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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Banjo - Researching Stagecoach Technology

A Concord Stagecoach ca 1865
Stagecoach Technology!  Is that an oxymoron?

My background as an engineer has certainly led me in some unusual, but interesting, directions!

A wooden hub where spokes attach

Recently, I came across a big wooden barrel-type thing, complete with rectangular holes  wrapped in iron bands, as an interior decoration at Nordstrom's Dept store.  The ladies were shopping for boots, so I was looking around at other stuff and spotted several of these things.  After considerable thought, I came to the conclusion that these might be hubs for wooden wheels.  Some later research convinced me that this is indeed what they are.  The rectangular slots are where the spokes connected into the hub - a lot of stress would have been concentrated in this area, and thus the need for iron reinforcement.
Hub is in the center

Well, that led me in a completely new direction.  I'm certainly not a historian, so I am somewhat reluctant to acknowledge that I had no idea when things like iron hoops could have been available for making objects like wheel hubs.   But I recognized that the iron hoops certainly would improve the longevity of the hubs.  I'm not at all sure they could even be constructed without iron, but so far, I can't say for sure.

From Wells Fargo History site
The horses pull forward, exerting a forward force onto the stagecoach.  These horses had to be connected to the front wheels in order to both pull the carriage forward while also pulling it left or right when needing to make a turn.  This meant all of the forward forces are connected to the front wheel/axle combination, but for the whole carriage to move forward, obviously the front wheels/axle needed to be firmly attached to the carriage; in addition, this connection point needed to be capable of swiveling left and right in order to steer the carriage.  This mean there had to be some sort of pin that the wheel/axle could swivel on, which was also strong enough to transfer the pulling force from the horse via the wheel/axle to the carriage.

So this pin had to be very strong.  I couldn't imagine that wood would have been strong enough to support these stresses, so I expected it to be made of iron, but again, my lack of historical knowledge meant I didn't know for sure if they had iron or not; if not iron, then how did they solve this problem?

In addition, I couldn't imagine that a carriage would just be directly connected to the front and rear axles, as this would have transferred all of the road bumps and bangs directly into the cabin compartment, tossing the occupants around in a rather violent manner.  So there had to be some method for isolating the under carriage from the riding carriage.  How did they do this?  If they had iron, then I was expecting to see leaf springs, but if not, then I expected to find leather somehow employed.

And the front wheel/axle.  How did they turn left and right?  Were they smaller than the real wheels so they could swing under the front without banging into the side of the carriage?

Brake is block of wood
on left of wheel
when driver pushes
handle with his foot
it pushes this piece
of wood against wheel
slowing it down
via friction

And brakes - how did they slow these things down?  It's obvious that on level ground friction from the wheels on the road would have brought everything to a stop, but going downhill on a steep road - how would you slow the carriage down?  So how did the brakes work?  Probably applying friction to the wheels, but how were they activated?  No brake-peddle hydraulics back then!

So a trip was in order to have a look at a real-live stagecoach.

Google to the rescue: lo and behold, there is a real-live stagecoach on display in a museum just an hours drive from me!  Not just one, but two of them!  The Booth Museum of Western Art.

So a trip was in order, to Cartersville GA, just off of I-75 NW of Atlanta - about an hours drive for me!  We checked the website, and they are closed on Mondays, so we planned our trip for Tuesday, August 30, 2011.

My wife researched the town, and came up with a great place to have lunch prior to taking in the museum: The Appalachian Grill.  We enjoyed our lunch there very much (future blog entry to follow).

Lunch finished, on to the museum.  It was $10 each for us to visit today (they say the 1st Thursday in each month is free, but double check their website - we thought about delaying our trip to Thursday to save the $20, but we figured it would be much more busy on that day, so we preferred to go on Tuesday when I assumed it was much less busy).

We found two magnificent stagecoaches!  I was permitted (as is everyone) to take photos; however their policy does not allow me to share them with you, which is a real shame.  Their website does have one photo, but their website says I can't share that here either.  So, I've done the next best thing: I've pulled a picture of a stagecoach (not either of the ones at the museum) from the site of the company that refurbished one of their stagecoaches - the 1865 Concord Stagecoach: Hansen Wheel and Wagon Shop.

So, back to my questions:

  • Swivel Pin: Iron.  
  • Front wheels smaller than back? Yes
  • Front wheels swing under front of carriage?  Yes
  • Iron Leaf Springs? No; leather braces instead.  I don't really understand this, as they obviously had iron, and it would have been both more durable as well as provide more comfort.
  • Brakes?  Yes, foot lever, directly connected via wooden push rods to wooden block that directly applies pressure to iron rim of wheel.  It also has a metal spring for return and holding off of the wheel.
  • Iron bracing at all stress points: Yes.
So there you have it!  Of course, this just brings up more questions, like how did those small leather harnesses that went over the horses stand up to the strain of pulling the carriage?  Since no real or model horses were available, all I had to look at where the paintings - none of which looked capable of taking that stress to me, so still searching....

The art:  The art (paintings, sculptures, exhibits) was the most enjoyable I've ever experienced at any museum anywhere.  It was just stunning.

We'll be back!

A modern stagecoach?  Not!


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Banjo's Movies - Movies We've Enjoyed

This is a list of the movies that my wife and I have watched.  
Note: our all-time favorites are at the bottom of this page, and are undated.

9/7/11 - We watched "Win, Win (2011)" (again, streaming from Amazon) with Paul Giamatti.  Interestingly, it also included the actor Bob Cannavale, who was 'Joe' in The Station Agent (below).  Man, does Bob look different in these two movies, as well as pulling off totally different roles!  Paul G. is one of our favorite actors, having starred in one-of-our-all-time-favorite-movies: Sideways.  In looking at the credits, this movie was directed by Thomas McCarthy, who also directed The Station Agent.  Interesting - we just realized McCarthy is behind several of the movies we've enjoyed: Win, Win; The Visitor, Sideways, The Station Agent.

9/6/11 - We watched "Girl with a Pearl Earring (2003)", streaming it from Amazon for $2.99.  This movie is very low on dialog, high on emotion.  Several things I enjoyed about this movie: was the glimpse into every day life in 1665; the role of painting in that era; how a kitchen worked in preparing the meals for a wealthy family.  However, the most stunning aspect of this movie is the way the scenes are presented visually.  As a photographer, I was stunned, throughout the whole movie, how the cinematographer painted with light in the scenes.  A tremendous amount of thought went into lighting and composition.  If you enjoy photography, and want to know more about using light in your photos, then have a close look at this movie.  It did win several awards for cinematography, as well as several nominations.

9/5/11 - We watched "Queen to Play (2009)" and we both enjoyed it very much.

8/28/11 We just finished watching "The Station Agent (2003)".  We enjoyed it very much.  It's about a guy that inherits a small piece of land on which sits an abandoned railroad station, and his interactions with the locals.  We particularly enjoyed Joe, one of the locals, who isn't content to not be included.  See this link for more insight.

8/28/11 We just watched "Lars and the Real Girl (2007)".  It was quirky, but interesting.

All Time Favorites

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Banjo says Bingo - Guy Moons Weather Channel

Today, watching the weather channel, a guy first moons the camera, then turns around for a full frontal view.  All live while we are watching Hurricane Irene.  Googling "weather channel guy mooning camera"...

I'm stunned - not at the mooning (is that a verb?), but at the number of 'hits' on Google - over a million (!) and counting!

Hope the guy doesn't end up in jail!  Feds have no humor.

Here's a link (don't watch if you don't want to see full male nude):

Banjo's Favorite Drink - Moonshine

My, my, my.

Illegal Moonshine can be a little hard to come by....unless you know the right people.  But legal Moonshine?  Can be had from your favorite likker' store.

Jr. Johnson, of NASCAR and bootlegger fame, has come out with a legal Moonshine - Midnight Moon.


It's 80 proof.  Not quite up to typical moonshine standards - 120 proof would be a little closer to home.

But it's good.  It's been triple distilled.  It has a clean taste; it ought to, after being triple distilled.

I'm enjoying it.

My drink:
1 Tumbler-sized glass, filled with shredded ice
2 shots (3 oz) of Jr. Johnson's Midnight Moon
1/4 squeezed lime

  • Fill Tumbler size cup with ice
  • Add 1/4 lime squezins'
  • Add 3 oz (2 shots) Jr. Johnson's Midnight Moon
  • Stir
  • Consume
That's pretty much it!  The longer you wait, the more gentle it gets.


Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Banjo's Wife on Southern Women

My wife says: "A Southern Woman is content to let her man be a man."

Love.  Respect.  Honor.

Kindness.  Sweetness.  Graciousness.  Beauty.


Whiskey.  Moonshine.  Scotch.

Country Music.  Bluegrass.  Banjos

BBQ.  Oysters.


Is it any wonder I love her?

Is it any wonder I've loved her for 37 years?

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Banjo Explains the Stock Market - Beanie Babies

All you ever need to know about the stock market is explained by Beanie Babies.  And you already know it!

Beanie Babies.  Is it possible that there is anyone on earth that has not heard about these small wads of cloth that rocketed to fame and desire? If you are among the multitudes that remember them, then you also remember the crazy prices that these pieces of cloth demanded as the public began to trade in Beanie Babies.

Demand outstripped supply at the stores.  Individual Beanie Baby items were retired - they were no longer going to be manufactured; you need to buy now in order to ensure you weren't left out of this particular Beanie Baby!

All of these things created a pressure on the public to buy - buy now while they are available.

But what if you couldn't buy now?  What if you wanted one of the favored Beanie Babies, coveted by multitudes?  Why, you could buy from the public at large - no need for a store when you could find a source from the public.....and thus a market was born.

Demand for the product pushed prices up to very high levels; certainly levels high in comparison to the raw material and manufacturing costs of producing each Beanie Baby.

And with that high price, caused by high demand, people that owned Beanie Babies found a ready public willing to buy their discards - the public would pay high prices for something bought, used, and ready for the trash!

So a supply of used Beanie Babies started coming into the market.  People with used Beanie Babies could make fantastic returns (the price they obtained from a sell of the Beanie Baby, less the price they originally paid) from Beanie Babies!  If you had enough Beanie Babies, you could retire from the returns from Beanie Babies!

Everyday households, people that profess to not understand anything about the Stock Market, instantly grasped the concept of a market in Beanie now while the demand is high, wait for it to be retired, then sell at a profit!

They could buy Beanie Babies, hold onto Beanie Babies while demand forced the price of Beanie Babies to new highs.  Thus, a market was born, where buyers and sellers of Beanie Babies could come together.  Buyers, outnumbering sellers, pushed the prices higher and higher.  Sellers, once selling and realizing a profit, rejoined the buyers in looking for Beanie Babies to buy, hold, and sell.

The demand was huge!  The more people realized they could buy cheap and sell high, reaping a high return or profit, the more people jumped into the market.  The more people jumped in, the bigger the demand.  And the bigger the demand, the  harder it was to locate a Beanie Baby in a store!  And the harder it was to locate one, the higher the fever was to find one, and the higher the demand!  And the higher the demand, the higher the price you could charge for the ones you already owned!  You, in owning the most sought after, the most expensive Beanie Baby, were to be envied - you had the coveted Beanie Baby.  If you were rich enough, you could own the best.

All this fed off of itself.  Huge numbers of people bought Beanie Babies with the intent to sell at a profit.  A lot of people bought but didn't sell, preferring to hold, to wait until prices for their Beanie Baby rose.  They bought and held.

Meanwhile, the manufacturer was increasing both production of the number of Beanie Babies being created, they were also creating new Beanie Babies, so more Beanie Babies were entering the market from an increased supply of Beanie Babies.

Then a funny thing began to happen.  So many Beanie Babies were entering the market for sale - some new from the manufacturer, some resales from existing Beanie Babies being sold at a profit - that suddenly there was enough supply to meet demand.

As the supply began to meet the demand, the prices began to stabilize.  People took notice, and decided now might be a good time to sell their Beanie Babies as the expected profit was eroding.

So many, many people that just a few days ago were counting their profits in the form of their hordes of Beanie Babies, began to sell their stocks to convert to cash while the selling was still good.   They wanted to sell while there was still demand.

They may not have been able to explain supply and demand, but intuitively they understood supply and demand ... they were going to get out while the getting is good!

As more Beanie Babies were rushed to the market for sale, the price began to drop.  With a drop in price, more fear of a price collapse brought more Beanie Babies to the market....and a new cycle was born....increasing supply beyond the demand, falling prices, panic selling.

Some people, seeing the falling prices, and remembering the high prices of just last week, decided that Beanie Babies were a buying opportunity, and bought more and more, knowing the price of Beanie Babies would rise again real soon now, and they would be the smart profit winners - they were able to buy at a big discount before the big onrush of demand!

Only the market of Beanie Babies didn't come back to the levels prior.  Soon, they found themselves the owners of Beanie Baby stock, whose value was significantly below the market level of just a few weeks or months ago.

So....Beanie Babies explain the stock market.

Higher demand for the product can create a market.  If demand is high enough, the value of the item will increase.  As it increases, it generates excitement as people imagine they can buy now, wait for it to rise, and sell at a profit.  Excitement lures more people in, and the demand increases.  The demand increases until everybody that is interested is now in the market for that item.  At some point, a tipping point, there is enough supply to meet demand.  Prices begin to stabilize and then begin to fall.  Some people see this as a buying opportunity, and buy, buy, buy.   This pushes the market back up some, but now more supply enters the market to meet the demand, and the prices begin to fall again.  Soon, everybody is in a panic to get out of the market so they can convert the product back to cash.  Panic selling starts, and the price plummets.  This continues until no more product enters the market, and supply and demand equalize.

You've just witnessed the classic 'bubble'.

At this point, if the product is something that will be needed or desired by people, then the price may begin to rise again.

If it was just a fad, like Beanie Babies, then the prices may never return to their historic highs, and just continue to muddle along where supply and demand meet.

Also, see Holland's Tulip Bulb Bubble market crash.