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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Tuesday, Sep 8, 2015

darrylmanzer0215What a wonderful weekend with a bright sky and warm temps. A breeze in the evening that came at sunset so you could watch it in comfort.

Well, it is heating up for the next few days. Stand by your air conditioners and stay calm.

There was a time when few folks in this valley had that modern marvel called “air conditioning.”

If you had cooling in your home back then, it was mostly that wonderful little invention called a swamp cooler. That contraption operated on the simple principle of evaporation. Just drip water over some sort of fiber, and blow air through the fiber and into the room being cooled.

Here in the hot and dry parts of Southern California, it works well. In fact, I still see many swamp coolers on the roofs of homes. In a large big-box store that has orange lettering, I even saw that they were selling brand-new swamp coolers. Old technology that still works.

At the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society, only one spot in all of the buildings has an installed swamp cooler. It actually does a great job of keeping the largest room in the old Saugus Train Station somewhat cool. Anyplace else in those buildings, you’re left to fans and your own self-made swamp cooler, aka “sweat.”

As I look at the wonderful, not-yet-designed-and-tested project called California High Speed Rail, I see something of a swamp cooler in what they are proposing. Nothing new here, folks. Trains just like it are all over the world. It isn’t new, and it isn’t a solution. It runs on wheels and uses normal track that may have some smoothing features like welded joints between rail sections. But that isn’t new.

comettrain

Same technology, different paint job.

Making the mode of propulsion an electric motor dates back to some of the first trains that went to New York City’s Grand Central Station. The long tunnels under the river would not allow steam engines in them, so electric engines were used. That was nearly 140 years ago.

So you say the new cars are “streamlined” and slip through the air so much more efficiently. Yes, they are, but so were some of the trains in the 1920s through the 1960s. Look at an Amtrak train today; it is electric and goes fast, too. But it isn’t new.

Now if we were considering maglev trains or maybe monorail systems like you see at Disneyland, that would be cool. Fast, too. But no, we’ll still have steel rails and fairly conventional engines and cars.

Can we change the proposed paint scheme while we’re thinking about it? I don’t think the Navy’s flight demonstration team, The Blue Angels, would like the wholesale theft of the distinctive colors used on their planes.

A few other things connected to the High Speed Rail Scam is a repeat of past history. Make sure political cronies such as a U.S. senator have fat contracts awarded to companies headed by that senator’s husband. One media outlet was calling our state, “Curruptafornia,” because of that little deal. And there is more.

Like Christopher Columbus, the California High Speed Rail Authority isn’t quite sure of the route and where it is going; they are trying to sell the project to just about everyone within earshot, and they are doing all of this using someone else’s money – our money. Not a bad deal if they can pull it off. But time is running out.

I just read a long list of lawsuits that the railway is fighting right now. We’re a little slow here in the Southland in any effort to join the battles in the courts. Our friends and neighbors in the northern part of the state are well entrenched in the court battles. The California High Speed Rail Authority board is holding many legal closed-door sessions concerning those lawsuits. Since they are discussing legal proceedings, the law allows them to meet behind closed doors.

But all of those lawsuits and all the years it will take to resolve them tell us that folks just don’t want the train like they did when they voted to fund part of it years ago.

Do we want to buy a swamp cooler or a modern heating and air conditioning system? If we build what others have built, we are just following. California is a leader – or at least it used to be. Time to step up again and stop the current boondoggle.

We really have to think this through. Do we step back to the distant past as if we were in New York City in 1890? Or do we move forward to a truly modern system?

“Back to the Future” was a pretty good movie, but as a matter of policy for our state, it really, well, sucks.

Right now it is sucking money from all of the other things we need – like water and road repair.

Welcome to 1890, folks.

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley, where he serves as executive director of the SCV Historical Society. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived atDManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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