Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Hills Are Turning Green

Some photos of the area where I grew up.  The hills are being painted green by spring.

Note! Click on photos to view full size. 

The two hills and hollow in the background are the woods that I played in while growing up.  In the foreground is the Union Railroad maintenance yard.

These photos were taken from the Sam's Club / Gabriel Bros. parking lot in Monroeville, Pennsylvania on Easter Sunday.

 The Union Railroad round house. The turntable is somewhat visible in full size, it is painted yellow at the ends.

For more information on railroad roundhouses see:

Wikipedia, Roundhouse

A zoom shot of the hillside showing the colors.  I love when the trees are like this.

The hollow between the hills.  Many adventures occurred in this hollow with my brother-in-law, the naturalist. Before he was my brother-in-law, he was my best friend. I didn't like his sister then.  She was a young snot.  Odd when I came back from the service I liked his sister better them him.  Snots grow up into beautiful women.  Anyhow, this is a lovely woods and I consider myself fortunate to have grown up here.  The vast majority of the green in this picture is sugar maple.  This hollow is magnificent in the fall.

This beautiful green mist is not leaves budding, but rather flowers.  Odd looking flowers, but they do not rely on insects to pollinate them. They use the wind.instead, hence the flowers come first so that the leaves do not inhibit pollination.  This may be the source of your spring sinus problems.

In the center of this photo on the distant hill, there is a rock outcrop. It is barely visible in full size.  It is located in one of the most inaccessible areas of our woods.  The inaccessibility and the mysterious outcrop always seemed mystical to me.  I used to go there and talk to God as a youth.  God didn't reply, but with the magical atmosphere here, I always felt that God was near.  I called this place Mount Olympus. It was a Holy place in my youth.

Here is another one of my favorite bridges.  It is the Hall Station Bridge for US 22.  Wilkins Township is on the far end, and Monroeville is on the near end.  The span is 1127 feet long and was originally built in 1942 and widened in 1957.  It is a beautiful bridge.
The creek, Thompson Run, that formed this valley is visible under the main span.  It is not a very large creek yet look at the work it has done over the centuries.

For an incredible amount of information on this bridge see:  Bridges and Tunnels of Allegheny County, Hall Station Bridge

That would be your's truly's hand in the mirror while I was taking the photo.  It was raining and I was trying to keep the lens dry.  This shot is from Home Depot's parking lot in Wilkins Township.

The Thompson Run Valley from the back of  Sears.  The creek and the Union Railroad are heading for Turtle Creek.

The Monroeville end of the bridge looking from Thompson Run Road.

Looking toward Wilkins Township from Thompson Run Road.

The uneven spacing of the main arches is due to the bridge being widened in 1957.

The above photo zoomed in.

No, you can't walk the tracks.

No lousy sign is going to stop me, I crossed the fence to get this picture.  I fully expected the railroad bulls to come along.

The Union Railroad and I have a long history of antagonizing each other.  As a child I used to pick wild strawberries near the tracks.  The bulls would chase us off.  One time someone shot the place up with a pellet gun.  I was under suspicion.  I swear I had nothing to do with that incident.  While the URR has maintained a dislike for me, I have always loved it--despite the bulls.  I still love to hear the throbbing diesels, often 5 of them linked together, open full throttle and barely moving the train at 10 mph.  Ore and slag are heavy. 

The Hall Station Bridge from my illegal highly trespassed vantage point near the URR locomotive shop. 

The Hall Station Bridge from the s-bend on Thompson Run Road.

Indeed the bulls still patrol, but they have got fancy.  They used to have plain brown sedans. They are probably looking for me.  Right across the tracks from his location is where the strawberries grew.  Ah the joy of running away from the bulls while trying not to dump your strawberries.  Those wild strawberries were only the size of the tip of your little finger, but one had more flavor than an entire package of those inbred tasteless monstrosities that they sell in the grocery stores.  Note to strawberry geneticists: with your current methods, your goal to provide a strawberry the size of a melon will still have only one strawberry's worth of flavor distributed among 5 pounds of tasteless pulp.

For more information on the Union Railroad see:

Union Railroad Company, History

Wikipedia, Union Railroad 

Carsten Lundsten. Union Railroad

Logo Image Credit, Wikipedia above. 



  1. we're talking. Two posts with pictures ! You're working overtime aren't you? complaints from me, says I. You realize of course, now that you will shortly be retired.........this will be the expected norm of you for posting. With all this new found time on your hands. Yep yep....

    I whole heartedly agree with you on the painting of the trees..At no other time of year is the colour of this green like someone soaked a sponge in green paint and dabbed it on the skeleton tree branches.

    So I have to ask again about the rail road pics...this is where you grew up ? this where you live now? or did you move far away from the railroad roundhouse and environs ?

    What do they use the roundhouse for now ? Not trains I assume, warehouse? I would have loved to have grown up in the time when the turn tables were in use and steam was the norm for railroads . I always said I was born 10-15 years too late. Should have been born between 1940 and 1945 I figure. Oh well, things out of my control. I guess I just have to live vicariously thru the photos.

    Who owns the two hills and hollows...Public land, private..? Your backyard? I wish !!

    The big rail road that the fence you circumvented to get the picture of ? Was that a zoom shot of the building...and I take it that building and other buildings are still in use ?

    ***** Sorry for all the questions....but I guess it's better the photos bring some commentary and inquisitiveness than ? ******

    I am the kind of person who likes to dissect pictures and ask a thousand questions about them. If you and I were sitting together and looking at those photos...I'd keep you busy for hours asking you about them... weird eh ? We Canadians use that ' eh ' word a lot.

    Dumb northerners eh ? Or is that damn northerners ? lol

    We have the railroad gestapo's here too. Pain in the ass, when you want to go exploring. The stories I could tell you about our railroad adventures. But since this is a public post, I shall refrain. They would be arresting me and my cohorts for past sins ( sins with no expiry date )
    Ya..No trespassing signs to us, were an invitation to come on in. Locked doors quickly became unlocked, etc. It's a wonder we lived actually, when I looked back at the shit we did. Death by misadventure I think they call it. And yet I am still amazed when I read news reports of how young folks get into trouble and shake my head,,,when I use to do the very same thing. No fear in youth.

    You sure have some neat vantage points with which to get photo ops. Wow...hills, valleys, hollows, escarpments....huge tracts of bush. As opposed to flat land prairies where I live. Don't get me wrong..I love where I live. I guess the grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence as it were.
    I will check out some of those highlighted areas you mentioned.

    Excellent post Sextant. Sure brings back some memories for me.
    And I'd love to explore the area where you live. You and I could be 14 again walking around the RR areas and such.

  2. Monroeville is about a half hour drive from my home. My mother in law still lives there. I don't know the ownership of the woods, but it is so rugged to be unusable for homes which is why it exists. We are fortunate in Pittsburgh to have these deep creek ravines which leave wooded sections here and there.

    The Union is still active but the tonnage is a minute fraction of what it was when I was kid. Maybe 2 trains a day now, compared to one every 20 minutes back then. These shops are still used but I can't say that the roundhouse is or is not. My guess is that it is used because everything looks in good condition. The front of the roundhouse is not visible from our side of the woods so I never saw the turntable actually used.

    I was not a bad kid and did not get into a lot of trouble. The fact that those shops were 24/7 and patrolled by the bulls helped to. My worst offense against the Union was picking their wild strawberries which grew a safe distance from the tracks. Somebody did shoot the place up with a pellet gun and my brother-in-law and I owned pellet guns. The bulls got our names somehow and we were under suspicion. They visited our parents but neither one of us knew anything about it. I vaguely recall of hearing that they caught whomever but it was not anyone we knew. I got worked over pretty good by my parents but convinced them that I had nothing to do with it.

    One of the troubles with the world today is that things for which we got our asses beat are now criminalized and handled by the criminal justice system. You can't whack your kid across the ass, you have to deliver him to a magistrate, pay a fine, and they extract some community service and the kid has a record...for something that he should get ass beating for. In nearby Greensburg, some 13 year old girls were charged with distributing child porn for sending naked photos of themselves to their boyfriends cell phones. They are now sex offenders for the next 20 or 30 years. What they are is typical kids that need a crack across the ass and grounded for a week. Not 3 years of hell in the criminal justice system, thousands of dollars in legal fees and a 30 year listing as a sex offenders. What the hell is wrong with us? We have lost our minds and I am ashamed of it.

    I do have a quote:

    "A childhood in which children are not allowed to occupy their own world of self-inflicted danger and subversive behavior and minor criminal activity for at least several glorious hours a day is in some way not a childhood at all."
    Michael Kelly
    Editorial The Atlantic Monthly
    April 2001

    Well I have to go to work, sign some papers, and remove myself from the world of the fruitfully employed. "Today is the first day of the rest of my life." How trite.

  3. VW Busman,

    Did you notice that I added some material to Amelanchier? Cool old photo.