Tag Archives: Colorado River

Planes, Trains, Automobiles And The Sea

by Rick Bretz

A look back at transportation modes throughout history tells us that when using new technology is left to humanity, moving from one place to another can bring joy or pain.  The horse could carry someone coming back to see their family or someone to conquer their homelands.  A plane can bring needed supplies like the Berlin Airlift or drop bombs bringing devastation as the world saw at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Civilization has sought to contract space and time so now a person or country’s military can move across the globe in a few hours or days.

Grand Canyon in Winter
Grand Canyon in Winter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Driving across a country also gives the passenger a different perspective than say flying and looking down at the same landmark or land mass.  Driving and stopping makes the experience more personal while flying and looking down presents someone with a spectacular view but distant.

Two perfect examples of two different personal experiences are flying over the Mississippi River or the Grand Canyon before landing at the Las Vegas McCarran International Airport.  The two land marks look awe-inspiring from your window seat in the airplane but seem are breathtaking when driving and seeing them up close, especially when you consider where you cross the Mississippi River. Let’s compare are primary ways to get from point A to Point B.

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 1...
First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)




Sea Travel

First True Automobile (Internal Combustion Engine) 1885/1886 (Karl Benz) 1804-First Steam Locomotive for the road hauled freight in Wales 1903-Wright brothers achieve sustained flight flying a properly   engineered aircraft in NC 4000BC-First sailing boats built from reeds in Egypt.
Steam Engine Auto (1769) 1825-The Stockton and Darlington Railroad company hauls freight and   passengers over 9 miles using George Stephenson steam locomotive for tracks 1904 First airplane maneuvers (Turn and Circle) Wright Brothers) 1000BC-Vikings build long ships using oarsmen.
Electric Carriage (1832-1839) 1826-Col John Stevens demonstrates the feasibility of steam   locomotives on experimental track in Hoboken, NJ. 1905 First Airplane Flight over a half hour (33 minutes, 17 seconds) Orville   Wright 1100AD-Chinese build junks with watertight compartments and strong   sails using a rudder to steer.
1886 (First Four Wheeled, four Stroke Engine) Daimler/Maybach 1830-Peter Cooper operates the first American built steam locomotive   on a common carrier railroad. 1908-First Airplane fatality Lt. Thomas Selfridge, US Army Signal   Corps. During evaluation flight propeller hit bracing wire. 1400s-Three and Four Mast ships introduced for cargo transportation,   military power, and passenger travel
1876-1895 George Baldwin Seldon combine internal combustion engine   with carriage 1857-George Pullman invents the Pullman sleeping car. The first   comfortable overnight sleeper. 1910- First licensed woman pilot. Baroness Raymonde de la Roche who   learned to fly in 1909. 1819-First Steam ships used to cross Atlantic using steam and wind   power.
1893-Charles and Frank Duryea set up first Car manufacturing company 1881-Mary Walton receives patent for an elevated train noise   dampening system. 1914-First Aerial combat between German and allied pilots 1845-First ocean-going liner using engine power and propeller driven built
1908-Henry Ford introduces Model-T 1855-First land grant railroad completed, The Illinois Central 1910-First Flight from shipboard 1914-Panama Canal opened
1913-Ford Motor Company perfects moving assembly line 1856-First Railway bridge across the Mississippi completed between   Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa 1927-First solo nonstop transatlantic flight (Charles Lindbergh) 1825-Erie Canal Opens
1921-Italy constructed first limited access road (Auto Strada) 1932-German   Bonn-Cologne Autobahn Constructed, 1922-First Blue Print for US National   Highway System, 1956 The Federal Aid Highway Act allocating funds for   extensive US Highway System. 1862-President Lincoln signs the Pacific Railway Act authorizing the   construction of the first Transcontinental Railroad 1929-First blind flight using instruments. Took off and landed using   instruments. (James Doolittle) 1811-First steamboat used on Mississippi River.
1938-1940-Merritt Parkway opened as first US fully controlled access   parkway (Barrier Toll Plazas) from Hartford to New York City. 1869-The Central Pacific and Union Pacific meet at Promontory Summit,   Utah for the driving of the Gold Spike. 1932-First woman to fly transatlantic solo. (Amelia Earhart) 1900-First cruise ship, the Prinzessin Victoria Louise, built for the   Hamburg America Line, begins moving passengers using 120 first class cabins.
1899-First Speeding infraction in NYC committed by Cad Driver going   12 MPH in 8 MPH zone. 1872-George Westinghouse patents the first automatic air brake. 1933-First round-the-world solo flight (Wiley Post) April 15, 1912-RMS Titanic Sinks crossing the Atlantic
1868-First Traffic Light used in London operated by Gas Lamps 1970-Congress passes the Rail Passenger Service Act creating Amtrak 1952-First Jet Liner Service between London and Johannesburg, South   Africa. (23 hours, 38 minutes) 2012-Oasis of the Seas, largest cruise ship in the world
1913 photograph Ford company, USA
1913 photograph Ford company, USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Most people have a favorite way to get to their destination.  What determines the final decision? A fellow traveler bases where to place his soul thinking about several factors–time, money, convenience and the fear of travelling by certain modes.  Phobias can play an important role when travelling, sometimes more than funding.  Beyond a person’s individual preferences, the comparison chart above shows that each form has benefited from the creativity, intelligence, courage, sacrifice and fortitude of many people to arrive where we are today.

Other Modes: Walk, Jog, Bicycle, Tricycle, Motorcycle, Scooter, roller-skate, inline skate, Skateboard, escalator, surfboard, swimming, snowmobile, four-wheeler, Riding Lawn Mower, Farm Tractor, Public Bus, Horse, Camel, Llama, Oxen, Donkey, Mule, space shuttle, space capsule, hang gliders, trolley cars.

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The Panama Canal and Hoover Dam

by Rick Bretz

Many engineering wonders dot the world from the Egyptian Pyramids to China’s long Wall.  The United States has been a part of two major engineering feats that are a testament to man’s apparent mastery over nature.  One was accomplished outside the country in Panama with the plan to bring together two oceans and the other in a desert with the goal of taming the Colorado River. The Panama Canal engineers had to deal deadly Malaria disease transported by mosquitos, making their jobs more difficult. The Boulder Dam project engineers figured out how to divert a river so they could excavate and pour millions of cubic feet of concrete.  Each project had their own challenges and issues but were overcome so that economies and cultures could make a step forward.

English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Ac...
English: Photograph of the Boulder Dam from Across the Colorado River; From the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, compiled 1941 – 1942, documenting the period ca. 1933 – 1942. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Panama Canal     (Boulder) renamed Hoover   Dam in 1947
Construction:  1881-1889 (French Period) 1903-1914 (US Construction Period) Construction: 1931-35 (2 years ahead of schedule)
Reason for Construction:  Shortcut through Isthmus Reason for Construction: Prevent Flooding, provide   hydro-electric power, and irrigation
Cost:    US Dollars   $375,000,000 Cost: $50, 000,000 (1931 US dollar value)
Number of workers: More than 56,000 Number of workers: 5,000
Control: The United States until the 1977 Panama Canal   Treaty that ceded control to Panama. Today the Panama Canal Authority. Control: US Department of Interior, Bureau of   Reclamation,
Casualties: Estimated at 22,000 mostly from disease during   the French construction period (1881-1889).   For the American construction period,   Officially 5609.  Also, several   thousand undocumented West Indian workmen who died from explosions,   mudslides, railcar accidents and disease) Casualties: 112 construction related deaths.  42 died from Pneumonia (Controversial-some   research suggests it was carbon-monoxide poisoning working in the diversion   tunnels)
Major Obstacles: Tropical disease, mudslides,   Engineering issues such as terrain, worker safety, poor reputation resulting   in issues recruiting qualified people. Major Obstacles: Engineering, worker safety, high   temperatures
Benefit to US: National Security, Shipping Lanes Benefit to US: Hydro-power to several arid states in   the region.
Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Steam shovels, wagons,   locomotives, unloaders Excavation Strategies: Explosives, Diversion tunnels, “Jumbo”   trucks, “High Scalers”
Physical Characteristics: 50 miles in length, 8-10   hours to transit from ocean to ocean, each lock is 110 feet wide, 8 minutes   to fill lock with water Physical Characteristics: 726 high, 230 blocks of   concrete



The Hoover Dam

The Hoover Dam’s main controversy was the name itself.  As usual, politics entered into the equation when at the dedication speaker Secretary of the Interior Harold Ickes spoke the name “Boulder Dam” five times in a span of 30 seconds to force home the moniker.  Former President Hoover who helped marshal the construction plans through the political process wasn’t invited to the ceremony.  Later, after Hoover had completed many important projects after his Presidency thereby rehabilitating himself and his name, both houses in Congress passed a bill unanimously that officially renamed the dam, “Hoover Dam”.

Other than the naming controversy, the engineering plans and worker skill served the day to the project completed ahead of schedule.  Workers had a competition for what shift could excavate the most dirt and rock.  This friendly competition moved the project along.

English: High scalers drilling into canyon wal...
English: High scalers drilling into canyon wall 500 feet above the Colorado River in Black Canyon, site of Hoover Dam, 1932. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hoover Dam has provided much-needed power and irrigation to the southwest region of the United States.  In recent years, traffic has been rerouted to the four-lane Hoover Dam Bypass and Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge. With this development, officials have stopped vehicle traffic  from crossing the top of the dam.

English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 19...
English: SS Kroonland is seen on 2 February 1915 at the Culebra Cut while transiting the Panama Canal. Kroonland was the largest passenger ship to that time to transit the canal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal was built by American engineers and workers travelling to Panama to participate in the construction. The French gave up the project in 1889 after several issues hindered their progress towards completion of the canal.  The United States bought the rights to the project and equipment to finish the canal for 30 million dollars.  A high price for early 20th century dollar values.  Challenges still faced the United States effort.  Medical officers had to eradicate the mosquito population that transferred malaria and other tropical diseases. In addition, engineers developed the lock system to get ships from the one ocean over a land crest and down the other side to the other ocean.

The United States succeeded in completing the canal and was given control by Panama to run the canal for many years because the United States supported their independence efforts from Columbia.  However, the political winds changed and Panamanian support to retake control of the canal began to grow in the 70s.  This resulted in President Jimmy Carter negotiating the Panama Canal Treaty that gradually gave control to the host country Panama. Today the Panama Canal provides millions of dollars to the Panamanian National Treasury.

Two engineering monuments to human kinds ability to manipulate nature to achieve the desired result.  They are also existing structures that remind people that human sacrifice takes many forms. Although cultures and educated engineers are lauded for their towering accomplishments, it is also wise and appropriate to pause and remember the worker who braved daily dangers so that a family could be fed or one’s survival could be maintained. Some lived to tell their story, others didn’t.


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