Dam Trip 15 : Douglas Dam, Sevier County, TN

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After what has to be the longest and coldest winter we’ve ever encountered; Spring finally put in an appearance in Tennessee. And just in time for the 3-Day Easter Weekend!

We rented a cabin in the Smokey Mountain National Forrest for the weekend and jumped on the Trike and headed out East. After spending the night in the mountains, we headed out on the first Dam Trip of 2014.

Douglas Dam is one of the more interesting dams on our list. Built during World War 2 under the express orders of Franklin Roosevelt; the dam started construction about two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The TVA had just finished the nearby Cherokee Dam in late 1941; and the same materials, crews, blueprints, and equipment were relocated to the dam (about a 25 mile trip) in order to build the dam as quickly as possible. And quick it was indeed; the entire project completed in about a year – which set a world’s record for a project of this size.

By the time it was done, we had flooded 4 communities and relocated over 500 families and over 30 cemeteries.

At over 4 hours from home; this is the first in a series of dams that will be several hours from our home as we visit them. We had hoped to branch out and visit a few of the other close dams in the area; but the weather on the Saturday was dreary, so we simply went back to our cabin.

Where we were immediately met this Momma Bear, and her 2 cubs – which were about 25 feet from where we had parked our Trike. Below is a rather hastily taken photo.

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Star Trek Starships – Issue 4

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Issue 4 of the series features the first Starfleet vessel to bear the name USS Enterprise: NX-01 from the TV series “Enterprise”.

The detail on the model is very fine quality; reminiscent of the work they did one the NCC-1701 D Enterprise back in Issue 1.

Below are a series of photos showing various angles.

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You can also see that the clear blue pieces are back again in the warp nacelles; while they aren’t quite as luminescent as in the other two Enterprises – they still are used to good effect.

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The magazine did impart a few tidbits of interesting information. This is the first of the models that was made from a CGI base as no real physical model ever existing for the NX-01.

Also; they also pointed out that the original idea was to have the engineering section detach from the primary hull (something seen in Star Trek : The Next Generation, but always intended in the original series as well). Over the course of the planned series, the NX-01 would receive a number of refits that would culminate in a new engineering hull being added that would resemble the one seen in the original TV series. The resulting ship configuration being denoted as NX-01.5.

Even though the ship was a CGI model, allowing for these changes would require a large amount of stock renderings be redone every time the changes occured; which was cost prohibited. Thus the change never appeared on film.

However, a full CGI rendering of what this would look like was included in the Ships of the Line 2012 calendar. The image is shown below:

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Star Trek Starships – Issue 3

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So this month, the Star Trek Starships collection sent me issues 3 & 4. In keeping with my selected cadence, we will be looking at my general impressions of Issue 3 – The Klingon Bird of Prey.

Introduced in Star Trek III : The Search for Spock; the Klingon Bird of Prey was the very first new design style for a Klingon ship since the 1960s. For the movie, a three-foot model was built; complete with motorized wings that could raise and lower as needed.

An interesting note on this ship: it was originally intended to be a Romulan ship in early drafts of the script. As the script progressed the decision was to make the ship a Klingon ship; but the painted “bird of prey” on the wings was kept. Even though only the Romulans and not the Klingons have used such designs in the past. Indeed, up to Star Trek III : The Search for Spock, the term “bird of prey” had never been used to describe Klingon ships – only Romulan ones.

The ship would appear in a total of five Star Trek movies; as well as Star Trek : The Next Generation, and Star Trek : Deep Space Nine. Somewhere along the way, the motors stopped working and the model was filmed with the wings in either the raised or lowered position only. Then, during Star Trek : Deep Space Nine, a completed CGI model was created which allowed the full range of motion to be used on screen again.

In 2006, the original filming model (then well over 20 years old) sold at auction for the incredible amount of $307,200.

As for the scale models designed and built by Eaglemoss; the detail and craftsmanship displayed in this model approach that of Enterprise-D. With none of the hurried and unfinished rough edges that the Enterprise Refit exhibited.

See the two photos below for up close detail on the model.

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Star Trek Starships – Issue 2

Ok, so as I mentioned earlier – each month you actually receive *two* starship models in this “ship of the month” club.

I decided to review the two ships separately because each has it’s own strengths and weaknesses.

The second ship in the lineup is the venerable NCC-1701 Refit; first introduced to us in Star Trek : The Motion Picture. Here’s a photo of the model sitting on it’s stand:

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Of particular note is the unique translucent blue plastic that are used in the warp nacelles. While this same plastic was used in the Enterprise D in Issue 1; there is a small area of blue plastic on the top of the nacelles on the Refit. When light shines down on the top of this plastic is creates the small illusion that the blue glows. More than one person has stopped by my desk at work and comments that they appear to light up.

However, the photo below shows that the individual windows, vents, and ports on the Refit (which were all meticulously hand painted on the Enterprise D) are just unpainted divots on the surface of the model.

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But here is where the quality of the model begins to decline. A quick photo of the top of the saucer section below shows the extreme lack of detail on the surface of the model. This is sad considering the exquisite detail of the Enterprise D. And anyone who has watched the extended scene in TMP where Scotty & Kirk fly around the Enterprise in dry dock before they actually dock at the airlock knows that a generous amount of detail was on the original shooting model.

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Finally, the nacelles are fabricated out of a single piece that is then grafted on to the back of the engineering section of the primary hull. They have a unique “glued on crooked” appearance to them that really spoils the effect when observed up close. And the photo below shows this to great effect; as well as the ragged uneven edges of the pylons and surfaces near the shuttle bay at the rear of the model.

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So, after two issues the jury is still out on the overall quality of the models. The Enterprise D is a beautiful work of art; while the Refit is ok by itself – but pales in comparison to Enterprise D. Obviously the Enterprise D is the “calling card” of the entire collection, so they probably put more time and effort into the model.

We’ll see when the next two issues come in an examine the models they contain.

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Star Trek Starships – Issue 1

A couple months ago on StarTrek.com, I became aware of a series of collectable starships that were being produced by a company in England that looked very interesting.

The site is located at www.startrek-starships.com, and the concept is very much like the “collect plate of the month” clubs that used to be popular back in the 1990′s.

The concept is that every month, you will be sent two model ships along with two glossy issues of a magazine – one for each ship.

The line had been available for a few months (maybe 6) in Europe, and were planning to launch here in the US before the end of the year. The website looked promising, so I can them my name and went on a waiting list for when they would begin shipping here in the US.

Each model and it’s associated magazine would cost $19.95, and you would be shipped two a month; bringing the total to $39.90 each month for a subscription.

About a month ago, I got an email telling me that they were now going to ship to the US; and that I would be able to get the first ship and magazine for only $4.95. So I subscribed and eagerly awaited my shipment.

About a week ago, a box was delivered to my door with the first two issues inside. This particular post will cover issue 1, I will review issue 2 in another posting later.

The glossy magazines come with a binder to hold them as you get more. They are about 8-10 pages in length and each contain background information about the particular ship’s history in the Star Trek universe. Then it covers a few pages on how the actual model was built; and finally wraps up with information about the original filming model (or it’s CGI model if no physical model was created for the model).

I’m not going to get into much detail about the magazines; they are a nice touch – but they are not the obvious reason that you subscribed. The real meat of the matter here are the models themselves.

The first Issue covers the Enterprise D from Star Trek The Next Generation. And the model they give you is obviously designed to be their calling card. The attention to detail is amazing. The model is well made; the coloring to accurate, and each model is hand painted.

Below are some photos that I took close up of the model.

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You can see above the attention given to each of the windows on the ship; as well as the graceful recreation of the lines and contours of the original model.

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A close up of the top of the saucer section even shows the faithful recreation of the Aztec patterns on the surface of the hull.

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I’ve always liked this angle when viewing the Enterprise; and it also happens to show the details of how the stand holds the actual model; which is about 4 inches long.

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One final shot from the top, showing the intricate details on the model.

All in all; I am extremely pleased with Issue 1 of this collection. The model is incredible to see; and has proven to be a great attention-getter sitting on my desk at work.

As the other issues arrive, I’ll post a quick review and photo set of each one.

Live Long and Prosper!

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Dam Trip 14 : Hales Bar Dam, Haletown, TN

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Our Dam Trip this day would take us to one of the most unusual destinations that we have ventured to thus far.

Like the situation down at Muscle Shoals that I wrote about on an earlier trip; the Tennessee River was a extremely dangerous and unpredictable stretch of river. Whereas the main dangers in the Muscle Shoals area were rocks and rapids; the most notorious dangers in this area were the violent whirlpools that were known to open up with little warning.

The most famous of these whirlpools was named “The Suck” and the local Indian lore held that anyone being caught too close to this whirlpool when it appeared would risk having their souls drugs down through the whirlpool.

And as with many Indian related stories down in the South; this particular story also held that the area around what is now known as Haletown where the Whirlpools would appear had been the site of an Indian burial ground.

And we all know what that means, right?

Can you say “cursed” boys and girls?

In 1905, work began on the Dam by a private company who intended to build the dam and then sell the electricity it would generate to the local communities; including Chattanooga.

The size of the construction quickly swelled; and the project would become one of the largest endeavors of its kind within the United States. Not only was it one of the very first multipurpose dams built in the US, but it also was one of the very first to be built across an actually navigable channel. When completed, the dam stood over 110 feet high and over 2,300 feet long. The dam’s lock featured a 41 foot tall lift that was the highest of its kind in the world at the time it was built.

In order to support the building of the Dam; two completely new communities about two miles apart were set up to house the 5,000 workers and provide for their staples and food needs: Guild and Ladds. Guild was originally named after one of the two men who built the dam, Josephus Conn Guild – but is now known as Haletown; whereas Ladds still remains under the same name.

Almost immediately, the legends began. Numerous deaths on the property were blamed on the Indian curse before the main powerhouse was even finished. Overall, a series of setbacks and unexpected events would delay the completion of the dam from 1909 until 1913.

It wasn’t long until even bigger problems began to surface with the dam. Almost as soon as the dam was completed, it began to leak. It turns out that the dam was built over limestone, and that large quantities of water were seeping out underneath and around the dam.

In 1919, engineers pumped hot asphalt into the foundation of the dam in an attempt to stop the leaks once and for all.

They believed they had solved the problem; but by 1931 it was determined that the dam was still leaking at the alarming rate of 1,000 cubic feet per second!

Short term work was done to attempt to control the degree of flooding; but most matters would take a back seat to the legal wrangling that occurred in the late 1930s as the new TVA was able to wrest control of the dam from its original owner as part of the TVA Act of 1933.

With the new owners in place; work once again proceeded to try to stop the leaks. More large scale construction took place and by 1949 the dam’s generating capacity was almost 100,000 megawatts.

But the legend wasn’t done with Hales Bar. Tests in the 1950s indicated that even with the repairs; the rate of leaking was now about 2,000 cubic feet per second and that the dam had a high possibility for future failure.

In the early 1960s, the TVA looked at pouring more money into the repairs. And even though it had been allocated a large budget to do so, they finally decided it would be best to cut their losses at Hales Bar and build a new dam about 6 miles south. That dam would end up being the Nickajack Dam.

On December 14, 1967; the Nickajack Dam went into operation. They very next day, Hales Bar was decommissioned and had been dismantled by September of the following year. All that remains today of the Dam is the structure seen at the top of this article.

Now the Dam is actually a marina; and features a strong local economy built around the recreation afforded in the area.

And that Indian curse? Well, no more major problems have been reported in the area. But the old Powerhouse and Dam remains a hotbed of paranormal activity according to the locals. It’s even been featured on two national television shows.

All told, the trip was about 110 miles each way from our home in Nashville. The weather was amongst the best we have ever ridden in. My wife and I have even decided to return to the Hales Bar Dam and stay in one of the floating cabins that the marina rents out.

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The Lost Steven Spielberg Film

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On the evening of January 21, 1972; CBS aired the second TV movie from a young director by the name of Steven Spielberg.

The earlier movie (Duel) had generated a lot of buzz in Hollywood and served as a more than appropriate vehicle for what would become one of the greatest directing talents the world had even seen. So the pressure was on; and the result was to be the only horror movie that Steven Spielberg would ever direct (before you jump to conclusions – Poltergeist was not directed by Spielberg, only produced by him).

Something Evil was the story of a young New York couple who move out into the rural Pennsylvania countryside. As is the case in most of these kind of movies; someone has died under mysterious circumstances in the home, and it is on the market cheap in order to move quickly.

The husband is played by Darren McGavin; who would go on to play Carl Kolchak in The Night Stalker later that same year. The wife was played by Oscar winner Sandy Dennis. And their little boy was played by Johnny Whitaker, who had gained popularity as Jodi in the TV series Family Affair.

The movie plays like a study in how to make an effective horror movie. No on screen violence of any kind, and the mood is totally manipulated by Spielberg via musical queues, camera angles, and clever actor placement. Indeed, the movie itself is an example of how to let the story drive the pace in a slow and deliberate attempt to draw the viewer in. And it succeeds quite nicely.

The most unusual aspect of this movie is it’s rarity. To this very day, it is the only Steven Spielberg movie to have never been released onto home video. No VHS, DVD, or Blue Ray disks have ever been released. Which makes it an extremely rare movie to be seen, and a hot ticket with just about any collector of vintage movies.

The version I managed to locate is on DVD; but is obviously a video recording from that very first airing. The recording is uninterrupted, and includes all the original vintage commercials in their original order and placement. So sitting down to watch the movie is literally like rolling the clock back 40 years.

From time to time the entire movie will show up on Youtube and can be watched. But sooner or later the movie cops come and take it down. If anyone knows of any reason why Steven has never released the movie; let me know. The suspense is killing me!

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