Categories
Colorado 2024 Photos

Tall Times @ 10,000 ft.

Hmm, looking at Leadville pics of Finn & Grandpa Liggett, I’m not really seeing any differences between 2011 & 2024… are you? :->

See also 2013 vs. 2024:

Categories
Birthdays Milestones Photos

Hen15!

Wow, can it be—our once-small beamish boy Henry has been with us for a full decade and a half? Madness!

We’re so happy and lucky to have this charming chap in our lives. He spent part of his day exploring the rails (of course!), then returned for a feast featuring Chicago dogs, one of Mom’s famous KitKat-infused cakes, and some opening of presents. We put a bow on things with a spectacular sunset photo-walk with Seamus.

Here’s a little gallery of the goings-on.

Categories
Photos Summer 2024

Shreveport Adventures: Meeting the Empress

[Check out our photo gallery]

For this post I’m proud to pass the narrative baton to NackFam Railfan-in-Chief & Adventure Catalyst Henry. —J.

In late May of 2024, my dad and I set out on a journey to Shreveport, LA, to see Canadian Pacific 2816, “The Empress,” on its tour from Canada to Mexico to celebrate the merger of Canadian Pacific & Kansas City Southern.

The Empress is a steam locomotive built in December 1930 for the Canadian Pacific Railway. It was retired in 1960 & has been used off & on by CP for excursion service over the decades. Our neighbor Severn, who many spent years as a railroad machinist, was recruited for his knowledge to be part of the crew. We’d originally planned to meet up with him in Shreveport, but he ended up joining just the northbound leg of the tour some weeks later. Either way, it was a good excuse to make the trip!

Our arrival proved to be interesting, as the “accommodations” Dad selected were… lackluster, to say the least. Even before getting to our room, we observed burnt-out alcoves on the side of the building and sheets plastered to the window! Dad insisted that we go in and not waste the princely sum of $30/night he’d prepaid (!). We were treated to dead roaches, copious filth, and missing roof tiles. Once we got to the room, things failed to improve: the piece de resistance was the grimy soap nub thoughtfully stuck to the shower dish.

Thankfully Dad saw the light (and the roaches!), and we hightailed it to a nearby Holiday Inn. “Oh, Mr. Nack,” said the sympathetic receptionist, shaking her head, “$30/night? You’ve got to have a better knack than that!” She helpfully noted that the gross motel had until recently been called “The Plantation”!

Moving on, we visited a couple of local railyards & made our way to downtown Shreveport. We saw a few more trains before retiring for the evening.

On Friday morning we headed to the tiny but charming local train museum, which had a lot of great artifacts on display—neon signs, old tickets, and even a model train layout. Because our car got trapped behind some construction, we ended up visiting the adjacent Shreveport Waterworks Museum—way more fascinating than you might think! Our charming tour guide Kevin showed us around the giant old machinery, and tried my hand at blowing the old steam whistles.

After that we carried on to a big local park where we visited an old steam locomotive in dire need of restoration.

Finally, a few hours later, it was time to see the 2816. We arrived shortly before it did, and we watched it and its entire train full of railroad executives & dignitaries back into the yard. I took a bunch of close-up shots of the train & locomotives, then went to see the diesels that followed & assisted The Empress.

There I ran into my friend from California, Scott, who works for locomotive builder EMD. We’d met through Severn, and he had recently joined joined the crew for the southbound leg. He allowed me to stand on the steps of CP 7013, a locomotive painted in one of Canadian Pacific’s old paint schemes from the 1960s.

We decided to take a break & head downtown for some railfanning by the old train bridge that crosses the Red River. (It was indeed a very red river!) We saw two trains—one pulled by Norfolk Southern locomotives, and one pulled by CPKC locos.

After we’d dried off a bit from the sweltering humidity, we headed back to see the Empress’s sunset departure for the night. It was very beautiful and spectacularly loud pulling out!

And so concluded a long and fruitful day of railfanning. Stay tuned for our next installments from the following days.

Categories
July Fourth Photos Summer 2024

Happy Fourth of July 2024!

Hey all—greetings from 10,000 ft. After lots of crisscrossing the nation in separate groups (Henry & me to Shreveport & South Bend, Margot & Finn to New England), we’ve all reuinted—together with Seamus & the Lingles—in Leadville.

As usual we were treated to the town’s super charming Fourth of July parade, followed by a cookout at the airport and then a great dinner at home featuring Uncle James’s pulled pork. As I type this we’re listening to Rhapsody in Blue and awaiting the fireworks.

Here’s a gallery from the day!

Categories
Death Valley Photos

Death Valley ’24

Between starting a new job & taking some delightful journeys in our new Airstream, we’ve been remiss in actually updating the ol’ Micronaxx blog. So as not to let April get away entirely without an update, I’ll mention some highlights from my inaugural outing with Finn & the trailer—the gallery from which you can see here.

“MNK” (Margot Nack’s Kid), as he’s known, was an incredibly resourceful, level-headed companion on what was inevitably a slightly intimidating outing towing more than 3,000 pounds of bucking metal behind us. Happily we were able to overcome a few teething problems and make our way safely out to the desert.

Highlights included:

  • Glimpsing a rare lake (!) in the driest place in North America. All those early-year rains made for quite the sight of kayakers paddling around the foot-deep expanse. Compare that to my previous visit with Henry, during which we crunched around the dry lake bed with our vintage Lego spacemen & simulated the lunar surface.
  • Camping in a 31-person town that featured a single restaurant staffed by “Stressed Uncle Ted” (as Finn dubbed him), the one-man waitstaff.
  • Catching a beautiful sunrise at Zabriskie Point, then driving up to the funky communities of Beatty, NV & Goldfield, NV (home to outdoor sculpture gardens, art cars, kooky locals, and free-range donkeys).
  • Checking out The International Car Forest (see link in case the animation below doesn’t play), where Hen, Sarah Murray, and I had photographed fire breathers back in 2022.
  • Hiking up to “The Star of Siam,” which Finn & I had previously summited with our friend Maria back in 2017. I think he found the climb far more tractable at age 16 than at age 8!

Anyway, check out the gallery if you’re feeling it, and here’s to many more epic roadtrips with the fam!

Categories
Photos St. Patrick's Day

Here Come The Irish — 2024

Last Saturday—technically the day before St. Patrick’s Day, but close enough—Henry & I grabbed our little Lego selves & hopped aboard a Caltrain packed with green-clad revelers to attend the parade in San Francisco.

Highlights of the two-hour+ (!) festivities included a phalanx of giant Irish wolfhounds; a gathering of the one Irish-produced automobile (the DeLorean!); a float commemorating the Chinese & Irish Railroad Workers; a bowler-clad mini BART train; numerous traditional dance troupes; and—why the heck not—a twerking St. Patrick.

We wrapped things up by enjoying Irish coffee & live music in the stunning old Hibernia Bank building, the sight of which made Hen proclaim, “This must be what heaven looks like!!”

Check out our gallery from the day.

Categories
Birthdays Photos

F-16: The Finnster Keeps It Sweet

inn Forgets Fifteen, Keeps Moving On Up!

We of course can’t quite believe it, but our big (as in, 6-foot-plus) guy continues his march up the charts of age & height, marking a full sixteen trips around the sun.

We’re so happy & grateful to have this funny, wry, driven, studious, self-starting hockey lover in our home, and we’re excited (if a little scared!) that he’ll soon be behind the wheel, squiring his brother (or similar-sized hockey bag) in the Miata.

Here’s a handful of shots from our recent Death Valley sojourn (more on that soon!), plus a little set showing him opening gifts. Highlights of the latter included a beautiful handmade beanie from Auntie Laura & some delicious Lou Malnati’s pies courtesy of Grandma & Grandpa Nack.

Happy birthday, Squire, and many happy returns!

[See also: Birthday posts from over the years.]

Categories
Photos

New Year’s sojourn: Santa Barbara & beyond

Oh Westy, we love you so… but sadly the old girl gave out during the first phase of our post-Christmas trip to southern California. Fortunately we were able to limp to an exit in Salinas near a whole cluster of car dealerships, and after a few hours of effort, we were able to have the Westy towed to a mechanic while we continued our trip in the last available rental car (a “cozy” Tesla crammed with four adult-sized humans + Seamus).

Fortunately the rest of our trip was much more restful than eventful. Highlights included:

  • Stopping off in San Luis Obispo, home of Finney’s Kitchen.
  • Finding our way to a quaint AirBnB cabin in Montecito (not on the property of Oprah or Prince Harry, which must’ve been nearby).
  • Walking around lovely Santa Barbara, checking out the beautiful Mission & train station while I nervously checked the score of the Irish game (happily a beatdown of Oregon State!).
  • Capturing sunset drone & Lego photos.
  • Exploring a shoreline butterfly grove with Seamy & friends.
  • Scoring some vintage records & exploring funky shops.
  • Meeting a friendly Navy captain-turned-Googler at a historic train trestle (below).

Check out the full gallery to see the goings-on.

Categories
Christmas Photos

Christmas 2023

Having just returned from Thanksgiving in Galena (more on that soon), the Macro- and Micronaxx opted to stay home for Christmas this year. Happily, our pal Maria—accompanied for the first time by her canine co-pilot Tippy—flew out to join us. Highlights of the holiday included:

  • Visiting the typographical Shangri-La that is The Box SF—an old curiosity shop run by a colorful designer named Mark who happens to have been born a few blocks from where Maria now lives. The two of them know many of the same Kansas City artists & Hallmark folks.
  • Whipping up cookies & pies—which fared far better than on previous trips that featured more, um, freeform interpretations of the recipes.
  • Taking in the San Jose Nutcracker in the beautiful California Theater.
  • Finding an orchid shop & adding a new member to our brood.
  • Cruising around the Los Gatos “Fantasy of Lights” with the boys & Maria hanging out the sides & top of the car.
  • Sharing & unwrapping many thoughtful, generous gifts, including the “MJB” coffee can that Hen & I found for Maria (initials: MJB) during our first visit to The Box. Margot’s new otter Irma was a hit as well.
  • Stopping by Severn’s house to check out his caboose & backyard train.
  • Watching Die Hard—which is, conclusively, A Christmas Movie™!

Check out our Christmas gallery to see the whole story!

Categories
Photos

Inscrutable fun with art!

The gang trekked up to SF yesterday to visit the Museum of Modern Art (SF MOMA), thanks to Margot securing tickets to a wild new immersive installation that lets visitors walk through colorful rooms full of trippy, pulsating lights. We had a blast beholding & discussing the offbeat “art,” contemplating our reactions (ranging from bewildered amusement to genuine appreciation).

Check out our photo & video gallery here!

Categories
Photos

Caltrain Amigos

Thanks to our ultra-connected friend & neighbor Dev, Henry & his train-club pals were able to visit the cavernous local Caltrain maintenance facility. Hen rocked the white hard hat he was recently given by our neighbor Severn, and we all donned high-viz vests and protective footwear for an informative two-hour tour by Caltrain COO John Hogan. Check out our gallery of photos & vids!

Categories
Photos

Homecoming ’23

The last couple of weeks have seen our handsome gents escorting their lovely dates (Lilian & Mandy, respectively) to homecoming dances. First up were Finn & Lilian…

…followed by Henry & Mandy, whose very friendly parents provided transportation & chaperone services. Check out this gallery to see the dapper crew in action!

Categories
Insulators Photos

Henry Nack, print photojournalist!

For the last couple of years, Henry has been an absolutely voracious reader of Crown Jewels of the Wire, one of the two main periodicals devoted to the hobby of insulator collecting. At the National show in June, he regaled the members with stories of our successful hunt on the salty planes of Utah, and one of the guys suggested that the magazine feature his great narrative & photos. Fast forward a couple of months, and presto, here we are!

Categories
Photos

All Aboard! Meet the BCP RRC 🚂

Our man Hen wasted zero time co-founding—with his new buddy & fellow train nut Peter—the Bellarmine Railroad Club. The boys first met a few months ago at the freshman welcome BBQ when Hen spotted Peter rocking a shirt from the Nevada Northern Railroad where we had our winter photo workshop. The meeting was meant to be, and ever since then, the guys have been planning to inaugurate the club.

Today they hung their shingle at club day and got sixteen sign-ups! Check out a little gallery of the event.

Categories
Milestones Photos

Ring in the Bells!

Ding dong!
Who’s there?
Two Bells!

We’re so happy that as of today, we have a pair of Bellarmine Bells in our midst. Henry started his first day of high school while Finn kicked off his sophomore year. Check out a couple shots of our handsome scholars:

Categories
Photos

Dog (Tag) Days of Summer

Our man Hen reported for duty at San Jose’s annual “Spirit of ’45” tribute to WWII vets and their service. This year he got to run the dog tag creation machine, braving six hours of midday heat while punching out dozens of shiny souvenirs for guests. Having his friend Mandy in attendance was a special treat, and you can see a gallery from the event here.

Categories
July Fourth Photos

Happy Fourth, 2023!

Greetings from our usual perch at 10,200 ft. in Leadville, where we took in today’s Fourth of July parade before heading over to the airport for some tasty free burgers. Here’s a quick donkey-rich gallery I’m posting before we enjoy some of Uncle James’s BBQ brisket.

It’s also fun to go back through fifteen years’ worth of July Fourth posts (!!) here, covering everything from our first visit with Grandma Nack up through Seamus’s inaugural visit. Seeing the dudes morph in size is quite the trip. 😌

Categories
Milestones Photos

Henry the Eighth (Grade Grad)!

It’s true—the Notorious H.S.N. has emerged victorious from Hoover Middle School & is on his way to high school!

The night before Hen’s ceremony at the SAP Center (aka the Shark Tank), we went out to our favorite Italian restaurant, Palermo, to honor the occasion as well as Margot’s birthday & the successful conclusion of Finn’s first year at Bellarmine.

The next day—Margot’s actual birthday—Hen gathered with his class & walked up to receive his certificate, a lei made of candy, and some congratulatory fist-bumps from pals. And from there it was immediate “wheels up,” as Hen, Seamus, and I departed for the first leg of our summer road trip (more on that as it unfolds!).

Check out our gallery of pics.

Categories
Insulators Photos

We’re back—with insulators!

After fifteen (!) solid years of updating this blog (1,600+ posts and counting!), we took the last six or so months off. Between work, school, and home, things got too nutty, and we’ve neglected to chronicle everything from birthdays to graduations to epic photo trips.

We’ll work back to fill in the gaps, starting at the present and working back. So, without further ado, I’ll pass the keyboard to Henry to describe our Friday night adventure in Utah!

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For some months, I had been looking forward to hunting insulators on my road trip to the national show in Logan, Utah. I had seen a Facebook post from someone hunting on the Utah salt flats, and I figured it would be a very good place to try our new 24-foot extending picker pole.

The first passenger train on the line we hunted departed Salt Lake City heading east on August 20, 1910. We can assume that the pole line was built at a similar time. Insulators were changed out over time, leading to a mix of older and more modern insulators. The Western Pacific merged into the Union Pacific in 1982. The line is currently in U.P. hands. The pole line is now abandoned, with cut and dangling wires.

Ever since we began our trip in California, I had been watching the pole lines on the Union Pacific railroad. We stopped at a few exits along the way, but we did not hunt because the spots were too exposed. It was so tempting, as the poles were so low, but we had to err on the side of caution.

On Friday east of Wendover, just as the sun was starting to set, we saw a pole line on the U.P. from the road and took the exit for Knolls (an uninhabited area for off-roading). We turned onto an unmaintained frontage road which took us right to the tracks and the poles. 

We took out our picker stick (a 24-foot painter’s pole with an aluminum V on top wrapped in duct tape) and started down the line.

The sun was setting, so we didn’t have much time. I would say we went about seven poles down the line. We could have hunted for hours! All the insulators had tie wires on still, which made it very easy to spin them, and we took home three.

Check out are some pictures of our hunt.

Categories
Insulators Photos

A Windfall of Insulators 💨

Henry continues successfully defending his crown as potentially The Luckiest Kid Ever™ 😌.

First, he was invited to visit Fresno to survey & sample from the huge collection of Lou Hall. Lou is the former president of the national insulator club & has been collecting for half a century! He and his lovely wife hosted us for four+ hours, setting up Hen with a great variety of interesting pieces. Thinking of Margot, they even gave us a cute painted snowman made from an insulator!

Afterwards we camped near Exeter, CA (roughly an hour south), where the hosts had previously given Hen some insulators. This time Big Henry (the host) came through with some even bigger glass, plus some hundred-year-old magazines that our Henry saved from being used as kindling (!).

The next day we drove into Exeter for breakfast with collector Dave Brown, who likewise entertained us with his impressive collection (even including insulators embedded underwater in his pool!) and generously provisioned Hen with as many items as our now-sagging Westy could carry. Here’s a gallery from our visits.

Following our return, the ongoing storms continued to wreak havoc on our area, and strong winds toppled a eucalyptus tree that in turn felled a giant electrical tower—narrowly missing our neighbor Severn’s yard! Noticing that repair crews were working around the clock to replace it, Henry & I drove over with our big camera lens. He of course proceeded to chat up the linemen—and they of course were happy to provision him with a bunch of insulators! 🤪

Check out a separate gallery of shots from the day.