Reflections on a Trip

Six years ago today, I published post number one, on Nebraska Energy Observer. As with many others, I tried to draw conclusions from observations. Those tend to be the posts I like best, although I simply don’t post things I don’t like. It’s been I long haul, six years, 2703 posts, over 19,000 comments and all. It’s also been a lot of fun, and I suspect it has been for some of you, as well.

We’ve commented often that so many bloggers who were around when I started have fallen by the wayside, I think probably three-quarters of the blogs I read now, didn’t exist then and 80% of those I read then are gone, and some that remain have changed completely. It’s not easy, but what worthwhile ever is? I find that I occasionally have to take breaks from it, but I feel incomplete when I do, and that’s why often I will schedule some older posts that keep drawing readers over my breaks.

I started the blog because I was bored, and needed something ‘productive’ to do, and was already (in 2011) completely fed up with Obama. I never thought it was going to make me rich. I wouldn’t mind, but it’s such I long shot that I don’t even try, and so I can stay true to what I believe. Neither did I think I would still be writing it today, but it has become a habit, maybe an obsession.

In any case, thanks for reading, and commenting here, it means more to me than you can imagine, and probably more than is good for me. This is the post published six long years ago, and still one of my favorites. It was titled “Reflections on a Train Trip”.


I recently had an opportunity to travel by train back to Nebraska from Philadelphia. As most of you who have ever travelled by train know, it gives you a fair amount of time to reflect on whatever crosses your mind. For some reason this trip (which I actually take roughly every year) caused me to reflect on the industrial powerhouse that was America. If you travel by train, you see a lot of industrial areas new and old.  What struck me this time was coming through Pittsburgh, northern Ohio and northwest Indiana was remembering these areas when I was a kid back in the 60’s, when it was very common still to see the black smoke and flames shoot into the air at the steel mills. These were the mills that industrialized America and made the steel that built the machines that won two World Wars and conquered a continent and fed the world.

It is commonly said that steel built the railroad industry and the railroads built the steel industry and it’s true; if one includes coal in the steel industry. What awesome plants they were, for instance, the main street of Gary, Indiana (itself named for a steel executive) ends at the main gate of US Steel Gary Works. And remember a basic element of US Steel; Carnegie Steel produced more steel than Great Britain in the 1890’s. Pittsburgh was much the same, only possibly more so. Here was the steel produced that made the railroads, which then made the largest common market in the world, and the steel for the agricultural equipment that still feeds the world, and the steel for the American automobiles and the weapons and transportation of the American military that won two World Wars  and the Cold War. Read more of this post

Happy Labor Day

I was thinking about Labor Day yesterday, and I nearly decided not to mark it at all, since we hardly know what labor is anymore in country with all the jobs that were outsourced because we couldn’t get within shouting range of the price of Asia including shipping. I grew up in Northwest Indiana, what they used to call the region, second only to western Pennsylvania in the making of steel in the world. In fact, a friend of mine The Leansubmariner grew in western Pennsylvania, and I’m going to have him tell you about that too. Read more of this post

Part of the America that I grew up in, come back to life. Wherever the technology came from, America’s industry made it work (and better). Think about the scale of this thing.

You know, I can remember being in US Steel‘s Chicago works, I was working on something belonging to the contractor that was tearing it down). My helper looked across the way and asked me what the thing up on the trestle was. It was a high pressure gas line, about 8 feet in diameter, that fed one of the blast furnaces. This was the plant that made the armor plate for the battleship Missouri as well as the rest. This is what an industrial giant looks like.

Ye Olde Soapbox

Iron Giant

One of America’s great machines comes back to life.

TIM HEFFERNAN

Library of Congress

APPROACHING ALCOA’S 50,000-TON forging press feels a bit like approaching an alp: it starts out incomprehensibly huge and keeps getting incomprehensibly huger. From a distance, the thing dominates the horizon of the hangar-like Cleveland Works facility; as you get nearer, catching glimpses through forests of girders and around cliffs of firebrick, it begins to dominate the air above. But even as you stand at its foot, being told that the eight steel bolts anchoring it are 40 inches thick, calculating in your head that that makes them 10 feet around—even then it’s still a bit out of reach. Only when you climb it, peer down from its sixth-floor summit, and realize that the puny machine next to it is, in fact, its 35,000-ton brother—well, then you finally appreciate the size of the thing…

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Reflections on a Train Trip

I recently had an opportunity to travel by train back to Nebraska from Philadelphia. As most of you who have ever traveled by train know, it gives you a fair amount of time to reflect on whatever crosses your mind. For some reason this trip (which I actually take roughly every year) caused me to reflect on the industrial powerhouse that was America. If you travel by train, you see a lot of industrial areas new and old.  What struck me this time was coming through Pittsburgh, northern Ohio and northwest Indiana was remembering these areas when I was a kid back in the 60’s, when it was very common still to see the black smoke and flames shoot into the air at the steel mills. These were the mills that industrialized America and made the steel that built the machines that won two World Wars and conquered a continent and fed the world.

It is commonly said that steel built the railroad industry and the railroads built the steel industry and it’s true; if one includes coal in the steel industry. What awesome plants they were, for instance, the main street of Gary, Indiana (itself named for a steel executive) ends at the main gate of US Steel Gary Works. And remember a basic element of US Steel; Carnegie Steel produced more steel than Great Britain in the 1890’s. Pittsburgh was much the same, only possibly more so. Here was the steel produced that made the railroads, which then made the largest common market in the world, and the steel for the agricultural equipment that still feeds the world, and the steel for the American automobiles and the weapons and transportation of the American military that won two World Wars  and the Cold War. Read more of this post

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