Friday, September 19, 2014

Long Overdue Sports Chowdah Update- Trojan Horseplay, Boston College Upends #9 USC at Chestnut Hill; Feeling Minnesota- Patriots Thump Vikings; Pirate Booty- Pittsburgh Sweeps Red Sox As Rusney Castillo Makes Boston Debut.

NCAA FOOTBALL- Without a doubt, the biggest upset of week 3 was what took place on Chestnut Hill Saturday night when the BC Eagles hosted the USC Trojans. Heading into last weekend, USC was coming off of a triumphant 13-10 win over the Stanford Cardinals while BC was coming off of a 30-20 loss to the Pitt Panthers at Chestnut Hill.

Last weekend's game was 'Red Bandana night', which honored former BC Lacrosse player Welles Crowther who was killed in the September 11th attacks while rescuing others at the South Tower of the World Trade Center.

The heavily favored Trojans got out to a quick 10-0 lead in the first before Boston College got on the board with a 4 yard catch and carry TD run from RB Tyler Rouse to open up the 2nd quarter- however, Launceford would miss the PAT and it was a 10-6 game. USC quickly responded with a TD catch and run from Cody Kessler to Javorious Allen to give the Trojans a 17-6 advantage.

On the next possession, though, BC would put together a 75 yard drive that took all of 3:48 before Jon Hillman hit paydirt on a 3 yard TD run. After a couple of three and outs for each side, BC got the ball back with 1:48 at their own 46 when Sherman Alston ran 54 yards to give Boston College their first lead of the day, putting them up 20-17 before halftime.

For the second half, BC's defense really clamped down on the USC offense [Kessler was sacked five times on the night- NANESB!] and Jon Hilliman would make it a 10 point BC lead, punching it in with 7:35 to go in the third to make it 27-17. With under nine minutes to go in the game, Joey Launceford kicked a chip shot FG to make it a 30-17 contest.

But USC wasn't done yet- with 4:57 left in the game, Cody Kessler connected with Nelson Agholor for a 10 yard TD pass to make it a one score game as the clock ticked down. However, a minute later the Eagles jumped out to a 37-24 lead thanks to a 66 yard TD run by Tyler Murphy. However, the Trojans weren't done yet and after getting the ball back, Kessler connected with Darrius Rogers for a 14 yard TD run to cut Boston College's lead to 37-31. After closing to within 6 and with less than two minutes to go, USC went for the onside kick which was immediately recovered by the Eagles.

QB Tyler Murphy had a better night rushing the ball than passing it, rushing for 191 yards and a TD on 13 carries while ging 5 of 13 through the air for 54 yards.

Boston College's homestand continues this weekend with the Eagles hosting the University of Maine Black Bears. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 ET and the game will be streamed on ESPN3.

NFL- After a lackluster season opener in Miami in which the New England Patriots were outmaneuvered in the second half and lost by a 33-20, New England took their show on the road to Minnesota to take on the Vikings at TCF Bank stadium on Sunday.

With former Patriots backup Matt Cassel under center, the Vikings got out to an early 7-0 lead before New England answered with 30 unanswered points. Stevan Ridley managed to tie the game up with a TD rush from the Vikings 1 yard line before Gostkowski put the Patriots up 10-7 with a 48 yard FG with 30 seconds to go in the first. In the second quarter, Brady found Julain Edelman for a 14 yard TD pass to make it a 17-7 game. With time running out in the first half, Cassel managed to get the Vikings close enough to try a 48 yard FG attempt with 9 seconds left, but that was blocked by DE Chandler Jones who immediately returned it 58 yards for a TD to put the Patriots up 24-7 at the half.

The only scoring in the second half would come from two Gotskowski FGs and the Patriots would go on to thump Minnesota by a 30-7 final for their first win of the 2014 regular season. Tom Brady would go 14-21 with 149 yards and a TD while Cassel went 19-36 with 202 yards, a TD, four interceptions and 6 sacks. Stevan Ridley led the Patriots ground attack with 25 rushes for 101 yards and a TD.

This Sunday will be the Patriot's home opener when they host the Oakland Raiders. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 and the game will be televised on CBS.

OTHER VIKINGS NEWS- The Patriots didn't have to face RB Adrian Peterson on Sunday. Peterson is facing felony child abuse charges in Texas after punishing one of his kids by hitting him with a tree branch. The boy's mother took him to a doctor where he described some of the marks as open wounds.

Although he was cleared to play in this weekend's game at New Orleans, the front office quickly did an about face and exepted him from team activities.

BATLIMORE RAVENS- In another high-profile domestic abuse incident, was cut by the Baltimore Ravens after video from his February 2014 arrest in Atlantic City on assault charges surfaced. Earlier surveillance video from an Atlantic City hotel and casino had shown Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée- Janay Palmer- out of the elevator by her hair, but TMZ was able to obtain video from inside the elevator that showed him knocking Palmer unconscious. Initially Rice was suspended for the first few games of the 2014 season before being indefinitely suspended and outright cut by the NFL.

BOSTON RED SOX- Perhaps the most noteworthy event [at least from Boston's presepctive- NANESB] from this week's sweep of the Red Sox by the Pittsburgh Pirates is the MLB debut of Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo on Wednesday night, who went 1-4 in Boston's 9-1 loss to Pittsburgh. After the 3-game sweep the Pirates are just 2 and a half games behind St Louis in the NL Central and three and a half games ahead of Milwaukee for the second and final NL Wild Card berth. The Buck-os will host a pretty important series this weekend as the Brewers come to town to try and close the gap as time is running out on the regular season.

OTHER MLB NEWS- With just under two weeks to go, three teams have already clinched their respective divisions. The Nationals clinched the NL East with a 3-0 shutout over Atlanta while Baltimore clinched the AL East pennant with an 8-2 win over Toronto- both of these wins coming on Tuesday night.

The following night, the Angels shut out the Seattle Mariners by a 5-0 final- that alone wasn't enough for them to win the pennant, but players and savvy fans stuck around to watch the rest of the Rangers vs A's game on the stadium's jumbotron. The A's were nursing a 1-0 lead heading into the top of the 9th, but the Rangers scored 6 unanswered runs to go on an win by a 6-1 final. The loss gives the Angels the win and right now the best Oakland can do is hope for one of the remaining Wild Card spots [the Royals are a game ahead in the Wild Card chase while the Mariners are only a game behind the Athletics- NANESB!].

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11th Memorial Bookends Attacks with Exhibit Featuring Part of Navy SEAL's Uniform From Bin Laden Raid

The uniform shirt a US Navy SEAL wore during the 2011 raid on the compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan where Osama Bin Laden was hiding went on display this week at New York's September 11th museum earlier this week.

The shirt joins a specially made coin awarded to a CIA operative after the mission and a brick from Bin Laden's compound that go on display at the National September 11th Memorial and Museum this week. The coin was struck after the successful completion of the Abbotabad raid and was reportedly issued to the participating SEALs and an agent known as Maya, who was the basis of the main character portrayed in the 2012 movie Zero Dark Thirty.

"The death of Osama bin Laden is a huge part of the history, and we have an absolute obligation to tell it," National Sept. 11 Memorial Museum President Joe Daniels said Saturday. The display, he said, "allows millions of visitors the chance to recognize the extraordinary bravery of the men and women who sacrifice so much for this country at home and abroad."

The uniform shirt, tan with camouflage sleeves and an American flag patch on the right shoulder — stars forward to invoke the historical role of a flag-bearer leading a charge into battle — belonged to a now-retired member of SEAL Team Six, which put an end to the long manhunt for the world's most wanted terrorist. The garment "connects us in a powerful and immediate way to that operation," Museum Director Alice Greenwald said.

The red, white and blue coin was made to commemorate its conclusion. The coin bears the date — May 1, 2011, in U.S. time — on one side and a red "X'' on the other.

Opened to the public in May, this would mark the first time that the September 11th Museum is open on the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks. A memorial for the people killed in the September 11th attacks was opened in 2012.

Even before the museum opened, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) petitioned the museum to edit a video presentation on Al Qaeda, urging them to remove phrases like 'jihad' and 'radical islam' from the presentation. The museum's board reportedly declined any such edit.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Suburban Chicago Firefighters Suspended Over Refusal to Remove American Flag Decals

Four Illinois firemen have been relieved of duty after refusing to comply with a department-wide directive that prohibited stickers and decals on their helmets and lockers.

A representative from Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents the firefighters, met for an hour with Chief Bronaugh Tuesday afternoon, with the union hoping Chief Bronaugh would modify his order. Instead, he ordered the firefighters sent home immediately, pending disciplinary action.

Union spokesman Adam Rosen said he is “shocked” that an agency of first responders would enforce such an order the week of Sept. 11.

The four firefighters said they were told that the order was issued because of racial discord on the department. The four, who include two white firefighters, a black firefighter, and a fourth firefighter who is a Cuban émigré, said no such problems exist.

Instead, they trace it back to a decision by several firefighters to replace a tattered American flag last month in one of Maywood’s firehouses. The new flag mysteriously disappeared early Aug. 23. The order on decals was issued last week.

Maywood has had no such order in the recent past. One of the four firefighters, Dave Flowers Jr., inherited his locked from his father when his father retired from the Maywood Fire Department and has stickers dating back several decades that Rosen calls “irreplaceable.” One is a U.S. Marine Corps insignia issued to Vietnam veterans.

The Maywood fire chief told CBS 2 the order rose out of a need to banish inappropriate messages and gave an example of a photo that could be seen as racist.

The image in question was reportedly a picture of a chimpanzee smoking, which town officials could be construed as racist. However, that picture had been removed nearly 8 years ago by a firefighter that has since retired. Former Maywood firefighter Michael Hess said put up the picture to 'jam up' a colleague who was smoking.

Chick Fil A Founder S Cathy Truett Passes Away

Georgia restaurateur and philanthropist S Truett Cathy passed away from natural causes in the early morning hours on Monday at the age of 93. Final services were held on Wednesday at the First Baptist Church in Jonesboro, GA.

A devout Southern Baptist, Samuel Truett Cathy was born in central Georgia in 1921 and after attending high school in Atlanta, GA, served in the Army during WWII. After the war, Samuel returned home to the Peach state and along with his brother Ben, opened up a restaurant in the Atlanta suburb of Hapeville that specialized in chicken sandwiches. The Hapeville, GA restaurant was actually called the Dwarf grill because of its small size.

In the early 1960s, Samuel discovered a fryer that could prepare the chicken for his sandwiches in about the same time it took for many burger joints to prepare a burger. Running with that concept, Cathy opened the first Chick Fil A in Atlanta's Greenbriar Mall in 1967. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, Chick Fil A expanded to a number of food courts throughout the southeastern USA. However, the first free-standing Chick Fil A restaurant wasn't opened until 1986. As of 2012, Chick Fil A has roughly 1000 locations across the USA, including airports, hospitals, sports venues and universities.

Besides the restaurant business, S Truett Cathy was also a Sunday school teacher for nearly 50 years. Samuel sought to incorporate many of his Baptist beliefs within Chick Fil A's corporate culture- most notably closing the restaurant on Sundays so that employees and management could spent time with family or go to church.

In 2001, Samuel stepped down and his son Daniel T Cathy took over day to day operations as CEO of Chick Fil A- although his father remained on the board of directors until late 2013. Like his father, Daniel was also a devout Baptist and said in a 2012 interview that he was against same-sex marriage. The fairly innocuous and bland statements brought down the wrath of the left and LGBT activists, accusing the restaurant of discriminating against gay and lesbian employees or customers. Seeking to capitalize on the controversy, the mayors of Chicago, Boston and San Francisco publicly stated that Chick Fil A would not be welcome in their cities [Chicago had two Chick Fil A locations before the 2012 controversy while there were no Chick Fil A locations in Boston or San Francisco proper; just the suburbs- NANESB!]. Calls for a boycott were countered with a 'buycott' from evangelicals and conservatives, bringing attention to a previously nondescript fast-food chain and breaking all single-day sales records.

The chicken-centric restaurant's slogan is "We didn't invent the chicken, just the chicken sandwich" and their ad campaign in recent years features a pair of Holstein cows urging people to 'Eat Mor Chikin' while displaying misspelled signs. Most notably for sports buffs is that the restaurant secured sponsorship and the naming rights to the Peach Bowl in the 1990s.

Samuel Truett Cathy also wrote a number of motivational and how-to books, such as Eat Mor Chikin: Inspire More People; How Did You Do It, Truett? and It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men explaining some of his business practices or how to raise a family. In 1984, Cathy also founded the WinShape foundation which was meant to foster good ethics and success in business, marriage, academics and marriage.

In addition to the Chick Fil A Franchise, Cathy started up a number of other Atlanta-area eateries in recent years with an emphasis on causal dining in recent years, including Truett's Grill, Truett's Pizza Cafe as well as the original Dwarf House.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Austin City Limits, September 9th, 2014

Today's Train of thought takes us to one of WATCO's properties in the Lone Star state- the 155 mile Austin Western.

The Central Texas shortline got off to a pretty inauspicious start in 2007 when one of their freight trains derailed on East 6th street in Austin, TX just days after WATCO assumed operations on former the Union Pacific (nee- Cotton Belt) trackage in Llano, Bastrop, Travis and Lee counties. Between 2001 and 2007, much of the current Austin Western line in and around Austin was operated by the Austin Area Union Terminal.

While not WATCO's first Texas venture, the line was destined to be a handful for whoever was going to operate it once the Union Pacific divested. Parts of the line around the Austin area are actually owned by the Capital Metro Transportation Rail Authority, which operates commuter rail some 30 miles in and out of the Lone Star State's capital city. While this meant the Austin Western benefitted from improved track speeds and maintenance of way, since 2010 the Capital Metro Rail's schedule means that most of the AWRR's activities in Austin have to be nocturnal to accommodate commuter trains.

Additionally, the ex-UP line from Austin Jct. east to Elgin, Butler and Giddings were plagues by occasional derailments before WATCo took over operations in 2007. Parts of the line are still jointed rail, despite the fact that heavy unit aggregate trains frequently originate from the CCI facility in Butler. Interchange is with the Union Pacific in Elgin and McNeil, TX.

Even with some of the restrictions that come from nighttime-only operating and the antiquated jointed rail, the AWRR enjoys a pretty diverse traffic base- hauling anything from beer, calcium bicarbonate, paper, chemicals, crushed limestone, plastics, aggregates, chicken feed and lumber. In fact, the AWRR also handles the PT Barnum and Bailey circus train when the show comes to town- although that's apparently confined to nocturnal operations as well.

Here, contributor JR Leal caught Austin Western GP50 #5001 trundling through downtown Elgin, TX with a carload of chicken waste on a sunny September 8, 2013 with the Butler Turn as it gets ready to hammer the UP diamond in town. Leal points ut that the town of Elgin at the time was busying itself getting ready for the Elgin Hogeye Festival, which boasts a BBQ cook-off, live music, arts and crafts as well as a car show. Between the hot central Texas temperatures and the train's no doubt fragrant cargo, it's probably for the best that particular day's Butler Turn was pretty short.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mysterious 'Interceptor' Towers Discovered Scattered Throughout USA

The FCC is investigating at least 19 phony cell phone towers scattered throughout the USA that actually are capable of intercepting phone calls and remotely installing malware on tablets and smartphones. Users of an ultra-secure mobile phone said the devices had alerted them to the presence of these bogus cell phone towers, dubbed "interceptors".
Interceptors look to a typical phone like an ordinary tower. Once the phone connects with the interceptor, a variety of “over-the-air” attacks become possible, from eavesdropping on calls and texts to pushing spyware to the device.
“Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated,” [ESD America CEO Les] Goldsmith says. “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip. We even found one [in the vicinity of] South Point Casino in Las Vegas.”

Who is running these interceptors and what are they doing with the calls? Goldsmith says we can’t be sure, but he has his suspicions.

“What we find suspicious is that a lot of these interceptors are right on top of U.S. military bases. So we begin to wonder – are some of them U.S. government interceptors? Or are some of them Chinese interceptors?” says Goldsmith. “Whose interceptor is it? Who are they, that's listening to calls around military bases? Is it just the U.S. military, or are they foreign governments doing it? The point is: we don't really know whose they are.”

Interceptors vary widely in expense and sophistication – but in a nutshell, they are radio-equipped computers with software that can use arcane cellular network protocols and defeat the onboard encryption. Whether your phone uses Android or iOS, it also has a second operating system that runs on a part of the phone called a baseband processor. The baseband processor functions as a communications middleman between the phone’s main O.S. and the cell towers. And because chip manufacturers jealously guard details about the baseband O.S., it has been too challenging a target for garden-variety hackers.

In the wake of Edward Snowden and the NSA scandal, one might assume that these 'interceptor' towers might be the work of a government agency. However, some experts have said an agency securing the land and building these towers would be an awful lot of effort considering they're capable of remotely tapping phones with or without a court order.

The possibility remains that these devices could have been installed by a foreign intelligence agency or organized crime to install spyware on mobile devices, eavesdrop on conversations thought to be secure or surreptitiously obtain passwords.

So far, the interceptors have been discovered in south Florida, New York, North Carolina, Illinois, Ohio, Texas, Washington state, New Mexico, Colorado and Nevada and Arizona. Goldsmith and others expect that more will crop us as well.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Quickie Sports Chowdah Update- Cole Powered, Hammels and Phillies Pen Combine For No-Hitter; Kelly's Heroes- Joe Kelly Gets First Win in Boston Uniform

MLB- Cole Hammels started it and former Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon sealed the deal.

Early in the game, it seemed more of a question of how long would Phillies starter Cole Hammels last, let alone when the Braves would get their first hit as Hammel's pitch count rose early.

The Phillies got on the board with a RBI sac fly from Ben Revere in the top of the 3rd while Jimmy Rollins had an RBI triple to give Hammels some run support. What made this an unlikely no-hit bid was that the Braves got five baserunners on via the walk and had driven up Cole's pitch count to 108 pitches as he left the game after 6 innings with Philly up 2-0, so at the time it wasn't even a sure thing Hammel's would get the win, let along the no-hitter remaining intact. However, Philly was able to break the game open against Atlanta starter Julio Teherán thanks to a 2-out bases loaded triple from Ben Revere to clear the bases and give the Phils a 5-0 lead.

Meanwhile, relievers Jake Diekman and Ken Giles came out of the Philadelphia pen in the bottom of the 7th and 8th innings respectively and sent the side down in order.

In the top of the 9th, it was once again Ben Revere who was providing the Phillies with the offense with a 1-out RBI single. With the bases loaded, Ryan Howard drew a walk to bring the second run of the inning to put the Phils up 7-0.

For the bottom of the 9th, closer Jonathan Papelbon got pinch hitter Jose Constanza to fly out to left, Chris Johnson to ground out to first and Phil Gosselin to line out to first to complete the no-hit bid.

This is the fourth no-hitter of the 2014 MLB season and the first that wasn't from an NL West club [the other three this year belong to Clayton Kershaw and Josh Beckett of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants- NANESB]

BOSTON RED SOX- With any realistic postseason aspirations for the defending World Series champions pretty much gone by the time the calendar flipped from July to August, the final month of the 2014 Red Sox is basically an open tryout for a shot at the 2015 roster. While the rosters expanded on September 1st, some of the names called up from Pawtucket [Christian Vasquez, Brock Holt, Rubby De LaRosa, Mookie Betts, Anthony Ranaudo, etc etc- NANESB!] are already names quite familiar to some of the Fenway faithful thanks to trades and injuries.

However depleted this iteration of the Red Sox are, Red Sox Nation naturally wants to see Boston do their part to extinguish the already dimming playoff hopes of the New York Yankees and had a chance to do exactly that when Red Sox starter Joe Kelly would go up against New York rookie Shane Green.

After Brock Holt lined out to open the game up, Mookie Betts singled and Green walked David Ortiz to put runners on first and second with only one away. Yoenis Cespedes then brought home Betts on an RBI double while Big Papi moved up to 3rd. Napoli then hit a sac fly deep enough for Ortiz to lumber home on to give Boston a 2-0 lead. Daniel Nava was then hit by a Green pitch before the inning ended with Will Middlebrooks caught looking at strike three.

The Yankees started off their half of the first with Ellsbury, Jeter and Brett Gardener going down in order. In the top of the second, Green appeared to have settled down some- after allowing a leadoff single to Xander Bogaerts, Green got David Ross to strike out, Brock Holt to line out to right and Betts to line out to center.

For the 3rd, Big Papi led off with a flyout to left, but Cespedes quickly followed that up with a single to left and Napoli was walked afterwards to put two runners on with Daniel Nava in the batters box with only one out. That set up this beauty

With only 1 away, Nava put the Red Sox up 5-0 with a homer that travelled 375 feet to right field. This was immediately followed by Middlebrooks striking out looking for out number two. But the scoring would continue as Bogaerts belted a solo homer into the Yankees bullpen to make it a 6-0 Red Sox lead.

The Red Sox would go on to cruise [relatively speaking- NANESB!] against the Yankees, winning by a 9-4 final. Joe Kelly would throw 6⅔ innings, allowing three earned runs and striking out six in what would be his first win since being traded to Boston by the Cardinals. Tommy Layne and Koji Uehara would come out of the bullpen and only alow one more run from the Yankees. Bogarts would go 4-5 with a homer and 2 RBI while Daniel Nava would go 2-3 with a homer and 3 RBI.

Wednesday night's game will have the Yankees Hiroki Kuroda [9-8; 3.88 ERA] going up against Anthony Ranaudo [3-0; 4.50 ERA]. The game will be nationally televised on ESPN [for some inexplicable reason- NANESB!] and first pitch is scheduled for 7:05 ET. The Yankees come into Wednesday night's game nine games out of first in the AL East and five games out of the final wild card spot.

RED SOX WEST OAKLAND ATHLETICS- The Oakland A's weren't done wheeling and dealing just yet, as it turns out. On Sunday, the Oakland A's announced they had acquired DH Adam Dunn from the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Nolan Sanburn and cash considerations. Dunn had also announced that he would retire at the end of the 2014 season, making this pennant chase his last.

With the White Sox, Dunn was batting .220 with 20 homers and 54 RBI this season. Upon arriving in Oakland, Dunn made an immediate impression in his first at-bat, belting a 2-run homer in the bottom of the first in the Labor Day game against Seattle which the Athletics would go on to win by a 6-1 final. However, not all is well with the A's....who were the runaway favorites to cruise to the AL West pennant earlier this year. Oakland has only won two of their last nine games- all of them against AL West opponents- and were shut out for 29 consecutive innings in a pivotal 4-game series against the Angels.

Since 2000, Dunn has hit 461 homers in his career with the Reds, Diamondbacks, Nationals and White Sox- only David Ortiz and Albert Pujols have hit more.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Today's Train of Thought- Look for the Union Label, September 2nd, 2014

Today's Train of Thought takes us to the Steel City and features a railway that's been operating relatively unchanged since the time of industrial barons such as Andrew Carnegie. In fact, industrialists like Carnegie sought the protect their interests in steelmaking by outright owning the rail lines or barge companies that fed his steel mills in and around Pittsburgh. Not only was it important to ship out the final product by rail, coal that powered the blast furnaces as well as the raw ore had to be brought in by rail or barge- in some cases, Carnegie would outright buy already-existing railroads or rail lines under construction for the right of way for his new steel-hauling railroads, serving the newly-formed US Steel.

Since 1907, the affiliated Bessemer & Lake Erie handled shipments of incoming iron ore on Lake Erie while the Union Railroad operated as a sprawling switching outfit throughout Allegheny County, carrying some of the heaviest loads in the world at the time. When dieselization came, parent company US Steel opted for end-cab EMD switchers- something the Union Railroad has stuck with since then [even though the last end-cab switcher made by EMD was in 1987- NANESB].

Although the Union has occasionally borrowed bigger 6-axle power from (then) sister roads such as the Bessemer & Lake Erie or Duluth, Missabe & Iron Range and evaluated Gensets from Progress Rail or Brookville Locomotive Works in recent years, the 1970s-built MP15DC roadswitchers are the norm for most Union Railroad jobs. Interestingly, the URR didn't order any of these MP15s new from EMD. Instead, the majority of them were purchased secondhand from Class 1 lines or transferred to the Union from other US Steel lines such as the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, B&LE, Birmingham Southern or DM&IR which traditionally relied on bigger power. By 1988, however, all US Steel [NYSE- X] railways were reorganized under the umbrella of Transtar, Inc- as well as some of the barge and navigation companies. In 2001, the Canadian National ended up purchasing the DM&IR from Transtar and Great Lakes Transportation to fill in a pivotal missing gap on its Duluth, Winnipeg & Pacific line between the twin ports of Duluth, MN and Superior, WI and the CN mainline across the Canadian prairie. Also included in the deal was the Bessemer & Lake Erie as well as Great Lakes shipping companies Pittsburgh and Conneaut Dock and Great Lakes Fleet, Inc. Interestingly, the CN continues to operate the B&LE with minimal changes apparent from the US Steel days since the Bessemer has no rail link with the Canadian National.

In 2009, the CN once again purchased a strategically important Transtar property when they acquired the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern, giving the Class 1 a much-coveted bypass around congestion in Chicago. At the end of 2011, the Birmingham Southern was sold to Kansas-based shortline operator WATCo which left the Union RR as the last original US Steel railway under the Transtar umbrella.

Interestingly, the railway runs pretty much as intended when it was established in the 1890s- serving the US Steel Mon Valley Works, the continuous slab casting at the US Steel Edgar Thompson Works, the rolling mills and finishing lines at the US Steel Irvin Works and the US Steel Clariton works which produces coke for the blast furnace ironmaking process. Traffic includes coke, ore, steel coils, coal, slag and ore.

Here, contributor Robert Pisani caught Union Railroad MP15DC #21 and four other MP15s storming through the Bull Run section of Duquesne, PA- said to contain the only street crossing on the whole Union Railroad- with a general freight on a sweltering August 2nd, 2010 with a mixed freight bound for the Clariton facility. The front door is open to provide some relief for the crew as the five 1500 HP switchers fight the grade. As hot as it may be that day, the crew is probably grateful they aren't running the 'Hot slab train' which shuttles trainloads of hot steel between mills on specially modified flatcars. The slabs reportedly leave the mill at temperatures near 1300 degrees farenheit.

Most of the locomotives in the Union fleet are blue with white lettering, although the #21 and the third unit have the edges painted a bright yellow, presumably for better in-plant visibility. Some URR locomotives are also painted green or a bright yellow.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Qucikie Sports Chowdah Update- BC Kicks Off Season With Bay State Battle; Johnny Gone Lately- Post Manziel Aggies Run Roughshod Over Gamecocks;

NCAA FOOTBALL- And just like that, the college football season is upon us [Yay!- NANESB!].

Thursday night marked the beginning of the first season in which the champions of college football will be decided by a playoff format instead of polls and sportswriters.

This also marked Texas A&M's first game since quarterback Johnny Manziel was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft earlier this year. Texas A&M started off the season ranked #21 and faced #9 South Carolina on the road in Columbia, SC on Thursday night.

Coming into the season opener, the Gamecocks could boast 18 consecutive home wins- the longest active streak on Division 1 Football. Aggies fans worried about A&M football post Johnny Manziel had to like what they saw from sophomore QB Kenny Hill, who had Texas A&M up over the Gamecocks 31-14 at halftime. In the second half, South Carolina had no answers for Hill who would go on to throw for 511 yards and complete 44 of 60 pass attempts and three TDs as the Aggies blew South Carolina out of the water by a 52-28 final. According to the USC press guide- which keeps records as far back as 1962- the previous record for passing yards allowed by the Gamecocks was 485 prior to Thursday night.

ACC- The 2014 Boston College Eagles football season got underway on Saturday with an all-Massachusetts melee, travelling to Gillette stadium to take on the UMass Minutemen.

After a scoreless first quarter, BC took a 6-0 lead on field goals from Alex Howell and Joey Launceford. After halftime, the Eagles managed to pad their lead thanks to a running TD from RB Myles Willis followed by a rushing TD from QB Tyler Murphy to make it a 20-0 game before UMass got on the board with 2:28 to go in the 3rd with a TD pass from QB Blake Frohnapfel to Tajae Sharpe.

However, in the 4th, the Eagles would put the game out of reach with a 43 yard TD completion from Murphy to WR Josh Bordner to open up the quarter and Launceford capped the BC scoring with a 21 yard FG to make it a 30-7 final.

Although Saturday's game took place about 40 miles from Chestnut Hill, the home opener for the Eagles will take place on Friday, September 5th when they host the Pitt Panthers.

ELSEWHERE IN THE ACC- Defending national champions Florida State travelled to Texas on Saturday night to take on Oklahoma State. The Seminoles were ranked #1 heading into Saturday night's game and were able to get by a very game Cowboys [currently unranked- NANESB!] by a 37-31 final. 2013 Heisman trophy winning QB Jameis Winston went 25 for 40 with 370 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

AMERICAN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE- The Brigham Young Cougars managed to spoil the UConn Huskies home opener and debut of new head coach Bob Diaco on Friday. Thanks to four TD passes from BYU QB Taysom Hill, the Cougars cruised to an early lead and led UConn 28-7 at the half. BYU would go on to win by a 35-19 final at East Hartford.

UConn's homestand at E. Hartford will continue for the next two weeks as they host Stony Brook and Boise State [in that order- NANESB]. Both games are scheduled for a 12:00 PM ET kickoff.

BIG 12- Defending Big 12 Champions Baylor kicked off the 2014 and debut of their new stadium in Waco, TX in style with a convincing win over Southern Methodist University on Sunday night. With former president George W Bush and Heisman winner and Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III in attendance, the #10 ranked Baylor Bears routed the SMU Mustangs at newly-completed McClane Stadium by a 45-0 final. Bears starting QB Bryce Petty went 13-23 with 161 yards and 2 TDs before leaving Sunday night's game at halftime and being replaced by Seth Russell who also went 13-23 with 124 yards, a TD and an interception.

NFL- Just a quick reminder that the NFL season gets underway on Thursday, September 4th. The defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks will host the Green Bay Packers with kickoff scheduled for 8:30 PM ET on Thursday night- the game will be televised on NBC.

The Patriots will open up the 2014 season on the road in Miami on Sunday- that game is scheduled to kick off a 1:00 ET and will be broadcast on CBS.

PATRIOTS- The New England Patriots sent backup QB Ryan Mallet to the Houston Texans in exchange for a conditional 7th round draft pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Earlier in the week, new England traded G Logan Mankins to Tampa Bay in return for TE Tim Wright and a 4th round draft pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

BOSTON RED SOX- After the shock of trading Lester [and most of the starting rotation from the 2013 World Series team- NANESB!] away wore off, the Sox had a pretty decent road trip to the Midwest and West Coast where they took two out of three from the Angels and swept the Cincinnati Reds during a brief two-game series at the Great American ballpark.

However, the disastrous homestand that took place once the Sox returned to Fenway was enough to make even the most die-hard and optimistic Sox fan write off the 2014 season as auditioning for the 2015 season. The series began with a split of the 4-game series with the Houston Astros before going 0-7 against the Angels and Mariners.

Boston bounced back somewhat on the road in the AL East, with the Sox taking two out of three from the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre before heading to Tampa Bay. The Red Sox won the Friday night series opener before being shut out in Saturday night's game by a 7-0.

On Sunday, Boston bounced back nicely by shutting out the Rays by a 3-0 final thanks to a complete game 3-hit shutout by Clay Buchholz. Clay struck out six batters and walked none while getting run support in the form of RBI singles from Christian Vazquez, Mookie Betts and Big Papi throughout the game.

After Boston took two out of three from the Rays over the weekend, Tampa is hoping to salvage a split on Labor Day. To that end, they'll send Drew Smyly [9-10; 3.31 ERA] to the mound to face off against Rubby de LaRosa [4-5; 3.81 ERA]. First pitch for this Labor Day game is scheduled for 1:05 ET and the game will be televised on NESN.

OTHER RED SOX NEWS- Boston 2B Dustin Pedroia may be missing at least a week after suffering from 'concussion-like symptoms' after a collision with Logan Forsyth during Saturday's 7-0 loss. With the rosters expanding on September 1, the Red Sox may not even have to put Pedroia on the DL although if it is a concussion, he will probably miss at least a week's playing time.

EVEN MORE RED SOX NEWS- The Red Sox and Cuban outfielder Rusney Castillo have agreed to terms on a 7 year, $72.5 million contract last week. The sought-after Cuban defector became eligible after obtaining his US P-1A work visa and arrived at the team's Ft Meyers facility last Wednesday to begin workouts.

Although the regular season for the Red Sox minor-league affiliates is nearly over, Castillo may end up seeing time in the playoffs for the Ft Meyers Red Sox in the Gulf Coast League or the Portland Sea Dogs of the AA Eastern League or Pawtucket Red Sox of the AAA International League.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

California Wine Country Rattled by Magnitude 6.0 Quake

"Nooo! Not the wine! Anything but the wine"
California's Napa Valley was struck by a magnitude 6.0 earthquake over the weekend, causing injuries, buckling streets, sending casks of wine tumbling and damaging historic buildings.

The magnitude 6.0 quake, centered about four miles northwest of American Canyon, knocked out power to more than 60,000 people in Napa and Sonoma counties early Sunday and broke dozens of water mains that could leave 600 Napa homes without water for days, according to the city.

Across the region, the quake jolted residents out of bed, forcing some to flee through dark rooms littered with broken glass and displaced furniture. Others evacuated in the face of flames, with only seconds to grab pets, cellphones and other belongings.

Two people were critically injured, including 14-year-old Nicholas Dillon who was stabilized at the hospital’s triage center before he was flown to UC Davis Medical Center, spokeswoman Vanessa deGier said. The boy, who was in serious condition Sunday night, was injured when a brick fireplace collapsed on him, Napa city spokesman Barry Martin said.

The other seriously injured patient was an adult who suffered multiple fractures, deGier said.

The worst damage to buildings appeared to be in downtown Napa and surrounding areas. The quake dealt a significant blow to the city’s efforts to revive its core by renovating historic buildings, many dating to the late 1800s. Among those historic structures, the county’s old courthouse on Brown Street lost a large chunk of exterior masonry and was left with large cracks on the east side of the building.

Main Street’s Pfeiffer Building also suffered heavy damage with bricks falling off the facade, leaving a large pile of debris at its base that spilled onto the sidewalk.

To the south, in Solano County, buildings in downtown Vallejo and Mare Island also sustained some structural damage, leaving several with shattered storefront windows and toppled masonry.

The predawn quake came on a key day for summer tourism and events, including the IndyCar Grand Prix at Sonoma Raceway and the Santa Rosa Marathon, both of which continued as planned. It also hit in the middle of the region’s grape harvest, when wine tasting draws hundreds of visitors to area wineries and restaurants. The timing of Sunday’s quake, in the predawn hours, likely limited injuries to people who would otherwise have been going about their planned activities.

Amtrak suspended their San Jose-Sacramento Capitol Corridor service as tracks in the affected area. Early estimates say the quake has caused nearly $1 billion in damage to the area's wine industry and resulted in the Napa Valley Wine Train cancelling Sunday service.

The California Highway Patrol reported that a number of highways in the Napa Valley were cracked and buckled, resulting in damage and flat tires to some of the vehicles travelling over the damaged roads.

This was reportedly them most powerful earthquake in northern California in more than 25 years- the fault thought to be responsible is the fairly obscure West Napa Fault, which didn't even show up in a 2008 State of California earthquake risk assessment.