11 July 2008

Interesting Letter from Alaska Airlines:

Airlines are asking customers to help curb rise in oil prices

TARGET SPECULATORS: Frequent fliers requested to write Congress.

ATLANTA -- The chief executive officers of a dozen U.S. airlines -- including Alaska Airlines -- beset by record fuel costs that have caused several to cut jobs, reduce capacity and impose higher fees on customers, are now asking for their customers' help to curb the rise of oil prices.

They have co-signed a letter being sent to frequent fliers of their respective carriers, asking customers to contact Congress about the problem of market speculation, which they believe is driving up the price of oil.

"This pain can be alleviated, and that is why we are taking the extraordinary step of writing this joint letter to our customers," the letter states. A copy was received by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Lawmakers have cited the problems high fuel prices cause airlines, trucking companies, farmers and consumers in calling for restrictions on speculative trading.

Northwest Airlines Corp. Chief Executive Douglas Steenland urged lawmakers in June to close loopholes that allow traders to dodge U.S. speculation limits by trading on foreign exchanges or through over-the-counter transactions.

"Our highest priority is to tackle the overall price of fuel which is now 40 percent of our cost pie," Steenland told lawmakers. "Addressing excessive speculation is the most immediate remedy Congress could deliver."

The letter from the airlines acknowledges that oil prices are partly a response to normal market forces, prompting a need for the country to focus on increased energy supplies and conservation.

"However, there is another side to this story because normal market forces are being dangerously amplified by poorly regulated market speculation," the letter says.

The letter says speculators buy up large amounts of oil and then sell it to each other again and again. The price goes up with each trade and consumers pick up the final tab. Some market experts estimate that current prices reflect as much as $30 to $60 per barrel in unnecessary speculative costs, the letter says.

It adds that regulations established decades ago by Congress to control excessive market speculation have been weakened or removed over the years.

"We need your help," the letter to customers says. "Get more information and contact Congress."

It is signed by the CEOs of Northwest Airlines, AirTran Airways, Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Continental Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Midwest Airlines, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and US Airways.

Kevin Healy, senior vice president of marketing and planning for AirTran Airways, a subsidiary of AirTran Holdings Inc., said in an interview that while airlines often band together to address congestion and other issues, the letter is unique since it is a public appeal.

04 July 2008

Joseph and Ariela Gonda arrived safely and on time here at Copper Center,
Alaska on July 3rd where they spent the night. This morning, at my recommendation, they are heading southeast to visit Chitina and to obtain the great Willow Lake view of the Wrangell Range. Then they turn around and head off to Anchorage. It was a great visit from the moderator of the Yahoo group "My Cicely."

Today is July 4th. I will be working on a connection of the two model railroads, linking the original CRNW Railway model with the much newer ALCANEX Railway line. I should be able to complete the connection sometime today.

02 July 2008

Alaska Air's 2nd-bag fee starts July 1

FAIRBANKS - Passengers on Alaska Airlines now face higher fees for a second bag, pets in the cabin and overweight luggage as the carrier tries to make up for higher fuel costs. Travelers who check a second bag will be charged $25 one-way beginning today. The fee does not apply to flights that start and end in Alaska.

Increased fees for pets in the cabin, overweight bags and unaccompanied minors went into effect May 21.

Shipping rates assessed by Alaska Air Cargo are also going up from 18 to 20 cents per pound. A new policy ensures that future prices will rise proportionally to fuel.

Such fees are popping up throughout the airline industry as fuel costs soar.

This summer American Airlines, US Airways and United Airlines will charge $15 for the first checked bag and $25 for a second.

"We are very concerned about the cost of fuel," Alaska Airlines spokesman Paul McElroy said. "It's at a record level."

The company's first-quarter fuel bill was 50 percent higher than a year ago, he said. With 2007 annual revenue at $2.8 billion, Alaska Airlines expects to pay $1.2 billion for 2008's fuel - almost 43 percent of 2007 revenue.

Agent Ramona Oxendine, a partner at Santa's Vagabond Travel in North Pole, said flying is a necessity for most Alaskans, and high prices or more surcharges aren't likely to cancel trips.

Her clients are rethinking how they will spend money at their destinations or increasing vacation budgets.

She warned that passengers should prepare for additional inconveniences like canceled flights, an end to frequent-flier mile awards and fewer connections as airlines look for more ways to control deficits.

Along with fee increases, Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air are making fleet and route changes to trim fuel use. Less-traveled routes are being sacrificed in favor of more flights connecting high-traffic destinations.

In another effort to save money, Alaska Air Group is one of a handful of companies participating in fuel hedging, a practice that is a bit of a gamble but has saved Alaska Airlines about $350 million during the last five years, McElroy said.

"That has been huge in our ability to limit fare increase," he said. The company hedges half its anticipated fuel and buys the rest at market prices. Hedging involves pre-purchasing at a set price and paying a premium for the contract.

The carrier is speeding up plans to replace its older MD-80 planes with more fuel-efficient Boeing 737s. So far, 19 MD-80s have been retired, and the remaining seven will leave service Aug. 25. A single-plane fleet offers savings in training and maintenance costs and simplifies crew scheduling, McElroy said.

Other changes seem minor but add up to savings, he said. Beverage carts are lighter, less potable water is carried on board, and planes are being retrofitted with "winglets" to decrease drag and increase fuel efficiency by about three percent.

On June 17 Alaska Air Group switched from jet fuel to diesel and terminal power to feed pre-conditioned air and electricity into planes waiting at gates in Seattle.

The carrier expects to roll out the same changes this fall in Anchorage, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland. Among the five hubs, the airline expects to save 2.4 million gallons of fuel - worth about $5.5 million - a year, McElroy said.


30 June 2008

More Historic Pages plus the Fireweed Festival

I am continuing to add to my two on-going historic pages: The Klondike Mines Railway and the Kennecott mines. Several new pages appear today.

Klondike Mines Railway on the Homestake Gulch trestle.

We had our big Fireweed Festival weekend Saturday. It was down a full third from the previous year, probably largely due to the increased cost of travel. I featured the Ramblers Band and provided a free salmon bake with potato salad and baked beans. Even with the diminished participation, the bar was full. Just as last year, I had set up an outdoor stage for the band. We had to move the band indoors by 9pm due to the unusually cold weather, even though it was mid-summer and clear outside. Even though the overall take was somewhat disappointing, the decrease in business from last year was not unexpected.

24 June 2008

George W's War

No one likes war. War is a horrific affair, bloody and expensive. Sending our men and women into battle to perhaps die or be maimed is an unconscionable thought.

Yet some wars need to be waged, and someone needs to lead. The citizenry and Congress are often ambivalent or largely opposed to any given war. It's up to our leader to convince them. That's why we call the leader "Commander in Chief."

George W.'s war was no different. There was lots of resistance to it. Many in Congress were vehemently against the idea. The Commander in Chief had to lobby for legislative approval.

Along with supporters, George W. used the force of his convictions, the power of his title and every ounce of moral suasion he could muster to rally support. He had to assure Congress and the public that the war was morally justified, winnable and affordable. Congress eventually came around and voted overwhelmingly to wage war.

George W. then lobbied foreign governments for support. But in the end, only one European nation helped us. The rest of the world sat on its hands and watched.

After a few quick victories, things started to go bad. There were many dark days when all the news was discouraging. Casualties began to mount. It became obvious that our forces were too small. Congress began to drag its feet about funding the effort.

Many who had voted to support the war just a few years earlier were beginning to speak against it and accuse the Commander in Chief of misleading them. Many critics began to call him incompetent, an idiot and even a liar. Journalists joined the negative chorus with a vengeance.

As the war entered its fourth year, the public began to grow weary of the conflict and the casualties. George W.'s popularity plummeted. Yet through it all, he stood firm, supporting the troops and endorsing the struggle.

Without his unwavering support, the war would have surely ended, then and there, in overwhelming and total defeat.

At this darkest of times, he began to make some changes. More troops were added and trained. Some advisers were shuffled, and new generals installed.

Then, unexpectedly and gradually, things began to improve. Now it was the enemy that appeared to be growing weary of the lengthy conflict and losing support. Victories began to come, and hope returned.

Many critics in Congress and the press said the improvements were just George W.'s good luck. The progress, they said, would be temporary. He knew, however, that in warfare good fortune counts.

Then, in the unlikeliest of circumstances and perhaps the most historic example of military luck, the enemy blundered and was resoundingly defeated. After six long years of war, the Commander in Chief basked in a most hard-fought victory.

So on that historic day, Oct. 19, 1781, in a place called Yorktown, a satisfied George Washington sat upon his beautiful white horse and accepted the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.

from Maggie's Farm

22 June 2008

New Pages Under Construction

I am currently adding pages to this website from two threads I created on the My Large Scale dot com public forum. One of these is titled The Historic Klondike Mines

This one, like the Kennecott mines thread, is a very large file with many posts. It will take some time to include all of it on this site. I will be adding new segments as time permits. Please feel free to check back from time to time for new additions.

16 June 2008

An Old Train Comes back on Line

With almost all the emphasis in recent months being placed on the Great Nothern Phase II operation (aka ALCANEX), the orginal rail line, the Copper River & Northwestern Phase I has been largely neglected. I went through the track switches overhead in the bar yesterday when I discovered that several of them did not work. Two had broken or cut lines and one needed adjustment. Once I restored the use of these remotely-activated overhead switches, I was able to start up the double-header I use every year for this Phase I line.

The newer Phase II line has no remote-activated switches. It has two sidings inside the bar above the backbar that serve as parking areas. The trains parked there simply exit out through a couple of manually-operated switches whereas the Phase I line runs above the bar through a series of switches that MUST work remotely.

The cars I am presently using on the original track make up a beer-liquor consist that I set up for bar display last year. These include two Aristocraft Jack Daniels passenger cars, an LGB JD car, a Harley car, two different Alaska brewing cars and a Budweiser reefer, plus my Budweiser caboose.

The LGB engines at the head of the consist have always performed very well, as was the case with this initial run.

click any photo for a larger view.

15 June 2008

Conservatives Are Nicer

George Orwell once wrote that politics was closely related to social identity. 'One sometimes gets the impression,' he wrote in The Road To Wigan Pier, 'that the mere words socialism and communism draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, nature-cure quack, pacifist and feminist in England'.

Orwell was making an observation. But today a whole body of academic research shows he was correct: your politics influence the manner in which you live your life. And the news is not so good for those on the political Left.

There is plenty of data that shows that Right-wingers are happier, more generous to charities, less likely to commit suicide - and even hug their children more than those on the Left.

In my experience, they are also more honest, friendly and well-adjusted.

Much of this springs from the destructive influence of modern liberal ideas.

In the Sixties, we saw the beginning of a narcissism and self-absorption that gripped the Left and has not let go.

The full-scale embrace of the importance of self-awareness, self-discovery and being 'true' to oneself, along with the idea that the State should care for the less fortunate, has created a swathe of Left-wing people who want to outsource their obligations to others.

The statistics I base this on come from the General Social Survey, America's premier social research database, but they are just as relevant to the UK, as I believe political belief systems drive one's attitudes, regardless of where you happen to live.

Those surveyed were asked: 'Is it your obligation to care for a seriously injured/ill spouse or parent, or should you give care only if you really want to?' Of those describing themselves as 'conservative', 71 per cent said it was. Only 46 per cent of those on the Left agreed.

To the question: 'Do you get happiness by putting someone else's happiness ahead of your own?', 55 per cent of those who said they were 'very conservative' said Yes, compared with 20 per cent of those who were 'very liberal'. ...

Many on the Left proudly proclaim themselves 'child-free'. While some do not want children on ecological grounds, much has to do with the fact that they simply don't want the responsibility of having a child.

When asked by the World Values Survey whether parents should sacrifice their own well-being for those of their children, those on the Left were nearly twice as likely to say No. ...

Most surprising of all is reputable research showing those on the Left are more interested in money than Right-wingers.

Both the World Values Survey and the General Social Survey reveal Left-wingers are more likely to rate 'high income' as an important factor in choosing a job, more likely to say 'after good health, money is the most important thing', and agree with the statement 'there are no right or wrong ways to make money' ...

As John Maynard Keynes reminds us: 'The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and wrong, are more powerful than commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else.' Or, as the American theorist Richard Weaver once declared: 'Ideas have consequences.'

And it seems that today modern progressive ideas can often bring out the worst in people.

The Iconoclast
Sunday, 15 June 2008
Conservatives Are Nicer

13 June 2008

Coming Soon: Return of the historic CRNW Railway

I have decided to bring back the historic CRNW website. This will be incorporated into the copperraildepot dot com site and will include elements of Kennecott, McCarthy, Chitina, Cordova, the Ahtna people and the railroad itself. No timeline, but I will begin work on it soon.

click for larger image

12 June 2008

The Phase II trains

A closer look at the mixed Milwaukee Road / AKRR passenger consist:

Somewhere in the states is my Milwaukee Road FA-FB-FA unit waiting to be converted to remote battery control for this unit. At that time I might add more coaches. Maybe.

The south track line: The Santa Fe line is also parked at NX-Cicely (Cicely for short).

This consist has not yet been tested on the long return grade to the east. It remains to be seen of an Aristo model diesel can outperform a USA diesel. I had to park it due to the change in the weather so here it sits for now.

Here we have a good view of Cicely as we look west. All three parallel passenger consists can be seen in this photo. As with most of my others, you may click this picture to obtain a much-larger one.

545 people-a political post

This is the simplest, most understandable and truest explanation of the woes of the nation and who caused them, as well as how to cure them. This should be sent to every person in the U.S. , including the '545'.
545 People By Charlie Reese --

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits?

Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does.

You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does.

You and I don't write the tax code, Congress does.

You and I don't set fiscal policy, Congress does.

You and I don't control monetary policy, The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of the 300 million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsib le for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress.

In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I excluded all the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority.

They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing.

I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it. No matter what the lobbyist promises, it is the legislator's responsibility to determine how he votes.

Those 545 human beings spend much of their energy convincing you that what they did is not their fault. They cooperate in this common con regardless of party.

What separates a politician from a normal human being is an excessive amount of gall.

No normal human being would have the gall of a Speaker, who stood up and criticized the President for creating deficits.

The president can only propose a budget.

He cannot force the Congress to accept it.

The Constitution, which is the supreme law of the land, gives sole responsibility to the House of Representatives for originating and approving appropriations and taxes.

Who is the speaker of the House?

She is the leader of the majority party.

She and fellow House members, not the president, can approve any budget they want.

If the president vetoes it, they can pass it over his veto if they agree to.

It seems inconceivable to me that a nation of 300 million can not replace 545 people who stand convicted -- by present facts - of incompetence and irresponsibility.

I can't think of a single domestic problem that is not traceable directly to those 545 people.

When you fully grasp the plain truth that 545 people exercise the power of the federal government, then it must follow that what exists is what they want to exist.

If the tax code is unfair, it's because they want it unfair.

If the budget is in the red, it's because they want it in the red.
If the Marines are in IRAQ , it's because they want them in IRAQ .
If they do not receive social security but are on an elite retirement plan not available to the people, it's because they want it that way.
There are no insoluble government problems.

Do not let these 545 people shift the blame to bureaucrats, whom they hire and whose jobs they can abolish; to lobbyists, whose gifts and advice they can reject; to regulators, to whom they give the power to regulate and from whom they can take this power.

Above all, do not let them con you into the belief that there exists disembodied mystical forces like 'the economy,' 'inflation' or 'politics' that prevent them from doing what they take an oath to do.

Those 545 people, and they alone, are responsible.

They, and they alone, have the power.

They, and they alone, should be held accountable by the people who are their bosses - provided the voters have the gumption to manage their own employees.

We should vote all of them out of office and clean up their mess!
Charlie Reese is a former columnist of the Orlando Sentinel

First Post

No doubt, like many of you, I have tried a variety of blogs over the years. I have used this particular service before under a different name. Now I am going back to blogger dot com. This will be accessible through my own website: Copper Rail Depot dot com.

I am located in Copper Center, Alaska:

where I operate a small tavern and overnight accommodations. (Click on the map for a larger view).

I have lived in this area off and on since 1976. I purchased the old Copper Center Bar in 1996 and renamed it the Copper Rail Depot--a historic model railroad-theme bar.

I now operate North America's farthest north outdoor large-scale (~1:24) model railroad. That scale is referred to as "G" (as opposed to HO or N or Z or O (Lionel).
It is also among the largest privately-owned model railroads you will find anywhere.

I have two separate model railroad systems in G-scale. The original is the historically-based Copper River & Northwestern Railway-Chitina Local Branch. My model extends from the historic town of Chitina to Kennecott. The Kennecott model is in a separate 36-foot long building. The Chitina model is overhead in the bar. Also outside is a model of part of historic downtown McCarthy. This model is approximately 450 feet of track and was completed in 2003.

The newer model, sometimes referred to as "Phase II" is brand new. I am in the process of completing it, but it is already operational. This is a modern line, with elements of the Great Northern, Santa Fe, Milwaukee Road and Alaska Railroad contained within it. The model centers on the mythical town of Cicely. Cicely appears in the old television series Northern Exposure, which is in syndication. This model is particularly impressive, consisting of approximately 700 feet of railroad line.

If you want to see the most impressive model railroad in Alaska, you need to come to Copper Center.