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.

Ward Kimball

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.”


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