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Day 38 – Just kiddin’ on the keyboard

By ThisIsReno

Submitted by Karl Breckenridge

So here we are together on Humpday for the 38th renewal of our This is Reno visit, to take our minds off R95 face masks and other bellwethers of social isolation for a few minutes, with no bad news ever in our visits.

Someone asked me what I was going to do for a soapbox to write from when all this is over – I responded that I’d probably hit Bob Conrad of This is Reno up for a few column-inches once or twice a week to keep me or Jody Rice in print. Jody is a local gal, a U of Nevada J-school grad and the heir-apparent to a thumb-drive with my columns, thoughts, rants and jpeg photos back to 1999 and print copy about our burg back to 1987 – ya wanna gripe, correct, clarify, enhance or otherwise comment about something you read here, talk to Jody – I’m  going off the grid!

But – that’s when we’re back to normal, using that term loosely.

On this Humpday – a term with little meaning right now – we’re kind of betwixt and between a couple columns that are still reverberating around with more comments arriving hourly into my lonely writer’s garret. Rest assured that some of those comments, suggestions, additions and criticisms will be brought to light, about Faded Menus, local schools, the Mighty SP’s “Reserve” in Sparks, and of Whitaker Park and the Bishop Ozi Whitaker School that once graced that park’s site. Soon, soon…

So this morning is kind of a catch-up column, including some thoughts that I promised to come back to and broaden. One among them is of locomotives, specifically the Mallets that used to traverse our village.

I annoyed half the readership – three people – when I wrote that the last “malley” went through Reno and Sparks in 1929, per SP records I dug up at their head-shed at One California Street in San Francisco. “But those cab-forward locomotives were going through Reno well into the 1940s,” one reader wrote.

Two points beckon. Not all cab-forward locomotives were mallets, and not all mallets were cab-forward.

The Mallet process of managing steam in large locomotives was devised by Swiss engineer Anatole Mallet in the 1910s, and put into general use in most, if not all, heavy locomotives in America, including the cab-forwards designed primarily for the snowshed-environment of Donner Summit. Which gained them the nickname “malleys.” (Did you know that air from the locomotives’ air-brake compressor was plumbed into the cabs, to keep smoke from entering on the long pulls in the sheds and tunnels?)

But – the Mallet process, while effective, was not cost-effective nor maintenance-friendly and was soon disposed of, with most railroads rebuilding or replacing their Mallet-process larger engines. Including the SP, who had lots of them with cabs at either end. And the last Mallet-process cab-forward went through Reno in 1929.

And as a matter of information before closing the locomotive book, having now bored most of the readership to death, the last steam locomotive went through Reno in revenue service in October of 1949 (they were around the Sparks yard as “helpers” or pushing the snowplows for five years after that).

Now – you want to take the family on a pleasant trip if ever we travel again, visit the best-kept secret in California – the Sunset Magazine’s one-time campus in Menlo Park, on the San Francisco Peninsula. The magazine’s editorial offices have moved to Jack London Square in Oakland. Given a sale by SP and Lane Publishing to Time-Warner when the Union Pacific merged with the Mighty SP in 1996 the whole landscape has changed – I’ll seek current reliable information and try to pass it on.

Suffice it to say that the Sunset Magazine – named in the 19th century for the SP’s flagship passenger train – was the hallmark of Western lifestyle for a century. I’ll put this on my to-do list of good stuff that needs to be written about.

Let’s gather tomorrow, six feet apart, and we’ll review, debate and augment my latest Faded Menu debacle, er, column, and add a few restaurant names that didn’t get included on Monday. If you commented, your name is likely to be included. And that said, I say to you, be safe, huh?

Submitted opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of This Is Reno. Have something to say? Submit an opinion article here.

Karl Breckenridge

Karl Breckenridge was slowly going nuts. So he decided to help out This is Reno by writing a daily out-of-his-mind column for the duration of the coronavirus shutdown. Now that it’s over he’s back to his usual antics, drinking coffee with the boys at the Bear and, well, we’re not sure what else. But he loved sharing his daily musings with you, so he’s back, albeit a little less often, to keep on sharing. Karl grew up in the valley and has stories from the area going back to 1945. He’s been writing for 32 years locally. 

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