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Monday, June 13, 2016

Trains, Trains, & More Trains


The love of trains seems to run in our family. It's not just the men in the family either. I love trains. I love to sit at crossings and watch the train go by. Most people get irritated. Not me, I love to watch them. I love to count the engines and the train cars. I even like to look at the graffiti.

It all started when my son was little. We sometimes crossed a railroad track to get home. He couldn't wait to see if there was a train on the track. He would see one way down the track and we'd have to turn around or pull over to watch the train go by. That love passed right on down to the next generation.  As most of you know I have five grandsons, they all love trains.

When I was out this weekend traveling in northern Arkansas with my sister, I wished so many times that the boys were with me. They would have been thrilled. I saw trains and trains and trains. I thought the best way to let them see the pictures was to post them here. This post is picture heavy and probably only interesting to my grandsons and those who enjoy trains. So if you don't stay around to the end, I understand!


The train fun began in Mammoth Springs. We went to see the spring which is the largest spring in Arkansas and one of the largest in the world. This spring flows at a rate of 9.78 million gallons per hour and the water is cold - 58 degrees Fahrenheit! You can't see the actual spring because it is more than 70 feet below the water level of the spring pool. All this water forms the Spring River. Okay, enough about the water, let's talk trains! In 1886 a railroad depot was built near the spring. The first railway to use the lines was the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis Line. Around 1900 the St. Louis - San Francisco or "Frisco" railway took over the operation of the depot. The depot has been remodeled and now is a museum. They had the best displays to show a little about how the station was run.


This is the telegraph operator siting at his desk sending a message further down the line using Morse Code. Hey, grandsons, it might be fun this summer to go here and see the dots and dashes that were used in Morse Code. You could write messages to each other!


Next, we have a fine looking gentlemen buying his train ticket. He must have been going far, because he sure has a large trunk. I just noticed that you can see part of me in this picture. The displays were behind glass and if you look right on the man's jacket, you can see my arm reflected in the glass!! Moms, you might have to explain what that strange brown thing hanging on the wall is.

 

This device is a trail drill. It was used around 1930 for drilling holes in the rails for connecting the rail ends.


Oh, how I miss seeing cabooses behind the trains.


Can you imagine sleeping here with several other workers?


As we were walking around the spring pool, we heard a train coming and hurried to take a picture. The depot is no longer in use as a station, but the tracks are still used. I thought it was fun to see the train's reflection in the water.


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Day two of our trip found us in Calico Rock along the White River. The town was named, Calico Rock, by French fur traders because the bluffs had a calico-patterned color, kind of like calico cats. After we walked around town, we were hungry and hot, so we began looking for a shaded area to eat our lunch. We found a bluff overlooking the river. We stood in the shade, munched on our sandwiches, and just enjoyed the beauty of the river. After we ate we walked out on this huge bluff and look what we saw below us; railroad tracks along the edge of the bluff and river. Oh, I wished we'd seen a train here!

 

I was looking at the rock that is jutting out. The one with the goldish color on it. Doesn't that look like the side of a man's face? I can see his eyes, his nose, and his chin. Can you see it? I think he's watching for boats on the river. Just so you know, Gramma was very safe! You know I don't really like heights, so I am not anywhere near the edge of the bluff. I'm way back and using the zoom on my camera!



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Stop #2 for this day was in Batesville. We were looking for some ghost signs. Ghost signs are advertising signs that were painted many years ago on the sides of buildings. If you'd like to see one you can go here and you can see one that is advertising Coca-Cola. Right across the street from the old building was another train track and guess what . . . here comes another train!

 

Remember the safety I talked about? It looks like I'm too near the track, but I'm not. I'm actually standing on a side walk in front of a building, but once again I zoomed in close. This train stopped for a while, we waited patiently in the shade until it began to roll again.


Let me tell you that train whistle was loud and long. There are not crossing gates here only lights and sound, so the engineer was blowing VERY loud and VERY long! He spotted us taking pictures and gave us a two-handed wave.








* * * * *

Looking for more of those ghost signs, we headed to Bald Knob and there was another train track running through the older part of town.


We walked to the back of the station, stood at the end of the station platform, and looked down the line. One train was stopped, but there's another one coming in the distance. The one standing still blocked at least two crossings for probably about 45 minutes. Some cars on the road waited on it to pass, but most of them turned around.


Finally the train began to move on, cleared the crossings, and headed on down the line. Right after it left another train came. We were really concerned that the crossing gates did not go down as it approached!  Then, we realized it was on a different track. If you look really close you can see the different tracks. The track it was on was right on the other side of the gates and that track had signals, but not crossing gates!


Lastly, we found this beautiful mural painted on an old building. Bald Knob is well known for it's  trains and it's wonderful strawberries. 

Now, you can see what I meant about seeing so many trains. I'm glad I can share them with you. Hope you enjoyed!

To my grandsons . . . much love from Gramma! I thought of you every time I saw a train!

Monday, June 6, 2016

The Castle


Driving down busy Highway 5 in Little Rock, Arkansas, you can catch a glimpse of it through the gate the resembles a draw bridge; a huge stone structure off the road nestled under massive shade trees. It's the castle, the Castle On Stagecoach, as it's been known for years.



A mysterious castle surrounded by more rumors than facts. It was thought to have been a Scottish castle disassembled and rebuilt here. It was thought to have been abandoned and filled with ghosts. It was thought to have been a home to monks. All of those . . . not true. The castle has been the home to four families.

I attended one year of school at David O. Dodd Elementary which is right next door. The only thing that separated the school and the castle property was a row of thick hedges. During this time period the house was almost completely covered with vines and huge cedar trees blocked the view from the road. The vines and trees were later removed giving the property a more manicured look. Anyway, peeking through those hedges we would make up stories about who lived behind those stone walls. The story I remember the most and one that I thought was true was that monks lived there. I promise I believed that. I can even remember seeing a man walking across the lawn in his long dark robe. To my utter disbelief and disappointment - no monks ever lived there. So what did I see? Probably a man in his bathrobe going to get his paper! I was both intrigued and terrified of the castle. Look at the picture below and imagine it covered with thick running ivy. Yes, it was creepy!



When I heard the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program was holding a history tour at the castle, a childhood dream of going in the castle would be coming true! I wasn't the only one who wanted to see the castle. The crowd was large, 200 to 300 people I'd guess. 



The castle was built about 1935 by Dr. Clarence W. Koch, a local dentist. The story goes that he and his wife had traveled to Europe where she fell in love with the castles. They bought 100 acres "out in the country" and built her dream castle. Sadly to say, they were divorced a few years later and the house was sold.



I think the back side of the castle is the prettiest with the large iron windows, the turret, and a terraced garden. The turret and it's small balcony reminded us of the story of Rapunzel. The narrow vertical strip below the balcony is a beautiful stained glass window. In the picture below you can see the front door and the cast-stone seal above it, featuring a knight’s head and castle tower with the phrase “Grati Amici,” meaning Grateful Friends. There are also two garage doors and to the right of them is an open tunnel that you can drive through.




All the rocks and the wood beams for the castle were harvested from their property. The foyer, great room, kitchen, dining room, and maid's room are on the first floor. The bedrooms are on the second floor, where we were not allowed to go. There is also an attic, a basement, and I read that there is even a secret room. Of course, one must have a secret room in a castle. Fact or fiction. I do not know.



As we stood in line waiting our turn to get inside. Aaron, my grandson, peeked through large iron doors.  He is looking into the great room which now serves as a dining room for special events. 

The castle was obviously not small, so I was surprised that the rooms seemed small, maybe it was because the great room was crowded with tables and the kitchen with industrial size modern appliances or maybe it was just the many, many people! I also think it felt small because we weren't able to tour the second floor or attic.  But, that's all right. I wouldn't want several hundred people wandering through my bedrooms! 



The elaborate fireplace on the left is in the great room. As I mentioned above, it is a dining room now. There were several round tables with black checked tablecloths and black chairs. 

Bottom right is the actual dining room. I loved the arched doors.

Top right is in the basement. It originally was just that - a basement, but in later years was completed for family use. The walls were stuccoed (at least I think that's what it's called) and the area divided into three rooms; a game room, a bar area, and a sitting room. I felt like I was in a white cave.



The beams used for the 20 foot ceiling in the great room are beautiful stenciled with flowers.



The staircases were made with huge slabs of stone. This one leads to the first floor from the basement. There is an identical one that leads from the first floor to the second floor. These staircases are in the turret seen on the back of the castle. 



Looking up in the turret you see this beautiful stenciled ceiling. Above that at the very top of the turret, where we were not allowed to go, is a circular walnut library. I would have loved to see that!



There were lots of medieval touches around. The doors throughout were thick dark wood with ornate iron hinges and handles. The bottom left picture is the bar in the basement. It's deceiving because there is a large mirror right on the other side of the white refrigerator There is only one refrigerator. See the people at the back who are watching us . . . that is us! The kids liked this part. It really was deceiving!



The basement had several stained glass windows. Very castle like! The family that remodeled the basement and still lives there is the Rognruds, thus the "R" in the glass.



It was incredibly hot in the castle. The doors were open and there were so many people crowded inside. The basement was somewhat cooler but we were ready to get outside for some fresh air. My grandson, Isaac, found a good way to cool off while he stared down the lion by the front door.


Even the stable was beautifully built. There weren't any horses there at the time, but there was a white peacock and a lovely white carriage that is used for weddings and special events.




I know this has been extra long, but several people I know from this area wanted to see what it looked like inside and weren't able to attend. So, this is for you. I hope you enjoyed the tour. There were so many people that taking pictures inside was difficult. It was way to crowded with too many heads and shoulders in the way! I tried to capture it as best I could.