Cool Hotdog Cars

“Wienermobile” is a series of automobiles shaped like a hot dog on a bun which are used to promote and advertise Oscar Mayer products in the United States. The first version was created in 1936 by Oscar Mayer’s nephew, Carl G. Mayer, and variants are still used by the Oscar Mayer company today. Drivers of the Wienermobiles are known as Hotdoggers and often hand out toy whistles shaped as replicas of the Wienermobile, known as Wienerwhistles.

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The Oscar Mayer Wienermobile has evolved from Carl Mayer’s original 1936 vehicle to the vehicles seen on the road today. Although fuel rationing kept the Wienermobile off the road during World War II, in the 1950s Oscar Mayer and the Gerstenslager Company created several new vehicles using a Dodge chassis or a Willys Jeep chassis. One of these models is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. These Wienermobiles were piloted by “Little Oscar” (portrayed by George Molchan) who would visit stores, schools, orphanages, and children’s hospitals and participate in parades and festivals.
In 1969, new Wienermobiles were built on a Chevrolet motor home chassis and featured Ford Thunderbird taillights. The 1969 vehicle was the first Wienermobile to travel outside the United States. In 1976 Plastic Products, Inc., built a fiberglass and styrofoam model, again on a Chevrolet motor home chassis.
In 1988, Oscar Mayer launched its Hotdogger program, where recent college graduates were hired to drive the Wienermobile through various parts of the nation and abroad. Using a converted Chevrolet van chassis, Stevens Automotive Corporation and noted industrial designer Brooks Stevens built a fleet of six Wienermobiles for the new team of Hotdoggers.
With the 1995 version, the Wienermobile grew in size to 27 feet long and 11 feet high. The 2004 version of the Wienermobile includes a voice-activated GPS navigation device, an audio center with a wireless microphone, a horn that plays the Wiener Jingle in 21 different genres from Cajun to Rap to Bossa Nova, according to American Eats, and sports fourth generation Pontiac Firebird taillights.

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There are currently eight active Wienermobiles, six of which are the full-sized familiar models (the other two are the Mini and the food truck versions) with each assigned a part of the country. The “hotdogger” position of driving the Wienermobile is open to U.S. citizens, and the job lasts from the first of June until the following first of June. Only college seniors who are about to graduate are eligible. Both current hotdoggers and Oscar Mayer recruiters visit college campuses across the country in search of the next round of hotdoggers. Candidates are screened from an average of 2000 applicants. Every March, a pool of thirty final-round candidates are brought to Kraft Foods and Oscar Mayer headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin, for interviews. Each vehicle can hold two hotdoggers, and twelve people are chosen. Currently there are about 300 hotdogger alumni.

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They apparently come in all sizes.

The Big Glorious Steam Engines

 

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I heard the sounds of locomotion
and a whistle’s plaintive cry
of weakness, but the wheels were turning.
Steel on steel the sole reply.

The sounds of force accelerating
rhythmically as drums would play
recalled a light and tender time,
though made of steel the permanent way,

when near a depot long abandoned,
waiting for a passing train,
a child would sit alone for hours
just to hear the steel refrain.

I heard the sounds of locomotion
carrying a longing man
with freight and cargo to a place that
rails of steel alone could span.

 

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“I looked out of the train,
And I suddenly saw the empty station
As we hurtled through, with a hollow roar . . .
‘Harviston End’ . . . It was dark and dead”

A quiet hymn to all that we’ve lost. It’s all here, the sights, sounds and smells of a country station about to close. I’ve searched my railway book shelves to see if Harviston End existed, but it appears not. But the word ‘end’ in the title goes much further than the white-pebbled station name.

 

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Lost Tracks of Time

 

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I took a freight train to be my friend, O lord,
You know I hoboed, hoboed, hoboed,
Hoboed a long long way from home, O lord,

 

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train12 The Cincinnatian Baltimore and Ohio steam locomotive 1956

The Cincinnatian, Baltimore and Ohio steam locomotive 1956.

 

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train14 Belgian “Atlantic” class steam locomotive, built in 1939 for the Brussels-to- Ostend run

Belgium Atlantic Class steam locomotive, built 1939 Brussels to Ostend run.

 

train15 Mallard. The worlds fastest steam locomotive, at 125.88mph. Not the prettiest steam engine I've ever seen, but its wonderful that we can make a kettle go that fast... england

The Mallard. World’s fastest steam locomotive timed at 125 miles per hour, Doncaster, England.

 

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Cass Shay #5, #11, #6 running full throttle

Virginia coal train

 

trainDurango Silverton Line, North of Durango, CO

Durango Silverton line Colorado

Uber’s Self-Driving Car Didn’t Know Pedestrians Could Jaywalk

The National Transportation Safety Board releases hundreds of pages related to the 2018 crash in Tempe, Arizona, that killed Elaine Herzberg.

The software inside the Uber self-driving SUV that killed an Arizona woman last year was not designed to detect pedestrians outside of a crosswalk, according to new documents released as part of a federal investigation into the incident. That’s the most damning revelation in a trove of new documents related to the crash, but other details indicate that, in a variety of ways, Uber’s self-driving tech failed to consider how humans actually operate.

The National Transportation Safety Board, an independent government safety panel that more often probes airplane crashes and large truck incidents, posted documents on Tuesday regarding its 20-month investigation into the Uber crash. The panel will release a final report on the incident in two weeks. More than 40 of the documents, spanning hundreds of pages, dive into the particulars of the March 18, 2016 incident, in which the Uber testing vehicle, with 44-year-old Rafaela Vasquez in the driver’s seat, killed a 49-year-old woman named Elaine Herzberg as she crossed a darkened road in the city of Tempe, Arizona. At the time, only one driver monitored the experimental car’s operation and software as it drove around Arizona. Video footage published in the weeks after the crash showed Vasquez reacting with shock during the moments just before the collision.

The new documents indicate that some mistakes were clearly related to Uber’s internal structure, what experts call “safety culture.” For one, the self-driving program didn’t include an operational safety division or safety manager.

The most glaring mistakes were software-related. Uber’s system was not equipped to identify or deal with pedestrians walking outside of a crosswalk. Uber engineers also appear to have been so worried about false alarms that they built in an automated one-second delay between a crash detection and action. In addition, the company chose to turn off a built-in Volvo braking system that the automaker later concluded might have dramatically reduced the speed at which the car hit Herzberg, or perhaps avoided the collision altogether. (Experts say the decision to turn off the Volvo system while Uber’s software did its work did make technical sense, because it would be unsafe for the car to have two software “masters.”)

Much of that explains why, despite the fact that the car detected Herzberg with more than enough time to stop, it was traveling at 43.5 mph when it struck her and threw her 75 feet. When the car first detected her presence, 5.6 seconds before impact, it classified her as a vehicle. Then it changed its mind to “other,” then to vehicle again, back to “other,” then to bicycle, then to “other” again, and finally back to bicycle.

It never guessed Herzberg was on foot for a simple, galling reason: Uber didn’t tell its car to look for pedestrians outside of crosswalks. “The system design did not include a consideration for jaywalking pedestrians,” the NTSB’s Vehicle Automation Report reads. Every time it tried a new guess, it restarted the process of predicting where the mysterious object—Herzberg—was headed. It wasn’t until 1.2 seconds before the impact that the system recognized that the SUV was going to hit Herzberg, that it couldn’t steer around her, and that it needed to slam on the brakes.

That triggered what Uber called “action suppression,” in which the system held off braking for one second while it verified “the nature of the detected hazard”—a second during which the safety operator, Uber’s most important and last line of defense, could have taken control of the car and hit the brakes herself. But Vasquez wasn’t looking at the road during that second. So with 0.2 seconds left before impact, the car sounded an audio alarm, and Vasquez took the steering wheel, disengaging the autonomous system. Nearly a full second after striking Herzberg, Vasquez hit the brakes.

Wired.com

The Mighty 401, Busiest Highway in North America

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King’s Highway 401, commonly referred to as Highway 401 and also known by its official name as the Macdonald–Cartier Freeway or colloquially as the four-oh-one, is a 400-series highway in the Canadian province of Ontario. It stretches 828.0 kilometres (514.5 mi) from Windsor in the west to the Ontario–Quebec border in the east. The part of Highway 401 that passes through Toronto is North America’s busiest highway, and one of the widest. Together with Quebec Autoroute 20, it forms the road transportation backbone of the Quebec City–Windsor Corridor, along which over half of Canada’s population resides and is also a Core Route in the National Highway System of Canada. The route is maintained by the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) and patrolled by the Ontario Provincial Police. The speed limit is 100 km/h (62 mph) throughout its length, unless posted otherwise.

 

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Highway 401 was closed during a series of propane explosions in Toronto in 2008, allowing for this rare photo of the 14-lane highway occupied by a single vehicle.

This highway is right up there with the giant California and Texas freeways.

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The traffic jams are notorious.

Heavy Rescue: 401 is a Canadian reality TV show that follows the operations of multiple heavy vehicle rescue and recovery towing companies, along with the support from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP), Ministry of Transportation of Ontario, and York Regional Police, based in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and southern Ontario region. The show focuses on the hardships of operating along Ontario’s 400-series highways, such as the 401 in the GTA.

Heavy Wrecker Rotator Rescue Rig

Subway Pushers of Japan

The Japanese rail network is known throughout the world for its superiority and punctuality. In the capital city Tokyo, nearly 40 million passengers ride the rail every day, heavily outweighing other modes of transport like buses and private cars. Of these, 22% or 8.7 million take the subway.

The Tokyo subway network is a transportation marvel. On most lines, trains come every 5 minutes apart, on average, and during peak times, they tend to run every 2-3 minutes. That’s about 24 trains per hour going in one direction. Despite so many trains, the subway is extremely overcrowded, especially during rush hour. This page from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport has data (from 2007) detailing the level of congestion at different stations of Tokyo’s subway. As you can see, nearly all of them run at over capacity with a few running at 200% over rated capacity.

 

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“Oshiya” or “pushers” at Tokyo’s Shinjuku station trying to pack as many passengers as possible into the carriages during rush hour in 1967. Photo credit: CNN

In order to fit twice the number of passengers into a subway carriage, the stations employ uniformed staff known as oshiya or “pusher”, whose goal is to cram as many people as possible into the subway tram. These white glove-wearing personal actually pushes people into the train, so the doors can be shut. This is so surreal, it has to be seen to be believed.

 

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When pushers were first brought in at Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station, they were called “passenger arrangement staff” and were largely made up of students working part-time. Nowadays, there are no dedicated “pushers”. The station staff and part-time workers fill these roles during rush hours.

Although a Japanese phenomenon now, subway pushers were an American invention and originated in New York City, nearly a century ago. They were not very well-liked because they were known to push and shove passengers with hostility. The vigor with which the guards often did their job earned them the reputation as “sardine packers”. Their brutality sometimes made national headlines. “The Anxious Subway Guard Who Guillotines His Passengers” —screamed a headline, and “Long Suffering New York Subway Riders Cheer Man Who Hit Guards” —reported another.

Pushers became out of fashion with the introduction of automatic door controls and automatic turnstiles. As the sadistic sardine packers began to lose their job in the 1920s, their demise were mourned briefly. Several movies about subway workers came out during this period including Subway Sadie (1926), Wolf’s Clothing (1927), The Big Noise (1928), Love Over Night (1928) and so on. Subway pushers were also depicted in a 1941 biographical movie called Pusher — the story takes place during World War 1.

More recently, in 2012, Hong Kong- based photographer Michael Wolf created a photo series named Tokyo Compression, where he captured the traumatized and pained expression of commuters as their faces were crushed against the windows. These pictures show how horrible and shameful the situation inside the subway is. Bodies are squished so tightly against one another that most people can’t physically move. Short persons suffer the risk of getting smothered against the coat of their fellow passenger. Getting off at the right station require strength and determination, and fire hazards and emergency evacuation are serious issues. The subways are also fertile grounds for pickpockets and gropers.

 

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Japanese commuters wait in line for the next train, while people pushers push passengers onto the Yamanote line subway train during the morning rush hour at Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan. The daily ritual is performed to maximize the number of commuters on trains.

Japanese commuters wait in line for the next train, while people pushers push passengers onto the Yamanote line subway train during the morning rush hour at Shinjuku station in Tokyo, Japan. The daily ritual is performed to maximize the number of commuters on trains.

 

“Be Kind; Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle.” Plato.

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