Swickard: Notes from the land of the setting sun

© 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. It was 45 years ago that man first orbited the moon. The moon was landed upon six times with the last time four years later. Sadly, America walked away from the moon and ceded the moon to the Chinese who this month landed and sent a rover to stir up the moon dust.
     Perhaps that is the way it should be with great nations, they can only be great as long as the people feel the challenge to be great. Then they must join the rest of the nations in the world who are just trying to get from paycheck to paycheck and not lose their minds with their teenagers. Average nations do not reach for the stars.
     Tony Blair said the measure of a nation is how many people want in and how many want out. Some Americans are leaving our nation to escape our confiscatory tax policy. Their problem to find a government not fouling its own nest.
     Here in America our space program has mostly been dismantled. The space station was put up as a fueling area for craft reaching to the moon and planets. But America now hitches rides to the Space Station on Russian craft. Russian President Vladimir Putin this week said he is going to revitalize the Russian Space Program.
What is the American plan? No plan. We are waiting on the 2014 elections to make any meaningful change in our society but then it will be into the 2016 presidential elections and so we cannot make any kind of real change and then in 2017… sorry, the 2018 elections are coming and we cannot make changes. And so on.
I have to admit the fall of our great nation was on my watch and I feel it every day because the America I inherited as a young man was so very different from the America now. That was a “Can do” America that could go to the moon and return safely. Today we have trouble going to the store and returning safely. Read full column


Michael Says for January 3, 2014 - Steam Locomotives

Eugene V. McKim, Sr. - Locomotive Engineer
@ 2014 Michael Swickard, Ph.D. In early January 1957: the last standard guage steam locomotive in regular operation on the Southern Pacific Railroad was retired. At that point the SP railroad became fully dieselized.
     At one time my grandfather Eugene McKim, Sr., drove those steam locomotives but as they were retired there were more engineers than seats to drive them. So he did other things involved in pipefitting and mechanical work retiring also in 1957.
     Steam Locomotives were cheap and rugged and could go over large distances over cheaply built and maintained tracks. In the United States, large-scale manufacturers constructed locomotives for nearly all rail companies, although nearly all major railroads like the Southern Pacific had shops capable of heavy repairs. Steam locomotives required regular, and, compared to a diesel-electric engine, frequent service and overhaul which was fine when steam was the only alternative.
     So it did not make any sense to run steam when there was diesel. Fifty six years ago the last oil can was put up and the only steam is small excursions like Durango Silverton and the Cumbres & Toltec in Chama, NM… thus is progress, eh?