Tag Archives: history

Saint Lawrence Seaway


Niagara Aerospace Museum

The Niagara Aerospace Museum is located in the old terminal of the Niagara Falls International Airport. Because the Curtiss-Wright and Bell Aircraft corporations played such a huge part in the aviation history of the Buffalo/Niagara area, those two companies are well represented within the museum.


The P39: “Miss Lend-Lease”

Arguably the centerpiece to the museum is this Bell Aircraft P39Q “Airacobra”. The P39 left Niagara Falls on December 26, 1943 bound for Russia due to the Lend Lease program. Talking to the museum volunteers, the P39 went through Ladd Field in Fairbanks before crossing the Bering Sea. The P39 then went missing in action during November of 1944.

In 2004, the P39 was found in Lake Mart-Yavr in northwestern Russia. Bell Aircraft took recovery of the aircraft in 2008, the pilot’s remains were given a military funeral, and the plane’s logbook was recovered and preserved. Over 4500 Bell P39 Airacobras were sent to Russia during lend-lease, along with 2500 Curtiss-Wright P40 Warhawks and 2500 Bell P63 King Cobras. Russia’s top ten aces during WWII flew P39 aircraft.

The plane has been nicknamed “Miss Lend-Lease” by the museum. Two local Niagara women, who worked at Bell Aircraft during the war, wrote hidden messages in the P39 when they worked on its assembly over 70 years ago. They have been discovered, and are now on display next to their P39.


P40 Warhawk mural

More than 16,000 P40 Warhawks were built at the Curtiss-Wright Buffalo plants. On September 11, 1942, a P40 on a test flight, caught fire. The test pilot parachuted safely to the ground, but the P40 mysteriously turned back and traveled two miles before plummeted through the Curtiss-Wright Plant roof, killing six workers at the scene, while eight died of their injuries later. 43 others were wounded, mostly with burns.

The Curtiss plant was torn down in 1999, but a plaque honoring the victims who lost their life due to the P40 crash is still displayed at the Buffalo-Niagara International Airport. The one in the photo above is a copy of that plaque, located at the Niagara Aerospace Museum, within the Curtiss-Wright section.


A replica of a Curtiss “Jenny”

The Curtiss “Jenny” above is a replica, on display showing the wings without their canvas covering. 10,000 Curtiss “Jenny” aircraft were produced in Buffalo between 1914 – 1917.


Apollo EECOM Station

Thanks to Bell’s involvement in the space program, there is quite a display at the museum on the Apollo missions. The EECOM Station above, was used throughout the Apollo Programs, but played a particularly vital role in the Apollo 13 Mission.


The Agena 8081 Rocket Engine

The Agena rocket engine saw 360 mission flights, with a reliability record of 99.7%. It had action in the Ranger Mariner, Gemini and Nimbus Programs. It was used extensively to launch the Lunar Orbiter space probes, which preceded the successful Apollo missions.


Cunningham-Hall GA-36

The Cunningham-Hall Aircraft Company produced aircraft such as the GA-36 in Rochester, NY during the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. This particular GA-36 was found languishing in a field at a small airport in Michigan. It was acquired and restored by volunteers at the Amherst Museum.

Admission to the museum was $8 for adults. Parking is directly in front of the old terminal, where passenger drop off and pick up used to take place. The volunteers were very knowledgeable and eager to talk about their collection.


Right Place, Right Time

The music world lost another unique voice on Thursday. Dr John, the man who brought the voodoo infused magic of New Orleans music to the world, died “toward the break of day”, of a heart attack. John was 77.

I saw Dr John play live once, when I was in New Orleans during their Jazz Festival. It was pure luck really, but sometimes the train pulls up to the station at just the right moment. It was after Katrina, and there were still a lot of roofs that were covered by blue tarps. Dr John put on quite the show, but this was more than just playing a concert, it was his attempt to use music to help heal his city from a hurricane and apathy.

Dr John simply oozed New Orleans, in all its funky, bluesy, bayou form. I read a review once, where the writer described his voice as a “bullfrog with a hangover”.

Rest in peace, Night Tripper; your bullfrog voice will be missed.


Pierce-Arrow Museum

Buffalo, New York


Exterior to the Pierce-Arrow showroom

Officially known as the Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum, the museum has quite the collection of classic cars, trucks, motorcycles and bicycles, plus one filling station. The museum organized as a non-profit in 1997, and moved into their current location, a former Mack Truck showroom, in 2001.

George Pierce started out making ice chests & birdcages, progressing into bicycles. In 1901, the Pierce Company opened a large factory in Buffalo’s Canalside district. In 1903, the company produced a two-cylinder car called The Arrow. The following year, The Great Arrow came on the market. This car was larger and more luxurious than its predecessor, and it was powered by a four-cylinder engine. In 1905, The Great Arrow won the Glidden Tour, which was an endurance run that determined the most reliable car on the market. By 1909, President Taft had made two Pierce-Arrows the official cars of the White House.

Here are a few of the vehicles I enjoyed checking out at the P-A Museum:


1909 Thomas Flyer 6-40 Flyabout

The Thomas Flyer was also manufactured in Buffalo, NY until 1913. This little Flyabout, was a 5 passenger, powered by a six-cylinder/267 cubic inch engine, coupled to a three speed transmission. The motor put out a whopping 40 HP. In 1908, a Thomas Flyer won the New York to Paris Race.


1932 Duesenberg Model J Town Car

This particular Duesenberg was the most expensive ever produced. Custom built for the Countess Anna Ingraham, the car cost $25,000 in 1932.


The Duesenberg


$2.50 down buys you a Harley?

Automatically, I thought $250.00 down, but no, it was $2.50. I asked for clarification.


1940 Lincoln

Frank Lloyd Wright ordered one of these Lincolns in 1940. He proclaimed it the most beautiful car ever designed. Hard to argue with FLW.


1934 Pierce-Arrow Model 1248A

The 1934 Pierce-Arrow was proclaimed an “All Weather Town Brougham”, with its canvas roll up, and solid leather roof for the chauffeur. This model had an aluminum body, and was powered by a V-12 engine. There was only one of these made. It was owned by opera diva Ms. Mary Garden, whose father had the world’s largest Pierce-Arrow dealership.


Pierce-Arrow’s 1933 Silver Arrow; Designed as a car, that can not be ignored

My favorite car in the collection: the 1933 Silver Arrow. They say this car “caused an absolute sensation” when it was introduced in 1933. Powered by the V-12 engine, the Silver Arrow could hit 115mph. Five of these cars were built, only three remain in existence today.


The ’33 Silver Arrow

What a sharp, futuristic looking car for 1933.


Joseph Seagram & Sons’ Pierce-Arrow delivery truck


The Frank Lloyd Wright designed filling station

In 1927, Frank Lloyd Wright designed a filling station that was to be built in downtown Buffalo, on the corners of Michigan Avenue and Cherry Street. The station was never built.

Fast forward to 2002: The Pierce-Arrow Museum, working off of original drawings, create the copper, work of art within the large showroom. Wright called his station design “an ornament to the pavement”. The station is quite the structure. It contains a second story observation room, complete with a fireplace and restrooms. The observation room was meant as a comfortable place for patrons to wait for their vehicle while it was being serviced. It was also to include an attendants quarters, also equipped with a fireplace. The gas distribution system was gravity fed. The two 45 foot, copper poles holding the station’s marque, were described as “totems” by Wright. It would have been an impressive filling station, if it had been built. As it stands, its an impressive & unique addition to the museum.

The museum has several volunteers with a wealth of information about the items on display. I found them more than willing to share their knowledge. Admission for an adult was $10.


BCT in B&W


One entrance to Buffalo Central Terminal


To Station: Don’t forget to pet the buffalo as you go by


Tickets. New York Central’s Cleveland Limited departs at 4:40am


National Curator Day


Taking a turn at Arundel

Today is officially The Curator’s Day. Although, for those who know him well, there are very few days that are not his day. But today, it’s legit.

It’s wonderfully refreshing to see years of dedication and hard work rewarded. The honor is well earned, and very much deserved. Kudos.

Much respect and affection from Alaska.


Mount Everest

It’s a long way from the days of Mallory and Hillary:


Traffic jam at the top of the world; Photo credit: Project Possible/AFP/Getty Images

I’m absolutely fascinated by the recent photo to come from the summit of Mount Everest. Over 100 climbers, queued up in a line, in the death zone of Everest, waiting to summit. The death toll on Everest has reached 11 this year, as a result.

A record number of permits, 381, to climb the world’s tallest peak were issued. Which means at least double that number, if not closer to triple, were on the mountain, since guides and sherpas are not included in the permit number.

Also, the window of good weather was extremely small compared to most years, so everyone was forced to summit basically at the same time. Waiting in a line, using up oxygen, stepping over dead bodies that had been left behind, all while trying to combat exhaustion in the death zone.

The entire concept, just spins my head. The desire to climb Everest, I get, although I’ve never really had that great burn to do so. We’ve reached the point where we wait in a line at the roof top of our planet, for what? To take a selfie? Thank about it: One couldn’t take a picture from the summit without people in it! I live in Fairbanks so that I can avoid lines. I walk out of the post office if the line has more than three people in it. I realize, I’m the odd duck on this planet, but I can not imagine my extreme disappointment, if I climbed Everest, only to be forced to endure a conga line before summiting.

One has to ask about the skill level of so many climbers. Are they experienced climbers, or thrill seeking amateurs on a selfie hunt? Peter Beaumont wrote in The Guardian that climbing the world’s tallest peak “has become a trophy experience.” I have to admit, I agree with him.

What would George Mallory think about The Mountain now?