Of Tracks and Taverns–and of Grapes and Grain

2-8-2 "Mikado" Type Steam locomotive

The town of Phillipsburg, New Jersey, like so many other American communities, is in the process of redefining itself as it struggles to carve out a place in the new globalized economy. This once significant eastern transportation hub. located at the confluence of the Lehigh and Delaware rivers,  had established itself as a thriving manufacturing center during the nineteenth and twentieth century. Today what remains of that past prosperity can be seen in the town’s collection of stately Victorian homes, the ornate facades of  the recently restored downtown buildings, and those imposing railroad bridges and trestles that once serviced the rolling stock of  five major railroads.

Delaware River Railroad Trestle

These days one can still hear the occasional horn from a passing freight train of the Norfolk Southern, and there has been talk by the state of bringing back passenger service to Phillipsburg–but as is more often the case, the economic revitalization and resilience of the community has mainly been fostered by a few dedicated individuals.

So now on most weekends from late spring through the end of October, one can board the handsomely restored vintage Long Island Railroad commuter coaches being pulled by the 2-8-2  “Mikado” Type Steam Locomotive on a journey downriver to sample the offerings of a local vineyard. This is just one of several day trips and family outings offered by Delaware River Railroad Excursion

Delahanty's SignFor those, like myself, who much prefer the juice of the grain over the nectar of the grape, I highly recommend an afternoon of pints and train spotting from the deck at Delahanty’s. This Phillipsburg favorite  established in 2001 by Jim and Carole Diee, is quickly becoming the preferred trackside perch for the staff of American Public House Review

The Deck at Delahanty's in Phillipsburg, NJ

All Aboard!

Posted by: Chris Poh


Will the Sleeping Giant ever awaken?

We are currently in the middle of the Gold Cup, the premier international tournament for the North and Central America region (CONCACAF) of the soccer world.  Earlier this week, the US defeated Canada 2-0 in the opening game of the competition, but despite the victory, I couldn’t help but wonder if US Soccer has really lived up to the promise the program once showed.

 It was the summer of 2002, and fans of the US Mens National team, were living a dream.  For many of us, we had been waiting years to finally see our country take its place among the world’s great footballing nations.  The sport we loved, and which was largely and frustratingly ignored by the ignorant sports media, was at long last the headline news.  Our boys defeated a star-studded Portugal side, as well as Mexico, our greatest rivals.  We made it all the way to the quarterfinals against powerhouse Germany, surprising much of the world in the process.  And if it weren’t for a blatant handball, missed by the referee, we may have gone even further.

Despite the defeat, it was a glorious moment indeed.  And what truly softened the sorrow of an unfortunate loss was the promise that this successful tournament, the moment we all thought would be when the sleeping giant finally awoke, was only the beginning.  But nearly a decade later, it seems the giant was only flipping over to find the cool side of the pillow.

American Soccer Legend Claudio Reyna

Sadly, the US team has not progressed the way we all hoped, and to some degree even assumed, it would.  The promise in 2002 was felt throughout the American soccer community.  Major League Soccer was stable and producing players who were making significant contributions to the national team, players like Landon Donovan, Eddie Pope and Clint Mathis.  And we had our fair share of talented players playing and succeeding in Europe’s top leagues, such as Claudio Reyna, Brad Friedel and John O’Brien.  And we assumed more and more would soon make their way across the pond to play atop the soccer world.

But instead of taking that next step, it can be argued that US Soccer’s top team has regressed somewhat.  The game against Canada, while always nice to win, was not the stuff of a burgeoning soccer giant.  In the nine years since the 2002 World Cup, the United States has failed to produce even one good striker or center-back worthy of strong national side.  And assuming we reach the 2014 World Cup, we will be relying on a 32 year old Donovan and a 31 year old Clint Dempsey to form the attack, while hoping that Tim Ream and Timmy Chandler both become world-class defenders.

Take a look down the squad list and you will not see many players who will be hitting their prime in 2014.  Yes, there are a few.  And that is more than could be said 25 years ago.  But is there really enough to become what we all hope US Soccer would become after the 2002 team retired?  Or is this what we can expect from now on?  Only time will tell if 2010 was the high-water mark for quite some time.

By Dave McBride

Published in: on June 10, 2011 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Perfect Pint for a New Mexico Mystery

The other night a customer at the bar, that had recently returned from a trip to New Mexico, was extolling the virtues of  the beers produced in the “Land of Enchantment” by Sierra Blanca Brewinghis favorite being their Roswell Alien Amber Ale. That exchange led to the inevitable discussion about “Area 51,” the newly published book  by Annie Jacobsen, a respected investigative journalist who covers issues concerning national security.

While  Ms. Jacobsen’s work mostly deals with those things that one would expect to see addressed in an intelligent well researched inquiry into the workings of one of the world’s most secret military installations (atomic testing, advanced weapons design, experimental aircraft and espionage) there is the new explanation as to what actually occurred in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947 that I find a bit hard to swallow.

The author suggests that the purported crash of a possible extraterrestrial craft was actually a highly developed Soviet  spy plane, that was built by way of technology secured from the Germans after the Second World War. There is also the fantastic claim that the aircraft was piloted by genetically altered children, with alien-like features, that were the result of experiments conducted by the infamous Nazi “Angel of Death”  Joseph Mengele at the behest of  Joe Stalin. And supposedly the point to all of this was simply an attempt by the Russians to wage an elaborate game of psychological warfare against an American population that was apparently  living in fear of a possible invasion from outer space.

Quite frankly though, after suffering the hardships and horrors of  World War II, and now having to cope with the new threats posed by the nuclear age, I believe Americans would probably have had the grit to deal with an intergalactic tussle with little green men.

But since I love a good conspiracy theory as much as the next earthling, let’s examine some of the known facts that may have led Ms. Jacobsen to propose this rather astounding hypothesis:

  • By the end of the war the Germans had developed the Horton HO 229 Fighter/Bomber, a long-range jet powered flying wing that was the forerunner of modern stealth technology. 
  • During the early 1950s a comprehensive book by Rudolph Lusar appeared in Europe that chronicled Nazi weapons development during the Second World War. In a section of the book devoted to special projects, the author provides detailed information about a German saucer program.
  • On June 14th, 1947, aviator Kenneth Arnold claims that during a flight near Mt. Rainer he witnessed seeing a formation of nine unusual disc-like craft flying at speeds estimated to be in excess of 1200 miles per hour.  His description of  the lead craft does bear some resemblance to the Horton 229. This sighting is considered to be the beginning of the modern age UFOs.
  • Either in June or early July of the same year, rancher William “Mac” Brazel happened upon some strange debris on the Foster homestead located near Roswell, New Mexico.
  •  On July 8th, 1947,  the public information officer at the Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release that stated that members of the 509th Bomb Group had recovered what was referred to as a “flying disc.” On the following day the Commanding General of the Eighth Air Force reported to the press that it was, in fact,  the remnants of a radar-tracking balloon that was retrieved from the ranch near Roswell.
  • The entire incident quickly faded from the public’s memory. But in 1978, physicist and ufologist Stanton Friedman interviewed Major Jesse Marcel who was involved with the original recovery operation in 1947. Marcel told Friedman that an actual crashed alien spacecraft was removed from the New Mexico site, and that the military and government were involved in the cover-up. This led to years of wild speculation within the UFO community, and it brought to light other supposed crash and recovery operations conducted by the United States military.   
  • But the absolutely most important fact to remember is that any book about Area 51 that does not include some wild supposition about UFOs is doomed to be quickly relegated to the bargain bookshelf.

And lastly, had Stalin actually been in possession of some technologically superior mode of flight that could have bested the air forces of the world in 1947, I doubt that even this crazy Russian would have given the keys to the craft to some mutant teenager and then told him to take it for a spin over the deserts of New Mexico.

Posted by: Chris Poh

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