Friday, May 22, 2015

Carrie Furnace, PA

Bill, my friend from Blandy camera club, and I took off Friday to meet DCUE at a paid photo tour of Carrie Furnace in PA. It's been a few years since I'd last visited and at the beginning of the tour we were told of numerous places that we weren't allowed to explore. A few of us had toured the site years ago, and been all over, but unfortunately these folks exclaimed that there were less places we were allowed to access today than before. No climbing up on to those metal walkways looming enticingly above us and no teetering over railings aiming for that awesome perspective looking downward. We were allowed up onto 1 level in some areas and that was it. Even many of the actual furnaces were cordoned off by garish bright yellow chains and painted railings. But the staff were extremely friendly and upbeat, offering help whenever we wanted it and so off we trotted, all rushing in different directions, like ants from a disturbed nest.
Really not sure what this was doing there, another obscure art project? I took a photo, just because it was old and battered, and I liked the yellow.
I spotted this little plastic addition to the site and thought it cute, but then spotted more and more of them on my way round. They lost their appeal, there were too many of them. There were even quite a few wooden benches placed around as though inviting us to sit down and pull out a lunch of sandwiches, chips and pop from our bags. I almost expected to turn the corner and see a couple of elderly ladies with their poodles sitting chatting on these new seats. Or maybe a trash bin next to a bench for those empty chip bags...
There was one part where we could still actually walk amongst the furnaces and towers. It was a small area but my favorite, and wonderful to get up close and personal again, like greeting an old friend.
Maria Caruso, a contemporary ballet dancer, did a photo shoot here and left her shoes hanging afterwards. They're looking a little battered now but everyone took a photo.
The Carrie Deer has been here since 1997, erected secretively by trespassing local artists. The story is here. 
One area I didn't explore on my last visit was around the back of the furnace. There is a wall covered in graffiti and I could stroll all the way down to the crane.
I didn't recall this old train from my last trip either so it was great to explore another new area.
There was a locker room area down below with beautiful rusted doors hanging, the paint still vibrant as it curled and twisted away from the metal.
And here was a tunnel for the coal to be carried in that would power the firnace.
The site is currently being preened for a new TV series, American Ninja Warriors. It did look pretty funny seeing a guy pushing a mower back and forth, seemingly totally out of place, with the huge rusting furnace as his backdrop.
I love this shot I quickly snapped on my phone of a few members.
This was one Lewis took. We all looked so tiny against the background and I wanted to see the people so I cropped it rather severely.
I was glad to see Carrie again but don't think I'll return. I applaud the work being done here to preserve the site but it was starting to have a bit of a 'touristy' feel, which is probably great as it will pull in more of the general public and not just us urbexers. And that's just fine, I'd rather it become a much loved tourist site than see it demolished, we're losing too many of our old industrial sites.
We met for lunch at this dive bar, Emil's Lounge, which has been featured on the Travel Channel's Bizarre Foods for their Giant Stuffed Cabbage, video here. It seemed everything was giant in here, a couple of folks ordered fish sandwiches which were huge, with 3 pieces of fish in each, but nobody ordered the stuffed cabbage.
It was late as we finally made our way home from Cumberland Bill and I had to stop abruptly on a dark road as a tiny little dog was trotting down the middle towards us. I jumped out of the car and struggled to see him in the pitch black, we were in the middle of nowhere. We had no cell phone signals and there were no houses. To cut a long story short, I had to take him home until the owner could come and collect, she had no transport that night and we weren't backtracking another 20 or more miles to an area we didn't know. His name was Buddy and he was exceptionally well behaved. Rosie Lee wanted nothing to do with him and Kota simply ignored him. He stayed the night and thoroughly enjoyed his breakfast of scrambled eggs sprinkled with cheddar cheese. I later had to meet up with his owners at a halfway point in Winchester where they told me he was 10 years old. He was obviously very well cared for and it had been by accident that he'd escaped home and started his trek to Cumberland. I handed him over without reservation, he was certainly loved and was pleased to see his mom again. A happy ending!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wings of War at Manassas

On Saturday a few of us met at Manassas Airfield to see the bombers that had taken part in the DC flyover to mark the end of WWII. The fighter jets were at Culpeper but I particularly wanted to see the B-29 Superfortress, Fifi, the only one of its kind left in the world, intact and flying. Steve, Charles, Michele and I had to wait for ages before we were allowed on the ramp. There were plenty of other folks there but most of these were waiting, lucky enough to be taking actual flights, which were really expensive. A 40 minute flight in Fifi cost $1500 on the day. It looks like online bookings made before were cheaper, see here.
I walked all around her, taking in the sheer enormity of her, noticing the dents and war wounds on her shell and scrambling underneath so I could stand up and look inside the bomb bay, savoring the aged, musty and vintage aroma that only an old vehicle can emit. Fifi had been discovered at Lake China, CA where the Navy weapons center were using her and other plane carcasses for target practice as well as being abused by sand and vandals. The CAF managed to convince the Navy to hand her over in 1971 and 3 years later she was restored and flying. There is another B-29 being restored which had hoped to make the flyover but it doesn't have a working engine yet, details here.
These planes are costing millions to restore to flying condition, and then to insure, so the high prices for public flights can be appreciated.
We were allowed to climb up a ladder to look into the cockpit of a B-24 Liberator. I couldn't resist this shot where I lined up diamond Lil's gun to reach down onto Fifi, and a guy timed it perfectly, raising his arms as though pushing the gun away. We could also clamber up into the inside of this plane.
A C-45 Expediter.
There were a couple of B-17s on the tarmac. This one had engine problems during the flyover and is now having a cylinder replaced.
Another B-17, Aluminum Overcast, was getting readied to take up some lucky passengers, so we quickly walked around getting our close-ups. Today proved that getting up and getting here early paid off. Once these planes had been out on a flight, the public were not allowed near them again because of the hot engines, and latecomers had to be satisfied with standing behind ropes and viewing them from a distance. The propellers had to be rotated to get the oil inside moving and the parts lubricated. This guy had to turn 9 blades on each engine and it looked hard, so I asked if I could have a go. It was pretty tough and I understood why he used a rag as cushioning. I had imprints from the prop edge on my palms for some time afterwards.
My feet took me back to Fifi again and I grabbed a shot of one of her individually named engines and then tried a selfie from directly underneath.
This is a SB2C Helldiver, 'The Beast'. One of the flying team was prepping the plane for flight and kept us amused with his delivery of information. There's only 4 of these left in the world, 3 in museums and only 1 that's airworthy. "At least it was when I landed", quiped the guy! Costing over $200,000 to restore, she has been given the markings of the carrier U.S.S. Franklin.
This amazing war veteran on the right is 92 years old. He used to fly in the back of a Helldiver at 18 years old and recalled when during one flight he looked down to see a kamikaze pilot smash into the U.S.S. Franklin. His son had brought him along today and I really hoped he was being treated to a flight.
The flight crew prepping before getting Fifi ready for take off.
We waited to enjoy the sensory experience of Aluminum Overcast starting up and rolling to the flight strip. The noise was deep and deafening, the smell of oil and fuel reached us before the hot gritty gusts from the engines. Michele and I grinned at each other as we lifted our faces towards the old warbird as she slowly cruised towards and then turned for the runway.
Click her for a video of her starting her rumble to the flight strip.
Once she had rumbled away, we followed Steve to the cars where he took us to a spot where we were directly underneath the flight path of the planes as they landed. We stood in the glaring heat, kicking ourselves that we hadn't brought any water, and looked skyward for glints and spots in the distance that could be our planes. We only had a few seconds as they thundered over but they were glorious and Michelle even managed to get a couple to waggle their wings in a returned greeting to her outstretched arms.
I took a photo of a modern plane before I realized what it was, and was going to delete it, but I actually liked the lighting on the propeller so I left it here. We saw the B-17, the B-29 and the Helldiver fly over.
And then it was back to the airfield again to hopefully see Fifi start her engines for her final flight of the day.
A C-47.
The Helldiver going up again with an impressive passenger. The guy at the back in the sapphire shirt is a Dutchman living in London. He called in sick on Thursday, flew over here and then spent 2 days, spending thousands, flying all the war birds. This was his last flight and then he was rushing to Dulles for a red flight back home. Good luck explaining the sun tan!
We all crunched together behind the ropes staring at Fifi, willing her to start her engines. And then the signal came, The 2 inside engines fired up and then the 2 outer ones. Closing down the 2 outer engines, she turned and headed for take-off. We all stood patiently as she slowly made her way to the top of the field, then unhurriedly turned around. The engines all fired up and revved loudly, the volume increasing as she gradually picked up speed down the runway. Her nose slowly lifted and the only flying Superfortress in the world disappeared from view against grey stormy skies. I hope I see her again some day.