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db9328What with all the snow we’ve had lately, machines like this have been coming out of hiding. Hiding because a new one like this costs the better part of half a million $$$ and this 30+ year old one with only 4000 hours or miles on it sold for less than $20,000 on a hot august day. If you’re a Public Works, Highway Department, or DOT manager you know you’ll need this ultimate tool in the snow removal arsenal someday, but you hide it in the back of the back lot should some opportunistic politician spot it, declare it a waste of taxpayer dollars, and after it’s sold you know you’ll never have the budget to replace it.

I sense a business plan here, or at least an excuse to horde some neat old machinery. Multi-millionaire Irwin Jacobs got his start stockpiling sandbags, and during flood season he always had them in stock and sold them at profitable prices. Let’s see… A Mack dump truck, maybe a wheel loader, and a mighty Oshkosh…

DSCF2425That cut is even deeper since the last blizzard, and both the county and state DOT are hiring outside contractors to push the snow back. Heck, who’s speculating… We’d be performing a public service!

DSC_2210Then I look at my little low clearance garage and remember that I should be getting my tiny town and it’s seldom used tractor and snowblower signed up to offer mutual aid!

DSCF2296Experimental “modular” Corvair engine at the Corvair museum, maybe GM was sleepin’ around with Deutz too?

Ever since the 911 first saw the light of day over a half century ago we’ve all noticed a certain “resemblance”. Rumors of secret romance flew, usually along the lines of Porsche fathering the Corvair in place of a hapless GM. True, GM engineers made a few trips to Germany to study… Aluminum engine casting techniques. But the “Auto Ancestry DNA” results are in, and the truth is even stranger…

In the late 50s while the Corvair was gestating Porsche made maybe 5000 cars a year, though Porsche’s engineering consulting business was way bigger than similar volume auto makers. Fact is, Porsche owed it’s existence to engineering work for VW and high volume parts production volumes by VW’s suppliers that could be given an extra bit of tuning for Porsche’s 356s. In stark contrast GM cranked out cars, trucks, busses, bulldozers, locomotives, and a few other wheeled things by the millions, producing a cash flow that allowed GM to develop air ride, aluminum V8s, the Scenicruiser bus, and an all new rear engined car that borrowed little from the GM parts bins.

Truth be told, about all GM bought from Porsche was some 356s that became “mules” to test the Corvair engine, which with not much more bulk and much more power proved to be a better bargain that the 4 cylinder Porsche motor. Years later more than a few too expensive to repair Porsche flat sixes were replaced with cheap Corvair power. Come the 60s and it was Porsche’s turn to buy some Corvairs, they especially liked the Lakewood wagon’s easy access to their 911 test engines.

Come late 1964 and both the Corvair and 911 had lost the notorious swing axles and carried six cylinder engines with flat cooling fans, wrapped in swoopy new bodywork. While the Corvair was an economy sedan with sporting options and the 911 a sports car, a Corvair with the performance options could run with the 911 and didn’t try to spin when you made the natural response of backing off the throttle in a turn taken to fast.

Then the sibs went their seperate ways, with the 911 developed into one of the best sports cars ever while GM, afraid to confront Nader, sent the Corvair off to the automotive orphanage. Thus a huckster lawyer who didn’t even drive denied us generations of innovative cars… That engine in the picture with the individual heads was a modular version of the Corvair’s, GM built and tested a ten cylinder version to power the front wheel drive Toronado…

dscf2400Test fitting the Motorvation F2 flatbed ‘hack on the Guzzi Quota. It’s only a test fit ’cause I’ll have to take it apart again to get it out of the living room…

DSCF2087Most of the machines of mobility I write about here have at least wheels and usually an engine too, but the humble horse is a damn good means of mobility too. Put those horses and riders in the snowscape of a midwest winter and it’s too much for this writer to resist. So after writing this post on the 2013 ride and this post on the 2014 ride I spent most of december in Florida the last 3 years and missed the ride.

But this year, thanks to my greedy trailer park landlady in Florida and with due credit to this mild winter, I’m back and enjoying the ride again. The ride has grown bigger and better with a new contingent of walkers and riders from the Sisseton, South Dakota area joining the group midway as well as the runners doing an all night relay from Fort Snelling to join the group for the closing ceremonies in Mankato, Minnesota at the site of the unjustified hanging of the Dakota 38.

So the ride has grown, and for the better- As well as honoring the Dakota 38+2 and all the victims of that sad and uncalled for war, young activists are bringing their issues such as the tragedy of the too many missing and murdered native women and children and the pollution threat of oil pipelines to the ride. Along the way, natives and European immigrants alike are finding common ground organizing support for and enjoying the ride. The ride is also a massive logistical effort with a whole fleet of support vehicles expertly organized and driven by largely native drivers and helpers. Native Americans seem to have a natural talent for driving and fixing vehicles… If you need a truck driven safely through our midwestern winters, put a native behind the wheel!

Hope to see you along the ride next year…DSCF2096

Five years ago I’d shoveled out that cut through the snowmass only to have it blow closed again overnight. I gave up and headed to Florida…

DSC_1898This year after the second 8~10 inch snow this month: DSCF2177Doesn’t look like it, but the snowfall is similar to the above picture from five years ago. The baby John Deere tractor is a game changer, not only is the driveway cleared full width, but the snow piles and drifts have been pushed back enough that it won’t get blown closed by tonight’s forecast 30 MPH winds. After making light work of the driveway yesterday morning, Fawn Deere plowed out a couple hundred yards of county road to help free a semi and SUV stuck in the drifts.

So Minnesota winters don’t look so bad any more, and I’m in no big rush to get back to Florida… Though my landlady’s evictions and such just to jack up the lot rent are a factor too…

 

DSCF0122Railroads are hard to kill… It took overbuilding and competition by Interstate Highway subsidized trucking to bring down the legends like the Milwaukee and Rock Island, and much of those railroads are still turning a profit under other names. The weakest railroads having been sliced and diced by the bankruptcy courts, the 21st century has seen no big railroad bankruptcies. But CPR was the third of four railroads the late Hunter Harrison trying to downsize to even higher profits and it shows… Here’s the 2014 edition with much more detailed decorations, including the rooftop Christmas tree that has disappeared. The Holiday train had even better power in previous years, with a new 6000 horsepower GE instead of the current 2000 horsepower rebuilt GP20.

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Over these last few years there have been regular rumors that this years Holiday Train was the last… I was told the 10th anniversary train would be the last, and here’s the 20th, and the performances and CP workers dedication to the train are as good as ever. DSCF0144Bungling CEOs couldn’t kill Canadian Pacific, the only railroad I know of with an archivist on staff, Maintenance Of Way workers that still tend the track side grave of a co-worker that died building the railroad a century and a half ago, and will send a locomotive to do a whistle blowing slow roll by at the internment of a deceased child railfan.

DSCF0133But you can’t kill a great railroad… CP Holiday Train, highball!