September 2014

 

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The leaves started turning earlier this year.  It's almost time to head south for the winter.

September is the end of the ‘official’ season at Klondike – several snowbirds left for warmer climes to spend the winter.  We will be the next to the last to leave in October.  The leaves have turned early this year – we haven’t often been at Klondike at this time of the year.

Two memorable events during the month:

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The 1927 Hook and Hastings organ was rebuilt to add new electronic components yet preserve the original sound.  A remote playing capability was added to allow the organist to play from a midi keyboard in the front of the santuary rather than in the choir loft. 

The first was the pipe organ re-dedication concert at the First Congregational Church in Lee.  The 1927 Hook and Hastings organ hadn’t played since the early 1990s.  The church members back then started fundraising as well as looking for a firm to repair the organ.  Those they contacted in the 90s all agreed it would cost more to fix it than to get a new one.  The church continued their fundraising and it wasn’t until September 2012 when Alex Belair and Michael Tanguay of the Alex Pipe Organ Services in Connecticut stopped by for a quick visit just to check out the organ.  From talking to Alex at the reception after the concert, we got the idea that he and Michael think outside the box.  Between improved technology and their creative minds, they completely rebuilt the organ, converting the old electro/pneumatic control system to a modern solid state digital control system.  Music still comes from the original pipes with air from the original blower, now outfitted with a new motor.  They actually took apart the entire organ, got it put back together again, and from what others say, it plays better than ever.  We have since found out the cost of the repair/renovation was $130,000, which matched the funds raised for this purpose, compared to over $500,000 for a new organ.

Organists performing the evening of the concert, in addition to our own music director Jim, were Alex as well as former music director Catherine.  Music was played from the organ in the choir loft as well as on the remote console down in the sanctuary.  They also added a feature to play recorded music by plugging in a flash drive with the music already on the drive.   Choir member David Stone premiered his original music, “Proclaim”, all composed on David’s computer.   Not only was David’s music spectacular, but hearing the majestic organ play a variety of music which showcased its capabilities equaled the concerts that can be heard at Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony and Pops orchestras. Click on this link to read more about the organ concert and to hear a one minute sound bite.  

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This railroad bridge is about 70 feet tall.  Although this particular bridge is no longer used by the railway, you can walk across it or climb down below to admire the craftsmanship.

Second was finally getting to hike the Keystone Arch Bridges Trail along with fellow Klondikers John and Joyce.  We picked a beautiful fall day with perfect temperatures for hiking.  Our hike started early enough in the day that we didn’t see anyone else until our return.  The granite bridges on this trail are the first stone arch railroad bridges built in America.  Boston was losing business to Albany when the Erie Canal siphoned off traffic but a railroad to Albany would correct that.  Surveyed by Major George Washington Whistler (James McNeil Whistler’s father), and built by local stonemason Alexander Birnie, it was deemed almost impossible to build bridges over the Westfield River because it was so remote and parts of the terrain so steep.  

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This double arch bridge built around 1840 is  still in use.

Six of these keystone bridges are accessible either by the trail or by kayak or canoe during spring run-off.  For those agile enough to clamber down the banks to the river, seeing the bridge construction from below is spectacular.  What is also amazing is that the bridges still actively used as part of the rail line carry trains considerably heavier than what they were designed for, and show no sign of damages.  Locomotives in 1830 weighed 12,000 pounds.  Today, they average about 415,000 pounds.    This trail is well worth a stop, and while in the area, check out the Chester Railway Museum.  Click here to get information on visiting the museum.

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Keeping with the train theme...

And of course, a very important event – Larry’s birthday.  He chose for his birthday lunch a return trip to Bernie’s Dining Depot in Chicopee, famous for their HUGE prime rib lunch specials.  Rail enthusiasts will enjoy eating in the dining car with its original furniture.

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Larry the dishwasher.

The First Congregational Church hosts community dinners every Wednesday from September through June, open to anyone.  Volunteer help is needed – we may not be swinging hammers like we do with Habitat but we certainly kept busy that evening.  Larry has a new experience to add to his resume – dishwasher!  Stan was more than happy to turn over this job to Larry, who was kept busy most of the evening pre-rinsing dishes and loading and unloading the commercial dishwasher.  No job too big or too small, or too wet!

Coming up:  getting both our sites at Klondike buttoned up for the season; a week in the Boston area for sightseeing; a few days’ stop in Baltimore, Maryland to visit family; some time in the Smokey Mountain area; and finally Huntsville, Alabama for the month of November for our annual medical and dental appointments.

 

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