer help. The building inspector announced that Rico's has been sold and that the new owner expects to have it open in 60 to 90 days. There will be a public hearing on Tuesday at 1:00 concerning funding for the proposed fire station.

The gas department has several extensions that they would like to make this summer. Two of them involve looping lines which will improve pressure. Councilman Barton asked what the payback period for these extensions would be. There was some heated discussion between the Mayor and Barton on the issue; the gas superintendent said that she would have the data at the next meeting. Rural customers, by the way, pay 25% more for gas than city residents.

Twenty percent of the work on the Gasper road project is finished. The sanitary sewer lines are being installed.

George Cover noted that the McKinley Street rail crossing is now worse than it was before the rail crew "fixed" it. He wondered if CSX could do something about it before they leave town. Chief Phillips indicated that his discussions with CSX about the crossing had not been productive.

After the meeting I asked what the workers were doing near the Washington Street Bridge today. I thought they might be doing something with the street lights but was told that they were doing soil testing for contamination and were installing test wells.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Water rising

I stopped by the quarry today (Saturday) to check the water level. The water is about to cover the landing or turn.

 A closer look:
 A few days ago I asked the mayor who had purchased the old school administration building--the auction took place earlier this week. He told me that no one had--there were concerns about the zoning. Apparently it is zoned R-1 and the bidders wanted to make sure that they would be able to do whatever they wanted to do with the property--probably offices. It will be rebid.

Also being rebid according to the legal notices in the Rensselaer Republican is the fire station. The lowest bid was considerably above the estimates of the engineer. Maybe there will be more information at the city council meeting Monday night.

Spring has definitely arrived--the grass is green, the daffodils are blooming, and even bushes and trees are sprouting leaves, and the toads or frogs are croaking in vernal pools.

The rail crew was not working on Friday--perhaps they work long hours on four days so they can return home for a long weekend. A paving crew was finishing work on the McKinley Street crossing but nothing was happening at the other crossings. I did not check today to see what had been finished. The parade of vehicles that the rail crew uses was lined up on both sides of Melville on Friday. Also lined up was a huge stack of used ties just west of the elevator. There was a little sign on it (the speck of white) that said who owned the ties--meaning that people were not supposed to mess with them.
Have a nice weekend.

Update: As of Sunday morning, Jefferson and McKinley crossings are open; Matheson, Scott, and Webster remain closed.

Friday, April 10, 2015

22nd Annual Regional Middle Level Art Exhibit

The 22nd Annual Regional Middle Level Art Exhibit is finishing its run in the Core Building at SJC. A tessellation piece made the poster, though I could not find the original at the exhibit.
 Years ago there was a tessellation program called TesselMania that was popular in schools. It no longer works with current operating systems, but the author of that program has updated it with a new program and a new distributor. You can even get a demo of the program that shows what it can do.
I am not quite sure what the assignment was for these portraits. They have a background of tiles with designs.
 A lot of the assignments were assignments in which the students were supposed to create something in the style of an artist or period. The one below was op art. Remember it?
Some of the pieces have awards on them.
 KV students were doing a colored version of zentangles.
I believe there is an awards ceremony this weekend. The awards ceremonies for the primary and high school exhibits were canceled due to snow, so it may be the only one that happens this year.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Some odds and ends

Rensselaer has begun construction of a decorative facade for the city parking lot on Front Street. It will, when done, resemble the city parking lot facade at Washington and Front.

Today (Wednesday) CSX tore up the Jefferson Street rail crossing, so Jefferson is no longer one of the streets you can use to cross the railroad tracks.

Jasper County Commission of Public Records met on Wednesday morning. It normally meets only once a year and its job is to approve the destruction of paperwork that various government entities accumulate. Some paper work is on a retention schedule, which means that the state requires that it be destroyed after a number of years. Whatever is not on a retention schedule needs approval before it is destroyed. The Commission managed to get a quorum--apparently some people who are supposed to sit on it never come--and then reviewed requests from entities such as the City of Rensselaer, the City of Demotte, the Jasper County Public Library, the Hanging Grove Trustee, the Sheriff's Department, and various county offices. The documents that are approved for shredding are things like old work schedules, canceled checks, claims, and paperwork that offices generate in their day-to-day business. After receiving approval by the Commission, the requests are sent to the state where they are reviewed and either approved or sent back with the request for more information. It was not an exciting meeting and now having been to one, I have no need to ever go to another.

The court house tree is now an Easter/Spring tree. It has a bunny for the top decoration.

The campaign for city offices has begun, with the primary election on May 5. Signs for Rick Williams and Russ Overton have sprouted in many lawns--the two are running for the Republican nomination for mayor. If you do not want to wait until May 5 to vote, you can go to the court house and vote early. After the meeting discussed above, I asked the ladies at the voting booth how many people had voted this morning and they said, "One."

On Monday evening I attended my first park board/park corporation meeting of 2015. It took a while to figure out what was going on--if you only attend occasional meetings, you do not know the context because most meetings are just continuations of conversations from past meetings. The main focus was the lack of consensus among various parties about what what should be built at Brookside Park. Those who control money (not the park board) want to build something that is first class and will make the community proud. Those who do not control the money (the park board) are worried that if too much is spent on one project, there will be no funds to pursue other projects. There is a meeting scheduled on April 16 at 4:30 in City Hall where various important people will meet and try to hammer out some agreements.

The current art exhibit at the Fendig Gallery is the annual SJC Faculty/Senior Exhibit. Since the gallery is only open on Tuesdays from noon until 4:00, not many people have seen it.

If you want to see it, your only chance, other than arranging a private showing, will be to attend the closing reception on April 11 from 7:00 until 9:00.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The return of the Tie Guys

In 2009 a CSX Maintenance of Way (MOW)crew came through Rensselaer replacing ties. (For links, see here and here.) I never expected to see a similar crew in Rensselaer, but on Monday one was again in town.

I was out of town on Monday morning visiting family and missed the Commissioners' meeting. About 12:30 I set off to see what the Drainage Board was doing. (Not much--it was an uneventful meeting.) On the way there I decided to see what CSX was doing to the rail crossings because they were scheduled to start work on them on Monday. I went out Mattheson and saw tampers . Looking down the line I could see many more vehicles. In fact the line of vehicles stretched all the way to Melville, the whole length of town.

 I spent a lot more time watching the process in 2009. I think the machines near Melville were removing the spikes from the rails that had been marked for replacement. I suspect that there were also machines that removed the spike plates but I did not see them. The reason that there were so many vehicles is that there are many steps in the process and each step is done by three or four vehicles.

I did not get any good pictures of the machine removing the old ties, but I did get some video (not very good) of the machines putting the new ties in place.

Also here:

Below is how the ties were positioned before the machine above arrived. You can see the spaces where the old ties used to be.

After the ties have been placed under the rails, a group of guys puts the spike plates on the ties. This job seems to be the least automated part of the process.

The machine that inserts these spike plates under the rails was different this year from what it was in 2009. I tried to get a video of what it was doing, but again I am not happy with the result. However, you might see how it lifts the rails.

Following these machines are the spikers, the machines that drive in new spikes. Because they shield the area in which they are driving spikes, it is hard to get a good picture of what they are doing. However, the noise they make gives them away. There was also another machine in the parade that seemed to be making sure that the ties were exactly perpendicular to the rails.

I am not sure how the guys in the machines can be so precise. How do the spikers line up so the spikes go through the holes in the spike plate? Do they have a video camera?

After the spikes are in place the tampers follow. They force rocks under the ties so that the rails will have not waves--the trains will have a completely level ride. After them are machines that move the ballast back where it belongs. They raise a lot of dust as they go back and forth.

Today (Tuesday) the MOW crew was leaving town heading east. I noticed a truck on the tracks full of what looked like ties. I thought that it might be picking up the old ties.

 However, later on I saw it with a much smaller load and thought it might have been hauling the lumber that was used for the crossings. The crew for that task was in town today putting the timbers alongside the rails. I think the last task will be to lay down the asphalt for the crossings.
Above is the crossing on Mattheson. It was last done in 2009. Other crossings being redone this year are McKinnley (done just a year or two ago), Webster, and Scott. Crossings that are open are Jefferson, Cullen, Franklin, and Melville.

While watching all this, I noticed that the rail car that delivers lumber for Stark Truss was as close to Cullen as it could get. A fork lift had unloaded it onto a semi, and then the fork lift pushed it down the tracks. I had never seen a fork life push a rail car before.

In other rail news, Hoosier State service will continue. Agreement has been reached between the state and the Feds.

Monday, April 6, 2015


Over the weekend I stopped by the digging on Drexel Drive to see how work was progressing on the new street. The most impressive thing to see was the big hole on the north side of Drexel Drive.
 A hole on the other side of the road is not as deep. It appears that the two holes are in the process of being connected.
The area has limestone close to the surface (as one might expect given how close it is to the quarry.) In the distance below you can see some blue-green pipes that have not yet been installed. Last time I was by the site, similar pipes were much closer to where the picture was taken. They seem to have all been installed.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Rising and falling, odds and ends

Below is the newly re-roofed Fifth-Third Bank building.

Below is what remains of the Johnny Rusk building. I do not know if the floor slab will remain or be removed.

I have a lot of pictures showing various stages of progress for each of these projects. Maybe I will post them sometime. Or maybe not.

On Tuesday I was invited to a Rotary luncheon to hear a presentation about bluebirds by Ken Murray who is the treasurer of the Indiana Bluebird Society. The society has about 250 members and promotes bluebirds and other native cavity nesting birds. (That means that they do not like English sparrows and starlings, which are not native and which compete with the native birds for nesting sites.) Bluebird populations declined rather dramatically from the 1950s to the 1970s, primarily due to habitat loss. Members of the society encourage bluebirds by providing nesting sites for them. Below is an example of a nesting box that Mr Murray uses.
 He puts out about 75 boxes in 45 locations. Bluebirds will not let other bluebirds nest near them, but do not mind tree swallows, which have increased in numbers recently. Last year about 380 eggs were laid in these boxes and 266 young birds fledged. Normally bluebirds in our area have two broods each summer.

After the luncheon I noticed that Balloons Galore has moved from the old Sears Building to the Horton Building.

On the ledge is a little plastic flower that is selling well. It is solar powered. If you want to see what it does, stop by.

The last of the Lenten Luncheons took place today. I attended most of them and one thing I noticed is that different congregations pronounced the word "Amen" differently. Some had a short A and some a long A. Any ideas of why the difference? I always thought the short A was the Latin pronunciation and the long A was the proper English pronunciation.