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The Rail Philatelist July - August 2002 Newsletter

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Email Notification

AL'S RAILINGS-

NEWS & NOTES ON RAILWAY PHILATELY

Volume 7 Number 10 ................ PRICE $1.50 (10 ISSUES FOR $12.00)............... July-August 2002

Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:

I'll be on extended travel from July 16 thru August 22 (see details below) so I will be even slower than usual responding to mail orders from these lists. However, I hope to be able to keep up with the email and web orders while on the road. I was hoping to get quite a bit of work done while in Ohio but that wasn't happening so as you probably noted from the masthead, I've thrown in the towel - I decided the only way I can get back on schedule is to make this a combined July-August newsletter, then start Volume 8 in September. There have been just too many distractions lately - not only my granddaughters and the Amtrak trip, but also the twin fawns that were born in our city lot backyard near the end of my Amtrak trip. They come out from the wooded "wildlife refuge" at the back of our property for a few minutes at a time to race around the yard playing tag (or some other mule deer game). On Saturday, June 14, I caught them having lunch with mama at 12:30 PM. Sure glad I had my new video camera!

DREADED RED DOT: With the postal rate increase, it again becomes imperative that I trim my mailing list to those who are genuinely interested in these monthly missives or who order from the price lists occasionally. If there is a red dot on your mailing label, I have not heard from you in several months (10 or more) so this will be your last mailing unless I hear from you soon with an order or a paid subscription. While the postal increase raises my mailing cost just 3 per customer mailing, it adds up to more than the price of the Scott Catalog over time. And the increases in Priority Mail, Insurance, and other postal "Services" also impact the bottom line significantly when you work on thin margins.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN!: I didn't realize trying to get ready for a month long trip could be so complicated. It started innocently enough when my son William asked Sue if we would like to take care of our precocious two-year-old granddaughter Kathryn this summer while they moved from Nova Scotia to Norfolk, VA where he'll be assigned to the carrier USS ENTERPRISE. How can you refuse an offer like that! So of course we jumped at the chance. Then the constraints appeared - school starts for Sue in mid-August, the APS STAMPSHOW 2002 set-up is August 14, installation of new windows in our 27-year-old-home may not be completed until July 15, the movers will start packing the household goods in Nova Scotia on July 24 but the house in Norfolk won't be livable until about August 6 and we have to squeeze in our annual visit to Sue's Mother in Ohio somehow! Here's the plan we came up with: drive two cars to Ohio (my Previa loaded for STAMPSHOW and our family car since the Previa only has two seats when loaded) on or about July 16, fly from Dayton, OH to Halifax, NS on July 20 (no MILE HIGH RAILFAIR again this year), spend a couple days in Berwick, NS getting reacquainted with Kathryn before flying her back to Ohio on July 24 where we'll spend a couple weeks at my Mother-in Law's, then drive to Norfolk, drop off Kathryn in her new home and drive back to Colorado. I'll then fly back to Dayton, pick up the Previa and drive on to Atlantic City for the APS show. I flirted briefly with the idea of doing the Great American Train Show in Dayton August 3-4 but may try to squeeze in a family reunion in Pennsylvania on the 4th instead. I can't afford to be totally out of business for a month but I also can't take everything including the desktop computer to Ohio with me either. That's the prime reason I bought the new laptop computer...

H?&$#@% COMPUTERS: If you've never attempted to configure two computers the same, DON'T unless they have identical operating systems. I knew I didn't want Windows XP on my new laptop but I couldn't find a way around it so I decided to live with it - and it has taken up most of my life since I got back from my Amtrak trip! One of the reasons I didn't want XP was that I had read that existing Hewlett Packard printer drivers don't work with XP. I have an HP Office Jet G55 printer/scanner/copier and sure enough, it doesn't work with XP! When I went to the HP web page I discovered that they were finally releasing XP compatible software for the G55 in mid to late June. They discourage trying to download the software, since at 50 megabytes it may take forever if you don't have broadband or high speed service which I don't. Consequently, my only option at this stage is to have the software mailed to me in Ohio where I hopefully can get it installed and working. (If you are reading this before August 10, I obviously succeeded). Larry Piekenbrock, dba LJP Collectibles, who set up my original web page helped me transfer files from the DELL desktop to the Compaq laptop so I thought I was in pretty good shape to handle my routine computer tasks. Wrong! First I discovered that files copied to a CD-R disk and then transferred to another computer often, but not always, come across as "Read Only". That means you can open them but you can't make any changes to them unless you first delve into the "Properties" menu of the file and unclick the "Read Only" button. Just one more time waster when you are in a hurry. While preparing the stamp lists for uploading to my web page before I left home, I discovered I was missing a critical component in the process. Larry had created a "MACRO" (a short sequence of computer instructions) that in essence strips some useless boilerplate from my database files before they can display properly on a web page. The essential macro was nowhere to be found on the new computer. Evidently, macros hide somewhere deep in the operating system so just copying everything in the "My Documents" folder (which in my case was 170 Megabytes and almost 5000 individual files and photos) doesn't dig deep enough to copy a macro. So I went exploring on the DELL until I found the "FIXMERGE" macro, copied it, emailed it to the laptop, copied the email into the "Create New Macro" window on the laptop, did some minor editing, and I was back in business! But all of this takes precious time that I should be using for filling orders or working up stamps. Computers may be labor saving devices, but they can also be inordinate time sinks. After over an hour finally figuring out how to use the File Transfer Protocol (FTP - used to upload files to my web page) on the laptop - it handles the files differently than on the DELL, I wasted another five hours on a wild goose chase because the AOL browser on the laptop kept showing the April newsletter as the current newsletter even though I had uploaded both the May and June newsletters and removed the April one from the current file. That was still happening even 15 hours after I made the successful upload (which I verified using both AT&T WorldNet and AOL on the DELL after Larry sent me a confirming email that the new page was up). A couple calls to AOL Technical Support gave no useful insights into the problem of how AOL could keep showing me a web page 15 hours after it was removed from cyber space but installing a new version of AOL 7.0 seems to have fixed the problem (for now). I know many of you wrote me after my previous problems with AOL, suggesting that I dump AOL in favor of any number of other ISPs. One reader was particularly blunt; "You are either pigheaded or stupid if you stay with AOL." At this point I guess I would probably have to admit that I am probably both! With the above as prelude, I've spent (wasted?) an inordinate amount of time trying to exercise all the various software paths I might want to use while in Ohio to ensure that they work. Maybe I should just make room for the DELL desktop computer! (I probably should have! Among other things, I discovered that the draft for this newsletter wasn't on the laptop - or at least I couldn't find it. I ended up calling my oldest son, Thomas, in Colorado Springs and talked him thru the maze of files on the DELL until he found the newsletter draft and then he emailed it to me - much better than starting from scratch! But more precious time wasted.)

STORING DUPLICATES: One of the unexpected finds in the Tucson collection was a shoebox filled with small (#6) reply envelopes from a well-known cover dealer, each one lettered for a different country and containing duplicate sets and singles or sets not yet mounted in the albums as well as the non-train stamps from sets where the train stamp(s) had already been mounted. Some envelopes were empty while others were crammed with excess stamps, often three or four of the same set. From a collection of approximately 100 large albums (although many pages contained two covers - thus all the reply envelopes), just one small shoebox conveniently kept all the duplicate and reject stamps organized. This is a great way to keep your excess stamps available although the plethora of souvenir sheets in recent years makes a separate storage system necessary for them. Although all of us love to buy just the train stamp from a set whenever possible, for resale purposes it is important to keep the non-train stamps available so that sets can be reconstructed when we "hang up our tongs". How do you keep your duplicates and part sets organized?

POST OFFICE LIMITED EDITION COLLECTIBLE: My daughter-in-law, Binky, found me the perfect birthday present at the Murrysville, PA post office - a pewter finish paperweight replica of the Hannibal & St. Joseph RR 1862 First Railway Post Office Car. Mine is #3566 of 5000.The specially printed "Priority Mail" box has some red and blue printing that says, "POST HASTE COLLECTION MAIL BY RAIL SERIES". This implies that there are similar items in the "Mail by Rail" series and the "Post Haste" collection. However, I have never seen any of these items advertised by the post office or on display at any local post offices. In addition to some pictures and historical data on the bottom of the box, there is a note, "This item was custom designed for the UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE by Tri-Star Merchandise, Inc." Since this was a gift, I have no idea of the original cost or where else to find them. Does anyone out there have any more information on this item or any other items in the "Series" or "Collection"? One of my April "SPECIALS" (TRPUSACBQ70 @ $5.00) was a postcard that pictured and described this RPO car on its 70th Anniversary at the 1934 Chicago "Century of Progress" Exposition.

MY "FAREWELL TO AMTRAK TOUR" PART 1: I have always been a train observer, rather than a rider so my Amtrak trip was a whole new experience. Yes, I can vaguely recall a couple short boyhood trips to Erie and Renovo from my home in Kane, PA and I have great memories of our rides on the PANORAMA, GLACIER and BERNINA EXPRESSES in Switzerland a few years ago, but I have spent most of my life enjoying the view as freight trains rolled by, recording locomotive numbers, counting cars and looking for the unusual. I have also never before been a rail photographer - the pictures were always in my mind's eye. So this trip was different - I was on the train with video camera in hand observing railroading over the tracks rather than from beside them. There were so many facets to the trip that I'm not quite sure how to organize my report. I kept a journal in which I recorded all the car numbers of the trains I rode, arrival and departure times at significant points, conversations with other passengers, scanner "reports", times and types of passing trains, my observations and impressions and everything else that caught my fancy. However, I'm not sure a straight regurgitation of the diary would be the best way to present my story.

As a philatelist, I made a last minute decision to create some commemorative covers of my trip. Packing a couple hundred of my "THE RAIL PHILATELIST" #9 return envelopes, I planned to mail myself 10 of them from each of the states I traveled through. That turned out to be a much more difficult task than I anticipated for several reasons, not the least of which were:

1. Trains arrive at some stops like Salt Lake City, UT; Sandpoint, ID; Fargo, ND; and Tucson & Maricopa, AZ in the middle of the night!

2. There are no mail drop boxes in most stations anymore. And some stops didn't even have a station (e.g. Sparks, NV and Albuquerque, NM)!

3. With Amtrak's personnel cutbacks, there is usually only one person on duty at a station and he (or she) is usually busy unloading/loading baggage while the train is in the station so the ticket window is closed and the station unmanned.

4. Most station stops are just long enough for people to get on or get off, but not both!

Needless to say, I got plenty of exercise running around looking for a place to mail my envelopes at the stops selected for mailings (and also missed some sleep!). I could have tried to mail covers from 23 states, but only had 210 envelopes with me so I chose to ignore two of the more difficult possibilities: Sandpoint, ID because of the "after-midnight" scheduled arrival of the EB and Fulton, KY because it was a "whistle stop" in the "wee" hours of the morning that my CNO didn't even stop at. When a fellow traveler offered to mail my covers from Sandpoint, I accepted and opted to defer a late night mailing from either Deming or Lordsburg, NM on the SL. Of the 21 mailings, only eight were from a station drop box: Denver, CO; Portland, OR; Whitefish, MT; St. Paul, MN; Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA; Los Angeles, CA and Albuquerque, NM. I left them with station agents at five locations: Salt Lake City, UT; Sacramento, CA; La Crosse, WI; Houston, TX and La Junta, CO. The Seattle, WA covers were mailed from my hotel where I also raided the advertising rack for stuffer cards after my wife remarked that the covers from Denver had arrived with damaged corners. Fellow passengers mailed covers for me from Sandpoint, ID; Jackson, MS; and Tucson, AZ. At Sparks, NV, there isn't even a station so I asked a couple ladies getting into a red convertible if they would mail my covers for me, at Minot, ND a lady Air Force Sergeant and her boy friend said they would mail them for me, in Memphis, TN a policeman said he would mail them after jokingly asking "They don't contain Anthrax do they?" and in Flagstaff, AZ a man standing on the platform wearing a green National Car Rental jacket agreed to mail them for me. The covers from Sandpoint received a Spokane, WA postmark; those from Whitefish a Kalispell, MT postmark and the ones left in La Junta received a Colorado Springs, CO postmark. At least that was better than not having them show up at all. Of the 210 envelopes mailed, 190 were received. Surprisingly, those from Minot and Memphis never arrived. I would have bet on the policeman and the Air Force sergeant to have been more reliable. I plan to create a commemorative cachet showing my travel route, an Amtrak train and a list of the trains I rode with a checkmark for the train the cover was mailed from. Not sure when I'll get that ambitious project completed.

There was so much activity during my trip that of the four books I carried with me, I only found time to read one, Terry Pindell's LAST TRAIN TO TORONTO - A CANADIAN RAIL ODESSEY. Chapter One starts, "Boarding the Canadian in Toronto on a warm June day, I contemplate the nature of heaven. ... Three days and three nights to Vancouver with nothing to do but read, eat, sleep, watch the passing landscape, and talk to people. There will be no telephone calls, no mail, no TV, no traffic, no supervisors. There will be no appointments, no social entanglements, no family responsibilities, no community obligations, no promises, no identity save what I create out of whole cloth during this passage. If not heaven, this is at least the opportunity to be temporarily born again." That fairly well sums up the reasons many travelers take the train, but it doesn't begin to describe the eager anticipation and excitement I felt as I started my first Amtrak trip. After all, I wasn't trying to get away from anything. I just wanted to experience the joys of train travel while I still could! And it was heaven! The trip exceeded all my expectations. I'm not sure I can find words to describe all the experiences and memories, but I'll certainly try to at least outline the highlights of my "Farewell to Amtrak Tour". I'll describe my trip from Denver to Sacramento on the CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR next month, but don't expect my deathless prose to rival E. M. Fimbro, Bob Richardson, David Morgan, Paul Theroux or even Terry Pindell.

JULY TRAVEL: During Jeff and Binky's visit, we went to Denver for the Colorado Rockies baseball game and fireworks show on July 3. Rather than drive all the way into downtown and fight the traffic coming and going, I drove to Littleton and we rode the Light Rail into the stadium. There was standing room only both ways but it was a great ride (and free parking). We passed a SB manifest and two coal trains on the way in plus a couple more on the way out and also had a good view of the former Denver & Rio Grande Burnham Shops, now populated by about 50 Union Pacific locos. The "Ski Train" was parked at Union Station in regal splender. The Rockies beat the San Francisco Giants and the fireworks show was fantastic so it was a great night on all counts! On our trip east I only saw a couple UP coal empties on the old Kansas Pacific line and a clogged Armourdale yard as we raced thru Kansas City.

RAIL FACTS AND FEATS: Officially, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation started service May 1, 1971. The original acronym was "RAILPAX", hence the series of 20 red, white and blue inauguration covers produced by the Midwest Railway Historical Society (See this month's "SPECIALS").At the eleventh hour, the name was changed to Amtrak and the red and blue "Blunt Arrow" logo was adopted. Stickers with the logo were hurriedly printed by the MRHS but too late for inclusion on most of the covers.

RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: According to Oscar Wilde, "I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train." True, but (as I discovered on my Amtrak trip) it is almost impossible to WRITE a diary while bumping along on a train.

STAMP OF THE MONTH: The new self-adhesive set of four "Antique Toys" issued by the US Postal Service includes an 1880's toy 2-2-0 cast iron & sheet metal steam loco named "Jupiter" that is certainly worthy of inclusion in most train stamp collections. However the USPS got carried away creating collectible varieties. First they issued the set in a non-denominated "First Class" version in both sheets of 20 and booklets of 20, then on July 26 they reissued the set denominated "37" in sheets of 20, coils of 100 and two booklet formats. Thus there are at least nine collectible varieties of this one stamp design if the perforation varieties produced by straight edges of the coil and booklet formats are all considered. And even more combinations if blocks or strips of four are collected. Unfortunately, the booklet covers picture the toy mail wagon, not the steam loco. One copy each denominated and non-denominated will probably be sufficient for my collection. (At least until the imperforate sheets and coil strips start showing up!)

May all your signals be green,

 

Al's signatureAL PETERSON

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AL PETERSON
THE RAIL PHILATELIST
P. O. BOX 25505
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO 80936
 
 
 
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COME SEE MY EXTENSIVE INVENTORY AT ONE OF THESE FINE SHOWS!
 

AUG 15-18        APS STAMPSHOW 2002                    ATLANTIC CITY CONVENTION CENTER       ATLANTIC CITY, NJ

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| Jan. 1997 | News & Notes Back Issues
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Oct. 1996 | Nov. 1996 | Dec. 1996 |
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|Jan. 2001 | Feb.2001 | Mar. 2001 | Apr. 2001 | May. 2001 | June. 2001 |
| July 2001 | Aug. 2001 | Sept. 2001 | Oct. 2001 |Nov. 2001 | Dec. 2001
|Jan. 2002| Feb.2002 | Mar.2002 |Apr.2002 |May.2002 |June 2002 |

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