As regular readers are aware, I like trains.
I do not like graffiti, especially graffiti on railroad cars.
One recent afternoon I sat at my computer and watched a Union Pacific manifest freight train rolling west through Tehachapi at the street crossing by the Tehachapi Depot Museum.
A few minutes later I watched the same train rolling by the camera at Cable a few miles west of the city. (On YouTube enter “Tehachapi Live Train Cam 2” to access both cameras.)
Every car with flat sides — boxcars and auto racks, those big cars that carry automobiles, — was smeared with graffiti.
The side of one autorack, a really big car, was covered with some dimwit’s name from top to bottom and end to end in two colors.
I understand that the people who do this are not wealthy. In fact most would claim to be damaging other people’s property as some sort of “rage against the machine.”
Who pays for this?
So who pays for all the paint and the cost of its removal? Covering that autorack must have cost a bunch for paint.
Some of this stuff is really art and worthy of artistic admiration.
But not if it is smeared on someone else’s property.
To answer my question, the cost of removing that mess is covered by all of us, not just the railroads.
Yes, I know, “the railroads are big corporations and can afford it” — the standard excuse of the economically ignorant.
Railroads carry much of the stuff we all use, and they, like all firms that want to stay in business and provide jobs, pass their costs on to their customers who pass it on to the folks who buy the stuff they ship.
It’s like people who “borrow” grocery carts and leave them all over the place. The cost of recovering (and repairing) the carts is reflected in the cost of the food we buy.
These additional costs are felt most by people at the bottom of the economic pile.
There’s also an aesthetic cost. One evening several years ago a Rosamond resident attending a meeting of that town’s pioneering Municipal Advisory Council complained about graffiti-covered railcars parked on Union Pacific Railroad tracks along Sierra Highway.
“They are a #%$@ eyesore,” he accurately complained, erroneously blaming the railroad for the problem.
Every time someone complains about this stuff the usual excuses are spouted by do-gooders who live in neighborhoods untouched by this muck.
I wonder how they would feel if one morning they walked out their front door and saw their Mercedes, fences or homes covered with this stuff.
Graffiti is not poor people expressing themselves artistically; it is criminal vandalism, a quality-of-life issue added to all the other headaches dumped on society by thugs and their wealthy enablers.
What is really frustrating is that good jobs, many of them requiring artistic skills, go begging because of a lack of qualified applicants, often because applicants failed school or drug tests — at a time when another drug is being legalized throughout America.
In the meantime our lawmakers stand by with their usual intellectual impotence and excuses, more interested in protecting their own rice bowls than protecting taxpayers.
On a more positive note, my colleague and good friend Bill Warford’s recent item about the discovery of photos belonging to pioneering Disney animator Ward Kimball brought back to my wife Billye and I memories of a visit years ago to the San Marino home of this talented gentleman, a true artist, and his wife Betty.
Billye and I met Kimball thanks to Loren Burch of Cantil who knew him from Loren’s expertise in Stanley Steamer automobiles. He’s one of the world’s Stanley experts.
Kimball loved trains — his wife said they went to Nevada to buy an old locomotive on their honeymoon.
His semi-rural property featured railroad tracks and an engine house with I believe two old steam engines and a massive figure from a Disney movie that was supposed to be a sort of man/locomotive.
Kimball had three buildings in the yard, two filled with toy trains (as opposed to scale model trains), one for U.S. trains and the other for European equipment, plus the train depot from the classic 1948 Disney film “So Dear to my Heart,” which was filmed in Porterville.
Ward Kimball was a great guy, totally unpretentious, a true artist at heart. The railroad tracks ran a short distance from the engine house to the rural street. Kimball said he loved to fire up an engine and run it just short of the street, blowing the whistle and terrifying passing motorists.
One of the two Oscars he won was perched casually on the mantel in the living room next to a life size painting of his wife in her gardening outfit, apparently based on a photo that explained her surprised expression.
He was also a member of the “Firehouse Five Plus Two” Dixieland band made up of his fellow Disney animators, and a director who wrote and directed a three hour-long television shows about space exploration, among many other productions.
Thanks, Bill, for bringing back memories of a fantastic day.
The special Union Pacific passenger train that carried the late President George W. Bush to his final resting place, pulled by a locomotive bearing his name, was crewed by two Navy veterans.
UP Engineer June Nobles and Conductor Randy Kuhaneck served in the Navy when Bush was president — Nobles for nine years, Kuhaneck for eight.
While in the Navy Kuhaneck met President and Navy hero Bush and the two veterans shared their Navy experiences.
Nobles and Kuhaneck are regulars on the 70 mile Texas line that carried Bush’s casket, with Nobles at the throttle.
“He was my Commander-in-Chief,” she said in a UP news release. “It was a great honor. He did a lot for our nation. He tried to do well for all people. He should be remembered as a hero.”