Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Train Towns


    My permanent home is Livingston, Montana a small town of around 6000 full time residents. Livingston's history is allied with the railroad generally and the now defunct Northern Pacific Railroad in particular. It was once a bustling railroad stop on the way to Yellowstone National Park and became known as the 'Gateway to Yellowstone'. Now with the Northern Pacific gone the tracks no longer head south to Gardiner the 'Gateway' town but veer to to west toward Bozeman and beyond. The locomotives now move the box cars and coal tenders labeled with the logo of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe instead of the luxurious Pullman cars of yesteryear.
    My present location of Smithville, Texas is also a railroad town owing a good deal of it's existence to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line also known as the 'Katy' line. As with the Northern Pacific in Livingston the Katy was eventually absorbed by a larger railroad in this case the present day Union Pacific Railroad which still domiciles crews here and maintains a small operations center.
    For whatever reason I am particularly fascinated by these huge diesel electric locomotives that go rumbling behind the homestead here on tracks that are less 100 yards away blaring theirs horn and belching black smoke while trailing freight cars and mineral tenders to destinations east and west. Here's a sample of the sights and sound that intrigue me so much courtesy of the Union Pacific Railroad.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Live Oaks of Smithville, Texas

     The name live oak comes from the fact that evergreen oaks remain green and "live" throughout winter, when other oaks are dormant, leafless and "dead"-looking. The name is used mainly in North America, where evergreen oaks are widespread in warmer areas, along the Atlantic coast from southeast Virginia and North Carolina to Florida, west along the Gulf Coast to Texas and across the southwest to California and southwest Oregon. In particular, the campus of Rice University is home to thousands of live oaks
A large live oak, called the "Big Tree," is said to a 1000 years old and is found found in Goose Island State Park in Rockport, Texas.